Thursday, September 25, 2008

David Wright...chokester

I love New York. I really do. I think they bring a lot of great things to this country. Some of the best music clubs in the country like CBGB (though closed now) are there. Times Square is there. The Statue of Liberty, Broadway, lower Manhattan, Madison Square Garden, Ellis Island...I mean, I've never been there, but damn do I want to go.

But holy fuck, their fans can be pretty apeshit. Case in point, David Wright.

You may have heard of him. Wright, a Norfolk boy, was drafted in 2001 and was in the majors just three years later. In nearly 700 career games, he has hit .309/.388/.534 with an adjusted OPS that is 39% better than the league average. A lot of people are down on his defense, but he reminds me of Rafael Furcal. The errors mask how good he actually is because his incredible range leads to tough chances.

Sounds like the kind of guy you might want. I think he's a little less than Chipper at the same points in their career, but is clearly a better defender. However, to hear the Mets fans talk, you'd think he was a bum.

See, New York fans have this snowball quality. They attach themselves to an easy statement and go with it. A-Rod is a choker, the Yankee fans say. They base this on a handful of games in any given year that just so happen to typically be against the better pitching in the league. Yet, if you looked at his career with RISP, he is hitting .303/.403/.553. Choking implies that the player gets worse in high-stress situation. A-Rod's overall career marks are .306/.389/.578. A small difference. But he's a choker.

Enter Wright, A-Rod's crosstown third base rival. .301/.395/.502 career with RISP. I'd take that, myself.

But he's a choker because the fans say he is. Now someone is going to point out that his numbers with RISP are exceptionally bad this year (.246/.329/.380). But I can have fun with seasonal splits. With a runner on first, Wright is hitting .350/.443/.775. So maybe Jose Reyes should just stay at first and everything will be okay. Did you know Mr. Clutch, Derek Jeter, hit just .261/.386/.355 with RISP in 2005? But the same people who whine about A-Rod and Wright point to Jeter as the man who rises above.

No, he doesn't. And, no, A-Rod and Wright don't slink down in clutch situations. The truth is...all three are very good players. A-Rod is probably the best player of this generation. But some seasons, the hits just don't come with runners in scoring position. This game isn't completely under your control. You can't pick when you get the hits and when you don't.

What I've never understood is that if players suddenly concentrate harder with runners on, if they held that same concentration every at-bat, they'd all be .400 hitters, right?

By all means, Mets fans...scream about trading David Wright. Yell it to the management. Maybe they will listen. Hopefully, they trade him out of the NL East. And by the time you blast management for trading him, maybe you'll understand that you do not seem to grasp the game as much as you think.

(I promise to talk about the Braves more in the future, I do.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ryan Effin Howard?

Seriously, ESPN bugs the living crap out of me.

Watching/listening the Mets/Cubs game because I have no energy to get the remote and change the channel and they just had the most asinine discussion about NL MVP. Both Dave O'Brien and the imbecile Rick Sutcliffe believe Ryan Howard should be MVP.

In fact, "Obi" came to the conclusion before Sutcliffe, who believe Howard is a better candidate for the award than Albert Pujols.

I know not everyone is going to believe in the value of fancy stats like VORP, but shouldn't it say something that the stat that is designed to find "value" has Ryan Howard ranked 30th...amongst all NL position players. Value. That word is in the award! Most Valuable Player. I can read it right there!

Ryan Howard is the sixth best 1B. He's only that high because the Braves traded Mark Teixeira. Ryan Howard ranks behind Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins on his own team. Shane Victorino, that smelly Hawaiian, is about as worthy to be named NL MVP as Ryan Howard. Cole Hamels and possibly Jamie Moyer would be better candidates.

And guess what...Howard just committed his 18th error, allowing the Braves fifth run to score in what is now a 6-3 game between the Phils and the Braves.

I sometimes want to smack people on the TV. This is one of those times.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Braves Say Goodbye to Shea

In their last series at Shea Stadium before the Mets move across the street, the Braves finished in the same way they have finished many three-game sets in Flushing since 1991. They won the series two games to one. After halting their infamous one-run game losing streak on the road with a 3-2 win in the opener of the double header against Johan Santana and Company yesterday, the Braves failed to score with a lineup that even the eternally optimistic Bobby Cox had to feel a little down about putting up.

Gregor Blanco, CF
Martin Prado, 2B
Kelly Effin Johnson, 2B
Omar Infante, LF
Krotchy McKrotchman, 1B
The French Prince, RF
Lillipad, SS
Clint Sammons, C
Jo-Jo Reyes, P

While there is never an excuse to get shutout by a rookie who the Brew Crew tore a new one in his major league debut, that is still pretty bad.

However, they dusted off, got off the mat, shook off the cobwebs, insert sports cliche here, and came from behind to beat the Mets 7-4 earlier today. The Mets fans, who enter hysteria at the smallest sign of failure, were on suicide watch following the game as nightmares of last September began. Luis Ayala, who I picked up for my fantasy team (oops) entered with a 4-2 lead, built by Braves slayer Oliver Perez and seven quality innings. Ayala then allowed three consecutive hits to Krotchy, PH KJ (sounds like code), and Greg "The Hammer" Norton. Norton's hit went the distance, though, and the game was quickly 5-4. Not to be outdone, Pedro Feliciano entered to allowed two hits and walk two and get charged with the other two runs to build a three run lead that Gonzo could not surrender.

Jorge Julio, who tossed an unimpressive 8th, improved to 2-0 in seven games with the Braves. He has pitched like shit, but that's why win-loss record is increasingly frustrating.

The win, combined with Philly sweeping a pair from the Brewers, has tightened the race in the NL East and the Wild Card. The latter is now tied between the Brewers and Phillies and the NL East is now separated by just a game. But none of that matters. The Braves have now won seven of their last ten. This is a team that won just nine of 29 games in the month of August so perspective, people!

Chipper Jones went 3 for 5 today. Albert Pujols went 2 for 4. Here is the updated batting average.
Chipper - .36471
Pujols - .36008

Elsewhere, these people believe Matt Holliday might be in the future for the Braves. A hypothetical offer...KJ, Thomas Hanson, Gorkys Hernandez, and Kyle Cofield. Holliday is due $13.5M next season and will be a free agent after 2009. His agent is Scott Boras. I'm just not too keen on trading away the system for another player. And for the record, though I am not trying to say his OPS away from Coors will turn into his full season OPS, he is only OPSing .803 away from Coors in his career. He is a good hitter, but he's certainly not that awesome.

This quote from Ned Colletti bugs me. “I’ll let you know in a year.” The quote was to the question did he regret signing Andruw Jones? Well, you know, Colletti, you knew the dangers. Andruw has not changed. What, did you think you could throw a shitload of money at him and suddenly, he is Alex Rodriguez? It does not work like that. You should take responsibility for that signing, not pass it on to Andruw.

By the way, I am in love with Kat Dennings. She makes me feel funny like I gotta hurl. Wayne says that I should hurl and "If you blow chunks and she comes back, she's yours. But if you spew and she bolts, then it was never meant to be." Hmm...worth a shot.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Smoltz...will he be back?

Atlanta Magazine has an article out on the subject of John Smoltz.

“I say this for the first time, without reservation, if I’m going to bust my butt and if I feel like I’m good enough and it doesn’t work out here, I will be pitching somewhere else … My dream scenario would be to pitch in the playoffs again, and that’s coming from a guy who’s been in 13 of them. (Smoltz missed the 2000 playoffs with Tommy John surgery.) To me, that’s what I’m about. So if the door gets closed here, it’ll have to be explored somewhere else.”

Simple. To the point. If the Braves don't want him back, Smoltz will find some team that wants 41 year-old who last year struck out 197 and posted a 1.18 WHIP. He also has 3011 lifetime strikeouts. Suffice it to say, he is pretty good.

“Make no mistake,” he said a few minutes later. “I am absolutely, 100 percent committed to playing the rest of my career for the Atlanta Braves. But this can’t be my only option … I may not be in the [Braves’] plans. It’s no given right, where I’ve spent 21 years here and [so] they owe me whatever I want.”

The author does a poor idea of explaining that last sentence. To me, he is saying that the Braves do not owe him and there would be no hard feelings if they do not have him in their plans. I think that is sensible enough.

To me, Smoltz is just trying to put a little pressure on the Braves. Make a quick decision where he stands so he can open discussions elsewhere.

I hope he comes back. The Braves simply have no one better. But if the Braves are going to embrace a rebuild year where they are without Tim Hudson most of the season, it would be best to allow Smoltz to move on. It's a tough decision.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Another loss

Well, the Braves lose again. Francoeur goes 1 for 7, Jeff Bennett sucks, and the Braves used nine pitchers, only maybe two deserve to be in the majors. Seriously, how does this team ever win?

This game also included the the latest installment of "Martin Prado: Major League First Baseman." Even if you are a bit like me and do not put too much value in positional value, a 1B has to hit for more power than Prado, right?

To prove how these games are very much like exhibitions, only two players played the entire game (Escobar and the aforementioned French Prince). Chipper went 3 for 6 to push his AVG to .358. That is still a point behind Albert Pujols, who went 1 for 4, but his hit easily outdistanced any of Chipper's as it was a two-run shot, part of a 3-1 win in support of Adam Wainwright.

Hey, it's football season and in a rarity, all of my football teams won this weekend. JMU crushed North Carolina Central 53-7 (though NC Central is barely a DI-AA team), Notre Dame avoided an upset by beating San Diego State, and the Cowboys rolled over the Browns. Good weekend there.

Oh, yeah, baseball blog. Braves remain in Atlanta for a three-game set with the Rockies before heading to Shea next weekend. Oddly, Fox's signature game next Saturday is the Braves/Mets. Maybe that will change. Maybe it should change.

18 games left. Six game lead over the Nats to stay out of last place.

Can the Braves do it?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

w00t, keeping Washington in last place!

Back-to-back wins against the oddly worse Washington Nationals have the Braves feeling good about life. The guys feel like they can go home and diddle the wife. The coaches feel like their hard work is paying off. And the fans don't really have anyone to bitch about. And the Braves still have a hope to finish above .500. Yes, they cannot lose another game, but stranger things have happened?

Oh, they haven't? Well then.

KJ's been hitting the ball a bit. In his last 19 games, KJ is hitting .338/.397/.507. Now, it's certainly nothing too special, but hopefully a good sign. I'm such a KJ apologist, I know. But hey, he's the only one who I really feel is hitting significantly under his ability.

And yes, that includes Jeff Francoeur, who some guy named Marco Estrada hit yesterday. Methinks Estrada is actually a Braves fan. Anyway, the French prince is day-to-day.

Brandon Jones continues to get regular at-bats and is succeeding at them. I still am not ready to write him off as a potential .900 OPS guy from the outfield, though he was pretty bad at Richmond this year. I blame the confusing Richmond traffic. Lillipad, you're excused, too.

J-And, who is a great navigator, is also hitting in Atlanta. .305/.369/.441 with five steals. I don't think the power will be sustained, but if he keeps that SLG above .400 and that OBP in reasonably effective leadoff status, he is already much more valuable than Gregor Blanco, who would slide into a solid fourth outfielder.

The outfield for next year is problematic for a few reasons. One, I doubt they will deal Francoeur, so let's pencil him in right. Let's say J-And has a foot in the door in center. You need a bigger bat in left. Your infield, for argument's sakes, is pretty well packed. Even if you deal KJ, which has been discussed, are you going to find a bigger bat for the position? Doubtful. This team needs power, ESPECIALLY if they deal KJ, who after McCann, Chipper, Krotchy, and Francoeur, is the only player with potential power. I like Brandon Jones, but you can't rely on that. I think the Braves need a power bat in left next season.

The pitching...remains horrible and the Braves are getting a collection of weak pitchers to finish the season. I'd write more...but Notre Dame's on! Go Irish!