All about the Braves and baseball events.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Position: First Baseman
Weight: 210 lbs.
2009 Age: 26
On July 29, 2008, the Braves traded soon-to-be free agent Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for two players. One was pitching prospect Stephen Marek, and the other was first baseman Casey Kotchman. Once regarded as the Angels' top prospect, Kotchman has yet to live up to his 20-25 homer potential, though.
After he was traded to the Braves, Kotchman had a very hard time adjusting. He brought his glove, but not his bat, hitting just .157/.259/.214 with no homers and five RBIs in his first 20 games as a Brave. He was put on the bereavement list for a few weeks because his mother was suffering from an illness. That, and the transition to a totally new organization, may have been affecting his play.
Kotchman has first base all to himself; there is no immediate threat to usurp him from the job. Still, it's up to him to produce to keep the job. As long as he is able to hit to all fields and put the ball in play like he can, he'll be the Braves first baseman for this year, and maybe the next.
AWFUL AUGUST: In his first month as a Brave, Kotchman dealt with a lot of issues, finishing with a .180/.292/.246 line, with no home runs and five RBIs. Those were garnered in his first 20 games, as mentioned above.
OLD PROMISE: In 2005, Baseball America called Kotchman the top prospect in the Angels organization and was sixth-best in the country, according to editors John Manuel and Jim Callis.
HIGH LEVERAGE LEADER: In "high leverage" situations last season, Kotchman batted .340/.362/.520 with four homers and 38 RBIs.
My Outlook: September of 2008 showed that Kotchman was able to hit more like he was "supposed" to. If he can keep his production around or just below those numbers, he should be productive.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Position: Second Base
Weight: 205 lbs.
2009 Age: 27
Johnson's name kept popping up in trade rumors in the 2008 off-season; at one point, he was rumored to be traded to St. Louis straight up for outfielder Ryan Ludwick. It was also rumored that he would be moved to left if the Braves had signed Rafael Furcal or traded for Brian Robets. As it stands, Johnson will remain at second, and he should.
At the dish, Johnson continued to be streaky. His selective approach at the plate allowed him to garner 52 walks. but he also missed a lot, striking out 113 times. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but his OBP dropped from .375 to .349. That may have been due to the fact that he was batting in the lower end of the order, but it may be a slight concern.
His defense, though much maligned, isn't that bad; his RF was 4.77 (4.07) and RF9 was 5.16 (4.83). His only problem seems to be the backhand going to his right. Kelly's position as the Atlanta second sacker is secure. For now.
SIZZLING SEPTEMBER, OR FUN WITH SMALL SAMPLE SIZES, PART FOUR: Johnson smacked pitchers around in the last month of the season, going .398/.429/.643 with three homers and 19 RBIs. That was his best RBI month by five.
TABLE SETTER: When he's the first batter in an inning, and that occurred 133 times last season, Kelly .314/.391/.458 with 11 doubles and two homers. He scored 26 runs as well.
HE LIKES PICKING AND CHOOSING: In all of Kelly's three ball counts (120 PAs), Kelly batted just .192 (13-68), but he had 52 walks in those counts, making his OBP .542.
LUCKY AGAINST LEFTIES: Last season, Kelly batted .333/.366/.433 against lefties in 165 PAs. However, it may have been mostly luck; his BABIP (Batting average with balls in play) was .398.
My Outlook: Johnson has made a bumpy, but successful transition to second base. In just his second year, he has firmly set himself in the middle-tier of second basemen in the National League. He will continue that this year, easily.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Acquired from the Detroit Tigers before the 2008 season, Jurrjens was immediately plugged into the rotation and showed that he had excellent command. He works with a four-seam fastball, a two-seam, change-up and slurve. Jurrjens started out strong in the first half, going 9-6 with a 3.00 ERA, but seemed to regress in the second half, going 4-6 with a 4.46 ERA. It may have had something to do with this being his first full season (188 1/3 IP a career high) and being a little unlucky (.307 BABIP, .280 league average). It's essential to the Braves rotation that Jurrjens becomes a vital cog.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE THE ROAD: Jurrjens had eight home starts in the second half where he allowed four runs or more (2-4).
NO JUNE SWOON: In four games, Jurrjens was 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA. He walked just 7 batters and allowed just eight runs, five earned.
MAYBE HE STILL LIKES THE AL?: In three interleague games last season, Jurrjens had a 0.00 ERA, but went 1-0. The reason? He allowed five unearned runs.
PART THREE OF FUN WITH SMALL SAMPLE SIZES: Jurrjens seemed to work best with Corky Miller, if that's possible. In the three games that Jurrjens pitched with Miller behind the plate,
My Outlook: Jurrjens has to go out and practically prove himself all over again. He'll succeed at that and then some. Expect him to pitch like a #2 starter for most of the year and act like an ace on several occasions.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Position: Right Fielder
Weight: 220 lbs.
2009 Age: 26
It has been a crazy three and a half years. There has been a lot of promise. There has been a lot of frustration. There has been a lot of anger. There has been a lot of booing. There has been a lot of forgiving. There has been a lot of lowered expectations.
Get ready for another go-around of that this year.
Francoeur put up the worst year of his career in 2008; he hit career lows in batting average, slugging and home runs. His on-base percentage was only .001 better than his career-worst .293 in 2006.
Truncating his season was a four-day stint in AA Mississippi. He infamously felt "betrayed" by that demotion. When he was called back up after four days, everyone questioned his return, including me. The four days of beating up on pitchers he should beat up certainly didn't help him perform any better:
.234/.287/.374 before the demotion.
.242/.303/.340 after his return.
Francoeur has attempted to make changes though: he's trying a new stance:
After nonstop tinkering last summer, Francoeur has locked into one approach he thinks will work. Using some advice and video recommended by former Braves Mark DeRosa and Mark Teixeira, Francoeur adopted a more balanced position at the plate, with his hands farther back and a shorter stride. He’s been working it into his muscle memory, hitting four times a week since Nov. 15.
Chipper Jones likes the look of what Francoeur has been doing at Jones’ indoor hitting facility in Suwanee. “His weight distribution is right where it needs to be and his mindset is right where it needs to be,” Jones said. “His mindset is from gap to gap. You can’t be out on your front foot the way he was all year last year, and head moving up and down, and his stride was too long, and thinking about pulling the ball around the left field foul pole. His weight distribution is allowing him to think right center to left center and he is killing balls, just absolutely crushing it."
Hopefully, he keeps with it and that translates to results in real baseball. We're all counting on him.
SOME HOMERS IS BETTER THAN NO HOMERS: Franocuer is 6th in Braves history for home runs by batters from their Age 21 to Age 24 seasons. He has 73 home runs so far in his career. That's six less than Dale Murphy and three more than Brain McCann in the same period.
ON THE FLIP SIDE: In the same age range, with a minimum of 2000 PAs, the only Brave that has a lower OBP than Francoeur does (.312) is Rabbitt Maranville (.310), a light-hitting shortstop that had two stints with the Braves franchise.
NATIONAL PRIDE: The game of Francoeur's career was on April 12, 2008, when he torched Nationals pitching for two homers and a two-run single. The 3-run and 2-run taters gave him seven RBIs on the day; a career high.
THE CLUTCH BAG WAS EMPTY, OR PART TWO OF FUN WITH SMALL SAMPLE SIZES: Francoeur was abysmal in 2008 with runners in scoring position, in general:
RISP: 203 PA, .192/.276/.316, 34-177, 6 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 59 RBI
2 outs, RISP: 89 PA, .175/.258/.238, 14-80, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 19 RBI
Bases loaded: 34 PA, .182/.206/.242, 6-33, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 17 RBI
My Outlook: I have none. It's virtually impossible to tell what Francoeur will do this season. All any Braves fan can do is have faith that Jeff can put a decent season together. If there is more failure, that faith may be dashed completely.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Weight: 200 lbs.
2009 Age: 26
In his first full season as Atlanta's shortstop, Escobar had a season that somewhat met expectations. His slugging dropped from .451 to .401 with 232 more plate appearances; he hit one less double as well (25 to 24). Thus, his batting consists mainly of singles. His fielding is average compared to the rest of the league, but his arm is one of the strongest in all of baseball.
HOTHEAD?: Escobar has earned a reputation for wearing his heart on his sleeve and voicing his displeasure with calls. Vehemently. Whether that will affect him with umpires in the future remains to be seen.
YUNEL'S FAVORITE NUMBERS: 3 AND 0: Last season, Escobar had 19 3-0 counts. His line on that count: 1-1, HR, 3 RBI, 18 BB. Four of those walks were intentional and the home run was a walk-off shot that defeated the Marlins on June 2nd.
STRONG SEASONS (OR WEAK HISTORY): For all Braves shorstops with at least 300 PAs in a season, Escobar has the ninth and 25th highest OPSes in a season. His OPS+ totals from those same seasons are 11th and 32nd in Braves shortstop history as well.
My Outlook: Escobar should provide more of the same production as last season. Maybe he'll hit a few more doubles. That would be an easy way to step up his game. If he does, he'll move into the lower-upper tier of shortstops. As for now, he's in the middle-tier.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Weight: 170 lbs.
2009 Age: 36
After being denied the opportunity to have A. J. Burnett in their starting rotation, the Braves opted to sign the 36-year old Lowe to a four-year contract. Lowe's a well-known sinkerballer. He also has a curve, change and a cut fastball. He seems to be Atlanta's type of pitcher; a control guy who gives up few walks and allows lots of ground balls. He duplicated his career high in strikeouts last season (147) and had his lowest ERA since 2002 as well (3.24). The move from Dodgers Stadium, a notorious pitcher's park, to Turner Field, a neutral park, shouldn't hurt him.
BOY, I'M GLAD HE'S ON OUR TEAM NOW: Lowe had two starts against the Braves last season. In the first start, which came in Atlanta, he was shredded for five runs, three earned, in 4 1/3 innings. His second start was much better; he went 7 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits and one run as the Dodgers won 2-1.
UNLUCKY LOWE: In 9 no-decisions last season, Lowe went 52 1/3 innings and allowed just 19 runs (18 earned). He walked 13 batters and struck out 41 of them.
DURABLE DEREK: Since he became a starter in 2002, Lowe has the ninth-most innings pitched in all of baseball: 1456 IP. Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox has the most in that period (1575 IP).
My Outlook: Lowe says for Braves fans to expect big things from him. All I expect from him is to do his job. Keep the ball on the ground and don't walk anybody. If he does those things, and I think he will, those expectations should be met.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Position: Third Base
Weight: 185 lbs.
2009 Age: 37
Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones further cemented his place in Atlanta Braves history. Despite near-constant battles with lingering injuries, Jones earned the National League titles for batting average and on-base percentage. His 174 OPS+ (adjusted OPS) was also a career high.
CHIPPER AND SKATES: Jones is the ninth player in Braves franchise history to lead the NL in on-base percentage. He's the first Brave since Lonnie Smith to do it. "Skates" paced the Senior Circuit in OBP in 1989 (.415).
ALL-STAR AGAIN: Chipper was elected to start the All-Star Game for the first time in seven years; it was his sixth career All-Star Game and fourth career start.
BRINGING THE STICK: On his way to the batting title, Chipper was chasing .400 for most of the year. He was up to .421 as late as June 6th, but he dipped below the .400 level on June 19th for good. His .364 average was the highest by a Brave since Rico Carty's league-leading .366 average in 1970.
PRESIDENTIAL POWER: Chipper hit the first home run in Nationals Park history... while President George W. Bush was in the ESPN booth chatting with announcers Joe Morgan and Jon Miller.
A TRUE LEADER(BOARD): Chipper ranks in the top 10 in many categories in Braves franchise history:
Games: 2023 (3rd, 200 behind Eddie Mathews)
At Bats: 7337 (3rd, 712 behind Mathews)
Plate Appearances: 8677 (3rd, 856 behind Mathews)
Batting Average: .310 (7th, tied with Hank Aaron, .001 behind Lance Richbourg)
On Base Percentage: .408 (2nd, .048 behind Billy Hamilton)
Slugging Average: .548 (2nd, .019 behind Aaron)
OPS: .956 (1st, .012 ahead of Aaron)
Runs: 1378 (3rd, 74 behind Mathews)
Hits: 2277 (2nd, 1323 behind Aaron)
Doubles: 449 (2nd, 151 behind Aaron)
Home Runs: 408 (3rd, 85 behind Mathews)
RBI: 1374 (3rd, 14 behind Mathews)
BB: 1242 (3rd, 55 behind Aaron)
SO: 1142 (5th, 152 behind Aaron)
Total Bases: 4020 (3rd, 138 behind Mathews)
OPS+: 145 (2nd, tied with Mathews, 13 behind Aaron)
My Outlook: Chipper has a tough act to follow, but as long as he can stay on the field, he'll produce. It's hard to say whether or not he'll approach 30 homers or 100 RBIs next season. I wouldn't bet on the homers, but I expect his doubles amount to rise from the 24 he hit last season.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Weight: 210 lbs.
2009 Age: 25
Brian Michael McCann is simply one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball, and that's because of his bat. When he's at the plate, Brian uses a short stroke through the strike zone to drive the ball to center and right. McCann lacks agility defensively, but he's not inept there. One could call him a "sound defender" and get away with it.
McCANN IS THE MAN: Last season, Brian led all catchers with 42 doubles and tied for the home run lead with NL Rookie of the Year backstop Geovany Soto (23).
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: McCann got into the All-Star Game last year... in the 15th inning as a defensive replacement. Russell Martin had played from the 5th to the 14th inning. Unfortunately, the game ended when Justin Morneau beat McCann's tag to score on Michael Young's fly ball as the AL won 4-3.
ALL-STAR STREAK: McCann is the first Braves catcher to make three NL All-Star teams in a row since Joe Torre (1964-67). Del Crandall also made four All-Star teams a in row (1953-56).
PHILLIE KILLER (OR PART 1 OF FUN WITH SMALL SAMPLE SIZES): In 18 games against the Braves' NL East rival, McCann batted .356/.472/.678 with three homers, 17 RBIs and 12 walks. He especially liked to face Jamie Moyer, Cole Hamels, and Brett Myers
Moyer: 20 PAs, .444/.500/.722 - 8-18, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI
Hamels: 25 PAs, .381/.480/.619 - 8-21, 5 2B, 5 RBI
Myers, 29 PAs, .370/.414/.640 - 10-27, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI
A TRIPLE? WELL, MAYBE JUST ONE...: McCann has one triple in his career. It came off of Doug Waechter of the Florida Marlins on April 24, 2008. It came leading off the bottom of the eighth inning. Jeff Francoeur drove him in with a sacrifice fly.
My Outlook: Expect more of the same out of him this year. 140 games, .300 average, 35 doubles, 20 homers as a base. He's very capable of reaching those benchmarks.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
P Derek Lowe
He's the de facto ace the Braves have been searching for. It's not much, but it's something.
David O'Brien of the AJC reports that the Braves have agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract with 36-year old starter Derek Lowe. The deal would be announced after Lowe passes a physical.
Lowe pitched last season with the Dodgers. He was 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA (131 ERA+) in 34 games and 211 innings of work. He matched his career high of strikeouts (147), set in 2007, and had a career-low in walks since he became a full-time starter (45).
I certainly hope that Lowe is up to pitching the next four years, because he's going to be doing a lot of it. The Braves are counting on him, and so are us fans. If Lowe can continue his recent pitching trends, he should succeed in Atlanta's neutral Turner Field. The amount of money bugs me a little bit, but such is today's salary climate. Welcome to Atlanta, Derek.
SIGNING GRADE: B-
EDIT: Made it look like my other posts.
Monday, January 12, 2009
IF-LF Omar Infante
Utilityman Omar Infante has signed a two-year extension with the Atlanta Braves with an option for a third year. Infante batted .293/.338/.416 with three home runs in 348 PAs. His 40 RBIs were the most in three years for him.
Due to injuries, Infante started in five different positions, including third base, left field, shortstop and second base. In 14 pinch-hit appearances, Infante had just two hits. He walked once and hit two sacrifice flies.
His primary job will be to fill in for Chipper Jones when he has his yearly injuries. He will most-likely continue to fill in for Yunel Escobar and Gregor Blanco as well.
This move really doesn't do anything more than keep the bench stable. There is value in that, however. It's a very good move.
SIGNING GRADE: A-
EDIT: Added title.
SECOND EDIT: Made it look like my other posts by adding the "BRAVES SIGN" up at the top.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
P Kenshin Kawakami
At long last, the Braves have reached an agreement with a pitcher!
Atlanta has reached a deal with former Chunichi Dragons pitcher Kenshin Kawakami. A physical will be conducted in Atlanta and the deal would be finalized next week.
I'm really excited about this signing; I can't wait to see what Kawakami can do over here in the United States. He's said to be a "crafty" veteran pitcher, with a fastball that tops in the low 90s, a slow curve and a good cut fastball.
Kawakami has had a distinguished NPB career:
- Won Rookie of the Year in 1998, going 14-6 with a 2.57 ERA, striking out 124 batters in 161 1/3 innings.
- Put up a career-low 2.35 ERA in 2002.
- Won the Sawamura Award in 2004, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award, and the Central League MVP. His record was 17-7, and he sported a 3.32 ERA in 192 1/3 innings. He struck out 176 batters.
- Duplicated his 17-7 record in 2006 and finished with a 2.51 ERA and a career-high strikeout total of 194 in 215 innings.
- Was a member of the 2007 Chunichi Dragons team that won the Japan Series, their first such title since 1954.
If Kawakami makes a successful transition to Major League Baseball, the Braves will have a crucial piece to improving the performance (and image) of their club. It's a calculated risk that I'm glad the Braves were willing to take. Welcome to the Braves, Kawakami-san!
SIGNING GRADE: B
The grade takes the risk factor into account. I believe it's that significant.
EDIT: Added my opinion and grade.
SECOND EDIT: Made it look like the rest of my posts.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
The Boston Red Sox and Smoltz have agreed to a one-year contract The contract gives Smoltz $5.5 million guaranteed and also provides $4.5 million in incentives that are "very attainable". Therefore, the Red Sox could be paying John Smoltz $10 million overall.
The realist in me says that this is an excellent deal for Smoltz. He gets $5.5 million dollars even if he can't pitch a single inning next year. On the other hand, if he can pitch, he could earn up to $10 million for the entire year. It's a win-win situation for him.
The fan in me says that it is very sad to see Smoltz go. It's always sad to see a favorite player go. I hope he is able to pitch in Boston and succeed in what is probably his final season.
JOHN SMOLTZ'S CAREER BRAVES STATS
1. John Smoltz - 3011
2. Phil Niekro - 2912
3. Warren Spahn - 2493
4. Tom Glavine - 2091
5. Greg Maddux - 1828
6. Kid Nichols - 1667
7. Vic Willis - 1161
8. Jim Whitney - 1157
9. Lew Burdette - 923
10. Charlie Buffinton - 911
1. John Smoltz - 154
2. Gene Garber - 141
3. Mark Wohlers - 112
4. John Rocker - 83
5. Cecil Upshaw - 78
6. Rick Camp - 57
7. Mike Stanton - 55
8. Don McMahon - 50
T9. Kerry Ligtenberg - 44
T9. Greg McMichael - 44
1. John Smoltz - 7.98
2. Kevin Millwood - 7.53
3. Kent Mercker - 7.32
4. Steve Bedrosian - 7.23
5. Denny Lemaster - 7.03
6. Greg Maddux - 6.51
7. Tony Cloninger - 6.18
8. Steve Avery - 6.00
9. Pete Smith - 5.84
10. Gene Garber - 5.68
1. Warren Spahn - 356
2. Kid Nichols - 329
3. Phil Niekro - 268
4. Tom Glavine - 244
5. John Smoltz - 210
6. Greg Maddux - 194
7. Lew Burdette - 179
8. Vic Willis - 151
T9. Tommy Bond - 149
T9. John Clarkson - 149
1. Tom Hughes - 1.022
2. Greg Maddux - 1.051
3. Jim Whitney - 1.082
4. Art Nehf - 1.116
5. Tommy Bond - 1.120
6. Dick Rudolph - 1.154
7. John Smoltz - 1.170
8. Ken Johnson - 1.171
9. Charlie Buffinton - 1.179
10. Pat Ragan - 1.180
And this is for anyone that is depressed by this news:
Comic Book Guy agrees with you...
Worst. Off-season. Ever.
- ► 2010 (64)
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- BRAVES PLAYER PROFILES - Leading Off
- Braves Agree To Contract With Lowe
- Braves Keep Bench Together, Sign Infante
- Braves Reach Deal With Former Sawamura Award Winne...
- Smoltz To Sign With Red Sox
- ▼ January (12)
- ► 2008 (50)