Saturday, February 23, 2008

While it hovers over 30 here, people are playing baseball there

-Been a cold week at times for us Virginians, but alas, no one cares. Not even the weather Gods, who chose to surround Virginia with wintery mix, but never actually enter Virginia to give us some. Bastards.

-The Hattisburg American out of Hattisburg, Miss. is ready to call the NL East for the Braves. Jason Munz writes, "Braves over the Detroit Tigers in the 2008 World Series in six games." This is problematic because Munz, while he does write about the Braves to some degree, doesn't actually indicate the x-factor, the je ne sais quo that gets them over the hump. Just says there are reasons to be optimistic because the Braves have brought older people back. He does talk up Glav, but man, when did the quality start ever become some big number? This is monster cherrypicking in my opinion. A quality start is defined as six innings and three or less earned runs. This is nice, but it's hardly that noteworthy.

-McCann gets the DOB treatment with an article that while promising, seems to be regurgitated from last year. A year ago, the buzz was that despite such a huge year in 2006, McCann wanted to be a more complete player in 2007. I hope to see it this year and focusing on his diet/exercising might be a first step to getting better. To me, he just needs to work on his footwork.

-Speaking of Braves catchers, here is DOB again with an article on the faux battle for the backup catcher. This idea is to use Javy as a pinch hitter and Diaz as the emergency catcher. Now...that's going to be fun. I think as long as Javy stays healthy and doesn't completely suckass, he has the job. That's not a competition, though.

-THE MOST PROMISING part of the article was that Bobby said this. "Either way you go with the first two guys, it doesn't matter, with Kelly and Escobar." Aww, I love you again, Bobby. And shut up, Chipper. Mark Kotsay shouldn't be hitting second. You are a terrible manager!

-By the way, Chipper's mouth was yapping about the proposed two-horse race in the NL East. However, according to Chipper, the problem the last two years hasn't been pitching, Andruw Jones, or anything close. It's the fact that the Braves young guys don't have a "killer instinct." See, whereas Chipper's KI is worthy of a Hall of Fame induction, Francoeur and McCann just don't have enough KI to get the team to the next plateau. Kelly does, but he's Texan and its expected. Moylan doesn't because Aussies are not a war-loving people. Maybe Chipper should strap them down like they did that monkey in 28 Days Later and show footage of teams with lots of killer instinct until they are infected with enough KI to start a dynasty.

-Elsewhere, it seems the Braves are becoming the critics choice to be the NL East spoiler. In Macon, they also talk up how forgotten the Braves are, despite the fact they have been there the last two years and still retain beaucoups of hitting talent, not to mention a good pitching core that can compete with the better staffs in the NL.

-Speaking of pitchers...Matt DeSalvo is already impressing Bobby. You know Bobby...he absolutely loves those all-guts, no stuff pitchers. Jair Jurrjens is also getting a bit of play. First, the fantasy sports blog SportsJudge has a bit on Jurrjens being a bigger prospect than many might believe. I think that's accurate. His minor league numbers seem to give me the idea that he'll be a productive pitcher over the next dozen or so years. I don't think he will be dominating, but much like good pitchers, he'll be productive. Also on Jurrjens, here is a bit on him getting a shot with his favorite team. I didn't know he was from Curacao.

-If you need yet more info on Jordan Schafer, here you go. I really think he's getting blown up a bit too much, but maybe that's me desperately trying to keep my expectations low.

-Oh, the Braves East (Nats) signed Odalis Perez, who I believe becomes the first to complete the triangle with playing with the Braves, Braves West (Dodgers), and now Braves East. Congrats Odalis.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Busy week, ya know?

Baseball is finally getting fun again.

-Spring training previews are up and running. The Sports Network actually considers Chris Resop an addition to talk about. That's scary. Basic premise - Braves will improve this year because of the acquisitions of old Braves. Not that abnormal, I suppose.

-Elsewhere, Dugout Central has their very own preview. Much more informative and includes the very fun "The aforementioned Jurrjens could be getting starts as early as May, or whenever the annual Mike Hampton injury occurs." I'm glad we got such a joke as a starter. I think it's very fair to say that the Braves are, yes, headed in the right direction, but this might not be their year. Still not convinced that this staff is as deep and talented as people might think.

-Spring Training 08 has a theory that Matt DeSalvo is the best non-roster invitee to make an impact on the Braves. Consider the lists of NRI includes Javy Lopez, Jordan Schafer, and Brent Lillibridge, the choice of DeSalvo is a interesting one. I doubt he will get more than five innings myself.

-Here's a little didy about Josh Anderson. Is "didy" even a word? Not according to my spell check, but if it's not a word, than just what the fuck was John Cougar Mellencamp singing about? Didy isn't a word...ditty is, however. Learn something new every day.

-There's been a slew of Bobby Cox articles, mostly about his proposed retirement. Bowman and DOB both touch on it, so really, it's just one brain. I frankly think this is it and everyone is kinda in on it. There's that, "win one more for the Coxer" feeling to this season with Glav and Javy back in the fold. My sources tell me Sid Bream is coming out of retirement to compete with Thor for the backup first base job.

-DOB's article also said the Braves have brought back Damian Moss. You know he just wants to attach himself to Glav's hand again.

-Jayson Stark gave Glav his own article, too. A lot of people can't stand Stark, but I think he's merely a pompous ass and as one myself, I see a lot of pluses in that. But what the hell is up with that pic? It scares me.

Thing is...all the words in the world are worthless if Glav can't turn a few things on its head. He needs to prove that he do basically what he did two years ago. Drastically improve his K/9. Last year, it was 3.9. There is no amount of "well, take out those last few starts" arguments that avoid one truth. Glav was lucky to be having a "good" year until September. His defensive ERA also ballooned.

His projections are not promising. The Bill James ones are always the most positive, but his Marcel is just not good enough. 4.50 ERA, less than 100 K's, less than 200 innings. These things will keep Glav from being significantly helpful to the Braves, especially in the way Stark projects.

-DOB also talks up the Glavine subject, but he provides some other nuggets on Jeff Bennett, Mark Kotsay, and Jeff Francoeur. Bennett must have Bobby's support because he keeps getting mentioned. I'm dieting too so maybe I can be the fifth or "sixth" starter as well. Francoeur is blowing up and Kotsay has a beard. Thanks for the big time insight, DOB.

-Um...go Braves?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yeah, um, KJ shouldn't get overlooked

Friday, DOB penned an article on Kelly Johnson.

K.J. ready for more: With the moves made this offseason — Tom Glavine’s return, Yunel Escobar replacing Edgar Renteria at short, Mark Kotsay replacing Andruw Jones in center — and contract discussions regarding Mark Teixeira and Jeff Francoeur, it’s been easy to overlook 2B Kelly Johnson.

Can you really overlook 6.7 WARP or 15 win shares from second base?

But I’ve got a feeling that’s going to change soon. As many of you already understand, this is another Texan (nod to Hoss) who can flat-out hit. And until his late-season difficulties with backhanded plays, Johnson played steady defense at second base in his first season at the position after moving from the outfield.

I've been told that making backhanded plays is the toughest thing to learn how to do well. So KJ's struggles are easy to expect. You simply can't just go to a position and have everything go ok.

Do most folks realize how good his offensive numbers were? Think about it — K.J. missed the 2006 season for elbow surgery and had little more than a half-season of big league experience before batting .276 with 26 doubles, 10 triples, 16 homers, 68 RBIs (while hitting mostly 1st, 7th, 8th or 9th) and a .375 OBP.

As a leadoff man, he had 29 extra-base hits (six triples, nine homers), 40 RBIs and a .372 OBP in 306, which ranked among the leadoff OBP leaders in the NL.

And why in the world was he batting 7th or 8th in the second half season? Can we be slightly critical of Bobby on that one, DOB? Let's face it. Kelly Johnson was the second or third best hitter the Braves had last year for the full season.

In the 2008 Bill James Handbook, the statistical guru projects Johnson to rack up offensive totals in 2008 that compare favorably to Yankees star Derek Jeter.

James projects Johnson will hit .282 with 30 doubles, eight triples, 19 homers, 76 RBIs, a .384 OBP, .473 slugging and .857 OPS.

James projects Jeter will hit .312 with 35 doubles, two triples, 15 homers, 76 RBIs, .385 OBP, .443 slugging and .828 OPS.

Kelly Johnson is going to start a fragrance, isn't he? "KJ. The scent. The feeling. The overlookiness."

Some fans (and others) assumed after Johnson was dropped from the leadoff spot last summer, and after he was moved from full-time to platoon duties with Escobar, the Braves must not be too high on the converted outfielder. Not so.

Actions speak louder than words, DOB. According to Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves last year, Kelly Johnson was not a significant part of the team in the second half. It is fair to say that the Yunel Escobar's emergence, Johnson was just shit out of luck. But he was too good and with too high of a ceiling to sit on the bench.

Now, we have the Bowman propaganda machine going out there and saying that KJ is likely going to bat 8th next season. The Braves have a good offense.

They just need to use it properly.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

We want that guy?

This tidbit from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

According to Towers, the Braves expressed interest in trading for Single-A pitcher Matt Bush, even after Bush had reconstructive elbow surgery that likely will sideline him for the 2008 season.

If you don't remember Bush, he was the lampooned number one pick by the Padres in 2004 and got a monster signing bonus...and then the Padres moved him from shortstop to the mound. Fun stuff, huh?

The Pads passed on several bigger prospects, including Stephen Drew and Jared Weaver, who have already established themselves, to draft Bush. He got into a fight and was suspended and once he got onto the field, hit like shit. After continuing to be a below-average hitter into this year, the Pads moved him to the mound and he looked actually pretty decent at rookie level. 16 K's in 7.1 ING. But, after he ruptured a ligament, he had to have Tommy John and won't pitch until 2009.

And the Braves are looking to buy low, it looks like. Yay.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Closer and Closer we get...

-For the record, "Long Road To Ruin" by Foo Fighters is pure awesomeness.

-Beyond the Boxscore has a great overview on the impact, if any, injections truly have on the team's ability to come back and beat the other team. Last year's evidence suggests no real answer to the question, "Does getting ejected cause a team to get a spark?" This is one of those "numbers just won't tell you anything" discussions. Why? Well, it's simple. Anytime, and Chipper Jones mentions it, the evidence is found in "it seems we get a spark" from something, what that really means 10 times out of 10 is that you only remember the positives, not the negatives and in this case, it doesn't seem there is much motivation is watching your manager get ejected.

Not to say not ejected is the right way. I love that Cox battles for his players. It helps out the clubhouse. I just don't seem to think getting ejected is a significant spark. For instance, it may get a team's leaders to say, "he was pissed with us and we need to do better." That may have long-term consequences. See Lou Pinella's tirade last year against the Braves. His team, for whatever reason, played better in the weeks that followed. Maybe, just maybe, it was due to the ejection.

All that said...who the hell knows?

-At a blog of a Phillies fan, A Citizen's Blog, ranks the top three NL East staffs. Mike seems convinced that the Braves will have the best staff in the division. I don't agree, but I think he underscores a truth that is setting up. The Johan Santana trade makes the Mets better, but does it make them that much better? The Phils have Brett Myers/Cole Hamels, the Braves have Smoltz/Hudson, and the Mets have Santana/Pedro. Name-value alone, the Mets have the better one-two punch. Truth has it up in the air. I do think the Mets/Braves have better depth than the Phils.

-AJC has been busy. First, there is Mark Bradley talking up the Braves pitching. Not a whole lot here as Bradley's not DOB/Bowman. But he does seem to indicate, with the possible pushing of Frank Wren, that Chuck James may not even make the 25-man roster this spring. That is actually a bit newsworthy.

-DOB provides the 10 keys to success for the Braves. I think he was running out of shit when he said Mark Kotsay had to be a catalyst. Though...if he's pushing KJ lower in the order...he better damn well be a super duper catalyst.

-Elsewhere, Chipper Jones filed in on a DOB article with some, at times, jerky sounding remarks. Here is the direct link to where it begins.

-Um, that's all for now.

-I said that's all dammit.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

BaseballProspectus Top 100

Here are the Braves prospects on the list...

17. Jordan Schafer, of, Braves
36. Jason Heyward, of, Braves
63. Brent Lillibridge, ss, Braves
70. Brandon Jones, of, Braves
83. Gorkys Hernandez, of, Braves
86. Jair Jurrjens, rhp, Braves

According to Kevin Goldstein, the Braves offensive future is packed, especially in the outfield. I think that's fair, but I think he underestimates the pitching a bit, especially Tommy Hanson and Cole Rohrbough. Both, I feel, are big prospects. Obviously, I feel that way about Hanson because I ranked him first in my top 30. The more and more I think about it, Rohrbough may have the higher ceiling. There may not be a prospect in the system with more control, strikeout ability, and a penchant for inducing groundballs.

But overall, this system remains barren of the biggest prospects in the minors. I think this list backs that up. But it continues to have a bunch of solid minor leaguers that other systems would love to have.

A little Teix note...

From about half-way down on this page.

Marked for departure?
When the Braves signed first baseman Mark Teixeira to a one-year, $12.5 million deal, it may have just put off the inevitable loss of him in free agency. Teixeira, a player the Red Sox tried to deal for when he was in Texas, will likely command a salary of $20 million per year. His agent is Scott Boras, who couldn't get the Braves to bite on a long-term deal for Andruw Jones. The Braves should contend in the NL East, but if they don't, there could be a trading-deadline deal involving the slugging first baseman.

First off, Andruw was not in the long-term plans so the fact Boras couldn't get the Braves to "bite" is hardly some big surprise. But the Braves invested five prospects in Teix and two months of Ron Mahay. That would seem to indicate that Teix is in the long-term plans for sure.

On the other hand...Teix is hard to picture as a long-term fixture for the Braves as much as he is easy to picture as a long-term fixture. Consider that after this year, the Braves have $36M already figured in for next year _if_ the options for Smoltz/Chipper was either vested or picked up, which is very likely. So add $20M to that and you are at $56M with room to still get a player.

But I am warming up to the idea of letting Teix go and spend that money on starting pitching. In Matt Diaz, the Braves have a capable replacement to Teix. While Diaz won't match Teix in power, he will be good enough to keep the position from being a weakness. Factor in Kala Kaaihue and if he can ever reach his potential, the position becomes a strength. And if you are concerned that Diaz at first would be a problem because of power, the Braves will be getting plus-power for the position at second.

Though...having Teix long-term would be pretty sweet.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pitchers and Catchers, Oh My!

-Camp Roger is upon us and DOB is there. Apparently, the fact that Peter Moylan has tattoos is the first story that needs to be discussed. The Braves may or may not be able to get by the Mets this year, but we got a tattooed sidearming Aussie freak.

-Huddy talks about the Mets new pitcher. “He’s pretty good, but he’s not unbeatable. He got hit around a little bit last year.”

While Santana's H/9 last year was 7.52, slightly more than his 7.34 career mark, I wouldn't say he got hit around a bit. Especially if I was like Timothy and my H/9 last year was 8.87. Santana is so much more than pretty good. The only pitcher in baseball that can even come close to Santana is Jake Peavy. Timmyboy, just don't give him any kind of motivation to beat the Braves. He doesn't need it.

-Two outfielders are bigger, according to DOB. Jeff Francoeur kind of scares me. I really think people like to talk about the 30 HR mark too much. Francoeur did not reach that mark last year, but he was so much better than he was the previous year. If he focuses on being a bigger power hitter, I'm worried. The other outfielder is Brandon Jones. I know most bloggers like Mac, Jenny, and Lauren can't fathom why Matt Diaz shouldn't be the everyday guy in left, but if Brandon Jones is getting a chance, I see why Diaz shouldn't be the everyday starter. Jones is going to be really good, I feel. If he adds more power to his rapidly developing game, he could add another big bat.

-If Teix doesn't sign...move Diaz to first fulltime. Just an idea.

-Other stuff...Blaine Boyer is getting a lot of press here and there. DOB talks him up a little as well. I think he has a leg up on any contenders for an open spot in the pen....Thor is still getting love from Bobby....Lillibridge has a future with the team. I really feel he'll be a starter sooner rather than later.

-Mike Hampton looks set for camp. Mac might be right after all about how big of a roll Hambone can play next year if he can just be healthy. But Wren is fooling himself or just taking a good PR class this winter to say the Braves rotation is nine-deep. Smoltz, Hudson, Glavine, Hambone, James, Reyes, Jurrjens, Bennett,...Zane Smith?

-What the hell is with all the talking about Jeff Bennett? I'm going to have to use that damn tag more often it seems.

-The Braves signed another Aussie. He kinda looks like a serial killer. He plays shortstop. That' all I know.

-Damn, it's nice to get baseball back into the blog.