Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

I don’t want them forget Ruth; I just want them to remember me. -Hank Aaron

21 Feb

Position Preview: Left Field — Acunapalooza

The Braves had big hopes for left field last year. Matt Kemp, who came over in a 2016 trade filled with the pomp and circumstance of his very own The Player’s Tribune proclaiming his long-standing love for the Braves, hit .280/.336/.519 down the stretch that year. The blemish on his 2017 prospects was that he needed to shed some weight, but those concerns were quelled when he came to camp in in better shape. But the season didn’t turn out how he or the Braves would like as he missed time to injury, gained weight, and finished the season playing 115 games and hitting .276/.318/.463 while playing mostly poor defense.

2018 may not be any better in left field than 2017 was, but it will sure be different. The Braves traded Kemp this past offseason to open the door for mega prospect Ronald Acuna (or Rrrrrrrrronald Acuuuuuuuuuuna, as he’s known in our home). There has been lots written about Acuna, most of it tantalyzing hype, but what should we expect from Acuna? First, don’t expect to see him the full season. They’ll undoubtedly keep him down long enough to avoid Super-2, but he still should make 450+ plate appearances assuming he’s healthy. Second, don’t expect him to win the MVP. Acuna is probably a future centerfielder, and has played centerfield mostly in the minors, so you should expect to see strong defense in left field. Kemp somehow managed to post a -13.9 fWAR last year in only those 115 games, so expect left field defense to be vastly improved from the previous year. Between offense and defense of all positions on the diamond, left field defense will see, by far, the biggest improvement. It won’t turn the Braves into a contender, but our young pitchers benefiting from even more defensive improvement will go a long way.

It’s also no stretch to say that you should see more speed out of that spot in the lineup. Kemp stole no bases, but surprisingly attempted to do so unsuccessfully twice (how bad were those catchers?), and only managed one triple in his 467 PAs. Acuna stole 44 bases at his three stops last year, but he did get caught 20 times as well. So while we should see some stolen bases, we won’t see those lofty stolen base numbers until he improves his reads and success rate. At the end of the day, we should see several instances where Acuna finishes a base ahead of where the incumbent would have. How many additional runs that creates, no one knows.

Offensively, we may not see much difference between Acuna and Kemp in his rookie season. That .276/.318/.463 line Kemp put up last year would be a perfectly acceptance line for Acuna to manage, and it’d be unreasonable to expect much more. But just like with second base, we will undoubtedly see better speed and defense from the replacement, but the offense may be more on par with 2017’s counterpart.

Another improvement we should expect to see is at the backup position. Last year, Danny Santana, Emilio Bonifacio, and Jace Peterson all logged innings in left field, all of which were sub-replacement level in production. Lane Adams was the lone player to produce in the positive in left field, but he only got 122 PAs across all 3 outfield positions. And he accumulated 0.7 fWAR, so if he is able to continue that production and make the roster, the backup position should be improved. Preston Tucker will battle Lane for a backup position, and while Tucker has a better prospect pedigree, he has not been productive since his 2015 rookie season. In 467 career PAs, Tucker has a -0.4 fWAR. Neither option is exciting if an injury were to occur to Acuna, but if you believe Lane’s sample in 2017, he may be the better option going forward. Tucker or Adams will most likely be an improvement over Santana, Bonifacio, and Jace, at least.

But like I said, left field may not better, but it will be very different.

20 Feb

Grassroots Campaign to Retire Andruw’s #25 (by Adam R)

I want to propose that Braves Journal campaign to retire Andruw’s #25.

I don’t need to explain why this is a worthy cause. Just look at the (completely scientific!) poll results on your right. Or Andruw’s phenomenal career with the Braves. Or spend some time watching YouTube highlights. This is a no-brainer if there ever was one, and I know you all don’t need any persuading on that point.

Every campaign needs a clear goal, which tells us who is going to do what by when. Our goal would be for the Braves to commit to taking this action by the end of this baseball season. They would ideally agree to retire his number in 2019.

In order to accomplish our goal, we need a strategy, a theory for why the decision-maker’s interests will come into alignment with ours.

Sometimes in politics, the decision-maker is with you on the issue but the public or key constituencies aren’t, so you need to create some political cover for the decision-maker to do the right thing that she or he wants to do. A lot of times, the decision-maker is not with you, but the public is. I’d argue that this is where the Braves front office is. With no better way to judge the situation right now, we can surmise that the relationship between Andruw and the Braves remains strained, so they inducted him into the Braves HOF but didn’t do the full honors.

Anyhow, my theory is: the Braves are susceptible right now to pressure from fans. The organization has yet to truly deliver on a rebuild that has left core fans antsy and demoralized, there is still plenty of ill will around everything Sun Trust Park-related, and the Coppolella scandal has tarnished the image of the franchise and eroded trust in the Braves’ top leadership.

If we can create an atmosphere where the Braves front office can step and be the hero* that does the right thing for Andruw/Braves fans/baseball in general, I believe they will happily take the bait. This should be a relatively easy ask if we can set it up like there’s a groundswell of public support for Andruw

I also think that signing onto this effort is an exceptionally easy ask to make of Braves fans. Like us, they shouldn’t need persuading. He’s in our HOF, and…it’s Andruw, enough said. If we come up with a few clever ideas to execute the strategy, it’s not hard to see the thing taking off.

19 Feb

Peter Moylan

The Braves inked Peter Moylan to a deal this morning. It’s not known if it’s a minor or major league deal, but if he’s healthy and pitches well in Spring Training, he’ll most likely make the roster or force a trade.

You may remember Moylan from appearing in just about every other game in 2007 and 2009-2010. He appeared in 80, 87, and 85 games respectively, but injuries really took a toll on him, and he appeared in only 57 total games from 2011 to 2015. 22 of those games were when he re-united with Atlanta in 2015. He went to Kansas City where he continued strong work as a ROOGY, pitching in 104 total innings in 129 appearances across the last two seasons. He’s had a strong ERA and exactly a 4.00 FIP in that span, and as long as he’s healthy, his third stint with Atlanta should see him be one of the more effective ROOGY’s we’ve had since… he was last here.

You have to wonder if Snitker will use him correctly. With a 8-man pen, there’s plenty of room for a weapon against righties. The sidearmer has limited righties to a .567 OPS in his career. With that said, he’s never figured out lefties, and they’ve got a .845 OPS against him for his career. The Braves have a lot of options for LOOGY’s, but not many options for the other side, so Moylan could settle in to a spot in the bullpen as long as he’s needed.

He’s a colorful Australian, and you may enjoy his Twitter account if you’re on there.

18 Feb

Position Preview: Second Base — It’s Ozzie Albies’ Time

Last offseason, the Braves sought to fill their second base hole by signing Sean Rodriguez. He was intended to be the primary second baseman with his versatility allowing them to move him around the diamond when Ozzie Albies was ready. After his car accident and subsequent surgery, the Braves pivoted to Brandon Phillips. He was a similar player in the sense that the Braves would have no problem moving him off second to make room for Albies, but his lack of versatility made that more challenging. All told, between logging innings at second and third, Phillips contributed a mere 1.6 fWAR in 499 total PAs. While his .291 batting average stood out in the box score, he has little else to his game. His 3.8% walk rate was absymal, his isolated power was league average, he stole only 10 bases in 18 chances, and he played mediocre defense at best. In fact, Baseball Reference hated his defense so much that they rated his overall preference at 1 WAR, less than league average, largely due to his poor defense.

But Ozzie Albies was a different ballplayer. Ozzie does a little bit of everything. In 244 PAs, his walk rate was more than double that of Phillips’ (8.6% to 3.8%). He contributed some power (.171 ISO), controlled his strike outs (14.8%), stole 8 bases in 9 chances, and his defense was rated highly. In those 244 PAs, he was able to accumulate 1.9 fWAR. Over a full season, that would equate to a 4.6 fWAR season. The projection systems don’t like him to repeat that performance, predicting a sophomore slump by his rookie standards. Steamer has him a 2.1 fWAR, though Baseball Reference likes him a little more.

Regardless, the Braves have their second baseman of the future (assuming Dansby Swanson isn’t going anywhere) in Ozzie Albies. He’s also the first truly elite prospect to make his debut in Atlanta in several years. Perhaps it’s prospect fatigue, perhaps it’s our desire to dwell on the negative (Dansby’s rookie struggles), or our fixation on the transcendent prospect (Ronald Acuna) or our deep pitching prospects, Albies just simply doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves. He has been ranked as high as #11 on Baseball America’s prospect lists, and at his peak, his ceiling is a perennial All-Star. It wouldn’t be beyond the scope to expect a .300/.380/.450 line with strong defense and 30+ stolen bases once Albies hits his peak, though it would be unreasonable to expect that batting line from him this season. With that said, fans should expect the speed and defense to make an immediate impact.

As it sits, you should see Charlie Culberson serve as Albies’ primary backup. Culberson is 28, came over in the Matt Kemp trade, and has only produced a .231/.272/.324 career line in 443 PAs. He did hit one big home run in last year’s World Series, though:

Speaking of that, he did pull off a more impressive performance in the post season compared to his career numbers. In 25 PAs primarily off the bench, he hit .348/.333/.652 with that big home run, 2 doubles, and a triple. He’s probably no better than Jace Peterson, but he has options, and options are good.

15 Feb

Braves Journal Fantasy Baseball League (UPDATED)

UPDATE: As mentioned, Chief Nocahoma is the league commissioner, and he’s created the league with 5 spots remaining:

https://baseball.fantasysports.yahoo.com/b1/8803/invitation?key=42efa6fbdc694aa3&soc_trk=lnk&ikey=b422969f6bb7716e

As also mentioned, Chief would appreciate some input on how you’d like the league to be formatted, so if you feel strongly about something with the league format, include those suggestions in the comments.

ORIGINAL

The Braves Journal Fantasy Baseball League is back and better than ever. Chief Nocahoma is going to be the league commissioner on the Yahoo! platform this year, so stay tuned for league information, draft date, and a more detailed rundown of the league’s format.

More importantly, we need to know who is in. So far, I think I’m reading Edward, Chief, Sean Q, beege, Stu, and myself. So there’s still room for more, but we’ll need to know within the next few days.

Also, for those playing, do you have any preference for the type of leagues, which stats used, specific rules, etc.? No guarantee that it can be implemented, but working the league to the players’ wishes would be great.

Going forward, you should expect the draft to be on a weekend evening, so be flexible, please, for the date that works best for the most players.

Thanks!

12 Feb

A-Town Down: Culture, Vol 2

In Bravesland… Nothing happened. Much argument and debate was had around the nothingness. Sturm followed drang, which fed back into the next round of sturm. Maybe this week they’ll sign Little Eddy Nunez and everybody will be joyous and happy. Or not. Anywho; here’s a link to a Fox Sports bit headlined “Ten storylines that will define Braves’ spring training.” Be warned, it leads with “how healthy is Scott Kazmir.” That’s where we are, folks. “How healthy is Scott Kazmir.” Feel the excitement!

In Falconia… My dudes. My dudettes. You want to know what is more soul-crushingly boring than MLB off-season? NFL off-season. I mean, we’re talking about a process of scouting, drafting and free agency that is so devoid of anything of actual interest the league turned Mel friggin’ Kiper into “something to watch.” Mel. Kiper. Biggest story for the Birds this week came from their former offensive coordinator’s new team out in San Fran. By giving Jimmy Garrapolo $27 million per year, the 49er’s pretty much guaranteed a $30+ mil deal for Matt Ryan. And let’s be honest. The Falcons aren’t going to let Matt Ryan, the second best quarterback in the league at this point, walk. They’re in a win-now window. (Don’t be shocked if they trade for Michael Bennett to pair with Vic Beasley on the d-line next year. Win-now mode.)

Over in Hawkmanistan… Oh god. Please. Don’t make me look at this. The NBA trade deadline came and went. They traded one journeyman mediocrity you’ve never heard (Luke Babbit) for another guy you’ve never heard of (Okaro White), who they will almost certainly waive immediately. Then they took a player who is injured (Sheldon Mac) off of the Wizard’s hands for cash considerations. All of this is moving pieces around for small cash savings and cap space that may one day be used for acquiring actually talented players, assuming they lose enough to draft a quality young core before then. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Although right there at the tale end of a week in which they lost to the Magic and got torched by Kyle Korver and the completely rebuild Cavs, Dewayne Dedmond went off on Detroit and reeled in an unexpected win. Dewayne Dedmond. I’ll wait while you look him up.

Ahhhhh, United. God bless you Arthur Blank. The local footballers-who-play-the-version-that-uses-your-feet kicked off their sophomore campaign with a preseason friendly in Nashville. This was a big deal for Nashville as it’s the first professional soccer match ever for that city. Their new club, Nashville SC (Nashville Soccer Club; soccer clubs are not expansive with their naming conventions, man) will play at least a couple of seasons in the USL. As we learned last week, the USL is sort of the AAA option of professional soccer in America. Nashville intends to graduate up to the MLS level in a couple of years, but for now, they’ll actually compete against United’s second club, Atlanta United 2. The match itself was a sloppy mess on both ends, due to being played on a poorly draining minor league baseball field in the middle of a downpour. It was nice to see the UTD stars line up and play (unexpectedly for more than just a few minutes.) But mostly, it was nice to not see anyone injured in the swamp of a pitch. To their credit, Nashville’s starting 11 held steady against a much more talented lineup from Atlanta in the first half. In the second period, the depth of one of MLS’s most electric (and expensive) roster proved out and ATL walked away with a 3-1 win. Aside from pre-season work, the match mostly showed the potential for a real Nashville SC – United 2 rivalry to develop in the USL this year. Of course, the new guys have a long, long way to go before they would challenge the MLS club in Atlanta regularly, because ATLUTD is one of the most professionally run, well funded, and intelligent front offices in the league. Remember when that happened with the Braves?

Finally, did you know that Atlanta has a professional lacrosse team? Did you know that there was a professional lacrosse league?! Well, there is, and we do. The Georgia Swarm are apparently about to kick off the second half of a split season, starting in February. PROFESSIONAL LACROSSE!

08 Feb

Notable Rule Changes in Baseball

Every year, there is a host of proposed rule changes, some of which happen and some of which don’t. This year, if you’ve been paying attention, there are some minor rule changes like increasing the netting at stadiums, but the biggest rule change is a pitch clock. Since that rule change doesn’t appear likely, Manfred has said that if the average game time doesn’t reduce to 2 hours and 55 minutes, they will implement the pitch clock. The three main objections to this rule change are similar:

-“The game is fine just the way it is.”
-“Why are we catering to mainstream baseball fans that are not as passionate about the game?”
-“The game needs to be played in its original form. Stop changing it!”

There’s some validity to the first two statements. Maybe the game is fine the way it is. Revenues are up, franchise values are up, player salaries are up, and there’s no real analytics that say the game is imminently in trouble. And perhaps it’s true that baseball shouldn’t make rule changes that alienate its loyal base to chase other bases. I disagree with both of those points, but they’re very fair and valid points.

The third one is just not true. This is not the same game as the one originally played. There have been consistent changes to the game of baseball since 1857. For humor, I want to list some of the more interesting rule changes since the beginning of ball, provided to you by Baseball Almanac’s Baseball Rule Change Timeline:

1858 – The baserunner is no longer required to touch each base in order.

Could you imagine how that would play out?

1863 – The pitcher is no longer allowed to take a step during his delivery and he had to pitch with both feet on the ground at the same time.

Jordan Walden would have been a legend in mid-19th century baseball.

1885 – Chest protectors worn by catchers and umpires came into use.

That was probably a good move.

1887 – Five balls became a base on balls.

More than 5 would be a little excessive.

1887 – The batter was awarded first base when hit by a pitch.

No more freebies, pitchers!

1901 – Catchers were compelled to remain continuously under the bat.

No bathroom breaks.

1925 – The minimum home-run distance was set at 250 feet.

I’m actually not sure what this means. The shortest “porch” I can think of was the Polo Grounds, but it had a right-field wall 257 feet from home plate.

1959 – Regulations were set up for minimum boundaries for all new parks, 325-400-325 feet.

It’s hard to cry “keep the integrity of the game” when we still aren’t playing on the same fields, and it took this long just to establish some legitimate parameters for the dimensions of the field.

1971 – All major-league players were ordered to wear protective helmets.

Like increasing the netting, this has to file under “Why Did It Take This Long?” It would seem to be a no-brainer to put protective helmets on the noggins of players, but the game was around for over a hundred years before this went into the book.

To be fair, people who want the game to change as little as possible can easily point to the fact that we haven’t needed to make any significant changes to the game in the last half-century. But to say we are playing the same game as we had from the beginning, well, that’s not true.

05 Feb

A-Town Down, Volume 1

As Rob continues his new editorial direction here at Ye Olde Journalista de la Bravos, I’ve been toying with a sort of semi-regular bit called “A-Town Down.” If we decide to make this a part of New More Moderner Less Web 1.5 Braves Journal, Rob will let you know… – ed

In Braveslandia, Tomahawk Take has a video-link to Freddie Freeman saying all the right things. “I want to be here forever.” “Hopefully I can be here for the rest of my career.” Eh’body loves ’em some Fre-Fre already, and this should solidify those huggy-bear vibes even more. You get the feeling he honestly wants to play out a mirror of Chipper’s career dedicated to one team. Yay Huggy-Bear!

There was also a quick hit bit somewhere out there of Thoppy and Snikt stating the obvious; “we’d like to address the alarming lack of power on this team”, in so many words. But I lost the link. I’m a horrible person. Life is hard. Otherwise it’s just a bit of recycling of the same themes we’ve seen for two years now. The farm is good. Ronald Acuna is very good. One day they may be good in Atlanta. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Falcons talk the week before them not appearing in the Super Bowl consisted mostly of rosterbation. “Scouting reports,” free agent options, and more or less the same type of things Braveslandia have been doing to pass the time between actual games. They’re almost certainly going to bring Matt Bryant’s vampire ass back. (duh) They’d like to extend Ricardo Allen if they can, but not if it eats money they’ll need to drop $30m per year into Matt Ryan’s extension. The sort of off-season stuff that only deep dive fans are really going to keep up with. But by all means, if you want a skeleton of UCF WR Tre’Quan Smith as a potential replacement for Taylor Gabriel as the speed option at third WR, or Twitter pics of Takk McKinley in pre-op before a shoulder surgery, The Falcoholic is your stop this morning…

United is wrapping up a massively busy off-season following their inaugural season. Having traded for USMNT starter Darlington Nagbe out of Portland, they then brought in super-prospect 18-year-old Ezequiel Barco on the largest transfer payment (buying rights to the player from his current team) in MLS history. Then they lost 2017 stalwarts Yamil Asad and Carlos Carmona to various transfers away. UTD couldn’t work out a permanent agreement with Velez Sarsfield, Asad’s South American team, who asking the bank for his rights full time. It’s a loss in the attacking half, and Barco will have big shoes to fill in his vacated starting role.

Carmona was sold (traded away) to Colo Colo, a team in his native Chile. The move came a bit out of the blue, late in the winter transfer window and was made to honor Carmona’s wishes to be near his wife as she goes through a pregnancy with complications. You hate to lose a pivotal controlling midfielder like that, but it’s nice to see people respecting family when they should.

UTD start preseason games this week, a welcome addition to the ATL sporting scene in a calendar trough where the news is mostly about Tom Brady not dying in a fire (go Iggles?!) and the occasional highlight of the Hawks tanking. For the record, it’s really odd following UTD as a franchise, because I’m seriously out of practice with Atlanta sports management teams do really smart things repeatedly. 1995 was a long time ago. Very weird.

Speaking of the local basketballers, in their first tank year the Hawks seem to be better at losing intentionally than the Braves were. At 15-36 they’re locked in a battle for lottery odds position with Orlando, Sacremento and Dallas. They have a few interesting young pieces (John Collins particularly flashes potential), but if you hated the 2015 Braves, you probably want to avoid the 2017-18 Hawks entirely. All they’re playing for is draft position, and a quality product on the floor doesn’t help them there.

Finally, in addition to the hot-ticket MLS squad ITP, UTD announced this winter a development team to play in the USL (think of it as AAA) going forward. Ingeniously named “Atlanta United 2” (the marketing department for this franchise will never be accused of out of the box creativity), they’ll be playing their home matches up in Gwinnett, giving Coolray Field another sporting event option when the G-Braves aren’t in town. UTD 2 will act very much like the G-Braves work with the MLB team, shuttling young players back and forth for development when they’re not needed on the big league team’s roster. Northern OTP’ers might want to take note.

03 Feb

Saturday Links

Braves eyeing ways to boost power in 2018

“With those offseason departures, Atlanta is staring at a power shortage. The Braves ranked 28th in the Majors last year with 165 home runs. Thirty-five percent of that total was provided by players who are no longer with the organization, namely the aforementioned duo and Brandon Phillips, whose 11 homers made him one of the seven Atlanta players with a double-digit total.”

As nice as it is to have a “youth movement” and to be calling up the prized prospects, Braves veterans hit a large portion of our home runs. Ronald Acuna may be able to replace Matt Kemp’s 19 home runs, and Johan Camargo should provide a similar amount of power at 3B. Preston Tucker and Lane Adams should provide more power from the backup outfield spots than Emilio Bonifacio, Danny Santana, and Jace Peterson. Dansby Swanson should also have a power rebound. Remember, he didn’t hit a home run after June 7th, a span of 326 PAs. Crazy.

Braves delay spring training departure from Walt Disney World until 2019

“The move was made to ensure there is enough time to complete their new facility in West Villages in the City of North Port, Sarasota County,” the team and Disney said in a news release. “The Braves will play their final 2019 Spring Training game in the new ballpark. The complex will officially open in April 2019 with the team’s Florida operations moving in at that time.”

The Braves tack on an extra year at Walt Disney. They have a deal in place to go to North Port, which is south of Sarasota. Not a big deal that they’re switching Spring Training sites, in my opinion, but this area of Florida has much more franchises, and new facilities will probably help. Me personally, it takes my trip to their home Spring Training from an hour and 45 minutes down to about an hour. They’ll also play more games against the franchises on the west coast of Florida, which is just fine with this west coaster.

Rosenthal: Mets can’t make a decision; Brewers think Cain is improving; Realmuto for Taylor?; more notes

The Mets are weighing four players for those spots, according to major league sources—free agents Eduardo Nunez, Todd Frazier and Neil Walker, plus a trade candidate, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Harrison.

Club officials see the four as mostly similar—all produced between 2.1 and 3.0 Wins Above Replacement last season, and all project to be between 1.2 and 2.2 this season, according to Fangraphs’ version of the measure.

Some of the competition for the available third basemen is right here in the division. The article, which is behind the paywall of The Athletic (sorry…), drills down on the third base candidates quite well. For the one hole the Braves have, there are certainly plenty of options to fill it.

101 Things to Do at SunTrust Park

Sort of a sales-y article, but if you’re planning to go to STP this year, this list might provide some good inspiration.

If you can see yourself watching a 51 minute YouTube video, this will take you back to better times…

01 Feb

Do You Want To Write For Braves Journal?

We still need to solidify daily recappers for the season, and we’ll hopefully have new and/or old faces doing those, but this has been a long offseason, and while I’ve done my best to be your ship boat captain, I could use some people who have a passion for Braves baseball and a knack for writing to get us through the remainder of the offseason. We would like to keep our posts specific to Braves baseball, so perhaps these topics can provide some inspiration:

  • Past Braves player write-ups (quality or not)
  • Your personal, memorable Braves experiences
  • Positional previews (I plan to do a series on this, but would appreciate some help)
  • Fantasy baseball recommendations
  • Your favorite baseball blog recommendations
  • Almost any other Atlanta Braves topic you can think of

Please e-mail me at bravesjournalrob@gmail.com if you’re interested in writing. Otherwise, consider this an open thread, and thanks for stopping by. Melky is fat.

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