Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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

02 Jul

While comments were down, Bamadan

While comments were down, Bamadan and I exchanged some emails. I thought they were worth reposting here, so they follow…

Bamadan: It seems that the ‘blog feature on bravesjournal is down. I had a few comments already typed for the 7/2 posting so what the heck …

1. Giles, if physically and mentally healthy, should be the full time 2B. While I’ve always had a soft spot for players like Lockhart, no one should confuse a few timely hits for a good hitter.

2. I disagree that the Braves can’t go back to an 11 man pitching staff, even with the fragility of Maddux and Glavine. What is wrong with using a reliever for 3 innings once a week? 50-60 appearances with 90-110 IP seems much more valuable to me than the 80 appearances / 80 IP that has become the norm.

3. Not that I’m a supporter of Vinny Castilla – far from it. But for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth among statheads over the corner infield spots, looking at the positions, I think that it is clear that catcher is the club’s biggest weakness. FYI, here is the Braves NL ranking in OPS by position:

C 16th
1B 7th
2B 14th
SS 2nd
3B 11th
LF 7th
CF 3rd
RF 7th

Second can be helped by Giles return. At third Castilla at least provides solid – if overrated – defense, plus with Helms, DeRosa, possibly Jones, Franco the younger and maybe down the stretch uber prospect Betemit there are options at the hot corner. But behind the plate, Javy is an aging, hitless player who was rewarded with a two year deal for grossly more than he’s worth and for whom there is no available relief within the system.

Mac: 1. Giles SHOULD get the 2B job. But I’m not convinced that Bobby will do it.

2. I don’t disagree with you here, either. I’ve stated several times in past years that the Braves could easily have gotten by with ten pitchers, and at times nine. But they’ve been awfully successful with using their relievers as mostly one-inning pitchers, and it’s hard to ask them to change things. It’s not like anyone’s getting a lot of off days at the moment. After the Break, it might be a different story, but right now they aren’t going to change. If Ligtenberg or Spooneybarger starts going ten days without pitching again, that’s a different story.

3. I could say that Javy has been hitting better lately while Castilla has struggled. But the real problem is that you mentioned, that the Braves can’t easily find a replacement. Don’t you wish they’d picked up Bobby Estalella when he was available, or even Doug Mirabelli? Also, Javy’s contract makes him harder to shift or drop.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully YACCS will be up soon. EVENTUALLY, I will be off Blogger and on Moveable Type, where the comments function is built-in.

Bamadan: I agree about Giles. He was being jerked around before the injury (as well as last year) and the team is winning without him. But I’d stick him in the lineup for the next 5 years and live with the occasional slumps figuring that we’d also get a lot of streaks from a hitter with his excellent track record.

12 pitchers means the team had to use Marquis to pinch hit last night and can’t hit for Lopez & Castilla, pinch run for the slower starters, or use defensive replacements for Sheffield & Chipper nearly as often as they should. Perhaps the 8 man staffs of Earl Weaver were too few. 12, though, is at least 1, if not 2, too many. Especially during the post season, when there are extra days off and less worry about tired pitchers, the Braves have completely lacked a quality tactical bench.

I don’t know about Estalella. He’s clearly a better hitter than Blanco and probably at this point Javy as well, but there has to be a BIG backstory for him to have gotten cut by San Fran and NY and Philly. Pure harmful speculation, but could he be the closet homosexual that folks have been referring too? And if so, should that really matter? If not him, players like Greg Zaun or Ramon Castro are always undervalued and should be available.

Mac: I don’t know what the deal was with Estalella. As I’ve said a couple of times, there’s certainly more than one gay baseball player — anywhere from 6 to 70 depending upon what studies you believe. At any rate, would the Giants of all teams have cut him? Have you read the New Historical Abstract? Estalella’s grandfather, also called Bobby, had basically the same problem; he’d hit, but just couldn’t stick in the majors. In his case, that was probably racially motivated, as he was just a bit dark-skinned for the majors at that time… One part of it is that a lot of Estalella’s value is in walks, which traditional baseball men really don’t pay enough attention to.

Bobby has at least gone down to ten pitchers (from eleven) in postseason. Of course, that’s usually to add some catcher who doesn’t hit… Lombard, whatever his problems, would have been a nice player to have on the bench in a tight game in postseason.

Bamadan: Yeah, gotta hate it when all a player can do is hit homers and walk while playing credible defense behind the plate!

For the post season, I would drop down to 9 pitchers. There is no need to use five starters, so the #5 guy becomes the long reliever, available for up 3 IP every third day. That gets the team the 5, 6, & 7th innings — if the starter is blown out before 5 the team might as well give up. Then there are four more pitchers to get through two innings. Even considering strategic use of lefties and righties, that is still plenty.

That leaves room for 16 position players. 8 starters leaves 8 role players. 2 backup catchers, one defensive infielder, one defensive outfielder (both of whom should also be able to run) and four guys who simply can mash. The Yanks have done an excellent job during the last half dozen seasons of assembling a bench sorta like that. The D’backs did fairly well with the concept last year too. But the Braves have done a half-assed job of it, something that combined with Cox’s overmanaging in the postseason, has really hurt.

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