Where Do We Go From Here? 2012.7 Other Starting Pitching Possibilities (by W.C.G.)

Is it time to repurpose the old acronym TINSTAAPP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect)? Maybe what we really mean is There Is No Such Thing As A Pitcher, Period. Consider the 2012 Braves, and what their experience means going in to 2013.

Starting pitching depth was a presumed strength heading into spring training last year. Even after auctioning Derek Lowe off on the Fulton County Courthouse steps, the Braves still went into the 2012 season with seven potential starters and an eighth in the wings:

And that quickly proved to not be nearly enough. Hudson had another standard Tim Hudson season (28 starts, 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), but nothing that happened behind him went as expected. Jurrjens and Hanson both had health issues, were ineffective, and are no longer with the club. Beachy was great for half of the season, but Tommy John surgery got him in June. Minor was at least two different pitchers last year (6.20 ERA from April-June; 2.21 from July-September) and oddly wound up leading the team in innings pitched with just 179.1.

Teheran regressed at Gwinnett and only started one game for Atlanta. Delgado made 18 starts that were almost league-average in the aggregate, which is a perfectly reasonable contribution for a 22-year-old. But he got there by alternating brilliance and dumpster fire in equal measures, which when you think about it is also totally reasonable for a 22-year-old. Medlen went absolutely bananas down the stretch, but wasn’t allowed to start until the end of July due to his own Tommy John recovery.

So seven wasn’t enough; the 2012 Braves still had to hit the thrift shop (lyrics NSFW on that link) for a vintage Ben Sheets to carry them through the summer.

Then, once Sheets had done all he could, a trade for Paul Maholm was necessary. In a mostly-post-PED world where even Tim Lincecum can fall apart and blown UCLs lurk around every corner, maybe there is no such thing as a pitcher, period.

The 2013 Braves stack up similarly:

  • Kris Medlen, Small Sample Size Cy Young Winner and general badass.
  • Tim Hudson, coming off a standard Tim Hudson season.
  • Mike Minor, hopefully of the 2012-second-half variety.
  • Paul Maholm, Professional Fourth Starter.
  • Julio Teheran, still at least five years away from maybe not getting carded when he walks into a bar.
  • Sean Gilmartin, first-round draft pick.
  • J.R. Graham, internet crush.
  • Brandon Beachy, sometime this summer.

That’s a great foundation, but as last year’s experience shows, you never know what more you might need. Internally, the next in line options after Teheran are Gilmartin and Graham, both of whom have shown great promise in the minors but neither of whom has thrown an inning at the MLB level. In the long run, Graham projects higher; for 2013 purposes, Gilmartin may be more ready.

The Braves still have some money to play with, and while I think their standard procedure is to pocket it for now and use it on the trade market as needed in midseason, there are still a few options out there. Kyle Lohse has spent the offseason waiting for one of the popular kids to ask him to the prom, but with the exhibition season about to start, he may have to settle for something less. In any case, all reports are that the Braves aren’t interested. I would not blame you at all if you never wanted to see Kyle Lohse on the mound at Turner Field ever again.

You could make a pretty sweet fantasy baseball team out of the unsigned starting pitchers on the free agent market, if you also had a DeLorean to take you back to 2007. Lowe, Jamie Moyer, Roy Oswalt, Chien-Ming Wang, Randy Wolf, and Carlos Zambrano are still awaiting employment. I have not seen the Braves linked to any of them as of yet, but there they are. Our old friend Javy Vazquez is lurking, Sheets-style, but the Nationals appear to be the most interested team.

The plan appears to be to go with the kids, at least in the beginning of the season. This is a sound choice by the front office; the kids don’t cost anything, and with the bullpen depth this team has, you wouldn’t waste a roster spot on another starter unless you were sure you were demoting Teheran, etc. to AAA. Don’t forget that Cristhian Martinez could totally make a spot start if needed, too.

Of course, we know the Braves like to sign a veteran pitcher around this time of year… and we know they have an occasional fondness for guys who are, can we say, “innings eaters”… and they’ve had this guy around before… could they? Nah. They wouldn’t.

148 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2012.7 Other Starting Pitching Possibilities (by W.C.G.)”

  1. Tremendous stuff, WCG. No doubt we’ll need pitching help from at least one unexpected source at some point this year. No clue how much he has left in the tank, but Javy Vazquez certainly left me wanting more. What a horse he was.

  2. Very good points W.C.G. Anyone who plays fantasy baseball knows that even whoever you think preseason are the 5 best pitchers in the league, there is a very good chance one of them will be a complete bust this season. The problem is that you don’t know which one it will be.

    So, if you can’t be sure of that group, what chance do you have at the team level?

  3. PaulV, you beat me to it. I think he’s more than adequate to be a fifth starter for a stretch.

    And while Maholm is indeed a professional fourth starter, he’s a lefty professional fourth starter.

    And (baseball trend here) our bullpen is deep and badass.

  4. @3: Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a league-average fifth starter. (Maybe a pace to tally 1.5 WAR in 200 innings? I think that’s right.) But the team very definitively does not seem to see him as a potential starter, and obviously they may know things about him that we do not.

  5. Do you really think Gilmartin is ahead of Graham? I also think the LISP could provide some good innings in the. 5th starter role.

  6. @7, They even have one for Juan Francisco.

    Please tell me they fixed the grass at Turner Field so that the outside doesn’t have a different pattern than the inside during this season. That was pretty irritating, especially given that it should be one of the 50 or so best playing surfaces in the world.

    It was a question on a Fangraphs chat recently: If Gary Sheffield hadn’t used steroids (never confirmed, but on Mitchell report), is his career worthy of the Hall of Fame?

  7. Watching that 8 minute clip made me realize that Uggla ranges well to his left but very poorly to his right (had only one highlight all year going to his right).

    I hated both moves prior to Spring last year and I want the Braves see what the young bucks they have left can do before going out on the FA market. Give Teheran a shot for at least half a season. He deserves it.

  8. Teheran doesn’t deserve it after his struggles last year. He should just be lucky that Hanson and Jurrjens pitched themselves out of Atlanta last season. He better step up or he will be back in Gwinnett when Beachy is ready to return.

  9. I think Teheran needs to be given a real shot. He won’t learn how to pitch in the majors if he’s on the shuttle every time he struggles. He didn’t get a rhythm in 2011, because he only made a few spot starts, and so he must have been incredibly nervous each time. And he didn’t get a rhythm in 2012, because he only made one start, and he lost his confidence.

    Mike Minor turned it around because the Braves stuck with him and kept running him out there, letting him figure out how to pitch to major league batters. Julio won’t learn that in the minor leagues. It’s time for him to learn it in the majors. If the Braves can’t trust him with a job, then they need to trade him. Look at what the Phillies did with Domonic Brown. When you’re unwilling to play a prospect, their value quickly craters.

  10. @12 that’s wishful thinking. As the post
    Mentioned, someone will likely be hurt or ineffective by the time BB returns in midsummer.

  11. I don’t think Maholm gets the credit he deserves for last year. Wren made a great move acquiring him.
    I am also a big fan of Javy Vazquez. I’d like to see him back in a Braves uniform.

  12. I think we are good on pitching. I think its now or never with Teheran. or what Alex said in #13.

    I don’t think that Beachy automatically displaces someone. Hopefully the starting 5 is going so well that he’ll have to prove he is better than what we have.

  13. Tehran needs a shot. If we don’t thnk he can cut it, we should trade him now while he has some value.

  14. I love that Macklemore song. Unfortunately the rest of the album is overly-serious and lifeless, which was a huge surprise considering that fun music video.

  15. @8, I’ve never seen either of them pitch so I’m really more of an aggregator of internet experts on that point. But that’s what they seem to think, and it makes sense in terms of where they’ve been promoted so far.

    @19, that’s disappointing. It’s up for $1.99 on Amazon today and I was kind of considering taking a flyer on that.

    @22, foolish pride…

  16. 20- The walks are no one’s fault but his own, but it sounded like Minor otherwise got unlucky. Uggla should have snagged Harper’s double, but fell down and Freeman turned another ball into an infield hit.

  17. @24 It’s just ST, I’m not worried about Minor and I’m very optimistic that he has a great year this year. But I do love picking on him.

  18. Board –

    If you were at the Braves-Cardinals wild-card game and you have interesting stories to tell, I’d like to email-interview you about it for a while, for a piece that should go up just before Opening Day. I’m especially interested if you

    – threw beer bottles onto the field
    – got beer thrown on you
    – were sitting within earshot/beershot of Sam Holbrooke
    – witnessed any type of physical altercation
    – have pictures (of anything)

    But I’m totally open to any other random stories from various sections of Turner Field, too. The more the merrier. If you’re game, hit me at the brand-new burner gmail account I created for this project, BravesJWildCard@gmail.com.

    I should note that all participants will be ID’d by board handle only, so no worries about disclosing your transgressions that day…

  19. @28: I wish I was there to throw stuff on the field after that bullsh** infield fly rule decision. Does that count?

  20. If you call to cancel MLB.TV, is it like Sirius or FreeCreditReport.com where they’ll knock the monthly price in half?

    BTW, if you haven’t done that with Sirius or FCR.com, then you’re wasting your money.

  21. 40, Hmm… didn’t know that. I’ve only been up to date on my credit score through learning them from housing/rent applications. Should probably check this stuff more. Thanks.

  22. I’m in the process of applying for a franchise, so my credit report is pretty valuable to me right now. However, if I can pay $7 for something and not $14, then I’m going to do it. The same thing with Sirius; you expect me to pay $13/month for (for me, anyway) national ESPN Radio?! I don’t listen to anything else on there. I’m sure Stu will tell you how great it is to listen to Colin Cowherd on a daily basis. :)

    Does anyone listen to Cowherd? Thoughts?

  23. He’s an ignoramus about baseball. Talks a lot about batting average and “winners”, and routinely features Curt Schilling’s drunk ramblings.

  24. sansho1, he allows a lot of guests on the show that he doesn’t agree with. He has been critical of Curt Schilling on many occasions. I listen to him every day and the only thing he refers to regarding “winners” is quarterbacks (the same ESPN mantra of “it’s a quarterback-driven league”). He is also very critical of the traditionalists of baseball, which I’m sure we can all agree on that, so I’m not sure where you’re getting his reliance on batting average. To Cowherd’s discredit, he spends very little time on baseball, but he’s also very clear that he covers the NFL and college football because they’re the most popular sports. He does talk about baseball more than basketball, fortunately.

    I think what I like about Cowherd the most is his angles sports and culture/finance/business. He prefers to talk about the dynamics behind the analysis in sports instead of dissecting box scores, transactions, and stats. I can get that stuff anywhere, and Cowherd brings a smarter cultural observation to sports, which not many people can or will do.

    Clearly I’m a big Cowherd fan, so I’m pretty biased. I also met him a few years ago and he was a really nice guy. That helps.

  25. Florida can’t win 1) road games against semi-competent teams and 2) close games. Like, at all. I don’t see how anyone can consider them a #1 seed until they show they can hit a shot on the road.

    In fairness, tonight they played against a very, very physical team, and only got calls for a 2-minute stretch towards the end of the first half. (That “charge” where Roasario didn’t even touch the guy with 30 seconds on the clock in a 3-point game was devastating.) That and they only had six players that could go because of injuries. But still, you gotta win one on the road at some point.

    I’m really concerned about Murphy. His shot’s been gone for like two weeks, and I realize he wasn’t going to continue to shoot 50% from 3, but lately he’s been lucky to get one over an entire game. Maybe it’s just fatigue, since they’ve been playing short-handed for basically the past two months. A lack of legs would explain why the shooting has gone in the crapper.

  26. Real talk, all the bad stuff that’s happened has happened with Will Yguette out. I’m cautiously optimistic that things will turn around when he comes back.

    And watching Patrick Young is pure pleasure, so there’s that, too.

  27. Geez, you Gators are making me depressed. Hold on, let me get out the world’s smallest violin so that I can play it for you.

    If we hadn’t been without our best player all year and our point guard for a three-game stretch where we wound up playing like crap warmed over because of it, we wouldn’t be on the bubble right now. It happens.

    Good news: you won’t have any road games in the NCAA Tournament. Bad news: you will have some close ones.

  28. @48

    I haven’t listened to him all that much, I admit – only in the last six months or so. I thought you were asking because you’d just come across him. I just remember his anti-Biggio HOF rant (“he was a .280 hitter” was about the extent of it), and Schilling being a borderline incoherent guest on more than one occasion.

    I do wish I’d taken his NFL gambling advice more often, because he absolutely killed it this year. :)

  29. HAHAHHAHAHAHA!!! I love to hear the Gators cry! “Oh we didn’t have all our players…” “Oh we didn’t get the calls…” “Oh Jordan McRae wouldn’t stop dominating”


  30. There is a lineup out for today’s spring training game that might challenge the Astros Opening Day lineup for worst lineup in history.

  31. 2008 baseball prospectus top prospects:
    Jordan Schafer-#17 LOL!
    Brent Lillibridge-#63 LOL!
    Brandon Jones-#70 LOL!
    Gorkys Hernandez-#83 LOL!

    Others that year not so funny-
    Heyward- #36
    Jurrjens- #86

  32. Delgado’s first outing with Dbacks: 1 IP 6H 4ER
    Looking at a few of their sites, it seems like the Dbacks don’t plan to start the year with him in their rotation.

  33. Smitty, the Vols suck. Enjoy the win while you can.

    On a related note, I don’t see a lot of Vols fans in Iowa (inbreeding doesn’t travel north, I guess…), so when I saw one yesterday, I had to talk trash. A lot of good that did me.

  34. @53- McRae totally would not stop dominating! What a game from him. (Though I guess you’re getting used to that lately!) He just kept hitting 3s from a foot behind the line with a hand in his face….

    But it’s cool. Teams get hot and knock down bad shots. But when you miss your open ones, there’s nothing to complain about.

  35. McRae, Golden and Stokes really have been playing well. If Stokes comes back, next years team could be one of the best Tennessee teams ever.

    I just hope Conzo stays out of the way.

  36. Wow. Those are all names that I know. Guess it means they’ve been around a while. I have no opinion on whether any of them were any good.

  37. @68: My biased (and Retrosheet-based) answer. When at home plate in a Braves game, the Braves records were:
    Cousins: 16-13
    Rapuano: 41-28
    Tschida: 13-15

    So Rapuano was the best and Tschida sucked. Of course, Rapuano, by dint of a longer career, umpired a bunch of really good Braves teams, though he also umped 4 last-place 1990 games, and the Braves were 0-4 in those games. Tschida’s first game at home in a Braves game was in 1998 and Cousins in 2000.

    I love Retrosheet.

  38. Stu and I are appalled at all the college basketball talk.

    Georgia Basketball is cursed. Absolutely cursed.

    I think I’m alone on this, but I’d kinda like to see a Johnson / Francisco platoon to start the season. Isn’t that our best option at the moment?

  39. @66

    That is good!

    Now if we can get Sam Holbrook, Jim West, CB Bucknor and Angel Hernandez to retire. We may be able to get some big league umpires.

  40. 74—Nah, they’ve just made a couple of really bad hires. (Confession: I thought Fox was a really good hire.)

    Nice win last night. Still getting exactly what I hoped to get out of this season: steady improvement, paving the way for another good year next year.

    And having this VU baseball team to keep my attention while the hoops team struggles has been nice.

  41. I though Fox would do well at Georgia. With all the instate hoops tallent, you would think they would be better.

  42. @71, That article was reading pretty good up until the very last sentence: “Chip Caray and Joe Simpson will continue to call the games.” I had my hopes up that Chip was going to stay with TBS and announce just their Sunday games.

  43. I guess every little bit helps. Wonder how much more money Wrenn will have at his disposal now?

    And, is it available this year?

  44. I could be wrong but “excited” about a fransisco/Johnson platoon is probably the incorrect word.

    I wonder what the Braves had to pay to moe those 45 games. I’m interested to see the revenue that we will get from these changes

  45. Thompkins and Leslie left the program in a lurch last season by foolishly leaving a year early, which has unfairly colored the Fox regime (unless it was his fault they left). They would have made the tournament with ease last year, which would have made two consecutive appearances and 20+ win seasons.

    This would have been a rebuilding year regardless, but he’s taken a team that looked dead in the water during the non-conference schedule and turned them into a competitive team. The freshman are all improving noticeably as the season has progressed. Mann, Gaines, and Morris all look like players to me. I hope Fox stays, but I fear his poor alumni suck-up skills will get him Donnan’ed no matter what happens from here on out.

  46. 81—I hear you, but… Good players leave early, often too early. (Who expected Thompkins to be there four years when he entered as a freshman? I don’t think very many did.) Successful coaches have programs that can absorb a surprise or two without making a multi-season derailment out of it. Frankly, I think Fox’s biggest problem has been recruiting — UGA just hasn’t been that talented, relative to its peers, and that should not be the case, given its natural advantages.

  47. @78

    Joe Simpson is a traitor. He needs a nickname that goes along with this. I am thinking “Traitor Joe”

  48. @75: Glad you asked Smitty (Home Plate Umpiring Only ) I don’t know how to format the table

    Umpire 1stATLGame Wins Total
    Joe West 19760916 68 140 68-72
    Angel Hernandez 19910713 38 67 38-29
    CB Bucknor 19970511 20 39 20-19
    Sam Holbrook 19970729 25 40 25-15

    Looks like Holbrook ought to stick around a while longer

  49. Thompkins had a case to leave, although many pointed to his physical softness as a reason to believe he’d have trouble succeeding at the next level. Leslie had no business thinking he was ready for the pros, but I’m sure he had people in his ear telling him otherwise.

    About recruiting — other than Tubby Smith, no UGA basketball coach has been able to consistently attract the best in-state talent for the last 25 years, going back to the last several years of the Hugh Durham era. And Tubby, of course, left for greener pastures ASAP. Whatever natural advantages exist among the talent in the state is more than counteracted by an apathetic student and alumni fan base, substandard facilities, and iffy commitment from the athletic department. And so I hearken back to the press conference Ted Turner called when he fired Bobby Cox, and said if he weren’t firing him Cox would be the first guy he’d want to hire. That’s how I feel about Fox — I’m willing to wait out a down cycle if I see some promise, and I do.

  50. Yeah, it’s certainly true that the UGA administration and fan base just doesn’t really care a lot about hoops, which is the main reason UGA hoops disappoints, no matter the coach. I guess I just see it as more of a down tenure than a down cycle — this is is fourth year in Athens, and the high mark has been a 10-seed/first-round exit. Given that he inherited more talent than he’s brought in, I’m not sure there’s a great chance it’s going to get better.

  51. Good point Smitty, but the numbers I give are for home plate only and don’t include the postseason. It’s a little hard to rate LF umps, but he’s clearly the worst of all time.

  52. Gattis is in today’s lineup, and the game is on MLB.tv. Here’s Peanut:

    By the way, we generally don’t recap spring training games, but thinking about the regular season, I want to ask for volunteers for people who are willing to write a brief blog post once a week during the season. Please email me (the email address is at the top right corner) if you’re interested. Thanks!

  53. I’ve still not heard a good reason why Gattis can’t be competing for the 3B job. I suppose if he can catch that’s the best case scenario, as we probably won’t be able to bring McCann back (he’ll either be great and too expensive or awful and undesirable)

  54. @89

    I have come up with a point system to rate LF umpires. By my calculations this is what we get:

    Sam Holbrook negative 1,865,345,227,321.01
    Joe West: 2

    Worst of all time.

  55. @94 He’s also not played much baseball in his life and we’re trying him at a number of already filled positions he’s got little to no experience playing.

  56. Somebody with defensive catching expertise please tune in to the game today (featured on MLBTV and MLB network) as Gattis will be catching. I’d like to see what an expert that comes here regularly has to say about his defense.

  57. Catcher may be where we need Gattis this and next. If he cannot catch at ML level now and if he can hit ML pitching, he can work at 3B/LF/1B/C/DH in AAA.

  58. [To the question of if he plans to try and play in the majors this year]

    “Definitely not. I thought for a while I might, but right now, no. I’m happy with my family.”

    [So are you officially retired then?]


    Sounds like he reinjured his knee doing rehab and isn’t even sure whether it will allow him to play.

  59. Gattis is blocking balls in the dirt pretty well. But no evidence he can call a good game.

  60. Do they *really* need a permanent damn graphic saying that Strasburg is going to start a spring training game in 4+ hours?

  61. I was a defense-first (and if I am honest, defense-only) catcher good enough to walk on and make a college team, for a year anyway. Not sure that makes me an expert but here’s what I see from Gattis:

    1) He’s huge. That makes it tough for him to set a low target, but he could help himself there if he’d get his weight forward a little and not crouch so flat-footed. Putting more weight on the balls of his feet and also on the insides of his feet would allow him to deepen his crouch, which I think would be desirable. (Note that this is with men on base, which was usually the case in the first inning. With nobody on he’s better)
    2) He seems to do a decent job framing pitches. He doesn’t attempt to jerk the glove back into the strike zone but instead seems to be trying to catch the ball in the manner that makes it appear to be a strike, then hold the glove still. In my experience that’s the best way to steal a strike. Again, though, his proficiency doing this with low pitches is going to be suspect with his high crouch.
    3) JCM @106 is right that he’s blocking the ball well so far, though I think he will struggle there given how his weight appears to be too much on his heels. It is hard to explode down into a blocking position without being on the balls of your feet. I may be being too critical here because he does demonstrate very good blocking form.
    4) A minor point, and maybe I’m behind the times here, but he holds his non-glove hand right out in the open along his thigh when the pitch is in the air when men are on base. It WILL get nailed by a foul ball or 20 if he keeps that up. It would be better if he could hold it right behind the glove to protect it while keeping it ready in case he needs to throw down to second.
    5) This one really depends on the preference of the pitcher, but with men on he seemed late to set his target. The choice is obviously between tipping the hitter to location (I’m unsure how much of an advantage this can actually convey) and giving the pitcher a clear point of aim; I’d lean towards the latter but again, maybe MLB pitchers can hit their spots regardless of the catcher moving around and/or not getting the glove set.

    Doubt there’s any real vital insight there and I can’t speak to his ability to call the game, but from the two innings I have now watched, I would say he could be at least serviceable if some rough edges are sanded off, and doing so would not require major change in my opinion.

  62. The other scary reality of UGA hoops is that even if Fox were to win big, perhaps just a couple of years in a row, he’d probably be off to the next opportunity as well.

    The principal way you’ll build a consistent winning hoops program at UGA is to keep the coach who keeps the in-state talent. It’s a chicken/egg proposition.

    And those in-state recruiting issues were real as far back as Hugh Durham. Getting Tery Fair (Macon) was a score, but he missed out on the likes of Jeff Malone (Fair’s teammate at SW Macon), Dale Ellis (Marietta), Derek Smith (Hogansville), Kenny Walker (Roberta), Chris Morris (ATL), Al Wood (Gray), Brian Oliver (Smyrna) & Horace/Harvey Grant (Sparta). All those guys had big college careers & some of ’em became NBA all-stars.

    Consequently, Durham had to look elsewhere and that’s the reason his 4 biggest recruits were from New York (Very Fleming & Eric Marbury), Mississippi (Litterial Green) and North Carolina (Dominique Wilkins).

    To be honest, Jim Harrick was the best X-and-O guy we’ve had since Tubby (or maybe even Hugh), but his fatal flaw should’ve been obvious before his hire. If you take on a used-car salesman, don’t be surprised when you’re driving a lemon.

  63. That was both informative and makes me more optimistic about his chances of being the Braves’ backup C. (To be fair, I previously thought they were somewhere between “zero” and “none”.) Thanks, Scump!

  64. That’s encouraging to hear, thanks for the insight, Scump.

    On 4) I think it took McCann quite a while (and hits and bruises) before he tucked his right arm away, so even if it’s a minor thing it would probably be a good thing to correct early if they want Gattis at catcher.

    About calling the game from the catcher position I’d think there’d be at least some growing pain considering just how little experience he has catching. I’m wondering how much an experienced pitcher (or the bench) could take over those “duties.”

  65. Thanks so much, Scump. I really appreciate your insight.

    In fairness, Gattis has been playing baseball since he was 6 years old. He hasn’t had nearly as much professional instruction as many of his peers, because of the time in his life that he went AWOL, but he has been behind the plate for a very, very long time. He may have developed some bad habits in that time, but I’m sure that he also developed some instincts.

    If there’s any chance he can be the Braves’ 2014 catcher, as a bat-first catcher whose defense you decide to live with, I think that the Braves have to do everything in their power to make that happen.

  66. Thanks guys! One thing I may have jumped the gun on- here in the 3rd he seems to be getting his target set much earlier. While I’d love to flatter myself and think someone in the dugout maybe mentioned that to him, it is more likely I was inaccurate in my earlier observation. Still, from what I have seen, AAR’s hopes @112 are justified. I haven’t seen him throw yet but I know I’ve read on this site his ability there hasn’t really been questioned.

    I’m sort of repeating myself but I do wish he’d make an effort to catch low pitches a little farther out in front of him, with his size that could be a problem but he doesn’t present them as well as he could. He stole us (or the ump gifted us) a high strike in the 3rd but I think he cost us a couple on pitches down in the zone.

  67. Don’t forget, Brian McCann is literally one of the best catchers in baseball at stealing strikes with his pitch framing. Several studies have shown that his pitch framing has actually been worth a number of runs defensively for the Braves.

  68. Right now, I’m visualizing a bench (once McCanns is back) of R. Johnson/C. Johnson/Gattis/Laird/Pastornicky/Janish.

    Problem is, that’s 6 guys, and I don’t think the Braves go with a 6-man ‘pen. This means Pastornicky is probably the odd one out. Well, him or Janish or C. Johnson.

    And since I mentioned Johnson, I want to make an argument in his defense. One advanced metric that’s become popular in basketball analysis is usage rate. Simply put, this is the rate per possession at which players shoot the ball. Scoring efficiency is another one. This basically measures how well a player translates possessions into points for his team. Fans often complain when they see a player on their team with high efficiency getting fewer minutes than a player with lower efficiency. Why, they reason, shouldn’t we let the guy who is better at turning possessions into points do that more often? The problem here comes that for individual players, efficiency and usage rate tend to be negatively correlated. That is, the more a player is forced to try to score, the less efficient they become. This makes sense when you think about it. A smart, efficient player will only choose to shoot on their best opportunities. If the ball comes to them but they don’t have an open, high-percentage shot, they’ll pass it away. If you take that same player and ask them to shoot more, you’re essentially asking them to start lowering their standard for what counts as a high percentage shot. You’ve already picked all of the low-hanging fruit, and you’re now asking them to go up to the next higher branch and grab some from there. Unless the player is truly gifted, their efficiency will almost certainly go down as a result. In some cases, player who can maintain even average efficiency rates while being high-usage guys can be extremely valuable to a team.

    I think a similar thing is going on when we compare Chris Johnson with Juan Francisco. Last year, Francisco was a “low usage” guy. Most of his ABs were in situations that the team thought was optimal to use him. He got lots of ABs vs. RHP, and was (relatively) pretty effective. Johnson, OTOH, was a (relatively) high usage guy. The situations he’s been asked to hit in are much more general and representative of an everyday guy. I would suggest that one reason for his lower efficiency numbers (relative to Francisco) is his higher “usage rate”.

    This is why I think a Francisco/C. Johnson platoon at 3B is a better option than just trotting out Francisco. Francisco’s numbers may have looked better last year, but the fact that Johnson was able to not completely suck over a much longer, season-representative stretch suggests to me that he’s a decent player. Plus, if you can improve his efficiency by platooning him effectively (I’m not a believer that he’s got a reverse platoon split), you should be doing even better. So in short, I don’t want to lose Francisco’s efficiency as a hitter by increasing his usage rate too much beyond what he’s been successful with. This requires playing the adequate-but-not-spectacular C. Johnson at 3B a fair amount of the time.

    (I’m not sure if that basketball analogy was necessary or helpful, but that’s what I thought of as I started thinking about the bench for next year, so there ya go.)

  69. mravery, that’s a very reasonable point. Francisco’s offensive issues are pretty clear — he doesn’t ever walk, ever — but even still, he’s likely to be even more exposed offensively if he’s forced to play every day.

    That said, Chris Johnson is a swirling vortex of suck defensively.

  70. Maybe if Chris Johnson can hit a thousand home runs this year, he MIGHT make up for his glove. Maybe. Might.

    I’ve seen all I need to see of him.

  71. Smitty beat me to the punch. I don’t know how you could want Gattis at third when he’s almost assured of being a full-blown disaster there, but then can’t stand to watch a league average third baseman offensively there who’s almost certainly better than Gattis defensively.

    Chris Johnson is clearly going to be this year’s Chad Durbin. Everybody’s gonna hate him for no reason, and if he has a pretty good year, everyone’s going to refuse to admit that it’s happening to the point of arguing that it’s statistically not happening when it clearly is. Should be fun.

  72. It’s a shame that Joe Mather didn’t take the baseball world by storm for half a year, because he could have been Jeff Francoeur and received many millions of dollars he didn’t deserve. I swear they’re the same person.

  73. Didn’t catch his name, but apparently the Phillies have signed the doppleganger of Snidely Whiplash.

  74. Chris Johnson is clearly going to be this year’s Chad Durbin. Everybody’s gonna hate him for no reason, and if he has a pretty good year, everyone’s going to refuse to admit that it’s happening to the point of arguing that it’s statistically not happening when it clearly is. Should be fun.

    I would never argue that Chad Durbin did not strand over 80% of baserunners last season while allowing only a .251 BABIP. But I would argue that when he did that, it was luck and not skill. And that there were several points that Fredi inserted him in a high-leverage spot counting on that luck not to run out, which was a bad idea.

  75. Does anyone believe that Either Johnson or Juan will still be at 3b going into September. Neither guy really has more than one skill set and neither can get on base without hitting for a high avg

  76. But I would argue that when he did that, it was luck and not skill.

    respectfully, you are basing this conclusion on a reading of statistically quantifiable data. This doesn’t discount the fact that it may be accurate, but I have difficulty in ascribing an anomaly to luck, when there are lots of facts we don’t know. Maybe he started throwing a bit differently, or was in better shape, or just liked the mound, or had a reasonable standard deviation from a “normal” year. It’s probably not repeatable, but I just get a little nervous about that word “luck” when there are lots of facts not in evidence.

  77. Fair enough. Chad Durbin had a good year last year, even though his long track record suggested it was unlikely that he would have a good year. It is also unlikely that Chris Johnson will have a good year. He might, of course — but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  78. respectfully, you are basing this conclusion on a reading of statistically quantifiable data. This doesn’t discount the fact that it may be accurate, but I have difficulty in ascribing an anomaly to luck, when there are lots of facts we don’t know. Maybe he started throwing a bit differently, or was in better shape, or just liked the mound, or had a reasonable standard deviation from a “normal” year. It’s probably not repeatable, but I just get a little nervous about that word “luck” when there are lots of facts not in evidence.

    Yeah, but we have actual good pitchers to compare him to, and he didn’t deviate by pitching more like them–he deviated by doing certain things that help lower ERA, but which have very little year-to-year correlation. Maybe it’s a different story if his BABIP had dropped to merely .280 while his batted ball profile also shifted (although his profile shifted more to ground balls last year, which are associated with higher BABIP, not lower). But it dropped to .251, which is not a level any pitcher has been shown capable of sustaining for long. So yeah, it was luck.

  79. He was at .253 BaBip 3 seasons earlier. I agree it’s probably not repeatable. It probably is luck depending on how one defines the term. But not luck in the sense of hitting the lottery luck.

    Sure he was “lucky” to have a career year. But it didn’t require “luck” to see that he was pitching well and merited use.

  80. @ 136

    I’m getting a half sleeve done on March 15th. I just realized that the next day is my city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is one of the 2 or 3 busiest days of the year for the restaurant I manage. And I work all day. I am dreading running my ass off while drunken idiots bump into me for 12-14 hours.

  81. …and apparently still can’t admit he had a good year. And no, I don’t consider, “Well, I suppose if you’re worried about results, it might have been ‘good,’ whatever that means, but statistically speaking it shouldn’t have happened, and I guarantee he couldn’t do it again…never mind that we don’t need him to because he’s not on our team this year” much of an admission. And I’m obviously with Spike in that calling it luck is absurd. There’s no way for anybody to perform contrary to expectations anymore, apparently. If you outperform them, it’s good luck and if you underperform them, it’s bad luck.

  82. I hate how I sound so prissy on the internet. Really, this is a most inartful way to have a discussion.

  83. Chad Durbin’s 2012 was good. It was good because he executed his pitches. It’s bad faith to apply predictive assumptions post hoc to actual facts in the world.

    It’s unlikely that his 2013 will match his 2012. His 2012 is real and factual in the world. Facts always trump predictions.

  84. Chad Durbin’s 2012 season did occur. He now owns that season. It’s likely not repeatable, but can’t be reduced to “he was lucky.”

    Now, convince me that it’s a good business practice to give 1 million dollars and a roster spot to 33 year old relief pitchers with career 5.10 ERA’s and K/9’s of 6 and BB/9’s of 4.

    So, perhaps.. it’s the Braves who could be classified as lucky?

    Because that’s what we’re talking about. Was it a good idea for the Braves to give one million dollars and a roster spot to Chad Durbin.

    And does Chad Durbin’s good season mean it won’t be a bad idea the next time the Braves give a million dollars and a roster spot to a 33 year old with a 5+ career ERA?

  85. So we are saying that Johnson is the the early leader for the Keith Lockhart Whipping Boy Award?

  86. Chris Johnson is clearly going to be this year’s Chad Durbin. Everybody’s gonna hate him for no reason, and if he has a pretty good year, everyone’s going to refuse to admit that it’s happening to the point of arguing that it’s statistically not happening when it clearly is. Should be fun.

    I’m pretty sure he’s going to give folks a reason to hate him – namely, his exquisitely bad, not league average, defense, combined with mediocre offensive results. Most of the time players who suck just suck, and there’s little controversy over calling it what it is. When Melky and Louth played CF, there was a general consensus, reasonably, that they sucked. So it will be with Chris Johnson.

    As for Durbin, there was a discrepancy between his batted ball profile and his ERA. So be it: the Braves got lucky that he didn’t regress during the 2012 season, and were wise to let him go before the 2013 season. I’m happy he managed to limit the damage in 2012 – to the point of appearing, even being, effective – but if all things remain the same, it probably isn’t a repeatable skill. Was he lucky in 2012? Who cares? I, like anon21, think he was, while you and others don’t. There’s no way to prove the answer definitively. We can all be happy that he didn’t give up a bunch of runs, whatever the reason, and move on.

  87. If Johnson plays a backup role – like Francisco did last year – I think he’ll be fine. Problem is, both of them together in a platoon inspire very little confidence – especially defensively. My guess is we see if one of the two can win the 3b job outright in the first few months of the season (Francisco gets 75% of the playing time). If not (highly likely), we look to make a trade.

    I don’t think Johnson will be whipping boy for long. Either most of his pt gets taken by Francisco or we have a replacement by mid-season. Francisco may stand a better chance of being the whipping boy – especially if his off-season conditioning program wasn’t as robust as we were led to believe.

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