Posts Tagged 'sports'

#172: Alex Jackson – Catcher

by Gil Elliott

 

 

 

In 2014, the Seattle Mariners in the first round and with the 6th over-all pick in the Amateur Draft chose Alex Jackson. Jackson, a kid who had been a catcher his entire amateur baseball career was immediately assigned to the Mariners rookie affiliate in Arizona and move to the outfield to learn that position. The Mariners, who had been impressed by Jackson’s hitting prowess, wanted to move him to a position where his bat could play every day. Needless to say, the experiment was an abysmal failure as Alex’s hitting suffered from the pressure of trying to learn a new position.

In 2014, at rookie league Arizona, Jackson hit a respectable .280 in 23 games and 82 at bats. In addition, his slash line was .344 OBP, .476 slugging and .820 OPS while racking up 23 hits, 6 were doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs.

 

In 2015, Jackson only hit .207 in 76 games between class A Clinton Iowa of the Midwest League and short season class A Everett Washington in the Northwest League. In the two minor league stops he hit a total of 56 hits 271 at bats. His slash line was .207BA/.318OBP/.365Slug/.683OPS. In his 56 hits, 17 were doubles, 1 triple and 8 home runs. He had 21 walks and 61 strike outs between the two minor league teams.

Aug 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; American catcher Alex Jackson (10) rounds second base during the 2013 Under Armour All-American Baseball game at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

To say the least, these were not the kind of numbers expected for a first round draft pick who had signed for a tidy $4.2MM dollars. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for right handed pitchers Max Povse and Rob Whalen in November of 2016. The Atlanta Braves acquired Jackson plus a player to be named from the Mariners for two pitchers whom the Braves felt were no longer part of their long range plans.

While not the most polished of catching prospect, Jackson never the less was assigned to the Braves’ Advanced A affiliate, the Florida Fire Frogs as a catcher. It was a position where the Braves felt he had the most potential and the Braves had the greatest need. With the Fire Frogs, Alex played in 66 games, amassing 70 hits in 257 at-bats. Of those 70 hits, 17 were doubles and 14 home runs. He also drew 13 walks and struck out 74 times. He had a .272 batting average and an OBP of .333, a .502 slugging percentage and an OPS of .835.

In July of 2017 he was promoted to AA Mississippi where he appeared in 30 games. In 110 at bats he posted a .255 batting average and delivered 28 hits, 4 doubles and 5 home runs. His on base percentage was .317, a .427 slugging percentage and a .744 OPS. As I stated earlier, he is not the most polished defensive catcher and in the minors, his fielding percentage is .979 with 7 passed balls and 16 caught stealing to go with 61 stolen bases against. These are not stellar stats but he is only 21 years old and a work in progress.

This fall, the Braves assigned Jackson to the Peoria Javalinas in the Arizona Fall League to play against some of the best minor league talent in the game. He put up good numbers in the AFL batting .263 in 20 games with 80 at bats. Among his 21 hits were 2 doubles and 5 home runs to go along with 23 strike outs. This translated to a .813 slugging percentage and a OPS of .826. These numbers were pretty much in line with his 2017 minor league stats of a .267 BA.

One of the things I have noticed about Jackson is the consistent numbers he has put up in all of his stops along the way. Those being strikeouts equal to the number of games he has played in and decent OPS numbers. He does draw his walks but his strike out totals are high but not unreasonable for a slugging catcher.

Alex Jackson still has work to do before he can be considered a major league catcher. His defense is a concerned but it is likely that it will be his bat that will get him to the Show. While he may not be considered spectacular prospect as a catcher, he is a very solid player. He is one of many young prospective catchers now working their way through the Braves minor league system. I expect for him to be assigned to AA Mississippi to begin the 2018 season but if his success continues at that level, look for him to be promoted to Triple A Gwinnett by the All-star break.

 

 

 

[Editor’s Note:  my car is a year older than Jackson is. :/ ]

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#135: What Should Braves Fans Really Expect in 2015?

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

With the trades of Jason Heyward and Justin Upton this winter, the new Braves President of Baseball Operations/General Manager has sent a message that the future is still in the future. Although the Braves surprised everyone in the baseball world by winning the 2013 NL East pennant sprinting past the Washington Nationals who quite frankly, under performed the first five months of the season. The Nats only became relevant the final month of the 2013 season but it was too little too late and the Braves held on to win the flag.

2014 started off like gang busters for the Braves with a pitching staff that surprised everyone by posting a combined ERA of 1.50 for the month of  April.  Everyone in Braves Country was giddy with the surprise success of this team. Alas, it did not last and when the pitchers began to flag under the unrealistic pressure of maintaining such an other-worldly mark, the offense failed to pick them up. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows it is not just pitching that wins baseball games, you need to put some runs on the board too.

There is a huge difference in being able to pitch with a three or four run lead than having to worry about one pitch, one mistake, one hanging breaking ball being the difference between being on the winning or losing end of a baseball game. It is often said that it is not just the number of pitches thrown in a game by a pitcher but the amount of high stress pitches thrown. Give a pitcher a five run lead and he can relax a little bit and challenge opposing hitters and not worry about being so fine with his pitches he starts trying to hit the corners with every pitch. Unfortunately for the Braves’ offense, their hitters were not only were fooled by pitches out of the strike zone, they also did not make opposing pitchers pay for their mistakes either.

Other than April of last year, the Braves posted only a .500 or sub .500 record. The worst month was September when they simply folded like a cheap suit after the Nats caught them and then never looked back. Washington finally woke up and realized they were as good as advertised.  They were, however, eliminated by the Giants who were on their way to their third World Series Championship in five years.

So, what do we have to look forward to for 2015?  To begin with, the Braves brain trust has determined they were not going to beat out the Nationals with the talent already assembled by since-departed GM Frank Wren and company. Perhaps the lingering bad taste of having to eat bad contracts to under performing second baseman Dan Uggla and the five year contract of B.J. Upton outweighed the single pennant won in 2013 and the miracle pick up of Arron Harang and Ervin Santana to replace injured Chris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. More telling is beyond Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Aderlton Simmons and Julio Teheran, the Braves scouting department had little to show for their efforts during Frank Wren’s tenure as GM for the club. That and the fact he was running off some of the Braves’s best scouting talent, the total collapse of the Braves in September appear to be the final straw to break the camel’s back. Perhaps the only real surprise was that Freddie Gonzalas remained at the helm of the team as manager.

It appears that Bobby Cox, who himself appeared at odds with since-departed GM Wren and may have even hastened his own retirement, likely saved Freddie’s job. After all, if you don’t have the horses to begin with, it’s hard to win the race.

Now, what do we have to look forward too? Interim GM John Hart and his staff have made the conscious decision that the Braves were faced with three realities:

1: they were not going to get any better with the current team assembled.

2: they desperately needed pitching to stay relevant in 2015.

3: there was no help on the horizon coming from a severely depleted minor league farm system.

There are lots of reasons for the third but the most likely suspect is the robbing of Peter to pay Paul theory. That is, in order to keep corporate owner happy with the bottom line, they cut corners in their minor league system  to stay within a budget set forth by team owner, Liberty Media. That was made even more severe after the negotiation of what appears to be an under valued TV contract. While teams like the Dodgers are reaping billions from their contract, America’s team got pennies on the dollar. After all, the Braves are still rated as the third most popular franchise in America following Ted Turner’s brilliant decision to buy both the team and a little known local UHF station in Atlanta and market them nationally via cable.

Tyrell Deon Jenkins Born: 7/20/1992 in Henderson, TX  Bats/Throws: R/R  HT: 6'4'' WT: 204

Tyrell Deon Jenkins     7/20/1992 Henderson, TX
Bats/Throws: R/R
HT: 6’4” WT: 204

Shelby Charles Miller Atlanta Braves – No. 17 Pitcher Born: October 10, 1990 (age 24) Houston, Texas Bats: RightThrows: Right

Shelby C. Miller (P)
Born: October 10, 1990 
Houston, Texas
Bats/Throws R/R

John the Elder made two trades to address the problem by first trading Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis for rising star Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

He then traded soon-to-be free agent Justin Upton to the Padres for a bevy of young talent in a minor-league haul, including two former first-round picks:

 

 

 

 

trades

MAX FRIED (P)

age 20, b.  Jan 18, 1994
Ht/Wt: 6’3’/180
Bats/Throws:  Left/L

 

 

JACE RYAN PETERSON

Born: 5/9/1990 in Lake Charles, LA
Bats/Throws: L/R HT: 6’0″ WT: 210
Debut: 4/25/2014 College: McNeese State

 

 

DUSTIN ALLEN PETERSON

Age: 20 (September 10, 1994) in Phoenix, AZ
Bats/Throws: R/R Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 180
Draft: Round 2 (2013, SD)

 

 

MALLEX LYDELL SMITH

Born: 5/6/1993 in Tallahassee, FL
Bats/Throws: L/R
HT: 5’9″ WT: 170

 

MANNY BANUELOS

Born: March 13, 1991 (age 23), Gómez Palacio, Durango, Mexico
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 198 lbs
Bats: Left-handed

Banuelos is now into his second year of recovery of Tommy John surgery and is expected to vie for the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation.

Alberto Callaspo

Alberto Callaspo

The Braves had already signed journyman second baseman Alberto Callaspo, late of the Athletics as a place holder for Braves prospect Jose Peraza but the acquisition of Jace Peterson from the Friers may have pushed young Peraza down a spot on the depth chart.

A J Pierzynski

A J Pierzynski

The Braves also have inked veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski to serve as the backup/mentor for young Christian Bethancourt at the catcher’s position and allow the Braves to move slugger Evan Gattis to the left field position so his bat can be added to the everyday line up for the Bravos.

Nick Markakis

Nick Markakis

The Braves also signed free agent Nick Markakis of the Orioles to a 4 year $44 million dollar contract to play right field in place of the since traded Jason Heyward. Markakis has a couple of gold gloves to his credit himself and is known to be a contact type hitter. While he is probably better suited to hit second, he will likely be drafted to take Heyward’s spot as the lead off man in the line up given the Braves lack of other likely candidates for that position.

So, as it stands, with the Nationals pretty much standing pat and the Marlins vastly improving their club from last season, the Braves look to fight it out with the Mets for third place in the division ahead of the aging Phillies. Never say never however, after all, the 1991 Braves were picked by one and all to finish last in the National League West then dominated by Dodgers. A lot has to go right for the Braves this season and a few things have to go wrong for the Fish and the Nats but baseball is a game played on the field, not on paper. Now if only Hart and company can figure out some way to either trade the other Upton brother and his over the top contract away so they can have a little financial flexibility or somehow BJ himself take personal responsibility for his poor play and learns how to hit again so as not to be a drag on the club, the 2015 Braves might just have a chance to be more than just a footnote on the way to the 2015 World Series.

Gil2

#133: The Future Is Now

Vox O'Raisins

Vox O’Raisins

 

2015 STARTS NOW

Not feeling very good about our team this morning. Let me clarify… not feeling good about it as a whole. Sure, there are elements and players that I still am glad we have. Freddie, Jason (hopefully for more than just 2015), Simba, most of the pitching staff…

But as a whole, this team was more than just painful, they were embarrassing. At a time when the Braves faced must-win games at home, when they had to show their mettle, they were outscored 27-9 over six games. They were shutout twice. They scored in just 4 innings out of 53. 4 out of 53! They managed just 3 ER off 6 starting pitchers. In all my years of watching baseball, I’ve never seen anything like it. This was beyond collapse. Something has to be standing up to collapse. This team seemed as though they never got off the bench.

I need to qualify that statement. Our pitchers need to sue the rest of the team for non-support. We have a lineup full of dead-beat-batters. Our starters have notched a league leading 108 quality starts through game 156 to date this season. The segment that should have an excuse, that was truly decimated before pitch 1 of game 1, leads MLB in quality starts. Yet, the Braves are heading toward a sub-.500 team for only the 3rd time since 1990.

It’s mind-boggling.Upton-BJ.Wren

Things change over time, and sometimes change quickly. Two weeks ago, I advocated for Frank to be given one more shot to correct his mistakes. As recently as a few days ago, I half-heartedly stood up for Fredi in that he has been dealt a rotten hand. But the series against the Mets revealed more than just the obvious flaws we’ve discussed ad nauseum. Frank assembled a team that lacks certain necessary game elements to be effective, and he allowed the team’s leaders to leave at the same time. His inability to get along with other staff directly led to long-time and highly respected scout Dom Chiti and coveted pitching instructor Dave Wallace leaving for other teams. And it was revealed over the weekend that John Schuerholz is the one that stepped in to the breach and prevented Roger McDowell from departing to the Phillies. This team lost several strong planks and attempted to replace them with Popsicle sticks. The boat is sinking, fellas.

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

As for Fredi, yes he was dealt a rotten hand. But he looked totally lost and defeated over this last week as well. He appeared to be grasping at straws. And while he did seem to manage his pitchers better this year, his mis-handling of Even Gattis is just unforgivable to me. And let’s not forget this is the 2nd September in the last 3 that the Braves looked like they were making vacation reservations early.

No, there is much work to be done both on and off the field. We have 2 years left before we open a brand new ballpark and a new era for the team. There is no way that Terry McGuirk and John Schuerholz are going to let this bunch pave the way. This is the offseason for the foundation to be laid. Frank is and Fredi should be gone, along with Walker/Fletcher and Tosca, and likely Dascenzo. I still believe TP and EP should be safe, given their long term ties to the championship days of this team.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

At least John Schuerholz finally did what had to be done and canned Wren and his right hand man Burse Manno more changes are likely. My money is on John Coppolella, but with the appointment of John Hart as interim GM and the announcement of a blue ribbon search committee consisting of Schuerholtz, Hart and surprisingly Bobby Cox, anything is possible. That said, the new guy will get started with evaluating the team top to bottom.

I would have liked to see TP lead the last 7 games to see what he’s got. I’d would be nice to see if he could rally the troops and get this team to show some pride before heading to the beach or the golf course or the woods. However, perhaps his recent back trouble precluded that. That and Bobby Cox’s support of Fredi Gonzalez.  For better or worse, Bobby still appears to be willing to take a bullet for his guy.

As far as any great hope for 2014, it walked out the door yesterday. The push for 2015 should started today.

~ Raisins ~

 

#132: PO-TEN-TIAL

Vox O'Raisins

by Vox O’Raisins

PO·TEN-TIAL
adjective:  having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future
noun:  
1. latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness
2. physics:  the quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field                                 or of charge in an electric field.

 

The Braves simply do not have the pieces in place to be a championship team, and I have to keep reminding myself that they are very young. What are they missing?

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

 

 

 

#1.  a rotation leading ace. That’s right, I said it again. It’s much ballyhooed, and much debated, but a champion has an ace to lead the way. Julio has the potential, but an ace doesn’t go into a critical game, get a lead, and wet his pants.  Julio did that yesterday.  Most championship contenders have that tough 1-2 punch, like Kershaw-Greinke or Verlander-Scherzer.. The Braves have… uh, Teheran-Harang?

 

FredMcGriff3

 

 

#2.  a slugger. One might think about Gattis or JUp or Freddie. The NL HR leader as of today is the Fish’ Stanton with 26. The closest Brave is JUp with 19, tied for 7th. The league RBI leader as of today is also Stanton with 74. The closest Brave is JUp with 64, tied for 8th. Both are middle of the road of 15 teams. Not championship caliber.

 

Chipp4

 

 

#3.  a leader. The great teams have a strong character leading the way ala Chipper Jones. The current Braves have a couple of Cali surfers, a couple of guys from a FLA retirement haven, and a handful of dudes who barely speak English. The only 2 guys who show any fire at all are BJ, who vents his K frustrations at umpires, and Chris Johnson, whom I really think may be a little unstable.

 

 

Here’s a curveball for you…

Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez

 

I have vented plenty at Fredi, and I think he has deserved most of that, but to be honest he’s been dealt a pretty rotten hand. And none of us knows how much pressure he gets from above to play certain players. His biggest fault may simply be that he doesn’t handle the press as deftly as Bobby, and therefor makes himself out to look like a doof. He’s had pitchers go down quicker than a Malaysian airliner, multiple black holes in his lineup, and no clear productive hitters on which to hinge any lineups. And somehow, even after a historic roadie to the worst coast, we are still in the hunt in mid-August. I guess he can do something right.

Here’s the 2-edged sword. Things are not likely to improve a whole lot over the off-season. We’re locked in to most of our pieces, and don’t have the financial flexibility to make any significant upgrades. But the flip side is that Julio does have ace-potential. Freddie does have slugger-potential. And any number of our youngsters could step up and become a leader.. potentially. But it’s all potential.  I had a coach in high school who taught me that “potential just means you ain’t done $#!+ yet.” I guess the key word is “yet”.

Will those elements emerge? Maybe. The potential is on the roster. But they ain’t done $#!+ yet…

~ Vox O’Raisins ~

#131: And away we go…

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

The proverbial second half of the the Major League baseball season has begun. I say  proverbial because the the real halfway point occurred several weeks ago. As I    hammer away at the keyboard, the Braves are in a virtual tie for first place in the NL  East with the Washington Nationals. Virtual because to date, the Braves are 10  games over .500 with a record of 54-44 while the Nats are also 10 games over .500 at  53-43 with two games in hand over the Braves.

 

Surprisingly, this has come when the Braves have been all over the map as far as their play this season, part great pitching, part timely hitting, they have also have suffered through some abysmal stretches when it comes to making contact with the ball and scoring runs coupled with some leaky defense and erratic relief pitching. For some reason, those last two seem to go hand-in-hand.

 

In the past week, the long awaited departure of Dan Uggla mercifully took place the first day back from the All-Star break. With the remaining balance of approximately $19 million still on the Braves books, Dan will likely now be offered a league minimum contract by a team looking to catch a little lightning in a bottle from the 3-time All-Star. My guess would be Dan’s best bet would be with an American League team looking for a guy who can serve as a DH and not expose him too often to the perils of using him in the field. I still think he could play first base on occasion but that is a thread to be discussed by Dan’s potential suitors.

 

Gattis

Gattis

The Braves look to regain the services of El Orso Blanco on Monday. What the Braves gain in offense, they will lose in the defense so ably displayed by young Christian Bethancourt. The 22-year-old back stop has quickly gained the confidence of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff and looks to be primed to play everyday for somebody in the majors. While Gattis is prized for his prowess with a bat, his glove work has appeared lacking this season. While defense wins championships, you need somebody to get you at least one run and Gattis has shown the ability to deliver when the chips are down.

 

Still, the Braves still are face with some needs, a reliable veteran situational lefty relief pitcher and a power bat for the left side bench. A good lead off man and center fielder would be very beneficial too but perhaps we can flog that dead horse another day.

BJ Upton

BJ Upton

Just as Dan Uggla’s $13m per year contract became Frank Wren’s albatross, I fear Melvin Jr.’s contract is bird of the same feather. Melvin’s defense is suspect at best and his bat hardly justifies his big payday but at least it did not also cost the Braves any of their prized prospects. That would only have made the deal worse. Well, no one forced the Braves into signing BJ, they did it knowing full well his pluses and minuses. I just don’t think they realized his minuses would be so large.

 

 

Phil Gosselin

Phil Gosselin

The Bravos brought up Tyler Pastornicky to fill Dan Uggla’s spot on the roster. Some have wondered why Philip Gosselin was not allowed to remain with Atlanta but because he had already been returned to Triple A, he could not return for 10 days. Time will tell if the Pastor sticks with the big club or swaps places with young Gosselin. One has to wonder why the Braves did not really see the impending release of Uggla sooner. I expect the shuttle will be rather active between Atlanta and the farm clubs until the Braves find the right mix.

 

So, looking forward, what can we expect of this very young squad who became even younger with the release of Uggs. August looks to be the make or break portion of this season’s schedule for Atlanta. Nothing but contenders lined up with the likes of Oakland, Seattle, the Dodgers and Pirates as well as the Braves’ nemesis the Mets. Time will tell if the Braves are still fighting to hold off the pre-season favorite Nats or trying to chase them down in September.

Gil2

#130: Time to pull the plug, Frank….

Gil

Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

The Dan Uggla situation has extended beyond what any reasonable person should have to endure. I think  everyone gets it, Dan is past his prime and the Marlins snookered the Braves into taking a guy who was going to be  way over priced. The Braves should  have seen it for what it was. It is like many other GMs  discovered in the past  when trading the Braves for a  pitcher whom the Bravos had given up on. Said  pitchers hardly ever recovered  after being discarded by the Braves.UgglaSigns

Perhaps it is Frank Wren’s ego which will not allow him to admit he made a mistake. Message to Frank, get over it. If you don’t make a mistake or two, you are not trying hard enough. Okay, Kenshin Kawakami was a huge goof but Bobby Cox was involved in that a little bit. Never sign a pitcher who you have not personally seen in action yourself. Of course Melvin Upton may be on track to equal that blunder in scope. I’ve said it before, Melvin Junior stands to be the Braves’ Jason Bay. At least we all understood when you were forced to sign Derek Lowe for 4 years and $60 million, the Braves needed pitching and the Braves did actually get some value from him.

Get over it Frank, cut the cord and move on. You have to look at the situation as the cost of doing business. Salary is salary, whether you are paying one guy 90% or everyone gets an equal share, at the end of the day, it is what you are paying your team. It is why most teams are loath to give more than a three year contract and players push for huge payouts because it guarantees them a spot on a roster, no matter have miserably they fail.

Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla

So let it be with Dan Uggla, even if he is released tomorrow, it will not be the worse failure or bad trade the Braves have ever had. That distention still belongs to Ted Turner for the Len Barker trade and to Jonathan Schuerholz for when he traded away the farm in 2007 for Mark Texeria. Of course, the Rangers were pretty happy with what they got. It propelled them into the World Series for a couple of years. That said, think about how Billy Bean felt after trading away Tim Hudson for Tommy Tee and two pitching prospects who never panned out.

Uggla

Uggla

Throughout Dan’s exile to the nether world of the far end of the bench, all we have heard is how Dan has stayed professional. Working hard to stay ready and rooting for his teammates despite the fact he has become persona non grata on the 25 man roster. hey, he has done some good things for the team. Perhaps the Braves can restructure his contract so he gets paid $1 million dollars a year for the next 30 or so years in exchange to agreeing to his release. The Braves are going to have to pay him anyway. Dan is not stupid, he is not going to quit or refuse an assignment. After all, if the Braves are willing to play with a 24 man roster, he is willing to also serve for another season and one half.

Not every trade is a bad one, sometimes you get lucky. Chris Johnson is a great example of that. So keep the line moving

Gil2

 

 

#127: A Farewell To Arms

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott

So, in the past thirty days or so we have seen the number of healthy arms expected to fill out the Braves pitching staff diminish as fast as a spendthrift’s bank account. To be honest, I have not seen the Braves’ expected starting five so decimated since that fateful season of 2008. Y’all remember that don’t you? The year of Buddy Carlyle. Jorge Campillio, Chuck James and JoJo Reyes which led the Braves to go all in on Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami in 2009. It was during the Braves attempt to stay relevant and rebuild on the fly.

InsertThe projected starting five this season was sketchy to begin with. The Braves were counting on three pitchers who were rebounding from Tommy John surgery to lead the charge. “They” being Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and off season acquisition Gavin Floyd. To my way of thinking it was a bit like drawing to an inside straight to cover a pretty large raise. It isn’t impossible but the odds are against you. Those odds reared it’s ugly head and bite the Braves in the butt when within 24 hours both Medlen and Beachy went down to arm trouble. Throw in Mike Minor’s inhibited return to full strength to a somewhat odd necessity to have surgery to his urethra in January and subsequently causing him to strain his shoulder in trying make up for lost time.

What the Braves were left with was going from an embarrassment of riches in the pitching department to an embarrassment of a pitching staff. Guys like journeyman Freddie Garcia moving from a guy who was trying to pitch his way onto the Braves major league roster as a fifth starter/long relief guy to now the number three guy on your staff. That is scary.

Santana

Santana

Fortunately, the best free agent starter still available, Ervin Santana was still mulling over offers from American League clubs, Toronto and Baltimore. Now, let’s be realistic, Erwin Santana is no Clayton Kershaw. In fact, he may not even be a Kris Medlen when it comes to talent but he is certainly a huge improvement over what the Braves were looking at before inking a one year deal with the 31 year old righty from the Dominican Republic for the amount of $14.1 million dollars. This is in essence the same amount of the qualifying offer he turned down from the Kansas City Royals.

Given the circumstances, the Braves got off cheap. Yes, they have increased their payroll beyond their budgeted amount and gave up a first round draft pick, They got off a heck of lot cheaper than if they had to make a trade for a front line starter. Didn’t the Braves just trade a first round pick, Sean Gilmartin, for a pitcher? There is no guarantee a first round pick is ever going to make it to the show. My take is the Braves view not just the cost of adding a guy like Santana but the potential loss of revenue that comes with a losing team. I have said many times, the Braves spend what they choose to spend. Their self imposed salary cap is just that, self imposed. I’m not saying they should spend like the federal government but they have to be realistic if they want to stay relevant.

Gil2

125: Hall Of Fame: Destiny Fulfilled

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

This past week, we discovered that two essential parts of the long time Braves’ stellar pitching triumphant were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Greg Maddux, aka Doggie, was without question one of the best pitchers ever to tie up a pair of baseball cleats. Those of us who were blessed with the opportunity to see Maddux pitch both in person or via the once venerable super station TBS remember so many of the gems hurled in under two hours. In an age where the average American League game often extended into four hours, when Greg was scheduled to pitch, you could still watch the game and bet on it being over early enough for you to watch your favorite prime time TV show.

Mad Dog

Mad Dog

I doubt Greg Maddux was the inventor of the strategy of pitching to contact, but he certainly was the master of its implementation. Often asked if he thought he would ever pitch a no hitter, he would reply that he doubted it. It just was not part of his game. Never blessed with the power to blow away hitters, he did possess the mind of a genius when it came to setting up hitters and keeping the ball off the sweet spot of the bat. Barry Bonds referred to him as old dipsy doddle because he never threw anything straight. Watching the game on TV allowed for us was to see the incredible movement on the ball no matter what he pitched. Ball control was his game. Anytime he issued a walk, it was of the intentional verity. The same is said of whenever he hit a batter. While he would profess innocence, everyone in the park knew his control was so fine, it was unfathomable that he could let one slip. He once pitched 51 consecutive innings without issuing a walk. Seldom did he throw more than three pitches to a batter. Of course in his typical self depreciating style, when ask to what he attributed his success, he cited having Rafael Furcal and Andrew Jones behind him certainly helped because he knew when the ball was struck, one of them would catch it.

Glavine

Glavine

The other first ballot Hall of Farmer elected who was a huge part of the Braves’ success was Tom Glavine. Another cerebral kind of guy, his game was also to make you hit his pitch. Often that pitch was a devastating change up. He lived on the outside for so long, the strike zone would became where ever he decided it should be on a particular start. When he found that batters started crowding the plate in anticipation of his extended strike zone, he learned that pitching inside was a winning strategy too.

Glavine likely would have won his 300th game as a Brave were it not for folks pushing the limits of a relationship and Tom calling the Braves’ bluff on an inside straight. I remember Glavine starting one All Star game and giving up six consecutive singles in the first inning, all ground balls. Needless to say, the National League lost that game but it was not until years later we discovered that Glavine was pitching with two cracked ribs in that game. Not that he didn’t execute his game plan, it was just the AL was hitting them where they won’t. That was the thing about Tom Terrific, he showed other pitchers on the team you did not have to be 100% to take your turn on the mound and still be successful. It also proves one can do what he is supposed to do but it still takes 8 other guys on a team to win. Glavine possessed a certain amount of grit, likely accrued from his youth hockey days. He showed others how to play through the pain. A lot of Braves fans never forgave Tom for signing with the Mets in 2003 nor his role as the President of the Baseball Player’s Association when the player’s strike of 1994 derailed the season. Say what you will, I believe it only demonstrated further his abilities as a leader both on and off the field.

Having a Hall of Fame manager to guide them did not hurt the pair either. Bobby Cox, BobbyCoxwho will also sit on the podium along with Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Frank Thomas, managed his teams to success, no matter their make up. Often the Braves were accused of always waiting for the three run homer to win games, seldom stealing bases or other wise employing the running game but Bobby was simply playing with the cards he was dealt. The speedy Furcal would often turn a game into a one nothing affair after legging out a single, stealing second, moving to third on a ground ball hit to second and scoring on a sac fly. Dion Sanders was another speedster employed by Cox but the two things a Bobby Cox team was known for were pitching and solid defense. Having players in the outfield who could “go get it”. Something that often contributed to the Braves pitching staff having the league leading ERA at the end of each season.

Smoltz2aHopefully, in 2015 we will be able to applaud the selection of John Smoltz, the third leg of the trinity of Braves pitching. John was the antithesis of Glavine and Maddux, relying upon power and an overwhelming split-finger pitch as opposed to finesse but that is a topic for discussion on another day.

Leo's Staff

Days of Glory

HOF2014

124: The players may change but the game remains the same.

by Gil Elliott 'Gil from Mechanicsville'

by Gil Elliott
‘Gil from Mechanicsville’

Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean

Hit the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball. Time honored axioms of the greatest game on earth. A game which is perfect for the haze of summer for when it is meant to be played. As followers of the game, we are all familiar with names like Cy Young, Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial and hundreds more who have graced the green fields of places known as Wrigley. Turner and Ebbets Field. Stadiums as cavernous as the Mistake on the Lake in Cleveland and as intimate as Fenway. Baseball fields which all have their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies but all have the same dimensions of 90 feet between each base and 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. But, even with these dimensions being the same, every field is unique in the way they play. Some teams let the grass grow long to slow the ball to allow for an infield comprised of slow-footed sluggers or lightning fast if the defense is stellar.

 Cy Young 1892

Cy Young 1892

Every season, one team remains as the winner of the ultimate prize in baseball, to be crowned world champions. Winners of a best of seven play-offs between the final teams left after a 162 game season to qualify for the play-offs and then to outlast the remaining qualifiers for the right to play for the championship. Not surprisingly, it is not always the best team, the highest paid team, the team with the best hitter, the best pitcher but most often, it is the team which is the most clutch, is best able to withstand the pressure of the moment who are victorious. Perhaps unfairly, it is the team which can get hot at the most opportune time who gain the glory.

 Avilan

Avilan

David carpenter3

Carpenter

This past season, we watched as our beloved Braves surprised most everyone in baseball by winning the National League East. Winning 96 games and beating the much ballyhooed Washington Nationals by ten games. They did this despite having their two highest paid players hit well below the infamous Mendoza line. Despite having one of the youngest teams in major league baseball. The Braves defied expectations by having a bullpen without the services of such stalwarts as Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flarety and Christian Martinez.

Ramiro+Pena

Ramiro Pena

Amazingly the emergence of Luis Avilan and a converted catcher by the name of David Carpenter, who by the way was released by Boston Red Sox after being traded from Toronto.

The 2013 Braves won 96 games despite having 20 players spend time on the disabled list at some point during the  season and others that missed significant time due to wear and tear. Amazingly, losing front line pitchers Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Paul Mulholm. Losing the services of gold glove outfielder Jason Heyward not once but twice for what amounted to 1/3 of the season. The untimely loss of super utility guy Ramiro Pena and just about every back up infielder on the 40 man roster. Jordan Schafer, who finally showed flashes of the potential the Braves saw in him when he was drafted by the them in the third round of the 2005 draft. The 2013 Braves won despite having to insert Kansas City Royal cast off Elliot Johnson at second base because Tyler Pastornicky could not make it past one week as the heir apparent at second base after a collision with Jason Heyward in short right field.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Andrelton Simmons

With Chipper Jones now a memory, Chris Johnson, who will likely never win a gold glove at third base, became a wonderful surprise with a clutch bat and strong arm and a more than adequate replacement for the foreseeable future at third base for the Bravos. All-World Andrelton Simmons who will improve the stats of every Braves pitcher who can induce a ground ball by opposing hitters and will continue to improve at the plate as he accrues acumen with the bat. A first baseman in Freddie Freeman who by all rights should be the starting first baseman for the National League All-star game for the next several years and should garner MVP consideration not only for his prowess with the bat but for the number of errant throws from the other infielders he snares as they pass within the vicinity of his position.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Everyone’s feel good story of the year, Evan Gattis has become an Atlanta legend in the course of a few short months. Exceeding everyone’s expectations by not only hitting in clutch situations but taking to a new position in left field and showing better than average ability while donning the tools of ignorance. No doubt Brian McCann will be missed when he leaves for a big payday soon but the catcher’s position is not one for which the Braves will have to seek a replacement. Christian Bethancourt, the here-to-fore heir to McCann will have to wait a while longer before he becomes the Braves number one signal caller.

So, who will be the next ex Braves besides McCann this season? Both the Braves and Tim Hudson have indicated they would like to continue their relationship. It may be the bean counters who decide if it continues. Reed Johnson’s Achilles heel may be his Achilles heel. Never counted on to be an everyday guy, he still has value both in the club house and as a right hand pinch hitter. Dan Uggla’s ability to see the light, or anything else for that matter, will be determine if he starts next season in a Braves uniform. I cannot see any other team having value for a guy who cannot make contact no matter what the price. It is not like Dan’s glove is going to keep him line up. No, Dan will either hit this spring or end up being a $13 million dollar albatross around Frank Wren’s neck.

Eric O’Flarerty or Jonny Venters, take your pick. One will stay, one will go. Let’s hope the Braves keep the right one. Personally, I think O’Flarerty would be the safer bet to keep but that does not mean he will. Comes down to where the Braves want to spend their money. BJ Upton will still be in town but methinks that if Frank’s crystal ball had given him any indication of the emergence of Evan Gattis as a right handed power bat this season, the off season signing of Upton would never have happened and 75 million dollars would have gone towards front line starter like Zack Grienke or even extending Brian McCann but that ship has sailed. Let’s all hope that BJ doesn’t become the highest paid pinch runner in the league.

~ Gil~

122: To Be or Not To Be BMac

VOR

by VOR

 

I heard a pretty extensive discussion about Mac just yesterday. Good points were made.Brian McCann

First, this is Mac’s last deal. This is the one that sets him and his offspring up for life. There will be more than one AL team willing to offer Mac six years given their ability to have him DH occasionally now and extensively later. The Braves cannot offer that.

Second, the Braves will most certainly offer him a qualifying deal. In fact they’d be ecstatic if he’d take it. But he won’t. And the Braves will pick up a high draft pick. For all those who scream “you can’t just let him walk at the end of the year for nothing”, the Braves do get something, and it is something of worth. How do the Braves keep it going? By building through the farm system. How do you guarantee success through the draft? You can’t… but you do give yourself a lot better chance of hitting on a top prospect if you have more draftees. Draft picks matter.

Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis

Third, the sad fact is that money does matter. The Braves could afford to give Mac the payday he deserves, but at what cost? If you pay Mac, who do you not pay? Gotta extend JHey. Gotta extend Freeman. Gotta start thinking about Minor. And if you give Mac the years and money he’s gonna get from Texas or Boston or New York, then you end up like he Phillies with aging players eating up your payroll and spending more time on the DL. Utely is still bothered by the knee and half the player he was. Lee’s missing his next start because of his neck. Ruiz has had a couple of stints on the DL this season with his knees. Howard… remember Howard? Highest paid and least seen. Halladay? Well, you get the picture.

Look, I love Mac. He is the soul of this team this year. But I want what’s best for the Braves, not the Brave. How blessed is this team to have Gattis already performing, Laird on the bench and Bethancourt as a prospect? Many teams can’t even start a guy as good as the guy we have in AA. The Braves have been built to sustain success by moving young talent in and moving older talent out. It is the recipe for long term success. And Mac will look good in Ranger blue. :-)

~ Voice of Reason Raisins

117: Will The Next Left Fielder Come Out Of… Well, Left Field?

hotstove

by Voice of Raisins

Northeast Georgia, God’s country

Will The Next Left Fielder Come Out Of… Well, Left Field?

20 years of Braves opening day LF:

2013: ????

2012: Matt Diaz, by default… Chipper on DL; Martin at 3B

2011: Martin Prado, a converted IF

2010: Melky Cabrera, having an atrocious season

2009: Matt Diaz, but Frank’s darkest moment Garret Flippin’ Anderson was penciled in as the regular starter… he had a boo-boo on his wittle weg on Opening Day

2008: Matt Diaz, who platooned with Gregor Blanco

2007: Matt Diaz, whom we picked up off waivers after KC dumped him

2006: Ryan Langerhans, whom we ended up trading for a PTBNL that never was

2005: an old Brian Jordan redux, soon to be booted in favor of Kelly Johnson, a converted 2BcJones

2004: Chipper Jones, but Charles Thompson was called up from AAA and played the most games there that year

2003: Chipper Jones

2002: Chipper Jones, for cryin’ out loud

2001: B.J. Surhoff, hanging on to collect one final paycheck

2000: Reggie Sanders, having the absolute worst season of his career

1999: Otis Nixon, on his way out… Gerald Williams played the most games thereRYAN KLESKO

1998: Ryan Klesko

1997: Ryan Klesko

1996: Ryan Klesko

1995: Ryan Klesko

1994: Ryan Klesko, a converted 1B

1993: Ron Gant, a converted 2B

In 20 years, the most consistent play we have had from LF is from 1B Ryan Klesko.

Let that one sink in a minute…

Next in consistency of appearances in LF we have Matt Diaz, who had been let go by perennial doormat Kansas City. We made him a starter. Next? How about HOF 3B Chipper Jones?

Do we not see a pattern here? Is LF cursed for the Braves? Can we not, for the love of all that’s good and holy, get a real LF to play LF for more than a year? And I’m OK with converted IF Prado as my consistent LF, if I have a real 3B. But the 3B market is maybe the thinnest in baseball right now.

For 2013, I saw a small ray of hope – not even a ray, just a flicker – that we’d have a real LF for the first time since the atrocious days of baby blue uniforms. Frank said he was focused. “Narrowly focused”, he said, and with “resources”.

Now we are hearing words like “comfortable” and “in-house options”. That is a stark contradiction to “narrowly focused”. They are talking names such as Constanza, Schierholtz (lost him to the Cubs), Reed Johnson (not yet an “in-house option”)… bench players all.

Who are our “in-house options”? Jose Constanza… the Braves “spark plug” and “high energy guy”. Those are terms used to describe players who don’t have the physical tools, but try really, really hard. Jordan Schafer, picked off the scrap heap from Houston, who had the worst record in baseball last season. He is currently listed only as the #3 CF on the Braves official depth chart behind BJ Upton – the high payed star who will play 155+ games – and Jose Constanza. Telling. And of course, currently the Braves official depth chart shows Martin as the #1 LF and Juan Francisco as #1 3B. Long Juan (great name, Gil) can hit ‘em a mile when he connects. He subscribes to the theory that you swing hard in case you hit it. Can’t hit RHP’s for squat.BrianJordan

I am not thrilled with our “in-house options”.

Maybe we should try v.3 of Brian Jordan. Is Langerhans still trying to eke out a living? Can’t be much worse than our other “in-house options”…

~VR~

 

116: OUT!!! Now What?

by Gil
Mechanicsville, VA

As we all watched the Braves fall to the Redbirds with a resounding thud in the first ever Wild Card playoff game, many of us were left with a very empty feeling of so much promise left unfulfilled. Everything appeared to be lined up in favor of the Braves. Outstanding pitching staff, rock solid bullpen and some timely hitting albeit somewhat sketchy when it came to getting guys home from scoring position. What we did not expect was a rock-slide defense would suddenly look like the Saturday Tee-ball league.

The net results is an end to a season long before we were really ready for it to stop. Oh well, it is done. Over. Kaput! Time for us to turn to the all important topic of what to do next? The obvious answer is what is needed to build a team who will be playing beyond the first round in 2013. All the while knowing the other teams in their own division will also be stronger next season. Having deep pockets does not always translates into success but it sure does make it easier to rebound from a mistake.

I look at the Braves as needing two major pieces and several minor ones to shore up their bench. First, someone to replace Chipper Jones. That is going to be a tough chore in itself. More likely, the Braves will to acquire several parts in order to make the whole. Hall of Fame type players do not grow on trees but when you look at the Cardinals, you can see how it’s done. Albert Pujols is perhaps one of the top five ball players in either league. St Louis managed very nicely by picking up Carlos Beltran. Beltran does not play the infield but he gives the Cardinals the same type of presence in the line up that Albert did. Far too often people become fixated by position when looking for players. What the Braves really need is a player who can provide a threat to produce RBIs in the middle of the line up and then find a position for him to play.

Martin Prado

So many folks have suggested Martin Prado be moved back into the infield to play third but forget that Freddie Freeman came up as a third baseman and was moved to first because the Braves felt this was an area of greatest need. I think what this gives the Braves is a bit more flexibility when looking for a power hitter in the middle of the batting order. My thoughts are more to whether or not Brian McCann is able to return to form. The absence of his bat was telling this season.

Freeman

Centerfield/leadoff might be a bit more tricky. The Braves have been looking for someone to fill the lead off spot ever since Rafael Furcal left for Los Angeles. Pure speed is not the only criteria needed. Patience to see a lot of pitches and knowing how to get on base is critical. It is a role I see Andrelton Simmons growing into pretty easily. He certainly is wasted batting in the eight hole. Raisins suggestion of trading for Dexter Fowler is an excellent one and if the Braves front office is still taking the advice of the old B&S as we have seen in the past, one which we may see happen this fall.

Simmons

Yes, it would be nice to see Michael Bourn continue to patrol the outfield for the Bravos but Frank Wren is more likely to follow the Florida Marlins model of baseball acquisitions than the one employed by the Yankees. The Braves will make a one year qualifying offer of $12 million necessary to get a compensation pick but Bourn is headed north to either Washington or Philadelphia or west to the Dodgers. It’s been nice having him around but alas, the Braves are just not prepared to overspend for a guy who has shown he can break down over the 162 game season. At least not one who has played in the organization for 19 years.


Blog Birthdays

ChrisKlob: Feb 4

Raisins: Mar 13

Berigan: Mar 15

Gil: Apr 15

Salty: Apr 22

FloridaBravesGirl: Jul 8

Skip Caray: Aug 12

Miss Josie: Aug 18

Carolina Lady: Oct 7

BravesAndStuff: Dec 5, 2007


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