One way to remember 2008 is as the season that Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Charlie Morton all pitched for the Braves. That is about all it should be remembered for. The Braves had their worst season of the decade, finishing at 72 – 90, good for 4th place in the NL East, 20 games back of the 1st place Phillies.
A 17 – 12 May left the Braves 2 games over .500, but a 6 game losing streak in early June dropped them below .500 for good. Amusingly, even with 90 losses, they still finished 12.5 games ahead of the last place Nationals. This at least contributed to making the ’00’s the team’s only full decade in divisional play without a last place finish.
The offensive highlight was 36 year old Chipper Jones leading the NL in batting average, at .364, and adding 22 homers. 24 year old Brian McCann led the team in homers with 23, and added a .301 batting average, and 24 year old Martin Prado hit .320 in 78 games playing all the infield positions, plus some left field.
This was the first season as GM for Frank Wren, who was promoted after the 2007 season. Notable June draft picks included Craig Kimbrel in the 3rd round, J.J. Hoover in the 10th round, and Anthony Rendon in the 27th. The Braves managed to sign only 2 of those 3.
On July 29th the Braves traded Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, receiving Stephen Marek (minors) and Casey Kotchman. This is significant mainly in that it meant in 2008 two major league teams thought Casey Kotchman was a major league first baseman. Kotchman, in his prime a poor man’s Mark Grace, played 10 years in the major leagues as a 1st baseman and designated hitter, with a career batting average of .260 and 71 home runs. Teixeira’s 33 homers in 2008 were about 46% of Kotchman’s 10 year total.
On the pitching side, Tim Hudson started 22 games, and put up a 3.17 ERA before undergoing a season ending elbow surgery that may have influenced the decision to trade Teixeira. Jair Jurrjens led the team in starts with 31, and wins with 13. It took him 188 1/3 innings to do it, but he also led the team in strikeouts with 139. Mike Gonzalez led the team in saves with 14.
2008 marked the final Braves seasons for Glavine and Smoltz. For Glavine, it was a return to the Braves after 5 seasons with the Mets. Shoulder issues limited the 42 year old to 13 starts, where he put up a 5.54 ERA. He underwent surgery after the season, and was released without making it back to the majors.
For the 41 year old Smoltz, 2008 was a prelude to leaving, with him spending one final season in 2009 split between Boston and St. Louis. Smoltz got 5 starts in 2008, putting up a 2.54 ERA and striking out 36 in 28 innings, before going on the DL with a shoulder issue on April 28th. Among the strikeouts was the 3000th of his career, coming on April 22nd. John came back in June to make a relief appearance, then underwent season ending shoulder surgery.
In other baseball news, Albert Pujols was named 2008 NL MVP, and Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young award. The Phillies went on to win the World Series over the Rays, 12 years before Braves rookie Morton helped the Rays to their 2nd AL Championship.
2008 Charlie started 15 games and put up a 6.15 ERA. Here’s hoping that 2021 is remembered for more than being the year that Charlie Morton pitched with Max Fried and Mike Soroka.
An outfield of Gregor Blanco (82 OPS+) Mark Kotsay (100) and Jeff Francoeur (72) combining for 1500 Plate Appearances had no chance to be successful. I’ll take alternative nominations, but that had to be among the weakest hitting outfields in Atlanta Braves history.
Sure enough… by far the worst: https://stathead.com/tiny/1CMgg
To be fair (why??) the 1988 outfield was slightly worse, but not relative to the league…. and that outfield had Dale Murphy, and he can’t be part of the worst anything.
Always thought of Blanco as an example of someone who got every last bit of career out of his talent, like Hank Aaron did.
Jason Kipnis has been signed and invited to Spring Training. His bat has declined as he ages with last year’s .744 OPS being his best since 2016. At 33, he’s basically Dan Uggla at 33, an over-the-hill slugging second baseman who probably won’t deserve a roster spot.
I would think he’d just be a bat off the bench, right? Can’t see him being a defensive replacement at 2B, and his stint in the outfield in 2018 was quite forgettable.
I like grabbing guys like Kipnis, sometimes they prove to be a good PH clubhouse presence
Thanks, Rusty, for helping me recall one of the most forgettable Braves seasons ever, at least for me.
@1 and 2â€“speaking of recall, some great (and not so great!) memories in that data set. Iâ€™m pretty partial to the 1966 edition. I had guessed that 1988â€™s OF would give 2008â€™s a run for its money, just because everything about that team was execrable. Well, Murph wasnâ€™t, but even he was pretty awful compared to the standard he had set from 82-87. Sad to be reminded of the abrupt decline that began that year. But the 1988 center fielders have to be the worst ever at that position, right?
I actually went to opening day this year and had a great time, despite witnessing the first of those 90 losses. The other best part of this season was that it wrapped up during my first semester of college, an ideal time to pay attention to other things besides baseball.
Position players report in 1 week and the bench is complete ass. There just ain’t a way to sugarcoat that.
Sansho1, I never imagined Henry Aaron and Gregor Blanco in the same sentence. Wow.
Kipnis is fine in a PH/part-time role.
@9 Occasionally my attempts at deadpan humor end up just plain dead.
Well, we finally got our infielder from Cleveland… sorta.
@11â€“not dead at all. That was one of the funniest lines Iâ€™ve seen in a long time.
Rusty, you made the 2008 season seem more enjoyable than it was. Well done.
@14 – Thanks Rob.
@6: The 1988 tandem of Terry Blocker and Albert Hall in center field were bad, but they don’t even crack the top 10 of least productive CFs. I can’t tell you much about the worst ever, the 1924 Braves, but in Atlanta, they were topped by three teams: BJ Upton and Emilio Bonifacio (oh, how I thought I would never type those names again) were considerably worse in 2014, Mudge had a crappy CF all to himself in 2013, and those two were essentially tied with the “output” of Rowland’s Office in 1977.
Is it just my imagination because I loathed Melky so much, but wasn’t he historically bad in centerfield when he played for Atlanta? He played 55 of his 136 games in center. It just seemed like his lack of effort showed up at the plate and in the field in a huge way.
@17: Melky was bad (though he played more left field than center) but Matt Diaz had a fair amount of time in left as well and was at least average. Nate McLouth was putrid in center, so when Melky spelled him there the CF position actually improved. The outfield as a whole was lifted by Heyward in right, which is why that outfield was only the 8th worst all time in Braves history. (The less said about Rick Ankiel the better, but Gregor Blanco pitched in pretty well, as sansho1 might say, at the limit of his abilities.) It is a testament to the other horrid CFs listed above that a CF of McLouth and Melky looks merely terrible.
@16â€“Yesterday on here I referred to faulty memory. What a great example here! I had apparently wiped the Bossman Junior years from my memory. Of course he was the worst. (Along with Rowlandâ€™s Officeâ€”who was also historically bad offensively)
Not surprisingly, 4 of the top 5 offensive seasons by an Atlanta CF were by Murph, with Andruwâ€™s 2005 in there.
JonathanF, love the stathead numbers. Keep it up!
Why is it so hard to find Melky’s horrible error in CF where the ball slips out of his hand? Truly a failure of the YouTube search algorithm.
Jack Mayfield has been given the number 9. That seems to bode well fir his future on the team.
Would have to think Mayfield is the favorite for the no-hit, back-up infielder. He played all over the infield for Houston.
What’s the prediction for the bench at this point?
Will Freddie overtake Dale Murphy at some point in these types of lists?
@3 – When my friends & I were young (18-19 or so) we went to a AAA game between the Bravesâ€™ affiliate (canâ€™t remember if they were still in Richmond then or not) & our hometown Louisville Bats. For some reasonâ€”most likely b/c he was right in front of us in the outfield, and also he just seemed friendlyâ€”we glommed onto Gregor Blanco and became a 4-man Blanco cheering section. Stuff like coordinated â€œB-L-A-N-C-O, BLANCO!â€ cheers; â€œItâ€™s your world, Gregor, weâ€™re just living in it;â€ etc.
At one point, a twentysomething lady walked over to us and asked, â€œYâ€™all cheering for Blanco?â€ And we were like, â€œâ€¦ yes, obviously.â€ â€œHe is just the sweetest thing,â€ she said, â€œhe made me supper last night, Iâ€™ve been teaching him how to cook.â€ And she spent the next couple innings with us, and like a real-life Susan Sarandonâ€™s Character from Bull Durham, had stories about everyone who came up to bat: â€œHeâ€™s been cheating on his girlfriend,â€ â€œOh he was drunk as a skunk on 4th St. at 2 a.m. last night,â€ etc.
We had been clamoring for a ball most of the game, and at one point Blanco held up 7 fingers, as if to say he’d do it during 7th-inning warmups. In the meantime, weâ€™d prepared our own baseball, with our phone number written on it and a message saying something like â€œGregor, you are the best. Give us a call if you want to hang out later.â€ And when the moment came and we saw him turn to throw a ball to us, we threw ours to himâ€”Â and the passing arcs of the two balls in the air, and the confusion on his face when he saw ours heading towards him, are two images that will forever stick with me. He did not call us, but he did play the rest of the inning with our ball jammed into his back pocket.
In conclusion, I have always rooted for Gregor, and think itâ€™s wonderful he held on in the league for as long as he did.
Great stuff, cph.
@24–what a terrific story. This discussion has prompted me to think about the type of player that Blanco was. That is, an offensive player of some value whose SLG was no higher, or barely so, than his OBP. Gregor’s career OBP (.338) was only 10 points below his career SLG (.348).
The archetype of such a player, at least in the past few decades, was Brett Butler. Butler had a lot of value and was a regular for many years. His career on base was .377 and his career slugging was .376. Still, he had an OPS+ over 100 for twelve straight years as an everyday outfielder, and his career offensive bWAR was 57.9.
Are there any such players left in today’s game?
Very cool story, cph. Thanks for sharing.
@20 – I shared that video with my brother a year or 2 ago. But now I can’t find it either. Strange.
@24 – Always love a good ballpark story. Thanks.
Edit – found it Rob!
@26, love that type of player. I think Luis Castillo was probably the best player of that mold since Butler.
@26/29, our own (briefly) Quilvio Veras was that sort of player as well. Dude could get on base, and he could run a little too- although with a career SB% of 69%, maybe he ran a bit too often.
Great story, cph! Thanks for sharing it.
Braves beat Dansby in arbitration.
@32â€“was coop the arbitrator?
IMO, bench is hard to predict as we have no idea if AA plays roster manipulation games with Pache.
So. Is Kipnis better than Markakis? LH hitter off the bench?
No one seems to think that Demeritte is a serious candidate for the bench. I think he should be. Or at least I hope he can prove to be. Demeritte or Panda?
out of the blue…
‘he made supper for me last night’ is pure Sarandon HOF…lovely…thank you
Rusty too…the quality never varies, thanks.
there are many here who apparently are not quite dead
but for some exhausted readers
we could rightfully be termed distraught bottom feeders.
Glavine’s unfortunately messy departure from the Braves calls to mind another HOFamer who simply got fed up, bored with the whole thing and drove out of town mid his last season, never to return, without as much as a bye bye. Who? Don’t bank on Stathead helping you- they need minimum one thousand comparables and from more than one century.
Jonathan, I read your every word, never miss.
New thread! Spring has sprung.