The 1909 Cubs won 104 games. They didn’t get to the World Series either.
It used to be that these Where Do We Go From Here pieces had a lot of content. Iâ€™m going to write a lot of words, but Iâ€™m not sure I have a lot of content, becauseâ€¦ ummmâ€¦ Iâ€™m pretty content. (There must be some fancy Greek word for using the same word, pronounced differently and with a different meaning in the same sentence.)
Letâ€™s start with the two absolute-lock knowns:
Third Base: Austin Riley
Signed until Iâ€™m 77 years old. Given my lifestyle, thatâ€™s pretty much the outer limits of my expectations, so I expect Austin Riley to be the last Braves 3rd baseman Iâ€™m mentally competent to observe (though some might say that Iâ€™ve been mentally incompetent since the Vinny Castilla Era.) Heâ€™s already in 4th place All Time in Atlanta Braves 3rd Basemen ranked by WAR and will almost surely pass Terry Pendleton sometime in April. Darrell Evans is probably at least two years away, and that just leaves Chipper. I doubt he’ll get there, but one can dream. And the thought that the long-term contract changes his performance is worth mentioning, I guess, but not worth actually addressing.
He played 159 games, so itâ€™s a little stupid to call anyone his backup, but Arcia and Adrianza (see below) can both play 3rd. Grissom probably can as well.
First Base: Matt Olson
Signed until Iâ€™m 74, and unless he turns into Rico Brogna, I donâ€™t expect another 1st baseman either. Some people find it fun to compare Freddie Freemanâ€™s 5.9 WAR this year to Olsonâ€™s 3.4 as if thatâ€™s all you need to know about the substitution. First, you donâ€™t judge a 5-8 year decision after the first year. And itâ€™s far too early to judge Pache or Langeliers, either. Second, both Freddieâ€™s team and Olsonâ€™ team lost their first playoff rounds, and, FWIW (which is nothing) Olson was much better in the playoffs than Freddie was this year.
Matt is a different player than Freddie. He has more power and he strikes out a lot more. The only odd thing was that his touted glove strength was not present in 2022. I fully expect that to rebound.
Matt played all 162, so his â€œbackupsâ€ are Adrianza and Arcia as well.
Now we move to the Pretty Damn Well Set category:
Second Base: Ozzie Albies
Signed until Iâ€™m 71. I may still be able to cut my own meat at that point.
There are two questions about Ozzie, but there are so many parts to his game that have no questions that it seems somewhat mean to bring them up. Question 1: Is he injury-prone? Can he hold up for a full season? I guess the answer is â€“ only the gods know. He seems to be able to recuperate fairly quickly, but a player who canâ€™t take the field regularly has a heightened risk. Itâ€™s one we should be happy to bear for everything else he brings the team when he s healthy enough to play.
Question 2: Should he give up hitting left-handed? He now has a career OPS+ of 89 in 2004 left-handed appearances as opposed to his 130 OPS+ in 705 right-handed appearances. He has only 11 plate appearances batting right-handed against a right-handed pitcher, but those 11 plate appearances have been very, very good; his only same-sided batting appearance this year was a homer, with the not-inconsiderable proviso that it was off Dee Strange-Gordon in a blowout. Taking away his at-bats right handed against Strange-Gordon, Eric Sogard, Wilmer Difo, Albert Almora, Kevin Plawecki, Ronald Torreyes and knuckleballer Steven Wright leaves us with 2 hits in 6 or 7 at bats against the collection of William Cuevas, Jacob Barnes, Ryne Harper and Zack Greinke, with the 7th at bat depending on how you count Pat Venditte. In other words, no data. If he never becomes a 100 OPS+ hitter left-handed he probably needs to hit down in the batting order against righthanded pitching. I’m OK with that.
Ozzie needed backups this year, and Vaughn Grissom, assisted by Arcia, did a great job, though he was mysteriously disappeared in the playoffs to a pinch-hitting role, probably because Arcia is supposed to be a better second baseman than he is. Iâ€™m not convinced, but neither of them is Ozzie.
Ozzie is very cheap relative to his value. There are no free agents as young or as good. He provides all kinds of leadership, whatever that is, and people seem to love the guy. Heck — I love the guy. Stay well in 2023, Ozzie. Please.
Backups: Orlando Arcia, Vaughn Grissom and Ehire Adrianza
Arcia is signed for another year, with a team option for 2024. He is a perfectly cromulent backup. He fields OK, he throws great, and he has some pop. I donâ€™t understand the love for Adrianza, but whether he makes the team or not probably depends on what Grissomâ€™s spring training looks like. Well, Grissomâ€™s or any replacement level infielders who are given a shot at camp. In any case, he is both replaceable and the least important cog in the entire wheel. Well, maybe Chadwick Tromp is less important.
If Grissom has a good camp, he probably breaks with the team as a two-headed infield/outfield substitute with Arcia. Iâ€™m fine with that.
Last but not least:
Will he or wonâ€™t he? Should he or shouldnâ€™t he? My wife used to write soap operas, and the Return of Dansby would have occupied the writerâ€™s room for months, with little hints dribbled out from day to day and lots of conversations in hushed tones between all the characters.
I have no idea what people will offer for Dansby Swanson in a year in which Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa are all available. Dansby Swanson is a very good shortstop, but all three of the others are better than he is, and all of them are about the same age. Iâ€™d be happy to back up the Brinks truck for Dansby, but Iâ€™d be equally happy to spend the same money on any of the other three. I saw one website suggesting that the Braves ought to go all-in on Turner, and the same website suggested that the Dodgers should then sign Swanson. That would be a little weird, since both teams could just sign their own shortstops instead, but weirder things have happened.
One question that still lingers, of course, is: will Dansby get better? I would point out that the same thing could be said of the other three as well, so itâ€™s not clear that some notional upside to Dansby Swanson ought to make much difference. Dansbyâ€™s WAR took a huge jump this season (2.2, 1.1, 2.8*, 1.9, 5.7) although the 2.8 in just 60 games in 2020 is actually better. As a starting shortstop, heâ€™s only had two years over 100 OPS+ (2020 and 2022).
I donâ€™t know what his salary demands are, but if theyâ€™re anywhere in the neighborhood of Turner, Bogaerts or Correa, heâ€™s going to be unsigned until just before the season, probably then either agreeing to something with the Braves or signing a monster one year contract on spec somewhereâ€¦. Thereâ€™s always someone willing to bet on one year, including us.
Given that the other three would see to be a lot more expensive than Dansby, can the Braves afford any of the others? The answer to that is obviously yes. Would they be willing to take the publicity hit signing someone other than the local kid with the matinee hair? As AA proved last year, the answer is obviously yes, but both he and Dansby will have to practice their on-air sobbing before they move on.
Finally, I guess the other possibility is that they decide to save a ton of money and give the job to Grissom. I havenâ€™t seen him play short, but I expect he can. Can he hit for a whole season? Probably not. Making Vaughn Grissom your shortstop is the sort of thing the Braves used to do, and the sort of thing the Pirates would do today, but I sincerely doubt it will happen.
So my confident prediction is that the Braves will have a very, very well-paid shortstop next year. Might be Dansby, might not.
One more thing
Wherever we go from here, it is worth mentioning that the infield we have will be considerably different even if Dansby returns with Ozzie at full strength and Riley and Olson. The new shift-cancellation rules will, I think, put a premium on infielderâ€™s effective range. Not just raw speed (looking at you, Trea Turner) but anticipation. I donâ€™t think we know how that will shake out, but Iâ€™m relatively comfortable with Dansby and Ozzie and Matt and Austin. That said, the infield is going to give up more hits next year, whatever happens. But so will everyone elseâ€™s.
Fantastic piece. I love Dansby on this team but I doubt he will be back.
What are the current rules on free agent compensation and how do they affect Dansby’s dynamic and the Braves?
I know the Braves will give the QO to Dansby. Then, he can be on a one year deal around 19.5 and have no QO weight the next year. I THINK compensation to Braves is limited by amount of contract signed or length or both (for some reason, 50 million over 3 years comes to mind). Whatever that is, how is that affected by “opt outs.” Is it still a e year contract?
And, doesn’t the pick come with pool money? And, I understand the pick is after competitive balance A in case of the big contract and competitive balance B if lesser contract.
All of that is to say I bet that the Braves come out effectively 10 to 15 million better if they get somebody else’s FA and let Dansby walk (because of the value of the pick).
Signed until Iâ€™m 77 years old. Given my lifestyle, thatâ€™s pretty much the outer limits of my expectations, so I expect Austin Riley to be the last Braves 3rd baseman Iâ€™m mentally competent to observe (though some might say that Iâ€™ve been mentally incompetent since the Vinny Castilla Era.)
This is pretty great.
Excellent write up. This is one of the reasons I enjoy this blog as much or even more during the offseason. Great information like this and no one complaining that Snitker is a horrible manager because he bats Olson 4th one game when he’s slumping – makes the offseason pretty cool. Thanks!
I’d let Grissom play SS if we sign deGrom and Rodon.
This is a great piece. I think we should probably just go ahead and re-sign Dansby.
I doubt they go with Vaughn Grissom as a starting shortstop to start the year. I had that thought after his fast start, but thatâ€™s definitely off the table now.
So I assume that they will have a full-time shortstop, and it may even be Dansby. Which tells me that we will have a bench next year including Grissom and Arcia, and thatâ€™s got me pretty excited. So to a point that Ryan has been making, I just really wish that Snitker could find a way to utilize the rotating DH. Grissom is such an interesting gadget, and of course, we always get this way when we have a hit or without a position, whether itâ€™s Camargo or Jace Peterson or anybody else that we might think could be the next Ben Zobrist.
Of course, itâ€™s hard to talk about the infield without talking about Ozuna. So thatâ€™s really the big story of the offseason. Imagine a scenario where we plug Grissom in as our full-time shortstop because we have budgetary constraints because we are stuck with Ozunaâ€¦
I expect we’ll sign Dansby; I expect we’ll regret it by season 4 latest, but we might win a WS or 2 before then, and maybe after then.
I expect Grissom will go to AAA before he’s used as a bench player. Let him develop like a normal 22 year old.
Does Snitker bear any responsibility for just how much worse the team was during the day? At some point, should you expect the manager and the staff to figure out how to change such a clear and glaring problem?
That’s an interesting question, Rob. I think I’ll throw some math at in in a few weeks.
The math is that they were significantly worse during the day than at night. The question is whether the manager should be responsibility for fixing a clear anomaly but clear issue.
It’s true that the record in day games was dramatically worse than in night games. I’m having a hard time coming up with any variables that might explain the difference. I think the sample size of day games is small enough that it could be explained by random variation. But that’s the kind of question that JonathanF can answer much better than I can.
@11 – That’s a really interesting question Rob, and I do agree with the conversation that there are 2 parts to it. One, was it real or was it random, and two, what should Snitker have done in any case?
If it was random, it was certainly real enough to be noticeable. Can randomness manifest itself into reality, i.e. can the belief you are bad in day games make you bad in day games? Should Snitker have tried to “shake things up,” to change the mood, or is it better to keep an even keel rather than chasing ghosts?
What are some tangible actions he could have taken? Change up the lineup? Put in a curfew on the road? Rest more starters in day games? The latter seems counter-intuitive. Maybe sacrifice a live chicken.
If it was statistically significant, it’s a lot easier. If you can isolate the root cause, you can address it. But then you can ask, did Snitker even look for a root cause, or ask the analytics people about it?
I don’t know the answer to any of these things. There are so many variables to consider in any given game that it’s a wonder we can make as much sense out of statistics as we do. That only happens at scale, though.
I say we fire him.
I say we trade for Yordan Alvarez.
I just can’t imagine how good this team would be with a lineup that looks like the following:
Remaining bench = Arcia, ??? (Jace would be a good choice)
Trading Ozuna and not re-signing Jansen means the payroll would not increase. I still think we could trade Ozuna and a good SP prospect for another bad contract (Bumgarner, Heyward, Corbin, Donaldson, Soler?). Getting a middling lefty or a DH type would be fair compensation for Ozuna.
The AL playoffs are going as expected. The NL side is definitely just the Phillies summoning the magic hot streak.
They were 14-17 in their final 31 games. ðŸ™„
I think someone somewhere said that the playoffs are a crapshoot. The Phillies making the World Series is a case in point. They were arguably the worst team during the regular season in the playoffs and didn’t finish well. I won’t know who to pull for if the Yankees play the Phillies in the World Series. I hate them both, but the Phillies definitely don’t deserve to be there.
As a follow on. I know Philadelphia has to win 1 more game to get to the WS, but I just don’t see San Diego winning 3 games in a row.
The Nats got super insanely lucky in 2019. To be perfectly honest, we got really lucky last year. Both we and the Nats had much better teams that didn’t go nearly as far. In the end, I find it hard to get too mad when another team gets all the breaks, because that’s pretty much what happened for us, too.
I sure won’t be rooting for the Phillies, but if they win it, I’ll text congrats to my buddy, and I’ll keep counting the days till February no differently than I have been.
@19, 20 Up here in Phillies Country, this is basically where I am. An Astros/Phillies series wonâ€™t get my full attention, but I canâ€™t ignore it being that I live here. I hate both organizations for different reasons.
If the Phils canâ€™t beat the Astros, I will smirk inside that we could and they couldnâ€™t.
Ain’t nobody having a worse night than Joe Girardi right now lol
When 3 100-win teams get bounced in their first rounds and the 86-win team makes the World Series, I just really can’t get too worked up about the way things played out for us. The postseason is so goofy.
Anybody listen to DOB’s podcast’s latest episode? At the very end, someone asked about why Jim Powell doesn’t do as many radio games, and DOB was trying to be kind of cagey but really seemed to suggest that there was some sort of internal conflict between Powell and someone, thus his significant reduction in games. I dunno, you have to just listen to it yourself.
I haven’t listened to that podcast, but it seems the reduction in work came after they promoted Ingram to the lead role and moved Simpson over to radio, if I remember correctly. Ingram had worked in some of the Braves MiLB radio markets and had gotten some part-time work with the big club. It struck me as the Braves being high on his future as their voice on radio and not wanting to lose out on him to other jobs, so they felt compelled to promote him, leaving Powell the odd man out. It seems to me the tension would logically be between Ingram and Powell, but I believe they’ve worked together in the booth. Or maybe the higher ups who kind of pulled the rug out from under him. Powell left the Milwaukee Brewers to take the job in Atlanta after the losses of Skip Caray and Pete van Wieren. Anyways, it was the right decision. Ingram is stellar as the lead PBP guy.
@27 Listen to the end of the pod and tell me if you hear anything that I didn’t.
If 88-win Braves can beat the Astros, so can 87-win Phillies.
And yes, the playoffs are a crapshoot. Anything after 1994 carries less weight with me.
Bob Melvin was channeling the ghost of Fredi Gonzalez in the 8th inning, whispering â€œSave your closer for the ninth inning, even if the season is in the lineâ€
The Phillies got that special sauce dialed up. Melvin could have pushed every button imaginable and they’re still losing that series.
My only quibble with this post is its contention that it’s “far too early to tell” on Pache.
At this point I’m confident that Pache is never going to hit in the big leagues. He just finished the season with a .459 OPS in 260 plate appearances. That’s the worst OPS in modern MLB history by an outfielder with at least 250 PA (the previous record was John Shelby in 1989 with an OPS of .466 in 371 PA).
Sorry, gotta root for the Astros now.
Occasionally, I just think: “If the best team wins it all, that’s OK.”
@33 agreed. Can’t root for the Phillies.
@22, 29, and 33:
The Braves definitely did get lucky last year. At the time, I thought it was like the Braves were being compensated for years of bad luck in the playoffs in one huge, glorious installment. The Phillies definitely look like they have similar mojo on their side this year.
BUT . . . one of the ways in which we got lucky last year was not having to face the Astros’ Verlander and McCullers, probably their two best pitchers. The Phillies won’t have that advantage. And Framber Valdez looks like he’s better than he was when we faced him last year, as does Christian Javier (who is a starter now). If Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman play up to their potential, which they did not do last year . . . then watch out, Phillies.
Maybe this is all wishful thinking on my part: I live in the Philly area, and can’t stomach the thought of taking shit for the next year (and probably beyond) from members of their largely obnoxious fanbase.
@32, sometimes, gifted athletes whose defense is substantially ahead of their offense will eventually catch up somewhat with the bat â€” Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel definitely hit better once they reached their late 20s after being pretty useless with the bat when they came up. Pache’s only 23, so it’s certainly possible he could upgrade his offense from “hits like a pitcher” to “below average but playable.”
@36 interesting to compare Ozzie Smith to Andrelton Simmons, eh? Is Pache more Simmons or Smith?
In Ozzie Smith’s first 4 seasons, he had OPS+’s of 82, 48, 71, and 62. Terrible, sure. But he was also playing every single day and seemingly not being shielded from slumps, pitching matchups, etc.
Pache had a -6 OPS in his 22 games starting for the Braves last year and a 34 OPS+ for Oakland this year. That dude is gonna have to be better than Andruw Jones with the glove to be able to have a major league career, and I just don’t see it. But he doesn’t need to for this 3-way trade between the A’s, Braves, and Freddie Freeman to work against the Braves.
Langeliers had a 98 OPS+ in 40 games playing every day after being called up on August 16th. So he’s already an above average player if his defensive reputation proves to be true.
It’s going to be hard for this trade to be considered a slam-dunk win for the Braves, even though I think Pache will never produce a positive WAR in MLB. I fear Langeliers and Freeman are going to have enough surplus value to offset Olson’s surplus value over these next 7-8 years. But it’s early.
@36 I don’t see Pache getting that chance.
Ladies and gents, we have a new post!