I’m scared

Baseball Prospectus | Articles | Prospectus Notebook: Thursday Edition

Chipper to… First base?

With Betemit playing well and Andy Marte waiting in Richmond until he can permanently seize the third base job, Jones’s inevitable shift down the defensive spectrum has been accelerated. First base looks to be an inviting target for Jones, whose still-potent bat, lack of defensive ability and proclivity for injury seem to make him a good fit for the position. Adam LaRoche has put up decent numbers at first: .275/.337/.478 in 247 at-bats, good for a 0.105 marginal lineup value rate. When you adjust for the premium offensive position LaRoche plays, however, his value rate drops to 0.060, just 15th best among NL first basemen; the fact that LaRoche is strictly the left handed side of a platoon also limits his value. With 11 home runs and 52 RBIs this year, LaRoche could fetch valuable parts for GM John Schuerholz in trade if Jones consents to play first… Left field also seemed a possible destination for one of the three Atlanta third basemen, but Kelly Johnson, called up from Richmond on May 29 to replace Raul Mondesi, has put an end to that idea.

49 thoughts on “I’m scared”

  1. I think this is the work of some subversive element in the ranks of BP. (Could there even be a cabal? Maybe Washington’s soon-to-be new managing partner can sort that out for us.) I would expect a quick correction to/complete removal of these hints that anyone is reasonable and has been paying any attention.

  2. Well, they are still hanging on to the “Chipper’s defense stinks” line.

    A couple of questions: Can Chipper play first? Piazza showed last year that you can’t just put anyone there, though having played third, he should’t be that bad. Can Betimit handle short? I thought he had been moved off of short in the minors due to his defense.

  3. Lack of defensive ability? Are we watching the same Chipper? He’s played great D all season w/healthy.

  4. I would normally think that he’s plenty athletic enough to play first. And, assuming there weren’t actually somehow additional health issues, I wouldn’t think twice about the idea. The fact that Ken Caminiti couldn’t do it at all worries me more than the Piazza thing. There’s a reason that Bill James didn’t include catcher in the defensive spectrum – it’s a whole different world back there. But even considering Caminiti’s numerous other issues and lack of general athleticism at that point in his career, the fact that he couldn’t simply move across the diamond has to make you think twice. But I’m sure that if he worked at it in the offseason, Larry would be just fine making the switch next year. He’s said he won’t go back to the OF, but I have never seen anywhere in print where he refuses to play first.

    There’s seems to be a general consensus that Betemit’s defense is much improved this year. I don’t have any idea if that improvement is enough to make him a good shortstop. I just don’t see how we have the choice unless Marte can do it or there’s some trade available for a good shortstop.

  5. Ken Caminiti was in bad shape when the Braves tried him at 1B. It’s not like the guy was in his physical prime and just flat-out failed at 1B.

  6. Ignore what’s written but keep in mind that Chipper will eventually be stationed at 1st base. I wrote for a very long time in many of my Braves Raps because it made sense. He doesn’t want to go out to LF anymore and Kelly has taken that position over. The choice is LaRoche vs. Marte and the latter has a much better upside. And yes, LaRoche could fetch us some needed relief pitching.

  7. I’ve always wanted Chipper to go to first and there is some creedence to Baseball Prospectus’ dfensive stats.

    LaRoche/Langerhans/Furcal/Colon for a corner outfielder and closer.

  8. Chipper made a rehab start last night in Rome, so the question will be coming to a head soon.

  9. Chipper’s shoddy defense. BORING. Their own rate metrics give the same defensive rate to both Betemit and Chipper. Lame.

  10. Ya think? I would imagine that Marte will go down, Betemit will hit the bench, and it’ll end up being the same old infield as before. The risks are too high at this point. Trade LaRoche and Larry goes down again and/or one or both of Betemit and Marte struggle, and there’s noplace to go. It seems to risky to try any of that right now.

  11. The only infielder going anywhere when Chipper returns is Marte, back to Richmond. I don’t think the Braves will trade LaRoche this season because Chipper is untried at first (and neither he nor the Braves will want to risk it) and his foot will remain a question mark (with a return trip to the DL always looming). Any major reshuffling of the infield will happen during the offseason.

  12. The defensive metrics also gave rates almost as low to Vinny Castilla, who is rated as above-average with every other team he played for. In other words, there’s some sort of context probably they haven’t figured out. Chipper’s a C defender who was playing at the top of his range (a solid B) when he went out.

  13. One possibility that no one is mentioning is Marte to first this year. It would be less of an adjustment for him, and I don’t think he’s much of a fielder. I don’t think it will happen, but I thought I would mention it. I hope they don’t send Marte down again. He doesn’t deserve that. And I’d prefer they not trade him.

    What is clear is that Adam LaRoche is on the hot-seat. Adam might be lefty who could fit at catcher (not on the Braves, obviously). He’s got a gun, he’s slow, and his offense would be pretty good for that position.

  14. Ok time to clear the air a bit.

    Marte is going nowhere. he is a premium glove at 3b, and they are not going to jerk him around, least of all to 1b.
    Chipper to 1b could be a bad idea. He has had bad hammies the last 2 years, and first base requires lot of stretching and intricate footwork. Chipper’s mobility isn’t the issue, his torn up legs are, so 1b might not be his landing position.
    Someone did why Braves 3B have lower defensive ratings. They figured it was due to some positioning thing the Braves do, along with pitch low and outside philosophy.
    Laroche is not going anywhere until they decide on Chipper’s future. Cheap productive infielders aren’t common.

  15. Marte has a better future, but would he really outperform LaRoche/Franco this year? I agree with Kirk that the shuffle will come in the off season.

  16. JC, Marte is an outstanding fielder, he just hasn’t shown it much in Atlanta. Every level he’s played in, he’s drawn raves for his defensive range and arm. He’d be wasted at 1B.

    I agree with Kirk, they’ll keep LaRoche for the rest of this season and make any decisions on future infield positions in the offseason.

  17. JC over at Sabernomics doesn’t think that the Braves should send Marte back. I agree. It should be Francouer going down with Marte getting some outfield time. Although I think that Langerhans can be the regular RF the Braves seem to think that he is at best a platoon player and not even in the lefty vs. righty sense. We should keep LaRoche
    a. just in case he decides to duplicate his 2nd half of last year.
    b. there’s no gaurentee that Chipper is going to stay healthy so we’ll need a power left handed bat.
    c. They won’t ask Chipper to change positions in the middle of the season again.

    I know that keeping LaRoche, Betemit and Marte creates a logjam if Chipper comes back to play a full second half but the ripple effects are very positive.
    1. Betemit is better off the bench. If he plays regularly he just might remember that he is Wilson Betemit.
    2. Marte needs at bats and instantly strengthens the outfield IF he hits. If he doesn’t then the Braves almost have to send him down.
    3. LaRoche was just starting to get hot before the break. I think that he is going to hit more consistently the second half.

  18. IF Marte goes to the outfield, it will not be at the big league level. He is not ready to up up here yet and he and Francoeur need to spend some time at AAA. THe only way I would trade LaRoach is in some deal for Lidge. I don’t think we will see Chipper at 1B for a few years, if ever. I could see Marte moving to second or short even. However, marte is not ready to be in the big leagues.

  19. Re: Marte, what should be done and what will be done are not the same thing. In a perfect world, Francouer goes down to get some more seasoning, but there is no way Marte is being sent to the outfield without some minor league time at the position. For better or worse, Francouer will remain in the majors for the foreeable future unless he really craters.

  20. Marte is ready. Or, at least, he has AAA roped and tied and has nothing else to prove there. The problem is that Betemit has been outhitting him on the ML level and Chipper is coming back, and he hasn’t played much outfield.

    I don’t see LaRoche (please note the spelling; “LaRoach” is not only a misspelling but dangerously close to an insult) as a significantly better hitter than Langerhans. And either Marte or Chipper would more likely make it at first than in right. I wish we’d had LaRoche several years ago, but right now he’s replaceable and might bring a good return in trade.

  21. This is very very simple.

    The Braves have no choice when it comes to moving Chipper to first.

    He’s still under contract for 2 more years and Furcal is a free agent. Plus LaRoche is mediocre but young and could get something back in trade.

    Chipper goes to 1st (very soon in fact) with LaRoche leaving in trade or to the bench. Betemit and Furcal will make up the left side of the Infield in 2005.

    In 2006, Marte, Betemit, Giles & Chipper is your starting infield. Furcal & LaRoche will both be gone. It’s again, very simple at this point to make this assessment.

  22. I don’t think we move Chipper this season. Last year he moved to a spot that he had played before. It is not going to hurt Marte to play in AAA for a few more months. LaRoche and Franco are play first well and are hitting better than Marte is right now. Come September it will be good to have Marte on the club so we can rest Chipper’s foot so he can go 2-24 in the first round of the play-offs. In the winter I can see moving LaRoche or trying Chipper or Marte somewhere else.

  23. Maybe LaRoche could just go to the pen. He could still pinch him and get in a few games at first. Could he be worse than Adam Berenro? :)

  24. Marte is an outstanding fielder, he just hasn’t shown it much in Atlanta. Every level he’s played in, he’s drawn raves for his defensive range and arm.

    Are these the same people who claim that LaRoche is a gold-glove fielder? Dave Pinto rates Julio the better defender of the platoon with very good data. I just don’t trust what “they” say about defense. He might be great, but I’ve also heard him montioned as average. It’s just so hard to tell.

    My thinking on Marte at first is just to ease his transition into the lineup. His bat is just too good not to be on the big club. And I wonder, if they planned to send him back down, why did they bring him back up to play for 3-4 games? It’s a waste of his time. I think he’s won Bobby over, and he’s going to stay, but we’ll see.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a starting pitcher (HoRoam) and LaRoche are traded for an outfield bat. Then these moves the Braves are making would make a lot more sense.

  25. Just a bullpen thought. Has anyone else seen the numbers Chuck James is putting up in Mississippi:

    Ridiculous season totals update: 2.02 ERA in 102 innings, allowing just 66 hits and 23 walks while striking out 136.

    Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think he could do a lot better out of the pen then half the other guys we have now (i.e. Bernero).

  26. Carlos Lee up with 2 outs and the bases loaded.

    I have switched back to mlb.com, as Sportsline is too slow to update.

  27. Brutal game today for El Caballo – 4th strikeout, this time with bases loaded.

  28. In a few years, I think we may see Chipper at 1B, but I don’t think it’ll happen this year. Let Andy Marte ripen a bit more in AAA. I also don’t think Francoeur is ready, but he seems to be a favorite with the FO. Chipper could probably handle 1B just fine, but, I must admit, I like LaRoche. Maybe his defense isn’t the greatest, but I have more compliments than complaints and defense CAN be learned. Just look at Marcus. I wish we’d give him time to learn to hit left-handed pitching. Everybody keeps running out the great stats the platoon has, but most of them are LaRoche’s in terms of HRs and RBIs. He can be a very scary hitter. I don’t think we should create a problem at 1B yet. Wait until Chipper is a little less functional, then put him at 1B, give Marte 3B, and trade LaRoche for bullpen help or another bat in the outfield. KJ can stay in left but I’m dissatisfied with right field. Francoeur is not ready and Langerhans is okay as a backup (and excellent defensively) but not satisfactory as a starter.

    I think our biggest problem is going to be at SS. Furcal will not be here next year unless he signs for peanuts, or perhaps peanut shells. And I don’t think Betemit is the answer to anything. His defense still makes me cringe and I still don’t think he’s much of a hitter. Trade him. We need to find a replacement SS in the off-season.

  29. He probably did it just to lash out at Moneyball.

    If they win the game, he’ll point to that moment and go “Ha! Look, Moneyball would have lost the game!”

  30. There still no need to rush off and trade any of our infielders. With Furcal not being in with us next year that opens up the spot for Marte at short next year. Marte can definitely handle the position.

    Next Year will look like this:

    LaRoche/Franco 1st
    Giles 2nd
    Marte SS
    Chipper 3rd
    Betemit utility

  31. What has Marte done to make several people here think he can man SS? I mean, has played a single professional inning there at any time? At least WB played the position at every stop until AAA. I very seriously doubt Andy Marte will be a major league short-stop this year, next year or ever.

  32. I think Marte probably could play short, at least for a couple of years, but the Braves haven’t shown any sign of doing that, and it really isn’t their way.

  33. Off subject but for any golf fans a little update:

    Tiger Woods -6 leading British Open

    Michelle Wie def. Renner 3 and 1 and will reach the Quarterfinals

  34. To clarify what I said earlier; I don’t believe that Chipper will move to 1st base until after the season so he can get accustomed to it through spring training. I do, however, believe that’s where he’ll finally land unless the NL adopts the DH which will happen when hair grows on the palm of my hand.

  35. how can you guys say Adam LaRoche is just some avg everyday run of the mill 1b?

    the guy is only in his second year and while sharing time with franco is still on pace for about 25 hr’s and 100+ rbi’s….not to mention the guy seems to come through everytime with 2 outs and runners in scoring postion….so he’s got the makings of a cluth guy….and a 30 hr 100 rbi a year guy…how can you not want that?

    and speaking strictly from a fan’s point of view i’d much rather see adam than marte…i just happen to like adam more…plus he’s shown me more…

    the guys only gonna get better…he’s our best 1b youngster in awhile..why dont we be happy for that?

    someone please tell me why he isnt’ worth keeping?

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