And the AJC story

ajc.com | Braves | Braves sign right-hander Thomson

— Thomson is happy to be in a pitcher’s park, and probably doesn’t realize Turner Field hasn’t played that way lately. Still it’s better than Colorado and Arlington.

— Thomson is pencilled in for the #3 spot, with Ramirez #4. I don’t think that’s a reflection on Horacio, but rather trying to get a R-L-R-L pattern. Honestly, I don’t think it matters much.

— The injury Thomson had that we couldn’t remember in Colorado was a torn labrum.

— The Braves “hope” Byrd will be ready by midseason. I expect they actually hope he retires.

— The two right fielders mentioned as targed are Jacque Jones and Guillen. Jacque still isn’t really a right fielder. Guillen wasn’t offered arbitration. I’d think they could do better with $20 million to play with.

I was probably too hard on Thomson yesterday, but I was disappointed that the Braves weren’t going after a pitcher of Cy Young Award quality. I think he’d have been a great addition to some of those top-heavy staffs the Braves had in the last decade, and he’s more likely to be good in 2004 than any rookie or near-rookie. But at the same time, if the Braves don’t get more offense it’s not enough.

18 thoughts on “And the AJC story”

  1. Well if they had gone after someone of Cy Young caliber there would be no money left to get more offense. That’s exactly why this is such a good signing. It fills a hole in the rotation with a quality guy without blowing the budget. I guess it would be nice if JS would sign an All-Star for every position, but this ain’t the Yankees.

  2. Last year, the Braves were 9th in the NL in runs allowed and 1st in runs scored. The Braves need to do more than plug holes in the rotation, they need to upgrade it. It is reasonable to expect that Thomson is an upgrade over Reynolds. But he is not an upgrade from even the ’03 version of Maddux. Obviously the off season is FAR from over, but if John Thomson ends up as the biggest addition to the pitching staff, it will take all of Leo’s magic to be 9th again.

  3. But he is not an upgrade from even the ’03 version of Maddux.

    Despite your efforts to fight this strawman, no one is arguing that he is. Thomson can be expected to match Maddux’s performance in ’04 for about 1/3 the salary. The Braves rotation was seventh in the NL last year, wedged between Chicago and Houston. Three guys return and Thomson replaces about 90% of Maddux 2003 value. So if you want to upgrade the rotation, find somebody who is 50% better than Shane Reynolds. Shouldn’t be hard since he was the worst regular starting pitcher in the league last year.

  4. — Thomson is happy to be in a pitcher’s park, and probably doesn’t realize Turner Field hasn’t played that way lately

    erm, PF for ’03 was 97, Mac.

  5. Random fluctuation. It’s been more or less neutral for the last few years.

    I should point out that on top of the ordinary rotation, the Braves have only two experienced relievers under contract, and “experienced” in Wright’s case is something of a stretch. Beyond him, it’s the rookies. Of course, it’s early, but I expect a lot of that $20 million is going to go to relievers. Personally, I’d rather they went after Vlad and took their chances.

  6. Thomson can be expected to match Maddux’s performance in ’04 for about 1/3 the salary.

    Comments about strawmen aside, I have been trying to state – unsuccessful apparently – that Thomson’s ’04 is unlikely to match Maddux’s ’04. Heck, I think their ’03s were remarkably similar in overall value. If the Braves were to replace the ’03 Maddux with the ’03 Thomson, it would be roughly a wash. But the team for ’04 is removing the ’04 Maddux (and others) and adding the ’04 Thomson. I think that is a significant decrease, something a team that finished 9th in the league in ERA last year can’t afford.

    While Maddux is indeed going to be 38 next season, I see little reason to expect him to fall off a ledge any time soon. His adjusted ERAs for the last three seasons have been 105, 157 and 144. My simple projection system is based on three parts last year, two parts the prior year, one part the year before that, one part league average and then a fudge factor for age, anomolous seasons, and info not caugt by pure stats. (For innings pitched I leave out league average.) Unadjusted for age, I project Maddux to have an ERA+ of 125 in 215 innings. With the fudge factor, its between 115 and 125 in about 200 IP.

    For Thomson, his ERA+s for the last three years are 102, 98 and 100. Before fudge factors, I have him projected to smack dab league average, 100 with 185 IP. Using my fudge factors, I’m upping that ERA+ because, as noted several times in this discussion, I think the Rangers defense harmed his overall numbers more than is revealed in a quick and dirty view. I am not moving the IP forward because as it is he is projected to have the second most of his career. But no matter how much I bend and distort, I just can’t come close to any reasonable projection that would match Maddux’s expected ’04 outcome.

    If Schuerholz’s mandate is to put a team on the field that can win 80-85 while turning the maximum profit, Thomson may be a good choice. If the goal is to maximize possibility of winning the World Series, this ain’t no 3rd / 4th starter for my tastes.

  7. Jose Guillen is wrong for the Braves. He’s had one good season under his belt. With the money they saved on Thomson, the Braves can afford a big slugger such as Vlad. No writers have done the math. Even with budget cuts the Braves still have a lot of money to spend. Thomson is a cheap alternative to Maddux. At Turner Field and away from the DH, Thomson should be able to put up the numbers Maddux put up last year. The Braves no longer have to pursue an expensive pitcher. They instead can pursue a high dollar right fielder.

  8. Actually, we could resolve this pitching thing pretty quickly. Sign Arthur Rhodes, and move Smoltz to a fifth starter/ace reliever role. A dominating power pitcher is added to the rotation for 20 or so starts, Rhodes, a terrific reliever, closes when Smoltz is unavailable and sets up when he is, and we could do this for about 3M/yr. Far too creative for JS, but a winner, I think.

  9. I see little reason to expect him to fall off a ledge any time soon

    Well then your not looking very hard.

    K/9
    2000 – 6.86
    2001 – 6.68
    2002 – 5.33
    2003 – 5.11

    OPS Against
    2000 – .612
    2001 – .644
    2002 – .654
    2003 – .715

    Combined with his age and his vigorous offseason golf workout routine, he might as well carry a sign around that says “Not a good risk for a multiyear contract”.

  10. Sorry, but his ERA (and his OPS against) to me show more of a one season oddity than evidence of long term horrors to come. The decline in K/9 is more of a concern, but (1) his numbers in 1999 {the year you left out}, 2002 & 2003 are all in the same ballpark rather than showing a percipitous decline and (2) since his return from injury, Thomson has been at 5.3 (2002) and 5.6, functionally the same as Maddux’s.

    I guess the real question is whether one thinks that in projecting ’04 and forward one should put a lot of weight on ’03 or not. Looking exclusively at ’03, salaries and ages, of course Thomson is a better bet. But I feel that observing more data is more reliable than is less data. I personally think taking a single season as indicative of the future is a mistake. Unfortunately, as seen in the Paul Byrd signing and others, I think that Schuerholz and the Braves Brass disagrees with me.

  11. Maddux is not going to fall off a ledge next year, nor does that mean he’s a good multiyear investment. He’s past his prime and wants prime money, that’s the kind of bad investment that would end the Braves reign at the top. We aren’t the Yankees, we can’t afford to overpay guys on the downhill. We have a solid core right now, all we need is to fill some holes. We don’t have to have the number one offense in every single category to win. If we get a god hitting outfielder and some decent relievers we’ll be just fine. We’ve got a lot of young talent in our farmclub, making use of it is the ONLY way we can stay at the top with our budget. That’s just the way it is. *Hoepful* we’ll make the same offer to Vlad that we made to sheffield (if we could afford to make it for sheff we can for Vlad) and that will be enough. Otherwise I doubt we’ll get him.

  12. Don’t forget Smoltz gets a lot of extra money for every start he makes

    Spend the $2.8m to get Smoltz 28 starts on extra rest, he’s happy, and the side benefit is that you keep his 2005 $12m option from kicking in (which is dependent on his finishing something like 57 games this season). The small sum in 2004 saves the team from a larger sum the following year.

  13. But I feel that observing more data is more reliable than is less data.

    Again, arguing with no one. Of course more data is better than less data, no one is disputing that. There is no question that it’s safer to sign guys with long track records of success. But they are expensive, and they might not end up being any better than the guys just coming into their own. Thomson had a solid ’03. His second half of the season was terrific. He seems to be fully recovered from his arm problems and ready to take a step forward. Sounds like a great guy to gamble a few million on to me.

  14. I think part of the consideration with regards to Smoltz is a concern that his arm won’t stay healthy with as many innings as a starter gets. I mean, just when it seemed he was healthy he had to get surgery again last year.

  15. The Braves have a ton of money left to spend, even if cutting $15 million from payroll. Given that the replacements at catcher and first base are virtually free, and assuming that they can find replacements for their bench players/MRs for comparable prices, they need to plug four holes: RF, 3b, a SP, and a setup guy. They have about $27 million to do so. They could easily be players for Guerrero, Guillen, Garciaparra, whomever. I hope they get out there soon.

  16. I think part of the consideration with regards to Smoltz is a concern that his arm won’t stay healthy with as many innings as a starter gets. I mean, just when it seemed he was healthy he had to get surgery again last year.

    But that’s part of my point too – he’s not staying healthy as a reliever, so why even bother. Take fthe chance, give him some extra rest, the way Boston did with Bret Saberhagen and David Cone, and see if working more regularly helps him. I think he could do it, and I think he’s more likely to make the current team into a successful one as a starter than as a closer behind a staff less likely to give him saves in hte first place.

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