The Braves will start a pitcher tonight with a record of 0-8, an earned run average of 4.91 and a salary of $7,333,666 million. Suffice to say, Kenshin Kawakami will not be invited to the next stockholders meeting at Liberty Media.
But he’s not alone.
The Braves are receiving great value from several of the lower-salaried players on the team: Martin Prado ($400,000), Jason Heyward ($400,000), Tommy Hanson ($435,000), Eric Hinske ($1 million), Troy Glaus ($1.75 million). But here is a rundown of players with the top eight salaries on the approximate $84.4 million payroll:
♦ 1. Derek Lowe ($15 million): He has eight wins (8-5) but was shelled in his last start at Arizona (seven runs in four innings) and has the third worst ERA on the staff at 5.04 (behind only Jair Jurrjens, who is on the disabled list, and
Jesse Chavez, who doesn’t really count). THUMBS DOWN.
♦ 2. Chipper Jones ($14 million): He was starting to show signs of coming out of his season slump (.237), but he has had to sit out the last five with a sore finger. He was expected to be one of the team’s top run producers while batting in the three hole, but he has fewer RBI (21) than Hinske (22), who has 52 fewer at-bats and is hitting 80 points higher (.317). THUMBS DOWN.
♦ 3. Tim Hudson ($9 million): He has been by far the Braves’ best pitcher (6-1, 2.44). He has 10 quality starts in 12 outings THUMBS UP.
♦ 4. Kenshin Kawakami ($7.333,666 million): His defenders like to point out that he has five quality starts (good for a fifth starter) and has lacked run support. Both true. But it misses the point. He was paid to be better. And please, no more whining about how records can be misleading. The guy has a 4.91 ERA. He has allowed the staff’s most home runs (eight), the second-highest batting average (.281) and the second-highest slugging percentage (.492). Since signing with the Braves, he’s 7-20 with a 4.16 ERA. His contract: three years, $23 million. THUMBS DOWN.
♦ 5. Billy Wagner ($6.75 million): Wagner was considered an injury risk but he has paid off so far, with 10 saves (two blown), an ERA of 1.54 and 36 strikeouts (only nine walks) in 23 1/3 innings. THUMBS UP.
♦ 6. Brian McCann ($5.7 million): His four-year All-Star run could be ending. He is battling vision problems again. He has a modest four-game hitting streak (5 for 16) but is hitting only .255 on the season with 25 RBI. McCann’s work ethic and mental stability play in his favor for a rebound, but that assumes his eyesight is OK. THUMBS DOWN.
♦ 7. Nate McLouth ($5 million): It was hoped McLouth would be the Braves’ bridge to Jordan Schafer as the leadoff hitter and starting center fielder. But the bridge collapsed. Batting average: .180. On-base percentage: .299 (basically ahead of a lot of pitchers). THUMBS DOWN.
♦ 8. Melky Cabrera ($3.1 million): Led the team in lampoons after the Javier Vasquez trade. Doesn’t lead them in anything else. Stats: .244 average, .310 on-base percentage, one homer, 14 RBI. He also has two errors. THUMBS DOWN.
Totals: 2 thumbs up, 6 thumbs down.
Also this: The above eight represent $65,883,666 of the total payroll, or 78 percent.