Guest Post: Alex R. Looks at the Pitching Staff

I just needed to sit & look at the entire roster of current options to get a feel.

Definitely in

Rafael Soriano
Tyler Yates
Peter Moylan
Will Ohman
Royce Ring* (assuming we don’t get another lefty like Fuentes)

Battling for the other 2 spots

Manny Acosta
Phil Stockman
Jeff Bennett
Joey Devine
Blaine Boyer
Buddy Carlyle

These would seem to be the 6 favorites for the last 2 spots. My assumption is Acosta has to be a favorite for 1 of those spots, considering the way he pitched for us down the stretch. (2.28 ERA, 1-1, 22 K’s, 14 BB’s, 23.2 IP’s)

The other spot is up for grabs among those other 5 guys, and if Boyer is healthy and out of options I assume he may have the best chance… if he pitches reasonably well in the spring.

I am not sure what Stockman’s status is within the organization but he may have a reasonable shot and has pitched fairly well in the minors. Jeff Bennett, like Acosta, came in and did a good job (2-1, 3.46 ERA, 14 K’s, 3 BB’s, 13 IP’s).

Devine will hopefully get a shot but Bobby seems to hate him. I assume Devine will go back to Richmond to start the season, unless he’s absolutely lights out in the spring.

As for Buddy Carlyle, I am not sure why they haven’t already cut him, but I assume they will now give him a chance to perform in the Spring. I don’t expect him to make the team though.

Starting Rotation

Definitely In

John Smoltz
Tom Glavine
Tim Hudson
Chuck James

Battling for the 5th spot

Jo Jo Reyes
Jair Jurrjens
Jeff Bennett
Buddy Carlyle
Mike Hampton*

Like with relief pitching, if we don’t make a move for another starter, like Bedard (and James could go to Baltimore in a Bedard deal?) then we know who the front 4 ar. Assuming Hampton isn’t healthy (safe assumption — MT) the 5th spot will come down to Reyes vs. Jurrjens probably, which is pretty solid.

I think if we didn’t make another pitching move and just went with the current crop of relievers and starters we have, we should still be the best pitching staff in the NL East.

I would probably say the best overall NL pitching is Arizona and San Diego, but I think we are close with both those teams. The D’Backs did land Dan Haren, but then dealt their closer. The Padres top 3 is as good as the Braves, maybe slightly better because slightly younger, but we still have a better offense than they do. Bringing back Milton Bradley and adding Jim Edmonds doesn’t scare me.

72 thoughts on “Guest Post: Alex R. Looks at the Pitching Staff”

  1. I think if Bennett pitches just as well as Jurrjens or Reyes in Spring Training, or slightly worse, he will get the nod as the 5th starter. This will give Reyes and Jurrjens a little extra time in AAA before the one pitching the best is brought up to replace Bennett.

    Mac,

    I thought Bradley signed with the Rangers.

  2. Hmm I thought Devine was out of options too. Seems like the Braves should trade one or more of those relievers who are battling for the last 2 spots. I’m inclined to think Acosta and Devine are heavy frontrunners for those spots unless Boyer has a great spring in which case they could send Manny to Richmond and let Blaine relieve for Atlanta.

  3. Mahay for two years at $4 million per year?

    Why are we wasting money on Javie (and even Glavine) when we could have had the most effective lefty reliever we’ve seen in years for relative chump change?

  4. As long as Raffy Soriano and Tyler Yates have recovered from their dead-arm and overuse from Bobby, I feel very happy with our bullpen. I don’t think there’s any way Moylan can keep being as good as he was last year, though. He was out of his mind.

    I’m not sure Jo-Jo’s ready for a full time job, but I’d rather see him holding down #5 than Jair. If he can turn into Chuck James lite, he’ll be a great fifth starter. If he’s Kyle Davies/Anthony Lerew, though, I’m not quite sure what we’ll do.

  5. I think the last two bullpen spots will come down to who has options left. I’ve heard differing opinions as to whether Devine has an option left or not. I wouldn’t want to lose Devine, even though Bobby is hesitant to use him.

    Bradley did sign with the Rangers, so he won’t be with San Diego next year.

    By the way, I just visited Chop N Change, and they announced their new writer as Alex. If I remember some of the posts from a few days ago correctly, that’s AAR. Congratulations.

  6. I refuse to allow our coaching discussion to be hijacked by a relevant to this board braves discussion. Get back on point Alex R!

  7. Thank you, guys!

    Also, Alex, yes, to answer your question from last thread, I doubt that we’ll be seeing Carlos Silva and Horacio Ramirez in the World Series next year. They’re now talking about getting Bedard, too, and he’s a bit better than those two, but I’m not sure he can elevate their mountain of suck over the hump.

  8. Ok the last two spots for the pen seems like a crapshoot, and the Braves are hoping that two guys come to camp and pitch lights out to seperate themselves. I also don’t think Ring is a given even if they don’t acquire another lefty.

    $4 million per for a loogy is just crazy money.

    For the rotation, the last thing I saw from Wren basically indicated that Jurjens was in the rotation with Smoltz, Huddy, and Glavine, and that everyone else was fighting for the last spot.

  9. I don’t love that hard-throwing Yates boy, and I’m not sure Royce Ring is a lock. I’d prefer Acosta and Devine or even Blaine Boyer if he’s right over the first two.

  10. as for the new poll, I just dont see how we’ve improved so much this offseason that our #3 guy, for the last two years, is completely bumped out.

    I’m thinking that the Braves just might have the most expensive minor league player (Hampton) in baseball this year.

  11. People laugh about Carlos Silva but innings eaters like him a very valuable these days. If we had him last year we would have made the playoffs and if we had him this year we’d be the favorites in the East.

    The free market obviously doesn’t but the average fan continues to underrate the value of ‘is average and makes all his starts’.

  12. Innings eaters like Carlos Silva are dancing on the edge of an abyss, just waiting to be completely Adam Eaten. (Little pun there.)

    He’s been successful, yeah. He was atrocious in 2006. His K/IP is laughable. And if his walks start going up, his career will be over.

    He’s hanging by a thread.

  13. And if his walks start going up, his career will be over.

    Sure if he suddenly gets worse you’ve got a problem. But he’s been doing his pitch to contact act for a while now and there is no reason he’s going to go off a cliff at age 29.

    Playing in front of a good defense in Seattle in a big ballpark I expect the Mariners to get good value out of this contract. It’s a good deal if you’ve got the cash which we obviously don’t.

  14. You also have to factor in his weight issues, which have led to knee problems, and how that will ultimately affect his stamina. Its not a great signing and goes along way to show just how crappy the pitching market is. I’m glad that Glavine wanted to come back to Atlanta so bad.

  15. there’s a report out there that says our financial obligations right now are at only $83.5 million. Apparently we have some financial flexibility, that’s if, they are truly increasing our payroll. I think we could still afford a pitcher like Silva, if we go in-house on a CF’r.

    tell me if this looks wrong

    http://talkingchop.com/story/2007/12/20/94226/535

  16. Silva’s K rates are atrocious, but it’s not as though they were ever any good, and he’s been pretty good a lot more often than not.

    He’s fairly unique — maybe it’s best to think of him like Wakefield. Erratic because his method doesn’t allow him to adapt, but a decent bet in the long run.

  17. who’s edinson volquez? is he any good? was josh hamilton really that available or is volquez a highly touted prospect? did the braves just not want to mess with hamilton since he’s still a risk?

  18. Devine had options used on him in 2006 and 2007. In 2005. he was called up and put on the DL to the best of my memory, so I am guessing he has one option year left.
    Boyer/Yates are out of options. So they make it. Does Bennett have an option still? Otherwise he makes it as the swingman.

  19. wow the Rangers got him cheap. I am feeling a bit bummed out about that trade. Volquez was a big prospect cpl of years ago ( part of their DVD prospects ), who absolutely fizzled out, lost all control and had to be sent back to A ball.
    He still has no control.

  20. to qualify my “he’s still a risk” comment on hamilton — after last season i mean injury risk as much as his prior off the field issues. personally, i enjoyed cheering for him last year and hope he keeps it up. that doesn’t mean he would have been an excellent candidate for atlanta, because i have no idea what their take on him is. but wouldn’t he have been a cheap risk with high upside?

  21. from ESPN the Reds are getting an extra player

    “Volquez, 24, posted a 14-6 record and struck out 166 batters in 144 2/3 innings in three minor league stops last season.

    The Reds will also receive minor league pitcher Danny Ray Herrera in the deal, the source said. “

  22. Bennett and Boyer are both out of options.

    I have heard nothing on Devine being out of options, and think he has at least one more year available.

    Hampton may raise up and get 200 innings, but I am not counting on it. If he did, that would be wondrous, but … hope is not a plan.

    I am personally quite surprised that Carlyle is still with the club. I know he had some nice innings, but given the competition …

    AAR suggested that Bobby overused Soriano and Yates … do you think the poor IP by pitchers not named Smoltz and Hudson had anything to do with the overuse?

  23. Dammit! I was hoping we’d get Hamilton. I told you he was available.

    Edinson Volquez is basically a post-hype guy at this point. He was part of the Rangers’ once vaunted “DVD” trio of pitching prospects along with John Danks (since traded to ChiSox for Brandon McCarthy) and Thomas Diamond.

    This is a steal for the Rangers. Volqy will get bombed. We have a number of better pitching prospects.

    Shoot!

  24. “Overuse” may be a simplification. In Yates’ case, he was used a lot at times when he wasn’t pitching well. When a pitcher isn’t pitching well, it might just be bad luck, but a lot of the time it’s because he’s hurt or tired; that’s a good way to get a pitcher more hurt.

    Yates pitched most often last year on no days’ rest — 24 times. Second-most was one-days’ rest. 45 of his 75 appearances were on one or no days’ rest. Pitching on no days’ rest, his ERA was 7.36, and he walked 14 men in 18 1/3 innings. In other words, the largest number of his appearances, nearly a third of the total, were in situations where he wasn’t likely to be effective. Someone has to make note of that and stop doing it. This is really basic stuff.

    Soriano, on the other hand, pitched much better on short rest, and the Braves probably need to make sure he gets regular work to stay sharp.

  25. Bowman made it pretty clear that Boyer and Ascosta are locks for the bullpen too. Ascosta because of his pitching and Boyer because he’s out of options and the Braves don’t want to lose him just yet.

    That makes it: Soriano, Moylan, Ohman, Yates, Ascosta and Boyer.

    That leaves one spot open for Ring or Bennett. Or maybe even Brian Fuentes.

  26. To Mac:

    I can always be persuaded by a good statistical analaysis and do not fault your work.

    I still think at some point, that Bobby C. was left with a limited set of arrows to load in his quiver with the objective of bringing down the other guy. The Braves were in a pennant race for a while this year. Who was Bobby supposed to send out there ??

    In far too many games, the #3, #4, or #5 starter didn’t last to the 6th inning (if then). That failure, and pardon me, but I see that as failure, leads to an overworked bullpen.

    Paronto was hurt and ineffective. McBride was erratic. Ledesma was a nightmare. The Aussie Pharmaceutical Salesman came along nicely thank you, but you only have five, six people down there. Maybe Villareal was underused. But it took quite a while for the BP to jell, and some of that was driven by August and September call-ups. When you expand the 25 man roster, a lot of need for a guy like Yates — who doesn’t know what quit is — is reduced.

    Did Bobby mismanage was the issue I was taking umbrage at … I think the problem was less mismanagement, than a poorly constructed — or at least one damaged by injuries — pen.

    I do think that the present group leads one to optimism.

    If the starting five can get to the 7th inning on a regular basis, then, there is less need for a guy late Tyler to pitch on back to back nights. When they consistently bag it in the 5th, the simple numbers demand that someone, and Tyler was elected, step up on consecutive nights.

    I do not disagree with your analysis.

    I was just challenging what caused the analysis to be necessary.

    Peace be with you …

  27. Dan:

    I live in Colorado. I am a Braves fan in Rockie Country.

    I would prefer Brian Fuentes stay where he is … at Coors, not at Turner.

    You don’t want him. Trust me.

    Yes, he can be effective. But when he is horrid, he is horrid, and for an extended period of time, thus Corpas is the closer here, not Brian.

    My take.

    To me — he is a left handed version of Mark Wohlers as Mark was searching for his closer soul in 93 or 94. He might do it, but … I find him problematic. I have watched him more than a few times. I find him very problematic.

    Very …

    In his dreams, Brian Fuentes is Mike Gonzolez. In the reality, he is substantially less.

  28. David O’Brien:

    Yes, I had it confirmed to me that FoxSports.com’s report about the Braves being a late entry into the Haren sweepstakes was correct. The person told me he had only one problem with the story: It said the Braves couldn’t have matched Arizona’s package of six young players it sent to the A’s for Haren.

    The Braves could have matched it, they just weren’t willing to give up such a huge chunk of young talent. They were willing to offer a package that included three prospects who were better overall than the first three in the Arizona package (the Diamondbacks gave up their Nos. 1, 3, 7 and 8 prospects, according to Baseball America rankings, along with two decent 24-year-old lefties.

    The Braves weren’t going to give up more than three prospects to get Haren, though they do love his talent and his affordable contract over the next few years, just like everyone else does.

    http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/braves

  29. Hard to see who the two 24-year-old lefties would be. Dan Smith will be 24 years old this season, but beyond him you’d have to go pretty deep in the farm to find another one.

  30. Mantuan…

    No problem here. I will quibble that Paronto wasn’t pitching badly, that his ERA for the year was 3.57 and going down at the time of his promotion. The Braves soured on him (possibly, according to DOB, for personal reasons) but they got rid of him when he was throwing his best baseball of the season.

    I have to think Fuentes, whatever his limitations, has to be a better option than Ohman. A couple of other points… Fuentes pitched a lot better in Colorado than on the road — 1.72 ERA versus 4.50. And he was terrible in June and July. If he’s a poor hot-weather pitcher, Atlanta is the last place he should pitch.

  31. Oh. I see.

    Also, he gives the list of out-of-options, not guaranteed a spot guys:

    Relievers Royce Ring and Blaine Boyer, catcher/utility man Brayan Pena, and infielder Willie Aybar.

    I have to think that unless Ring is putrid he’ll make it.

  32. Fuentes is one of those dart-throwing little lefties who gets by on pinpoint control and not a whole lot of mustard. I like the guy, and when he lost his closer role (stinking up my fantasy team, I have to say), he was pretty clearly hurt. But he got utterly trounced in the World Series and exposed as something other than a truly elite reliever.

    A nice guy. But something of a Chad Cordero. I’d love to have him if the price was right and the home team soured on him. But not if, as Bob Barker so memorably put it, “The price is wrong, $&#*%!”

  33. I am not looking at Paronto’s numbers as it relates to allowed runners, but it seemed to me like his role was to get people out when runners were on base.

    He had a stretch there where he didn’t do that IMHO.

    If the guy BEHIND Chad gets Chad’s allowed runners out, then, he has a good ERA, but didn’t do what his job was.

    I LOVE stats … sometimes they cloud our judgement.

    I lost faith in Chad before Bobby did …

    He gets $500K from Astros at a time when good, solid RP are getting two comma numbers. I liked him when he was effective at getting ground balls and DPs. I lost my affection for him this year …

    I did not know about “personal” things … DOB is usually spot on … so I accept that …

  34. AAR — I for one know who Fuentes is … I watched him (or listened on KOA/850 Radio)on a long stretch in either June or July where he imploded. You are right on his forte being control. He needs it. I didn’t really mean he was a LH version of Wohlers PHYSICALLY, more as a head case. I would watch the Rox and live in fear everytime they would bring in either Latroy Hawkins — a man who never met a lead he couldn’t reduce to next to nothing and Brian. Scary duo in my book.

    Affeldt, Corpas, and Herges … with LaTroy eventually gaining control of himself … and as you noted … Brian at home, made for a not bad BP, but not one that made you warm and fuzzy …

    At least it didn’t make ME warm and fuzzy …

  35. Frankly, I doubt Bobby Cox is one that looks too much at stats like how many times the guy pitched with no rest, etc. I think, like most managers of his generation, he goes more with instinct. Of course, Mantuan is correct–the starters put him in difficult situations at times but that really is something a manager should factor in. If you know the guy is going to get hammered, what’s the point of putting him in? The Braves are not a particularly stats-oriented franchise it appears and while their method has certainly been successful in the past, I fear that they are falling behind teams that do more statistical analysis. Of course, in fairness, this is more of an impression because I don’t really know what the Braves do in the way of statistical analysis. That’s why, as much as I like Bobby Cox and certainly think he has been a great manager, it might be time to move on. (I am not, however, suggesting that they fire Bobby.) Up here, Joe Gibbs is proving that the game can pass you by.

  36. First, congratulations to AAR – a well deserved job.

    Second, Dix, sorry, Braves talk now (at least until relevant Bowls come into play).

    Third, I should have added to Mac in my pitching preview layout that YES, if we get Brian Fuentes, Ring’s likely in Richmond.

    Also, if Gonzo is healthy by June, that affects things, but I do think Boyer and Acosta should be the favorites if both are effective.

  37. Ring’s likely in Richmond.

    Ring is out-of-options. So if he’s not in the Atlanta Braves’ bullpen at the start of the 2008 regular season, he’s likely gone.

    What was the point of trading Startup for Ring again?

  38. And the WhiteSox get Alexi Ramirez dirt cheap…

    White Sox Sign Alexei Ramirez
    UPDATE, 12-21-07 at 10:57pm: Ramirez gets a mere $4.75MM over the four-year pact. That’s an excellent move right there, in my opinion. Dirt cheap – low risk, decent reward.

    they go on to say that he’ll be there CF’r…just wondering, but where were we on the talks for this guy?

  39. Just wanting to tell you guys thanks for the responses on the Bond/Bourne poll. The question was: who would win in a fight, Jason Bourne or Daniel Craig’s James Bond? The answers were pretty split.

    I do agree with ububba: Connery’s the man.

  40. I live in California 30 minutes from where Brian Fuentes was born which is Merced. My buddy played at Merced JC with him. He said he is a good guy. I wouldn’t mind him on the Braves. Maybe he needs a change of scenery.

  41. the hawks are, quietly, turning into a good team.

    wow…never thought i’d say that.

    and Marvin Williams is gonna be a stud…’cause he is one now.

  42. DOB piece of yesterday says the out of options group includes (so he is leaving out Bennett here, who he has mentioned in the past): Boyer and Ring. On the non-pitcher side (today’s blog about pitching, right?)Pena and Aybar are also out.

    Sigh.

    The options thing clearly has an impact on who stays and who doesn’t. (That is a BFO — Blinding Flash of the Obvious).

    If the Braves had faith in Ring — why did they acquire Ohman? Depth might be the answer. Ring seems to have pretty good numbers between NYM and SDP, so what is the problem with him? I have to think there must be some intangible that makes people who know a little squirrely relying on him to face the left-handed batter du jour.

    In the non-pitching area … can anyone tell me what Brayan Pena has done to keep getting over the hill guys like Javy Lopez an audition at the major league level? To my untotored eye, he seems competent as a #2 catcher. Not the second coming of Bill Dickey or Ernie Lombardi … but then he is a #2 catcher … Javy didn’t last two weeks in AZ with Rox last year .. word was DEFENSE … is Pena THAT bad? Help …

    Hope all have their Christmas shopping all done. I am truly hoplessly behind …

    Peace be with all ….

    Dennis Shaw
    Colorado Springs

  43. Kirk, thanks. That’s very helpful. Kyle S. was trying to walk me through a lot of that, and frankly I really didn’t understand any of it. The section on options was really useful. Now I just need to get a firmer handle on arb-eligibility.

  44. AAR,

    Arb-eligibility is based on Major League Service time. Functionally, about 110 games (on the active roster) or more equals a first season. Every subsequent season (to count as a season) requires basically a full 162. If they are moving down and up on options, then the clock stops while they are down.

    All players are eligible for arbitration after 3 seasons. Then, they have 3 total arb years (to 6) before Major League free agency.

    However, particularly good players are arb eligible for one extra year after two years. I think the system of value is the same one used for Major League free agent compensation picks. The top 17% of two year players become eligible for arbitration one year earlier (and are usually referred to as “super two’s”).

    To illustrate from the Braves, Diaz various “cups of coffee” with KC and TB weren’t enough to count as a year. His last two years with the Braves counted. His peformance made him a “super two”. Therefore, he is arb eligible for salary for next year.

    Francoeur came up mid year the year before. He did not get enough service time for it to count as a year. he did not super two. Therefore, he is at major league minimum or whatever other figure the club offers him for this year.

    McCann’s contract approximated his arb eligible years, assuming that he would “super two”, front loaded it a little, and got the Braves an extra year or two on the back end ( I think one year and one year team option beyond what would have been his free agency date).

  45. why are we wasting our time with javy? i like the guys but his time has passed…maybe bobby likes have the old guys around cuz they laugh at his jokes. pena, aybar and royce seem to be safe for the roster. Brayan was great before he was injured last year, he got strong defense behind the plate and can swing the bat well enough. willie will be the utility guy we’ve needed for the past few years, and he seemed to fill in well at third before the wrist injury and self medicating. royce is gonna be here because we gave up too much for him and we need him at least until either/both hampton or gonzo come back.

    @4
    AAR, does chuck james lite mean we only get one out into the 4th before we have to send in the vulture lite (carlyle)?
    and congrats on the new gig at cnc

  46. Pena’s athletic for a catcher, but doesn’t throw well. He hasn’t hit well in his major league trials, which nine times out of ten will get you a reputation as a good defensive catcher.

  47. Cliff,

    to clarify, you were saying that the top 17% are classified as super twos. as i understand it the top 17% has nothing to do with “performance”, only service time. diaz accumulated service time with his various stops, making him a super two, while francouer was called up mid-year just missing out on super two status. it doesnt have anything to do with diaz performing better than francouer on my understanding which is what is was trying to say.

  48. stu & mac,
    he was solid behind the plate in his brief stint this with the club this spring. yes b-mac was hurt (as formerly known as anonymous would be quick to remind us)and he’s the dude, but pena was far more consistent and not letting every ball roll to the back stop. i think he should be a no brainer for the back up when you look at the other options: sammons and lopez (is corky still with the club or did D.C. pick him up yet ;) ) not to mention, it’s hard to say sammonsy with a straight face…it tried it for a few series when the Mississippi braves were in town-doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. i think this is one of the things i hold against lillibridge too. bridgey…lilli??? they just don’t seem to fit the mold for bobby.
    discuss

  49. Pena hit .212 .212 .303 last season; on May 1 (when he went down) he was hitting .217 .217 .348. He had two of his five first-half hits on April 29, at Colorado.

    Pena is a career .314 .360 .405 hitter in the minor leagues, has hit over .300 four years in a row. I’m pretty sure that he’s a quality backup catcher, and could be average or a little below as a regular. However, he’s not the type of player that the Braves (or most teams) look for in their backup catchers. As I’ve written before, he’d be better suited to an era in which teams carried a third catcher, or to a team that did something radical like keep two utility guys as their backups rather than your standard Todd Pratt type.

  50. I don’t know the extent of Cox’s dissatisfaction with Devine, but I bet Devine is 2008’s Moylan.

  51. Malone,

    Not that I don’t like Devine (I wish he would stay up for a full season in 2008), but what’s your basis for thinking that?

  52. I have heard rumors that Cox isn’t Devine’s biggest fan, and I just think if there’s a guy that will be the “pleasant surprise” of 2008.

    I think he’s got good stuff and maybe his head is finally ready for the big time.

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