Saturday, March 29, 2008

Where We Stand

Well, the season opens up tomorrow night in DC for the Braves and they just finished up their spring training season with a rain-shortened victory over the Indians. Overall, this spring, the Braves finished around .500 if that means anything to you. It shouldn't, but you know how some people can be. Not specifically you, reader, though maybe you are part of the problem. If so, stop.

Simply put, the Braves seem to be right about where they were before spring training opened. Jair Jurrjens did what he needed to, Mike Hampton was able to make some starts, Jeff Bennett's support continues to be strong, and Kotsay's back is still not in 50 million pieces.

Some surprises, of course. Gregor Blanco beat out Josh Anderson, Brandon Jones, and Joe Bochard (or Chard) for the fourth outfielder spot, which was good to see. Javy Lopez was cut and retired and the second catcher spot has yet to be resolved with Corky Miller and Brayan Pena both breaking camp for the moment. KJ and Esco will man the first two spots in the order and Kotsay will just have to deal with the 8th spot.

The Braves found some sad team to take Tyler Yates (thanks Pirates) and got a gift in Ruben Gotay. Seriously, Luis Castillo isn't that good, New York. Gotay might be defensively challenged, but he ain't a bad middle infield hitter. He always scared me when the Braves faced the Mets.

In the end, what this team is right now is hardly a sure contender. There are a lot of question marks. But I believe there are less this year than last year and anytime you can say that, it's a plus.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mid-March strikes

-The weather is starting to warm up, my nephew has little league practice today, and stupid people are trying to say stupid things about subjects they have no business writing about. Yep, it's mid-March.

-The Tennessee Journalist has this bit on why the Braves will finish third in the NL East this year.

Renteria was criminally underrated during his time in Atlanta and Jones has been the Braves most imposing offensive threat for almost a decade.

Now, Renty may have been criminally underrated, though he did go to an All-Star game and got paid handsomely in his two years with the Braves (though the BoSox helped out). But the Jones they discuss is Andruw. Even if you attempt to make the argument that Chipper's injuries hurt his standing in a discussion like this, a simple look at baseball-reference's franchise index shows that over the last ten years, the leaders in OPS are as such.

Chipper Jones - Five Times
Adam LaRoche, Andruw Jones, J.D. Drew, Gary Sheffield, and Andres Galarraga - One Time

I mean, jeez, it's not even close. In the same article, he says the Nationals could finish .500, but the Braves are going to rue the day they allowed Andruw Jones go.

-On the other side, a real sports rag called the Sporting News did a bit on the Braves for their seasonal previews. Though wins as an individual stat is pretty weak, this was still pretty funny/sad.

Jurrjens, 22, was 3-1 in seven starts with Detroit last season. The Braves got three wins in 20 starts from Anthony Lerew, Jeff Bennett, Mark Redman, Lance Cormier and Jo-Jo Reyes combined during their turns as the No. 5 starter.


-The Bleacher Report says the Braves pitching might be the best in the NL East. It's a reasonable claim, one that can only be disputed by the Mets. The article seems to think the bullpen is the one real possible weakness, though it doesn't bother talking about the pen. It still scares me, I won't lie.

-New York Daily News is reporting Bobby may not retire. Yawn.

-Horacio Ramirez was by the Mariners earlier this week, making John Schuerholz's fleecing of the M's for Rafael Soriano all the more comical.

-Four players have already been cut from the pitching battles. Charlie Morton, Phil Stockman, Zach Schreiber, and Matt DeSalvo were sent to Richmond. DeSalvo and Stockman had the best chances of sticking with the team coming into spring training, but didn't impress the Braves enough. Say good-bye to Diory Hernandex and Javier Guzman, too. Both will likely get a chance in Richmond to start the year, but so far, have only been reassigned to the minor league camp.

-In spring action, the Braves added four wins, two ties, and two loses in the last week to their resume. They have the Cards today and tomorrow. Here is a run down on some of the competitions.

-Fifth Starter Battle (assuming Hampton's healthy enough to take one spot)
Buddy Carlyle - 11 K/1 BB, 7 R in 10 innings
Chuck James - 0 K/0 BB, 0 R in 2 innings
Jair Jurrjens - 5 K/6 BB, 5 R in 11.2 innings
Jo-Jo Reyes - 7 K/7 BB, 7 R in 7 innings

Think Jurrjens has this sowed up right now. Chuck James has already accepted possibly going to Richmond to start the year. Buddy is Jurrjens' main competition right now since James needs to build up his arm strength and Jo-Jo is horrible this spring

-Last Two Bullpen Spots (if Soriano, Moylan, Acosta, Ring, and Ohman have spots)
Colter Bean - 2 K/2 BB, 1 R in 3 innings
Jeff Bennett - 0 K/4 BB, 5 R in 5 innings
Blaine Boyer - 9 K/2 BB, 1 R in 9 innings
Francisley Bueno - 3 K/3 BB, 3 R in 7 innings
Chris Resop - 9 K/1 BB, 2 R in 8 innings
Jeff Ridgeway - 3 K/5 BB, 2 R in 6.1 innings
Tyler Yates - 3 K/6 BB, 8 R in 5 innings

Boyer is a keeper and Resop has the inside track for the seventh spot. Bueno, a minor league starter, has emerged as a bit of a contender and is getting the work, showing the Braves think he can do something. I can't see Yates breaking camp with the club.

-Backup Catcher
Javy Lopez - 4 for 23, 3 EBH
Corky Miller - 3 for 13, 1 EBH
Brayan Pena - 5 for 17, 0 EBH
Clint Sammons - 3 for 13, 2 EBH

Javy is being given the at-bats to win the battle for sure. Pena's edge in solid hitting is lessoned by no power and his defensive problems.

-Final Two Backups (assuming Thor and Prado have their spots sowed up and at least one of these spots will go to a outfielder)
Josh Anderson - 9 for 33, 2 EBH
Gregor Blanco - 7 for 16, 2 EBH
Joe Borchard - 10 for 29, 8 EBH (team high)
Brandon Jones - 6 for 33, 1 EBH
Brent Lillibridge - 9 for 40, 3 EBH
Jordan Schafer - 10 for 33, 4 EBH

I am a bit surprised by the at-bats Schafer has received, but I don't think he'll unseat anyone. Just figured I would add him. Lillibridge has the fact that nobody on this list can play shortstop and Prado has had only limited experience there in the minors. As good as Chard has been, he is in the right field mold and the Braves need a decent center fielder to caddy Kotsay. I say Lillibridge and Anderson more or less fall into their spots, though Anderson hasn't been that bad.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thor on the way out?

Thor is like my last corkscrew swinger left so that would be weird, but anyway, it appears the Braves are shopping the Canadian to anyone willing to listen. Manitoba might be. Shanks and DOB both report, according to MLBTR that Thor is being shopped for a reliever. Here is your team-by-team look.

Arizona - Little Chance - Conor Jackson is very much in the same mold except he's actually producing. What Jackson produced last year is similar to Thor's minor league production.

Baltimore - Pretty Decent Chance - Likely to start at first for the O's is Kevin Millar, who was hardly that productive last year. The O's need youth and potential, which makes it also tough for them to give up a decent young arm. For instance, high-end guys like Radhames Liz and Garrett Olson are pipedreams. However, James Hoey might be a possible target. His major league numbers are pretty bad, but his minors aren't that shabby.

Boston - No Chance - They already have the Greek God of Walks and Casey at the Bat, not to mention Big Papi.

Chi Cubs - No Chance - Lee and Ward in the fold.

ChiSox - No Chance - Konerko and Thome just keep a third ugly white guy from joining the team. In a pinch, Swish has a first baseman glove.

Cincy - Little Chance - If Scott Hatteberg was hurt and Joey Votto sucked, maybe they would be interested.

Cleveland - Little Chance - The Indians have a glut of players capable of playing first, including Andy Marte. Just don't see them adding another, but stranger things have happened.

Colorado - No Chance - They already have Helton and a scramble for at-bats with Nix, Stewart, and Atkins.

Detroit - Little Chance - The Tigers have Carlos Guillen at first and Mike Hessman behind him. Thor could be useful there, but I can't see the Tigers taking the bait. They still have to find at-bats for Brandon Inge around the field/DH.

Florida - Decent Chance - I actually think Florida might be interested. Mike Jacobs has failed to reach the .800 OPS plateau each of his first two full seasons. They might be willing to go in a different direction.

Houston - No Chance - The Astros have Mark Loretta and Geoff Blum, capable backups, behind Lance Berkman.

Kansas City - Little Chance - Dayton loves former Braves farmhands, but he already has enough first baseman's to figure from. I think Ryan Shealy will get another chance.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - No Chance - Too many already.

Los Angeles Dodgers - No Chance - Loney FTW

Milwaukee - No Chance - There's this fat guy at first they like.

Minnesota - No Chance - They don't need more unproductive infielders.

New York Mets - No Chance - Technically, they could use him to backup Delgado. But, um, they wouldn't trade for Thor.

New York Yankees - Little Chance - Barring injury, they are set with Giambi at first and Damon DHing. But tomorrow could be completely different.

Oakland - Little Chance - Too many damn 1B/LF types as it is. Hey, maybe we can get Devine for Thor...

Philly - No Chance - They currently have Helms to backup Howard.

Pittsburgh - No Chance - Dammit, we shouldn't have given them LaRoche.

San Diego - No Chance - Adrian Gonzalez and Tony Clark anyone?

San Francisco - Pretty Decent Chance - The Giants are in a state of transition and you have to think San Francisco would be reasonable. Dan Ortmeier has been moved to first to compete for the spot with Rich Aurilla. Yay. Patrick Misch, a lefty, would be reasonable and probably would get a second lower minor league player. Another lefty with much higher ceiling, Jonathan Sanchez, has had injury problems. Justin Hedrick and Dave McKae wouldn't be horrible either.

Seattle - Decent Chance - Maybe Thor could push Sexson to play a little better. A young fireballer like Kameron Mickolio would definitely be reasonable to the Mariners. The M's best options are already in the bigs and likely to be tough to get. Ryan Rowland-Smith wouldn't be too terrible.

St. Louis - No Chance - They have some guy named Pujols...

Tampa Bay - Little Chance - If they didn't have such a tough time finding at-bats for everyone already on the team, I would think they would be willing to go after Thor.

Texas - Decent Chance - Ben Broussard is their frontrunner with Salty maybe getting a game or two a week there. Teix's former team could use Teix's current backup. Eric Hurley, A.J. Murray, and Daniel Herrera would all be decent finds for Thor.

Toronto - Little Chance - Lyle Overbay is a good player and AL teams struggle to add a straight backup to the team at first, but the Blue Jays might want the Canadian.

Washington - No Chance - As much as the Nats love the Braves' trash, first base is one of their positions of strength. Well, as much strength as Dimitri Young and Nick Johnson present.

Yay, can we get Matt Franco back too?

This fun piece is from the Philadelphia Daily News.

Wes Helms got another start, this time at first base, against the Rays yesterday. He's among the team leaders with 20 at-bats this spring, as the Phillies continue to showcase a player who doesn't seem to have a role since Pedro Feliz was signed as a free agent.

It's believed that the Braves and Marlins have shown at least mild interest. Helms went 0-for-3 yesterday, dropping his Grapefruit League average to .200.

I am really hoping for a four-for-one deal...maybe Brandon Jones, Lillibridge, Hanson, and Rohrbough for Helms since we just love throwing away young guys and this deal could cause a riot.

And seriously...riots are cool.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I'm alive!

-It's been forever since I last posted. I had a fun week of vacation and the computer was excluded from my vacation, though alcohol was not. Yummy.

-Anyway, I have a whole lot of articles to sniff through, but I'll just focus on the last few days for this little spiel. First, the Braves are 6-3 after a loss to the Tigers today. I don't have the stats from that loss, which was 9-6, and spring training records are worthless, but hey, it's something to report.

-Joe Borchard is killing the ball. All five of his hits are for extra bases. Dammit, I hate when bad players have good numbers. Esco is a cool 8 for 16 while Tyler Flowers, Jeff Francoeur, Javy Lopez, and Mark Teixeira share the team's four homeruns. Scott Thorman, Brian McCann, Brent Lillibridge, and Brandon Jones are all kind of sucking so far.

-On the mound, Jair Jurrjens is doing everything possible to nail down a spot. In five innings, he has allowed just one earned run and batters are hitting .118 off of him. My Buddy hasn't given up a hit or a walk in four innings. Glav and Resop are tied with a team-high four K's.

-At some point, the Braves signed Jonathon Rouwenhorst from the Angels. Semi-old lefty who has just kind of sucked his whole career.

-In news that surprises no one, Mike Hampton is hurt. Seriously, how in the world can anyone expect him to really do much?

-The Braves nearly tossed a no-hitter yesterday in a 4-1 win over the Tigers. Colter Bean, a name I know only because he was the Yankees closer for years in my Out of the Park video game, allowed a two hit single in the ninth. Good job dumbass!

-Barry Bonds to the Braves? According to Phil Rogers, "The best fit of all for Bonds could be in Atlanta, however, with a hole in left field and Bobby Cox to keep him in line." The hole in left field, hmmm. Matt Diaz, whatcha think?

-Well, I'm back! w00t, w00t