Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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

18 Jul

Starting Pitching help?

You hear all sorts of things about what the Braves might do to fortify the rotation. They’re not happy with it, and really shouldn’t be. But getting another Andy Ashby-type pitcher who can pitch six innings of mediocre baseball every fifth day really doesn’t do any good. They have that. They need a good pitcher, a #1 or #2 starter. Thankfully, Schuerholz seems to realize that. However, there isn’t a pitcher on the market right now who’s really that good — an established ace pitcher. It seems more likely that the Braves will go after a younger pitcher — one in his arbitration years — with ace potential and hope he grows into the role.

In recent days, Sidney Ponson of the Orioles has emerged as probably the most frequently rumored trade target. There are different reports on his availability, but the latest word is that he’s likely to stay in Baltimore and sign a long-term extension. That’s fine by me. Ponson’s been hurt a lot in the past, and I’ve heard that his shoulder is a time bomb, and he doesn’t have any history of success in the past. The good: he’s 13th in the AL in ERA, and his peripherals are right in line with that, so he really has pitched that well.

For most of the season, Brad Penny of the Marlins has been a rumored Braves target. Talk about that has cooled down. I think there are two reasons for that: 1) The Marlins are in the wildcard race (but 5 1/2 behind the Phillies), and 2) Penny has been shellacked in several recent outings, with only one quality start in his last five and the dubious distinction of giving up eight runs to the Mets.

Javier Vazquez of the Expos is always mentioned as a trade target for the Braves. Archaeologists now believe that the lost portions of the Rosetta Stone largely consist of speculation about Javier Vazquez coming to Atlanta. Kidding aside, this would be a good time to get Vazquez, while his perceived value is a little lower. He has a middling 3.95 ERA, 22nd in the NL. But his peripherals are great. He’s third — after a couple of guys named Wood and Prior — in strikeouts per nine, and also third in strikeout/walk ratio to Prior and Schmidt. He’s allowed a bunch of homers, but I’m tempted to say that’s in part because of the Puerto Rico games, and he’d likely pitch better — or seem to — with the Braves’ defense behind him than the Expos. If Montreal/San Juan falls out of the race — and they’re on the verge — they’ll likely shop Vazquez, who is either about to enter his last arbitration year or free agency, I’m not sure which.

You also hear rumors of Kris Benson of the Pirates, though I’m not sure why. Taking a flyer on him in the offseason might be one thing, but he has a 5.01 ERA and uniformly terrible numbers all around. He might pitch better than Shane Reynolds, but even that’s not a given, and taking starts from Horacio Ramirez for him would be senseless. Has a girl’s name; Kris is short for Kristin.

Another putative ace I’ve heard whispers about is Joe Kennedy of the Devil Rays, but Kennedy’s stats make Benson’s look like Pedro Martinez’s. I know he’s in the American League and a hitter’s park, but a 6.08 ERA? 35 strikeouts to 23 walks, in 77 innings? Heck, if we wanted that we could put Gryboski in the rotation.

There may be others, but those are the ones I’ve heard rumors about. I open the floor for comments and suggestions.

7 Responses to “Starting Pitching help?”

  1. 1
    Colin Says:

    Vazquez did get hit hard for homers in Puerto Rico, but has sustained about the same amount of damage in Olympic stadium: Vazquez’s home run breakdown for the year:
    Olympic – 10 in 47+ IP
    Hiram B – 5 in 20 IP
    Road – 7 in 58 IP

  2. 2
    Aaron Says:

    I think Ponson is the man to get. As long as he satys healthy he’ll win 20 games this year-with a bad team.

  3. 3
    Mac Thomason Says:

    It’s the shoulder that bothers me. He’s already had a torn labrum, and they can’t really fix that. (Especially since the Orioles had him pitch through it.) Sooner or later, it’s going to give out again.

  4. 4
    Creg Says:

    Not only does Ponson have a questionable shoulder, but he’s fat (almost a photo negative of Ray King) and he’s been thoroughly mediocre before this year. I know he’s hitting what is supposed to be his “prime,” but I just haven’t been all that impressed with him in the past. That said, he’s probably the best guy available.

  5. 5
    david chandler Says:

    Or they could just put Hodges in the rotation, and acquire Weathers from the Mets, who seem willing to get rid of everybody. I think Ponson’s a time bomb and wouldn’t want to give up what it would take to acquire him. I do find it amusing that Estrada is apparently “untouchable”.

  6. 6
    Troy Says:

    Speaking of the Mets, they put Shinjo on waivers. I hate to stray this thread from the pitching acquisitions, but maybe he would be a great Bragg replacement. He is a good center fielder (who has actually thrown a Brave out at the plate this year) and though he hasn’t been a great hitter, he’d likely do better than Bragg.

    I totally think the Braves should try putting Hodges in the rotation. They have the cushion to be able to play around with that fifth starter spot, and why not try to develop.

    I do like it that Estrada is ‘untouchable’ though, i was upset when I saw that he was being bandied as trade bait for a pitcher. I mean, we really should get rid of Javy at the end of the season, given his cost. And Estrada, who was praised by Braves pitchers for his game-calling, has been tearing up the minors. He is hitting .345, i think, and had 3 hits in the all star game. If he can give us four or five cheapish years as a decent hitting, good defensive catcher, I dig it. Bring him on!

  7. 7
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Shinjo wouldn’t be the worst acquisition. And he can really play center, not just “sort of”. I wouldn’t want him to be the primary outfielder off the bench, which goes back to the whole “twelve pitchers” complaint.

    The announcers have talked about Weathers a lot in the recent games. I wonder if they know something. But if the Braves were willing to give Hodges a shot, surely they would have by now.

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