Ever since Andruw Jones’ 2007 decline the Braves’ outfield has been a black hole for offensive productivity. From Andruw’s last season in Atlanta to Heyward’s first, the Braves never saw two outfielders post an OPS over .800 in the same season. Two names largely responsible for this are now playing their ball in Kansas City, and all indications are that both will be in the lineup on Opening Day 2011. While Royals GM Dayton Moore has what is widely considered to be the best farm system in baseball, bridging the gap to their young talent looks to be a painful process as Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur make up two thirds of their starting outfield. Last year I wrote the following in regards to Melky Cabrera:
“Not much to say here. Francoeur plate discipline combined with softball power and a shoddy glove equals a worse than replacement level player. If Frank Wren has any sense, and I believe he has lots of it, Melky will be non-tendered this off season.”
In other words, Cabrera possesses Francoeur’s worst trait without the rocket arm or ability to hit lefties. Unfortunately, these two are in for a long season as the Royals will likely finish last in the AL Central. Francoeur should continue to be an intriguing option for teams who need a right handed hitter for platoon duty, but the Melk Man’s days in the majors appear to be numbered.
Meanwhile the Atlanta Braves have what may be their best outfield since 2005 when Jones blasted 51 homers and Francoeur graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. With Heyward and Prado in the corners, the Braves could potentially have two outfielders post an OPS over .800 for the first time in six seasons. Of course the major question mark remains to be Nate McLouth who finished strong last year following a midseason demotion to Gwinnett. If his play can in anyway resemble his former self, then the outfield will no longer weigh the rest of the lineup down.
Tags: Andruw Jones, Kansas City Royals, Melky Cabrera
Posted in General | 1 Comment »
In his latest “Fried Baseball” audio blog, Kent explains how the Braves could still edge the Phillies to win the NL East… and laments the frequent presence of Melky Cabrera in the Braves’ starting lineup. Throw in your two cents below!
Tags: Audio, Fried Baseball, Melky Cabrera, NL East Blogs, playoffs
Posted in General | 10 Comments »
Having three of the worst players in the National League would seemingly ruin most teams’ chances of making the playoffs, but not the Atlanta Braves’. While three of their opening day starters (four if you include Derek Lowe) have done their best to continue Atlanta’s postseason absence, three others have been amongst the best in the league. Here are six players, three on each end of the spectrum, that have had the greatest impact on the Braves’ season so far.
1) Brian McCann (4.9 Wins Above Replacement, tied for 6th in NL)
No one seemed too worried after Brian’s OBP dipped to .349 a season ago and with good reason. His eye problems are seemingly a thing of the past as he has produced a triple slash line of .281/.388./.484 so far this season. The plate discipline is back, and most defensive metrics say he has significantly improved his performance behind the plate as well.
2) Martin Prado (4.0 WAR, tied for 16th in NL)
Many Braves fans were happy to see Kelly Johnson go last off-season. While he has bounced back (in a big way) out in Arizona, Prado has all but matched his output in Atlanta. Although his bat looks better at second, he is clearly more comfortable playing third base, the silver lining of Chipper’s injury.
3) Jason Heyward (3.8 WAR, tied for 23rd in NL)
Undoubtedly the single most important upgrade from last year’s team was the promotion of Jason Heyward. The Braves’ right field, despite Matt Diaz’s best efforts, was a disaster last season. Everything totaled, Francoeur, Diaz, and Ryan Church combined for an OPS of .743 at the position. Heyward’s triple slash line of .278/.389/.475, however, has made the Braves forget about all that. Everyone knew he was going to be something special, just not this good this early.
1) Troy Glaus (.4 WAR, 9th worst among all qualified NL players)
Troy’s second half has made May a distant memory, and April seem quite vivid. Bad legs seem to have been his undoing, and the Derrek Lee trade spelled the end of any significant playing time. There is a good chance he has started his last game as an Atlanta Brave.
1) Melky Cabrera (-.6 WAR, dead last among all qualified NL players)
Not much to say here. Francoeur plate discipline + softball power + shoddy glove = worse than a replacement level player. If Frank Wren has any sense, and I believe he has lots of it, Melky will be non-tendered this off season.
2) Nate McClouth (-1.3 WAR, dead last among ALL NL players)
He does not even have enough plate appearances to be qualified, yet he still tops the list for the worst offensive player in the National League. Unfortunately, I just wrote about one of his replacements; the other isn’t much better either. Regardless of what level he plays at next season, the Braves are on the hook to pay him $6.5 million. Oh, and they will have to pay another $1.25 million to buy him out for 2012 as well.
Tags: Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Martin Prado, Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, Troy Glaus
Posted in General | 6 Comments »
The hype surrounding the Washington Nationals phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg is absolutely insane – and most of it is earned. But he’s hittable, and beatable.
The bottom line yesterday was Tim Hudson. Through seven innings of ball, Hudson struck out six, picked off one, walked three, and gave up a total of five hits. His extremely effective sinking two-seamer led to twelve groundouts – and only one fly out. Hudson showed that he’s back in ace form last night – as the nation watched expecting such a performance from the opposing pitcher.
Strasburg was almost as good. Through six innings he held the Braves’ offense scoreless. Nats manager Jim Riggleman almost pinch-hit for Strasburg when his spot in the order came up in the bottom of the sixth (someone came out on deck for Strasburg but was pulled back) and Strasburg came back out to pitch the seventh inning. Right now I’ll bet he wishes he hadn’t. Following a leadoff walk to Chipper (his 46th of the season), the Braves loaded the bases with no outs (thanks to an error) and tattooed WonderBoy for four runs (three earned). They then tacked on another unearned run.
Hustler of the night: Gregor Blanco, who surprised everybody with a bunt down the first base line that the pitcher couldn’t field cleanly for an RBI comes in second to Tim Hudson, who was absolutely ace-like last night.
Slacker of the evening: In the first inning, Melky Cabrera roped a double to left. Chipper then knocked a fly ball to deep left and Melky got caught somewhere between second and third. Had he tagged up, he could have scored when McCann singled to left. Instead, Melky’s slow self got caught trying to score from second to end the inning.
Strasburg Effect: 9601 walkup tickets were sold yesterday and a total of 21,608 tickets were sold since Strasburg’s previous start. The Braves’ franchise thanks Strasburg for coming to Atlanta, selling tickets, and then giving up the loss to improve the Bravos’ home record to 27-8.
Melky Cabrera is, to me, the epitome of the unwarranted prima donna too caught up in his own lackluster self to worry about simple things like “giving a shit.” We saw this again last night as Melky barely ran to catch a simple pop-up and let it drop in front of him — an out that could have easily been caught had he exerted himself, and possibly helped plug up a disastrous fourth inning. Instead, we see him doing what Melky always does: looking out for number one.
It’s obvious that this guy has no passion for a city that, insofar as I can tell, isn’t New York. The man’s ego is almost larger than his bulging waistline, and his inability to put effort into plays is beyond infuriating. This is his JOB people. Instead of seeing it as an honor to play for a legendary skipper in his final season, Melky (who is currently being paid 3.1 million dollars — of which the Braves are paying 2.6 million) is half-assing his way through a season. There is no fire there. There is no passion. It’s straight and simple bitterness from being traded from the Yanks to a team and a city he deems inferior.
Perhaps a lot of this is me reading into his dealings, but with all of the other Braves, there is an energy about them — lively and electric — they want the ball to come to them. They want to be the one to make a big play and be the hero (a role that has largely gone to relative unknown: Brooks Conrad this year) while Melky so sincerely doesn’t want the ball hit to him that when it does, he seems genuinely befuddled. Watch, if you will, the next time he is in the outfield and a ball is hit to him — it’s almost as if he doesn’t believe it. This, to me, is a sure sign that the man has no desire to be out there.
But why? His contract says that he has only one year left, right? Wouldn’t he want to perform as well as possible for a big contract in a Javy Lopez-esque season? Well, no. He only has until the end of the year on his contract, but the Braves can elect to keep him on for an extra year if they so wish because of arbitration. This means that if he were to play well, the Braves might elect to keep him on for another year. So instead of performing well and wishing to make an actual career as a baseball player, he wishes only to get paid $3.1 million to do essentially nothing.
There could also just be the fact that he’s just this bad and getting paid 3.1 million to whiff. Ultimately though, he is very fun to heckle from centerfield bleachers, so there is some sort of morbid satisfaction to be had… I just don’t know if it matches the price-tag.
Tags: Melky Cabrera
Posted in General | 13 Comments »
With just over one quarter of the season in the books, I have decided to go back and judge (albeit prematurely) Frank Wren’s off-season performance. At 25-22, the Braves’ record is slightly better than it was it this point a year ago (23-24) even with the nine game losing streak. Listed below are a few off-season moves made by GM Wren and their impact on the club.
1) Signing Troy Glaus to replace Kotchman/LaRoche
While Glaus has improved on his horrific start (.601 OPS in April), he is still a below league average first baseman. What I mean by this is if NL teams were conducting a draft for THIS season only, with salaries being equal, I believe Glaus would be selected somewhere between 9th and 12th. Having said that, salaries do matter, and Glaus’ (1 yr/ $1.75M) was virtually zero risk. Still, attempting to sign LaRoche for a contract similar to the one he has with Arizona would appear to have been the better move. He is tearing it up out west (an .879 OPS) and has traditionally gotten better as a season goes along (career second half OPS of .909). Although he was never anything special defensively, Glaus looks much worse at first base so far. Wren probably feared blocking first base prospect Freddie Freeman by signing LaRoche to a multiyear deal, but Freeman is only twenty years old and does not have great numbers above “A” ball so far (not everyone is Jason Heyward).
Verdict: Glaus is likely to continue his solid offensive play, but LaRoche would have been a better option if we had the coin to sign him. Freeman will likely start by 2012, but there are no guarantees. It makes no sense that the Braves did not at least attempt to negotiate with LaRoche.
For the Record: The NL first basemen that I would for sure take over Glaus this year (salaries equal) are Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, and Derrek Lee.
2) Trading Vazquez and signing Huddy
Both Vazquez and Cabrera have been terrible (and I mean really terrible) so far this season. The difference is Melky has a pretty average to mediocre track record while Javy is likely to turn things around. Either way Tim Hudson has more than filled Javy’s shoes so far this season and for a couple million dollars less. While I believe Hudson’s numbers will come back down to earth eventually (his 2.24 ERA is over two runs less than his 4.50 xFIP), it appears that keeping him over Vazquez was the right move. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that the Braves received the nineteen year old Arodys Vizcaino in the deal who has pitched brilliantly so far in his minor league career.
Verdict: Good, possibly, great trade. Even though we did not get the power hitting outfielder Wren may have wanted, we are better off in the short term with Hudson over Vazquez, and Vizcaino looks like he is going to be a stud.
3) Replacing Garrett Anderson with Hinske
This was a good move for dozens, if not hundreds, of reasons. Two weeks ago I wrote that Hinske should start in left but not to get too excited. While I still support my statement, he has been exceptional to this point and here’s to hoping it continues all year.
Verdict: You are an idiot if you do not think this was a good move and please never comment on this website again.
4) Replacing Gonzalez/Soriano with Saito/Wagner
This may have been Wren’s riskiest off-season move(s). Saito and Wagner are not getting any younger but have pitched very well this season. Between the two of them, they have 39 IP with 48 SO to only 15 BB while giving up only 12 ER. That’s good. Also, Mike Gonzalez’s arm may fall off any second now, and while Soriano may have pitched well so far, Wagner has matched him.
Verdict: So far so good. If these two keep the ball in the yard and stay healthy we are going to win more one run games than we lose.
Wren’s moves have ultimately made this team a little better, and I believe this combined with the promotion of Jason Heyward has made them significantly better. If this assessment is correct, this should be team that wins ninety plus games. It sounds weird to say that and injuries always have the possibility to derail teams, but I am feeling pretty optimistic right now.
Tags: Billy Wagner, Frank Wren, Melky Cabrera, Takashi Saito, Troy Glaus
Posted in Roster Moves | 5 Comments »