Kris Medlen (by Rusty S.)

I had it all figured out, ya see? I was gonna take the winter off, ya see? And I’d have gotten away with it too – if it hadn’t been for this Medlen write-up.

If the 2013 Braves had sent “The Mystery Machine” in search of the 2012 Kris Medlen, it would have been perfectly understandable. In twelve 2012 starts, The Med-Dog* went 9 -0 with a 0.97 ERA, a 0.801 WHIP and 9.0 K/9IP. This was in only 84 IP however, and 2013 was a rude reminder not to get caught up in such small sample sizes, whether in declaring the second coming of Greg Maddux, or in paying as high as $27 (it has been rumored) for him in fantasy baseball auctions.

*remind me who came up with Med-Dog; I love it.

Although the 2012 numbers were unsustainable for anyone, the 2013 Med-Human was still quite useful. In 31 games as a starter, he posted a 3.11 ERA, a 1.216 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9IP. However, he did not complete a game; in fact, the Braves had only one complete game all season, and that was twirled by Mike Minor. No matter how many aces the Braves acquire, it appears the method of operation will continue to require a strong bullpen.

Looking to 2014, a repeat of 2013 seems the most likely scenario to me, as much as pitchers can be projected. 28 years old, and a five year Major League veteran (counting two games in the Tommy John surgery season of 2011) Medlen’s career stats as a starter are slightly better than his 2013 stats, but probably within the margin of error. In 380 IP over 61 games started, Medlen has an ERA of 2.96, a WHIP of 1.139, and a K/9IP of 7.7. However, 2013 was Medlen’s first full season as a starter, and I think that is the most reasonable starting point for projecting 2014. Medlen has already gotten his Tommy John out of the way, and is as likely to be as healthy in 2014 as any 28 year old pitcher. My only concern is how well he will hold up in his second consecutive season as a full time starter.

I see Medlen as the number three starter from where we sit here in December, slightly behind Minor and Julio Teheran, as I put a lot of weight on K rate. I also see Minor and Teheran as more volatile to project, up or down. Depending on acquisitions and the recovery of Brandon Beachy, Medlen could repeat his 2013 performance and be anywhere from our number one to number five starter.

Kris Medlen as a number five starter. Now that’s a beautiful thought.

205 thoughts on “Kris Medlen (by Rusty S.)”

  1. Medlen’s such an interesting pitcher to watch–and this is going away from the hard numbers–because more than any pitcher I can remember watching closely (read: Braves pitchers) he’s a “feel” guy. With Medlen it’s like he’s always looking for the zone. Not the strike zone, but a zen zone, a zone where he feels like it’s nothing to throw the ball just where he wants just as fast or slow as he wants with just the right amount of movement he needs.

    It’s fun to watch when he’s in his zone; brings a whole new meaning to the word “command”. He’s not just commanding the baseball out there, he’s commanding the whole world through his frame of mind. It gives me great joy to see him when he’s dealing, much more so than the rest of our rotation.

    Of course, he isn’t always there. We watched him through one extended sublime stretch in 2012, one less extended one at the end of the 2013 season. And we watched him scuffle a little bit, at league average or perhaps a hair worse, for the first half of this season.

    But Medlen is a force, and as an act of faith over intellect, I believe in him.

    He has won 3 NL pitcher of the month awards in the last 1.5 seasons of starting pitching. No one else has more than one in either league in for the period of 2012-2013, and you have to extend the range to 2010 to find other pitchers (Cliff Lee, Ubaldo Jimenez) who have won three of those awards in the same time frame that Medlen has been pitching.

    So maybe he’s not quite the under(Med)dog some folks make him out to be? I don’t know. It can be awfully frustrating to see him up on the mound looking for his zen zone, but once he’s there…

  2. As long as Talking Chop doesn’t count — I don’t read it, so it doesn’t, to me — then I came up with Med Dog.

    You’re all welcome.

  3. @ajcbraves: #Braves icon Cox has been elected to Hall of Fame, unanimous selection

    Congrats are in order. Job well done Mr Bobby Cox.

  4. His next postseason start will be a doozy, mark my words.

    PS: Freddy Garcia and Daniel Ray Herrera and negotiate with the youngsters.

  5. Hooray for Bobby Cox! Not only a great manager but the guy that began the process of making the Atlanta Braves a great baseball club.

  6. Miller deserves to be in a lot more than Torre or LaRussa or, for that matter, Bobby Cox; he had far more influence on the game. But, of course, many don’t like the influence he had on the game. Steinbrenner I don’t see anyway; yes, he restored the Yankees-which, despite what people think about them is good for the game-but all he did was spend a lot of money.

  7. He spent a lot of money, plus he was suspended for illegal campaign contributions, and then he was later banned (but subsequently reinstated) for hiring a gambler to dig up dirt on one of his own players. Combine that with the fact that he appears to have been one of the big reasons for the ’80s fallow patch and his absence was the main reason for the ’90s renaissance, and that strikes me as a man who doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

  8. I’ll always fondly remember Halladay’s best moments. You know, like that time he had a six run lead against the Braves and gave up a game-tying grand slam to McCann. And that time he threw a pitch that Freddie launched to Jupiter. And that time he gave up 7 earned runs in less than two innings against the Braves. And that time he got outdueled by Kawakami.

  9. I’m going to re-live the excitement by eating chicken wings, listening to Metallica, drinking Keystone Light and screaming as loudly as I can while watching the video of Chipper’s 2012 walkoffs* against the Phillies.

    *both of them. Count it.

  10. Anyone wish that Smoltz had retired as a Brave? Does it really matter?
    Nice of the Jays to do that, I guess. Nice that Halliday wants to be remembered as a Blue Jay.

  11. Oh dear. Me from the game thread, just before McCann’s slam:

    Like most teams, we’ll tend to lose badly when we’re facing Roy Halladay. You guys know Roy Halladay, right? He’s quite good. He does this to everybody. It really is OK to “tip your cap” to him. (But it does get infuriating when that’s the Fredi quote for, say, Jonathan Niese.)

    Also, sometimes, great pitchers pee their pants up there. Tommy’s not even a great pitcher.

    And look, here’s a little rally.

    Boy, was there a rally.

  12. @ajcbraves: ChiSox will likely ask the world for Sale; Cubs’ asking price for Samardzija should make him more realistic target for #Braves, who like him

  13. On my epitaph:

    “Life, to me, was about eating chicken wings, listening to metallica, drinking Keystone Light, and wanting to get into the stadium to scream as loud as you can.”

    If you Google part of that, there are many instances of Braves Journalers quoting that. That is THE quote of Braves Journal.

    That, and “still a douche.”

  14. @23,

    John Rocker gives new meaning to the age-old question, “just how stupid can one man be?”

  15. White Sox smartly add Felipe Paulino for cheap.

    If the Dodgers acquire Price, what will they do with Haren/Beckett/Billingsley?

  16. Here are some mixed views.

    @mlbbowman: The odds of Samardzija ending up in ATL seem pretty slim.

    @ajcbraves: Told that not a real feel yet for what it’ll take to pry Samardzija from Cubs. #Braves like him a lot, though.

  17. Oh and there is this small note…

    @mlbbowman: Todd Cunningham has been taking grounders at second base. Just increases his versatility on a club with limited OF opportunities. #Braves

  18. John Rocker really never needs to re-surface, unless he’s going to go all-David Lee Roth on us & becomes an EMT or something…

  19. Like Medlen a lot. As a fan who also had him on my fantasy team this year, I think he had an overall better year than I remember. His success(!) is definitely all about his command. The games where he hit his spots he was damn good. When his command was off (like playoffs ’12 &’13) is could be ugly.

    I think the big next step both he and Minor need to take is to become more consistent and to be able to work deeper into game, even on days without their best stuff. Would really like to see those two (plus some other pitching acquisition) throw 200+ innings this year.

  20. #35 – I think LA could unload Beckett for less. Someone would take a gamble on him. I guess I’m saying that I don’t think LA would have to take a bad contract back in order to move him.

    @mlbbowman: Wren said he does not envision making a “front-line move.” He says it’s more likely he’ll simply add depth to bench bullpen or rotation.

  21. I can see why Wren would be hesitant to make a front-line move, given the way most of his big-ticket items have turned out. If we make no big moves, and we also don’t extend anyone, then I’m going to be kinda disappointed. I’ll get over it though.

  22. @39, I am fairly unpersuaded by arguments that rely on logic that basically boils down to: “There’s no WAY X is a Hall of Famer if Y isn’t already in the Hall!” It’s the logical corollary of “If X is in the Hall, then Y HAS to be in the Hall!”

    In the end, in my opinion, Hall of Fame arguments should primarily rest on the player in question. It’s fine to look at the other players in the Hall, but a guy should make the Hall on his own merits. “Did he have a good enough career to warrant inclusion in the Hall of Fame?” is not a proxy for “Have all of the players better than him already been elected?”

  23. @43 – It’s an interesting question of narrative as argument, right? I mean, at the end of the day, Curt Schilling is Kevin Brown with an October as Randy Johnson’s sidekick and that goddamned bloody sock. But Schilling will take less than three tries to get in, while Brown didn’t get 5% in his first vote and is at the mercy of some future veteran’s committee.

    Halladay doesn’t have a better claim, on the merits, than Tim Hudson, and right now I’m inclined to think they are both on the outside looking in. But if both got in, I wouldn’t be aghast. Not like I’m aghast at the treatment of Brown, at least. Halladay presents and interesting case for me personally, because if you had asked me two years ago if he was in if hit by the proverbial bus, I’d have said yes. But he wasn’t hit by a bus. He just broke down physically, and that’s not the same. He’s all peak as a candidate now that we know the shape of his final career, and he’s not exactly a Pedro level peak. I could go either way, but I lean toward a small hall anyway, and I think he’s out.

  24. Halladay does have a better claim, on the merits, than Tim Hudson, and you can start with the two Cy Young Awards. Tim Hudson was never anywhere close to the best pitcher in baseball, which is what Roy Halladay was, after Johan Santana got injured and before Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw claimed the title.

    Hudson wasn’t close to that good.

  25. So, at the end of the day, I think Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern” may be the best album of the year. Don’t let the fact that DOB might pimp it (it’s in his sweet spot) cloud your judgement. It’s maybe the best country album I’ve heard in a decade.

  26. IMO, Tim Hudson defines the Hall of Very Good. Love the guy, but he was just never a dominant pitcher.

    I’m so on the fence about Halladay, too, although I lean toward yes.

    FWIW, Curt Schilling & Kevin Brown would just miss the cut for me, except for the fact that (along with Rivera & Smoltz) Schilling is one of 3 ultra-dominant post-season pitchers in the Wild Card era. He’s a WS co-MVP and (as Braves fans might remember), he was the ’93 NLCS MVP. His post-season record: 11-2, 2.23 ERA & 133 IP. And there are the 3 WS titles, all of which he had a huge hand in.

    For that, I’ll give him the nod over Brown, who got lit up in the ’97 WS.

    That record is terrific, definitely in my year’s Top 10. Fave tune: “New South Wales.”

  27. Halladay is in, was the best pitcher in baseball for a stretch.

    Side note: Sandy Koufax is much better. Not luckier. Over the course of a career, luck is not a major factor.

  28. @47 – “Songs She Sang In The Shower”, followed quite closely by “Relatively Easy.” The whole record* is just phenomenal.

    *when I get to that point, I’m buying the unit next to mine and turning it into a record room to store real vinyl again…

  29. Remember, Halladay and Koufax had an identical ERA+ for their career, 131. Koufax got to pitch in Dodger Stadium in the ’60s, and Halladay had to pitch in the AL East in the Steroid Era.

    A lot of Koufax’s “dominance” is based on pitching in a ballpark that suppressed runs tremendously, and Halladay faced a much, much tougher opposition and run environment.

  30. Stark is reporting that other teams in on O’Flaherty have the impression he’ll re-sign with the Braves.

  31. Didn’t have long to balance out the time he was figuring it out. His dominant years were untouchable.

    Koufax from 63-66. 1228 k’s in 4 years(any stadium)

    In his final year he had the best ERA of his career (1.73) and 317 K’s.

    His ERA+ was plummeting, only close because he had to retire at 30.

  32. If the Braves aren’t going to sign extensions with the young ‘uns, I think I’d be completely fine with an offseason in which the Braves complete a bad contract swap for Beckett, re-sign O’Flaherty, and sign some older has-been as a bench player (Youkilis, Jeff Baker, Reynolds, Eric Chavez, etc…).

  33. @57, 58

    Why more bullish on Simmons and Johnson? Zips seems to think both will duplicate last year except that their BABIPs with regress. Those look like fair projections to me. I’d be happy to get that from Simmons at the plate.

  34. @60, I think Simmons is going to eventually put up corner-IF type numbers. He’s just so young and raw…but he almost never swings and misses. Once that coordination is coupled with a more refined approach he’s going to easily hit 20+ HR a year. I feel that his SLG projection is way too low.

  35. @53, both Halladay and Koufax were forced to retire due to injuries despite seeming to be in or near their pitching peak. Halladay’s 2011 was very similar in context to Koufax’s 1965. They also both struggled early in their career, before becoming thoroughly dominant and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Koufax had two seasons with an ERA+ over 180, and Roy had only one. But still, their peaks were quite similar. Over Koufax’s six years of dominance, 1961-1966, his ERA+ was 156; over Halladay’s six years of dominance, 2006-2011, his ERA+ was 149.

    Neither Halladay nor Koufax had much of a decline phase. That’s as opposed to Greg Maddux, for example, who threw 1258 innings with a 104 ERA+ in his last six seasons. But Halladay’s 2012 and 2013 showed a clear decline, hastened by injury. If he had retired after 2011, his ERA+ would have been 138. If Koufax had kept going after 1966, it stands to reason that he would have gotten older eventually, too.

  36. @61 I see a good chance for improvement at the plate from Simmons in 2014, but not from additional HRs/extra base hits – rather, it’ll come from a better batted ball profile that will result in a higher BABIP.

    While Simmons seems pretty wiry-strong despite his slight build, he really doesn’t hit flyballs very far… in 2013 his average flyball distance was 269 feet, ranking just behind players like Melky Cabrera, Dustin Ackley, Mark Ellis, and Elvis Andrus. By comparison, JHey and JUp’s average flyball distances were 287 and 285, respectively. Simmons did hit a bunch of HRs last year, but that was basically a function of him hitting a lot of flyballs – only 7.9% went over the fence. If he had JHey/JUp type power and could park 15-20% of his flyballs over the fence, the expected value of a flyball for him would be worth it; however, given his merely average power, Simmons’ batting value would be maximized by leveraging his plus skills (contact and foot speed) to intentionally hit more LD/GB in future, with the knowledge it would result in fewer chances for HRs and with the hope that will boost his LD rate and cut down on his brutally high infield popup rate (17.8% last year). That tradeoff could easily boost his BABIP near .300, which overall should make him vastly more valuable at the plate.

    For example, last year Simmons’ slash line was .248/.296/.396 (.247 BABIP), roughly 9% below league average. Steamer’s 2014 projection system has Simmons at .267/.318/.408 (.273 BABIP), Oliver at .277/.327/.425 (.286 BABIP), 9% above average. If Andrelton can manage the Oliver projection, that would be a boost of ~1.5 WAR over his 2013 offense, turning him into a 6+ WAR player.
    Note: that 6+ WAR projection is over 14 fewer games than 2013, and includes no improvement in BB rate or base running skills. In other words, 6+ WAR is eminently doable, as there are many different avenues of improvement for Andrelton.

    TL;DR – Simmons should try to convert himself into a line-drive spraying doubles machine, and could easily become one of the top five most valuable players in the NL next season. The Braves are crazy if they aren’t camping out on his front doorstep trying to sign him to a long-term deal this offseason.

    Also, sorry if this level of detail is stepping on the toes of whoever is assigned to write the Andrelton writeup for Bravesjournal.

  37. I think folks here overrate Simmons’ bat and offensive upside significantly. FWIW.

    Sam, do you really think that a .750 OPS is an unreasonable projection of Simmons’ 2014 offensive upside? Personally, I’d say a .725 OPS (the Steamer projection) would be about my median projection for Andrelton, with .750 (Oliver) entirely doable as an upside projection. If someone told me they though Simmons could do an .850 OPS or something, now that I’d find overly optimistic. But a .750 OPS plus the same defense as last year = 6+ WAR.

  38. No, Halladay’s end was not nearly as abrupt.

    Koufax only had four years of dominance. Lumping in two more years is the only reason its close.

    Koufax didn’t get to figure things out in the minors, so those years affect his numbers.

  39. Apparently Curtis Granderson said “True New Yorkers are Mets fans” at his press conference today, which sounds strikingly similar in spirit to Chipper’s “Mets fans can go home and put on their Yankees gear” comment back in the 90s. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

  40. I think folks see the 17 HRs and think he is going to morph into a better offensive player. When I got to watch him he usually hit a short popup. A lot of short popups, very few of which had a chance of falling for base hits. @63 That high infield popup rate (17.8% last year)sure does explain that low BABIP to me. Hopefully for us he can be coached out of that tendency.

    edit: @69 Dodgers trying to reduce a crowded outfield.

  41. In my opinion, Andrelton’s decent power and high contact rate indicate a player who is likely to improve with experience. Of course, it’s possible that he’ll always remain an overaggressive hacker who hits into way too many pop-ups, but the fact that he doesn’t strike out bodes well for the future.

  42. MikeM at 60

    Look at Simmons first half / second half or pre all star / post all star. He basically had a 790 or so ops the last few months. He LOOKED like a better hitter. WAS he a better hitter? I don’t know, but I do believe at his age based on what we have seen, he will add a little bapip and slg and a little walk related obp. Small doses of each of 3 things which will increase his ops.

    So, to me, 750 for the year is quite reasonable.

  43. The Braves, along with about 7 other teams, are interested in Eric Chavez. Also, DOB reporting that it’s likely O’Flaherty will be back in ’14. Both good news if the price is right.

  44. I can sign up for a 750 upside. I’m hesitant to think the kid’s a 800-850 hitter. I think that’s more projection and hope than anything else. I’m not trying to undermine his value as a full player. His defense is otherworldly. But it seems like some folks are just assuming he’s going to turn into a two way star simply because he’s young and had a good second half. I need to see more than I have to buy into that.

  45. Simmons is going to hit 20+ HRs next year and a ton of doubles. Reserve the hope for Uggla and BJ because we’ll be needing excessive amounts there. It’s not about hope with Simmons, it’s about harnessing that incredible hand-eye and a more mature approach. Dude is going to be one of our best hitters.

  46. Angels finally found a team that is dumber than they are. Naturally it was the same team that traded us CJ and JUpton and that prefers grit and the RBI stat to actual value.

  47. Interestingly, Andrelton’s year at the plate in 2013 (248/296/396) is almost exactly Alex Gonzalez’s career line (246/290/396).

    Granderson’s pretty smart, actually. He’s simply appealing to the little-brother complex of Mets fans, just like Rex Ryan appeals to the same issues in Jets fans. (“We’re not here to kiss anyone’s rings.”) Openly appeal to their collective inferiority complex & they will love you.

    FWIW, a lot of people will tell you that NYC was always an NL town until the Yanks won it back in the late-90s. It certainly was a Mets town when I moved here in the summer of ’90.

  48. In you all’s opinion, if the Braves signed Joba for 3 million, Eric O’Flaherty for an AAV of 4 million, and Eric Chavez for 3 million, would that be a good use of 10 million? I’d be down.

  49. @72 – I agree that he is likely to improve at the dish this year. And so does ZIPS. I just think that improvement is likely to be more modest than some here are describing.

    Alex, your comment about Simmons being “toolset” got me thinking. What is your philosophy on hitters? Can toolsy guys with athleticism and strength learn the finer aspects of hitting (pitch recognition, bat control) at the major league level with practice and coaching? Or are great hitters just born with better eyesight & dexterity that allows them to have better pitch selection from day one – something that can’t be taught?

    I think I lean toward the latter, but I’d be interested in what others think. Sure there are examples that support both theories out there. Jason Heyward had better pitch recognition skills as a rookie than some hackers can develop their entire careers.

  50. Mike, it’s a good question. Short answer: some tools are easier to learn than others. Andrelton has a good line drive percentage and good power for a shortstop, and a terrific contact rate. For comparison: when he swings, he makes contact 88% of the time, compared to a league average of 80%. Ichiro has a career contact percentage of 89%. Last year, Simmons was 21st among all major league hitters in contact percentage. This is very good company.

    The ability to hit the ball hard is a tool, as is the bat control that allows him to make contact with the ball nearly 90% of the time. Perhaps most importantly, so is Andrelton’s superlative athleticism: he was a great soccer player when younger, he was a terrific pitcher, and he’s the greatest defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith.

    Generally speaking, as players get older, they get more experienced at the plate and add more muscle on their frames; as a result, as they age, players tend to walk more, hit for more power, and strike out more. That’s why these are called “old player skills.” No one gets faster as they get older, but some people get better as defense because their instincts get better even as their first step gets slower. Because of Andrelton’s good power, good contact rate, and good athleticism, and because I expect he will become a more selective hitter as he gets older, I expect his results at the plate to improve.

    Of course, he might never get any better, which is certainly what happened to Alex Gonzalez. But Gonzalez had an average- to below-average contact rate, which hurt his productivity.

  51. Joba Chamberlain is a mediocre reliever living off of residual Yankee hype. Any seven-figure salary is too much for him.

  52. @83,

    In some ways, Simmons reminds me of Rafael Furcal when he came up. The line on Furcal was supposedly that he had so little power that pitchers would simply knock the bat out of his hand. That turned out not to be the case obviously. But shortstop is still primarily a defensive position although that has changed significantly in the last 30 years. But, IMO, this guy is such a great shortstop that the Braves should not be focusing on whether he is going to be Derek Jeter offensively. Get the offense from someplace else. (Although, obviously, I would certainly like to see him improve offensively but not if it were to detract from his defense.)

  53. I agree more or less, Marc. I would prefer to treat any offense beyond his 2013 production as bonus. I think the Braves should build an offense that assumes Andrelton Simmons hits in the lower third of the order. They could live with him in the lower middle third (#6) but are going to be in trouble if he’s batting in the top half (1-5.)

  54. If Simba can be a .750 OPS guy with THAT defense, then he would be the best all-around player in the NL. And I agree that he needs ALL the money.

  55. I would like to find a second baseman that can get on base and let him bat at the top of the order (1-2)

  56. I think I read somewhere that Fredi has plans to bat Heyward leadoff again next year. Fine by me. You guys are vastly underestimating Simmons’ offensive ceiling, but even if I’m wrong he’s still the best player on the team so Wren needs to get busy there.

  57. @95,

    If Simmons offense really does develop the way you think, we are talking Hall of Fame. I certainly would not mind that.

  58. I think it’s not so much underrating Simmons’s ceiling as it is underrating his most likely outcome. I think that there is almost no chance that Simmons hits as many homers in 2014 as he did in 2013 — I expect some regression to the mean. Of his 17 homers, 8 were marked as “Just Enough” or “Lucky” by HitTrackerOnline, which indicates that some of those are likely to turn back into doubles next year. 17 homers is probably a lot closer to Simmons’s likely ceiling than his floor.

    And that’s no knock. These days, 20 homers is more or less equivalent to 30 homers ten years ago. If Simmons hits 15 homers a year he’ll be one of the most powerful shortstops in the majors after Troy Tulowitzki.

  59. Right. To project Simmons as an 850 OPS with that glove is to suggest that a young Derek Jeter (offensively) is melded with a young Ozzie Smith (defensively.) It’s to suggest that he’s going to be, well, ARod in Seattle. That’s really, really high standards.

  60. By the time he was 24 or so, Alex Rodriguez was one of the top defensive shortstops in the league as well as one of the best hitters in all of baseball. By the time he was 25, he was a free agent.

    Andrelton Simmons is a bad dude, but he ain’t Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was the best shortstop since Honus Wagner, and by pretty much any reasonable standard he’s the second-best shortstop in major league history.

  61. Bullpen sleeper for 2014 – Luis Vasquez. We signed him last month as a minor league free agent from the Dodgers org. Side-arming righty that touches upper 90’s. Could be a candidate to fill in the back of the pen as a ROOGY. Still only 27. Has overpowering stuff, but no control. Definitely worth a shot…could be the next guy-you’ve-never-heard-of to have a good season for us.

  62. Throwing 99 with a submarine arm angle will get you a look. He posted good numbers last year too, and pitched great in winter ball. No-risk and a potential diamond in the rough.

  63. @102

    That’s precisely why I hope the Braves don’t spend money on middle relief/setup this offseason. We have so much success getting guys off the scrap heap.

    Really, I’m not seeing a whole lot of reason to spend money at all, except maybe on another starter. If Alex Wood can be Paul Maholm (more innings but he wouldn’t have to be as effective), then we may not even need to do that.

    Let’s be honest; “upgrading” to league average at two positions immediately and significantly upgrades this club. If Wren can’t do that, then we have bigger problems.

    With the money saved, I would love to re-sign our young players, but I see no reason for our players to do that. I feel with the current free agent market, the days of extending the Evan Longoria’s and Brian McCann’s are now over. You have to have a player who is either a) not risky at all or b) loves his team over a huge amount of money. Neither of which are very likely.

  64. @84

    yup, right now…before the holiday… there is no credible justification to not do so.


    yup again, Joba’s HOF career ended in a swarm of bugs, fresh from a Lake hatch.

  65. @102,

    I also think that Jason Heyward, for example, even if he was interested in extending, might want to wait until he had a really big year that would make the Braves offer more. So far, while he has shown to be a very good player-at times-his injuries and lack of consistency would likely reduce the size of whatever the Braves offered. If Jason were to have a really big, MVP-type year, he would be in a much better position to maximize his value, if he actually wanted to stay with the Braves, or to increase has value as a free agent. In any event, I suspect he would not be willing to sign an extension at this point unless the Braves just blew him out of the water, which I doubt they would.

  66. Well, I might have over-exaggerated that statement. Billy Burns, 74 steals in 81 tries. Holy success rate!

  67. I’m torn between whether we are seeing a new standard of defensive shortstop in MLB (Simmons, Iglesias, that kid out in Arizona) or if the metrics are just reading them differently than they read historic seasons. Either way, Alex Rodriguez was the best defensive shortstop in baseball his entire career until he got to NY. The fact that he moved to 3B in the Bronx is a function of Derek Jeter’s ego, not the facts.

  68. @110

    Jeter may have been able to play second base, but it was easier to move ARod than Jeter.

    The ego thing helps too

  69. Three or years down the road maybe Simba moves to 3B because we have to get Jose Peraza in the lineup…file that in the wish/hope/good-problems-to-have category.

  70. #110
    Had a whole lot more to do with the Yankees deciding that A-Rod at 3B was a much better option than Jeter at 2B, a position BTW that Robinson Cano took over the year after A-Rod arrived in The Bronx.

  71. I might not agree with all of the Mariners moves for the future, but they’re quickly putting together a competitive team. Cano, LoMo and Cory Hart to go with Smoak and Seager on the offensive and their pitching is very promising! Go M’s!

  72. I think there are a couple of things going on. First, current metrics don’t totally map to what we had pre-2002. Second, with offense down all over baseball, teams are more willing to go for an all-glove no-bat shortstop than they have been at any point since the ’80s. In other words, we’re probably going to see a lot more Rey Ordonezes and Royce Claytons, as the offensive norm for the position gets redefined.

    That said, these things tend to come in waves. Defense became a fad a few years ago. But that meant that a guy like Jhonny Peralta — who can hit a little and play average defense at short — became underrated. The pendulum may be swinging back toward guys like that. We’ll see.

    I hate the Mariners’ moves this offseason. Regarding Smoak, who carries over — he was a great prospect, but his entire major league career forces one to conclude that he simply cannot hit major league pitching. Similarly, Logan Morrison was a promising prospect, but his career has utterly stalled, and while he has needed to get out of Miami for a while, Seattle is the last place that a guy should go to try to rediscover his stroke. Corey Hart has had some good years, but he hasn’t played a game since 2012, and Safeco is death on right-handed powerhitters.

    Kyle Seager is the one guy on that team who’s actually been able to hit over the last couple years, and Cano is good enough that he’ll hit once he gets there — though his numbers won’t be nearly as good as they were in Yankee Stadium, and if you don’t believe me, just look at what Adrian Beltre was able to do once he left Safeco and went to Fenway and the Ballpark in Arlington.

    The Mariners are spending money and going after players, but as far as I can tell, they’re not much closer to actually being a good team.

  73. The Mariners seem to be trying to resurrect Jim Bowden’s old “get every marginal corner prospect that hit well in the minors and throw them at a wall” theory of roster construction from his Cincy days.

    Also, Charlie Morton, 3 years, 21 mil. Charlie Morton is going to make $7 per. Damn.

  74. If y’all read AJC the Braves think that they can rehabilitate Uggla. While they are trying like hell to trade him to someone willing to pay more than the MLB minimum. Mixed signals coming from the Kremlin.

    @112 – That is one major man crush you have on Simmons. He is most valuable at SS. He is so valuable because he is the best defender at the second most difficult position on the field.

  75. Frank Wren has the easiest job on earth. He can basically do nothing at all this offseason and it’s a somewhat defensible path to take.

  76. @118,

    It’s defensible except that standing pat rarely works. Injuries, slumps, other teams making moves. Wren might have no choice but I think teams have to constantly look for ways to get better besides simply expecting internal improvement. I’m not saying go out and trade away the farm system but,while the Braves are a good team, they do have black holes at second and center and a need for starting pitching. Their major competitor made a move. I actually do not believe that Wren is totally content with the team but I’m sure that’s the story he is putting out.

  77. Frank Wren wants to improve his team. The other 29 GMs want to improve their teams. From a PR perspective you *always* say you’re happy where you are until you make another move. Because it’s possible that the other moves get made by other GMs before you can make yours happen, and you don’t want to be stuck with status quo while a quote from earlier hangs over your clubhouse all spring long about how you really can’t imagine being competitive if you can’t get rid of Dan Uggla.

  78. Winter Meetings Dept.

    Bartolo Colon signs 2-year deal with Mets.

    Also, MLB tries to get rid of home-plate collisions. Runners can’t hit the catcher anymore—they must slide into the plate.

  79. Looks like they had to change the rules to protect the league from Oso Blanco. Go ahead and add it to his Keltner List.

    Seriously though, I’m not a fan of the proposed change.

  80. I am a fan of the rule change. There’s no real reason to continue having collisions at home plate. There’s no real reason to treat home any differently than any other bag.

  81. Lots of second basemen are likely thinking that taking them out on double plays merits as much consideration as collisions at home. At least the catchers wear chest protectors and shin guards.

  82. @127, That’s true, but they’re also coming in which much more force. I’ll take getting taken out at second over getting leveled at the plate any day. Unless the runner takes a knee to the face (like Ryan Church?), then I don’t see second base contact having an equal effect.

    With that said, I’m pretty indifferent to the home plate rule change. It’s an exciting play, but it’s also pretty unnecessary. A really good hook slide is about as sweet as a collision in my opinion. Those take some skill!

    Somewhere out there, Johnny Estrada is pissed this wasn’t changed sooner.

  83. Well, this rule change isn’t going to remove player contact at the plate. That will remain, much as player contact remains at 2B and 3B and anywhere there’s a play other than first, really. There’s a tag involved, after all. But the play this rule change is designed to eliminate doesn’t happen at 2B. You don’t see a 2B or SS set up in front of the bag without the ball and try to intentionally ride the runner off the bag until the ball gets to him. Similarly, you don’t see a runner out by four steps on the fielder’s choice attempt to lower his shoulder and dislodge the ball. Those are the plays this change is aimed at preventing. And it’s a perfectly good thing to do.

  84. Yeah the collision play has been banned for many years at most all of the lower levels of baseball. No reason to keep it in the pro game. The play is too dangerous for both runner and catcher. Most smart coaches instruct their catchers to stand in front of the plate (towards the mound) and just go for the swipe tag on a close play. That positioning induces the runners to try a hook slide or head first slide to the back tip of the plate – which is safest for all involved.

  85. With the Marlins getting Salty and Furcal, I’d love to complete their former-Braves-up-the-middle by trading them Uggla and Upton.

  86. We did avoid arb with Walden agreeing to 1.49 Million which comes in under MLBTR’s projections of $1.5. Wonder what we’ll spend that extra $10,000 on?

  87. @ajcbraves: I hear #Braves made inquiries into contract extensions with few of their young standouts past 2 yrs, felt would take big overpay to get done

    Does this mean that Wren isn’t pursuing that anymore. DOB has mentioned that they haven’t reached out to Freeman or Heyward at this point. Also, Fredi said he was waiting till January to reach out to Uggla and BJ.

  88. @143

    And that’s my thing: If it would take a big overpay to get it done, why would we do it? I know everyone’s clamoring for this, but a) doing it might hamper our ability to make moves that would make next year’s team (or the next couple years’ teams) better, and b) the point of these deals is to buy out arb years and push free agency back a few years at a discounted rate (relative to what the player could get on the open market) in exchange for stability and guaranteed money on the player’s end. If the player won’t take the discounted rate and the team is taking on as much or almost as much risk as they would by merely signing a player to a market-rate deal, what is the point of doing the deal from the team’s perspective?

    I think it’s time to start accepting the fact that Heyward and Freeman aren’t signing any deals like this. None that would make much sense for the team to do in lieu of waiting to see what happens with their market value as they get closer to free agency, anyway.

    Regardless, “do nothing to improve the team and just throw all the money at people we already have under contract for next year” doesn’t strike me as a winning strategy for the 2014 season.

  89. @ajcbraves: I hear #Braves made inquiries into contract extensions with few of their young standouts past 2 yrs, felt would take big overpay to get done

  90. Trading for Samardzija scares the Dickens out of me. I could see them being interested in Chris Johnson and/or Joey Terdoslavich to go along with a few pitching prospects.

  91. @148 – trying to win a WS in 2014 with 90% of the talent from a roster that wasn’t good enough to advance a round in 2013 scares the dickens out of me.

    Screwing around with the bit players doesn’t get it done. You need impact players. If Samardzija is available and you can get him, he makes the whole rotation better and moves the needle in a way that half-measure trades for bench guys do not.

  92. They won’t move into a new stadium with anything less that a great team.

    I think we end up paying one of Heyward ro Freeman big money and trade the other, at some point.

  93. 150: I think they will move into the new stadium with a bad team, because a bad team is what they’ll be able to afford in 2017. I know it’s nice to think that there is some power that be out there that will prevent it from happening, but all indications are that Liberty Media is pretty set in the “spend what you make” way, and what the Braves make isn’t good enough to compete post-Heyward, Freeman, and Justin Upton.

  94. I don’t think Samardzija is a below average pitcher and I’m sure we can accomplish that trade without Chris Johnson being involved.

  95. #155
    His career numbers say that he’s a tick below average. Doesn’t mean he can’t improve in a new park, although his Wrigley/road splits are almost identical.

    But if he’s league-average & tosses 200+ IP (like he did last year), that’s certainly valuable.

  96. @154, it’s even worse than that, it’s “spend what you make after we take an ever-increasing rake from the top,” evidenced by $25MM in national TV money being added to the pile and the 2014 payroll not likely to budge an inch from the 90-million-fixed-real-dollars level it’s held for 10 solid years now.

    But I agree with your basic thesis, which is that ownership is too cheap to keep up with inflation and therefore Wren should go all-in to maximize his window to win while $90MM and change buys you something. 2017 is for suckers and Vinings residents. I am neither. It’s a window, make things happen.

    There is no way the Cubs would want Chris Johnson in a Samardzija deal. They’re cashing him out for prospects.

  97. ‘There is no way the Cubs would want Chris Johnson in a Samardzija deal. They’re cashing him out for prospects’
    Which in our case means pitching.

    I get the window but you never know. The Braves may trade to re stock the farm or a stable contract or two.

  98. Bowman is mentioning Wren’s conversation with the Twins and that they are willing to move Corriea this offseason. What a piss poor offseason this could turn out to be.

  99. I’m no fan of Liberty but I disagree that it will be impossible to compete in later years. The organization is built around developing young talent and bringing in league average players from other teams-with the occasional big deal. This is not fun for fans but I think it is still a viable method of being competitive, if not winning a championship. I don’t think the Braves are going to regress back to the mid-80s. I don’t think ownership particularly cares if the Braves win the World Series but I do think it wants them to be competitive because otherwise how do you draw fans to the new park? Of course, this method puts great pressure on the front office to make the right decisions on drafting and player development-it’s got to be a lot easier to be the Yankees’ GM-but it’s not impossible. I think the organizational plan is to do what they have always done-build a team to win 85-90 games, hope they play a little better in the regular season, and then get hot in the playoffs.

  100. @165

    Yeah, I agree. I would imagine a couple of the young guys will get extension at some point. The one who want to test free agency will be moved for prospects that are close to MLB ready.

    ONce we move into a new park, we will hopefully be able to generate more revenue and up the payroll.

  101. Supposedly, we are certain to be generating more revenue next year, with the new TV deal, as advertised.

    Yet, our payroll will remain relatively flat. It makes one think that the revenue goes straight to the bottom line.

    However, if we chose to wait out the increased demand for free agents that this TV deal should generate, it might be more shrewd than greedy.

  102. The Braves method is not good for fans but it is good for ownership and, let’s face it, this is a business, albeit one that receives significant public assistance. The fact is, as bad as we might think Liberty is, there are much worse owners in sports who spend a lot of money without any results; e.g., Peter Angelos, Dan Snyder, and many others. John Malone isn’t searching for a championship before he dies. Liberty Media has developed a method of operating the Braves that achieves its primary purpose-making a profit-while so far at least maintaining pretty good teams. It’s not good or bad, it just is.

  103. I agree. I don’t love Liberty but I can’t hate them. They have been a much better owner than, say, Nintendo or Peter Angelos or Drayton McLane or Jeffrey Loria or Arte Moreno or Hal Steinbrenner or Fred Wilpon. More money would be nice, but frankly, the fact that they aren’t meddling and haven’t done horrible stupid things like cracking down on spending on the draft or making unreasonable demands. Yes, it’s a low bar, but far too many owners have failed to clear it.

  104. Could one make the argument that there is some competitive advantage to payroll restrictions? I mean the big dollar deals we’ve made have not exactly worked all that well right? Lowe, BJ, the Uggla extention, Kawakami, not mention the fact that once you’ve paid these guys you really feel like you have to play them if you don’t understand sunk costs.

    I know it’s easier with a large payroll to absorb bad contracts, but I think drafting and developing players is the way to keep an organization successful year in year out though I’d like to see us being more of a player in the international market.

    I think of the horrible state of the Phillies and remember how I wondered a few years ago how we would ever beat a team with Utley, Halladay, Lee and Hamels and look how that has turned out. Baseball players are typically underpaid before FA and then overpayed afterwards not to mention their peaks usually occur before FA. The Rays and A’s seem to have figured that out although admittedly those teams have no championships to show for it yet. But I say let the Yankees and Dodgers keep overpaying free agents.

  105. Oh, and we signed Mat Gamel. BANG.

    Actually great minor league numbers .304/.376/.498 but has never put it together or been healthy enough in the majors .229/.308/.367 only 269 PAs though. Still only 26.

  106. Gamel? I am pleased with this.

    I really wanted that guy when he was a prospect. I am hoping he can remind me why.

  107. Our bench has potential with Terdo, Gamel, Laird, Schafer, and Pastornicky. Potential is the key word though. A lot of iffs with that bunch.

  108. @171, I think that having a lot of money is a good problem to have. We have a very effective GM and player development staff. They make do despite being in the bottom half of the league in payroll. I don’t think that their effectiveness would be lessened by having more money.

  109. He’ll likely suck — the next Norton/Hinske — but at least we’re not spending on this role.

    Re: ownership, If my choice is spends $$$/meddles vs cheap/doesn’t meddle, I take a deep breath and go with the former. Neither is ideal, clearly.

  110. 179: There does come a point at which the bad of the meddling swamps the good of the payroll. Look at what Arte Moreno has done to the Angels the past 3 years.

  111. Guys I got this. I have a Mega Millions ticket and the jackpot is $400MM. Once I win, I’m buying a controlling stake in the Braves. We’re going to give Wren $200MM annually to play with and we’re also running a ski lift from Five Points to Cumberland.

  112. And while I recognize the danger in being that meddling owner, my first two acts of business will be to reassign Fredi Gonzalez to writing daily reports and trade Chip Caray to SNY. After these things, I’ll let the professional baseball people do their work. Getting really excited about tonight’s drawing.

  113. I concede that you might win the Mega Millions, but the odds someone will trade anything for Chip Caray are really out there.

  114. 185: “Trade” in this case could mean “fly him over Citi Field and drop him out of the plane.”

  115. By the way, it was 4/$30M for Infante.

    Yeah, there is stupid money flying around. I think we’re heading toward a free agent market crash. More and more teams are going to invest heavily in player development to stay away from all this.

    From the conversation earlier about it being good to have a low payroll, I understand the mindset. It’s like saying you can’t afford to play in the casino so you’re forced to invest through growth-stock mutual funds. It’s the better move, but it’s forced because you can’t afford the alternative. I would, however, like to have the money to play in the casino but stick with the mutual funds.

  116. Samardizja reminds me of AJ Burnett. Million dollar arm, ten cent brain. (Surprising for a Notre Dame product)

  117. I have the potential opportunity to get a short piece published online about some of the “no-duh” rules in baseball. I have pitched the idea and they are interested, but they would like some more examples before they actually have me write the article. My hope is to include rules with crazy stories/legends behind them that would be an interesting read. If anyone here knows of any such stories that led to a rule change/implementation that you think I should look into as I really begin to research this, I’d love to hear suggestions.

    Rules I have so far include:
    —Runners are not permitted to run the bases backward
    —Players cannot substitute into the game while the ball is in play
    —Balls cannot be blown foul (I know this isn’t an actual rule, but I think it will work to include it)
    —Umpires are prohibited from conferring with spectators or players
    —Runners must touch each base
    —An umpire is permitted to put a new baseball in play whenever he deems it necessary

    I would love to include the rule about fielders not being permitted to use their caps or any other article of clothing to catch the ball and make the out, but I have not really found any specific stories to go with it yet.

    With the wealth of baseball knowledge on this site, I am hoping you all may be able to suggest some other “seriously, they had to make a rule about that?” rules that I can look further into. I’d appreciate hearing anything you would like to share!

  118. @196, I’d work Germany Schaefer stealing first base in there.

    Also, this isn’t exactly a rule change, but I believe that the habit of pitchers putting their gloves over their mouths when they talk to the catcher actually started with Greg Maddux, because he realized that baserunners could lipread.

  119. @193, I think that’s already happened, which is what is driving up the FA market. Basically, if you don’t have a guy you like at a position it’s becoming impossible to trade for one, because young or cost controlled talent is at a premium – you have to compete to buy them on the FA market.

  120. #196

    Isn’t there some rule about players having to wear the same uniform? Didn’t Brian Wilson have to blacken his orange shoes with Majik Marker when he was with the Giants?

  121. #199

    Because he was afraid he might be tipping pitches, Maddux had a leather hood sewn on his glove to cover his index finger, which he kept outside the stall. That feature has since become standard.

  122. @199 and 202—I did not know that. Maddux was a genius.

    @201—There is a rule that says the uniforms must match, but I’m wondering if Wilson had to blacken his shoes because he is a pitcher? I am not sure if shoes apply to the matching rule or not, but I know pitchers are not allowed to wear big pieces of jewelry or attach anything colored to their uniforms or bodies, because pitchers used to employ those tactics to distract hitters. Some umps have taken that rule to the extreme and made pitchers do some crazy things. It’s definitely something worth looking into.

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