Andrelton Simmons

Andrelton Simmons is the best defensive player in baseball. He’s the first Brave to win that title by acclamation since the heyday of Andruw Jones, and in related news, Braves pitchers allowed fewer runs per game — 3.38 — than any other team in baseball.

In fact, that’s the third-lowest total in franchise history, behind only 1916 and 1968 — the Deadball Era and the Year of the Pitcher, respectively. It was the lowest total in the major leagues since the 2011 Phillies allowed 3.27 runs a game, and they were led by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt.

So, how did Minor, Teheran, Medlen, and Hudson turn into Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt? Here’s how:

Andrelton Simmons was the Braves’ most valuable player last year, but because defense is less well measured and its value is less well understood than offense, Freddie Freeman came in 5th in the league MVP balloting and got a $135 million contract, while Andrelton finished 14th and has yet to sign a contract. There’s no doubt that the Braves know he’s good. But neither the market nor the voters reward defensive dominance the way it rewards offensive dominance, and they aren’t likely to start doing so any time soon.

(Defense and offense are on different scales. It is possible to create more wins with the bat than with the glove — Simmons was worth 5 dWAR last year while Mike Trout was worth 10 oWAR — but still: the Braves allowed the fewest runs in the league despite surrounding Simmons with Chris Johnson and Dan Uggla on the infield and giving Evan Gattis 47 starts in the outfield.

Of course, he did all that despite doing next to nothing at the plate, and if he learns to hit then he could be the best player in the league. On the other hand, “If he learns to hit” is something people have been saying about Elvis Andrus since he was a 17 year old in the Braves system, and Andrus still managed to sign a $120 million contract a year ago.)

At the plate, Simmons has one very good skill: his contact rate was 21st in baseball last year. And he has another decent skill: his isolated power was sixth among major league shortstops. He isn’t Tulowitzki, but he isn’t significantly less powerful than, say, Asdrubal Cabrera. As I’ve often written, when a guy has decent power and doesn’t strike out, that’s a good sign for his future power production. It means he can generate power without selling out for power.

However, he also has two major weaknesses. One is popping up: his infield fly ball percentage was the highest in baseball last year. Another is plate discipline: his walk rate was 30th-lowest in baseball last year. These two may be related.

His terrific contact rate shows that he isn’t a mindless hacker, but it doesn’t completely make up for it. Simmons managed his terrific contact rate while maintaining league average swing rates. In other words, he swung at the same number of pitches both inside and outside the strike zone as most other players. He made contact more often than they did. But it’s pretty likely that some of that was bad contact: I’d guess that a number of those pop-ups came on pitches he shouldn’t have been swinging at.

Simmons would be a significantly better player if he could take more walks, especially if some of those walks came on pitches that he’s currently turning into outs.

Still, as with Andrus, Andrelton’s glove means that he’ll remain a very good player even if he doesn’t become a significantly better hitter. And, of course, Andruw Jones didn’t significantly improve with the bat after he turned 23. He has the tools to be a very good hitter if he can improve his selectivity at the plate, but that’s easier said than done.

No matter what, we’ll always have this:

140 thoughts on “Andrelton Simmons”

  1. As stellar as Simmons’ play was in that animation, look at that extension by Freddie Freeman. My wife saw it on my screen and said, “IS THAT GUY DOING A SPLIT ON THAT PLAY?!” I said, “Yup, and they just locked that guy up for 8 years, honey!” Fantastic play on both ends of that!

  2. Wow. Beckett will be the Dodgers’ fifth starter, with Maholm pitching in long relief if Beckett stays healthy.

  3. I think the Braves would be smart to lock up Andrelton now instead of next offseason. I think his bat will get better and better as he gets more acquainted with these starting pitchers.

  4. Great write-up. As amazing as he is already, I think the best yet to come for Simmons. I see him as having MVP potential.

  5. There is an omission in the highlight reel, I think–an unbelievable play he made that did not result in an out.

    Someone help my memory. He’s ranging left and gets the ball on the right-field side of second base, with his momentum carrying him out toward right. Instead of trying to set and turn to make the throw, Simmons flips himself the ball from his glove hand to his bare hand behind his back while maintaining his stride, then throws while on the move as if he never had to think about any of it. Anyone know where the video of it is?

  6. Edward @ 8:

    I think you might be referring to this behind-the-back transfer:

    Fantastic. I was watching that game and the announcers, like me, simply did not process what he did while watching the play. After a commercial break, we were treated to a slo-mo replay. My brain is still trying to process this what my optic nerves relayed – I can feel the rusty cogs and gears slowly moving, but it’ll be years ’til my brain completes its rudimentary process – early signs are it will return “does not compute” and shut down for good. Andrelton = Magic Johnson.

  7. Err – edit window ran out – the behind the back play was on Clint Barmes’ roller up the middle, and the eventual game winning run scored on the play.

    Still, just an amazing effort and one that makes you wonder how he could, going at full speed, even think to try and pull that stunt off.

  8. God. That video is so amazing. You watch it, and you start to see patterns. Andrelton has so many highlights that you can classify them into “types”.

    My favorite is the “showing ridiculous range to his right, stops on a dime (often sliding), makes laser throw with perfect balance for the out”. Also popular, the “ranging for pop-up in foul territory and making INSANE diving grab”. Best one from that category was where he made the grab after starting the play while holding the frickin runner at 2B. There’s also the “has to change direction after deflection or something, barehanded pickup, laser throw for the out” and the “half-way to the fence to get the relay throw then gun the unsuspecting guy out at home with a throw that puts the ball in the perfect spot”. And let’s not forget the “insane diving play up the middle into flip to 2nd for the force in one motion.” Also included in that video (for some reason) is the “routine grounder to 2B into routine double play”. Dunno why those are there, but they do often show Simba’s crazy-strong arm.

    It’s just so incredible. I don’t care if he hits .200 and never takes a walk or hits a HR. Watching that video is the most excited I’ve been for next season since… well, since last season ended. I WANT MOAR!

  9. kc @ 12,

    Two issues. Most of us don’t go back as far on this site as when Andruw was doing the amazing things in the late 90’s. So that has a little to do with this.

    The other thing is that Andruw’s casualness, particularly when at the plate, made it seem like he wasn’t doing what he could. He probably actually was doing what he could(until he let himself get out of shape), but it could be hard some days to be gung ho when it didn’t seem like he was.

  10. @12,

    Andruw was supposed to be the next Willie Mays so his inability to be as good at bat as in the field was a let down to many (including, I admit, me). No one expects Simmons to be a great hitter so it’s easier to focus on his defense. Plus, I believe it’s easier to appreciate a great infield play than a great outfield play, at least on TV.

  11. The problem @12 is two-fold. First, back in 1997, there wasn’t an internet presence quite like BravesJournal. We all congregated on Usenet. There was a lot of love for Andruw there, even with the flaws. But much like the AJC commenters outweigh the BravesJournalers by sheer force of numbers today (hey, the Frenchie sure was a great guy for the Braves, amirite?!) the talk-radio folks drastically outshouted the few of us on Usenet at the time.

    Complicate that with the fact that we didn’t have any real defensive metrics to validate our gut instincts about how good Andruw was in center. All we could do was say “he looks really good, gets to everything, even Bobby Cox says he’s the best ever.” No one had dWAR in 1997.

    Complicate it further with the issue Marc brings up @14; the unrealistic assumptions that Andruw was going to hit two homeruns in every World Series game for the rest of his career, more or less. That he was going to hit like Bonds and play D like Mays. When he turned out to be “only” David Justice with +++defense in center, people were disappointed.

    I do think Andruw’s reputation is coming back around a little of late, though.

  12. I think human emotion also has much to do with the reasons Andruw never received the defensive love that Andrelton is receiving. When Andrelton misplays a ball or doesn’t get to something he thinks he should’ve, there’s a grimace on his face that expresses his condolences to the fans and teammates. Whether we as fans want to admit it or not, the slight smirk that was found on Andruw’s face and the smoothness that was omnipresent in his glides to reach a line drive that no one else in the league could reach, made even his strongest efforts look effortless.

    Also, I don’t think Bobby Cox would ever have to remove Andrelton from a game for lack of hustle. Combine that single incident with his lack of outward emotion, and Andruw just couldn’t reach our hearts quite like Andrelton.

  13. ZiPS projects La Stella at a .275/.340/.411 line. If he can produce that, which equates to a 2.5 WAR over 600 PA, there’s no reason Dan Uggla should be allowed to struggle his way into comfort. If the Braves aren’t winning 2/3 of their games in April with Uggla struggling to float above a .700 OPS, La Stella should be starting in May.

  14. Andruw is one of those guys that Bill James used to talk about. Despite being very very good during their tenure, they were unappreciated because they don’t fulfill their full potential as defined by the baseball press and fans. I feel his rep starting to turn around here and other places. I sure hope that when he hangs it up that Andruw gets his number retired. He was a terrific Atlanta Brave.

    I’ll admit it was the writing of Mac and other folks here that changed my perspective on Andruw.

    @17 – I wonder if the Braves won’t have Uggla competing for his position in Spring Training?

  15. There is also the issue alluded to above that Andruw made these plays look so easy. It just didn’t seem that big a deal. Compare that to a guy like Jim Edmonds who could make every play look spectacular.

  16. @18
    With the weight of his contract, there’s no way that the Braves can afford to not have Uggla as their starting 2nd baseman in April. However, if he were to have a good month, I hope the Braves would be wise enough to start calling teams that are in desperate need for a 2nd baseman very early into the season.

  17. If Uggla plays good enough for other teams to want him, then wouldn’t we want him too? We’re eating most of that contract no matter what, so might as well give him a chance for redemption.

  18. @22
    If Uggla got hot for a month and the Braves could get rid of him and most of his contract, the long-term positives greatly outweigh any production he could provide. I don’t deny that him getting hot while re-building his worth in a month’s time is such a longshot that I should just delete this comment.

  19. The contract exists whether he plays or not. If they can move him and the contract, sure, do that. But if they can’t, and he’s playing poorly, and La Stella is playing well, you play La Stella. You don’t play a guy just because he’s expensive. Sunk costs are sunk.

  20. I just don’t think one good month would all of sudden create bidders that would be willing to take on the majority of his contract. Some would be willing to take a flyer, but by definition a flyer would mean that we’d be paying a huge portion still.

    If the unpossible does happen, and he hits 8 HRs in April and displays a willingness to not pull off every pitch, then maybe we’re the ones that should take the flyer and keep him and see how it all plays out. His upside is far far greater than La Stella.

  21. @25
    Uggla’s upside at 34 years of age is not far greater than La Stella’s at age 25.

    Anyone know about Oliver projections? It’s the only projection system that has projected La Stella on Fangraphs and they have him projected for a 3.9 WAR. Seems…excessive.

  22. Andruw was my favorite player when I first started getting into baseball and I was really bummed when he left the Braves. He is the reason I’m such a fan of defense over offense. I’d much rather watch a 1-0 game that includes a few spectacular plays than I would, say, a 11-10 game that includes several home runs and every bullpen pitcher. As last season progressed, if I needed to leave the room for a half inning during a game I was watching, I became much more apt to do so while the Braves were batting than when they were in the field. The Andrelton to Freddie plays are such things of beauty (or really any plays that Andrelton is involved in) that I would hate to miss seeing them live.

  23. La Stella did not start professional ball until age 22, so bringing his age into discussion is a bit unfair considering he only played 60 games his first year. He’s done nothing but hit for 3 years and was really good at Mississippi in ’13, a stadium regarded as “where hitters come to die”.

    His walk rate is great, his gap power is real, his strikeout rate is very low, his defense is considered average. Truth be told, he should be hyped more.

  24. I remember when the perception of Andruw seemed to take a serious nose dive. I think it was around 2003-04. I think that up to that point Andruw was hands down the best outfielder in the game, but his bat seemed to leave something to be desired–regardless of if it was media/hype driven. This was at about the same time that we began to discuss total zone ratings in addition to range factor. It wouldn’t be long afterward that it was obvious that Andruw’s added bulk was impacting his defense.

    Interestingly, up to that point, Bobby Cox was never too concerned about Jones’s bat so long as his CF defense was out of this world. Want to talk comparison with Simmons? Bobby started Andruw for all of 1997 and told him not to worry about his results at the plate. Now that’s… progressive!

  25. Impressive…Andruw was #21 on the prospect list after his age 17 season and #1 the following 2 seasons. Unreal.

  26. College guys ought to do well in their first two years in pro ball. The good thing about Tommy is that he’s continued to hit. Guys with a good hit tool who aren’t necessarily great athletes can sometimes get lost in the prospect mix in the rush to find the next 5-tool star. On the other hand, he hasn’t even gotten a cup of coffee yet.

    If I had to guess, I’d figure he’ll be slightly below average (but well above replacement level) next year, and average to above average in 2014-2017, bringing something like Martin Prado’s offensive upside without Prado’s defensive flexibility. (Or, maybe he’ll be like two of my favorite players, Mark Loretta and Ronnie Belliard.) His good years and bad years will basically depend on whether he hits .260 or .310.

  27. I think what is easy to forget about the perception of Andruw during the late 90’s/early 00’s is that the offensive environment was just bananas. To look at Andruw’s stats now and see a great defender in center swat 30 bombs and you think best player in the game. Put one of Andruw’s 90’s season in 2013 and he looks like Carlos Gomez-2013 top-5 WAR player.

    However, during Andruw’s prime you had guys like Griffey, Edmonds, Williams, Beltran, Berkman and even the occasional Hidalgo and Giles putting up monster offensive numbers while playing center field that made Andruw’s bat look pedestrian.

    I swear not a week goes by that I don’t pull up some BaseballReference page for a 90’s team and just marvel at the offense. 99′ Indians, ’97 Mariners, ’97 Rockies are some of my favorites.

  28. Considering the Freeman contract is likely the “going rate” for extending our young guys, 1) How many players can we afford to extend and 2) who should they be?

  29. The fact that La Stella is a college guy who is 24 is *why* we’re high on his upside in the Majors, soon. He’s a polished hitter who has proven that his offensive game translates to professional baseball. He is coming along nicely as a defender. He is the type of player who can and very well may skip AAA.

  30. I know La Stella could be good…I just don’t think it’s remotely fair to him to expect that he’ll come in and put up 4 WAR or be better than Uggla-before-he-forgot-how-to-hit.

  31. Aesthetically, Andruw would occasionally give you these absolute turd ABs that left you more frustrated than just a usual out. Stuff like swinging at junk in the dirt on 3-0, half-hearted swings at outside balls, etc. Suppose that goes along with the “he smiles too much” criticism.

    But I loved the hell out of Druw and am glad his image has been somewhat rehabilitated.

    Once more, with feeling:

  32. Everyone should go watch the video @38. Watch Kenny Rogers stare down Andruw. Watch the random Met hiding his eyes in his hat on the dugout. Watch Andruw take ball four and start dancing down the line. Watch the winning run begin to trot home in stunned disbelief from third.


  33. @38 I had a picture of that moment hanging on my wall for several years. When I see LOLMets, I think of Andruw running down the first base line, holding his bat with both hands in the air.

  34. It’s interesting that two of the pennants the Braves won involved nearly blowing what should have been insurmountable leads (1992, 1999) and then having to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with improbably comebacks. That’s not even counting 1996 where they came from 3-1 down and one the last game 15-0. (That’s my favorite game of all time. Who needs close, riveting finishes?)Or 1991, where they pitched two shutouts on the road to win the series. The only “easy” one was 1995.

  35. @42. That 1996 NLCS win over La Russa’s Cardinals is easily my favorite Braves moment of all time. I’ll never forget after Game 4, Dennis Eckersley jumping around and pumping his fist as if to imply it was over – and I believe Chipper and some of the Braves took exception to it. Then we proceeded to absolutely paste them in Games 5-7. In Game 7, I remember we were already up like 3-0, and Glavine slapped a bases-loaded triple past a diving Ron Gant. We carried the momentum into New York, and looked like the best team of the decade to that point.

  36. @42- Remember that the Braves only had the chance for the Andruw walk-off walk because Armando Benitez blew a save in a previous inning by giving up a game-tying hit to, of all freaking people, Ozzie Guillen.

  37. #42
    In addition to the 3 at Shea, I was at Game 6, which was a real stomach-turner, one of the most gripping/harrowing games I’ve ever attended. And yup, a super-clutch hit by Ozzie Guillen essentially saved us from a Game 7. Ultimately, for me, it was more relief than joy. (The idea of losing 4 in a row to the Mets…)

    I remember when I got back to NYC, a Met fan I work with said, “Yeah, but we were that close to coming all the way back & winning.”

    My reply: “Actually, we were a whole lot closer to sweeping. We won the first 3 games, remember?”

    Hopefully, this bunch will get to live some of those heady moments, and soon.

  38. @45- The Mets and the NY press treated the ’99 NLCS like a Met victory for years. It was ridiculous.

  39. @46. The narrative that I remember seeing was that the Mets had put up such a fight, that it became a pyrrhic victory for the Braves, leaving them easy prey for the Yankees.

  40. I might be mistaken but didn’t the Braves fall behind twice in Game 6 in 1999?

    It’s also pretty ironic that what was probably Andruw’s most significant at-bat in his career was a walk.

  41. #48
    Yup, that game was topsy-turvy. After leading 5-0 & 7-3, the Braves lost the lead in the 8th & tied it in the bottom; Braves lost the lead in the 10th & tied it again in the bottom; won it in the 11th. Winning Pitcher: Russ Springer.

    In the first, the Braves scored 5 off Al Leiter, who did not record an out. However, later in the game Piazza hit a big opposite-field HR off Smoltz (who was battered in that relief stint) to tie the game at 7 in the 7th.

    Mets went ahead Top 8 on a Melvin Mora hit, but Brian Hunter tied it as he drove in Otis Nixon with a single off John Franco — a Mets pitcher I genuinely miss. Mora again contributed to a tie-breaking rally in the 10th, but the unpredictable Ozzie Guillen bested the fairly predicable Armando Benitez.

    In the 11th, Gerald Williams (remember him?) got the rally started with a double. A Bret Boone bunt & 2 IBBs set up Andruw’s heroics. Cue fireworks.

    I mean, you never want to get swept, but, yeah, what a strange thing to be proud of, and I did hear some of that.

    I reminded my Met friends that the Braves were in the exact same situation the previous year. Down 0-3 to San Diego in the ’98 NLCS, the Braves extended the series, but still lost in 6. After losing that last game, we certainly were not taking any bows. To me, that remains a bitter defeat.

  42. @49. Eh, yeah, letting that Padres team (led by the legendary Sterling Hitchcock) beat us was not one of the more golden postseason moments for the Braves, but I didn’t give us much of a chance against New York anyway in the Series. 1997 was much more bitter for me. Everybody always talks about the ‘lost title of 1996,’ but I think we were positioned to win in 1997 as well.

  43. That Benitez v Guillen at bat was the most fantastic “opposable force vs movable object” battle in history. It was a fight to see who would suck worse, and in hindsight, Benitez caving in a big spot probably was the odds on favorite all along.

    To the Mets and Mets fans defense, such that it matters, that series was a step forward for them. They had been eliminated in increasingly important series since 1997, and ’99 was a step forward from the beat down elimination from WC contention that the Braves delivered to them in the final series of the ’98 regular season. Then they made it to the WS to lose to the Yankees in 2000.

    Then they crashed again.

  44. Braves signed an 18-year old 6 foot 4 RHP from the Dominican named Luis Mora. He doesn’t seem to exist.

    Also, the Braves signed David Bromberg. He’ll be 26 next year and pitched at AA-AAA for the Pirates last year. His k-rate as a starter was really good (8.3/9) and has been a mid-3 ERA pitcher his Minor League career. He’s probably just AAA depth but much more promising than Kameron Loe. He does exist and there’s actually a good scouting report about him. Sounds like the kind of player the Braves could make something out of nothing.

  45. @56 I think those Freeman nay-sayers who think he lacks elite power could be making a bit much out of nothing. His ISO actually dipped last season following injury. He’s just 24 years old, and look at what he has already done! It’s just a little soon to nitpick over the Free Man’s power numbers.

    If Chipper had played 1B, do you think critics would have attacked his power numbers?

  46. That’s a good link @56. Chris Johnson mentioned last year that when he got to Atlanta they specifically worked with Greg Walker on cutting down his HR swing, removing upper cuts and concentrating on hitting line drives. That modification in approach – scouty mcscouterson talk, I know! – held sway all season. If he breaks camp in 2014 hitting line drives all over the park again, we probably need to consider the liklihood that this is what Chris Johnson is, now.

  47. #56
    Thanks. Yes, line drives are good.

    All I can say about Uggla’s ugly peripherals is that I hope Mr. Magoo got a new optometrist this off-season.

  48. @56 – Great read and a very good explanation of how to apply BABIP when one tries to predict future performance.

    I don’t know what the Braves will do about Uggla. I thought for sure they would find a way to divest themselves of him even if it meant just releasing him and hoping another team picked him up and gave him the MLB minimum. I think that there should be a competition for 2B, but the Braves will probably make the position his to lose, again.

  49. What makes you think they Braves will make Uggla the default option at 2B? A franchise that benched the guy down the stretch and left him off of the playoff roster, then openly tried to shop him to anyone willing to pick up a quarter of the tab this winter, isn’t deeply invested in giving him a starting job come hell or high water.

  50. @65
    With 26 million on the table and the Braves a mid-market team, I think they will be forced to start him for at least a month. The beginning of a season and the “win or go home” mentality of the playoffs and it’s run are different beasts.

  51. I think there’s a good chance either Uggla gets dealt during ST or they bench him in favor of La Stella to start the year.

    La Stella has certainly played of late like he knows he can win the job outright.

  52. I’m not so sure that he gets a month. If he shows the same inability to make contact again in spring training then, IMO, he gets benched. I don’t think the Braves will outright release him, not until 2015. This doesn’t even bring in his defense into the conversation.

    There has to be some signs of life between now and opening day.

  53. @66: I dunno. The mentality you’re suggesting, as I’m sure you’re aware, is irrational. The Braves control the rights to both Dan Uggla and Tommy La Stella, and will be paying them regardless of how many plate appearances they receive. (La Stella will be paid a lot less if he’s playing in the minors, but his major-league minimum salary would just be allocated to someone else anyway.) Thus, they should only care about performance. I have a lot of respect for Frank Wren, and I’d like to think he won’t fall prey to a sunk-cost fallacy, but we do often see teams acting as though large contracts make scrubs inherently worth playing. Wren has some recent history that suggests he may be better able to avoid this error than most—Kawakami actually seems like a more salient example than what they did with Uggla last year.

  54. Yeah, I don’t think the Braves are going to play Dan Uggla just because they have a big albatross of a contract. Because, as Anon mentions @69, they have a history of not doing that sort of thing. And they have a well established precedent with being over Dan Uggla’s shit already. And finally, they have a franchise deep need to make sure that young and marginal players know they have have an opportunity to play in Atlanta if they earn it. The Braves can’t afford to be a franchise with a reputation of respecting sunk contracts over quality play.

    If Uggla fails in spring and Tommy La Stella hits, La Stella will start.

  55. I hope you guys are right and that the best man will get the job. Just from what I’ve read by Peanut and DOB, i don’t think that is the approach the braves are taking, irrational or not.

    Also, they don’t have to pay la Stella as he is neither on the 40-man or a 6th year minor leaguer.

  56. Maybe the Braves are going to start doing what the Rays have been doing forever – holding out the rookies long enough to avoid Super 2 arb status? And laStella is going to be the test case?

    Other than that, I got nuttin’.

  57. If the Braves are stuck with Uggla and are unable to trade him away to anyone, then they will want to make sure that they are getting the most for their money. If they are already convinced that every at-bat for the rest of Dan Uggla’s career will be terrible, then they will bench him to start the year. If they retain a small sliver of hope that he could be useful, then they will probably give him every chance to prove he can still contribute.

    I imagine that they will use March and April as an extended audition for La Stella and a last chance for Uggla, and if Uggla finishes April below the Mendoza line then they’ll cut their losses.

    If the Braves wouldn’t hold Heyward back to prevent Super Two, they wouldn’t do that with La Stella.

  58. I bet Wren has a deal already in place with a team like the Yankees, and he’s just waiting to see if Uggla can lift himself off the floor a little during Spring Training in order to get them to take as many dollars as possible.

    And, yeah, if he proves untradeable, he gets cut.

    Either way, I think we’ve seen the last of him.

  59. 71: Not sure what you mean by “have to” here. If they want La Stella to continue playing for the organization, they have to pay him—even if “they” is the Mississippi Braves, whose entire salary budget is contributed by the Atlanta Braves. If they want to cut him loose and let him sign with some other team, they’re under no obligation to continue paying him. Very clearly, that is not what they want to do, so in practice they have to pay him.

  60. I hope y’all are right. Just some of the stuff I have read on AJC can be interpreted as the Braves resigned to playing Uggla until he shows he can’t play. Yeah i know its like Kremlin watching but its all I got.

  61. They have to prepare fans for the worst case scenario: La Stella sucks or gets hurt in ST, and we can’t find a taker for Uggla.

  62. I guess Pena is kind of lost in the mix. He would immediately play better defense than both of these guys and could possibly handle the bat well enough to earn the starting job. I know the Braves like him as the utility player, but he could start with Uggla and Pastor backing him up.

  63. @76
    I give. Take the “have to pay him” as literal as you like.

    I hope you’re right…however, I think you’re wrong.

  64. @56 Thanks for the link. It gives a very good insight on how to apply BABIP which is definitely misunderstood by many people.

    I think the key for Uggla is whether he is willing to change his hitting approach. It seems like he wants to keep hitting homeruns but in fact what he needs to do is to convert himself to be a line drive hitter like CJ and Freddie. However, it seems like he is too stubborn to change.

    Just my guess, but the numbers say that Uggla is trying to hit homeruns by swinging very hard which led to the low BABIP, strikeouts and high flyball rate. He has to completely change his hitting approach to have any hope.

  65. @80, I can understand that. No outcome would surprise me.

    We can all agree that the Braves are likely still trying to dump Uggla on someone, and you can’t do that if it’s being reported that you’re not even willing to start the guy.

  66. I think that, if (a big *if*) Uggla performs to the point where other teams want to pay for a good part of his contract, then we would probably want to keep him rather than move him.

    Might as well spend April figuring it out.

  67. csg at 79.

    Here is where Uggla’s reverse platoon split is a problem.

    Pena’s flash of offense against right handers may mean he can handle that side of a platoon. Pastornicky may be able to handle the other side. Uggla can’t. LaStella would platoon with Pastornicky, not Pena.

    I think Pena / Pastornicky for a season would be above replacement level, almost league average. I think La Stella by himself would be almost league average. I think La Stella / Pastornicky would be slightly above league average. I believe that UNLESS UGGLA’S EYES HAVE NOW ADJUSTED, he can barely meet replacement level.

    Obviously, we will see.

  68. @56,

    Great link. I learned something.

    I would hope the Braves understand the concept of the “sunk cost fallacy” as it’s pretty basic economics. Most people don’t but the Braves FO seems to be sharper than that and, in this case, being owned by a souless corporation that values analysis rather than some idiot rich guy might be a benefit. At this point, Uggla is one of the worst players in baseball. They have to pay him whether he plays or not so why let him screw up the team? Moreover, what does it say to the other players if you let a guy play regardless of how bad he is because he has a big contract?

    My guess is they will give Uggla a chance to show he can still play-because he was a fairly valuable player not long ago-but if he can’t will not stick with him long.

  69. @81 I don’t think if Uggla suddenly got religion and started swinging for line drives he would become a good player again. His game is power. Without that, he’s no good.

  70. Line drives off the wall in the gaps *is* power. I don’t know that Uggla can adjust what he’s done his entire career to change his HR/fly ball game to LD/gappers. If I were a betting man I’d wager on the under there. But it’s false to say moving to a LD approach sacrifices “power.” It might shed some HR totals, but if it ups the BA, the OBP and the doubles, it’s still power.

  71. I don’t think Uggla has the capacity to rebuild his swing. He’s on the wrong side of 30, has bad eyesight, and has never been noted for his athleticism (which, among other things, can help a player to make major adjustments on the fly).

    IF Dan Uggla could seamlessly trade homers and strikeouts for doubles and higher batting average, I don’t think there’s a person on the team who wouldn’t want him to make that trade. But his problem isn’t a one-handed uppercut swing. It’s declining bad speed and worsening eyesight.

  72. We agree on all of the points, Alex. I’m simply pointing out that it’s too imprecise to say “power” and mean “HRs.”

  73. The question I have is did the Braves get Uggla when he was about to decline or did his approach/skills decline after he got to the Braves (e.g., as a result of him trying to justify his contract)? He seemed to fall off the cliff very quickly (even though he had that great second half his first year). Did they just get him at the wrong time?

  74. Alex, I think that’s right on.

    Sam, to have good power as a line drive hitter, one has to be able to really sting the ball. Like Javy Lopez. Hank Aaron. Uggla gets distance by getting lift. Maybe it’s because I hate the guy so much that it’s clouding my baseball judgement, but can’t see him stinging the ball.

  75. Marc at 93,

    The Uggla trade was good. The Uggla extension was predicatably bad (and so pointed out by many at the beginning). There was a high chance decline would occur based on his “type” and age. One year less would have made it about right.

  76. I don’t think Uggla’s going to turn into a LD hitter. But if he did, he wouldn’t be sacrificing “power” to do it.

  77. For all hoping Uggla will have a strong month and restore some value, remember he’s always been a slow starter. Career Apr numbers .234/.315/.425 which is the worst month for him in each category. Sad thing is I think we would all take that as his line for the year and be happy after last year.

  78. That’s too bad for the Pirates, who have done less than the Braves have in this offseason and appear to be following the Orioles playbook by following up a feel-good playoff appearance in a competitive division with absolute diddly-squat.

    But exactly what the Phillies think they can get out of Burnett, I have no idea. The Pirates have a brilliant defense and a pitchers’ park; the Phillies have an aging defense and a hitters’ park, and Burnett is not a guy who historically deals well with adversity. I mean, I don’t mind that Ruben Amaro has chosen to meet adversity with more poorly-thought-out free agent deals for players over the age of 30, but it’s still mind-boggling to watch.

  79. Alex at 102,

    In fairness to Amaro, some of these deals might be predicated by the need to “appear” competitive in anticipation of a big TV deal. Of course, he has made plenty of bad baseball decisions without that pressure, but some of these might be driven by business.

  80. It’s regrettable that the Phillies farm system is so bad that there’s no one worth foisting Kimbrel+Uggla off on Amaro for.

  81. @98

    Went over to look at Jonah Keri’s best contracts list after looking at his worst.

    Heyward not in the top 50, Stanton at no. 16.

    From where I’m sitting, there’s one point in Stanton’s favor: he’s got three years of team control instead of two.

    Heyward, the Braves’ best center fielder, was even worth a win more than old bug-eyed Stanton last season in 12 fewer games.

    Keri spends a lot of time in his writing taking swipes at “old-school” baseball thinkers, but he doesn’t do a great job backing it up. Knowing that Mike Trout is a great baseball player is important, but it’s not ahead of the curve or anything.

  82. Heyward’s contract is okay, but it’s not substantially cheaper — if at all — than the Braves would have done by going year-to-year with Heyward in arbitration. It’s not a “great” contract.

    Its chief utility to the team is that it gives them an extra two years to negotiate a long-term extension with his agent without having to worry about any bad feelings related to arbitration, and without Heyward having to worry about his contract status during the middle of the season.

  83. 100% agree with you, but that’s not what I was talking about. Anyway, Keri wrote the “best contracts” piece before the Braves extended anyone this year.

    I’m just complaining that Keri and other writers have two players in Heyward and Stanton who aren’t too hard to compare because they play the same position and they came up the same year and they are the same age. But they don’t actually follow through and measure them side-by-side.

    It isn’t enough to know about advanced statistics if you don’t put them to any use.

  84. Jesse Biddle and J.P. Crawford are also promising Phillies prospects, to some degree.

    The Phillies may not be going anywhere, but anything that makes non-Nats NL east teams peskier isn’t good. I really don’t want to return to the play-in game.

  85. #111
    In the past 2 seasons (when Burnett was in the NL & the Nats were good), he’s been terrific. Only 3 games, but 1.63 ERA in 22 IP.

    Having watched Burnett a lot during his tenure in The Bronx, it was hard not to be momentarily seduced by his talent, especially when his breaking stuff was working. I saw him one-hit the Mets on a night when Murderer’s Row with aluminum bats would’ve had trouble with him.

    Problem with Burnett was when it wasn’t working, he seemed incapable or unwilling to gut out the game. He was like Jeff Weaver, but with more talent.

  86. @112

    Well let’s us talk about the contracts, then.

    Here’s Stanton’s for this year:

    That’s $6.5 million. Then he’s got two more years of arbitration after that. If he continues playing the way he has, the numbers go up.

    We’ve got Heyward averaging out to $6.65 million/year over the next two years. (I forget the actual break-down of his salary for each year.)

    Heyward has been more productive and (as I demonstrated a few threads ago) healthier than Stanton over their essentially parallel careers. And he’s signed for (barring a disastrous season this year from Stanton) significantly less money over those two years.

    Stanton is the more expensive, less productive, and less healthy player of the two so far, but the Marlins have him under one more year of team control than the Heyward’s contract with the Braves.

    Stanton’s extra year of team control probably gives him an edge in that sort of ranking–but to list his contract at #16 and Heyward’s below #50 is just lazy work on Keri’s part, and he’s not the first writer to claim a statistical perspective while neglecting to really look at the numbers.

  87. Derek Jeter is 6th overall in WAR among SS. He should be a first ballot HOF. Chipper ranks 5th among 3b, Maddux 4th. Kimbrel 80th among relievers.

  88. Eye-popping WAR numbers: if Kimbrel maintained a 2 WAR for each of the next 5 years, he’d be ranked #14 overall, right behind Eck. If he did it over the next 10 years, he’d be the 2nd best reliever of all time. If he continued 2 war per year for 16 total years (from 2014), he’d be #1.

    I think he has a shot at #2…no chance at #1.

  89. WAR isn’t necessarily the best metric for relievers. (Especially FIP-based fWAR, but I prefer RA9-WAR anyway.) That said, I’m not sure there necessarily is one best one. Many people like WPA; WAR includes leverage but WPA is basically just a leverage-measuring stat, which may suit the outsized importance of leverage for the relief role.

    Anyway, Kimbrel is an absolute beast by whatever metric you choose to measure him. Dude’s the best in baseball. I hope we can get him a ring this year.

  90. Free agency is saving the Yankees from returning to late 1960s-levels. It’s shocking how little the Yankees have prepared for their stars to age.

  91. #120
    Gardner & Robertson are good/useful players, but—yup—post-Cano/post-Jeter, they don’t have one remaining homegrown star, unless you wanna count the well-traveled Alfonso Soriano.

  92. The real problem is that their farm system has been unproductive of late — with the exception of Austin Jackson, who turned into a good player elsewhere. A lot of their top prospects of the last few years, like Jesus Montero, and Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, have failed to do anything, and many of their top draft picks, like Andrew Brackman, haven’t even gotten that far.

    It hasn’t been pretty.

    It’s actually been a lot like the Braves’ farm system of the late ’90s and early 2000’s — between Andruw Jones and the Baby Braves, that Braves farm system was pretty unproductive. Fortunately, we got better. I’m sure they will too. But it’s been an awful several years.

  93. It’s great that Phillies are keeping Amaro at his job. He is doing very well keeping that team away from being competitive.

  94. @122. Well let’s not forget Furcal. I think he was better than any of the non-McCann Baby Braves. I think most salient problem was actually in the starting pitching. After Millwood, we traded away the only successful starter (Wainwright) that we developed over the next decade. That’s really the reason I feel like we were so terrible from 2006-2008.

  95. @126 I tend to agree with Alex that the Braves’ farm system was unproductive in late 90s and early 2000s. Yes, we have Furcal, Giles, and Millwood (or you can even count Wainwright and Marquis). However, the system depth was pretty bad at that time if you look through the prospect lists of those years.

  96. The farm of 1998-2003 was explicitly leveraged to bring in mlb talent to keep the streak alive.

  97. Names from 2000-2003 that have or have had at least decent stints in the MLB: Adam Wainwright, Kelly Johnson, Blaine Boyer, Zach Miner, J.P. Howell, Dallas Braden, Delwyn Young, Francoeur, McCann, Morton, Chuck James, Tyler Greene.

    That doesn’t seem that weak to me.

  98. ’96-’99- Garrett Jones, Belisle, Langerhans, Horam, Derosa, Marquis, Freddy Sanchez, Giles.

    Pretty weak…

  99. I’m merely looking at the drafts, not the people who signed. The Braves did draft Freddy Sanchez out of high school but weren’t able sign him. The same goes with the rest of the people I listed.

    Kind of a pointless exercise, I guess…

  100. You have to remove everyone they drafted but didn’t sign. There are always scores of late-round flyers on guys who passed up the offer to go back to college or reenter the draft the following year. A team should only get credit for the players it signs.

    By that measure, the Braves were relatively unproductive during that period.

  101. @134
    Yes, I get that, as I realized it’s irrelevance @133.

    I do agree that the drafts were weak up until the “Baby Braves”. I wasn’t responding to you but merely pointing out the players with relative success during that time. ’96-’99 looks hideous but ’00-’03 looks fairly successful.

  102. @128: I think that it was always the case that the starting job was Uggla’s to lose, in the sense that if all the contenders look about the same in spring training they’ll probably just default to him. The more interesting question is what will happen if Uggla continues to look lost during spring training while La Stella turns some heads.

  103. As I look now, I still think it was a pretty bad decade, but I picked the wrong endpoints and obviously McCann and Wainwright have had sensational careers. The Braves drafted Kevin Millwood and Jermaine Dye in 1993, and Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman in 2007. In between there were a lot of rough patches. Here’s how I’d break it down, just looking at players with at least 5 WAR:

    1994: Nobody.
    1995: Nobody.
    1996: M. Giles, DeRosa, Marquis: A starter with a brief career, a longtime utilityman who became a starter late in his career, and a longtime mid- and back-of-the-rotation starter.
    1997: Nobody.
    1998: Matt Belisle, a middle reliever.
    1999: Nobody.
    2000: Wainwright, K. Johnson, and Adam LaRoche. Wainwright’s a star and while LaRoche and Johnson have been up and down, they’ve been big league starters for a decade.
    2001: Nobody.
    2002: McCann and Francouer. A star and a platoon outfielder who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
    2003: Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. A lefty with a couple of good years and a pretty good starting catcher. (Jonny Venters narrowly missed the cut; he’s at 4.7 rWAR right now.)
    2004: Nobody.
    2005: Yunel Escobar and Tommy Hanson. Yunel’s production and inconsistency are very similar to Kelly Johnson, but he’s had quite a good few seasons. Hanson had two and a half very good seasons and then fell apart.
    2006: Medlen.

    The Braves had a lot of luck elsewhere, getting Julio Franco as an international free agent and Brandon Beachy as an undrafted free agent. They used the draft-and-follow system with great success before it was abolished and used that to secure players in low rounds like Tommy Hanson and Marcus Giles. They got lucky with Medlen, a mid-round pick who blossomed into a sensational starter after the Braves converted him into a starter in the minor leagues.

    Their success with international free agent teenagers shows a similar decade-long gap between a run of quality in the mid-’90s, like Bruce Chen (1993), Odalis Perez (1994), and Rafael Furcal and Wilson Betemit (1996) — and the next run of quality in the mid-2000s, like Neftali Feliz and Luis Avilan and Elvis Andrus (2005), and Julio Teheran (2007). The middle period is more memorable for the busts whom the Braves managed to trade before they lost all value, like Jose Capellan and Andy Marte and Damian Moss, than it is for any successes.

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