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between_anderson_and_anderson_is_there_any_room_for_blanco | March | 2009 Articles

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Matthew Avery: This Outfield Would Be Better Without Garret Anderson

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The biggest question for the Braves this spring has been how they'll fill their outfield. Guestposter Matthew Avery returns to analyze the situation.

This is probably one of the least interesting Braves spring trainings ever. Aside from all the winning they've been doing (which is nice if not particularly important) and watching Tommy Hanson every 5 days, there's just not much going on. The infield is set, the starting rotation is set (barring injury, Glavine will be the 5th starter when we first need one), most of the spots in the bullpen are set....

For position battles, it's basically the non-Francoeur portion of the OF (and Garret Anderson is guaranteed a role as either a starter or platoon guy) and a few bullpen roles. Recently, Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus wrote an article about the battle for Atlanta's CF and LF jobs: 

...it's clear that Blanco is the best player--essentially the same hitter as Garret Anderson, and likely to be a better defender if allowed to play left field. When the Braves signed Anderson, I compared his production to that of Brandon Jones, the player whose at-bats he seemed most likely to inherit, and discovered that it was acceptable, if not a big step forward. It actually never occurred to me that Blanco's job would be in danger after playing well a year ago. In fact, comparing the Andersons didn't go particularly well for the veteran, as his edge with the bat over Josh would be more than wiped out by the difference in defense between the two alignments (Garret in left and Blanco in center, versus Blanco in left and Josh in center).
I left a comment basically saying that I didn't think Blanco would perform as well this year as he did in the past because can't turn on a fastball, and his low(er) BA over the last few months of the season was evidence thereof. 

I still think this is basically true; I just don't think Blanco is a full-time player. But if you can limit his exposure, I think he can remain a solid contributer. Even though they're both left handed, I think a platoon of Blanco and Josh Anderson, with J. Anderson taking the ABs against RHP, would work pretty well.

Blanco doesn't really have a platoon split (.248/.360/.333 vs. LHP, .252/.369/.302 vs. RHP), while Anderson's is rather striking (in the minors, .303/.351/.392 vs. LHP, and .277/.314/.321 vs. RHP; the split is a lot bigger against major leaguers, but he's only got about 200 major league PAs).

The problem here is LF. Ideally, you'd want to play Diaz against LHP and G. Anderson against RHP. But now you've got 5 outfielders on the roster, 6 if you count Greg Norton. 

Oh, wait, that's right! The Braves have Greg Norton! He's already on the bench, and he can able play at least passingly in LF. He can also hit righties pretty well. So why not throw him out there most of the time against RHPs, giving Diaz the ABs against southpaws, as well as a few vs. righties so as not to overextend Norton?

Norton is a better hitter in this platoon than Garret Anderson. Norton's career line vs. RHP is is .260/.346/.445, and he was better last year, with a line of .289/.396/.444. Last year, Anderson hit .293/.323/.450 vs. RHP, and his numbers are falling, as his career line vs. RHP is .299/.334/.481. Moreover, it's not like G. Anderson is good enough defensively to make up the difference.

With this setup -- a Diaz/Norton LF platoon, and a Blanco/J. Anderson CF platoon -- you get a decent bat in LF from either side, you get your best bat in CF against either match-up, and you make optimal use of your roster flexibility. And with both Blanco and Josh Anderson on the roster, you've got the ability to put an elite defensive OF out there late to help out the bullpen: Gonzalez, Soriano, and Boyer are all fly ball pitchers.  

The obvious problem here is Garret Anderson. I don't really see a lineup spot where he can make things better, but there's no way the Braves are going to just cut him. What's most likely at this point is that he takes away a roster spot that could be better used by either Josh Anderson or Gregor Blanco and at-bats against RHPs that could be better used by Greg Norton.

In the end, I guess, I'm with Mr. Sheehan: the Braves would be better served with Gregor Blanco on the roster than Garret Anderson.

UPDATE: The forgotten man has often been Brandon Jones, whom John Sickels analyzes today. He ends with this optimistic prediction: "I'm certainly not basing it on the spring numbers, but I think Jones will do better than what the projection systems are showing and could get close to the 90th percentile PECOTA. I wouldn't bet a lot of money on that, or make a huge fantasy investment based on something I can't explain. It's an intuition call, but my intuition says that Jones has a better-than-expected chance to surprise, hitting something like .280/.345/.450 this year, more in line with his 2007 MLE than his 2008 performance." Here's hoping!

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