Normal, whatever that is

So, it looks like I’m back to doing recaps full time now. I’m feeling much better, even better than I did before I got sick with pneumonia. Recaps will mostly be of the morning variety and some might be a bit slapdash if I can’t reach my laptop and use the iPad (thanks again) or a borrowed computer.

All thanks to Alex and Stu for filling in so ably during my crisis. They may pinch-hit occasionally going forward, but hopefully not for more than a day or two.

105 thoughts on “Normal, whatever that is”

  1. Nice to have you back, Mac.

    Alex, your point on the last thread is a good one. Teams should be more cautious after Bell and Papelbon.

  2. Mac, I’m so happy you’re feeling back to strength. It was a pleasure to pinch hit.

    My comment from the last thread:

    The odds are extremely good that Kimbrel’s arm will fall off at some point in the next couple of years, as that’s what generally happens to closers. The odds are also good that he’ll come back and pitch effectively afterwards. A reasonable 5-year contract could could account for both of those eventualities. After the Papelbon and Heath Bell contracts, I have to imagine that 5-year closer contracts will be less popular this winter.

  3. Has Venters already had a Tommy John surgery? Everything I’ve heard from Bowman or DOB about his recent troubles sounds like the standard prelude to a visit with Dr. James Andrews.

  4. @6 – I think he did in the minor leagues. I seem to recall Medlen or Beachy saying Venters was a guy, along with Hudson, who’s brain he picked about what to expect.

    And about a contract for Kimbrel, long pitcher contracts are most risky when: A.) your risks are injury, ineffectiveness due to injury, and ineffectiveness due to natural decline, and B) your paying market price (the player has free-agent rights.)

    A first long-term deal is rarely both of those. Kimbrel comes with the risk of injury, and if the injury is a shoulder, the risk of ineffectiveness following injury. He’s young enough that natural decline isn’t much of a risk.

    And being a long-term deal signed to a controlled player (a player who doesn’t have the right to negotiate with other teams) he’s in a position of taking a deal on your terms or shouldering all his risk himself. Thus, all first long-term deals are a matter of the team shouldering the risk that had been the player’s, in exchange for dollars below potential earnings.

    If Kimbrel went through the system year by year, what might he make? .5m, 3m, 6.5m, 10m? (A starter would certainly make more, I don’t know what best-in-baseball relief pitchers have gone through arb, so I don’t know what to compare.) But if those numbers were right, you could conceivably sign him instead for 1m, 3m, 5m, 7m. Pay him 15m guaranteed when he has the chance to make 20m. The wisdom of this is debatable, but, assuming in your long term plans and you intend to pay him all 4 of those seasons provided he stays healthy, I would do it.

  5. Welcome back! Another prayer answered.

    Here’s hoping for the rest of the year:
    No more flus
    No haikus
    No Phil Collins
    No playoffs for Rollins

    and my fondest dream “Chipper Jones, SI’s Sportsman of the Year”.

    Go Braves!

  6. Glad you’re feeling better, Mac.

    I was just wondering the other day how long Kimbrel can be this effective. Closers, with a few exceptions, aren’t exactly a durable lot.

  7. Soria seems like a pretty good test case for Kimbrel. Forgive me if I’m reading any of this wrong, but Soria signed an extension with KC after his 2nd season and the end of this year marks Kimbrel’s 2nd full season. Soria signed for 3 years $8.75 buying out one pre-arb (though I think he’d have been a super two) and the first 2 arb years and then had team options for $6m, $8m and $8.75m. Soria had about the same level of unhittableness as Kimbrel to that stage though Kimbrel has the edge in Ks. I think 3 years $11 mil or so with a couple of $10m options makes sense.

  8. I think Kimbrel is awesome and deserves whatever contract he can get, but if I’m running a kinda-small-market franchise then I’m not going to spend much money on closers…ever. I think our $90 million (or whatever the cap happens to be) is better spent on guys that give you 200 innings or that play every-day positions.

    I’ve always hated the “closer” designation though, so I’m admittedly biased because I think the whole concept is stupid.

  9. Craig Kimbrel is the most unhittable pitcher in the league and is cost controlled for 4 MORE YEARS! Why the hell are people even discussing trading him? Maybe his arbitration will be enormous but it’s still tremendous value for what he is. Comparing him to what other closers get is ridiculous because he’s miles better than anyone right now.

  10. Put it this way… if the Yankees had traded Mariano Rivera in 1999 how would that have gone over? Lots of guys can do a job as a closer and get 30 saves in a year just because they were put there, but very few guys are actual shut down unhittable pitchers. Craig Kimbrel is that guy and deserves whatever he gets, even if it’s not the most optimal place to commit money to.

  11. As awesome as Kimbrel is I think Id rather lock up our position players over him. Long term closer deals dont seem to pay off IMO. But yes, he’s the best closer in baseball and I wouldnt trade him. I sure hope having him brings us a Championship before he prices himself out of Atlanta.

  12. Neyer put Aroldis Chapman on his personal NL Cy Young list, but not Kimbrel.

    Looking at the stats, Kimbrel barely edges Chapman in ERA and ERA+, but Chapman has significantly more innings and an insane strikeout rate (more so than Kimbrel’s.)

  13. Here’s the thing. Kimbrel has a skillset that could be incredibly valuable. For example, if he was trotted out to pitch the first two innings (or face the first six batters or whatever) against a very tough lineup, he might substantially improve the Braves’ chances of winning that game. If he was consistently deployed on the basis of leverage index, he might swing a lot of close games in the Braves’ favor. As he is currently deployed, in accordance with the established closer role, some of his value is being wasted on low leverage appearances in 2- or 3-run games. We need to evaluate his value going forward not just in terms of his talents, but in terms of usage patterns.

    The other issue is that shutdown relievers lose it all the time. It’s the rule that guys with 2 or 3 dominant years become average or below-average all at once. Guys like Wagner are the exception. Kimbrel sure looks like an exception with his strikeout rate, but I don’t trust it to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

  14. What’s the difference between Kimbrel and a league-average closer? Maybe 3 or 4 blown saves? I’m not sure…will look it up later if nobody knows.

    That’s not something to scoff at by any means, but it’s also not enough to warrant paying $15 million per year either. I’d still rather try to field a team that will win a lot of games by 3 or 4 runs – so I’d be paying the Heywards and Freemans first.

  15. Good to hear Mac, I’d trade a 10 game winning streak for that news. Maybe even a 12 game. :)

  16. #17 – Not sure but the stats dont really prove that one is better than the other.

    Kimbrel – 42IP 17H 6ER 11BB 73K 1.29ERA 0.67WHIP .120BAA 316ERA+

    Chapman – 53.2IP 24H 8ER 14BB 100K 1.34ERA 0.71WHIP .129BAA 314ERA+

    Im just thankful that Dusty cant ruin Kimbrel’s arm.

  17. I think the stats do prove that Chapman is better than Kimbrel. 10 more IP is the big one, but also a very slightly higher strikeout percentage and a very slightly lower walk percentage. The only meaningful stat in which Kimbrel leads is HR/9, but he actually has a worse HR/FB ratio.

    Obviously, you’d love to have either, but Chapman is slightly better.

  18. Both Kimbrel and Chapman are 24 years old, and both have pitched parts of three seasons from 2010 to 2012. Chapman was signed to a 6-year contract for $30.25 million in 2010, before he’d thrown a pitch in the major leagues, which will pay him through 2015.

    Kimbrel was paid a total of $1.1 million in 2011 and 2012, and is team-controlled through 2016.

    Here are their career lines.

    W-LSV (total opps)GIPERAFIPWHIPK/9BB/9K/BB
    Chapman10-726 of 331191172.382.061.0014.624.623.17
    Kimbrel8-478 of 87142139 2/31.611.370.9515.473.84.07
  19. Back in the saddle, Mac? Sweet!

    So, now that you’re back, help me figure out how we can get Braun.

  20. I mean, 2011 Craig Kimbrel was pretty clearly better than 2011 Aroldis Chapman, but I don’t think we’re especially likely to see 2011 Chapman again. And with closers, it’s “what have you done for me lately?” because tomorrow, you might be terrible. Current Chapman is better than current Kimbrel. Not by much, but you can’t point to a single meaningful area in which Kimbrel has outperformed Chapman this year.

  21. Anon21, I won’t seriously argue that Kimbrel is better than Chapman. But at worst, Kimbrel is only slightly inferior. Chapman’s untouchably filthy; so is Kimbrel. The Braves are paying Kimbrel basically nothing; the Reds are paying Chapman quite a fair bit more than nothing. If the Braves sewed up Kimbrel right now, they could probably save money on his arb years, even though the near-inevitable likelihood of injury would hedge against the exact amount of money they might save.

    Papelbon is probably a pretty good comparison, and his team-controlled contracts looked like this:

    2006: $335,400
    2007: $425,500
    2008: $775,000
    2009: $6.25M (avoided arbitration)
    2010: $9.35M (avoided arbitration)
    2011: $12M (avoided arbitration)

    Total: $29.1 million over 6 years, which is actually pretty similar to what the Reds gave Chapman. If the Braves could sew up Kimbrel for $15 million for the next five years, that’d be a steal.

  22. One way in which Kimbrel is strictly and obviously superior to Chapman: GB rate. Per fangraphs, Kimbrel gets 54% groundballs, whereas Chapman gets 41%.

  23. Glad you’re feeling so much better, Mac.

    jjschiller pretty much summed up the Kimbrel issue, I think. Trading Kimbrel now is not a serious proposition, for all the usual reasons that pure $$/win calculators ignore.

  24. I mean, you clearly need to prioritize the every-day players and starting pitchers first. That’s why you either go year-to-year with Kimbrel or try to get some deal like Soria’s where you buy out a few years with guaranteed money and then have team options. FWIW, another reason I’m still not wild about losing Vizcaino is that he was the next logical internal option at closer for 2+ years from now. But I guess that’s pretty far away at this point.

  25. @8 – How about Chipper decides to play another year. Now that’s a dream come true.

  26. I think Tommy “sucking” has more to do with that.

    BTW, Im not sure whats worse. Chip’s calls when he’s right or when he’s wrong.

  27. I admit, I got the Prado call wrong from the initial view – that second view showed the great slide he put in to be safe.

  28. Bourn has been in quite the slump for 30 games now. Hope having Johnson/Heyward available to spell him every now again down the stretch can turn that around.

  29. Janish’s discovery of his bat makes the wait for Simmons’ return much more bearable.

  30. You’re probably not going to get *more* calls going your way by looking at the ump that way, Vance. Just saying…

  31. Why is Ryan Howard still playing in the NL? Oh that’s right, the Phillies gave him a massive contract and now they are stuck with him.

  32. 40 — At least from this season on there’s an actual light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a train the first few times though.

    It’s still hard to fathom that contract and that it’s only just starting this season.

  33. Banal things that I’ll say anyway:

    Kris Medlen is great.
    Jason Heyward is great.
    Ben Sheets is amazing. He’s this organization’s best out of nowhere find since Jaret Wright or Julio Franco.
    Beating the Phillies: Priceless.

  34. 49- I think the official diagnosis for the Phils’ outfield is a sprained give-a-damn.

  35. I love the Sheets signing, obviously, but when I look at his line tonight, how can you not smile? This is a man that a few years back struck out 18 in a game versus Atlanta. 7.1 innings and no strikeouts. I’ll take efficiency and winning anyday, but still, a bit unusual for Ben.

    Glad you are back, Mac.

  36. He’s also the king of run-saving catches and scoring from first on singles and doubles.

  37. (To be clear, I know they won last Monday, too. But anyone can win one Monday game; it takes a group of true Monday Winners to win on consecutive Mondays.)

  38. Fredi told DOB he’d consider a 6 man rotation when Hanson comes back.

    What kind of stupid move is that? It’s almost like Gonzalez is afraid to hurt someone’s feelings.

  39. couldn’t catch the game tonight – how did Ben look? Saw he went into the 8th, but also saw he did so without striking anyone out.

  40. Just saw the highlights, lol at Hinske in the dugout mouthing that Heywards homerun was “too high.”

  41. great win, but i really don’t understand why anyone would want to trade Kimbrel. ask most Yankees fans and baseball analysts who was the key to their dynasty in the late 90’s and Rivera is your answer, almost universally.

    if you have a young, shut-down closer, you hold onto that. Braves fans should know how nauseating it is to blow leads and games by the dozens every season.

    i used to wonder how the Braves closers would blow the game… with Kimbrel on the mound, I usually just tune in to see how many strikeouts he’ll rack up with his save.

  42. Well, last weekend I was up in Pennsylvania Dutch Country on vacation – only to find the Phillies were in Atlanta. I get home yesterday to find the Braves are up in Philly.

    Oh well, sweep them again and I will forgive the schedule makers.

  43. Jose Altuve getting it done for the Stros in the 9th…tied the Nats with one out and runners on 2nd and 3rd

  44. Relying on the Marlins and Astros for help is as futile as counting on Scott Proctor to get three outs.

  45. Never count on the Astros. Second and third with one out, winning run on third, in the bottom of the ninth and they blew it. From there, the Nationals’ win was going to happen.

  46. I haven’t seen fielding that horrific since Juan Francisco at Houston the first week of the season.

  47. I’ve never seen a team botch… well, the sport of baseball itself, like they just did on that bunt attempt.

    Just saw it. Holy crap. The three Astros on the infield looked like the Three Stooges. Worst play ever.

  48. The poor Astros have to play Texas and LAA 25+ games next year, right? That’s downright cruel.

  49. St. Louis has by far the best run differential in MLB at +116, but is 6 games back of Cincinnati at +69. That’s lot of blowouts.

  50. Weird game. The Phillies were all hitting the ball (and hard) off of Sheets, but they always found a glove in the OF. Maybe that was frustrating them, because they played the worst defensive game I’d seen in quite a while until I saw the National/DisAstros highlight. That’s the kind of game that makes you hate your team if you’re a Phillies fan. Just frustration all the way around.

    Meanwhile, the Braves kept hitting the ball to the warning track but couldn’t seem to get it out until Heyward CRUSHED one. Right before that, I thought Prado had gotten into one. It looked like his patented “ambush a high fastball” move, but his was just another long flyout. Fun game as a Braves fan.

    Going forward, I remain unsold on Sheets. No Phillies struck out tonight, and when Sheets was in, there weren’t a lot of bats missing balls. Maybe he just didn’t “have it” tonight, but I’m in the mode where I’ll just be grateful for whatever Sheets can give us and try not to expect much.

  51. Sheets threw a lot of curves, and hung a good bit of those. I think his curve must be good enough to where it’s hard to hit even if it doesn’t fool the hitter. I’m not sure this is going to work in big games down the stretch (against teams that are still trying ;-) but it’s kinda hard to complain about a guy that we got for nothing and that has been by far our best pitcher for a month.

  52. Braves are 9-2 in their last 11 and Mac is feeling better.

    All is well in Braves land in my book.

  53. As long as Sheets keeps us in the game that’s all i can really ask for. Obviously his acquisition was a gamble, but you ride the hot hand as long as you can.
    Hopefully the offense wont forget how to score.

  54. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez acknowledged Sunday to AJC columnist Jeff Schultz that he might consider using a six-man rotation when Tommy Hanson returns from the disabled list, given how well Kris Medlen is pitching in his past two starts since returning to the rotation.

    “We can’t consider it until we see where Tommy’s at,” Gonzalez said. “But it makes a lot of sense.”

    No Fredi, thats really an awful idea.

  55. It would be a ballsy thing to do in the middle of a pennant race, that’s for sure. It’s an interesting idea — but he’d have to be willing to use a starter in relief, or else he’s adding 6 innings per time through the rotation to the bullpen.

  56. Still think Gonzalez is afraid to tell someone their out of the rotation, and is hoping for Hanson to suck, or someone to get injured or whatever to save him before he can announce a final decision on the 6-man rotation idea.

  57. 97—It could. Or, it could hurt the Braves, who may well need every start they can get from Tim Hudson, down the stretch.

  58. 99-Keep winning and that will not be a problem. Hudson needs to start first game of any playoff.

  59. Just wait…once JJ “feels good”, maybe Fredi will decide to go with a 7 man rotation, regardless of the level of sucktitude of some of the pitchers in it

  60. I’m sure this has been brought up before, but I’ve never thought about it — the extra wild card team could reinvigorate a close divisional race, because who wants a half of a playoff slot when you can get a whole one? Hmmm….

  61. 99-Keep winning and that will not be a problem

    Keep winning in August, build up a 10.5 game lead and take the foot off the gas in September. It’s perfect.

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