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the-last-decade-the-worst-braves-of-the-2000s-part-2 | December | 2009 Articles

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The Last Decade: The Worst Braves of the 2000s, Part 2

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Picking up where we left off from Part 1 of the "Worst Braves of the 2000s" list, Chop-n-Change presents the five worst Braves of the last decade:

    5. Jordan Schafer (2009): .204/.313/.287 with 2 HR, 8 RBI and 2 SB in 50 games.

    This might be a fairly controversial selection, because of course Schafer remains one of the better prospects in the Braves' system. But as I said when I introduced my criteria, future potential isn't a consideration here. All I'm looking at is what he did for the Braves in the past ten years, and in his only playing time between 2000 and 2009, he struggled mightily. Schafer bashed eight hits including two doubles and two homers in his first five games, but had just 26 hits (just six for extra bases, all doubles) in his next 45 games, good for a .505 OPS. And no matter what flavor of fielding metric you prefer, Schafer didn't live up to his sterling defensive reputation either, making some spectacular plays but missing some routine ones -- his Total Zone Rating had him at 9 runs below average over his 50 games in the bigs. He was seriously lacking both at the plate and in the field, broken wrist or no. Frank Wren made a mistake handing the job to Schafer without a backup plan, especially given that it wasn't exactly a secret that Jordan still had plenty to learn. His future, however, remains bright. If he can regain his offensive stroke and live up to the defensive reputation in center field that Braves scouts gave him, he very well could be one of the best Braves of the 2010s. Come back to this blog in ten years and we'll see.

    4. Mark Redman (2007): 0-4 with an 11.63 ERA and 13 K's in 21 2/3 innings (5.4 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 1.7 HR/9).

    It's rather astounding that anyone could rank as the 4th-worst player of the decade after just pitching 21 2/3 innings for the team, but that's just how astoundingly bad Mark Redman truly was. He was signed in March 2007 after Mike Hampton injured himself while swinging a bat in spring training, and Mark lasted all of five starts and one relief appearance. He allowed 28 earned runs in those 21-plus innings, and posted just one quality start against three disaster starts (and the other start was nearly a disaster: 5 ER in 5 2/3 innings). His relief appearance was even worse, as he gave up four earned runs while getting just four outs. The Braves finally released him at the end of May when it was discovered that Redman would need surgery to repair an ingrown toenail. That toenail was an early 2007 candidate for team MVP.

    3. Dan Kolb (2005): 11 SV with a 5.93 ERA and 39 K's in 57 2/3 innings (6.1 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9).

    After Russ Ortiz and Jaret Wright departed following the 2004 season, the Braves needed starting pitching, and they found the answer in their own bullpen: John Smoltz. But that left a hole in the bullpen, so John Schuerholz went and swapped prized pitching prospect Jose Capellan and his 100 MPH fastball to the Brewers for their sinkerballing closer Dan Kolb. Kolb was coming off an All-Star campaign where he saved 39 games for the Brew Crew, but his ridiculously low strikeout rate (just 3.3 K/9 in 2005) should have raised a red flag.As soon as he came to the Braves, though, he stunk up the joint in a hurry. His K rate improved, but everything else went south, and Braves fans lost even more faith when he assured reporters, "Leadoff walks don't bother me. I'm a ground ball pitcher and I can get double plays." His ERA continued to skyrocket and he lost his closing job after two months while fans decided his last name stood for Keeps On Losing Ballgames, among other choice epithets. The Braves, after trading Johnny Estrada for relief help (in the form of Oscar Villarreal and Lance Cormier), mercifully dealt Kolb back to Milwaukee the following winter for Wes Obermueller. Both Kolb and Obermueller have since washed out of baseball -- Capellan is still a pro, but he posted a 7.07 ERA at AAA last year. Talk about a cursed trade.

    2. Jo-Jo Reyes (2007-09): 5-15 with a 6.09 ERA and 126 K's in 190 2/3 innings (5.9 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9).

    Here's another guy that shouldn't be ignored for the future just because the last decade was so bad. Jo-Jo Reyes was the Braves' second-round pick in 2003, and he got his first big-league chance as an overwhelmed 22-year-old with just six Triple-A starts under his belt. He'd always had the stuff to succeed--he'd dominated the International League--but like Morton below him and Kyle Davies above him on this list, he just didn't appear to have his head screwed on straight once he got to the majors. He's had stints in the bigs in three different seasons, making a total of 37 starts, getting past the fifth inning only about 60 percent of the time (23 starts), past the sixth inning just 13 times, and past the seventh in only three of his attempts. FanGraphs' Win Probability Added measures a player's contribution to his team's chances of winning in any given game, and Reyes earns a positive score for just 12 of his 40 appearances. Reyes deserves the team's patience, given that he's left-handed, still possesses the top-notch stuff that made him a top-notch prospect in the first place, and he'll be just 25 years old next year. Still, the only rotation spot he's likely to earn in the immediate future will be at Gwinnett, and he'll have to hope his whole career isn't defined by what happened during the 2000s.

    1. Kyle Davies (2005-07): 14-21 with a 6.15 ERA and 172 K's in 237 innings (6.5 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9).

    Here's a disappointment if there ever was one. When I set out to make this list, I at least anticipated that the #1 worst player of the decade would be somebody we all expected to be bad. Somebody who surprised no one when they sucked. Kyle Davies isn't that guy. He was a fourth-round pick in 2001, a local boy from Stockbridge, GA, the kind of guy the Braves always know better than anyone else. By 2005 he'd crested to the top 20 or 30 prospects in baseball, depending on who you asked. He had the pedigree, and the minor-league performance, and the scouting reports. He wasn't overpowering, but he had a solid assortment of pitches, and he'd make a major-league starter. Five years later, the Royals are still waiting. Called up as part of the Youth Brigade in 2005, he looked excellent to start, allowing just two runs combined in his first four starts. Then he proceeded to give up twenty runs in his next four turns, and proceed to post just ten quality starts in the next two years (41 starts) before he was traded to Kansas City in a deadline day deal in 2007 to bring in setup man Octavio Dotel. He's the golden combo of badness--that 6.15 ERA says it all--and longevity, having milked his prospect status and the Braves' dire pitching straits for all they were worth.

So that's my take on the Top 10 worst Braves of the 2000s. But this list was very much a matter of opinion, and frankly I'm not convinced myself that it's perfect. So let's hear your take: what Braves made you weep every time they came out of the dugout?

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