I have no problem with trading pitching prospects for established pitchers. I just don’t think that Kolb is the kind of pitcher the Braves should be giving up top prospects to get. Kolb’s CV:
- Drafted by the Rangers out of college in 1995.
- Made his debut four years later, with a pretty average part-season as a reliever.
- Got hurt, had Tommy John surgery the next season, then tore a muscle in his arm.
- Had a pretty good comeback campaign in 2002, but nothing special, and the Rangers gave up on him.
- The Brewers picked him up and he was excellent in 2003, eventually taking over the closer job.
- Made the All-Star team in 2004, and saved 39 games, but his ERA jumped by a run and he pitched worse as the season went on.
- Traded to the Braves to take John Smoltz’s closer spot.
Kolb throws a hard sinker, supposedly in the mid-90s though that may be exaggerated. (Reitsma and Gryboski do throw the same thing as their fastballs.) Sometimes he throws a slider. His strikeout rate is far too low; he struck out only 21 men in 57 1/3 innings last year. He walked 15, which is pretty good. Against lefties, he walked nine and struck out only six, but he survived against them because they didn’t have any power against him at all, no homers, one triple, one double. He gave up only three homers all year.
The real bad news is that he didn’t pitch well after the break. His first-half ERA was 1.62, and he didn’t allow a run in June. But his second-half ERA was 4.88, 5.25 in August and 6.75 in September. Ten of the fifteen walks were also issued in those months; he may have had an injury, or maybe hitters had learned when to lay off his fastball.
I’m cautiously optimistic that his second half last year was somewhat of a fluke. Having recently made radical changes to his pitching philosophy, I think Leo can have a great impact in helping smooth out his new style.
I’m not concerned about Kolb, just because I think the closer’s role is pretty fungible. He’ll blow a couple saves where the ground balls find holes, but since he doesn’t give up many extra-base hits, most of the time he’ll get it done, and that’s about all you need the closer to do. It’s not ideal, but it’s pretty good for $3 million.
Foxsports (on line) is claiming that the Braves are the most likely team to acquire Aubrey Huff from the Rays this spring. Any real chance of that?
I hope so, and maybe that explains their purchase of used, irregular corner outfielders from the free agent outlet, but I doubt it. Huff’s more interesting as a third baseman, and played there most of the time last year. The last thing that the Braves need is a third baseman. Also the Rays are impossible to deal with, always asking for too much for mediocrities (which is why only stupid organizations like the Mets deal with them) and they’ll ask for the moon for Huff. They’ll start out asking for Davies and either Marte or Francoueur, guaranteed.
I’m with the blogger (was it Sabernomics?) who forecasts that Kolb will not make it through the season as the Braves’ closer. Of course, I hope I’m wrong and Kolb puts up a first-half-of-2004 year all season. I’m thinking the Bravos are gonna have to move away from the Smoltz-one-sure-closer model this season. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Yes, I did predict Kolb won’t stay the closer, but it’s not because I think he’ll pitch poorly. I think his ability to prevent the HR and lack of ability to get strikeouts makes him more suited for middle relief. If it’s a small lead in the ninth inning with men on, I want to see a strikeout pitcher. I see Kolb as being what Kevin Gryboski wants to be. I think he fits better into Alfonseca’s role than Smoltz’s. Plus, I love playing the “who’s the closer going to be this year” game that used to be so popular in Atlanta.
re Kolb: Keep in mind that, before 2004, Kolb has posted decent strikeout numbers, albeit in limited playing time.
Total 2001 – 2003
88.2 IP / 76 K
I read something early last season about Kolb changing his approach, possibly to compensate for a past injury — don’t have time to find it again, but reading led me to believe that his low K totals may have been a function of approach, and not ability.
Oops, make that 20K in 2002, for a total of 74K in 88.2 IP.
I agreed with all my friends that I was not going to try to predict anything of Kolb. I just see too many x-factors: (1) He has an injury history, which negates of the predictive value of some of his past performance (2) His K rate was so low last year it was almost flukey (57 innings really isn’t great of a sample size) (3) different pitchers respond differently when they come under Mazzone (if Kolb wansn’t coming to ATL as a closer, but instead as a middle reliever — but with the same rate stats — would our discussion of him be any different?)
On a completely worthless anecdotal note, last year I blasted the guy who picked up Kolb in my fantasy league and insisted it was a terrible move. Of course I’d never seen him play. And when I finally did see him pitch — for an inning during the All-Star — well, his was the only performance I can recall a year later. I thought he looked really good, and I really felt like putting my foot in my mouth in my fantasy league.
Anyway, it’s a completely useless anecdote, but I’d just like to voice my optimism that Kolb will have a fine year in Atlanta. I’m really a fan of that guy.