5:43 pm February 3, 2011, by David O'Brien
February 4th, 20113:17 pm
Ramblingman- I’m not necessarily saying they need to decide today by any means. Just that when they decide who their closer is going to be to stick with that one guy. A closer gets his rest on the nights there is not a save opportunity.
February 4th, 20113:23 pm
My biggest concern for the upcoming season is defense. Braves have a great pitching staff, but it’s made up of several guys that pitch to contact and require consistent gloves on the field.
C – Average. Mac is an awesome presence and my favorite hitter, but his arm is mediocre and he occasionally gets sloppy handling balls in the dirt.
1B – Average. I think Freeman will develop into an above average defensive player, but he is a rookie and it will take some time adjusting to lefthanders like Votto and Howard digging in 90 feet away.
2B – Below Average. Stone hands with limited range, enough said.
3B – Below Average. Chipper’s a legend, but he never won a GG in his prime and he sure as heck won’t do it now. Still has great hands and an above avg arm, but he has NO range. I don’t think a lot of fans realize how much Escobar covered for Chipper on balls in the hole, but they’ll recognize this year.
SS – Average. Gonzalez has a flair for the dramatic but he can also boot a lot of routine balls. He range has diminished with age and I fear that he and Uggla may be a DP combination to forget.
LF – Below Average. I have no doubt that Prado is working his a** off as I write, but there will be serious growing pains this season.
CF – Average to Below Average. Nate has won a GG, but there were time last year when he went after balls with visible apprehension. Not sure if it was related to the slump, but it was so bad that Chipper actually commented on it during the season (DOB, back me up here). Also, his arm is ridiculous.
RF – Average. I believe Heyward will continue to improve with age and experience. He showed a lot of reservation on balls when he approached the warning track.
Bench – Average. Ross is the only reason this is not below average.
February 4th, 20113:28 pm
Coach13, Okay, I was getting confused and that is why I asked for clarification. I agree that players enjoy knowing their roles, to a degree. I can see the wisdom of giving the closer a night off now and then and letting someone else finish up, and if that should line up with a lefty-lefty matchup, so much the better. That’s the reading I am getting from the team.
February 4th, 20113:32 pm
horner’s corner – it’s my opinion that your opinion is on the low side on at least 5 of your points.
February 4th, 20113:44 pm
man, that’s some brutal rankings for our defense. My disagreements…
1. Alex is an above average defensive SS in every defensive metric I’ve ever seen. Above Average
2. Heyward is well above-average in RF. So to the point that he could receive some serious gold-glove recognition in the upcoming years. Above Average.
3. Defensively, Freeman has nothing to develop into. His defense is as close to immaculate for a first baseman as it gets. Above Average
4. Prado plays outfield quite well in winter ball. His hard work and pure hustle will make him at least an average left fielder. I mean, it doesnt take much to be an average left fielder these days. Average.
There are a few more that could be debated for one reason or another…
1. Chipper- Range is poor, but is probably the best in the league on weak hit grounders and gets rid of the ball quickly. Depending on how well his knee responds, he could be average.
2. Uggla- Uggla turns the DP quite well and the weak part of his game could be blamed on the terrible conditions of the Florida Marlins’ infield (which is ranked dead last by players). Jury’s out, but he could be average at Turner.
February 4th, 20114:09 pm
You do bring up a good point. But I just remembered seeing him make a critical error in the allstar game a few years back. But I hope his D is very stellar.
February 4th, 20114:11 pm
Speaking of Uggla by the way, just realized I didnt mention the name.
February 4th, 20114:25 pm
Everyone remembers the errors in the All Star Game by Uggla. It merely adds to him being underestimated, which is just fine with me. I like the Braves being under the radar.
February 4th, 20114:27 pm
Buzz Meat, Uggla actually made three (3) errors that all star game. just wanted to set the record straight..I would like to see uggla try LF out in spring training some and move Prado back to 2B…
February 4th, 20114:31 pm
Horner’s Corner, good analysis about our defense…could be major problem
February 4th, 20114:35 pm
Uggla’s defense will not be a problem this year, I am not saying he won’t make errors, but if the Braves don’t have a successful season, it will not be because of Uggla’s defense.
February 4th, 20114:45 pm
Am SO glad to see you so I can say thanks! (Hope Bat gets here so I can do the same.) Your suggestion worked and I’m back in touch with Jen. Thanks AGAIN! (Sure enough…all of my emails were in her spam box and she never even received the snail mail ’cause I had her OLD address!) We’ve got it all straightened out now, though.
February 4th, 20115:15 pm
Thanks for being civil. A few follow-up thoughts.
Defensive metrics aside, Alex will be 34 at the start of the season and his range has become limited with age. I still think he’s a serviceable SS, but I call that being average.
You’re right that Heyward may win some GG in upcoming years, but not this year. He is an average RF with the potential to get better.
Your Freeman comments are little over the top. The scouting reports say that along with his hitting, his glove work has continued to improve at every level. But there is nothing to indicate he’ll be the next Keith Hernandez. As I said, one day he should be above average, but not this year.
Prado has played quite well in winter ball?? Been to a lot of games have you. I know Prado will work hard to get better, but there’s a tremendous learning curve. Average by year end? Hopefully.
I would call Chipper average, but I believe his lack of range is a serious detriment to a rotation dominated by right-handers that rely on sinkerballs and changeups for outs.
Uggla is not good. When Kelly Johnson played 2B fans tried to convince themselves that he was okay defensively, but in truth he was awful. Now with Uggla signed for 5 years folks want to believe the All-Star game has given him a bad rap, but it’s not true.
February 4th, 20115:35 pm
Good deal Pat, glad it worked…I will tell Bat if I see him
February 4th, 20115:53 pm
The Braves will not make as many errors this season.
February 4th, 20116:07 pm
Prado was on the left field edition, he was number seven. Uggla was number 4 second baseman.
February 4th, 20116:47 pm
I assume Cano abd Utley were 1 and 2 who did they have between Utley and Uggla?
February 4th, 201110:09 pm
hey dave, i drink too much whisky! kicked myself several times now for not introducing you to alejandro’s bass player, bobby daniels. his daddy bob daniels, played for milwaukee with henry a. and eddie m. and that group! call me or e-mail me and i’ll hook yall up. hope you enjoyed al, he’s one of the real deals. eo.
February 4th, 201110:27 pm
Eddie: Damn, I wish you would’ve. Does he play in other bands currently, or just with Alejandro for now?
Alejandro was terrific, as usual. I didn’t think it’d be possible to top his previous show at your place a while back, but I think he did. We had a great time. And the in-store at Warren’s (Decatur CD) was literally so full that folks were standing outside the front door. Nice couple of days of packed houses for Alejandro. Great to see.
February 5th, 20111:16 am
Who the closer is this year will probably depend on how the guys pitch in spring training. Based on what I saw last year, if the relievers perform as they did in 2010, I would probably go with Kimbrel as the setup man, and Venters as the closer. Both have great stuff, but, I just like the idea of a lefty in the ninth, to neutralize left handed or switch hitting power hitters late in the game.
The starting staff should be solid. Yes, Hudson and Lowe are getting “old”, but, they can still be productive.
The lineup should be the biggest boost. Uggla is really going to help us. Hopefully Chipper can come back and perform well, but.. we wont have to lean on him like in the past.
I like our club. Some people have said they aren’t bowled over by Philly. Based on the fact that they have won four straight divisions, and have improved, I cant say that. Tjey are probably the team to beat for the NL East.. but.. I would say we should be the odds on favorite for the wild card again. if we stay healthy. We won 91 games and a wild card last year, and added Uggla. That should greatly improve us.
My call. anywhere between 90 to 95 wins, and a wild card. Any less, would be a big disappointment.
February 5th, 201111:19 am
Thought I would get into the Braves v Phillies fray. On paper the Phillies are the team to beat, they have allstars at almost every position and probably the best team in baseball. Unfortunately, chamionships are not won on paper. Some clown mentioned Chipper being old and not being able to be counted on. There is some truth in that, he is not going to play in 162 games. However, if he plays 120 to 130 we will be okay. The clown forgot that the injury bug also applies to several of the Phillies. Their entire infield is over 30, all suffered some type of injuries last year and very likely will miss some time this year. Utley, Rollins and Palanco (not sure about his spelling) are all like similar to chipper. They have had injuries the last few years and you just don’t know what to expect. They also have an aging left fielder in Ibanez, who by the way suffered through his own injuries last year. Their starting staff is dominant but any pitcher is capable of blowing out his arm.
Let’s wait until after the season ends to determine the winner. A betting man would list the Phillies but they could be wrong. Everybody thought the Yankees would win the AL east last year, after all on paper they had the best team.
February 5th, 201111:31 am
with the yanks “hurting” for pitching after petitte’s retirement, anyone think Wren will contact them regarding Juergens ? we know how much the Braves love to deal with Boras.
February 5th, 201112:37 pm
Phils fan here… I like the debate here.. Here’s what I think. Braves are going to be a real good team. They were last year, and shouldn’t be any worse than last year. Pitching staff is good, but not better than the Phillies at any spot in the rotation. As far as the lineup is concerned, I agree that the Phils have some legit concerns. Utley’s regression is a problem. He could bounce back in a big way, OR he could miss games and be productive in 110-125 games. Ibanez is old, and is streaky good and streaky bad… but even last year, he was in the top 15 in OPS among outfielders (I didn’t believe that until I saw it). Regarding Howard, I think it is a little early to say he is on the downside of his career. He missed some games last year, and didn’t hit for the same power, but a major decline (particularly in power) can’t be expected yet.
Looking at the two teams, I like the Braves better offensively at C, RF and LF (Close.. like to see it out of Prado for a full season again before I buy his power). 3b is interesting… if Chipper is healthy, he’s better, but as you all know, that is hard to predict.
The Bullpen is tough to call.. Braves have some talented youngsters, but Lidge, Madson, Contreras are pretty proven and have performed pretty well in the clutch. I’d take the Phils, but more on experience.
In conclusion… if the Phils pitching staff stays relatively healthy, they should win the division by 5-7 games. If not, and if Utley/Howard regress, the Braves will be right there. Phils could win 90, could win 110 if the hitting returns to form. If it is the former, Braves could compete, if the latter, it’s the wild card. Hoping it’s a tight race.. 110-108.
Spring training can’t come fast enough.
February 5th, 20115:08 pm
I don’t know if you’re discounting Freddie and Jason’s defense because they’re young, but that’s a poor way of assessing defense. Defense is 90% athleticism and 10% thinking. Both Jason and Freddie are young, hence their peak in athleticism, and they’re intelligent baseball players. Sure, a MLB player might grow into their offensive production, but they don’t “grow” into defense. When Andruw Jones was 20-21, he put up probably the best defensive year of any outfielder in the history of the game, recording 493 putotus (over 3 a game). Heyward and Freddie aren’t “that” gifted, but they have both been scouted for their defense as well as their offense.
quotes about freddie’s defense from numerous sites:
razzball: “Freeman fields his position with an admirable passion (above-average fielder).”
mlb: “Good defensive first baseman with an above-average arm (he was a pitcher in high school).”
bravesjournal: “An athletic player and a good glove man at first, an unusual combination for a guy who’s mostly a power threat.”
Concerning Alex Gonzalez….
Alex Gonzalez has a monopoly on defensive metrics. Sure, it might be a fluke if one defensive metric rates your defense above average, but every single one of them rated his defense above average (+/-, UZR/150, UZR). Unless there is a significant dropoff from last year, he’ll still be a top-tier defensive SS. Since he played in both leagues, I’ll give you his MLB rankings (not just NL):
+/- (Defensive Runs Saved)- 5th
Concerning Jason Heyward…
Heyward also has a monopoly on defensive metrics. Here are Jason’s rankings for NL RFs:
+/- (DRS)- 2nd
Prado, only time will tell, but it doesn’t take much to be an above average LF. There were only 2 left fielders in the NL with a positive UZR or UZR/150, and only one that has a positive DRS. And no, I havent been to many winter games, but many Braves’ talent scouts (according to Bobby Cox) rave about Prado’s outfield defense. I’ll take their word for it. By the way, the 3rd best qualifying defensive left fielder in the National League last year was Raul Ibanez. It won’t be hard for Prado to be better than that.
Gil In Mechanicsville
February 5th, 20115:46 pm
Yo Grinch, How you be Bro??? Right on about the Phillies having chinks in their armor but until the rest of the league stops rolling over for them, they are the top pick in the NL EAST. Braves will have a good team though and it all comes down to who is healthy in September and October. Anyone else think the outcome of the playoffs wouldn’t have been different with Chipper and Prado in the line up? Even a healthy Derrick Lee would have made a big difference.
I have two spring training games on my docket for this year’s vacation. Pics and assessments will be available.
February 5th, 20116:29 pm
For starters, you said Freeman’s defense was “immaculate” which by definition means flawless. The MLB quote you referenced states he’s a “Good defensive first baseman”. That’s pretty darn far from flawless. It simply says he’s good. And the razzball quote says, “he plays his position with an admirable passion.” No offense to Freddie, but that quote reads like something you say to the guy who wins the Best Attitude award.
Also, I firmly believe that Heyward and Freeman will become solid defensive players but they have a lot of room to improve. And I make this assessment based on the fact that they’re inexperienced, not because they’re young. These things are similar, but not the same. With all your little metrics numbers you should know better than to confuse correlation with causation.
Finally, you can’t justify your logic by using the best defensive centerfielder of a generation as your proof.
And my original point is still true, the Braves defense will a team weakness this season
February 5th, 20117:14 pm
So, you merely look over numbers to prove your points? Well, there’s nothing I can say then. My quote about Freeman was this: “His defense is as close to immaculate for a first baseman as it gets.” You watch him next year and tell me who plays a better 1b in the NL. There might be 2 or 3, but most definitely not 7 national leaguers. There are a handful of great defensive first baseman in the NL (Votto, Lee, Ike, Pujols) and then there are 3-4 that are simply above average (Laroche, Loney, Gaby Sanchez), and then there are guys playing first because they can’t field but can hit (Dunn, Fielder, and Howard). Freeman is, at least, in the above average.
I don’t see how it’s really even an argument.
And here’s another huge piece on Freddie from someone who knows baseball much better than you or I. He also says Freddie will be above average in 2011.
Regarding your comment about my Andruw comparison…
I merely stated that because of the “inexperience” from which you state Freddie and Jason being “average” defensive players. They never have been average defensively. Jason was well above average last year. Why would he be average this year? Freddie was well-above average as a 20 year old in AAA. Why would he be below average at 21 in the Majors? Answer: he wont. Ok, if Andruw’s age doesn’t do it for ya, how about Rafael Furcal? Carl Crawford? Evan Longoria? Albert Pujols? All were stellar fielders in their first years? Know why? Because they just were, and always were.
February 5th, 201111:09 pm
I want what you want, for the Braves to win. I also really want to see FF become a success. I saw him several times in Gwinnett and love his all-around approach to the game. I just cannot agree that a guy with no ML experience will immediately be one of the top defensive players in the league.
You keep mentioning guys that are the rarest of cases (Jones, Crawford, Pujols) and not the norm. In statistical parlance they are referred to as outliers. Players do, in fact, get better with experience. They learn ballparks, pitcher’s tendencies, hitter’s tendencies, base runner’s tendencies, etc., etc. etc. Heyward played nowhere near Andrew Jones’s level of defense last year, but it’s okay because he is smart and athletic and he will continue to improve As I’ve stated EVERY time, these guys will continue to get better and will eventually be top tier defenders, but maybe not this year. Meanwhile, the rest of the Braves defense (I’ll concede that Gonzalez is good, but he’s not getting younger) is a bit suspect.
Thanks for link.
February 6th, 201112:12 am
Heyward was the 2nd or 3rd best RF in the league last year. Seriously, how can you say his defense in 2011 will be average? His range, his arm, and his instincts are all above average. What else does it take? Heyward won’t eventually be a top-tier defender. He already is. How can you deny it?
I keep naming guys that were top prospects who came into the league with a bang, both offensively and defensively. If Crawford, Pujols, Jones, and Furcal are outliers to defensive stats because they were successful, defensively, their first pro season, then so was Heyward, and so shall Freeman.
What about guys you wouldnt consider outliers: Franklin Gutierrez, Daric Barton, Brandon Phillips I could pull thousands of guys that were top-tier defenders their first seasons in the Bigs. Seriously, there is no statistical evidence that backs up your argument, only eyes. And, for heaven’s sake, we’re talking about first base. If there was a way to bet on defensive stats, I’d bet on FF being a top 5 defensive 1b a 1,000 times over.
Brave New World
February 6th, 201111:15 am
Mike February 5th, 2011 12:37 pm
Mike: It’s refreshing to find a post by a Phils’ fan that’s intelligently presented. I agree that Phils’ starting pitching should be awesome in 2011, but overall the Braves’ pitching (starters and bull pen)is among the best in baseball. When healthy, I tink the Phils have had the best lineup in baseball, but I’m not sure what impact the loss of Werth will have. I’m of the opinion that the addition of Uggla does more to improve the Braves than the addition of Lee does to improve the Phils. Going into 2011, the Phils have to be considered the favorite to take the NL East, but the Braves will be worthy rivals, and should be considered Wild Card frontrunners at the very least.
February 6th, 20112:03 pm
met kimbrel at the caravan the other day. really nice kid……….and he is a kid for sure. made me feel like an old man at 34.
medlen didn’t show up for the caravan……..and we stood in the rain for 20 additional minutes after the bus got there while prado put more pomade in his hair. good times.
Billy Jack's Barbecue & Shrimp Co.
February 6th, 20112:27 pm
Thanks for the post. Your points are very well articulated. It will be a fun season for both teams. Baseball always brings the unexpected. Cannot wait for spring training.
Who replaced Werth on the Phil’s??
February 6th, 20112:33 pm
I guess I’m not even sure what we’re arguing about, so here are my final thoughts.
Was Heyward good last year defensively? Yes. Does he have room to improve? Yes. Is an outfielder’s ability to go back on a ball captured in data analysis? Not completely. Will Heyward get better at this with experience? Yes.
Will Freeman hold his own at 1B this season? Yes. Will he have room to improve? Yes. Does statistical analysis determine a player’s ability to consistently turn the 3-6-3 DP? Not really. Will Freeman get better at this with experience? Yes.
So, if you want me to concede that Heyward is above average defensively, then fine he’s above average. As for the Braves as a whole, defense will be an issue during the upcoming season.
February 6th, 20112:41 pm
DOB just checked out Amos Lee…”Mission Bell”…It was great! Thanks for the tip. Got to run out and buy it. Jesus..Something about a Southern girl..Careless…Ain’t no sunshine….right on!
February 6th, 20113:37 pm
I think you’re right about the Braves defense being suspect this year, however I think you got a few players’ analysis wrong. I’m cool with disagreeing. Overall I think the defense will be average to slightly below average, with capabilities of being quite good (if Jordan Schafer or Matt Young become the regular CF in place of Nate McLouth). Being strong up the middle makes a good defense. Uggla and McLouth are below average and Gonzalez is above. With a bit of luck, both Uggla and McLouth could be average, but I wouldn’t count on it.
February 6th, 20115:53 pm
Hey, I may have been a bit over-the-top for dramatic effect. Anyway, you bring up a key point that the Braves defense could improve up the middle. I am really excited about having Uggla; however I’m not thrilled about moving Prado to LF. Martin really solidified our middle infield and baseballamerica even listed him as the 2nd best defensive 2B in the NL.
I hope it all works out this season and I assume Prado will eventually move to 3B once Chipper retires.
February 6th, 201110:05 pm
im watching the superbowl just waiting for baseball season. I can’t wait.
February 7th, 20111:50 am
ESPN insider, which I cannot get into to read the entire article, says that Wagner has left door open for possible return this year. However, I have found nothing here concerning it. Any local news on this?
February 7th, 20119:33 am
Projects never work as closers, we need an experienced closer. Prado looked good in the cage with coach.
February 7th, 201112:04 pm
From your extensive knowledge on closers, do you care to elaborate? How does a closer get experience if they weren’t once projects themselves?
Your statement doesn’t make sense.
February 7th, 201112:26 pm
Bullpens morph considerably from year-to-year. It’s fantastic to see a stable of good young arms; it wasn’t that long ago the Braves were being held up in desperation trades for the likes of Kolb and Reitsma.
Roger McDowell was a reliever, and Moylan and O’Flaherty are no spring chickens; there’s plenty of sage guidance on the coaching staff even without Wagner around. The young arms will probably have their ups and downs, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only person cringing in disbelief when Kimbrell got pulled late in that fateful playoff game last fall. Bring ‘em on; let’s see what the kids can do.
February 7th, 20111:17 pm
Hey what’s going on with Kris Medlen?
February 7th, 20112:10 pm
Ross, Kris Medlen is progressing on normal rehab schedule from Tommy John surgery. Rehab for the injury is typically 12-13 months, which would put him back in late August or September.
February 7th, 20113:22 pm
Any chance the retiring of Andy Petitte and the poor rotation that leaves the Yankees could result in the Braves dumping Kenshin Kawakami on them or perhaps freeing themselves from the big contract of Derek Lowe?
Then they could put both Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor in the rotation and if either falter, perhaps Julio Teheren could be called up, with Rodrigo Lopez as depth. And they could be reinforced in August by Kris Medlen (if his recovery stays on track).
February 7th, 20113:24 pm
Also would free up money to pursue a real CF option.
February 7th, 20115:12 pm
Then they could put both Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor in the rotation and if either falter, perhaps Julio Teheren could be called up — Chopper
That is not happening. The Braves are trying to win a division title and aren’t going to go into a season competing against Philly with two rookies in the rotation, and a top prospect with little experience in high minors waiting in the wings. Not happening.
February 7th, 20118:58 pm
Good story on Conrad’s dealing with 3E’s in play-off. I’m pulling for the kid to have a great year. Lets get it started………
February 8th, 20117:03 am
Any chance Medlin comes back this year?
February 8th, 20117:05 am
bravos: yes, there’s a good chance Medlen could come back this year, but not until very late in the season, mid/late August or September.
February 8th, 20111:46 pm
One gets the impression from this blog that there are only 2 teams in the NL East. The Marlins, even with the loss of Uggla, are loaded with good young talent and should be very competetive. The Nats are waiting for Harper to arrive and Strasburg to return, but will be improved and always give the Braves a hard time. Even the Mets can’t be worse than they were last year, can they? If the Phillies falter and do not live up to their hype, it could be either the Marlins or the Braves that benefit.
February 8th, 20113:10 pm
jim, agreed on the marlins. sure, they lost uggla, but they gained infante, dunn, vazquez, and a power hitting catcher. add a healthy coghlan to an outfield of mike stanton and logan morrison, and the marlins looked pretty darn good on paper. the key to them this year will be keeping hanley happy and healthy.
February 9th, 201110:50 am
What do you think about, with the injury risk to Chipper and not real option behind Prado at LF (who would cover third if/when Chipper can’t play) that the Braves look into signing Scott Podsednik?
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