It’s time for Braves to end the Kawakami experiment

Bobby Cox took the ball from Kenshin Kawakami Sunday -- but why give it back?

Bobby Cox took the ball from Kenshin Kawakami Sunday -- but why give it back?

So I stood by Bobby Cox Sunday when he said he didn’t want to talk about any future decisions regarding Kenshin Kawakami, though he added, “He’ll make his next start.” Why? By default. Jair Jurrjens has at least another week of rehab left.

And then I stood by Kenshin Kawakami as he deflected no criticism (a commendable character trait of his) and said of possibly losing his starting job: “I haven’t thought about that much. But being a starter, I’m not really doing my job right now, so I’m ready for anything that is coming.”

What should the Braves do with Kenshin Kawakami?

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Kawakami is baseball’s only $23 million fifth starter. He also has the distinction of being 0-9 for a first-place team. Only three other pitchers in the majors have lost as many games: Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez (3-10), Cleveland’s David Huff (2-9) and former Brave, now of Pittsburgh, Charlie Morton (1-9).

The Indians are in last place. The Pirates are in last place. The Astros are one-half game ahead of the Pirates. See where I’m going with this?

Yes, Kawakami has received little run support in some starts but that hasn’t really been the case of late. He was handed a 4-0 lead Sunday against Kansas City and promptly doused it with gasoline and lit a match to it. He also committed his third error in his last two starts.

Further — and this is where all of those, “Oh, stop picking on him, meanie; don’t you know the Braves don’t score for him?” arguments fall apart — Kawakami’s ERA is 4.78.

Once again, because some of his defenders ignore this number: 4.78. That is the worst ERA on the staff among active pitchers, save reliever Jesse Chavez (7.33), who doesn’t really count. Kawakami also is yielding the most hits per nine innings (10.2), has allowed the most home runs (nine) and, it follows, the highest slugging percentage (.478).

Stop the madness.

If Jurrjens is cleared following his next start at Gwinnett, this should be an easy decision for Cox: Keep Kris Medlen (3-0, 3.67 as a starter) in the rotation and put Kawakami in the bullpen. Granted, middle relief is not what general manager Frank Wren projected when he gave Kawakami a contract for over $7 million per year. But Kawakami has shown an ability to strike people out. So maybe there’s something to salvage from this.

Think of it as salvaging the rear bumper after a front-end collision.

I can pretty much guess which way sentiment is going on this. I’ve got a poll up also. Let me hear ya.

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495 comments Add your comment

Fire Frank Wren

June 21st, 2010
1:12 pm

Thank you Jeff, there is a God.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

June 21st, 2010
1:12 pm

dump KK- either a package trade or make him the most expensive reliever in baseball.

Fire Frank Wren

June 21st, 2010
1:13 pm

Navigator

June 21st, 2010
1:17 pm

Not unless the top management cuts or trades him, as BCox will just keep running him out there. He did that with guys hitting less than their own weight (still does). He doesn’t know how to handle these kinds of situations, and he needs the upstairs to do it for him. Wait until next year!!!

Fire Frank Wren

June 21st, 2010
1:18 pm

Can we fire McClouth next Jeff? If we pretend they are hurt do we get insurance proceeds?

athdog

June 21st, 2010
1:19 pm

Trade KK and McWhiff for anyhting we can get, including a decent popcorn machine!

Gaga over Fukodome

June 21st, 2010
1:21 pm

I hate front-end collusions!

Ummm

June 21st, 2010
1:22 pm

I hear the Rome Braves could use another starter; let’s help those boys out by sending them KK.

Braves #5

June 21st, 2010
1:22 pm

time to send KK packing back to Japan or Gwinnett …..

gdawginkalamazoo

June 21st, 2010
1:22 pm

Jeff, have Bobby give me a call. I think I could pull out at least one win for a fraction of that cost. My 64 mph fastball (measured at the county fair so that speed might be off a bit) will have the batters confused. My curve ball will have the front row jumping out of their seats.

Braves #5

June 21st, 2010
1:23 pm

trade for Francouer !!!!! or Josh Hamilton

Kentavo

June 21st, 2010
1:23 pm

I’m betting KK comes up with a mysterious injury right about the time JJ is activated.

Herschel Talker

June 21st, 2010
1:23 pm

Kawakami is a joke and a disgrace. Schultzie – whom would you start until JJ gets back if he’s not cleared for his next start? Would you advocate releasing him or sending him to the bullpen? His salary is irrelevant; it’s a sunk cost.

Mr. Holmes

June 21st, 2010
1:23 pm

Bullpen city. It’s in his head now. Work him in as a long reliever and maybe it will pay dividends down the stretch.

MB

June 21st, 2010
1:24 pm

Can’t dump KK; no one wants to take on that kind of contract and receive no results. Easily one of the most irresponsible signings of Frank Wren’s career. People whine about Lowe’s contract, but he hasn’t been as bad this year as he was last year at times, and at least he is winning some games. Can’t say the same about KK. Time for him to go.

Casey Hobson

June 21st, 2010
1:28 pm

Look it up, Jeff: Kawakami’s ERA is 4.78 just as you say, but Derek Lowe’s is 4.77, so don’t make it out like Kawakami is trailing the others by miles on end. Sure, I’d rather have Lowe and Medlin in the rotation, but if ERA is your big trump card, then you don’t have much to stand on. You hope your No.5 starter has a .500 record at the end of the year. Anything more than .500 is a bonus. KK has certainly been good enough to sport a .500 record with just a little bit of run support in some of the games he’s pitched well. Problem is, the Braves never intended to pay 23 million for a No. 5 guy.
But you are right on one thing: Meldin should stay in the rotation.

doneskie

June 21st, 2010
1:28 pm

They should really just put a slip n’ slide with little knives in front of his locker so they can claim insurance money after they put him on the mike hampton memorial DL.

DawgDad

June 21st, 2010
1:29 pm

Need to lift-and-shift some posts from the Bradley blog over here. Think about this: Braves brought in Martinez (that was his name, right?) yesterday in long relief and the bullpen essentially pitched seven scoreless innings. Are you ready to bring in KK in a similar long relief spot?

Normally you keep a KK and try to salvage him as a starter. But this isn’t a kid with options that can bounce back-and-forth to Gwinnett. The Braves are in a pennant race and ONE GAME could well be the difference in post-season play or no. You want to be a champion you have to act and perform like one.

Wren should try to package KK in a trade to get something of value back and minimize the dumping write-off. KK is NOT the WORST starting pitcher in the league, though he looked like it yesterday. He belongs in the bigs, just not here. Other teams are desperate for pitching and might take a flyer on a salary swap or with the Braves picking up part of the tab. Anybody have an expensive center fielder on a one-year contract that needs a fresh start?

Mr. Holmes

June 21st, 2010
1:34 pm

Don’t see the upside of trading Kawakami for someone else’s headache. Why mess with the chemistry of this team? The Braves have the incredible luxury of no glaring needs except a five starter, which Medlin is about to become.

Kawakami does know how to pitch, somewhere in there. I’m comfortable throwing him in there in the third/fourth inning of a 5-0 game either way. The leash won’t be long, but his stuff and his contract do buy a new leash.

DawgDad

June 21st, 2010
1:34 pm

Anybody thinks other teams aren’t desperate for pitching needs to watch the Phillies.

Typical Silly Fan

June 21st, 2010
1:34 pm

Can we trade KK and McLouth for Pujols? Maybe we can kick in a prospect, too.

Bobby's Cox

June 21st, 2010
1:35 pm

Time to see if KK is worth anything back in Japan, worst case the Braves could trade him for some Playstation 3’s and Nintendo Wii’s.

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Tommy

June 21st, 2010
1:37 pm

Casey Hobson- i agree with you about the whole ERA thing between KK and Lowe, but the fact of the matter is that Lowe is a proven winner in the Majors. KK has not proven that. Plus, the Braves generally win Lowe’s starts no matter how he pitches where as they have lost 10 of KK’s 14 starts. With a team with 28 losses all season, thats a large proportion that are in games KK starts. Whether its KK’s fault or not, the Braves just dont win his starts as often as when Medlen or Lowe pitch. That should be the main reason for him leaving the rotation

mclOUTh

June 21st, 2010
1:37 pm

I say we trade KK and Nate to the Mobile Bay Bears for 2 dozen balls and a fungo.

Nice Box, Gaga

June 21st, 2010
1:38 pm

Anybody else excited by the other K man, Kimbrel?

turkeycaller

June 21st, 2010
1:38 pm

KK=continued losses.

mclOUTh

June 21st, 2010
1:38 pm

Here is a better idea…have J-Hey take out KK like he did Nate. He may be the only person on our team that knows what is best for our roster.

PMC

June 21st, 2010
1:39 pm

Just find an injury and let KK have a few weeks to rehab and not have so much pressure on him. He just needs a break.

AU

June 21st, 2010
1:39 pm

“Once again, because some of his defenders ignore this number: 4.78. That is the worst ERA on the staff among active pitchers …”

The second worst ERA is 4.77 and belongs to Derek Lowe, who has 9 wins. At some point you have to stop making excuses, but KK has been unlucky. To the pen.

doneskie

June 21st, 2010
1:39 pm

Casey Hobson – you are wrong – KK has not juevos – when he has runs he gives up a lot. when he has no runs he gives up a little – dosn’t mean he’s a 4.77 ERA pitcher just like Derek Lowe – save the crap. The guy can’t pitch when the pressure is on. Hell he can’t even field the ball when it’s hit to him. Do you want a guy who gets nervous when he has the ball and the game on the line to hurl it 100 times for you every 5th game?

Your argument sucks and smells like a GaTech fan head in the numbers. Final Point: The guy ain’t a winner. Can him.

godawgs678

June 21st, 2010
1:40 pm

Kawakami is an absolute joke. It is getting to the point where if anyone plans on going to the game I check to make sure Kawakami isnt pitching bc if he is I will def. not go to the game. If I am watching it on t.v. I will record it and fast forward through him pitching because he infuriates me so bad. Drop him NOW. There is no way a starter in AA or AAA could do any worse than him…so call them up!

boots

June 21st, 2010
1:40 pm

I was at the game yesterday, and it was clear the crowd was ready to pounce on him from the first pitch. The boos were the loudest I have heard at Turner Field in years, and Bobby was quick to pull the trigger on KK as soon as it went south. (Quick for Bobby, that is…)

KK offers no trade value. The Braves could offer to trade me and Jeff as a package deal and get more than they would for him. Just stick him in the pen and let him roll sushi for the fans, selling it at a booth at Turner Field. That is about the only way to get some of the investment back.

I should also say that I was very disappointed to hear he was pitching on the day we were going to the stadium. If it had not been Father’s Day, we would not have paid to go to the park knowing he was the starter. That about says it all – baseball is a business, and the KK product is not selling.

MitchFarted

June 21st, 2010
1:40 pm

With Medlen throwing lights out, it makes the decision that much easier. Kawakami needs to take Medlen’s old role of long-reliever and let Medlen remain in the rotation when Jurrjens comes off the DL. Don’t kid yourself folks- Medlen would be a #2 or #3 starter for half the other teams in the NL. Just because he doesn’t throw as hard as Hanson doesn’t mean he isn’t as effective. If we have Medlen as our #5, we are in GREAT shape.

Techman

June 21st, 2010
1:40 pm

It’s one thing when it’s the blogger saying this stuff but when a writer does it, I just shake my head. 4.78 is not a bad ERA for your 5th starter. I haven’t looked this up (I’m about to) but something tells me it’s decent for a 4 starter.

What disappoints me, however, is you crap on KK but don’t even mention Lowe. It took the worst outing of KK’s career to drop his ERA .01 points above Lowe’s. He makes 1/2 of what Lowe makes. I would say they’re pretty much even in most categories, other than wins. And, that stat can be directly traced back to run support, whether you want to admit it or not.

But yeah, keep telling me KK’s the issue.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

June 21st, 2010
1:42 pm

if we traded him, is his translator included in the shipping? so you could have KK, his translator, and McOut for a 3B or a SS. time to go ahead and find chipper’s replacement or even escobar’s.

thomas

June 21st, 2010
1:42 pm

I agree with Mitch. Medlen’s success is the reason why KK needs to go to the bullpen. Braves are lucky that Medlen’s success and KK’s failure are occuring at the same time. This is an easy choice for Bobby Cox.

DaveinNEPA

June 21st, 2010
1:42 pm

I agree with others here. Kawakami doesn’t belong in the starting rotation. We have to hope that somebody can take him and clear some of his salary. I think Medlen has earned the 5th starter’s role and he should be kept there.

Others say that Lowe’s ERA is just as bad as Kawakami’s. All Lowe does is win (24 W’s in 1 1/2 seasons). Kawakami has never shown that ability. When there is that big a disparity, you have to believe there’s a big difference in the makeup of the players.

doneskie

June 21st, 2010
1:44 pm

Techman – see above – your argument sucks cause you love the stats – answer me this. Is the guy a winner? make that argument – if the answer is no then fire him. typicall of a techy. Bottom line the guy dosn’t pitch to the game situation he dosnt’ help his team win.

Mr. Holmes

June 21st, 2010
1:45 pm

Techman: Stats don’t always tell the full story. And Jurrjens will re-enter the rotation, one way or another. For whatever reason, the Braves just look like a more confident team with Lowe on the mound rather than Kawakami.

And I like Kawakami. I agree that earlier this season he was pitching well and getting screwed. But now he’s NOT pitching well (while continuing to get screwed), and someone has to make room for Jurrjens. I have every expectation that KK will handle the move with class. Who knows, he may be a hero later this year…

formul8or

June 21st, 2010
1:45 pm

There are some pitchers that players rally behind and feed off of. For whatever reason one of those is Lowe, and no one feeds off KK.

In the end it isn’t strikeouts, ERA, or walks that make a pitcher important, it’s the wins that get you in the playoffs and Lowe gets those.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc sports editor and Wise_Diva, Braves Diva. Braves Diva said: RT @ajcsportseditor: Oy. @JeffSchultzAJC and most (OK, all) of you agree: Braves must end Kawakami experiment http://bit.ly/aC0grT [...]

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

June 21st, 2010
1:47 pm

fact of the matter is that batters do not fear KK- they relish the opportunity to bat against him. he let that error yesterday get into his head and that messed him for the whole game.

hmmmm.......

June 21st, 2010
1:47 pm

any chance we could him to the mariners? they took milton bradley.

hmmmm.......

June 21st, 2010
1:48 pm

mclOUTh

June 21st, 2010
1:50 pm

Make him a long reliever. Seriously folks, how often do we need one except when KK pitche….oh wait…he wouldn’t BE pitching…..problem solved!

MitchFarter

June 21st, 2010
1:50 pm

Techman- Pitching is about more than ERA. KK doesn’t instill confidence in the team, in fact he does just the opposite. Putting him on the mound makes ME nervous. On Sunday, when ATL scored 4 in the first, I didn’t feel safe at all because my gut told me that KK would piss it way, which he did. I think the other players also lack confidence in him and that probably plays a psychological role in why hitters are less successful when KK pitches. Its tough to explain, but I feel much better with Lowe on the mound, than I do with KK.

Lowe is the schoolyard bully and KK reminds me of the high school freshman with lots of potential, but who you know would get his arse kicked if a brawl erupted.

dap01

June 21st, 2010
1:51 pm

The Headlines to this article sound good but the story provides no real answers. He is not a horrible pitcher. The economics are as simple as “end the experiment”.

The Braves have no choice but to put him in the pen and hope he works out his issues.

His issues seems to be no greater than McLouth’s struggles with hitting and throwing. They are no greater than Escobar’s being homerless in June.

Iceman

June 21st, 2010
1:52 pm

Get rid of him.

Mark

June 21st, 2010
1:53 pm

He is really good for morale especially from the other teams’ batters. I am just glad he is not in Japan he may have fallen on a sword by now. LOL****************