I’m Moving

I’ve been asked to be part of the team over at http://tomahawktake.com and am moving my Braves blogging there. I encourage all of you to visit me there and let me know what you think. Today’s post you’ve seen; the George Sherrill post from Thursday here. New stuff of course as things ring my bell.

Hope to hear from you soon

George Sherrill: Kyle Farnsworth Redeux ?

Early last week I read – and choked on – an article
by Mark Bowman
where he opined that adding George Sherrill and Scott
Linebrink was a good thing. According to Mark “. . . Wren seemingly proved
successful in his bid to add leadership to his bullpen mix. Scott Linebrink and
George Sherrill have both experienced recent struggles. But they both seem
capable of proving effective in defined middle-relief roles. More importantly,
they are quite capable of providing the kind of direction that Craig Kimbrel
and Jonny Venters need.”   Well, yes and
nope not likely. 

Scott
Linebrink
will probably be an okay trade. He’s been a
steady middle/late relief guy with good numbers throughout his career.  In fact in 2004 and 2005 he was the Padres go-to-guy posting ERAs
/WHIPs  of 2.14/1.036 in 04 and
1.83/1.059 in 05. In 2006 those numbers slipped to 3.57/1.216 and in 2007 it
the slid further to 3.80/1.222 before the Padres sent him to the Brewers where
he was 3.55/1.500.  With the White Sox From
2008 thru 2010 in the admittedly tougher AL Central he was 3.69/ 1.079,
4.46/1.661 and 4.40/1.326 in middle relief.  
Statistically Scott
Linebrink fills the need for a solid middle inning guy to take the strain off
of Moylan. From a veteran experience point of view he fits the bill as
well having performed well in the post season.  If he can keep the ball in the
park and induce double plays instead he can be a very good pickup.  George Sherrill is a different story. Mark Bowman seems to like him and the beat writers should know – at least I expect them to know – But when I heard George Sherrill I thought – left handed Kyle Farnsworth.

sherrill dejavu.jpg

I decided to examine the numbers objectively and see if I Mark Bowman was right and I was over reacting.

George Sherrill was okay from 2006-2009 (WAR > 1.0) but to say he had “recent struggles” is liked saying New England had a little snow this winter.

In 2010 his ERA exploded (6.69) his WAR collapsed (-0.4)
and in all measures he was just plain BAD:
his strikeout rate dropped (6.1) and his walk rate headed the other way (5.9) -
meaning effectively he walked as many as he struck out.  He was so bad
the Dodgers and Joe Torre – not known for abandoning veterans -
designated
him for assignment
midyear because he could not be trusted was injured. 
Okay, a guy can have a bad
season, does his career reflect has the kind of quality appearances
and veteran experience Kimbrell and Venters need; specifically being dependable
and performing well in pressure situations? Uh . . .no.

Sherrill always handled lefties well (.192/.286/.288 – 1 homer last year,
.167/.235/.265/.500 – 9 homers career) – but was never good against right
handed hitters (.276/.381/.418/.800 career era of 4.78 15 homers).  Last year he was horrible; righties were 427/.516/.707/ 1.223 (32 of 75, 14 walks,
13 extra base hits, 3 homers).  By
comparison Eric O’Flaherty was .229/.340/.349/.690 (19 of 83, 13 walks, 7 extra base hits,
1 homer) even though he was ill a good part of the year
. Conclusion?

George is no Eric; not even close. While Sherrill’s numbers have a downward trajectory over the years Eric’s have gone steadily up. Sherill can’t be
trusted against right-handed hitters period. As a middle inning reliever that makes using him problematic dangerous. As
a situational lefty you would only bring him in when there was zero chance the other manager would
pinch hit with a right handed bat.  What
about “veteran presence”?

For me veteran presence means more than being old; everyone gets old but everyone is not a desirable veteran presence – think Kyle Farnsworth. He was a veteran and look what he provided. . . nothing useful. I define Veteran presence is the ability to provide a calm point of reference in the storm of a pressure situation. One get’s this from performing at a high level in those situations. Having succeeded in such an environment, young pitchers can look to him as one who has been there done that; think Billy Wagner, John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Trevor Hoffman. 

George Sherrill is a veteran of the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles and the 2009 Dodgers. Neither the Mariners or Orioles put him in a crucial pot boiling situation during a big game or season determining series.  Joining the Dodgers midyear
2009, he pitched very well 27.2 innings, 0.65 ERA, whip of 1.084 and one save. Then came the
post season.

In his two post season series he pitched 4.1 innings; 2.1 in the St
Louis series when he gave up one hit, one run and hit a batter (ERA 3.86) and 2
against Philadelphia when he surrendered 3 earned runs on 2 hits (1 homer), 3
walks and 2 hit batsmen while striking out 2 (ERA 13.50). That’s experience under pressure but not the kind presence I want our pen to emulate. So objectively it’s not accurate to say he brings a proven veteran presence to our younger staff members; Moylan, Proctor and Linebrink have better credentials.

Fangraphs’
Jack Moore
has it just about right: “. . .  If Sherrill is truly used as a Left handed One
Out GuY, he could be productive for Atlanta. However, he simply cannot be
allowed to face a righty in a high or even medium leverage situation. Sherrill
would be a fine pickup, if teams weren’t limited to 25 men on the active
roster.  .  . Sherrill’s skills just don’t seem to
provide enough given his limitations and the scarcity of roster spots.”

I think signing George, like trading for choke-master Kyle last year, was a mistake; a
waste of time and money better used elsewhere. He’s not shown th eability to lead/win under prerssure.
What he has shown the ability to do and brings to the the young pitchers in our pen is the probability of being this year’s

Kyle
Farnsworth
. We didn’t need Kyle in 2010 and we REALLY don’t need George in 2011.

The Uggla trade is Frank’s best ever, How about another surprise?

Frank Wren’s theft of Dan Uggla from the fish this week (who
is this man and what has he done with the real Frank Wren) is his best deal
since becoming GM and appears to have solved our right handed power outage.
Wren and Fredi have said that Martin will move to left and back up Chipper at
third. Leaving Chipper’s future for another time, we are left with openings in
center and in left when Martin is playing elsewhere.  I was sitting down to make a case here for
trading a couple of minor league prospects to pry Rajai
Davis
from the Athletics when I found the Blue Jays had
snatched him from Oakland for almost nothing. 
Davis was .284/.320/.377 this year down from 2009 number but more like those
expected from him and a pretty good player when you add in his 50 steals.  I felt he fit our needs perfectly. Sadly
Frank didn’t receive my thought message -€“ perhaps I’m call blocked ?- and
missed out on this deal.  If you believe
like I do that Nate is a lost cause we still have a hole to fill there. So what
are the options?

Internally there’€™s of course Jordan Schafer
but he’s pretty much a lost man too; his numbers are McLouth like or worse. So, Matt
Young
may be a better option. In the minors his career numbers are  .289/.390/.385/.775  as compared to say Blanco
whose minor league numbers were 269/.368 /.366/ .734 . In the majors Blanco’s
numbers are similar ( 258/.358/.324/.682)  thus it could be argued that Matt will perform
in the bigs like he does down there. Matt also steals bases and at a 70% career
rate. This season at Gwinette he stole 39 and was caught 7 times with .300/.380/.407/.786.
He’€™s been tearing up the winter leagues too hitting .380 with a .958 OPS in 92
at bats.  So maybe he’s ready for prime
time.  His numbers are a lot better than Nate’s.
Let’€™s give the rookie a shot.

The rest of the outfield could be Diaz and Mclouth
as the platoon backups.  Before anyone says
it, yes I’€™d rather have Hinske than Nate as well but unless we can package him
and move him we’€™re stuck. And who would want him or even take him?  I do have an idea;€ it’€™s weird, strange and
probably has no chance but. . . what about the Mets? Before you choke on your
supper consider this.

The Mets have one really bad contract they want to move; Carlos
Beltran
. Carlos has largely been less than New York (unrealistically) expected
and paid for. He has one year left at $18,500,000 about 12.5 mil too much by
today’€™s standard. Beltran’€™s knee surgery meant last year’s numbers are very
skewed but when healthy he’s a good number two hitter – he hates hitting 3,4 or
5 where the Mets put him -€“ and plays a really good center field. If we package
Nate to replace Beltran in their outfield ($6,500,000 in 2011 with a 1, 250,000
buyout for 2012 with something else they need but can’€™t afford, a pitcher who
can eat some innings; KK.  I know you’re
in cardiac arrest by now so I’€™ll wait on the medics to revive you. . . . . . .
. better now?

KK didn’t
actually pitch all that badly if you ignore his pressure filled start well or
die game in September. Earlier he kept us in games but we scored nothing for
him. He could easily have ended up 9 – 9 and for a 5th starter that isn’t
too shabby. KK gets $6,667,000 this year. 
Together Nate and KK get $14,417,000 from us like it or not. Swapping
them to the Mets allows them to move a man who doesn’t like them anymore than they like him. But he is a
talented player that we get for two guys looking for a change of scenery who fill voids for
them AND saves them $4,083,000 in the bargain. If you feel bad about it ask them for $2 million cash as well, I don’t mind. In return we get a talented
player in his walk year for what amounts to 4.1 million.  Beltran – a life time 28 homer 106 RBI man 282/.359/.494/.853
- would be revitalized by a move that makes him not THE star but just another
guy on the team and the Braves would profit from his eagerness to prove he’€™s
not a lost cause in his walk year.

Ok it probably won’€™t happen but it sure looks like it could
work. The alternative is Nate, a rookie or we trade away something we need
for someone making about 4 million and hope it works.  If it were me, I’€™d ask Sandy Alderson and see
what he says. Who knows, we might all get better because of it.

The Uggla trade is Frank’s best ever, How about another surprise?

Frank Wren’s theft of Dan Uggla from the fish this week (who
is this man and what has he done with the real Frank Wren) is his best deal
since becoming GM and appears to have solved our right handed power outage.
Wren and Fredi have said that Martin will move to left and back up Chipper at
third. Leaving Chipper’s future for another time, we are left with openings in
center and in left when Martin is playing elsewhere.  I was sitting down to make a case here for
trading a couple of minor league prospects to pry Rajai
Davis
from the Athletics when I found the Blue Jays had
snatched him from Oakland for almost nothing. 
Davis was .284/.320/.377 this year down from 2009 number but more like those
expected from him and a pretty good player when you add in his 50 steals.  I felt he fit our needs perfectly. Sadly
Frank didn’t receive my thought message -€“ perhaps I’m call blocked ?- and
missed out on this deal.  If you believe
like I do that Nate is a lost cause we still have a hole to fill there. So what
are the options?

Internally there’€™s of course Jordan Schafer
but he’s pretty much a lost man too; his numbers are McLouth like or worse. So, Matt
Young
may be a better option. In the minors his career numbers are  .289/.390/.385/.775  as compared to say Blanco
whose minor league numbers were 269/.368 /.366/ .734 . In the majors Blanco’s
numbers are similar ( 258/.358/.324/.682)  thus it could be argued that Matt will perform
in the bigs like he does down there. Matt also steals bases and at a 70% career
rate. This season at Gwinette he stole 39 and was caught 7 times with .300/.380/.407/.786.
He’€™s been tearing up the winter leagues too hitting .380 with a .958 OPS in 92
at bats.  So maybe he’s ready for prime
time.  His numbers are a lot better than Nate’s.
Let’€™s give the rookie a shot.

The rest of the outfield could be Diaz and Mclouth
as the platoon backups.  Before anyone says
it, yes I’€™d rather have Hinske than Nate as well but unless we can package him
and move him we’€™re stuck. And who would want him or even take him?  I do have an idea;€ it’€™s weird, strange and
probably has no chance but. . . what about the Mets? Before you choke on your
supper consider this.

The Mets have one really bad contract they want to move; Carlos
Beltran
. Carlos has largely been less than New York (unrealistically) expected
and paid for. He has one year left at $18,500,000 about 12.5 mil too much by
today’€™s standard. Beltran’€™s knee surgery meant last year’s numbers are very
skewed but when healthy he’s a good number two hitter – he hates hitting 3,4 or
5 where the Mets put him -€“ and plays a really good center field. If we package
Nate to replace Beltran in their outfield ($6,500,000 in 2011 with a 1, 250,000
buyout for 2012 with something else they need but can’€™t afford, a pitcher who
can eat some innings; KK.  I know you’re
in cardiac arrest by now so I’€™ll wait on the medics to revive you. . . . . . .
. better now?

KK didn’t
actually pitch all that badly if you ignore his pressure filled start well or
die game in September. Earlier he kept us in games but we scored nothing for
him. He could easily have ended up 9 – 9 and for a 5th starter that isn’t
too shabby. KK gets $6,667,000 this year. 
Together Nate and KK get $14,417,000 from us like it or not. Swapping
them to the Mets allows them to move a man who doesn’t like them anymore than they like him. But he is a
talented player that we get for two guys looking for a change of scenery who fill voids for
them AND saves them $4,083,000 in the bargain. If you feel bad about it ask them for $2 million cash as well, I don’t mind. In return we get a talented
player in his walk year for what amounts to 4.1 million.  Beltran – a life time 28 homer 106 RBI man 282/.359/.494/.853
- would be revitalized by a move that makes him not THE star but just another
guy on the team and the Braves would profit from his eagerness to prove he’€™s
not a lost cause in his walk year.

Ok it probably won’€™t happen but it sure looks like it could
work. The alternative is Nate, a rookie or we trade away something we need
for someone making about 4 million and hope it works.  If it were me, I’€™d ask Sandy Alderson and see
what he says. Who knows, we might all get better because of it.

Into the Future with Fredi and Freddie or Ok I’m here now what?

I know I promised
this last week but the World Series was in full flow and much more interesting
than anything I could have written; at least that’s my excuse.  Last time I recounted the ups, downs,
elations and frustrations of 2010. This time I’ll peek into the future and see
what we need and what I think can be done under the financial restrictions
Liberty Media (may they sell us to someone who loves the game soon) put of
Frank (I don’t have any idea what a good deal is) Wren and his crew.  Let’s start with the obvious.

The infield is
pretty well established if you accept that 1) Freddie will settle in and adapt
quickly to the big league like he did at all levels of the minors and 2)
Chipper will come back ready to play third in something resembling his old
form.  I’m not sure either will happen
but for now we’ll take those things as given. Martin Prado will be back at
second and Alex Gonzales at short. The infield defensively should be significantly
better than we showed late in 2010. Brian behind the plate and Jason in right
are certainties also leaving the two big holes where they were all of last year;
center field and left field.  To do that
they will more than likely look to make trades rather than jump in for a big
free agent. The reason is simple; Liberty Media don’t care about baseball
enough to invest so this season’s payroll will probably be about the 93 million
mark.  As it stands now we have 68.5
million or so of that committed mostly to Lowe (15), Chipper (13), Hudson (9),
KK (7.3), Nate (7) and McCann (6.6).  Sending KK back to Japan as rumored would
clear about 4.3 of that but until it happens (please make it soon) we can’t
count on it. No one is going to take Nate and his contract off our hands so
we’ll just hope he finds some kind of form or can fill in as a 4th
outfielder without embarrassing us.  That
leaves just 24 million to satisfy our needs. So what do we do?

Let’s get the
numbers out there for the big 3 free agents this year; Adrian Beltre, Carl
Crawford and Jason Werth.  Crawford is
the pick of the litter and team will bid very high to get his bat and speed in
their lineup.  We’re talking 6 years 20
million I suspect for him/ The Angels, Red Sox, and Tigers all have a bunch to
spend and have declared an interest.  So
sorry gang, no Carl.  Adrian Beltre is
the elite infielder this year. He opted out of a 10 million dollar option to be
a free agent.  The Red Sox want him back
and will probably let Victor Martinez go to make sure that happens.  Besides if Chipper comes back in any kind of
form we can’t use him this year without sitting Chipper and that isn’t
happening. That leaves Jason Werth. Werth is THE power right handed bat on the
market this year.  Everyone suddenly
needs right handed power so he will be expensive too. He’s not Carl Crawford
expensive; think Jason Bay numbers. He’ll get 5 or 6 years at 17  19 million from one of the teams that doesn’t
get Crawford.  That kind of money is not
the way the Braves usually spend – well except for signing Lowe in a panic
after thankfully losing A J Blow it…err Burnett to the Yankees. Frank has said
he will be creative and yesterday’s acquisition of Joe Mather signals he is still
bargain hunting.

Joe Mather
is a useful player with some pop who got hurt in 2009 and didn’t return to full
strength last year. He was promising as a rookie and the Braves tried at one
time to trade Blaine Boyer or Rafael Soriano for him so he was valued pretty
highly.  He can play any outfield and first/third
base and has even filled in as a pitcher. His signings seems to make Matt Diaz
excess to needs at last year’s salary. Eric Hinske is also doubtful as he is
testing the free agent market and lots of clubs can use him off the bench.  He may return but as much as I would like it
I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Since
I doubt the Dodgers are really going to give up on Kemp or the Red Sox on
Ellsbury I am omitting them.  Either would
be an upgrade of course but I’m not sold on Kemp’s commitment.  Cody Ross will probably be offered a job in
San Francisco and who could blame them? 
Pat Burrell is I’m afraid not worth the investment. Though he played
well for the Giants and I wondered why Frank didn’t call him and at least talk,
I wouldn’t look at him for 2011. Maybe I’m wrong but of course that isn’t new.
So, having looked around the rosters a bit there are some options I think might
make sense.  To be clear I am not in love
with any of them just saying they might be a fit.

Xavier Nady.
Before getting injured Nady was a highly thought of outfielder who would hit
20+ homer and drive in 80 or so runs a year. Tommy John surgery shortened his
stay with the Yankees and as a Cub he started infrequently as he tried to get
his stroke back after almost 2 years off. 
He would fit Frank Wren’s idea of value; recovering from injury, history
of quality play and of course cheap.

Magglio
Ordonez
.  Yes he’s old and not a
great defender. He was however having a comeback year when he broke his ankle,
hitting .303/.378/.474/852 and on track for 24 and 120. If he can reproduce
that and considering what we had for defense in left field last year Maggs
might be a good choice . . . if he’s fit.

Other than those
guys the power market is thin. They will get over paid I suppose but there’s
not much else out there.  Let’s look at a
couple of trades.

Chris Young.  The D-Backs Center fielder is a good fit.
Last year he was .257/.341/.452/.793 while hitting 27 homers and driving in 91.
 Their new GM Kevin Towers wants to get
rid of the strike outs in the lineup and Chris qualifies for that list – He struck
out 145 times so his strike out average of 265 was higher than his batting
average – but Larry Parrish might be able to teach him a bit of the strike
zone. Towers would want pitching of course but a deal may be possible there. He
makes $5 million this year, 7 million in 12 and 8.5 in 13 so he might fit in
the budget too.

Hunter Pence.  The Astros are rebuilding and Pence as a
super 2 might be available. He looks like anything but a ball player except
when he’s fielding, running or hitting. 
Last year he was .282/.325/.461/.786 with 25 homers and 91 RBI on a bad,
bad team.  He can play anywhere in the
outfield and while not a gold glove fielder would match nicely with our
needs.  He’s going to get around 5
million this year and the Astros might just swap him if the offer was right.

Ok, I’m done
babbling for today.  I hope the Braves
make wise signings this off season and don’t rely so much on the medics on hand
for the retreads they sign for $1.50 and a can of coke.  Let me know what you think.

Retrospection and Projection – Part 1 Looking back

After the moods swings we’ve experienced in the last week I
thought it best to let everything settle down before I wrote. The elation felt
when Rick hit that huge splash homer in San Francisco was gone when Brooks let
that grounder go through his legs in the ninth inning. The next day the playoffs
were gone and Bobby was saying goodbye. Wednesday the Braves confirmed what
everyone had long suspected, that Fredi Gonzales would be the manager in 2011.
Yes sir, quite a 10 day period for the Atlanta faithful. As we settle in to
root our surrogate team into the World Series there’s time for reflection and
projection. So I’ll do my imitation of Janus and try to get a clear view of
where we’ve been and where we might be headed.

Retrospective: Last spring the Braves broke camp with a
patchwork roster put together on a shoestring thanks to the soulless corporate
entity that is Liberty media.  While we
had 3 returning starting infielders, an all-star catcher and a potential rookie
of the year, we were very short elsewhere. The outfield was going to be a mix
and match shuffle with Matt Diaz and Nate McClouth joining the newly acquired Melky
Cabrerra
and Eric Hinske in never ending rotation. First base was to be manned
by a theoretically healthy Troy Glaus converting from 3rd where he had
played his whole career. Troy was once a premier fielder, hitter and power threat.
That was before multiple shoulder surgeries sapped his throwing arm of its
strength and accuracy and his knees made a once feared power stroke a memory.
Add those concerns to learning the fancy footwork and new angles required to
play first base and Troy had a gigantic task ahead of him.

Our pitching however was strong. Huddy was back, Tommy
seemed ready for prime time and JJ was maturing into an ace in waiting, Derek
was still there to get his 200+ innings and Kawakami would slot into the 5th
starter role to eat innings and hopefully finish at least 500. The bullpen no
longer had the mercurial relief duo of Soriano and Gonzalez but we did have
Billy Wagner in his self declared final year and Takashi Saito. Moylan and O’Flaherty
were back along with Jo Jo Reyes and a couple of new faces.

Without detailing the ups and downs of the season ad nauseam
suffice it to say that our start was slow. Bobby juggled the lineup playing matchups
where he could and a win in Milwaukee in May started a scorching 6 week period
that saw us take the lead in the East on the backs of Martin Prado and a
streaking Glaus.  The Phillies physical
therapy staff was busy trying to keep 9 healthy bodies on the field. They
stayed in the hunt but were 7 games back at the break. Almost unnoticed around the
middle of June, Troy had cooled down and the Braves were no longer “HOT.”
Chipper struggled to find his stroke and his power was spotty at best.  KK wasn’t winning at all. The Braves provided
little run support for anyone after the 1st of July but KK and Lowe suffered
most. JJ was hurt off and of as well opening the door for Kris Medlen to earn a
spot in the rotation he gave only to Tommy John surgery.

After the break the Braves offense continued to sputter and
their road record was abysmal. Jason injured a ligament in his thumb early in
the year on one of those ridiculous head first slide and tried unsuccessful to
play through it. Gutting it out did his rookie of the year chances no good -
though it hasn’t been announced yet I Posey to win and his role in taking the
Giants to the NLCS might have beaten Jason anyway – and caused his batting average
to sink along with his power numbers.  Nate
and KK went to Gwinette to find themselves. Last I checked they were still
looking. Gregor Blanco was ripping up the league with a 310 average which made
it a surprise when he was traded to KC. Equally surprising was what we got in
return. Instead of a power bat we got a light hitting former pitcher. The trade
also saw Jesse Chavez depart (no loss) and Kyle Farnsworth return (no gain.)
That was the extent of Braves deadline moves. Whether this was the result of
Liberty Media‘s tight purse strings or Frank Wren‘s willingness to believe anything
an opposing GM tells him is a matter of debate. 
Suffice to say that Ankiel was earned 1 million more this year than
Scott Podsednick who was available from the same place at the same time and
Jose Guillen who was later given to the Giants for free.

As August progressed things deteriorated. The lineup that we
left spring training with was a distant memory. Our lead shrank then vanished.
Kris was lost for the rest of the year and finally Chipper went down with a
torn ACL just as he was heating up. Bright spots emerged however in the form of
Omar Infante playing like the All Star he was named this year and the arrival
of Derrek Lee from the Cubs on a waiver wire deal.  Our bench delivered as it had all year though
the frequency of such wins diminished as it almost had to. We had so much magic
early on maintaining it would have been a miracle resembling the 69 Mets.  While Derek Lowe found bone chips in his
elbow that caused him to miss a start he returned after cortisone shots in the
balky elbow to be the big game pitcher we all should remember from his days in
Boston. In September and October he was 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA and a 1.o76
WHIP.  Yet as September faded so did our
hopes for the division title. Martin Prado moved to 3rd after
Chipper got hurt and had played very well. He was now carrying a groin injury as
well as playing with a recently broken pinkie finger when he tore an oblique
and got a hip pointer making a diving stop. 
Brooks Conrad who had a superb season fielding took over there although
his experience was mostly at second base. The nightmare he went as a fielder is
well known and doesn’t need to be repeated now; the pain is still too much.  Although Nate McClouth returned and started like
a house on fire getting robbed of two home runs – one a grand slam – in his
first two game, those flames quickly turned to embers and he was used sparingly
down  the stretch. We learned Thursday
that though Derrek Lee hit 304 with 3 homers down the stretch and played gold glove
first base, he was doing it with a torn ligament in his right thumb.  (Note to all those couch potato mangers who
questioned his acquisition; You should send him a letter of apology.  He played when many would have said they
weren’t able and played without excuses at an extremely high level.)

Well, that’s a brief review of the year and how we got to
the wild card where we lost to the Giants. There are varying opinions about why
we didn’t go further. You can blame Bobby for making bad decisions or Frank
Wren for providing a roster inadequate for the job.  For my part I place most of the blame at the
feet of the GM. He made consistently bad deals and decisions over the last 2
years that resulted in a roster that had to be what Bobby called “the hardest
working team I’ve ever had.”  They had to
be hard working because they were desperately short on talent. As he said in
his farewell interview, they weren’t the best team. In fact no one expected
them to be anywhere close at the end. . I believe the way Bobby dealt the cards
throughout the season is the reason
we held the division lead and eventually got to the playoffs. Bobby had so few quality
weapons in his arsenal it’s hard to see what he could have done about the
offense. Folks screamed to play Glaus at third but anyone watching him unable
to bend over and snag a ground ball, fall fielding a bunt or throw a ball into
the camera well during warm-ups knows why that was an unsound suggestion. His
hitting wasn’t much after his return either. Everyone wanted to play Matt every
day but Matt consistently failed to hit right handers throughout the year. No
one wanted Melky to play because . . .well because Melky played badly. However
alternatives were few. Eric plays well when he doesn’t have to play every day.
He is however SLOW and not a
natural outfielder. So, Bobby had little choice but to play match-ups and hope
for the best.  I do believe he had Jason in
the wrong spot in the batting order (2nd vs 6th ) thus forcing
him to try and be the guy that moves people along instead of drives runs in. I
have no idea what the difference would have been but I’d have done it. I also agree
with those who say he overworked the bullpen (as usual), particularly the
amazing rookie Jonny Venters.  Having said
that I haven’t won 2503 games, been to 15 post seasons as manager and had 15 – 90+
win seasons so maybe my ideas wouldn’t have worked.

Next week; Projection and Prediction

 

 

Welcome

Hello and welcome to this piece of my mind. I’ve been following the Braves officially for 19 years. I grew up in a Cubs household back when there were 8 teams in a league and none west of St Louis. I guess I’m an old guy now but I still love my baseball and my Braves.
I started this because it seems we have a lot of folks who want to be good fans but don’t know the ins and outs in spite of MLB Network and XM radio’s MLB home plate channel. I’ll try to answer questions that come up as well as give my opinions – worth exactly what you pay for them BTW- on the Braves and the game in general. I’m going to start with the Braves second half and why we are struggling now.

The fact that the Braves are where they are in the race (tied for the wild card as I write) says that for most of the season this team *played well above it’s head. * The roster they entered the spring with was not built to win, it had big holes in the outfield,at 1st base and no real power hitter except Chipper. When Chipper struggled early in the season the magnificent Martin Prado, surprising Omar Infante and a seemingly resurgent Troy stepped forward. The pitching was so good that even a small lead was enough. About the beginning of July Troy’s legs started to go and the other team’s scouts figured out the holes in his swing ending his power run that carried the team through the all star break. Troy was impotent the second half, Nate McLouth continued to fail, Kenshin Kawakami became a batting practice pitcher and yet Bobby Cox kept them in first. I am not a fan of Bobby’s bullpen handling or his stubbornness with regard to the lineup, but he deserves credit for keeping the their nose out front with smoke, mirrors and last inning heroics.
The Braves are 35-33 since the break. All the talk on fan forums I frequent and various other blogs I’ve seen about how well we were playing a few weeks ago is short term memory loss. We stayed in front until the Phillies got healthy and our player’s health failed. We lost a #3 starter when Kris Medlen went down. KK continued to be a disaster and ended up going to Gwinette to work on his slider. McLouth went from bad to worse.
At the trade deadline we needed a power bat and a pitcher. Instead we got a light hitting 4th outfielder (Rick Ankiel) and a reliever with a history of failing under pressure (Kyle Farnsworth). For pitching they brought up Mike Minor. Mike has pitched well but is young, inexperienced and by his own definition tired having pitched far more innings than ever before. .Yet we stayed in front.
Then Chipper went down removing the only guy in the lineup no one wanted to face in a clutch situation; opposing pitchers breathed easier. Yes I know Chipper had a low BA but he was heating up before being injured and was once again the threat. Now Prado is injured and I suspect McCann is feeling the weight of being the one expected to carry the team. He can’t of course because for all his talent, no catcher since Piazza and before him Bench has. The season’s just too long and catchers take a beating; all of that wears them down. Mac has done well but recently he’s been swinging for that 8 run homer when a hit would do. GM Wren did go get Derrek Lee when he was absolutely positively sure Glaus couldn’t do it anymore. That was a good move but very very very late andI suspect under pressure. Recently we’ve lost Jair Jurrjens to a torn meniscus and Derek Lowe has been pitching with a bone chip in his elbow yet fans are upset because they aren’t throwing no hitters. Brandon Beachy came up to fill in for JJ and pitched well against a powerhouse Philly team. He did well but the team failed to give him – and every pitcher recently – any run support. baseball may be pitching and defense but when you don’t score you can’t win.
Liberty media may have restricted the available funds GM Wren made horrible player decisions last winter – heck even the winter of 2008 – and throughout the year. We entered the year with an inured 3rd baseman playing first for the first time, 1 starting caliber outfield (Jason Heyward) and a bunch of 4th outfielders. That’s unacceptable.
Some of the players Mr. Wrenn didn’t sign (Aubrey Huff an MVP candidate) or trade for (Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Cody Ross all virtually free) put the Giants in front and kept them there. Others (Scott Podsednik, Ted Lilly) helped the Dodgers stay in the race even when they shouldn’t have been in the discussion. Fans have a right to be upset when bad failures cost the team wins. There is no doubt in my mind that the single biggest failure for the Braves this year has been Frank Wren. If he has any self respect he will resign. Failing that he should be reassigned to other duties- I don’t know what, scouting, club house manager, anything but GM – or fired.
I ache for us to play well and win. I am livid when we screw up or when Bobby does something I don’t agree with. However, I hold no illusions about how far the talent we have been provided with will take us. This team can and I believe will make the post season this year. To do that we need a fire in the belly, good pitching, players exceeding what their baseball cards say and the some help from the infamous baseball gods. Lately the fire’s been smoldering and the gods been on hiatus in Colorado, San Diego and Cincinnati. I invite them back for tomorrow’s game. I’ll buy the hot dogs and beer

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