145 thoughts on “Pickles”

  1. None love for the Pickles love? I work my hands to the bone for you kids, and what thanks do I get? None!

  2. Sam, For what it’s worth I like your graphy stuffs. And the other day I was trying to convince a friend of mine to check out Braves Journal and when he finally looked at it his first comment was “it has charts and graphs; I like charts and graphs.” So there’s that.

  3. PICKLES!!!

    So, are we going to do stuff like say, “It was a dill night!” when he pitches well while moaning, “Oh, God. Looks like it’s Bread & Butter today…..” when he’s awful?

  4. I would assume any time he gets torched it will be a case of Fried Pickles.

    Which are friggin’ delicious, by the way.

  5. Man, I’d be losing my mind if I was a Rangers fan. 3/5 of their starting rotation, their starting catcher, second baseman, and three relievers. Season over.

  6. @12: If he’ll sign, why not? They’d only need to pay him league minimum, and he could provide some much-needed depth. I agree that he’d be one the Braves’ five best starters now, but only until Floyd gets better.

  7. I’m concerned about the bullpen almost as much as the rotation. Kimbrel, Carpenter, and Avilan should carry the workload. I just hope Walden and Venters can stay healthy.

  8. Lots of speculation over in the last thread from a lot of pitching experts on the Braves’ scouting and throwing program.

    Thought I’d throw some facts at the discussion. Baseball reference has a great page here:


    (Note: not a Rick Roll)

    It’s the 2013 season in starting pitching, first categorized by team, then by all players who started a game.

    Expert Speculation #1: “The Braves run their pitchers into the ground.”

    Well, in 2013 Braves starters averaged 6.1 innings per start–that’s on a decimal scale, not a three outs one. This is just barely over the MLB average of 5.9. But the Braves didn’t beat that average by running the pitchers into the ground more than other teams in the league. Only once did a Braves starter throw more than 120 pitches, which puts them in the bottom third. In only 59 games did a Braves starter pitch between 100 and 119 pitches, which is well below the league average of 72–in fact, it makes them one of the 7 least pitching-abusive teams in baseball last year.

    The numbers are almost identical in 2012 (5.9, 1, 57) and 2011 (5.9, 0, 61). I think that makes a good argument to support the idea that the Braves pitching program is designed NOT to run pitchers into the ground. (Although, it also squares with the luxury of the Braves having had, for four seasons now, one of the top bullpens in the game.)

    Expert Speculation #2: The Braves draft higher injury risk players, like small guys and weird delivery dudes.

    Look, I’m not going to tell you that Tommy Hanson and Alex Wood don’t have funny deliveries. But Alex Wood isn’t hurt, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being before we start decrying a scouting and development program that continually churns out above-average pitchers–including Julio Teheran and Mike Minor, whom everyone seems to be high on by now. And does somebody know something about Beachy’s delivery that I don’t? (Serious question.)

    As far as size goes? Probably humbug that smaller pitchers are more likely to get injured. According to Bill James, who I asked in his “Hey Bill” section a couple weeks ago when the injuries occurred, scouts do believe that smaller pitchers are less likely to be durable, but he’s never seen any evidence to support that belief. He also indicated, somewhat snarkily, that he doesn’t know if anyone has tracked pitchers’ size in relation to their injury history. (When he says he doesn’t know of a study, it’s a good bet that there hasn’t been a study.)

    So is there something wrong with the Braves throwing program?

    Dunno. But if there is it isn’t anything any of us know about yet–maybe something in the off-day prep work, maybe something in McDowell’s pitching philosophy. It certainly isn’t that the Braves abuse their pitchers in game situations, and it probably isn’t that we scout more stupidly or more riskily than other teams.

  9. Teheran pitching tonight. The pitch tracker at mlb.com must be broken. Teheran with 48 pitches through 5+ with 42 strikes thrown and 9 SO’s? Can’t be right.

  10. Bill James doesn’t keep up with contemporary baseball research — he has a day job with the Red Sox and is more of an emeritus figure in the sabermetric community — so I wouldn’t put too much stock in his not knowing whether it’s done. I think that Sky Kalkman, Dave Cameron, or Tom Tango would have a much better sense.

  11. Julio might be really pitching a gem, I don’t know because I’m not watching or tracking it. But the Gameday thing is really really wonky in Spring Training. I followed a game and realized “Oh, this isn’t extraordinary. They are just only updating it on action pitches.” So every ball in play was a first pitch strike, every strike out was 3 strikes swinging and every walk charted like an 4-pitch intentional walk.

    Not saying it’s the case. But they did that in the game I followed earlier in the spring.

    EDIT: Scratch all that. DOB says he really was killing it. 9 Ks, 71 strikes in 100 pitches.

  12. @19 – Thanks for setting everyone straight there, Edward. Rest assured the blogosphere will be safe from speculation now that we know where to go to find facts.

    I think where you’re going wrong is: A.) Thinking anybody here was under the impression they were doing anything more than spitballing. B.) Assuming that a chart of innings per game and pitches per game represents the long and the short of “handling pitchers.”

    But good for you for citing Bill James and declaring the opinion of the majority of scouts to be, in your words, “humbug.” All of us amateur experts are thankful a real one stepped in on this one.

  13. Thinking about the size of pitchers versus injuries thing, I’m wondering if it’s like my high school boxing coach used to always say: it takes the same amount of force to knock out a feather weight as it does a heavy weight but a heavy weight can hit much harder. So does it make sense that it takes the same force to tear a ligament but a bigger guy throws harder or is it the other way around? A bigger guy has bigger ligaments which will be harder to tear? My instinct on it is to think the force a guy can put behind a pitch is somewhat relative to his size but so to will be the force required to tear a ligament. So I would think it would be a wash but maybe there is more difference in one direction or the other (force of pitch versus strength of ligament). It would be an interesting topic to investigate but I suspect the proper, rigorous research necessary would be more than anyone in a position to do so would care to invest.

  14. @25

    Well if you knew where to go for facts why weren’t you going there? A chart of pitches per start and innings per pitcher is miles ahead of where anyone else discussing the issue was at. And I don’t see a good reason for spitballing when that sort of resource is freely (and sortably!) available. You’re welcome to dig into that page or any other to further the discussion in a productive way. Do you have an argument that the Braves ARE running their pitchers into the ground?

    And yeah, I actually bothered to ask a guy who’s spent his entire adult life studying baseball a question. He carries weight with me and he ought to carry weight with y’all. You can ask him a question too. It’s really easy. You just have to bother to do it.

    I still think the opinion of the majority of scouts on the durability of small pitchers is humbug until I see a good argument behind their reasoning. Hap @28 started to delve into it. Not sure if he’s onto anything or not, but he put different points of knowledge together into an argument.


    But doesn’t his day job with the Red Sox have to do with looking at baseball research to assist in making baseball decisions? You’re right that Cameron and Tango are probably more up to date.

  15. @29 – Why does the discussion on the previous page offend your sensibilities? At what point in the previous discussion did you acquire the impression that anyone involved in that discussion was claiming any sort of authority? And last, if you want to contribute to a “productive” conversation, why do you begin it by sarcastically calling the opinions of others “Expert #1,” and “Expert #2” ?

    And to answer one of your questions, no, I don’t have evidence that the Braves are running their pitchers in to the ground. Which is why I began my expert thesis with “I don’t think it’s as much an approach/strategy thing. And I’m not sure there’s a THING at all.”

    Oh, and last, what does the chart you provided, absence any information of off-field throwing programs, actually prove? Would it also be helpful to point out that the mound at Turner Field is exactly as far from homeplate as it is in other ballparks, likewise for the bullpen mounds, aswell as the mounds on all the fields at Disney Wide World of Sports. Have I proven the Braves aren’t doing anything wrong by providing conclusive evidence that the Braves are only asking their pitchers to throw the ball exactly the same distance that other teams are asking of their pitchers?

  16. I don’t know why @19 seems to have bothered you so much. I found it to be useful information that I hadn’t bothered to collect myself. And I certainly don’t see what’s so outrageous about questioning long held conventional wisdom of scouts, as that’s basically how sabermetrics came to be.

  17. I really haven’t expressed anything to the contrary, Grst. I only brought up the bit about Bill James to illustrate that choosing to appeal to one authority over another does not make a person’s opinion any more expert than the next guy.

    I’ll make the same point without all the snark: Don’t come with a single data-point and an appeal-to-authority, and act like you’re not just guessing. And don’t refer to other guessers derisively as “experts #1 and #2” because you don’t like, or don’t understand their guesses. Because you’re guessing, just like everyone else involved in the conversation. And don’t wave around a single data point like you’re Newton discovering calculus.

    I also don’t like when my opinion is conflated with the opinions of one or more other people, who I was already disagreeing with (though, somehow, without deriding them) in order to make a suitable straw man.

    On the actual issue being discussed: I don’t think that there’s anything the Braves are doing or aren’t doing that needs to change. I think the odds are it’s just plain dumb luck. Someone’s going to lead the league in Tommy John surgeries. The Braves odds of doing it are the same as everyone else’s.

    That said, it would be stupid for the Braves to just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh well, win some, lose some.” They of course are looking at every avenue, striving to have the healthiest team they can.

    But if I were to pose a guess, which is what everyone here is doing (assuming no one here brunches with Eddie Perez, Roger McDowell, Jeff Porter or Dr. Jerry Royster) I think an interesting avenue to investigate would be the Braves reputation for finding diamonds in the rough.

    For some reason, Edward represented this argument with “the Braves draft stupidly.” Which is not what I said at all. My exact words were “The Braves of recent vintage are famous for uncovering hidden gems and turning them in to something.” The Braves continually draft late in the first round, because they continually win at the big league level. They have a good club, in part, because they draft so well. But they get criticized for going cheap in the draft, reaching for players who didn’t rate to be picked so high, so they can save money on them. Essentially, signing a round behind everyone else, drafting their 2 in the 1, their 3 in the 2, etc. Minor, Gilmartin, and Wood are all recent draftees that were, in come circles, considered reaches. But, the other side of that coin is, finding value in players other teams weren’t high on, both by proving right with those early picks, and by hitting homeruns in late rounds. They’ve done fine with this, value wise. They still get a lot of great players, and have shown a willingness to get the stud when the stud is there (Heyward and Freeman for example.)

    Evan Gattis was a non-traditional pick. Mike Minor wasn’t non-traditional, but was considered a reach. Sean Gilmartin was considered a reach. Alex Wood was a player many teams wouldn’t have drafted because of his unorthodox delivery. Same thing with Tommy Hanson. Many teams would have made a reliever out of Kris Medlen. Many teams would have made a reliever out of JR Graham. I’ll also note that the Braves requested Arodys Vizcaino in the Javier Vasquez trade, even though they and the Yankees both knew he was hurt. (There were articles written that implied the Yankees thought he was a malingerer.) Brandon Beachy had been an outfielder and was not pitching serious innings anywhere, only as a sometime reliever for a community college.

    And yes, this is the same system that signed Julio Teheran. But that’s not the same thing, that market is so supressed, dollar wise, that there isn’t the same incentive to cheap out. Teheran’s signing bonus was akin the a 3rd or 4th rounder. BUT, even here, they are famous for being among the first to go to non-traditional baseball powerhouse nations to find talent: Curacao, Colombia, Panama.

    For Edward’s benefit, I’ll clarify that I offer these players as examples to illustrate a trend: the Braves willingness to separate from the herd. I do not list them because I can’t read and think that Evan Gattis or Alex Wood is injured. I’m not saying that Colombian or Panamanian pitchers are more likely to get hurt, that’s ridiculous, don’t pretend I said that.

    Now, could you find other teams with a similar willingness? Oh, probably. I don’t know them because I only have a familiarity with the Braves farm and transaction history. But this is a narrative we hear alot, that’s all I’m saying.

    So, it’s a leap to say that this is the reason the Braves lead the universe in injured pitchers. Like I said above, I don’t know that there even IS a reason for that. But we have two common narratives “The Braves find a lot of hidden value in the amateur ranks,” and “The Braves pitchers get injured a lot.”

    I just think, if you’re investigating, that’s an interesting direction to investigate. If you’re just a dipshit on a blog, which I am, and you’re just making guesses, that’s the guess I’d take.

    Scouts think small guys can’t be starters. Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez weren’t 6’3″ (though, neither were the 5’8″.) But Clayton Kershaw is 6’3″. Cliff Lee is 6’3″. Roy Halladay was 6’6″. And yes, big guys get hurt, and little guys get hurt, and big guys don’t, and little guys don’t. But clubs, by and large, have always moved small guys to the pen.

    Sure, challenge that. Let a little guy start, see if he can do it. But you have to accept this might be a data point that the conventional wisdom was right.

    For Brandon Beachy, I looked for the old DOB piece on his history, written when he was first tearing up the minors, but I couldn’t find it. But he might be a case that, if he had been a starter all along, pitching serious innings at a serious baseball school, he might have developed more before becoming a pro, and wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Conversely, maybe he was bound to get hurt, and if he’d pitched more, he never would have gotten as far as a pro career. What do I know?

    But Tommy Hanson, I think a lot of people were pointing and saying “I told you so” when his shoulder came up barking. The stiff front side, the sudden stop and violent recoil, lots of people saw shoulder trouble there.

    These are just SOME non-traditional decision the Braves made, obviously not all of them. And these are just SOME guys who got hurt, certainly not all of them. I’m not saying there’s causation there, I’m just making the argument for argument’s sake. And I’m not saying it’s good or bad. If Medlen is in the pen, or Beachy was never signed, or what have you, then wouldn’t have sent Delgado to AZ for Upton. Maybe we do, because we wouldn’t have trade Scott Diamond, JJ Hoover, Bret Oberholtzer, Jeff Locke or Charlie Morton. That just changes too much history to even re-imagine.

    I just think it’s an interesting angle to look at the situation from.

  18. I think the message from Edward, correct me if I am wrong, is that the Braves are not doing anything different from the other teams/average in terms of looking at the numbers. I would agree with that and also based on what we see every day. In fact, I think Fredi is much more protective on his pitchers than Bobby on this regard. But somehow, we still have more TJ victims than all teams around the league in recent years.

    This is why it leads me to thinking about the entire pitching program (eg what they do in between starts and offseason) rather than what actually happening on the field. Of course, there is no way we can find out because these are unquantifiable and the information is lacking on these topics. Maybe it is the type of pitchers we draft but this is not the kind of topic which I believe we can come to any reasonable and sustainable conclusion.

    jjschiller, for me, the question is indeed whether this is “dumb luck” or not. Obviously, you take the side that it is.

  19. @33 – And I’m saying that nobody was arguing that our starting pitchers throw more innings or more pitches than other teams.

    We had Rob Cope simply state that, basically “Whatever they’re doing, you can’t argue with the results. We pitch great, even though we’re hurt alot.” Then braves14 questioned whether Leo Mazzone’s former throwing program was better than whatever they are doing now. Then I commented that maybe some of our non-traditional decisions are setting us up for unforeseen consequences. Followed by a lot of back and forth about, assuming it IS something we’re doing, is it helping us or hurting us.

    Second, a chart showing that our STARTERS throw the same number of innings and pitches as other teams isn’t particularly enlightening, primarily because no one said they did, and secondarily because it’s only one measurement of one portion of our pitching staff.

    I don’t think there’s any way to deny that we DO overwork our pitching staff, just not the guys on his chart. In fact, Rob Cope (Or, Expert Speculator #1) @148 in the previous thread was speaking SPECIFICALLY about relievers.

    Since 2003, here are all the guys we’ve had make more than 68 or so appearances, including where their number ranked among ALL pitchers that year:

    2013 Kimbrel 68, Avilan 75 (8th)
    2012 Durbin 76, Venters 66, EOF 64, Kimbrel 63
    2011 Venters 85 (1st), Kimbrel 79 (2nd), EOF 78 (5th)
    2010 Moylan 85 (2nd), Venters 79 (7th), Wagner 71
    2009 Moylan 87 (2nd), Gonzalez 80 (3rd), EOF 78 (8th), Soriano 77 (10th)
    2008 Ohman 83 (2nd), Boyer 76 (9th), Bennett 72
    2007 Moylan 80 (10th), Yates 75, Soriano 71
    2006 McBride 71, Ken Ray 69
    2005 Reitsma 76
    2004 Reitsma 84, Alfonseca 79, Smoltz 73, Gryboski 69
    2003 King 80 (3rd)

    So we know Venters has had two Tommy Johns (one was before this usage occured) Moylan had TJ as a Brave and is going in for a second, O’Flaherty had TJ as a Brave, and Mike Gonzalez had TJ as a Brave.

    Macay McBride had TJ surgery in 2008, 20 appearances after we traded him to the Tigers. Tyler Yates had TJ surgery in 2009 after making close to 100 appearances following his trade to the Pirates.

    Soriano never had surgery, but missed virtually the entire 2008 season.

    Reitsma had elbow surgery, unlar transposition, as a Brave in 2006, then an arthroscopic procedure the next year that he never came back from.

    So. A lot of relievers making a lot of appearances, relative to the league. And a lot of them needed surgery. I think it’s absolutely fair to say the Braves ran a bunch of those guys in to the ground.

    I disagree with Rob though, in that I think Fredi has really taken steps to stop doing that, compared to Bobby. Well, after his first year anyway, 2011. Bobby’s usage pattern seems more merciless to me. Of course, with Venters and EOF out all year in 2013, he didn’t really have anybody WORTH running out 85 times.

    Mostly, though, I’m just pissy that someone would derisively call me “Expert Number 2,” make up stuff I didn’t say, and then knock it down by not addressing anything I was actually talking about. And then just appeal to authority, as if that’s not just another opinion. If you’re going to make a point, don’t be a dick. And if you’re going to be a dick, try to make a point.

  20. ‘Surely to think the lion’s share
    Of happiness is found by couple’s sheer
    Inaccuracy, as far as I’m concerned.

    What calls me is that lifted rough-tongued bell
    (Art if you like) whose individual sound
    Insists I too am individual.’

    Philip Larkin

  21. KO last night on Ted Turner. As good as it gets. They deserve each other. A mile above the opposition in their respective fields.

    History, too…How many like me had forgotten when Andy M had to have ‘Channel’ above the 17 on his back – lovely…

    And Shingles…God help us – you guys under 60 who’ve had chicken pox, get vaccinating. 1 chance in 4 i think they said.

  22. Sorry to diverge from the subject at hand, but…

    pssssssst, Rob Cope, I offered you a trade in the Braves Journal league. Take a look.

    Back to the original topic now…

  23. Thanks for that blazon… took me back. If only he’d thrown a little Bill Tush and Skip Caray late night, it would have been perfect.

  24. On the subject of arm injuries and prevention, why has Mike Marshall been blackballed by MLB? Why hasn’t a team like the Braves, which has an excess in serious arm injuries, at least spoken to him on his field of expertise? Huge numbers of appearances did not result in arm injuries to him and his education (doctorate, I think) is in kinesiology. The man must know something useful.

  25. Two reasons. First, baseball is an incredibly hidebound sport — remember, the book Moneyball came out more than a half-century after Branch Rickey hired Allan Roth as the first paid team statistician.

    Second, Mike Marshall is an ornery dude, which makes it easier to dismiss him as a crank, and unlike Bill James, Marshall hasn’t had any biomechanical successes at the professional level that he can point to.

    Baseball is slow to change and Marshall can claim all he wants that his methods are superior, but until he can point to a bunch of guys throwing 95 in the majors without ever getting hurt, it won’t matter.

  26. plus it just feels really weird to try and throw a ball the way Marshall describes… pronation seems completely counter-intuitive.

  27. In retrospect, using the word “expert” derisively was a dick move–but it provoked a good discussion about Braves pitching, so I’ll chalk up some success alongside the failure.

    In my defense, I never paid attention to who said what over in the other thread, and I was definitely trying to put lots of opinions into a couple of main ideas that, if I could glean them as main ideas, perhaps others were taking away from the conversation. It’s those syntheses that I aimed to de-bunk–any personal disputes were collateral damage mixed with some clear tactlessness on my part.

    Here are some new main ideas:

    1.) The Braves have had a high number of pitcher injuries among both starting pitchers and relief pitchers.
    2.) The Braves have not shown a tendency to over-work their starting pitching staff in recent years. They are firmly in the lower-third of MLB teams in that respect. It is unlikely that in-game usage patterns have contributed to the high number of starting pitcher injuries on the team.
    3.) The Braves have in the not-too-distant past shown a tendency to over-work their relief pitchers, but they appear to be taking steps to reverse the trend. It is very possible, perhaps even probable, that in-game usage patterns have contributed to the high number of relief pitcher injuries on the team.
    4.) The Braves scout, draft, and develop pitchers differently than other teams. These are differences of geography, position, body type, and pitching form. There are far too many factors in play to account for these differences to put forth an educated opinion that any of them correlate to the high number of pitcher injuries.
    5.) Mysterious shamen at an undisclosed location have perfected their prayers and have directed them at the Braves pitching staff in recent years. There is a high probability that these powerful prayers are responsible for the high number of pitching injuries.

  28. @34

    And one direct rebuttal.

    I did not report an opinion of Bill James’s. He deals with scouts all the time. It has been his experience that they believe smaller pitchers are less durable. It has also been his experience that none of them yet have a well-demonstrated reason to believe smaller pitchers are less durable.

    Neither of those statements is a hard fact. They are qualitative facts and should be used with discretion. But they are not opinions.

  29. Here’s an unsatisfactory theory of the Braves recent spate of pitching injuries.

    “Shit happens.”

    Someone’s always going to be on the top end of a distribution curve. Someone’s going to be on the bottom end of it. I’m not sure there is a driving internal cause of the Braves having a bad run of pitcher luck (along with Oakland and Texas), any more than there was an internal cause of the Braves having a good run of pitcher health with Maddux and Glavine, etc, back in the day. I think we look for causes because, well, why not? But I’m not sure there’s one to be found.

  30. jjschiller’s data makes it pretty clear that we tend to have a small amount of relievers pitching the majority of appearances. It would be hard to prove otherwise that the amount of TJs of relievers corresponds to the amount of appearances in consecutive seasons. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea; relievers tend to be fairly fungible and inconsistent from year-to-year. If you’ve got one that’s dominating in April, you may as well run him hard to the end of the year. If they’re still good the next April, do it again. So many guys have gotten solid contracts from other teams after the Braves provided that opportunity that it’s hard to blame Atlanta that their careers didn’t have the longevity.

    To Edward’s point, starting pitchers seem to have less correlation in the data. Starting pitchers aren’t being started on short rest (though no other team is really doing that either), and they don’t have Dusty Bakerian high pitch counts. I don’t think we can draw many conclusions there.

    I am not an expert speculator. I’m a guy with an opinion. So are you, Edward, and adding “Bill James” to your post doesn’t make it any more than an opinion.

  31. Leo mazzone was on 680 the other day. His explanation of his throwing program being against the grain of what most teams believe was pretty insightful. He basically had the braves on the japanese model. Throw more, less injury. They threw off of a mound all the time. If you look back over his tenure, only 3 tommy johns. He pretty well says pitch counts are crud. Arms get hurt because they throw to many high stress pitches. Mazzone wanted his guys 70% fast ball.

  32. Rob Cope that was a very silly thing to say. I actually asked the man and he actually answered. You can, too. He has a “Hey Bill” section. He knows more than me and he has made himself available. I will take advantage of that every time, and next time I ask him something relevant to a discussion here I will report his answer and cite him just like I did above.

    When I report facts of his it is not an opinion. When I offer an opinion afterwards, it is an opinion.

    So to re-state the fact: There is not to my, or Bill James’s, or any of y’all’s knowledge so far a study or hard qualitative evidence to link pitcher injuries to their body type.

    To re-state my opinion: I think it’s humbug if anyone thinks there is a general correlation between pitcher body type and pitcher injuries. If someone does a study it will be possible to determine whether my opinion is right or wrong.

  33. @40

    Mike! Sorry! Not getting email notifications.

    I’ll take a look and have an answer by the end of the day!

  34. @52. I think you missed his point completely. Regardless of the various theories floated out there, nobody *really* knows why our pitchers are breaking down at a rate higher than any other team. Invoking Bill James doesn’t make your opinion any more legitimate, because all that he is giving you is *his* opinion. Unless it is concretely established that he is a boundless and infallible source of answers for all of baseball’s mysteries, then despite all his knowledge, authority, and brand name, all he’s really offering you is another opinion to cite.

  35. You are basically saying that Bill James is giving facts, and you’re interpreting them into your opinion. Fact: Bill James doesn’t know of any studies that prove pitcher size influences likelihood of injury, so in your opinion, the opinion of the scouts is humbug.

    Fair enough. Except that Bill James didn’t say “No, in fact, studies show the problem is….” and go on to tell us that throwing too many pitches, or too many innings, or throwing every fifth instead of every fourth day, or that guys aren’t throwing enough as amateurs, or that guys are throwing too much as amateurs, or that they need to stop throwing sliders, or split fingers, or throwing on Tuesdays.

    Are there studies that show what DOES cause pitching injuries? Because I think if there were, that’s what teams would be doing. But teams aren’t all doing the same thing.

    Funny enough, though, despite there being no absolute consensus, there appears to be virtual consensus on a lot of procedures.

    Most teams ramp guys innings up slowly after drafting them. Most teams continue to ramp them up slowly until they get to around 190, and that’s when they take the reigns off. Most teams have guys start each season on flat land, before moving to the mound. Most teams keep guys under 110 in the majority of their starts. Most teams limit their relievers back-to-back appearances, try not to go 3 in a row or 4 out of 5. Most teams start their starters every 5 days, with one bullpen session in between. Most teams prefer tall, thick bodies for their starting pitchers.

    Are there quantitative studies that verify all of those as effective measures to get the most out of their pitchers while limiting occurrence of injury? If there aren’t studies, should teams stop doing all of those things?

    The vast, VAST majority of decision making in baseball is based on conventional wisdom and tradition. We do it this way because this is the way that it’s done. A lot of it is stupid. A lot of it is obvious. And it’s obviously a good idea to investigate all of those conventions, in as much as doing so is possible. You don’t find better ways of doing things unless you first know what would define “better.”

    But the absence of studies doesn’t make them all humbug. That’s just your opinion.

  36. Harang was looking really good until that 3-run homer. I guess in a real game you wouldn’t actually be pitching to Miguel Cabrera with two outs, two on, and first base open.

  37. Here is the only fact about pitchers that we know: only opposing teams’ pitchers should get injured. Fact.

  38. I took BJ in my fantasy league. If he recovers, we could have an unbelievable season and forget all about this pitcher injury jargon.

  39. Varvaro frightens me more than any component of the patchwork rotation. Yikes.

  40. Or yours, if they’re tossing out a 60 ERA+ for you. Then a small, season ending injury would be OK.

  41. @62 Yeah, he has been a bit of a struggler thus far. I know it is just spring, but the 9.82 era never inspires much confidence at any level

  42. Aaron Harang is a HR giving machine. If he could ever get over giving up the dinger, he’d actually be a really good pitcher. But he can’t, so he’s not. Instead, he’s Aaron Harang. JJ is right, though. Fredi should never leave him in against a power hitter where a HR could lose the game. If he does, all of you may Fredi-bash at will.

    As for nicknames, in that Hank Aaron is “The Hammer,” and Aaron Harang is in many ways the thing that Hank Aaron types smash, I propose we call him “The Nail.”

  43. I’m not rooting for anyone to get injured or anything, although I’m sure Nats fans haven’t been holding any candlelight vigils for our guys…. But Fister, who’s already been a bit behind with elbow stuff, had to leave his minor league game after only one inning with a lat strain.

  44. The MLB page for today’s game with the pictures of Scherzer and Harang front and center might be the ugliest game page in all of spring training.

  45. @67: I’m also not rooting for anyone to get injured… except as a fallback. The best option would be for all players on the Nationals’ 25-man to voluntarily and peacefully retire from baseball.

  46. @69 – I made a joke that three weeks ago, I would have guessed Schlosser was a guy who made pickles. Because Schlosser sounds like a brand of pickles. Klaussen, Schlosser…

    Mostly it just sounds good and old-timey. Pickles, Pretzels, Studs, Stumps, Candy, Pee Wee, Lefty. If a name like one of those accidentally attaches to someone, you basically have to use it.

  47. You will pry my rooting for Bryce Harper to contract ebola and bleed out on national television from my cold, dead hands.

  48. Yes, someone has. And since The Locksmith is not a good nickname, I can only assume it keeps being brought up, because some people hate fun.

  49. Sounds like “Pickles” needs to be added to the BravesJournal glossary, stat! Not that it’s urgent, I just so rarely ever have the opportunity to add “stat!” to anything I say (write).

  50. @59

    Reminds me of the battle cry that the lost boys used in the movie Hook… Bangarang!


  51. anybody been following the positional power rankings forecast over at fangraphs? the glowing ember of optimism that I still had for the upcoming season is pretty much gone.

    Braves Rankings
    C – #13
    1b – #7
    2b – #24
    3b – #28
    ss – #2
    cf – #29
    rf – #5
    lf – #9
    sp – #23
    rp – #4

    so it would seem that zips and steamer sees Uggla and BJ continuing to suck, regression to regress and the SP to be predictably bad.

    I wish I could argue against, but I fear this is going to be a loooong season.

  52. 78: That forecast includes Mike Minor projected at a mere 135 innings, replaced by replacement-level dudes. At this point, no reason to expect that.

    Anyway, I’m perfectly optimistic. I think the Braves will skip merrily over the Nationals’ charred corpses to another division title.

  53. Miggy for over 30m…wow…

    @78 If the Braves will go through the entire season without Santana and Minor, I would agree with the 23 ranking on 23, but that’s not the case and that’s precisely why signing Santana is critical. Besides, I don’t think CJ will regress all the way to BJ/Uggla level and they may have under-rated Evan.

  54. Just have to hope the Braves come out pounding the ball. They play 6 of their first 12 against Washington. Just have to hope the offense is clicking. And we know they are certainly capable of it.

  55. The SI preview of the Braves describes Evan Gattis as “limited” in contrast to Brian McCann.

    I’m sure they just have to crank those things out pretty fast, but “limited” is a strong word. Do they mean that he shouldn’t play a position other than catcher? Sure. I wouldn’t put McCann out in anyone’s left field either.

    I suppose an interpretation of “limited” has to do with whether Gattis is a limited hitter. He’s had a rough spring. But he had a darn good post-season (at the plate) and he was pretty good during the season, and by pretty good I mean “roughly McCann’s equal”.

    Gattis had a rookie line of .249/.291/.480 with 21 homers and 21 doubles in 382 plate appearances. Meanwhile our veteran McCann put up .256/.336/.461 with 20 homers and 13 doubles in 402 plate appearances. You have to like McCann’s eye–but you have to like the White Bear’s undeniable power, too. I’m still a little upset at McCann for forgetting to show up for the post-season last year.

    But the real question is less: Can Gattis replace McCann? than it is: Can Gattis + BJ Upton play as well as Gattis + McCann? I’m sold on Gattis as at least an adequate replacement on his own with the potential to be much more than adequate. Wonder how many fastballs he gets to see.

  56. And since The Locksmith is not a good nickname,

    What?!!? It would be an AWESOME nickname for a relief pitcher – gets you out of a jam and all that.

  57. @91 – Okay, fair enough. If he turns in to a stout reliever, that’s a pretty solid nickname. But for a fringy (Could you even call him fringy? Cory Gearrin was fringy. This guy was off the radar entirely.) last guy on the roster type, is it warranted yet?

  58. Of course, you are right on eligibility – but good nicknames in baseball are such an increasingly rare commodity – I’d rather see them given out prematurely than not at all.

  59. I love me some Gattis, but he swung at non-strikes at the third highest rate in baseball last year (45.2%), behind only Sandoval and Pierzynski. Unless and until he learns to lay off breaking pitches out of the zone, he’ll likely go through long stretches where he hardly gets on base at all. In his last 100 regular season PAs, Gattis had 25 hits and 2(!) walks. Even his superlative power can’t overcome the value drag of a well-below .300 OBP. See J.P. Arencibia for a worst-case scenario.

  60. The Tigers are a weird organization right now. Sold Prince Fielder for 60 cents on the dollar, straight-up dumped Doug Fister, might let Max Scherzer walk at the end of the year… but Miggy Cabrera’s age 33-40 seasons, the bank is open for that!

    Part of why I’ve been so anxious for the Braves to get a higher payroll ceiling is that I get the sense they wouldn’t do willfully dumb-in-the-moment things like that. (Don’t tell me Uggla and BJ. Those are reasonable upside gambles that failed, as upside gambles may. I’m talking about stuff that the day it’s announced elicits a “Stop hitting yourself” response.)

  61. Gattis has more power than Arencibia, but yes. If Gattis can’t make contact and can’t take a walk, he could be really really bad.

    Agreed, W.C.G. As many have pointed out, the Cabrera contract smacks of a team getting jilted by their top target and then turning around and overpaying their next-highest priority. Scherzer wanted 8 years, they didn’t want to give him more than 7, so he refused to sign — and presumably they wanted to shove this contract in his face, as if to say, we like him more than you. It’s really really weird. Dave Dombrowski’s a smart guy and he’s won in a lot of different places, but this has been a really weird offseason.

  62. “The Locksmith” is something a tv/radio guy would come up with to sound “hip and creative” when Schlosser came in from the pen. It’s too clever by half, and it relies on people knowing that his name is German for “locksmith.”

    “Pickles” is something a teammate half sloshed at Taco Mac after a day/night doubleheader with an off day tomorrow would call him if he looked down and half drunkenly saw “Vlasic” on the side of a jar.

    Pickles is by far the better nickname.

    The player contract “bubble” is a direct result of the TV/radio money “bubble.” The former won’t pop until the latter does. MLB is making money hand over fist. No reason that players, who actually make the game possible, shouldn’t be getting some of that obscene wealth.

  63. Also, Pickles is already twice as likely to have a perfectly cromulent Major League career than Cory Gearrin ever was. Gearrin has screamed Quad-A-at-best from the start.

  64. Re Gattis: Here’s a guy getting a late start to professional hitting, who has prodigious power, took the baseball world by storm when he debuted, and then turned out to swing at everything…. Remind anyone else of Rick Ankiel?

    Certainly, the future isn’t written for him. But he’s going to have to show he can adjust, which I get the impression is harder for the “late start” guys.

    He struck me last year as a bit of a “magical thinker.” Like, by mid to late season, he was so used to coming through in the big hero moments that in big spots, he was swinging before he got in to the box.

    But if he’s hitting low in the order, I’d expect the OBP to rise simply on account of pitchers not chancing a 3-run mistake when they can face Andrelton Simmons instead.

  65. In general, I think people dramatically overestimate how “badly” some high-revenue teams will be hobbles by the long-term, big-money deals they give out.

    For all we know, revenue in 10 years will be high enough that a “win” is worth $10M per year. Allofasudden, Cabrera’s a steal for the first 5 years of his deal. And for a hitter of that quality, it’s no hard to imagine him being an adequate DH from age 35 onward. The Tigers spend money. Other teams spend money. The relevant question is opportunity cost, and right now, it’s not clear to me who exactly the Tigers won’t be able to sign 5 years from now that makes this such a disaster.

  66. Re Dombrowski: Is there a consensus that he sold low on Fielder? I was under the impression that getting out of paying him was a coup. They owed him $168m for another 7 years, and paid the Rangers $30m to take him… so while that does add up to paying $76m for the two years they had him (CHRIST!) it seems to me ditching him wasn’t the mistake. The mistake was panicking in the first place, when they lost their DH for one year and solved it by signing a guy for 9.

    EDIT: Not to say this Cabrera thing makes any more sense. You were lucky your last overpay only cost you $30m to undo. Why would you turn around and Fielder’s money to Cabrera, who you already own rights to for 2 more years, and why would you give a player who is not a free agent (IE, you aren’t competing for) as much or more money than he’d get as a free agent? Seems that if you’re giving him 10 years of security, he should give you back something… like, $6 or $8m a year discount.

  67. I’m with you guys who say the back ends of these contracts don’t matter if you’re living for today. That’s pretty much my operating philosophy as fake message board GM.

    The Tigers just confuse me because they were a little of this and a little of that away from going to the World Series last year so you’d think they’d run it back with a couple additions to get over the hump. But then they start the offseason in salary dump mode (Fister; getting out of paying Prince 6 years from now by taking on a lesser bat with a shorter contract; no extension for you Mr. Scherzer). And then they change course and conclude it by throwing at least some chunk of their limited-at-some-point resources at a big extension for Cabrera.

    If they were the Dodgers and just signing everyone, I’d say good show, but they’ve spent a few months skinflinting their way into worse 2014-2015 WS odds (where they know the window is open!) and now this. I don’t get it.

  68. The bubble will definitely burst when the regional TV deals don’t bring in the revenue that was projected. The exact timing is impossible to predict. The longer this lasts the worse it’ll be for the Braves. It’s not that you can’t win when you aren’t spending crazy money, it’s that you have a lot less room for error. You can’t paper over bad decisions and injuries like the Dodgers did last year.

  69. @90/Smitty

    Actually, by any overall offensive measure he was nearly as good as McCann last year in roughly the same number of at bats. Perhaps even better. It’s about a wash.

    Gattis almost certainly is not going to be as good as ’06 to ’11 McCann. But it’s not unreasonable to expect for him to be better than ’12 McCann or hope for him to be as good as ’13 McCann.

    And for the future? No one likes Gattis’ approach at the plate much–well, I like it when he has two strikes, but not before then. His approach so far does not bode well for his production. But I think it’s a decent trade-off for where McCann is at this point in his career, with nearly 1,000 more games played at catcher weighing on his knees.

    So I think he’s a good replacement for ’13 McCann. I don’t know if BJ Upton’s a good replacement for ’13 Gattis. Gosh I hope so.

  70. Also worth remembering is that while McCann wasn’t great defensively, Gattis probably won’t be as good at keeping balls in front of him (might be better at holding runners).

    And of course there’s all the recent stuff about pitch framing. McCann has generally done very well by these metrics. Gattis either hasn’t stood out or was below average, IIRC.

  71. If Rick Ankiel had been a catcher instead of a backup outfielder, his bat would have been a hell of a lot more valuable.

    I don’t take it as a given that an overweight DH will remain a productive hitter after the age of 35. Even incredible hitters have their bodies break down. Especially in the post-steroid era. David Ortiz has remained amazingly productive, but I think he’s more like the exception that proves the rule.

  72. I don’t know man, Bbref gives McCann 2.7 oWar last season, and Gattis 1.4. I don’t know what number you’re seeing that says he might have been better than McCann, I think you’re vastly under rating on base percentage, where Evan not only trails McCann, he trails the league as a whole, whereas McCann was above average.

    Also, what’s to like about Gattis’s two strike approach?

    After two strikes 2013:

    Gattis .125/.167/.263 for a .429 OPS
    McCann .267/.316/.506 for a .821 OPS

    None of that is to say he can’t improve as a second-year player. But it’s not a situation like Jason Heyward where, he’s displayed each of the talents we want to see, and each passing year hes likely to get better.

    I like Evan Gattis, I love his power and I like his story and he really seems like a “dude.” But there’s a good chance that by August we’re going to like 2nd catcher/4th outfielder/1st bat off the bench Evan Gattis more than starting catcher Evan Gattis.

    I think he’s more likely to play himself back in to that role than he is to match what Brian McCann will do this season. I’d bet on Christian Bethancourt as our opening day catcher in 2015.

  73. @110 Actually, Gattis’ pitch framing scores well (http://www.statcorner.com/CatcherReport.php), though sample size concerns obviously come into play. Nevertheless, his 1.33 extra calls per game in 2013 was roughly equivalent to the exalted Yadier Molina (1.30), and better than McCann’s 0.90. Laird, on the other hand, was extremely bad and cost roughly too strikes per game. And that’s not new for him, having previously been identified as one of the worst at pitch-framing.

  74. After looking at Miggy’s deal, you have to figure Mike Trout is sizing up small to medium sized Hawaiian islands to purchase when he hits free agency.

  75. This article in Hardball Times suggests that players are receiving a decreasing share of MLB revenue, which continues to increase at a faster rate. If that’s true, big contracts like Cabrera’s, while probably a bad idea from a baseball standpoint, don’t have much effect on the team’s financial situation. So, yes, Cabrera likely won’t be worth it when he’s 40 (or even sooner), but it’s not like the Tigers will need to plead poverty. Plus, it keeps Tiger fans happy and will allow the team to more easily jack up already over-priced beer and so forth to increase revenue even more.


  76. @113

    I hovered the mouse over the oWAR number on b-ref’s page. The offensive WAR is the one that includes a positional adjustment. I’m not really sure how much the adjustment is, but it’s not insignificant. Catchers and short-stops tend to get the biggest adjustments. (Anyone know the specifics?) So the difference in the two players’ oWAR values is so stark because McCann did (nearly) all his damage at catcher, whereas Gattis played more than half his games at 1B and left field, where the positional adjustment is much smaller.

    Looks like you’re right about the 2-strike counts–but I remember the last week of the season last year and the playoffs when Gattis would foul off a lot of pitches a la Freeman. Perhaps he changed something when he went down to the minors late last year? Probably not.

    I hope Bethancourt is our starting catcher next year. I’m glad McCann won’t be our starting catcher next year.

  77. “The Locksmith” is something a tv/radio guy would come up with to sound “hip and creative” when Schlosser came in from the pen.

    Bull. The best, and I mean the BEST you could hope for is “G-Schloss” or ma-a-a-a-aybe “Special Schloss” out of any announcer currently working. None of those guys would get Locksmith, and even fewer will get the Schlosser/Claussen conflation to get Pickles. It’s not an either/or here – Pickles is funny cause it’s an old school nickname but based on something barely relatable to the guy, so it’s even funnier. Locksmith for a standout setup/fireman guy is great.

  78. MLB and MLBPA announced that PEDs will now be punished 80 games for first offense, 162 for second lifetime ban for third. Player not eligible for postseason.

  79. @120,
    ‘Pickles’ also works well for a fireman type, though, as he would be getting the team out of them.

  80. Completely out of nowhere question: does anyone know much about Tommy LaStella defensively? Is there any chance he can learn third base?

    In a world where Dan Uggla improves and Chris Johnson avoids regression, he’d be more useful than Tyler Pastornicky.

    I know the club wants him to get full time AB’s rather than ride the pine for the big club. I’m just thinking of July or August. The Braves are suddenly short on left handers, and he looks like he can really control the strike zone.

  81. He is supposedly to be mediocre defensively, but of course 3rd is easier on the defensive spectrum. Could the the next option if Regression gets hurt or regresses badly.

  82. Some think it’s a good thing LaStella can handle the bat because he’ll actually be mediocre at best defensively at 2B.

  83. Yeah I guess I was vaguely aware that his glove is behind his bat. But for example, I know Uggla wouldn’t have the arm to play 3rd. I wonder if that’d be an issue for LaStella.

    I’m sure that even if they club has considered it, they’d wait out the Uggla situation before they’d distract LaStella with an extra defensive assignment.

  84. @135 – looks to me like the sides agreed that Trout’s average annual value on the open market would be $30MM/season (a bit low since he should be > Cabrera, but perhaps a compromise number given that Trout could get catastrophically hurt this year and could have to leave baseball having made but $2MM lifetime). So given the standard arb-buyout formula,

    arb1: $12MM (30 x 0.4)
    arb2: $18MM (30 x 0.6)
    arb3: $24MM (30 x 0.8)
    FA1: $30MM
    FA2: $30MM
    FA3: $30MM

    and thus, you get a 6 year, $144 million contract. As with all the young player extensions the Braves did this winter, I like it for both sides. Kid gets paid whether he gets hurt or not now, and the team and its fans lock in some extra years with that player at a certain cost.

  85. 30 million a year on the open market? Considering he’s been a 10 Win/season player the last two years (EDIT: AND he’s entering his age 22 season, so he should still theoretically be improving), and the value of one WAR is between 5 and 6 million, his market value should be AT least 50 million a year.

    Using the above formula then, Trout should be reeling in:

    2014: $20 M
    2015: $30 M
    2016: $40 M
    2017-19: $50 M/year

    for 6Y/$240 Million. I think Trout really gave the Angels a deep discount on the extension. On the other hand, he is now guaranteed never to have to worry about money for the rest of his life as long as he’s careful. Maybe that was worth $96 million to him. After all, as Bud Fox once said, how many yachts are enough?

  86. Yeah. He is not just better than the 30-year old Miguel Cabrera, he’s better than the 26-year old Clayton Kershaw. The Angels basically needed him to take a deep discount because of the stupid money they threw at Pujols and Hamilton, and the stupid money they agreed to pay Vernon Wells.

    Arte Moreno is turning into the new Peter Angelos. He came in and opened his checkbook, but he appears to enjoy meddling with the team, and most of the big decisions they’ve made have been catastrophic.

  87. That assumes 1) that Trout will not regress, which is a big assumption actually, and 2) that the defensive WAR numbers are in fact valid, which is another big assumption. He got slightly less than 30 mil per year for his arb buyout. I’m not interested in feeling bad for a guy just got 145mil cold for six years of work, even if he crashes or tears out his knee this May.

  88. Regress to what, exactly? If I’m the Angels, I’m pretty happy if he plays at the level of his career averages. Do we even have an idea what Trout’s mean is yet?

    I am curious to see what his defensive numbers look like if no one hits the sort of home run that is possible for him to bring back. He scored big his rookie year because he had opportunities for it.

  89. Regress to what, exactly? If I’m the Angels, I’m pretty happy if he plays at the level of his career averages. Do we even have an idea what Trout’s mean is yet?

    I am curious to see what his defensive numbers look like if no one hits the sort of home run that is possible for him to bring back. He scored big his rookie year because he had opportunities for it.

  90. Regress to what, exactly?

    Something other than 10 WAR per year. It’s hardly unheard of for a player to debut like gangbusters and then slide back down to earth.

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