Notes on 755 Hank Aaron Dr

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Not completely dead

I'm going to try to post a few thoughts here...  soonish.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Entering September

A few thoughts, in mostly random order...
  • The trade with the Royals hasn't worked out very well.  Blanco's doing well in KC, and Ankiel is terrible - bad enough that he's been largely benched in favor or Melky and McLouth.  Ouch.  (Farnsworth hasn't been any better than Chavez had been, either...)
  • The offense seems to have disappeared completely of late.  Is this related to sacrificing OBP for power, in the Ankiel and Gonzalez trades?  Especially since that power has been MIA in Ankiel's case?
  • Would Fredi Gonzales really choose to manage the Cubs instead of the Braves?  While it seems like a crazy question at first, consider the fact that the Cubs have an actual owner, while the Braves are owned by a corporation who doesn't actually want the team.
  • Will the Braves get any production out of first base the rest of the year?  So far, Lee doesn't look any less done than Glaus did.  Freeman needs more opportunities, and soon.
I may have a post looking forward to the offseason soon.  Yes, it's early, but there are a lot of questions facing Frank Wren this offseason...


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mets series

After a 3-6 road trip, it was nice to see the Mets on the other side of the field.  The Braves apparently agreed, as they took two of three in the series.

Unfortunately, it looks as though they may have lost Kris Medlen in the finale, possibly for a full year.  He'll be getting an MRI, but "ulnar collateral ligament injury" is not something you want to hear about one of your pitchers.

The logical thing to do, assuming that Medlen is going to be out for a while (which seems certain, even if it's just a strain), would be to put Kenshin Kawakami back into the rotation.  Despite his awful W-L record, he hasn't pitched that badly.  He's not been that good, admittedly, but if you're talking about a fifth starter, he seems fine.  An expensive fifth starter, to be sure, but right now, the Braves are paying him to sit in the bullpen and not pitch, which is insane.  If nothing else, he should be seeing time in blowouts and extra-innings games.

However, Dave O'Brien thinks that the Braves will use Mike Minor instead.  I don't know that I like that.  Minor's not on the 40 man roster.  The Braves do have an opening, having lost Chris Resop to the Pirates today.  But I'd rather that spot be used by Freddie Freeman, since the Braves have a giant sucking wound at first base right now.

Injuries are going to make the difference in the NL East this year.  The Phillies have more injuries than the Braves so far, but they're a better club as well.  We'll see how the Braves patch things together.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

The Deadline Trade

I’m not sure that it will make much difference in the long run, but I do think that this was a slight upgrade. Since the trade included an outfielder and a reliever on each side, it makes sense to compare the players traded directly.

Rick Ankiel / Gregor Blanco:
Ankiel has more power. Blanco has a total of one home run, and only 22 extra base hits, in his major league career. And he only hit 32 home runs in the minors, with about two thirds of those at single-A. On the other hand, Blanco’s much better at getting on base. Ankiel’s career OBP is only .311; Blanco’s is .361. Ankiel’s OBP has been declining over the past three years as well, which is hardly a good sign. Blanco is also younger than Ankiel, by four years. Defensively, I think it’s a wash. Both can handle center field, but neither of them is a defensive whiz.

I think Ankiel’s power is more of a plus than Blanco’s OBP. The danger, to me, is that the Braves get the idea that Ankiel is a long-term solution in CF. He shouldn’t be thought of as such; this is a short term fix in reaction to both Nate McLouth and Jordan Schafer regressing terribly this year. In any case, this is a slight upgrade, or at worst, a wash.

Kyle Farnsworth / Jesse Chavez:
Anything that makes Jesse Chavez go away is a plus. He throws the ball hard, but it doesn’t appear to move at all. The “hard” part seems to enchant organizations, who seem to then discover that for some reason it’s not possible to make his pitches move. The Royals become his fourth organization in the last year. Kyle Farnsworth is hardly an ace reliever, but I expect that he’s less likely to be consistently useless in the bullpen. This is a significant upgrade.

So the Braves seem to have won the trade? In the short term, sure. In the long term, maybe not. Maybe the Royals can fix Chavez. A new grip, a change in mechanics, an added pitch – any of these could turn him into a really good pitcher. Blanco is more likely to be a contributing member of a major league roster in 2014 than Ankiel. (Not a starter, necessarily, but as a guy who can play all the OF positions, I think he’ll stick around for a while.) And the Braves did have to trade a minor league prospect, Tim Collins, in the deal.

Collins was just acquired in the Yunel Escobar deal. He’s a really small lefthander, who somehow throws really hard. I was rooting for him to make it to the big leagues. (In truth, I see no reason to stop rooting for that, until such time as he faces the Braves.) Chances are that Collins will never amount to anything, just like most of the players in AA. But there’s a chance that he ends up having Billy Wagner’s career… That being said, the whole point (well, a major part at least) of stockpiling players like Collins is to use them in trades just like this one.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Escobar Trade

So, a few months ago, I said that Yunel Escobar was the second best player on the team. And now he’s a Toronto Blue Jay, replaced by one of the Alex Gonzalezes. Why?

The easy, and obvious, answer is that he wasn’t hitting. But I think that’s probably a bit too simple of an answer. The other easy answer is that he was a problem in the clubhouse. But I doubt that he was any more of a problem this year than last. And the Braves aren’t a team in the habit of overreacting to a poor month or three. Especially with a young and talented player. So, what gives?

I think that the Braves had just decided that they couldn’t count on Escobar as a key part of the team going forward. Perhaps if he had displayed more maturity, or continued to produce like he had, or in the best case, done both, he would still be in Atlanta. But like Jeff Francoeur, it was time to go.

And perhaps the Braves front office under Frank Wren prefers to remove the temptation to believe in a guy, after they’ve decided they can’t believe in him. After all, if you decide in July that Escobar (or Francoeur) can’t be relied on, it might be better to get them away, so you can’t be swayed by a hot few weeks. I’m reminded of a game during Bobby Cox’s first go around with the Braves, where he started Gene Garber in the outfield, batting third. It was a road game, so he pinch hit for Garber in the first inning. The reason? He wanted to ensure that he gave Garber the night off, and this way he couldn’t be tempted to use him.

At least now the Braves know, without a doubt, that they are in the market for a shortstop this offseason. Worst case, Alex Gonzalez gets his option picked up, and holds the job for another year. The free agent list isn’t overly exciting, although there are a few names that might be interesting.

(And yes, I know the trade was two weeks ago.  Look, I just posted the 2010 outfield preview last night.  And the pitching staff hasn't been covered yet....)


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010 Outfield

Yeah, as usual, not a lot of posts here...  So this will be something between a preview and a review, I guess.

Melky Cabrera started out even worse than I expected, and has managed to progress all the way to "almost useful baseball player".  To be fair, the "almost" is probably not necessary, but he just doesn't look like he should be even useful, so...  He looks like he's out of shape, and doesn't hit enough for that to work.

Eric Hinske has ended up playing a lot more left field than I would have expected, but he's been useful, nothing more.  Omar Infante has also gotten a few games in the outfield.  As to why there have been infielders getting significant playing time in the outfield...

Matt Diaz was hurt, tried to play through it, and then spent most of the first half of the season recovering from thumb surgery.  Since he came back, he's been doing what I would have expected him to do.  That's good.  Unfortunately, Nate McLouth started off even worse than Melky did (really!), got a concussion, and then came back worse than ever (really!).  He's just been sent to AAA to try to work things out.  I'm not optimistic, but after seeing him answer questions about the demotion, I am definitely pulling for him.

Jason Heyward has been everything that could have been realistically hoped for, and then some.  Of course, he missed a few weeks as well, with a thumb injury.  And worse, he had tried to play through it, and hurt the team while that happened.  I had my doubts about starting him in Atlanta this year (I preferred the idea of him going to AAA for a month or two), but the Braves were right about that.

With the injuries, Gregor Blanco has had an opportunity to ressurect his career.  He'll never be a full-time player, but he does have skills.  Somehow, despite a complete and utter lack of power, he can get walks...

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010 Infield

So, with Spring Training just around the corner (and it's about time, too), let's look at the Braves roster for 2010.  (And maybe, just maybe, I'll get through the whole thing this year!  I am on a roll.)

The team has two apparent strengths going into 2010 - the infield, and starting pitching.  We'll get to pitching later, but I want to start with the infield.

I'm going to include catcher in the infield, because it seems silly to have a whole post just for Brian McCann.  The good news is, McCann is the best player on the team.  The bad news is, McCann is the best player on the team.  It's good, because he's still young.  It's bad, because he's a catcher, which means that he's going to miss at least 30 games a year, and he's likely to wear down as the season progresses, and he's likely to only last until he's 30 or so.  Even so, that's another five seasons, since he's only 25.  Last season he was a little below his career averages, but only a bit - and catcher offense overall must have been down, because his OPS+ was almost exactly on average at 120.  Dave Ross is the best backup catcher the team has had in years.

First base is a big question mark right now.  Troy Glaus has been signed to man the position, but he's only played six games there in his major league career.  Even more of a concern is the fact that he only played in 14 games last season.  He hit 122 home runs in the four seasons preceeding that, so if he's healthy, he could be a big help in the power department.  But that's a big if.  Eric Hinske will be backing up here, there, and everywhere, or at least everywhere there's a corner.  Hinske suffered power outages in 2007 and 2009 (6 and 8 HR, respectively), but hit 20 in 2008.

Second base belongs to Martin Prado now.  Last year was, by far, his best as a major league player.  It will be interesting to see what he does this year.  He doesn't walk much, but he also doesn't strike out much.  If he's the .300 hitter he was last year, he's an extremely valuable player.  If he sinks down to .270 or so (which I kind of expect to happen, for no good reason), he's still a good player.  (The value largely comes from his pre-arbitration contract, of course.)  Omar Infante will back up here and at shortstop, as well as sharing fifth outfielder duty with Hinske.

Yunel Escobar is probably the second best player on the team at this point.  He doesn't always concentrate enough in the field, and makes some really annoying, boneheaded baserunning mistakes.  But he's a plus defender at shortstop, and has a .375 OBP and some reasonable pop in his bat.

We can only hope that Chipper Jones returns to form in 2010.  If 2009 was the beginning of the end, the team is in big trouble.  There's no one in the organization to take over.  Certainly Chipper's power isn't what it used to be; he hit 18 HR last year, but he hasn't hit 30 since 2004.  (He did hit 29 in 2007.)  He managed to play more games last year (143) than he had since 2003, but he lost 100 points off of his 2008 batting average.  To be fair, that 2008 batting average was .364, but a .264/.388/.430 line isn't anyone's idea of a good season.  That .818 OPS was the lowest since his rookie year of 1995.  His defense also appeared to slip some.  He's 38 years old - which seems impossible, since it can't have been that long ago that he was a rookie - so it's not out of the question that he's done.  If he doesn't bounce back, the Braves will probably be in the market for a new third baseman in 2011, as he's repeatedly expressed an unwillingness to embarass himself by hanging on.

Like so much of the team, there are a number of question marks here, but overall, I think this is the strength of the team.  If too many injuries happen, though, there's not much after these guys.  Clint Sammons will be the first catcher up from Gwinnett.  Brooks Conrad is scrappy and fun to watch, but not actually that good.  Unless he got the pictures from Keith Lockhart, he's not going to get much playing time above AAA.  Joe Thurston would probably be called up if Hinske or Glaus goes on the DL.  Diory Hernandez has done well through the minors, but looked horribly overmatched in Atlanta last season.  Barbaro Canizares is already 29, so he's unlikely to develop from what he is now, which is nothing special.  If Glaus and Hinske both bomb out, we're more likely to see Freddie Freeman everyday than Canizares.

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