At The Risk of Sounding Insane, Pat Burrell to Atlanta is a Risk Worth Taking

May 18, 2010 – 7:04 am

Most around the Braves blogosphere are very against the idea of bringing Pat Burrell to Atlanta. He’s in his thirties, he has had a poor year and a half outside of Philadelphia, and he is simply awful defensively.

Not much has gone right for Pat since his departure from the NL East. He hit just 16 home runs in almost 600 plate appearances while with the Rays. Simply put, he was a wasted free agent signing for a team that has a limited payroll.

Burrell was recently released by the Rays, and the team who signs him, if any, will only have to pay a pro-rated league minimum contract. With the season nearly a quarter of the way through, it would be roughly $300,000 if a team wants to take a flier on him.

Pat is far from a team or offensive savior, but with Matt Diaz recently put on the disabled list, I simply ask why not? Sure, Burrell has looked awful in the past year and a half there are many claims about his bat speed slowing drastically. Even so, at such a small price he could bring value to a lineup which has struggled against left handed hitters, and which has no current platoon partner for Eric Hinske.

Prior to signing with Tampa, Burrell posted four straight seasons with a wOBA over .374. His lowest home run total in those three seasons was 29, in a season in which he played just 144 games. He was at the peak of his career, and most of all he was consistent.

He, for whatever reason, hit a wall once he left Philadelphia. This is eerily similar to the fall of Andruw Jones as he had an abysmal 2007 season in Atlanta followed by an even worse 2008 in Los Angeles. The following year the Rangers decided to stick their neck out and give Jones a chance without giving him a starting role and he was relatively productive. Prior to this season, he signed with the White Sox and appears to be back to being a productive hitter.

Of course, this is just one player of the thousands that have eventually fallen off in their early thirties, but good things have come out of making these low risk and high reward moves.

I’m not vying for Burrell to get every day action or even to be the regular platoon partner with Eric Hinske, but with a bench spot open for the time being and Pat Burrell available on the market, he could end up hitting some homers, drawing some walks, and killing the Mets as he did in Philadelphia. If Burrell fails and his at bats look awful, then simply release him and we are back to where we are now. If he reverts back to his form prior to his days with the Rays, then the minimal risk we took has paid off.

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Breaking Down The NLDS: Braves vs. Giants

October 7, 2010 – 3:00 pm

Las Vegas has the Braves as a reasonable underdog (+140) to the Giants, but as Bobby Cox pointed out, we did take four out of seven from them in the regular season. Let’s breakdown the two clubs, position by position, to give us a better idea of who we should expect to come out on top.

(1) Starting Pitching

As good as Derek Lowe was in September, Tim Lincecum matched him by striking out 52 batters in just under 42 innings while posting a 1.94 ERA. He may not have a postseason track record, but neither did Roy Halladay.

Matt Cain has a lower ERA than Tommy Hanson, but fielding independent numbers give the nod to Tommy who has a slightly better K/BB ratio this season. Neither have pitched in the postseason, but Cain got roughed up by the Padres in his last start of the regular season. Hopefully, his failure to perform in a high leverage situation is a sign of things to come.

Sabermetricians might try to argue that Jonathan Sanchez has been better than Tim Hudson this season. Call me a homer, but I’ll take Hudson who has much better control and the ability to keep the ball on the ground.

Verdict: Assuming Derek Lowe continues to pitch like it’s September, neither team has much of an advantage.

(2) Catcher

Surprisingly enough, Buster Posey has been a little better than Brian McCann this season (.368 vs. .361 wOBA). What’s concerning about Brian is how badly he played in September. Posey on the other hand tore it up in the season’s final month producing a .256/.343/.533 line.

Verdict: Call me crazy, but Posey has the hot hand and seems to be playing his best when it matters the most. He is also at least as good, if not better, than B Mac defensively.

(3) First Base

Aubrey Huff has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants this season and had a decent September. Meanwhile, Derrek Lee hasn’t been himself this season but has come on strong in the final two months of the season (.899 OPS since August 1st).

Verdict: Despite Lee having pretty weak postseason numbers, I’ll take him in a heartbeat over Huff.

(4) Second Base

The Giants’ Freddy Sanchez was injured to begin the season and started out slowly upon his return. However, Sanchez finished strong in the final two months of the season and posted an OPS of .865 in September. Our Brooks Conrad is a defensively liability to put it kindly, but has flashed considerable power at the plate all season long.

Verdict: Something tells me Brooks is going to have a couple of big hits in this series, so I’ll say it’s a wash. Let’s hope he can steady his nerves in the field and avoid making a crippling error at the wrong time.

(5) Third Base

Pablo Sandoval has been abysmal this season. He has no plate discipline and hardly any power. While Omar Infante has fallen off a bit in September, he is clearly the better player right now.

Verdict: Hands down Infante

(6) Shortstop

Neither Juan Uribe nor Alex Gonzalez has any plate discipline. Both, however, have considerable power. Unfortunately, Gonzalez has been horrendous at the plate this past month and will need to give Atlanta something in the middle of the order over the course of the series.

Verdict: Gonzalez is a little better defensively, but I would much rather have Uribe’s bat.

(7-9) Outfield

Neither outfield has been very good. Pat Burrell has provided a shot to the arm for the Giants, as has Andres Torres, but anyone else they throw out there is pretty terrible. Likewise, Jason Heyward has carried the Braves outfield with help from Matt Diaz at times, but that’s about it.

Verdict: Both are pretty bad, but I would take ours only because of Jason Heyward. He is the best defensive outfielder on either team, and his patience at the plate should make him a tough out all series long.

(10-11) Bullpen and Bench

Both bullpens have been excellent this season. The Giants’ ranks second in NL ERA while the Braves’ ranks third. Billy Wagner and Brian Wilson are both excellent at the backend as well.

The Braves’ bench was clearly better prior to the injuries of Chipper and Martin Prado but no longer. We are stretched thin in the infield but have plenty of good choices for pinch hitters.

Verdict: Pretty much no advantage gained by either team. One point of concern though is that our great lefty relievers will not be as valuable against the Giants’ right handed heavy lineup.

Overall, neither team has much of an advantage over the other. You could certainly argue that the BRAVES are the favorites, but it seems to be a tossup. Both teams will showcase very good pitching staffs with average to mediocre lineups. Should be a really competitive series.

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Editorial at the ‘Nique

October 14, 2008 – 2:27 pm

Hey everyone, it’s Akshay, back from my three to four month disappearance. I’ve been here, been watching and waiting just to see if the Braves would actually do anything since I left. Nothing on the field, unfortunately. However, we were able to parlay Tex’s walk year into a long term solution at first base. I’ve made it no secret that, while Tex was awesome, Kotchman will be as good if not a better fit for our team in the long run. He’s cheap, he hits in the upper .200s and close to .300 and plays gold glove calibre defense. Sure, the power’s not there, but the doubles are. And Kotchman is a little more likely to steal a base than Tex is, take that for what it’s worth. The other trade was Mark Kotsay for A-ball prospect Luis Sumoza. He had just four hits in 19 at-bats with the Rome Braves (Class A), but his OBP, Slugging and Batting Average have increased every year he’s been in the minors. He is considered a five-tool player, and even if three or four of those “tools” comes to fruition, this would have been a good trade for the Braves. While he is a while away, signing a big time outfield slugger this offseason will help with the transition. You know, maybe a Manny Ramirez or Pat Burrell, or even trading for a guy like Matt Holliday who could bridge the 2009 gap in time for Jason Heyward.

Anyway, I’m writing today to talk about an editorial I wrote for the Georgia Tech school newspaper a little while ago. I’ve been writing for the Technique for a while, but this is the first time I’ve written about the Braves (we had a beyond the White and Gold a couple of years ago when we traded for Tex because of his Tech roots). Here’s the link: Braves need to get serious in off-season. Enjoy. I’m working on a post-season summary for the team and trying to make it a two-three day reading piece. Keep an eye out for that.

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2009 Options

July 29, 2008 – 1:29 pm

Hey guys, just had a few minutes and wanted to make a quick write up of what our team would look like next year and how much money we would have exactly. Thanks to the good folks over at Cot’s Baseball Contracts, we have some pretty definitive numbers as far as who’s going to be on the books and who’s not, who’s making what and who’s not. At the same time, several players will be eligible for arbitration (Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur are among them).

So let’s start at the top:

  • The current roster salary is approximately $102.5 million
  • Mike Hampton is making $15 mill this year with a club option for 2009 worth $20 mill (seriously, this is not a joke). Anyway, there’s a $6 million buyout for which the Rockies are responsible for if the Braves decide not to pick up the option, which I seriously hope they do not. So yeah, Hampton would actually make $6 mill if a team didn’t want him. (Net: -$15 mill)
  • Tim Hudson is making $13 million this year and is scheduled to make $13 million next year. However, there is a chance (just a chance, nothing definitive yet) that Hudson would likely have to have the dreaded “Tommy John” surgery. Bad for now, good for the long term. But, like Hampton, Hudson would be eligible for insurance coverage, provided he sat out all year. That would cover half of the expenses, leaving the Braves on the hook for $6.5 million. (Net: Either -$6.5 million or no chance depending on which way the diagnosis goes).
  • John Smoltz is making $14 million this year and had an option for 2009 for $12 million, provided he pitched 200 innings in 2008, which he will not. Now the Braves may choose to re-sign him, but I haven’t taken that into account in this blog post (Net: -$14 million).
  • Mark Teixeira is making $12.5 million. Frank Wren probably has more experience dealing with Scott Boras than Schuerholz wanted to have, so there’s a chance that negotiations would go well. But dealing with what we have, he does not have a contract for next year so…(Net: -$12.5 mill).
  • Chipper Jones is making $15 million and has a 2009 option that may be anywhere from $8 mill to $11 mill, which became a minimum of $10 mill with his All-Star selection. So, we’ll assume $11 mill. (Net: -$4 mill).
  • Tom Glavine is earning $8 mill this year, will be a free agent next year. (Net -$8 mill).
  • Mark Kotsay is making $8 mill, of which the Braves are on the hook for $3 mill. There’s a chance he could be re-signed, but it would be as a free agent. (Net: -$3 mill)
  • Here’s where it gets iffy: Rafael Soriano is making $2.4 mill this year and $6.1 mill next year, that’s a jump of $3.7 mill. (Net: +$3.7 mill)
  • Mike Gonzalez is making $2.36 mill this year after avoiding arbitration. He’ll be fully healthy next year and will almost likely get a raise. We’ll assume around $5.5 mill for the sake of this blog (Net: +$2.2 mill)
  • Will Ohman is making $1.6 mill this year and will be a free agent (I do hope we re-sign him, but odds are low since the Braves rarely sign middle relievers to high priced contracts (Net: -$1.6 mill).
  • Omar Infante is making $1.4 mill this year and is arbitration eligible next year (thankfully). Assuming performance increases and such, we’ll assume $2.5 mill (that might be a little high). (Net +$0.9 mill).
  • Matt Diaz is making $1.23 mill and could be re-signed for about the same amount, we’ll say $1.5 mill (Net: +$0.3 mill).
  • Brian McCann is making $0.8 mill (paltry for someone that’s doing what he’s doing). His salary will escalate to $3.5 mill next year (Net: +$2.7 mill).
  • Greg Norton is making the minimum and could be re-signed for a very low cost next year. But that’s up to management, at this point he will be a free agent (Net: $0).
  • Jeff Francoeur is eligible for “Super Two” arbitration due to his amount of playing time being in the top 17% percent of players at his position, and he has more than 2 years MLB experience. I think with his career numbers, the Braves could offer him a contract around $4 or $5 mill (Both are over estimates). (Net: +$4.5 mill).
  • Kelly Johnson is eligible for the same arbitration as Francoeur for the same reasons and could be worth about $2.5 mill to 3.5, we’ll go with the over: (Net: +$3.0 mill)
  • Everyone else on the current roster is not eligible for arbitration and could be re-signed at a low cost (I hope they offer Jurrjens a contract).
  • So add it all up (in millions): $102.5 – $15 – (either $6.5 or$0) – $14 – $12.5 – $4 – $8 – $3 + $3.7 + $2.2 – $1.6 + $0.9 + $0.3 + $3.7 + $4.5 + $3.0 = $62.7 if Hudson pitches next year, $56.2 if he does not. Which leaves the Braves with A LOT of room to make some moves. They could re-sign Smoltz if he thinks he is ready to be back. Glavine could be back if he wanted since the Braves would have a spot. However, there are several targets the Braves could also go after with their loot in the free agent market.

In the 2008-09 offseason, several high ticket, established players will be (unrestricted) free agents. Including, but not limited to:

  • 1B: Mark Teixeira, there’s really not much first baseman talent on the market, which bodes well for Tex.
  • 2B: Orlando Hudson
  • SS:  Rafael Furcal, Cesar Izturus
  • 3B: Joe Crede
  • C: Ivan Rodriguez, Javier Valentin, Jason Varitek
  • OF: Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Raul Ibanez, Mark Kotsay, Manny Ramirez (it looks less and less like the Sox will pick up his 2009 option). Clearly there is talent here.
  • SP: Ryan Dempster, Jon Garland, Tom Glavine, Oliver Perez, C. C. Sabathia (Should be target #1), Ben Sheets (Should be target #2).
  • RP: Will Ohman, Scott Eyre. Both lefties, but will probably be higher priced than normal.

Anyway, that’s the list, the Braves have about $40-50 million to work with next year and could really use some help on both sides of the ball. Could this be our rebuilding process? It probably is, but we’ll see how committed the Braves are to winning in late November and December when free agency begins.

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Braves Trek to Philly

May 13, 2008 – 10:43 am

The Braves have traveled across the Keystone state hoping to carry some momentum from a win in Pittsburgh across to the city of Brotherly Love.  We’ll be watching Jo-Jo Reyes (1-0, 2.25) face off against Kyle Kendrick (2-2, 4.93) today, Glavine (0-1, 4.03) and Brett Myers (2-3, 5.33) tomorrow, and Chuck James (2-2, 7.58) on Thursday. Please note: Three Lefties.  Charlie Manuel noted that the Phillies offense against LHPs isn’t too strong and it will certainly be quite the obstacle to overcome in this series.  The Phillies are currently a game ahead of the Braves in the NL East and a few wins in this series would be clutch for the Bravos:

Reason 1:  Road-wins are rare occurrences these days. Sure, the Braves fought off the Pirates’ sweep attempt, but much of that can be attributed to Hudson’s consistency and a few great hits.  The Braves aren’t playing poorly on the road, but they are leaving too many runners on base, and are keeping up the one-run-losses.  Road morale can’t be phenomenal, and since the Phillies are such strong NL East opponents, it is clutch to win here to lift some spirits. Ever notice how fabulously Chipper Jones is playing this season? It’s because he started strong and has continued strong… no better way to build confidence and produce results. This is something we need across the entire lineup – both offensively and defensively.

Reason 2: We need to show that our “veteran” pitchers still have it going on, but with Reyes and James pitching games 1 and 3 of this series, it’d be nice to see a few innings pitched by the guys we need to count on for the rest of the season in terms of both health and successful showings.  I want to see James pitch a little better, I’m not stunned by a 7.58 ERA, and this is a great chance for him to prove himself.

Reason 3: We need to prove one of two things: we can recover from injuries, or we can succeed without injured players. Tex is having back spasms, Francoeur’s foot woes have been a concern, our pitchers seem to live on the DL.

Here are some things to look forward to, though. The Phils are on a losing streak themselves, losing three of their last four games. In all of these losing games, they scored three or less runs. Their big bats of Chase Utley and Pat Burrell (and a typical powerhouse Ryan Howard who hasn’t been as hot, but had his fourth triple on Sunday) weren’t as big in the last series, and are now looking at a 21-18 record.  The Braves need to ensure that the defense takes care of these heavy hitters, because sure enough they will come alive again.

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2008 NL East Preview: The Phillies

January 3, 2008 – 12:10 pm

This is the beginning of a series of articles analyzing the NL East. Naturally starting with last year’s division leader, let’s take a look at the Phillies in 2008.

We’ll look at five categories – offense, defense, starting pitching, relief pitching, and coaching.  At the end of the series we’ll have a predictions article, where we’ll rank each of the five categories and draw some conclusions about the division.

Offense:  The Phillies had one of the most potent offenses in baseball in 2007.  They ranked 1st in runs, slugging percentage, and OPS, 2nd in  stolen bases and on-base-percentage, and fifth in batting average. Read more »

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