Playoffs or not, Braves’ strong finish bodes well for future

braves.0930

Believe? The Braves believe they must run the table. They're probably right.

 

Three games behind the wild-card leader with only five to play seems about as desperate a situation today for the Braves as they faced on the morning of Sept. 10, when they were fifth in the wild-card standings, 8-1/2 off the lead.

But if you’ve been following them closely and don’t view the Braves any differently today than on Sept. 10, well, then all I can say it you must be determined not to change your perception regardless of events.

Because it’s been a helluva run back to relevance for these Braves, and no less a realist than Chipper Jones has been talking the past week about how much this finish could and should mean for the Braves moving forward next year.

The same Chipper who in previous weeks had talked about how next season might be his last if he doesn’t play any better than he did for much of this one.

Seeing his team rally down the stretch and win 15 out of 17 games before last night’s defeat against Florida, seems to have invigorated the old man (and we’re talking about Chipper here, not Bobby Cox; though the past couple of weeks also seemed to perk up Bobby’s disposition).

Suddenly Chipper is talking not about riding off into the sunset next year, but about how this Braves team should ride this momentum and use it going into next season, how they should build off this and know that they can win two of three from any team and do better than that against the inferior ones.

If you’re a Braves fan, surely you love hearing that kind of talk, and seeing this team finally put together a run — albeit probably too late — down the stretch that was worthy of the starting pitching they had been getting all season long.

If you’ve got the best rotation in baseball, and a pretty good offense (at least after a couple of additions were made), there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to go on long surges. Maybe not 15-of-17 runs and 10-game road winning streaks (the longest such streak in the league this season), but long runs that would’ve been enough to keep them with or ahead of Philly and everyone else in the league if the Braves hadn’t gotten off to the lackluster 34-40 start.

Even after last night’s loss, the Braves’ 52-31 record since June 28 is the best in the league, slightly ahead of the Phillies (53-32), Rockies (50-33), Cardinals (49-32), Marlins (46-26) and Dodgers (45-38).

Of those six teams, four will make up the playoff field. All but the Braves and Marlins, most likely.

Given that we’re talking about having the best record in the league over more than a half-season of baseball, it seems a pretty clear indication of what this Braves team is capable of doing, and should be capable of doing next season provided they have a strong rotation and avoid major injuries again.

Those are two big “ifs,” but the rotation part of the equation seems like it’s perfectly doable. You’ve got to figure that Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson are going to have strong seasons, particularly since Jurrjens’ ERA in his second full season is better by about a full run than in his rookie year.

braves.0929

Jurrjens is one certain piece of the puzzle

Hanson has only gotten better as the season as wore on, and has a head on his shoulder to match that immensely gifted right arm. Jurrjens and Hanson are two smart kids, folks. The Braves are extremely fortunate to have two that young, that good, and that relatively cheap for another year or, in Hanson’s case, two.

Then it gets interesting, in terms of who’ll be back in the rotation. You have to figure Derek Lowe will be, simply because he’s owed $45 million over the next three years, and the Braves have never been a team that eats big chunks of a player’s contract in order to move him.

Lowe, despite 15 wins, hasn’t had a good season by his standards (or the standards expected from someone with that contract), but he’s not hurt, he’s not been anything but a good teammate who’s worked hard, and he’s still at an age where there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to eat 200-plus innings, lower the ERA back closer to his norm from this season’s 4.55, and be a solid middle-rotation starter.

Will Javier Vazquez be back with the Braves in 2010?

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To trade him, I’m guessing the Braves would have to eat $10 mill of his remaining salary. Just a guess, but that seems about right to me. And no way they are going to pay $25 million for one season of work, trading him when his value is at its lowest point. But maybe I’m wrong and some other team looking to dump a similar contract for a position player would be willing to swap. But that seems unlikely to me. Very.

So he’s back.

That leaves two spots, and three candidates – Javier Vazquez, Tim Hudson, Kenshin Kawakami.

Vazquez has been one of the three or four best starting pitchers in the National League this season, ranking among the leaders in virtually every important category including ERA, strikeouts, opponents’ average, opponents’ OBP, etc. He has a 15-9 record and 2.83 ERA entering tonight’s start against the Marlins, the same record as Lowe with an ERA nearly two runs lower.

Vazquez is a bargain at $11.5 million next season, the last year on his contract. Teams will line up this winter if the Braves make him available, and they might at least dangle him to see if they could get a power hitter in return.

Let’s be clear: The Braves would very much prefer to keep Vazquez and acquire a hitter some other way. But how? This free-agent class is lame, and unless you believe they should roll the dice and hope that a Bobby Abreu still has plenty in the tank, who would you prefer they pursue on the market?

If the Braves want to get a 25-30 homer guy, they’re going to have to give up a nice piece in return. Kawakami is a solid back-end-of-rotation starter, and his contract (two years left at a little under $8 mill per season) is reasonable for a 190-innings guy who could have easily won 12-15 games this season with decent run support.

Hudson's back. Will he be in 2010?

Hudson's back. Will he be in 2010?

 

But I can’t see a team giving up a power bat for K.K. For a power arm, 200-strikeout pitcher like Vazquez, yes. But not K.K., a finesse guy who’s 34 and has had some shoulder weakness and/or soreness at times.

Hudson is the most interesting and/or difficult decision the Braves might face. In today’s market, his $12 million option for 2010 is not exactly a bargain, not for a guy who’s only made six or seven starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, and been good but not great in those starts.

Hudson has had one 15-win season in six years, his 16-10 season in 2007.

He went 16-7 with a 2.70 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 240 innings in a stellar 2004 season with Oakland, and hasn’t totaled as many as 150 strikeouts since, and only once had an ERA lower than 3.33 since then (3.17 in 2008).

Huddy is a great teammate, beloved in the clubhouse, and he and his wife do terrific stuff in the community through their foundation. They have put down roots here, and have finally finished, or nearly finished, the dream house they built in Auburn, where he went to school.

There’s no doubt in my mind he’d take quite a bit less than $12 mill per season to stay here in a multi-year extension, probably less than $10 mill per. And I don’t think any other team would offer him even that much right now, not until he’s back for a full, healthy and strong season.

So do the Braves trade Vazquez, who may or may not be having a career-type of season, and hope that Hudson can get back to being something close to what Vazquez has been this season, or at least close to what Hudson used to be?

Or do they keep Vazquez atop what whould be the best rotation in baseball, one that wouldn’t even need Lowe to be more than a solid back-of-the-rotation guy? (And if Lowe was back to being at his peak, coupled with that trio of Vazquez, Jurrjens and Hanson, you’re talking legit comparisons to great Braves rotation of the past, in terms of depth if not quite three Cy Young-caliber guys in their prime at the top.)

Would you sign Hudson, add him to the Vazquez-Jurrjens-Hanson-Lowe mix, and trade Kawakami for something less than an elite power hitter? Maybe for a good reliever or a good-not-great hitter?

Questions, questions.

Before too much longer, we’ll start to get some answers. But until the Braves are done with the present, the here and now, team officials are not going to focus or talk much about the future.

 ♣ A Rocky path? While it is a formidable task facing the Braves, making up three games with only five to play, it should be noted that Colorado, which is 6-3 in its past nine games, has a difficult road ahead, or at at least the end of it is difficult.

After facing the very mediocre and beatable Brewers pitchers Jeff Suppan (11 losses, 5.04 ERA) and Manny Parra (10 losses, 6.16 ERA) in the next two games in Colorado, they’ll travel to L.A. to finish the season with a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.

Do you folks realize the Dodgers have won 12 of 15 against the Rockies this season? Now, you might look at that two ways — Dodgers own them, or Rockies are due. Or maybe you look at it in both of those ways.

Regardless, the Dodgers are trying to hang on to have the best record and home-field advantage in the NL side of the postseason tournament. They’ll be trying to win those games, in other words.

And they’re scheduled to start lefties Randy Wolf (11-6, 3.22) and Clayton Kershaw (8-8, 2.89) in the first two against Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez (14-12, 3.52) and lefty Jorge De La Rosa (16-9, 4.45), respectively, then Dodgers righty Kiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.76) in the finale against Jason Marquis (15-12, 3.95).

Jimenez and De La Rosa have already lost two games apiece against the Dodgers this season. But Marquis has two of the Rockies’ three wins against the Dodgers.

The Dodgers have lost five of their past seven games. However, they’re 5-1 in their past six home starts.

Meanwhile, the Braves, of course, have Vazquez facing Florida’s Ricky Nolasco (12-9, 5.28 ERA) in tonight’s series finale, then a four-game weekender at home against the lowly Nationals.

The pitching matchups for the Nationals series are as follows:

– Thursday: Nationals RHP Garrett Mock (3-10, 5.91 ERA) vs. Hanson (11-4, 2.98 ERA).

– Friday: Nationals RHP Livan Hernandez (8-12, 5.48) vs. Lowe (15-9, 4.55).

– Saturday: Nationals TBA vs. Jurrjens (14-10, 2.61).

– Sunday: Nationals RHP J.D. Martin (5-4, 4.69) vs. Hudson (2-1, 4.08).

OK, I’m outta time. I was going to do something on how much Nate McLouth has struggled lately, going 5-for-45 (.111) with one extra-base hit and a .273 OBP in his past 11 games, and about how the Braves’ best leadoff hitters this season have been Omar Infante and Matt Diaz.

But we’ll save that for later.

I saw a terrific show Monday night at the 40-Watt Club in Athens, where an R.E.M. reunion nearly broke out at the Minus 5/Baseball Project show. Three original-band members (including seldom-seen former drummer Bill Berry) jamming onstage together, and Michael Stipe watching from the back of the bar, in stocking cap and beard, standing about 20 feet away from me.

Anyway, here’s a shaky-camera clip that  posted online in a couple of places, including this cool website I’ve never seen and also  Steve Wynn’s own site here. (AJC colleague  Jeff Schultz is friends since high school in L.A. with Wynn, and introduced me to him. Cool dude. Wynn, not Schultz.) The encore was tremendous, with Berry and Mills sitting in for three tunes including a raucous cover of “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” The video clip is from the encore.

Oh, and haven’t the first couple of episodes this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office been howlingly funny?

 Map3

“IT’S HARD” by The Who (Townshend) 

Any tough can fight – few can play

Any fool can fall – few can lay

Any stud can reproduce – few can please

Anyone can pay – few can lease

 

It’s hard

(It’s a hard hard hand to hold

It’s a hard land to control)

 

Any man can claim — few can find

Any girl can blink — few can lie

Anyone can promise — few can raise

Anyone can try — but a few can stay

 

Any brain can hide — few can stand

Any kid can fly — few can land

Any gang can scatter — few can form

Any kid can chatter — few can inform

 

It’s hard — It’s very very very very hard — so very hard

 

It’s hard

(It’s a hard hard hand to hold

It’s a hard land to control)

 

Any soul can sleep — few can die

Any wimp can weep — few can cry

Everyone complains — few can state

Anyone can stop — few can wait

 

It’s hard — It’s very very very very hard — so hard

 

Anyone can do anything if they hold the right card

So I’m thinking about my life now

I’m thinking very hard

Deal me another hand Lord, this one’s very hard

Deal me another hand Lord, this one’s very hard

 

 

1,399 comments Add your comment

Vinings Jim

September 30th, 2009
3:03 pm

RHR – Rob’s surgery is tomorrow…

Soph

September 30th, 2009
3:05 pm

cab -

I heard about the USC player who had the accident with the weights. Sounded terrible but I think I read that he was communicating with his family yesterday after surgery.

Tomas

September 30th, 2009
3:06 pm

Upcoming FA’s: Tim Hudson, Garret Anderson, Adam Laroche, Greg Norton, Rafael Soriano, and Mike Gonzalez. To be honest I’d let every one of them leave (except Laroche) offering arb to Soriano and Gonzo which will give the Braves two type A FA’s.

Targeted players to sign: Adam Laroche, and two relievers like: Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodney, John Grabow, Rafael Betancourt, Latroy Hawkins, Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Jose Valverde, JJ Putz, and Trevor Hoffman. Sign two of them in the range of 3-4mill/per year an you’re solid.

Also there are going to be a couple of non-tender candidates: Ryan Church, and Kelly Johnson, and they’ll need a good pinch hitter. Maybe they should non-tender Church, sign Mark Kotsay(to be a bench player), and Eric Hinske.

FEAR

September 30th, 2009
3:06 pm

um………go braves and brewers

cabravesfan

September 30th, 2009
3:10 pm

Soph-

yeah, really scary (and totally freak) thing that happened to him…he’s expected to totally recover but unclear when (of if) he will regain full use of his voice. Docs said that if he had not been is such great shape, if his neck muscles had not been so strong, he would have died…

FaninFaytown

September 30th, 2009
3:15 pm

Haven’t posted in quite a while, but I picked up the new Alice in Chains cd yesterday and its outstanding. Not Lanye, but excellent.

N8

September 30th, 2009
3:15 pm

From the other blog:

“N8 – you’re right about the 2 runs in the 1st inning, before Chip’s homer. Still, a homer in the 3rd inning with a 2-run lead in a playoff-type game is still a BIG hit. The shutout doesn’t make it less important.” – Daslied

Agreed. But still not as “big” as say, David Justice’s 6th inning HR that was the only run of the game in a WS/playoff game.

I’m not nitpicking with you. The bottom line is that Chipper has just not been as good as we (and he) have been accustomed to seeing Chipper be for a long time. That combined with him getting ALL of the prime AB’s in the 3-hole all season long, have hurt this team’s chances of winning, more than they’ve helped them.

Now if Chipper goes 10 for 20 with 3-4 HR and big hit afte big hit in the next 5 games, all will be forgiven. But it doesn’t make making that statement right now any less true.

It’s more of a testament to how damn good Chipper has been and what we expect of him, than ripping on him. He hasn’t been that bad. But he surely hasn’t deserved (nor has his teammates) to have him in the 3-hole all year.

LT- A Blogger

September 30th, 2009
3:16 pm

Looking forward to 2010- I think FW will do the job in the offseason to improve the lineup. Not sure what but something. Plus- may get to see Heyward crack the lineup- really hoping that he does.

On top of all that, you’ve got the World Cup in the summer and to top it off…..Pavement reunion!!!

Now just gotta win out and cross the fingers.

coach joe

September 30th, 2009
3:17 pm

thanks for the stats on McLouth.. It did seem like he hadn’t had a hit in a long time.

Go braves.

Go LSU

RHR

September 30th, 2009
3:18 pm

Thanks Jim. Hope it goes well, Rob.

Hey DOB, earlier in the week Buster Olney wrote that he thinks Hanson will win ROY. Have you given a prediction yet? I mean, obviously you’re voting for Hanson ( or else :D ) but do you have a feel yet for how the votes will fall?

Efrim

September 30th, 2009
3:18 pm

To trade him, I’m guessing the Braves would have to eat $10 mill of his remaining salary. Just a guess, but that seems about right to me.

Yup, sounds right to me too. I certainly think there would be enough teams looking at him for that price, 3 years and 35 million.

Sand Napper

September 30th, 2009
3:21 pm

The show at the 40 watt sounded awesome. I’m really jealous, and feel dumb, because I live in Athens. Also, DOB, what do you think about Karen O doing the music for the new “Where the Wild Things Are”?

Mitchell

September 30th, 2009
3:22 pm

The Who! Finally something I’ve actually heard before. I mean, I’ve heard of Drive by Truckers, Townes Van Zant(?), Steve Earle, Son Volt, etc. but never really listened to them.

Great song and album by the Who. Underrated album.

Thanks DOB. That’s probably the only thing we’ll agree on today.

jim

September 30th, 2009
3:23 pm

Just look at this year’s Mets to see how expectations for the upcoming year can go awry. Without Vasquez, the Braves rotation would take a significant step down. Not just this year returning from TJ surgery, but in the passt seasons too, Hudson has worked a lot of deep counts that reduce the number of innings he can pitch. He does not have a strikeout pitch like Javy, and has many batters with long ABs fouling off his best offerings. If he were to average 1 IP/start less than Javy, think of the impact that would have on the bullpen.

The best opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs might be this year. Go Braves!!

Tomas

September 30th, 2009
3:24 pm

Mclouth really strikes out an awful lot, with that high pitch, but his defense is awesome. And his been caught stealing a lot since the hamstring injury.

Soph

September 30th, 2009
3:24 pm

Hmmm, I just saw that Fox picked up Saturday’s Braves/Nats game so the start time is 4:05. When did they change it?

RHR

September 30th, 2009
3:27 pm

RHR

September 30th, 2009
3:30 pm

Almost made me teary eyed. :lol:

Daslied

September 30th, 2009
3:30 pm

N8 – come on, you’re nitpicking a little. :) People were saying they couldn’t remember the last time Chipper got a big hit in a playoff-type atmosphere. I reminded them that it was Monday. Just because it’s not on the level of Justice’s HR 14 years ago doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Mitchell (from the last blog) – It’s not the 15-3 stretch that has people more comfortable with the offense. It’s the 52-31 since the end of June. You know, the whole “best record in the league for half the year” thing. Dude, they don’t need to be the ‘27 Yankees with this pitching.

Mike J

September 30th, 2009
3:30 pm

I think the Braves have got to trade KK for a decent player as DOB mentioned, and sign Huddy to a home-town extension, & keep Javy (sign him to an extension next off-season if he is again brilliant). I think that if you focus on re-signing Laroche and having him, Mclouth, Prado at 2nd, and a combination of players not named Frenchy (i.e., a ready Heyward or Schafer, Diaz and/or a tendered Church), a “fixed” (hopefully) Chipper, and a catcher that can see ALL SEASON LONG, and then I feel we can make it happen as we wait on the maturation of a Heyward and Schafer. And as far as the bullpen goes, if the Braves don’t keep one of either Soriano or Gonzo (I prefer Soriano), then we need to get a legitimate closer and NOT go back to the bullpen of “glue, duct tape, and pray” of the past. A weak bullpen has been a huge issue for us in the past, and we had it fixed this year. I just hope it doesn’t go to hell again with the loss of our 2 backend guys. Thats a BIG loss when you really think about it. (I like bearded Wagner, he looks like a pissed off bads$$. We will need someone to replace MFIKY)

N8

September 30th, 2009
3:31 pm

I know DOB stated before that the Braves more than likely wouldn’t “eat” 10 million (or any amount) of Lowe’s contract. Because that would essentially mean that they would have paid Lowe 25 million for 2009.

That makes perfect sense to me. I get it.

But in the end, I’d rather them WAAAAAY overpay the 25 million for one year, than over pay him 45 million for the next 3 years. Who knows? Maybe he turns it around an is the solid #2 or #3 in the next three years.

But I think if by moving Lowe, it allows you to retain both Hudson and Vazquez next year, and possibly locking one of them up long-term, to get out from under that contract of Lowe’s?

Damn. Wren’s gotta do that. Whatever we paid for Lowe in 2009, be damned. Move forward. Don’t compound a bad contract, by keeping said bad contract.

Efrim

September 30th, 2009
3:34 pm

DOB, if they decide to trade Kawakami less than a year after signing him to a contract, would the Braves be concerned about hurting relationships that they had built with Japanese baseball folk? I’m not sure what type of backlash they’d deserve in a situation like that, since the front office is just trying to put the best team on the field. But I’m just curious to see if you think that might be something that would keep them from dealing away Kenshin. Thanks.

dmack2027

September 30th, 2009
3:35 pm

DOB,

If you were Wren, what would you do with the rotation? Would you trade Javy or not sign Huddy? Assume you could get a power bat for Vazquez.

Also, do you get any sense about where they are with LaRoche?

Daslied

September 30th, 2009
3:36 pm

RHR – great story, thanks. The most relevant line:

“And the last two weeks, with the Braves trying to pull off the miracle comeback, Chipper Jones has hit .311, his on-base percentage is .436, he has slugged .511.”

dmack2027

September 30th, 2009
3:36 pm

One more point.

Braves also need a closer. Unless they are prepared to go with Moylan, I assume they will try to bring one of Sori or Gonzo back. Which one?

P. W. Hjort

September 30th, 2009
3:37 pm

Great blog, DOB.

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 30th, 2009
3:38 pm

Bring back MFIKY

Nova Scotia Steve - Fight Like A Brave

September 30th, 2009
3:39 pm

We really have Soriano at a steal of a price…what’s he making $6-8 million???

With his numbers…that’s a great bang for your buck….

He’ll likely command $10 million per season on the FA market

CB

September 30th, 2009
3:39 pm

N8, I think if we got out of from under Lowe’s contact for nothing, we would still gain salary leverage for the rest of the team. Maybe the Braves could look at trading him for a lesser salaried bad contract.

gatorhead1013

September 30th, 2009
3:40 pm

Will they really throw Hudson on Sunday if we have a shot?

Vasquez on short rest?

Vinings Jim

September 30th, 2009
3:41 pm

Soph – they announced the change to Fox a couple of days ago

P. W. Hjort

September 30th, 2009
3:41 pm

RHR,

This is an excellent article. I love this quote:

He has hit more doubles than homers, walked more times than he has struck out, and scored more runs than he has driven in.

Mike J

September 30th, 2009
3:41 pm

RHR…GREAT ARTICLE. GAVE ME THE CHILLS.

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 30th, 2009
3:41 pm

DOB, would it not be more advantagous for the Braves/ liberty Media Corp. to pony up money to sign Huddy and hope to deal pitching mid season for a power hitting LF or second baseman provided Chipper convinces Roachy to stay, 1yr. cheap?

Tomas

September 30th, 2009
3:42 pm

DOB, you should make a poll on wether the fans prefer Kawakami over Hudson

RC

September 30th, 2009
3:43 pm

I feel like I should have seen this when the name orginated, but can someone tell me what MFIKY stands for when refering to Soriano? I’m pretty sure I get the MF part….

Brian

September 30th, 2009
3:43 pm

Nice tribute from Joe Poz, one of the smartest guys in the business.

DawginLex

September 30th, 2009
3:43 pm

Gotta get a top flight, you have no chance when you face him closer. This is the difference between multiple world titles and having just 1.

Kawakami can leave today in my book.

Soph

September 30th, 2009
3:43 pm

Thanks, VJ. I completely missed it. Good to know.

hmmmm.......

September 30th, 2009
3:46 pm

Anyway they could package Lowe and KK? Maybe throw Schafer in too?

Efrim

September 30th, 2009
3:46 pm

He’ll likely command $10 million per season on the FA market

I don’t know, Steve. You probably would of expected K Rod to get more money than he got last winter though, right?

I suppose a team would give Soriano a three year 30 million dollar deal, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see something more similar to Brian Fuentes’ deal that he got from the Angels. 2 years at 8-9 per with a third year vesting option.

Wednesday Post | Capitol Avenue Club

September 30th, 2009
3:48 pm

[...] David O’Brien discusses the Braves’ pitching surplus. [...]

Anders

September 30th, 2009
3:50 pm

Anyway they could package Lowe and KK? Maybe throw Schafer in too? (hmmmmmm..)

Shouldn’t you have signed this as hmm..hmm..hmmmmmm? You know,like the beginning of Taps. For the team that takes all the Braves miscues off their hands. {:

Anders

September 30th, 2009
3:53 pm

Efrim – I agree that Soriano would command a Fuentes type deal. You’d have no interest in Wagner on a 1 year deal? I haven’t seen his numbers but he was throwing 94 mph the other night.

Blackberry Cobbler

September 30th, 2009
3:54 pm

maybe this too little too late run will teach the Braves of 2 fundamental facts– #1 always put your best 9 on the field every game (the Braves did not do that this season) and #2 play all 162 games like each is important (the Braves lost the chance at the post-season by not playing well against weaker teams).

N8

September 30th, 2009
3:54 pm

Daslied, yeah I was nitpicking a little. LOL

But once Chipper signed that extension and played the way he’s played, he’s wide open for questions and criticism, just like everybody else, isn’t he? Like I said. He hasn’t been horrible. Just not good enough to be in the 3-hole.

The great ones have a longer distance to fall once the begin to. Can you imagine the griping on the blog had Wren given Smoltz the 5 million dollars and he did what he did for Boston? Well, that’s kind of what happened with Chipper. He signed a big extension and then laid an egg in 2009.

Big contracts bring big expectations. And if in April you would have told me that Chipper would have played as much as he has and STILL was one of the problems I would have laughed at you. Dude won the batting title last year. Again. Big seasons, bring big expectations.

I didn’t expect Chipper to win the batting title again. But I also didn’t expect his BA, OBP, SLG and OPS were all to drop off to the tune of 100 points (more than 200 in OPS). Chipper has played in 10 more games (so far) than last year, and has 38 less hits.

Can you think of 38 times this year where a simple base hit from Chipper would have won a game for us?

Chipper has fine numbers for a 37 year old player. In fact, his numbers a scarily close to Loaf’s numbers. Except for one. Salary. Chipper is making 10 million and has 3 more years on his contract.

What would you guys think if Wren announced today that Loaf was signed to a 3 year 30 million dollar extension? Because at this point, Chipper is only slightly better than him.

So. Was I nitpicking over the HR the other day? Sure.

Am I wrong that Chipper has hurt this team (by having so much money tied up in him – hampering Wren from adding a bigger bat and by stinking up the middle of our order), more than he helped it? Especially in relative terms to what he did last year?

If you’re answer is no, I’m not sure what to say.

CB

September 30th, 2009
3:55 pm

Anders, I know you like to pick on us about Lowe’s contract- how is Oliver Perez’s contract working out?

P. W. Hjort

September 30th, 2009
3:56 pm

Other points about the Braves pitching surplus.

1) The possibility that Vazquez or Hudson sign multi-year deals (and the possibility they re-structure their current deal in the process.
2) The possibility of keeping the depth intact and moving a starter, presumably Kawakami, to the bullpen and acquiring a bat another way or going with the offense they have.
3) Maybe the demand for Lowe is bigger than we all think. And maybe the Braves would be willing to do the whole slide-rule “the more of Lowe’s contract we pick up, the better the players we get” thing. Or possibly swapping him for a less-than-desirable contract, presumably an outfielder or 1B.

jeffrey d

September 30th, 2009
3:57 pm

If we don’t make the postseason then the only thing this push is doing is “pushing” us back on draft day.

Anders

September 30th, 2009
3:57 pm

CB- Not very well. Thanks for asking. Hopefully his knee heals. We’ll see.

jeffrey d

September 30th, 2009
3:59 pm

If I’m not mistaken, I believe Anders referred to Oliver Perez as “a $36 million box of chocolates.”

jim

September 30th, 2009
4:00 pm

GO BRAVES!!!!!!!

GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!

JEB

September 30th, 2009
4:00 pm

DOB
You draw out the correct scenarios concerning Javy!
I would hate to see him go! I would rather they work out a long term deal with him and Hudson. Trade KK for a semi big bat, closer, or reliever.
That would secure Javy, Hudson, Hanson, for the next few years. Jurjens is going to be quite a trick to keep long term, with Boras behind him.
But, for next year alone, it does make sense to move Javy for a big bat!

OR.. do we secure a pitching staff – pick up another bat to replace G. Anderson – secure LaRoche for a couple more seasons??
Then hope that Schafer and Heyward come in to be a big boost next year.

IF… we do the “trade Javy for a BIG bat” deal,
then the real conversation begins:

“To whom do we trade him – and for whom???”
“Who wants him – who can we get for him??”

Anders

September 30th, 2009
4:02 pm

jeffrey d -That was the old Perez. This Perez has been an empty box of chocolates.

Efrim

September 30th, 2009
4:03 pm

You’d have no interest in Wagner on a 1 year deal? I haven’t seen his numbers but he was throwing 94 mph the other night.

Totally would, if he wasn’t offered arbitration by the Red Sox. It sounds like they will and he won’t accept. If that’s the case, the Braves would have to give up their first round draft pick. To me, that would be foolish, given Wagner’s age and injury history. Not to mention, if I am giving up a first round pick, I’d want it to be for a player that has more of an effect than a relief pitcher. Not to mention, there are a lot of options out there to fill the closer’s role.

Mixxo

September 30th, 2009
4:04 pm

jeffery d — If we don’t make the postseason then the only thing this push is doing is “pushing” us back on draft day.

Yikes!

…and ya’ll think I’m rough on the boys.

Soph

September 30th, 2009
4:04 pm

If we don’t make the postseason then the only thing this push is doing is “pushing” us back on draft day.

Nu uh, this push helped the Braves push their way back into our hearts again. And, that’s all that matters.

Anders

September 30th, 2009
4:05 pm

Efrim- It’s automatically a first round pick or does that depend on the players rating? No wat he’s an A player anymore.

kauai dawg

September 30th, 2009
4:07 pm

Such an up and down year. Every time I think they are back in it and I get some hope up. They lose.

Much better ending this year than the last few years for sure but still missing something when they have an opportunity to make a major move.

Yesterday really hurt the chances for sure. 3 games at this point is a tall task. I think the Dodgers will not have anything to play for and thus offer little help. They will have clinched and looking to set up rotations and get some rest.

I am on the edge of my seat and hope they come through like in the early 90’s when they battled until the end and made it at the wire.

RHR

September 30th, 2009
4:07 pm

I bet you hate chocolate now, huh?

N8

September 30th, 2009
4:09 pm

RHR, I had a long response to your link that the blog ate. I’ll try and re-post it after I post this. If it doesn’t show up, it basically said that I agree with everything in that article when discussing Chipper’s career. But not his 2009 contribution to the team.

Lew

September 30th, 2009
4:09 pm

Anders-Miscues? You mean Lowe who has gone 15-9 (albeit in much less style than we would have liked) and had 20 quality starts while pitching close to 200 innings? Or Kawakami who has given up three runs or less in 16 of 21 starts since the beginning of May? Or Schafer, a rookie who either played injured or been on the DL most of the season?

Dude, maybe Lowe hasn’t given us the bang for the buck we hoped for and maybe Kawakami is paid a tad more than you’d like to pay your 4-5 guy in the rotation, but miscues? Seriously? Wouldn’t the Mets love a few of these miscues?

YE19

September 30th, 2009
4:12 pm

The recent run of the Braves success has proven this team doesn’t necessarily need a bigtime power bat. Stay with me here…

Sign LAROCHE. Give the middle infielders (deserving 2009 MVP candidate, ESCO, and PRADO) an extension and raise. As an aside, people say PRADO isn’t much of a hitter?? Dude finished second, which came down to the last game of the season, in the International League batting title at Richmond two years ago, had posted solid minor league numbers before that, has hit consistently AROUND .300 in the Bigs, and proven to be an extra base hit machine.

Then you have MCLOUTH, DIAZ, SCHAFER, and HEYWARD (at least by June 1) locked up for the outfield. Consider bringing LOAF-GA back in a more part time (primary pinch-hitting or perhaps second outfield platoon role once HEYWARD arrives). DIAZ, by the way, has proven he could be a pretty good everyday guy, particularly after P90X trimmed him down and increased his speed, agility, and range. Project the power numbers he’s posted in a limited (until recently) role this year, combined with hitting over .300 and you’ve got SOLID production at a corner outfield spot.

stay focused…

If you don’t bring LOAF back, put HEYWARD on the team from opening day, and increase your odds of success relative to the SCHAFER experiment last year, by counting on one of two (HEYWARD or SCHAFER) to fill one starting role, and platoon the other with DIAZ.

Alternatively, put KJ in the outfield mix (if you don’t let him walk), maybe after you bulk him up a little on Diaz’ offseason P90X regime. INFANTE is under contract for pretty cheap and can provide the super-utility role to spell or fill in for an injured CHIPPER, or give the middle infielders and outfielders an occasional day off. Convince ROSS to come back, with the promise of another start or two every couple of weeks to keep MAC fresh for a full season.

That gives you more financial flexibility for the pitching staff, and perhaps keep all SIX starters and see if either LOWE or KK would be interested in a set-up or closer’s role, with MOYLAN in the other spot. Bring GONZO back to serve in one of those two roles to keep your back-end arms fresh. According to his interview on the AJC he loves the Atlanta “scene”, so perhaps he provides a little discount to come back. Let MFIKY walk. If you don’t keep all six starters, then deal KK or LOWE, at a risk of ruining your chance of signing another International guy or eating a portion of LOWE’s contract (I’d eat no more than half of the $15 mil, if I’m Wren). No way I’d deal VAZQUEZ. I think his career year is more a function of the comfort of playing under Cox and just finally putting it all together, rather than a fluke. He’s always been a premier strikeout guy, afterall.

…makes some sense, eh?

The clubhouse chemistry is said to be better than ever. That, combined with the opportunity to give Cox one more ring with a very promising team that is poised to compete for a World Championship next year would be a very intriguing idea to any ballplayer. I’d bet most of the current team would like to stay and be a respective cog in the wheel to achieve that goal. Perhaps that will provide the incentive for some of these guys to sign for a little below their worth or at a hometown discount (a la HUDDY, LAROCHE, and GONZO).

The future is bright. In the meantime, let’s keep the pressure on the Rock pile tonight, guys. Go BRAVES!

Efrim

September 30th, 2009
4:13 pm

Efrim- It’s automatically a first round pick or does that depend on the players rating? No wat he’s an A player anymore.

Anders, believe it or not, he’s Type A. By a healthy margin, too:

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/09/elias-rankings-update-6.html

N8

September 30th, 2009
4:13 pm

RHR, it didn’t show up again. Sorry. As much time as I’ve got to blog, I don’t have time to try and figure out why this blog occasionally eats posts. Grand scheme of life, it’s just not that important.

Tomas

September 30th, 2009
4:14 pm

Oliver Perez deal was much worse than Lowe’s at least this first year.

Kenshin Kawakami is only going to get better now that he has adjusted to the longer season, and bigger ball. Since May he has an ERA of 3.42, and 131.2 IP.

N8

September 30th, 2009
4:15 pm

I’m not sure if anybody has mentioned this, but I saw on ESPN’s stats page last week (maybe it’s changed since then), that the Braves lead the majors in my favorite category of “quality starts”.

So, yeah. With some better offense, Lowe could still help this team win games. I just wouldn’t count on him in Game One of the WS. LOL

CB

September 30th, 2009
4:16 pm

I could live with the team we are finishing the season with minus a few exceptions and a few additions like Heyward as our starting team next year. Make it happen Frank Wren!

tvsportscaster

September 30th, 2009
4:16 pm

DOB, the Braves might not necessarily need to go out and get a power bat next year. Here’s my thinking if they re-sign LaRoche, then there is your 25-30 homerun guy. Jason Heyward is pretty much a lock to be the starting rightfielder next year and he will probably give you 15-20 homers, and then if you go with a platoon in LF of Matt Diaz and Jordan Schafer, then you wouldn’t necessarily have to acquire a power bat, so you trade KK for a decent bullpen guy, let Gonzo and Soriano go and sign Billy Wagner as your closer and you’re ready to go to work.

N8

September 30th, 2009
4:19 pm

Not sure if anybody has mentioned this.

Charlie Morton pitched 7.2 innings of 2 hit ball today with 8 K’s. His ERA is now 4.61.

Derek Lowe’s is 4.55. I think Derek makes a little more money than him though. :-)

BL

September 30th, 2009
4:19 pm

Great blog DOB but now here come all the “Playstation world” free agent and trade proposals. Go Braves and y’all have a good one, I’m out.

McFann Ô

September 30th, 2009
4:19 pm

Thanks for the new Blog, Chief!

YE19 Convince ROSS to come back

As I recall, the Braves signed him to a two-year deal.

Bat Masterson

September 30th, 2009
4:19 pm

Nice Link on Chipper, RHR. I’ve been pulling for Chipper to hit enough the past few years to make the 500 homerun club, maybe he will make it. I would really hope he can maintain the .300 career BA.

YE19

September 30th, 2009
4:20 pm

Mike J and tvsportscaster,

Our recent posts indicate we are largely on the same page. It really does make a lot of sense, IMO.

N8

September 30th, 2009
4:21 pm

Anybody else wish we were actually on the road for these last few games, just based on our road record vs. our home record?

N8

September 30th, 2009
4:24 pm

“Great blog DOB but now here come all the “Playstation world” free agent and trade proposals.” BL

Well, if we’re on that subject, may I suggest we sign my 11 year old son? He created himself on MLB 09 The Show and he’s one of the best players in the league. I think he was a 60-60 guy last year. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

And I can vouch that I’m pretty sure he’s not on the juice. But don’t expect me to put it in writing.

YE19

September 30th, 2009
4:24 pm

McFann Ô,

Thanks-I overlooked that. The idea is the same, however. Keep your boy fresh over the 162 game grind, without losing too much offense, while also providing a defensive upgrade. I know, I know. You hate to admit that’s possible, but facts are facts here.

Bat Masterson

September 30th, 2009
4:24 pm

I saw a mention of the AAA miami Marlins in the last blog. It seems they had a pretty famous pitcher down there in the late 50’s, 60. Who was that guy, hum…………………….

Anders

September 30th, 2009
4:24 pm

Lew- I’m assuming that DOB writing that Lowe would require a $10 mil bow to move him might come under the “miscue” heading -no?

Random

September 30th, 2009
4:24 pm

Nova Scotia Steve (September 30th, 2009 2:42 pm): “Random comment here…How about Mike Hargrove as a replacement for Bobby Cox.”

“Random” response here — isn’t Mike Hargrove the pitiful lackwit (per Robert) that Cox outmanaged in the 95 WS?

Isn’t he on Robert’s short list of who all should NOT be allowed to mmanage the Braves?

(Along with Bobby Valentine and Cox himself — and I think that’s all.)

Jonathon

September 30th, 2009
4:25 pm

Posnanski’s article says the Braves had 5 different opening day 3B during the playoff run. I know Chipper, Castilla and Pendleton. Who are the other 2?

Herschel Talker

September 30th, 2009
4:26 pm

Where is Vinings Jim?

ncscoots

September 30th, 2009
4:26 pm

DOB, the Braves might not necessarily need to go out and get a power bat next year.

If ever I were to get a “big head” (RHR), the obvious fact that many posters (including this one, LOL) never read my stuff, is enough to put the quietus on such an attitude. Luckily for me.

No, the Braves don’t need a power bat. Nah. Huh-uh. Nossir. Plenty of horses on that ranch already. You bet.

Anders

September 30th, 2009
4:27 pm

Efrim- You’re right. He is rates as an “A”. I’m surprised. Isn’t there away around that? Does he have to wait until May or something? I know you understand these things more than most.

Remo Prato

September 30th, 2009
4:28 pm

The future would look much better without another year of Bobby Cox. A manager makes the difference of 5-6 games a year … right? Well Bobby has been loyal to a fault. Case in point- Kelly Johnson. Our record with him as a starter (with an average hovering at about .220) is 34-38. After Cox finally was forced to make a change, our record is 52-33. Was this move the only reason for the improvement? Of course not. Would our early record have been five games better had the switch been made sooner. Probably! Add that to Cox’ inexplicable blind loyalty to pinch non-hitter Greg Norton …. you think a .220 pinch hitter would have won us 2 or 3 more games? Of course. Hence the paper thin margin which is the difference of going to the post season and another failed attempt is due to the paper which is Bobby Cox’ contract with the Braves.

Anders

September 30th, 2009
4:29 pm

Mets playing the Nats in DC in about 10 minutes. This ought to be one sparse crowd.

coach smith

September 30th, 2009
4:29 pm

The BRAVES WILL WIN the next 2 and the Rockies WILL LOSE the next two and we’ll go into the final weekend with a 1 game difference

MARK IT DOWN

Jurrjens4NLCY - Fight Like A Moving, Counting, Believing Brave {UNTIL THE END!}

September 30th, 2009
4:29 pm

RHR.

When I was talking about his leadership, here is what I implied:
Chipper is a great leader and an even better hitter, but because of that, of one can not rightfully ask him to lay down a bunt.

I found that quite ironic…

Tomas

September 30th, 2009
4:31 pm

This team as of right now after the midseason trades I believe is capable of winning a WS.

They should sign Laroche and a couple of good relievers, and some bench players then call up Luis Valdez, and Jason Heyward to be the starting right fielder.

2010 preview:

- C Brian McCann
- 1B Adam Laroche
- 2B Martin Prado
- 3B Chipper Jones
- SS Yunel Escobar
- LF Matt Diaz
- CF Nate Mclouth
- RF Jason Heyward

Bench:
- OF/1B Mark Kotsay
- OF/1B Eric Hinske
- UTIL Omar Infante
- C David Ross
- 2B Brooks Conrad

Starting Pitching:
- Javier Vazquez
- Jair Jurrjens
- Tommy Hanson
- Derek Lowe
- Kenshin Kawakami

Bulpen:
- Kris Medlen
- Boone Logan
- Eric O’flaherty
- Brandon Lyon
- John Grabow
- Luis Valdez
- Peter Moylan

Non-tender: Ryan Church and Kelly Johnson otherwise it would mean paying the 3 million each

Bill in VA

September 30th, 2009
4:31 pm

Just jumped on here, Charlie Morton’s got a 4 hitter after 8.1.

Anders

September 30th, 2009
4:31 pm

Hey coach smith. This ain’t Tobacco Road. You don’t get to decide those things here. {:

Random

September 30th, 2009
4:32 pm

Mitchell (September 30th, 2009 3:16 pm): “I can’t believe all the people citing the 15 and 3 stretch as evidence that there are no problems whatsoever with the line-up.

We were playing the Mets and Nationals.”

Yeah, the Mets (6) and the Nats (3).

And the Marlins (2), the Phils (3), the Cards (3) and the Astros (1) — that gets you to 15-3. (Add two more with the Astros, and the Braves are 16-4 since they got swept by the Reds.)

Daslied

September 30th, 2009
4:32 pm

Jonathon – Wes Helms for one, maybe? Andy Marte was around for a few games, but I don’t remember if he started.

Mike S

September 30th, 2009
4:32 pm

Jonathon, Ken Caminiti was one…

Herschel Talker

September 30th, 2009
4:33 pm

Tomas – what about Greg Norton?

Efrim

September 30th, 2009
4:34 pm

Efrim- You’re right. He is rates as an “A”. I’m surprised. Isn’t there away around that? Does he have to wait until May or something? I know you understand these things more than most.

Anders, he’d have to wait until after the draft in June to sign with a team. I wouldn’t bet on that, given that he wants to close full time and get to 400 saves. He may not have a choice in the matter though, because teams are more reluctant than ever in giving up first round selections. Especially first round selections for 38 year old relief pitchers. Wagner’s best bet is that a team picking 1-15 will have interest bringing him in as a closer, therefore they would only have to give up a second round draft pick for him, because their first round selection is protected.

Daybed Wagmoe

September 30th, 2009
4:34 pm

DOB — I bet Mike Mills, who’s known to be an avid Braves fan, would’ve been thrilled to meet ya. And yes, The Office has been back to what it used to be — hilarious, very solid, and uncomfortably awkward in places.

I agree that the free agent outfield class doesn’t look strong. There’s Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, and Vladimir Guerrero, but those first two likely seem out of the Braves’ price range as does Guerrero, who might be too much of a risk b/c of his injuries this year.

Yes, Vazquez is an extremely valuable trade piece, and earlier in the season, I would’ve said “definitely trade him this offseason.” His year-by-year numbers suggest that it’s unlikely he’ll have another strong year, so this offseason would seem to be the time to get a good return for him.

But now, I really don’t think so. As for the year-to-year thing, it could be that Vazquez has found his niche, and pitching for Bobby Cox has made a huge difference for him. Maybe it’s Brian McCann calling games. Maybe it’s each of these things, and he’s just plain finally putting it all together. Without him, I would think the rotation would be Jurrjens / Lowe / Hanson / Husdon / Kawakami. I would put Jurrjens in the top 10-12 NL pitchers this season, and without Vazquez in the rotation, I’d say that he’s the ace. At the same time, it’s hard to say how much of Jurrjens’ success this year is a cause of not having the pressure of leading a rotation. I don’t think that Jurrjens is a clear-cut ace yet, though I think that he still has the potential to pitch like one, and at times, definitely has done so this year. But in a rotation of JJ/Lowe/Hanson/Hudson/KK, he’d be kinda the de facto ace.

I also think that a Vazquez-less rotation going into next year is just plain dicey. To me, there are too many things that one has to hope for — hope that Lowe can rebound from this year, hope that Hanson doesn’t experience a sophomore slump, hope that Hudson regains his control following Tommy John surgery, and hope that Kawakami can prove to be a bit more consistent. And I’ll admit, with Vazquez in there, there’s the “hope” that he can finally put together good back-to-back years and continue to be the ace that he’s been this year, but I’d rather hope on that happening.

It just seems that with Vazquez in there, the rotation has a much stronger, more solid basis. He’s an anchor. Without him, it doesn’t seem as centered.

So, what would I say is the solution for a 25-30 HR guy if they don’t move Vazquez? Well, first off, I’d sign Laroche to a 2-year deal with a 3rd year option. I think this is an important move, and I think he can help over an entire season to be the slugger that we need after Chipper/Mac/Escobar. Once that’s done, I’d look at signing Xavier Nady. I don’t necessarily think that Nady will be a 25-HR guy, but if he looks like he’ll be a viable .280 RH hitter with 17-20 HR, I’d say sign him to a 1-year deal. Another possibility might be Marlon Byrd, who is a type-B free agent this offseason, and is hitting .280 with 20 HR, 89 RBI, .325 OBP and .479 SLG (.804 OBP). He’s also hit 43 doubles so far this season.

I recommend these second- or third-level outfielders because a) I think the Braves would be wise to keep starting pitching as their strong suit, and b) the Jason Heyward factor. If we’re expecting him to come up some time in 2010, then I’d be all for signing a guy like Nady or Byrd to play LF and platoon Ryan Church and Matt Diaz until Heyward’s ready for the bigs, which will hopefully be around the same time as when Hanson came up this year.

So…that’s my two cents.

Jonathon

September 30th, 2009
4:34 pm

Ken Caminiti started at 3B on an opening day for the Braves? Seriously. Wes Helms, maybe, while Chipper was still in the outfield. We’re talking opening day here, not just anyone who has started at 3B.

Random

September 30th, 2009
4:37 pm

Mitchell (September 30th, 2009 3:16 pm): “I can’t believe all the people citing the 15 and 3 stretch as evidence that there are no problems whatsoever with the line-up.

We were playing the Mets and Nationals.”Plus, I don’t think ANYbody’s saying there are NO problems at all — just that those problems are not of the magnitude that YOU‘re making them out to be, and that they are far from conclusive evidence that Cox is a “fool”.

(They’re not even persuasive evidence of that, not in and of themselves.)

Chop Chop

September 30th, 2009
4:38 pm

Congrats to Charlie Morton on his first complete game shutout.

It’s nice to see the kid finish up strong.

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