A few true things that don’t matter

Hector Olivera is leading the team in hitting. In 50 at-bats over 17 games, he only has one walk, which is bad, but he only has five strikeouts, which isn’t so bad, and 20 hits in 50 at-bats is a .400 average whether or not the games count. Only four of those hits have gone for extra bases, and none for homers, so his ISO is only .080 — a lot less gaudy than the BA — but, again, he’s hitting .400! For the moment, the guy looks good in that jersey.

Ender Inciarte, Ozzie Albies, and Mallex Smith are raking. Among players with more than 10 at-bats, they are two, three, and four in batting average behind Olivera. Of course, batting average — batting average! — is a back-of-the-card stat that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but, again, these guys are hitting the ball hard. Ozzie Albies is 19 years old and almost certainly shorter than his listed 5’9, and he is a stud. Inciarte by himself may have been worth Shelby Miller, to say nothing of Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson — and Dansby’s got nine hits in 30 at-bats, and a little long division tells you that’s a .300 average — and Mallex has basically been the second-best hitter on the team behind Freddie Freeman. And Freddie Freeman! Fredward has hit four homers in 25 spring at-bats, to go along with ten walks. The Braves basically lit their entire major league team on fire over the last two years, with the exception of Freddie and Teheran, and Freddie has responded by demonstrating that he is indeed the guy. We needed to see that, and that’s what we’re seeing.

The pitching — well, Jhoulys Chacin has apparently impressed people, and both Williams have pitched well, and Teheran has been Teheran: alternating commanding innings with Episodes.

None of this means anything! But a whole lot of it is good.

140 thoughts on “A few true things that don’t matter”

  1. I’m tired of the stance that batting average doesn’t mean a whole lot.
    It means a lot of things: you are putting yourself on base, you are moving batters along,
    you are extending the inning, you are putting pressure on the opposing pitcher and defense, you are giving the batters behind you a chance to generate an RBI.
    Give me an entire team that bats .300 even without much power and you’ll have a team that scores a lot of runs. Ask KC

  2. @2 I agree. This was a favorite hobbyhorse of Mac’s and of most statheads. While the SABR gang is right that the value of walks was underappreciated for decades, they wound up going too far in my view in denigrating BA. Putting the ball in play is a good thing. Nobody goes first to third on a walk. No errors occur on a walk. Walks don’t bring a guy home unless the bases are loaded. Etc.

    Somebody from the greybeards who was around for the Wilderness Years– me, Smitty, Stu, ububba, jjschiller, Sansho1 ? — needs to pen an Idiot’s Guide to Cheering for a Truly Bad Team before Opening Day.

    I will note one glimmer of hope. When the Braves were at their absolute nadir, they killed it in ST. Often they “won” the Grapefruit League, then went out and lost 95 or 100 games. So maybe the fact that we are cellardwelling in the GL is a omen that this year may not be THAT awful.

  3. I can remember the Murphy-Horner-Pascual Perez years. Do I qualify?

    (And yes, the Braves always seemed to tantalize us with their ST record, before dropping off a cliff after Rick Mahler shut out the opposition on Opening Day.)

  4. I’d say if you were around since ’75 or so, you qualify. ’85-’90 was probably the worst, but ’75-’79 weren’t no picnic. And having the scars from ’75 on made the late 1980s so much the worse. We’re talking about two solid decades of ineptitude, briefly alleviated by one shining season in 82, with the ol’ bait and switch happening as the old Braves showed up to get swept in 3 by the Cardinals.

    You need to have been there for the Rent-a-Former-Stud years, the 5 pm home starts so Ted can get his movie in, and the Bruce Sutter debacle. You need to have cheered for Biff Pocoroba.

  5. 4—My beard does have a few gray hairs in it, but while I act old and curmudgeonly, I’m really only curmudgeonly. I sort of vaguely knew what was going on in the late ’80s, but 1990 is the first year of which I have detailed memories. Smitty is roughly my age, and IIRC, jjschiller is even a bit younger than we are.

    ububba and sansho would do a great job on what you’re describing, though. They’re really great writers, too.

    Speaking of guys who actually remember the terrible ’80s years: Has anybody seen spike around here lately? I’m in and out, so it’s possible I’ve just missed him, but I don’t recall seeing anything from him recently.

  6. Even if you want to talk about balls in play, there are better, more predictive stats to look at than batting average. It needs to die.

  7. Yep, I wrote this.

    I wouldn’t have quoted batting average if I thought it *truly* irrelevant. The trouble with batting average is that it isn’t that useful in conveying information: it doesn’t do a great job of answering the question of who’s a good hitter, and it isn’t all that predictive. It’s like pitcher wins: if you rank all of the players of all time by most wins, or by highest batting average, the top of the list will be entirely filled by great players, and the bottom of the list will be entirely filled by bad players, but at a given moment in time, there’s really no way of saying whether a guy with 10 wins or a guy with a .280 average is good. It’s meaningless without a great deal of context, and that context on its own is often more meaningful than the batting average itself.

    Obviously, you want guys who get hits, and it’s great that so many of our hitters are hitting well! But searching for meaning in spring training batting average is the very definition of looking for a needle in a haystack. Still, we’ve been stocking our farm with a lot of guys to dream on, and dreams are all that matters in March.

  8. Love of getting on base however you can is not a latter day epiphany. We truly old folks remember Eddie Yost and Gus Triandos, whose batting averages were mediocre at best; but, boy, those guys could draw a base on balls.

    Still, it would be lovely to sport a lineup with a Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and others of their ilk.

  9. Sorry, Stu or anybody else I slandered about their Anno Domini. I guess you just seemed like a get off my lawn type of guy.

  10. As a longtime box score checker, I like batting average, always liked seeing that .300 in the far right column, and there are plenty of cases where I would prefer to have a .330 singles hitter at the plate than a .260-50HR guy who walks. But, AAR pretty well sums up its severe limitations @10.

    A good example of the uselessness of batting average is Rey Sanchez. We once traded for him when he was hitting .300 for KC (2001), and we probably overpaid for him because of the randomness of BABIP. He was a punchless hitter who proceeded to hit .227 for us in a fair amount of playing time. The much more predictive number would be his career OPS+ of 69.

  11. When people start talking about BABIP, my face freezes into a smile, and I slowly back away until I can find the nearest exit. I can’t think of a more useless stat.

  12. lol, I feel the same way about FIP. I think I’m somewhere in the middle of the road. I like OPS a lot more than AVG and think that’s one of the new stats that has added to the greater good.

  13. Their usefulness is in their predictiveness. You wouldn’t use them to describe what has happened, or to enhance your enjoyment of the game on the field.

  14. @4

    Yeah- I’m with Stu here. I remember Horner and Murphy and cheering for them, but the summer of 1990 is when I really was starting to follow the Braves and was old enough to keep up.

    Greenville had come to Chattanooga several times in the late 80’s-early 90’s and I would remember hearing the names Justice, Glavine, Avery, Kelly, Klesko, Jones, Perez, Lopez… Then I would see them on TBS. The last few months of 1990 were neat. 1991 is probably my favorite baseball season ever.

    I really stated paying attention to baseball when I was 7-8. I played little league and my dad let me stay up and watch the 88 World Series. I went to my first MLB game in 1990 Giants at Houston (I’ve always been a closet Astros fan)

    So like many of you, this has been the longest drought of winning baseball I’ve experienced. Maybe we have been spoiled.

  15. I was a kid of the 70’s and 80’s so all I knew was bad baseball. Horner was by far my favorite player. We had some decent pop in the lineups some of those years…but the pitching…oh lord the pitching…

  16. Yes, there’s a big difference between one’s personal enjoyment of perusing a particular stat and the actual utility thereof. Batting average I like. BABIP is more useful.

  17. I wonder what of my knowledge base/habits/sets of assumptions about how to interpret the world will betray me by the time I’m old.

  18. @22, I think that has more to do with how you acquire knowledge and how you deal with cognitive dissonance than how old you are.

  19. I think one way to weather the bad years is to use it as a back drop or distraction from something else. For me, the bad 80’s were something my mom and I could both complain about together. At a time in my life when my mom and I were barely speaking we would still sit down and watch those terrible Braves games and bitch and moan through the whole game. When the game was on, whatever other differences we were dealing with were put on hold so we could both mutually suffer through another Braves loss. It was an unspoken agreement that we would just watch the game and talk baseball. So the Braves losing wasn’t fun but it did provide a way for my mom and I to connect when we didn’t have much else doing that.

  20. @24, there was some dark comedy to last season. My family was visiting when the Uggla meltdown happened with the Nats, and for most of the game, I was saying it was inevitable. Laughing helped the horror. How hilarious was watching Gomes pitch?

    Sometimes, I root for futility records to be set, such as last season when Ciriaco was threatening the walkless streak record.

    It’s also good to be future-focused. I’m pleased with the early success of Chacin (Hasongou?) because I’m optimistic we can flip him for a prospect if he’s unexpectedly good. We also look forward to call ups, and there’s a good chance we’ll see Mallex and Ozzie before the season is over.

  21. I turn 60 on Friday, so the 1966 Braves are still my gods. And the lesson the 1969 Braves gave me was that pitching apparently means something in the playoffs.

    As to batting average: As we know, OPS, the darling of all hitting stats is OBA+SLG. Batting average is the largest component of both of the two parts, unless you’re Barry Bonds. That’s why it’s never stupid to look at it.

  22. I turned 57 today and the 1969 Braves and especially Hank Aaron are why I am a Braves fan today! While living in CA in the 80’s I tried to become an A’s fan because of their proximity but just couldn’t do it. I’d still go to “The Stick” and sit in the miserable fog with 5000 other people to see the Braves when they were in town.

  23. @4, 8 – Yeah, I just turned 32 last week. Was 7 in ’91.

    And speaking of spike, or anyone else here who feels any love for Jamaican ska or early reggae, I celebrated my birthday by opening up for Monty Neysmith of reggae pioneers Symarip. Big experience for me.

  24. @14, worry not! The two guys we traded for Rey Sanchez didn’t come back to haunt us. We gave them Alejandro Machado, a punchless 19-year old in A-ball whom we’d signed three years earlier in Venezuela, and Brad Voyles, a 45th-round pick out of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Voyles pitched 68 1/3 innings with the Royals with a 6.45 ERA, which even in the Steroid Era was terrible, and Machado got a grand total of six plate appearances in the Show.

    Sanchez was always known as a guy with a great glove who could usually hit for a decent empty batting average. The batting average wasn’t there for us, but the glove was, and when Rafael Furcal got injured, I’m sure our pitchers appreciated having a guy like him behind them.

  25. I am past 58 and remember from 1966 forward fairly well.

    The front office had an enviable record of losing trades almost always until 1988 when Bobby Cox got Smoltz (but that was partly luck). Then, for the next 10 years or so, we won every trade and most free agent signings. Wren’s era seemed to still be paying for that. Now, it appears, we are back getting hot hands.

  26. As for how to watch a bad team, I can only relay my own experience — have a Coke and watch Murph until you’re old enough to drink beer and watch Murph. It’s easy to be young and root for a bad team. I have no idea how to do it now, so I pretty much don’t.

  27. Joe Garagiola – Wiki moves fast, it’s up there already.
    Curt Flood, reserve clause vote -‘terrible mistake’, he defended it.
    Game of the Week..my introduction to regular TV ball, a long wait between games
    Jerry Ford fireside chats – had no idea.
    Chewing tobacco -his legacy perhaps, he sure stuck at it.
    Smile – his was memorable.

    Age on this Blog. Individual honors remain a mystery but weight must be given to a claim a few months back that went unchallenged for oldest pairing – coop and i, 150’ish…he doesn’t know mine and i don’t know his but i betcha…with age of course comes wisdom – get over it – and coop came through big time last season with his frequent, peerless game reviews and somehow maintained his sanity in the process. I in turn ‘invented’ the Clerihew which so many of you rush to first thing in the morning – yes, there’s never enough, i know.

    Do we have another pairing that will challenge? An individual entering or already in his ninth decade? Now there’s a wise man.

    Man being the operative word. No women, pace Bethany GO TO HELL MEDLEN. Is our discourse too strident? Surely not.

  28. Last year I was able to watch a bad team with little trouble because of Andrelton Simmons. He’s that special, which is why I felt his trade demonstrated a lack of appreciation for the entirety of his value. This year I’m buoyed by the hope that we see some of the young guys sooner rather than later.

  29. The problem I remember with the Rey Sanchez trade was that Mark DeRosa was playing terrific at SS since taking over for Furcal (below average with the glove though passable but well above average with the bat) and Sanchez was a downgrade from DeRosa.

  30. 36 — Although going back and looking at the stats I underrated Sanchez’s glove and he wasn’t a downgrade. They didn’t have fielding stats available in 2001 the way they do now.

  31. @38

    Where will KJ play? Surely Peterson won’t start over KJ. With how much Peterson has played SS and 3B, I think he’s a super sub.

  32. I could really get behind a platoon of KJ/Beckham at 2B and Garcia getting the bulk of the ABs at 3B with Peterson getting some ABs against righties. You’ve got Bonifacio in there somewhere if he makes the team over Francoeur/Swisher. We have some pretty decent competition going for some of the last roster spots.

    I really enjoyed watching Foltyniewicz pitch yesterday. He most certainly has the stuff to be a really successful pitcher. I’m confident Teheran and Wisler will be decent, so three of Norris/Folty/Banuelos/Perez/Chacin would really help keep this season from being miserable.

  33. My first Braves game was in 1980 as a Little Leaguer – I remember it as Rafael Ramirez’ fourth game in the major leagues. Saw a lot of bad baseball in the 1980s. My most memorable game was the 1984 Braves-Padres brawl-fest. The game was on August 12th of that year – the day after my birthday and I was there with my brother and two high school buddies. We were sitting in the upper deck, first base side. I still loathe Champ Summers (or his memory, at least) to this day.

    Like others, the ’91 season is probably my favorite. How marvelous to experience a winner after so many years of futility. I was not in a position to attend a playoff game in person that year. I did, however drive down from upstate NY in ’92 to attend a Braves-Pirates playoff game in Pittsburgh. To this day, the atmosphere at that game was the most electric of any I’ve ever experienced.

    How to survive the desert of the coming season? Watch the kids develop and look forward to the near future when they bring winning, fresh hope and excitement with them. Perhaps the energy and spirit of ’91 will visit us again.

  34. I don’t think the Braves see KJ as a guy who can play second much anymore. He is likely to split time with Garcia at 3rd and possibly Olivera in left.

  35. News is that Francoeur has been traded for Drake LaRoche. He brings the intangibles that don’t fit anywhere on those newfangled stat sheets.

  36. Unfortunately, the trade was cancelled when it transpired that Drake was underage; the White Sox claimed he was from the Dominican Republic and therefore eligible to be signed. In good news, though, MLB has reversed their previous decision from 1966 and we can now have Tom Seaver.

  37. I heard he rejected the Phillies offer, because a lot of the life lessons in the contract were deferred.

    Plus he couldn’t read a lot of the bigger words in the contract.

  38. Keeping Francoeur would be beyond stupid. That’s why we’re going to do it. The front office thinks this will appease disgruntled fans by bringing back a “fan favorite.” The nostalgia play.

    I’d rather give Murph a uniform. At least he WAS a fan favorite, and production will be roughly the same.

  39. It’s hard for me to get worked up about Jeff Francoeur over Emilio Bonifacio, who is bad. If Bonifacio can’t hit, and Frenchy can, and Frenchy can indeed hack centerfield and start against some lefties, then so be it. Bonifacio’s value is in the ability to play second and short as well, but we’ll have that with Beckham/KJ/Peterson. We’re going to be hurt in CF against lefties, especially if we also carry Bourn, so might as well get someone in there who can OPS .750 against lefties. Plus, if Olivera has any injury issues, I think Francoeur’s the best bet to handle left field over Bonifacio or Bourn. I mean, it’s moving the deck chairs on the Titanic, but still.

  40. Rob Cope’s right; this is a great bar.

    @42 and @54 are neck and neck for post of the day.

    @43, Yeah when folks here weren’t paying much attention he would do that sometimes last year. He had a number of starts where he looked fantastic for 3-4 innings. I like him up on the mound as a starter, and I’m really rooting for him to put it together. He’s not quite there yet, but I believe something’s going to click and we’ll start seeing a lot more like yesterday.

  41. @43, @56 From what I saw last year, Folty has a nice fastball and excellent movement on his curveball, but his control and command of pitches came and went last year. Also, it simply didn’t seem like he had figured out how to get batters out with less than full effort (especially lefties, they hit an astounding .320/.368/.582 against him).

    Folty also looked decently athletic up there – not quite Teheran-level moves, but certainly not a Tommy Hanson-esque stiff. I think at worst he’ll be a flamethrowing bullpen asset – and one way or another, a nice cog in the Braves’ rebuild.

  42. I know I’m looking forward to getaway Sunday lineups like this:

    CF Bourn
    RF Francoeur
    LF KJ
    3B Peterson
    SS Castro
    2B Beckham
    1B Swisher
    C Flowers

  43. @57
    I think his biggest issue is developing an effective third pitch. People would sit on his fastball a lot.

    @58

    But Fredi can plug in Freeman wherever when he needs him. It’s almost better than starting him!

  44. KJ needs to start at 2B over Jace and I really don’t care who we keep out of Frenchy, Bonifacio, and Beckham.

  45. #60 – last game vs the cardinals

    Bourn
    Castro
    Olivera
    Garcia
    Peterson
    Ciriaco
    Cunningham
    Lavarnway
    Wisler

    Oh yeah btw, we won 2-0 and had 11 hits

  46. @62, The Cardinals were even more Sunday than the Braves. They had just clinched either the first game of the double header or the day before, and it was their only day to rest the horses before the playoffs.

  47. Back-to-back spin articles released about how the Braves were going to offer JUpton a 6 year deal and about a three-team trade involving Lucroy.

    I have also been in talks about dating Kate Upton. Let’s just say that it’s being discussed…

  48. Yeah, I hear you, but Lucroy would actually make sense even for the bargain basement Braves. He’s pretty affordable and would be the catcher for Opening Season in Corncobb Stadium.

  49. A lot of teams want Lucroy. Unclear whether the Brewers are actually considering dealing him, though you have to assume they could be persuaded if the price was nice enough. But he’s only team-controlled through 2017. So while I’d be interested in getting him if it didn’t cost a blue chip, he won’t be a member of the next good Braves team. He’s just a guy who could be capable of turning us from a 65-win team to a 70-win team.

  50. Unless we plan on getting lucky with 39-year old catchers every year, we will have to address the catcher position long-term. If we’re going for high-contact, high-OBP, low power profiles (which it seems to be with LF, RF, CF, SS, 2B, and, really, 1B), then we need a masher at catcher or third baseman. Unless everyone is willing to embrace my idea of mirroring the Royals (hey, they did it to us!), then we need to do something.

  51. Trading prospects for a 30-year-old player to make a 65-win team a 70-win team makes no sense. Then again, that was ostensibly our goal in the Olivera trade.

  52. Unless….you wanted to be a 90 win team in 2017 and plan to open the pursestrings wide next winter to get there. Then this guy helps get you there. There’s always the trade and sign. Maybe he falls in love with southern cooking.

    Although that was Dan Uggla…. never mind. Forget I mentioned it.

  53. We’re a 70-win team in 2017 unless they promote everyone that’s good to the bigs this summer and let them work through the learning curve some. I doubt they’ll do that, so I’ve already penciled in 2017 as another year of total suck.

    The free agent class for next year isn’t going to help us.

  54. @76

    You must really think Teheran, Wisler, Jenkins, Newcomb, et al are going to be pretty terrible huh?

  55. Along that vein, this season will really tell us how quickly the rebuild will go.

    It’s not just the growth on the major league roster and the top, top prospects (Swanson, Albies, Newcomb, etc.). We really need to see the development of some of the bottom guys too because some of these players will become trade pieces if we’re not going to build through free agency (which we really shouldn’t). There are some guys that could slide into positions of need (Ruiz at 3B, several guys into key bullpen spots), but we really need to see guys like Fried, Gant, Ellis, Sims, Hursh, Davidson, Dustin Peterson, etc. turn into valuable trade pieces. We obviously can’t use them all even if 75% develop but we need those assets to appreciate or this thing ain’t going to work.

    If you get to the end of the 2016 season and several of these guys have lived up to what our pretty smart (now) front office has made them up to be, then we could really fill some of these holes in the lineup and rotation with All-Stars. Could you pick up a 5-6 WAR player (like Kiermaier, a Rizzo, a Matt Carpenter) for a post-2016 package of Inciarte, Fried, and Gant? Make a deal like that, a lesser deal for a starter, throw some bad money at a FA, Swanson/Albies/Mallex/Blair develop, and you have a cheap nucleus that could win 90+ games in 2017. If not, then why would we collect this much pitching?

  56. I can see lacking optimism for this season, but it’s silly to write off 2017 so readily. The organization does seem prepared to bring up Albies, Swanson and Mallex this season, if they play well in the high minors. Same goes for Blair, Gant, Jenkins, Sims, Newcombe…. The bullpen should be good this year, and likely will be stacked with talent for the next few years. It seems to me that a shutdown bullpen makes even the most mediocre team .500ish in today’s game.

  57. A lot of my hope is premised on the belief that the Braves will want to open the new temple with a competitive team. Simply from a marketing/business standpoint. That certainly didn’t happen in DC, where the Lerners made little effort to improve their team until several years after the move to the new stadium. So my hope could be in vain. I agree that if the plan is to wait for the kids to grow up, then 2017 will also be bleak.

  58. @77, I think that’s pretty much the bottom line. Terrible is too strong, more like “not good enough”.

    Help might be on the way, but not for 2017.

  59. @76
    I think we will see some of these guys up by the end of the year.

    @78

    I agree. This season some of the lottery tickets have to start doing something. While we improved our minor league depth, there was a lot of disappointment in the minor last year. I know there were bus crashes, guys adjusting to a new organization, some guys came on strong late… No one is really talking about the “just okay” performances.

    It’s a put up or shut up year for Ruiz, Davidson, Fried, Sims and a few others.

  60. @81, Look for Davidson and Sims to put up. I don’t feel good about Ruiz, and I don’t know one damn thing about Max Fried. Did he even pitch last year?

  61. Anyone in the BravesJournal Crowhoppers fantasy league that hasn’t renewed, please do so. If you’re not interested in playing this year, send me an email. If you’re interested in signing up, also send me an email: cothrjr at Hotmail dot com

  62. @83
    We at least have 1 opening as Rob Cope is tired of getting destroyed and fired himself from his GM’s position. I wish Frank Wren would’ve done that before he pillaged and burned our farm system.

  63. @82

    Fried hasn’t pitched in like two years.

    Davidson needs to show he can hit for power. He has little value being a corner with only BP pop.

    I think Ruiz may have figured it out. He needs to start strong and work up to AAA.

    Sims has the most to gain/lose this season

  64. Do people like having highly ranked farm systems or winning major league teams more? Wren’s teams won more games than anyone for 4 years but everyone shits on him because of the narrative the new FO has spun. But hey cool, we have SOOOOO much talent now (in single A) and Liberty is saving $40 million on this year’s payroll! Sign me up!

  65. @86

    There is some merit to that thought process. However, Wren didn’t draft well and ran a lot of people off. I think people working for him couldn’t stand him and that is why he gets thrown under the bus some.

    In his defense, he was building things the way the FO wanted. Build a team that could get to October and see what happens. That never worked out. Then he signed BJ Upton and Uggla fell apart.

    At the end of the day, I would have let Wren go too. In fact I don’t think the Braves let enough people go. This organization was growing stale and was never going to get over the hump. In fact, we were looking at a decade long rebuild if we didn’t make some moves.

    That’s not to say we may not be still looking at a long rebuild, because it is very possible. We really need more bats in the system and we have to do a better job at developing them. With the pitching, there is a lot of potential, but no results.

  66. This is what hardcore fans do when the team goes to shit. Everyone in low-A is a stud. All our prospects are better than everyone else’s. Just wait until next year. Or the year after. Or soon-ish.

    I’m still a hardcore fan but I’m old enough to not want to wait until next year for the next 10 years. Blowing the team up guaranteed a very long rebuild. And the architects of the blow-up get a 5 year-plan free-pass. It’s good work if you can get it.

  67. Wren deserves some credit for building the best bullpen in baseball with lots of reclamation projects. He only made one good major acquisition, though, which was Justin Upton. His other trades and signings (Uggla, KK, Lowe, BJ) were expensive dumpster fires that ultimately led to his demise. Extending CJ was just too much. He inherited a good young core and then didn’t continue to develop talent. So yes, he won a lot of games for 4 years, but he set us up for a decade of mediocrity thereafter.

    Sucking but having good prospects isn’t better than winning, but it’s better than sucking and having no prospects.

  68. I would’ve fired Wren too, but I can’t abide the narrative that he was to blame for every bad signing and everything that went wrong, while the guys that were also working in the front office at that time (and are still there today) get a free pass.

  69. @86, 87

    Do we have to choose between the two options? No one can argue that the cupboard was not becoming bare, and that was with, basically, the luck of turning Medlen and Beachy into gold for a while. We also got extremely lucky with Cy Harang for a year. Wren whiffed constantly on FAs and long-term deals: BUpton, Uggla, Kawakami, Lowe, CJohnson. Regardless of the imperative of who told Wren to spend that money on those players, he orchestrated deals and gutted the system. I think JS bears a lot of responsibility in this too.

    The preference would be to have a top-10 farm system, a consistent 90+ win team, and never having more than 15-20% of the payroll tied up in any one player. We were not heading there with Wren, but we are heading there as of now.

    @88

    I would agree that some players can get over-hyped when you’re desperate to find positivity (in my opinion, that’s Swanson all day; guy ain’t that good). But with the overwhelming critical reception of our farm system (Keith Law has us #1, and that ain’t nothing), it’s hard not to get excited about the direction of the system. I’m not so much hoping that any one particular player becomes a star. There are few stars period, and they ain’t all in the Atlanta system. I’m hoping that 10 of our top 30 can become average-to-above-average big league regulars, 7 can be traded along with current major leaguers for above-average-to-elite talent, we’re a 90+ win team next year, and we’re not over-extended in payroll.

    With the amount of parity in baseball, that’s about as much as any team can hope for, regardless of their payroll structure. After all, 2 of the top 8 payroll teams made the playoffs last year, and the top team won 88 games. One team won 100 games, and they were a first-round exit. The field is wide open right now, and all of the big money teams can’t keep from stepping over themselves.

  70. Wren sacrificed his farm for the sake of the 25-man roster (essentially what the Angels are doing now). When that failed in 2014 and the Braves were looking at a mediocre team, the worst, or 2nd worst farm system in the bigs with Heyward and JUp entering walk years, the strategy had run its course and left the MLB and farm bare to the marrow. Not to mention that most of his high draft picks were for fringe, near MLB-ready college pitchers to aid on the 25-man, not rebuild a farm which, in turn, thinned out the farm even more and didn’t necessarily ever produce the wanted outcome.

    Wren had a good run, but it was only an MLB run and a mid-market team just cannot operate like that. Look at what the Rays have done with a payroll that’s in the bottom 5 every year. No, I don’t want to see the Braves become the Rays, selling off every homegrown player when he becomes expensive, but I do like the idea of having a balanced system from Rookie ball to the Bigs. That’s what Hart, Coppy, and company are trying to achieve and it’s pretty noble if you ask me.

    The Braves will be competitive in ’17, I have no doubt. I don’t think they’ll be a division winner, rather they’ll use their surplus pitching to acquire offense and field a team that’s fast, fun, and dang exciting. With an offensive core of Freeman, Swanson, Albies, Olivera, Ender, Markakis, and Mallex, and a pitching core of Teheran, Wisler, Fried, Jenkins, Folty, Newcomb, Gant, Vizzy, and many others, there’s a whole lot to like.

    Throw a bat in there and a top-tier pitcher, and it gets really good.

  71. I don’t see how Wren sacrificed the farm for the 25 man roster other than missing on his draft picks. Overhauling the scouting and development process could have been done without blowing up the major league team. Everyone raves about how proactive and innovative the FO has been in regards of getting prospects back but all they did was just take whatever deal was in front of them for anyone remotely productive and call it progress.

    Sure the farm system looks better but it’s not a top end farm system, it just has more guys in it now. None of the guys we have are on the Corey Seager/Carlos Correa/etc level, Swanson is nice but most projections have him as “above average” as a player not any sort of franchise guy.

    “Blowing the team up guaranteed a very long rebuild. And the architects of the blow-up get a 5 year-plan free-pass. It’s good work if you can get it.”

    I could not agree more with this. The Braves are worth $1.13 billion which is 13th in the league (and three times what Liberty paid for them) yet are being run as though they are the A’s or the Rays and the guys making the decisions can point to the fact that there are all these guys coming up who will turn everything around… next year! For the foreseeable future.

  72. Players like Correa and Seager are generally drafted (or signed internationally) and never traded. Fortunately, you don’t need one to win a world series. Some of our trades have been “meh”, but some have been excellent. In all, we have a good chance at producing a competitive roster from them. We also have a couple of chances at drafting a superstar before we start winning too much to pick top-5.

  73. @89, as a general rule, Wren’s trades were good, his low-dollar free agent signings were good, and his high-dollar contract extensions and free agent deals were bad.

    I made a brief list of things that he did that were very good here:

    • Signed Aaron Harang for $1 million
    • Traded Omar Infante and Mike Dunn for Dan Uggla, who set a career high in homers in his first year as a Brave
    • Signed undrafted free agent Brandon Beachy
    • Selected Eric O’Flaherty off waivers
    • Paid David Ross approximately $6.5 million for four years in which he was the best backup catcher in baseball
    • Drafted Mike Minor, Andrelton Simmons, Evan Gattis, and Alex Wood
    • Traded Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden
    • Traded Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer, Juan Abreu, and Jordan Schafer for Michael Bourn
    • Traded Edgar Renteria for Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez
    • Traded Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson
    • Traded Jose Ascanio for Omar Infante and Will Ohman
    • Traded Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan

  74. @95 The point is we HAD a competitive team, the floor of that team was 2014 and they blew it up for the CHANCE at a competitive team. It’s highly possible all these guys get to the majors and kinda suck, then what?

  75. @97

    Yeah, everyone is quick to remember BJ Upton and Kawakami but Wren knew how to build a competitive team. Scherholtz traded the farm for Teixeria then when it didn’t work out traded him again for Kotchman and is still running the team. I’d argue that’s a lot worse than signing BJ Upton with the only cost being money, but Wren gets raked over the coals for “ruining the farm system” – which started with Scherholtz.

    I’m ok holding Wren responsible for the state of the system/team but he should not be held accountable by John Scherholtz and Bobby Cox. There should be new management.

  76. A 79-win team that was buoyed by the unexpected success of Aaron Harang and the expensive but effective single season of Ervin Santana. The 2015 team needed to spend a lot of money to land 2 pitchers just to get back to the modest level of performance of the previous year. And then, Heyward and Upton walk…then what?

    You are right, this whole thing may blow up and we’ll do it all over again. But the other way we were guaranteed to suck in 2016-2018 and still have to rebuild. This way, we do the rebuild sooner and hope to compete before the decade is out.

    @99, I totally agree JS ran the team into the ground with his trades worse than Wren.

  77. I guess it depends on how much you believe the idea that the Braves do not have money to spend and/or that it would have been impossible to find quality starting pitching in trades or free agency. I happen to believe they could have pursued other options but want to run this thing like a bargain bin so chose not to. It’s really hard to come to another conclusion when their response to having “20-30 million to spend” this offseason was to reduce payroll by $30 million.

  78. Peanut is saying that Manny is out of the running for the 5th spot or long relief spot. Says Gant is a candidate for either right now

  79. @99

    Scherholtz is probably one of the ten greatest GMs in baseball history. It’s really hard to argue with his success.

    In his mind he thought he could sign JD Drew and Tex to long term deals after the trades. It didn’t work out, but both players were great while they were here.

  80. @98
    If they keep that team, with JUp and Heyward, where would they be this year? There’s no chance in hell they could afford either of those guys, they walk, Braves get comp pick. But no, they turned those 2 guys into 7 guys that could be the future of this team. That’s not just taking any deal in front of them.

    Look back over the course of Wren’s trades. As Alex suggests, they were rather good but he leaves out that nearly everyone of the trades depleted the farm to build the MLB roster. Combine that with bad drafts due, in large part, to great scouts choosing to leave the Braves system, and it’s easy to see why Wren was shown the door.

    Make no mistake, I do agree that JS should shoulder part of the blame. At the end of his tenure, he was most definitely trying to go out on top, future be damned.

  81. JS said he always expected Drew to be a 1-year player. Maybe he was lying?

    JS was a great GM. Then the purse strings tightened, and he thought his window was closing, so he made a series of panic trades that devastated the team.

  82. ****ATTENTION FANTASY LEAGUE MEMBERS OF BRAVES JOURNAL CROWHOPPERS****

    We are up to 12 teams and are missing renewals from 2 people: Grief Eephus and NO LONGER A CHAMP.

    I’ll reserve the spot for 2 more days then open it to the masses. If any here are interested in joining the league of which, at best, you’ll finish in 2nd place (hehe), email me at cothrjr at hotmail dot com.

    Thanks…and may God have mercy on your soul.

  83. @104, it’s not that we only wanted to keep Heyward and/or JUpton for the one extra year. Obviously you trade them earlier if you have no hope of signing them. We’re not the Devil Rays though, the money is there to sign good players if the decision makers choose to do so.

    If Swanson and Albies command top dollar in 6 years (highly unlikely, but hey, let’s pretend…) are we going to start over then too?

    The fact that we chose the rebuild path makes me think we’re a lot closer to the Devil Rays than I want to admit.

  84. The decision makers also packaged Upton with Kimbrel diminishing his value with the idea that they HAD to shed Upton’s salary. So, where has that $15MM/year gone? They haven’t spent it on the big league team that’s for sure so why did they have to get rid of it? Why not just keep Upton as a sunk cost if you’re gonna suck for 3-4 years anyway?

    It’s because the decision makers WANT to run the team like the Rays even though they don’t have to by any stretch. This has all been a conscious choice. Maybe they think that the free agent market is inefficient but they should tell the fan base THAT instead of just crying poverty and promising hope at some unspecified point in the future.

  85. I thought they explicitly said that acquiring pitching on the free agent market is very inefficient. I’m not sure they cried poverty, and I don’t think they promised anything.

    @107, the problem is we weren’t any good WITH Upton and Heyward. It’s not like we had a rock star pitching staff and they just let our position talent walk. It’s because our pitching was so thin (mostly due to injuries) that Upton and Heyward became frivolities.

  86. Here’s the quote:

    “We see Max Scherzer getting $210 million on the free-agent market,” Coppolella said. “We believe free-agent pitching is one of the most inefficient uses of money, and we know how volatile pitching is in every sense of the word, so our goal was to load up on a quantity of quality and try to build our organization for long-lasting success. Nobody knows whether all of these pitchers will have major league success, or even if they will stay healthy, but we do know that they offered us the most upside of any other potential acquisitions.”

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/13418053/atlanta-braves-pitching-plan-throwback-past

  87. @109, there’s no denying that we had pitching problems, mostly due to injuries that nobody in the front office can control. I’m not sure the solution to that is to just get rid of all your best position players – players that made the core of the team a year-over-year playoff contender. Frankly, I feel that’s a borderline insane reaction. I would have liked to have tried anything and everything first, before I reach the level of “blow it all up”.

  88. A lot can go wrong in your scenario, too. We might have failed to sign Heyward/Upton because we got outbid or because they wanted to play for a winner. We might have signed them and realized we still sucked, but then be unable to trade them because their contracts were too large to move for anything of significant value. All points in time do not present equal opportunities–you can’t just put off the rebuild for two years and still have the same options available to you.

  89. The 5+ year rebuild is the nuclear option. We went from having a mess of a pitching staff plus real-live-actual good position players…to…a mess of everything.

    I know it’s a contrarian take around these parts, but I still feel like the way to build a good team is to keep your good players and work on replacing the bad ones with better ones.

  90. Yeah, if the Braves think free agency is an inefficient use of money what do they consider an efficient usage of it?

  91. I think in the end I’m just still pissed that they didn’t just eat the BJ/Uggla contract fiasco, and instead covered the losses by cannibalizing other parts of the roster.

  92. @118

    Are Freemand and Teheran employed elsewhere, or are you simply referring to one player?

    CJohnson was the only other extension guy to get dealt, but he wasn’t homegrown. And really, it was the contracts of BUpton, Uggla, and CJohnson that ultimately did Wren in. He may have been permitted to blow the farm or compete in the FA market, but no one can survive three awful contracts.

    I do agree with gaz that the ownership needs to explain why we had to dump BUpton, only to not replace his cash with something else. The only thing I can think of is that instead of putting it into MLB free agency, they’re putting it into the international draft, but I would need someone smarter than me on that to tell me. It could have also been in an overall understanding that if they plan on tanking in 2015 (which they kinda had by that point with the trades of Heyward, Gattis, and JUpton), that they felt they needed to offset revenue issues creating by the lack of attendance. But assuming they plan on dumping big money into the international pool, then we should reserve judgment on the use of those monies.

    @116

    I completely understand that frustration, for real, and that’s the ugly side of business/sports. I’m supposed to pay full price for a ticket for a lousy product because they don’t want to own their baggage with the BJ/Uggla isssues? How is that at all fair to the consumer?

  93. @119

    The much-celebrated Hart extensions were for four players: Freeman, Kimbrel, Simmons, and Teheran. Kimbrel and Simmons are gone. They shopped Teheran heavily this off-season. Freeman was also included in trade talks. Perhaps they only chose to abandon the old “core” and not the wider “core-building strategy”–to use their PR terms–but that remains to be seen.

  94. ****ATTENTION FANTASY LEAGUE MEMBERS OF BRAVES JOURNAL CROWHOPPERS OR ANYONE INTERESTED IN SIGNING UP****

    13 of the 14 managers have signed up to renew their spots in our league. The only slacker is NO LONGER A CHAMP so if you want in, make it snappy.

    With that being said, if there’s anyone out there that’s interested in taking his spot if he’s unavailable, get in touch with me: cothrjr at hotmail dot com.

  95. We’d be so fortunate for O’Flaherty to have enough in the tank to be in the same breath as Grilli and Vizcaino. It’s really unfortunate that we had a pretty decent center fielder in Maybin (.6 WAR but got killed on dWAR: -1.5), at $8M per year (when we didn’t spend it elsewhere), and we sent him and $2.5M and couldn’t get a decent lefty reliever in return.

    That aside, how do we not really like the depth and quality of the bullpen? For probably 2/3 of the year, we’ll have a bullpen of Grilli/Vizcaino/Johnson/O’Flaherty/Torres/Simmons/Withrow. If 3 or 4 of our starters can keep us in the game through 6, we look really good. That bullpen also keeps Banuelos, Perez, Winkler, Weber, and Ramirez out of the Braves MLB plans, so you’ve got a ton of depth. If you roll out of camp with Teheran/Norris/Wisler/Chacin/Folty, then you have Gant in the bullpen in the long-spot. Fantastic.

  96. Shae Simmons is the real deal, but it’ll still be a couple months before we get him going. Vizcaino and Grilli are good enough, and I think the others will be up and down. Looks a lot like a ~20th best bullpen in baseball to me, especially because I think the lower-rung members are going to see a lot of use all season long as we try to get more innings out of our young starters.

  97. We’re at a place right now where I’ll be scanning baseball headlines, see a player’s name, think “Man, he really isn’t any good. I sort of feel bad for him,” and then the Braves promptly acquire him.

  98. Bingo. Braves trade for Tyler Moore. What a nothing trade. Moore can’t make the Nats, and he also can’t make the Braves.

  99. Even when O’Flaherty was down, he held lefties to a miniscule OPS. He likely won’t be a 7th inning reliever like of old, but he should be able to hold down the situational lefty role.

    Moore broke through in an Adonis Garcia type way in 2012, but had 2 years of monster power in the minors to back it up. He’s still hitting in the minors but the success hasn’t carried over. He’s the perfect depth to the organization as he’ll stay in AAA unless Freeman goes on the DL, then he’ll get another shot to find it. I’m much more excited to have Moore than Freiman. With that being said, I wasn’t excited about Freiman at all. Apparently Moore is a high character kind of guy and I’d be willing to bet that’s more the reason this trade happened.

  100. @125

    It would seem to be an organizational strength that we can build bullpens. My theory is that the Braves didn’t intend to destroy their team as much as they did last year, and they thought they McDowell could keep at least a decent bullpen out of all of the garbage. Go back and look at the bullpens over the last several years. Luis Avilan, Ben Sheets, Chad Durbin, Anthony Varvaro, The Lisp, George Sherill, Scott Linebrink, Venters, O’Flaherty, Cory Gearrin, Billy Wagner, and David Carpenter all had their last strong year, to date, with Atlanta. Guys like Sherill and Linebrink had productive, sub-3.50 ERA seasons for us and then retired. We may suck at developing hitters, but if we get actual talent on the roster (not Marksberry, Stults, Cahill, and the rolodex of doom), we usually turn it into a good bullpen.

  101. I believe we had big plans last year at the beginning of the year for Vizcaino, McKirihan, and Simmons. Losing them to start the year combined with the trade of Kimbrel just before opening day put our bullpen into a tailspin from the start of the season. Combine that with losing Grilli and trading Johnson in the 2nd half and it is no wonder our bullpen was so bad. I at least think we’ll go into the season with a better plan and more depth if we have abject failure.

  102. Notwithstanding we gave up nothing to get him, Moore isn’t a major league player and at age 30 is not going to ever be one.He’s Mike Hessman with less power.

  103. See, I think it would be really cool to sign Mike Hessman since we’re in the business of acquiring washed-up vets. Fireworks at Gwinnett every night.

  104. I was watching a random spring game on MLB network a few days ago and saw Casey Kotchman go yard. I bet we could get him.

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