Friday, August 7, 2009

Say It Ain't So

Tough day for us (me) at The Bearded Icon. The Icon himself was designated for assignment by the Red Sox after going 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA in in 8 starts and 40 IP. As much as I hate to say it, Frank Wren looks pretty good right now for not matching the $5.5 million salary the Sox offered Smoltz this winter.

There has been speculation that Smoltz may accept a move to the minors in an attempt to come back as a reliever. Unsurprisingly, there has even been mention of the Icon returning to the Braves, though management has "no comment" on his future. To see whether it's worth bringing him back, I used the great PitchFX tool from Brooks Baseball to compare Smoltz's stuff from last year versus this year. The main issue with the PitchFX tool is that it cannot capture location, but it should be a good indication of the velocity and movement of his pitches. Smoltz made only 5 starts with the Braves in 2008 (and one relief appearance) versus 8 this season with the Red Sox, but because I'm lazy, I only looked at data for his last three starts in both years. Who's ready for charts?

The top chart shows that the average velocities on his fastball and slider are way down and his changeup's speed is up. From the bottom chart, the break on every pitch except the sinker (which I'm guessing is actually a splitter) is down, significantly so on the fastball, change, and slider. As for his location, the walk ratio is consistent with the last 5 years of his career. However, his HR/9 is more than double that of the last few seasons, his K/9 is down, and he is giving up 13.3 hits per nine.

Clearly his pitches aren't as sharp as Braves fans are used to seeing them . His right arm seems to finally be showing the signs of aging and his numerous surgeries. I personally would love to see Smoltz come back to Atlanta and finish his career in a Braves uniform, but I can't see him being effective in meaningful situations, and you can't bring him back as a mop-up guy. So here's hoping The Bearded Icon comes back to Atlanta, but sticks to working on his golf game.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Uppers and Downers

What Could Have Been...
As painful as it is having Garret Anderson's outfield play ruin the excitement of watching the grass grow, Braves fans could be suffering through Ken Griffey Jr.'s corpse doing its best impression of the Kid in left field. It has been over five months now since Griffey "crushed the Braves' hopes" and signed with Seattle. Both Anderson (293) and Griffey (302) have made about 300 plate appearances this season, but Griffey has been the DH in 57 of the 76 games in which he has played. Even concentrating almost solely on hitting, Griffey's batting average is hovering just above the Mendoza line (.211), while Anderson has steadily raised to his .295. Junior's patience at the plate (and Anderon's refusal to draw a walk) means that they both have an OBP right at .325, but Griffey is slugging a paltry .375, nearly 70 points lower than Anderson. So even though it hurts me to say that Garret Anderson is actually playing well, it hurts much less than the thought of an early-season outfield of Griffey, Schafer, and the Braves's version of Jeff Francoeur.

Just Like the French
Speaking of Francouer, has anyone noticed his stats as a Met? Well, in his 14 games as a member of that poor franchise, Frenchy has hit a very good .321/.350/.518, including 3 homers, 2 doubles and 16 RBIs. I'll just let that sink in while you think about the fact that Frenchy also drove in 16 runs in 50 games between May 12th and July 9th prior to his trade...

Hopefully this will make you feel better (via Big League Screw):

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Links: Scouring Them Internets So You Don't Have To

  • Marc Anthony just bought a share of the Miami Dolphins. Here's hoping that T.I.'s first order of business on May 27th, 2010 is to team with Ludacris and Lil Jon to relieve Liberty Mutual of the Braves
  • Quote from Posnanski's list of the Top 100 players in baseball right now, where Yunel Escobar was ranked 90th: "There are issues with him, sure. But last I checked, brilliant defensive shortstops who hit .307 with some power are not all that easy to find." Other Braves on his list: Chipper (87), Mac (81), Soriano (75), Vazquez (55).
  • This has to make Garret Anderson nervous
  • Drinking the Kool-Aid: Jason Heyward named as Baseball America's number 1 prospect, joined by Zeke Spruill (A) on the Hot Sheet
  • Awesome to see a (relatively) big crowd tonight as Jurrjens dominated the Freak and the Giants

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who Would Win This Race?

In honor of the 40th anniversary of us dominating the Soviet Union by winning the space race, I've come up with a race of our own:

Full Name Garret Joseph Anderson NASA's Crawler-Transporter System
Date of Birth June 30th, 1972 January 1966
Place of Birth L.A. Kennedy Space Center
Age 37 years 43 years
Years in Service 15 43
Height 6' 3'' 20' - 26'
Weight 190 lbs. 5,400,000 lbs.
Cost $2,500,000 $91,916,294.90 ($14,000,000 in 1966)
Top Speed Unknown 2 mph

Around the bases, I have to like GA, but in a straight sprint, I'm going to say it's too close to call.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Long Reliever or Second Baseman?

Although Martin Prado has been excellent since replacing Kelly Johnson at second base (.403/.467/.567), the Braves have had a perfectly good, run producing middle infielder wasting away in the bullpen since the start of June: Kris Medlen.

While some of the Braves's relievers sit at or near the top of the NL in appearances (Moylan 1st, O'Flaherty 3rd, Gonzalez 5th), Medlen has had plenty of time to find his inner Little Pink Pony, making only 8 appearances since May 31st. Now it seems to me that you wouldn't want a prospect who averaged 10.4 K/9 with a 2.42 ERA in the minors to waste away in long relief, but the Braves refuse to send him back to the minors where he can get some meaningful and consistent work in. Luckily for the Braves, Medlen has other skills that the team has yet to harness.

Drafted in the 10th round in 2006, Medlen was primarily a switch-hitting shortstop at Santa Ana Junior College. A quick look at his hitting statastics as a professional player shows that he is a clear upgrade over Kelly Johnson. From June 2nd to July 2nd, KJ made 87 plate appearances. In those appearances, he managed 9 hits, 3 doubles, 13 strikeouts, and 2 stolen bases. His percentages over that month span come out to .122/.224/.162. In his minor league career, Medlen made 32 appearances at the plate, in which he hit .333/.355/.567. He scored 6 runs, drove in 5, had 2 doubles, a triple, a homerun, and 2 stolen bases. For those of you keeping track at home, in about a third of the plate appearances, Medlen hit more homers and more triples, scored more runs, drove in more runs, and stole the same number of bases as the Braves's starting second baseman.

Those numbers are all the proof I need that Medlen can make a Rick Ankiel-like transition to position player. With his middle infield history, he can probably play defense equal to KJ's. Plus, it gives us even more opportunities for goofy pictures of the kid.

Or, maybe we should just send him to the minors and let him pitch. What do I know?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Eugoogaly for Jeff Francoeur

It was weird for me to see Jeff Francoeur in a Mets uniform. Although I knew that it was unlikely he would be a Brave after this winter, I never really thought it would happen. I also never thought any team would give up a serviceable major leaguer for him. To me this was a job well done by Frank Wren. Before The Cuban Missile tried to take him out, Church seemed to be developing into a decent outfielder. In 2007 with Washington, the only season he has had more than 360 plate appearances, Church hit .272 with 15 HRs, 43 2Bs and 70 RBI. Certainly not mind blowing, unless you're a Braves fan and forgot that outfielders do, in fact, produce runs. Versus left handed pitchers this season, Church has hit .310/.360/.424, and in the 35 games he played as a Met away from Citi field, he hit .326/.359/.444 with 13 doubles. Clearly an upgrade for the Braves, especially if platooned with Matt Diaz.

All that being said, this post is about Francouer. Getting rid of a gaping hole in the lineup is great, but part of me is sad to see him go. I admit I was a sucker for the hometown hero story, the local kid who dominated at Parkview, sped through the minors, ripped a three run homer in his second major league game at the ripe old age of 21, and appeared on an SI cover with the tag line "The Natural" (priceless subtitle: Can Anyone Be This Good?). Even through the all the struggles at the plate, I liked a lot about Francouer. Sure he didn't always take the best line on a ball hit to right field, but that arm could make any play exciting. Unlike some of the Braves's other corner outfielders, he seemed to hustle and have a genuine joy for the game. Seeing him hit three doubles the other night and take some balls to the opposite field, I even convinced myself that there was a chance he would come out of this. Maybe it's my eternal optimism when it comes to ballplayers (Chien-Ming Wang will lead me to a second half fantasy title, right?), but I'm terrified that Frenchy will eventually figure it out, even more so when I see him in a home jersey at Citi Field.

I think Francouer and Church have both been the victims of mental problems these last few seasons: Church's due to TCM's knee, Francouer's due to his insecurity at the plate. Church claims his head is finally clear after the two concussions. Perhaps the move from Atlanta will have the same effect on Francouer. Personally, I hope he absolutely bombs as a Met, signs with the Rangers this winter, and goes on to hit 40 homers a year in the AL.