We’re All In First Place

Well, it’s a new year. Pitchers and catchers have reported. The anonymous 2016 Braves are about to begin their wind sprints, and, with apologies to Peanut, I’m sure they’ll attempt to silence their critics. They’re a mortal lock to win 50 games, and if they really bust their humps, they just might win 60 or 70. If you squint, there are a couple of guys who even look like ballplayers: if Jace Peterson could just have that first half of his over an entire season, and Hector Olivera could hit like everyone says he will, and Adonis Garcia keeps hitting like a poor man’s Evan Gattis, and Arodys Vizcaino could stay healthy (and keep from getting busted), well, that’d be something.

I’m not one for false optimism; in the Pascal’s wager of sports, I hate being optimistic and wrong more than being pessimistic and wrong, because at least then I’m only getting gutpunched once. But the Phillies are still awful, the Marlins are still the Marlins, the Mets have an awfully old offense, and the Nationals are a walking injury list being skippered by a man who wasn’t their first choice; I don’t see how the Braves are any good, but none of those bums are the 1998 Yankees, either.

The first Braves game of the year will be against the Orioles on March 1; the first game televised on MLB.tv will be on Friday, March 4; the first one televised on Fox will be on Friday, March 11.

Like lambs to the slaughter, the 2016 Braves are getting ready to take the field. And I still couldn’t be happier that winter is over and spring is here.

52 thoughts on “We’re All In First Place”

  1. In the spirit of Spring Training optimism, I bring you this: by some point in 2017, the Braves could be turning double plays from Dansby to Ozzie to Freddie!

  2. We win the East if these ten things happen:

    1) Teheran becomes an ace
    2) Wisler picked up something from Glavine and becomes a co-ace
    3) Noris and one of Jenkins, Perez, ManBan Weber or Folty can put it together.
    4) Freddie has an MVP type year
    5) Olivera and Garcia can hit
    6) Olivera and Garcia can catch the call
    7) Aybar and Cakes have close to career norm years
    8) Inciarte, Peterson and AJ get on base.
    9) We develop a solid bench and have one guy who can come in late and get some big hits.
    10) The bullpen is as good as we hope

  3. My vote was that I will not review MLB Extra Innings, but now that the season is approaching, I realize I probably will. I live in Texas, and a summer with zero Braves is worse than a summer of zero-Braves, if you know what I mean, yuk, yuk, yuk…

  4. The single-team option on MLB.tv is not such a bad deal: $85 a year, and you get to pick a single team who plays outside your home blackout area. For me, it means that I’d get to watch all 165 – 19 = 146 games that the Braves don’t play the Nationals. (If we played the Orioles, that’d be backed out too, but we don’t play them this year.)

  5. @6, compared to any other sports package at least over here in Europe (Soccer or Golf and/or other sports), MLB.tv really is steal.

  6. It seems silly to invoke Furcal Rule on a 16-year-old, but it still holds. Do not mentally insert Maitan into your future plans until you see an official announcement on July 2. The Braves had the highest bid for King Felix when he was an amateur, too.

  7. The last time I had MLB.tv, which was the 2013 season, it stalled and froze frequently, and the picture was intermittently grainy/blurry. Has it improved since then?

    @11, I am not expecting the Braves to win any bidding war for anyone. The handshake only means there is mutual interaest

  8. I look forward to Chip and Joe overselling this team.

    Chip: You know, a lot of people are picking against the Braves this year. When we were down in Florida you saw something that makes you think the Braves will be very good Joe.

    Joe: Yeah Chip. These guys play the right way. Fredi Gonzalez, in my opinion, is one of the top 2-3 managers in the game. He really has these young guys locked in and just playing the game the right way, just like Bobby did in 1991. Pitchers throwing strikes, guys hitting behind the runners and timely bunts. Look at their last three spring games. They were down 10-0 after three innings, but managed to claw back to 11-3 by the eighth inning. That is five innings where the Braves essentially dominated at a 3-1 clip, for all you stat nerds. Even though the Braves lost all three 22-4, I think you’ll see that fight translate to the regular season.

    Chip: Come on out to the park folks! You can get the Joe Simpson 3 for 1 deal by calling 404-577-9100!

  9. I also look forward to hearing:

    Chip: Well the old saying goes, “if you’re to be behind big, better to get behind big early.”

    Joe: Exactly Chip.

  10. Jon Heyman:

    Mike minor gets 2M in ’16, 4M in ’17 and has 10M mutual option for ’18. Many, many incentives. #royals

  11. This exchange will take place in the August 19, 2016 game vs Washington:

    Chip: Olivera is at the track, leaps…IT’S OFF THE WALL! Three runs are in. Washington takes a 6-2 lead.

    Joe: Olivera just missed. Folks, you have to remember this is his first season in the outfield. Next year he will track the ball down.

    Chip: How may times have we seen it this year? If the Braves make one more play, they are probably in first place instead of 37 games back.

    Joe: This team is getting better and is very close. They play the game the right way.

  12. Jim: These baserunners have to stay on their toes at all-times with Simmons out there. He is hunting for outs.

    Don: Jim, can you unhook your mlb.tv from the replay monitor please?

  13. @11 I have been using mlb.tv ever since they started it. The quality in the last two years has been really good. But yes, a pretty fast connection certainly helps.

  14. I don’t remember having too many issues with MLB.tv last year, and after all the hard talk with myself over the past few months, I will be renewing with the single team package.

  15. My MLB.tv picture was mostly fine last season, but… gotta say, as my interest hit a generational low, I listened a lot more than I watched.

    Heard a funny on the radio the other day. Baseball scribe Jon Heyman was on WFAN, discussing the Mets and the lead-in from the anchor guy was, “So Jon, with the Mets as defending NL champs, the rest of their division will really be gunning for them in ’16, right?”

    Heyman: Well, that’s not saying much. This year, there’s only one other club in the NL East that even appears to be trying.

    Sad, but it did induce a self-loathing chortle.

  16. @ 25..

    sad, sad…but does it suggest something amiss with the structure of the game? Hundreds of divisional games being played this year in front of millions of fans where both teams concerned in one very real sense are going through the motions -winning is no longer all, it’s not even on the horizon.

    Rebuild we/they must, apparently, but you could argue the number of teams doing it and the length of time it will take them takes no account of the fan. Or only in the narrow, token sense of the box office.

    Why get yourselves in this position in the first place? You did it deliberately. There were other approaches open to you. Heyman’s remarks with which we can have no quarrel are mocking. What other industry operates on this basis?

  17. @26 — What were these other approaches? Even if you keep Heyward and Upton and shell out the money to extend them, you’re still down a catcher, half your infield, a center fielder, and most of a starting rotation. Such a team might be technically “trying,” but it’s not winning anything.

    I’m sure Heyman and others made similar comments about the Astros and Cubs in the past. Those teams are well-positioned to compete long-term now precisely because they made no effort to compete at a time when they didn’t have a real chance. To do this right you can’t let yourself be goaded into accelerating the timetable… The players will let us know when it’s time to go for it.

  18. @28…

    to over simplify, when you see the danger ahead you invest, Liberty wise…you do not take the easy way out, lock the till, and look to your front office and coaching staff saying get me out of this in a couple of years…

  19. The Marlins have only a slightly greater chance of winning than do the Braves or Phillies, too. I haven’t seen a projection ticket them for 80 wins yet.

    I’d rather gamble on being great eventually than settle for reliably .500 ball. The worst road to take is the one teams like the Rockies are on, where they refuse to blow it up but they can’t put together the talent to become a real contender either.

  20. @30…

    kinda half agree, so let’s settle for only half the division tanking…still unacceptable to the consumer.

  21. I don’t like all of this Dansby Swanson hype one bit. The Braves trading all of their players and creating a severe lack of marketing components and name recognition is forcing them to hype a player who has played about 24 professional games because he happens to be from the Atlanta area. It’s not fair to him and not fair to the Braves.

  22. @33 I’ll co-sign that one. Also, this endless series of tweets coming out of bravesland of Dansby and Olivera taking hacks in the cages and Grilli proclaiming himself healthy are getting tiresome already. We all agree any news this time of year (short of a Dr. Andrews visit) is meaningless, lets just play some ball already. Expectations are low, that is fine for a year, I can live with that. Just don’t try to pump something that isn’t there yet.

  23. Dansby was the #1 draft pick in all of the MLB last year. The hype is there and it should be with any #1 pick , and has been since such things have been discussed on Internet, .

  24. @36 — The positive fluff stories would be there regardless of whether the Braves were projected to win or not. It’s just part of Spring Training for all thirty teams. I don’t know why you’d get worked up about it.

  25. Some of the fluff stories are kinda nice. I like knowing that Grilli will probably be healthy. That really sets up the bullpen nicely. And call me crazy, but I actually like hearing that Hart and Coppy think we have a pretty good team and going so far as to say they might add more payroll and maybe even be, gasp, be “buyers” at the deadline. It’s the desperation of stories to over-hype Swanson that really gets to me. All the other stories are victimless crimes, but this could cause an issue for Dansby.

    Considering the amount of guaranteed money that Minor and Medlen have gotten post-surgery, why couldn’t Jhoulys Chacin get guaranteed money? I understand the injuries and all, but even Bud Norris got a guaranteed deal. It seems odd that a guy with a 3.77 career ERA isn’t getting more conversation.

  26. @33: The Mayor of Marietta called Swanson a “hometown boy and future hall of famer” in a speech not long after the signing. I remember in 1991 when John Wehner was hyped after his successful call up, with people holding signs proclaiming him to be like the brothers Waner, a hall of famer with a homonymous surname. And we all know how that turned out.

  27. The hype is what it is, and while I don’t like it either, I’d be more upset if I felt like the Braves were actually building their team as though they expect Swanson to whiten teeth and cure cancer singlehandedly.

    We’ll see what happens there. They’re going to have to spend some money at some point. My excitement level hinges on whether they do it somewhat wisely.

  28. The dustbin of history is filled with “can’t miss.” So happy baseball has started, though. And we’ll see what we have soon enough, I imagine. Thanks to all y’all that keep this place humming!

  29. Nothing in life is fair. The guy was the first pick overall, returned to home on a trade that the whole industry talks about, happens to be very marketable on a team desperate for some talking points. What’s not to like? Seems like he has a McCann/Chipper personality rather than being another Frenchy. I think he will be fine.

  30. the Marietta Mayor
    said standing over there
    we have the Great Dansby
    said Chip, Joe, ask him what his plans be.

    said F. Scott Fitzgerald
    there’s no second act in America to herald
    except for the Great Dansby
    who can have as many as he wants said his fans three.

  31. Sickels’ write up on Dansby…got hidden in the Tigers prospect commentaries…

    Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
    Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-0 WT: 190 DOB: February 11, 1994

    Year Team LG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
    2014 Vanderbilt NCAA 72 282 63 94 27 2 3 34 37 49 22 5 .333 .411 .475
    2015 Vanderbilt NCAA 71 281 76 94 24 6 15 64 43 54 16 2 .335 .423 .623
    Hillsboro A- 22 83 19 24 7 3 1 11 14 14 0 0 .289 .394 .482
    1 Mnr League Seas. 22 83 19 24 7 3 1 11 14 14 0 0 .289 .394 .482

    Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson was drafted first-overall by the Diamondbacks last spring. Although his pro debut was successful, he was subsequently traded from Arizona to the Atlanta Braves in the big Shelby Miller deal during the 2015 Winter Meetings. He was born and raised in Georgia and has everything needed to be a home state hero for the Braves. Although generally a line drive hitter with excellent strike zone judgment, he has surprising power and should be good for low double-digit homers along with plenty of doubles and OBP. He wasn’t aggressive on the bases in his pro debut but has enough natural speed to swipe 15-20 bags per year if given the green light. His defense is smooth and polished, with above-average range, excellent reliability, and terrific instincts that make up for merely decent arm strength. His makeup is considered high fidelity first-class. All told, Swanson has no significant weaknesses, numerous strengths both tangible and intangible, and should be ready for a major league regular job by 2017 at the latest. Grade A.

  32. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Atlanta Braves
    Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-5 WT: 240 DOB: June 12, 1993

    Year Team League G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO W L SV ERA
    2013 Hartford NCAA 13 12 72.0 53 39 30 2 37 92 5 4 0 3.75
    2014 Hartford NCAA 14 14 93.1 51 16 13 0 38 106 8 2 0 1.25
    AZL Angels R 2 2 3.0 3 1 1 1 1 3 0 0 0 3.00
    Burlington A 4 4 11.2 13 9 9 1 5 15 0 1 0 6.94
    2015 Burlington A 7 7 34.1 25 9 7 1 19 45 1 0 0 1.83
    Inland Empire A 13 13 65.2 50 22 18 2 33 84 6 1 0 2.47
    Arkansas AA 7 7 36.0 22 12 11 2 24 39 2 2 0 2.75
    2 Minor League Seasons 33 33 150.2 113 53 46 7 82 186 9 4 0 2.75
    2015: Grade B

    The Angels drafted Newcomb from the University of Hartford, first round, 2014. His ’15 season was successful but he was shipped to the Braves as part of the Andrelton Simmons deal in November. Newcomb is a big guy with a big arm, working at 92-96 with his fastball with peaks at 99. The pitch has movement as well as velocity and is one of the most plus (plussy? plussish? plusesque?) heaters around the minor leagues. He also has a plus curveball which is particularly nasty against left-handed batters, but his change-up is still in the developmental stages and his overall sense of command needs more work. Newcomb’s excellent K/IP and H/IP rates confirm the reports of excellent stuff, but his walk rate is quite high and major league hitters will exploit that. He has the ceiling of a number two starter but watch his K/BB ratios closely for a read on how quickly he’ll reach it. Grade A-.

  33. Chris Ellis, RHP, Atlanta Braves
    Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 190 DOB: September 22, 1992

    Year Team League G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO W L SV ERA
    2013 Mississippi NCAA 13 2 21.0 31 17 13 2 11 16 1 2 0 5.57
    2014 Mississippi NCAA 19 18 116.1 111 42 33 7 42 67 10 3 0 2.55
    Orem R 9 2 15.2 17 12 12 2 8 16 0 1 0 6.89
    2015 Inland Empire A 11 11 62.2 53 27 27 6 20 70 4 5 0 3.88
    Arkansas AA 15 15 78.0 77 42 34 9 43 62 7 4 0 3.92
    2 Minor League Seasons 35 28 156.1 147 81 73 17 71 148 11 10 0 4.20
    2015: Grade C+

    The Angels drafted Ellis in the third round in 2014 from the University of Mississippi. He pitched well last year and was traded to the Braves as part of the Andrelton Simmons deal. Ellis doesn’t have the same kind of upside as fellow tradee Sean Newcomb but his talents should not be overlooked. He uses a 90-94 MPH fastball along with a slider and change-up. The fastball is often described as a sinker but he is actually a fly ball pitcher according to the numbers. The change is ahead of the slider according to some sources; the slider is ahead of the change according to others. Both need more consistency and his command wasn’t as sharp in Double-A as it was in High-A. Projection: number four starter or a solid middle reliever. Watch for any sudden improvement in K/BB ratio, which would presage a breakout. Grade C+.

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