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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 1

2012 player preview: Freddie Freeman

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Freddie FreemanBy most accounts, Freddie Freeman's rookie year of 2011 was a rousing success. After all, he was the runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year race (behind teammate Craig Kimbrel, who won the award unanimously), he finished third on the team with 21 homers, and he had a very good .794 OPS. But advanced stats hated Freeman, with him just logging 1.0 fWAR, and there's talk that Freeman's offensive stats will peak around where they did last year. What gives?

Let's tackle these issues one at a time. Freeman's low fWAR is due in part to UZR's absolute hatred of him. His UZR was -12.6 on the year, more than halving his value. Braves fans, of course, spit venom at this notion, claiming that Freeman is a magnificent fielder (because that's what Chip Caray and Joe Simpson tell them every night). DRS rated him as neutral, which I think is a more apt valuation of his defense. Tangotiger did a fantastic study on first base defense, comparing Freeman to Carlos Pena, and came to the conclusion that Freeman has very few opportunities to actually make a play, and the opportunities he had were much easier than other first basemen in the league. The link is definitely worth a read.

Now, to the other elephant in the room: Freeman's offense. People point their finger at Freeman's stellar minor league stats, and expect that performance in the majors. Well, look at his MLEs according to THT for his final three seasons in the minors. 

2008: .278/.326/.470, .343 wOBA
2009: .250/.313/.370, .304 wOBA
2010: .277/.332/.465, .344 wOBA

His MLEs for the next six years peak with a .356 wOBA. Last season, he was at .345. That's not much of an improvement. The metrics do not like Freeman's overall future projection, because despite his lack of strikeouts, he possesses below average power for a first baseman (his .166 ISO ranked 18th among 24 qualified first basemen).

You know what I think a good comp for Freeman would be? Braves-era Fred McGriff. McGriff was electric over his first year and a half in Atlanta, but fell to the .355-.365 wOBA level before departing. There is nothing wrong with having Fred McGriff as a first baseman. But Fred McGriff isn't exactly an elite player, and expectations for Freeman are probably going to be set too high going into 2012. I'd settle for 20 homers and an .800 OPS. Anything more is a bonus. 

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The Last Person the Braves Need

Written by Paddy McMahon on .

A couple days ago, Joe wrote about how the Braves missed out on an opportunity to bring in Kosuke Fukudome, late of the NPB, Cubs and Indians, to compete for a fourth-outfielder role. In response, a commenter had this to say:

"I hope this is not serious!! Fukodome [sic] would have been the last person the braves need."

The comment has since been either deleted or removed, I guess, but surely Fukudome is not really the last person the Braves need. I submit for your consideration, without further comment:

Juan Pierre

Alex Rios

Raul Ibanez

Aubrey Huff

Aubrey Drake Graham

Everyone else who starred in Degrassi

Jose Constanza

Jose Canseco

Kevin Costner as Crash Davis 

Kevin Costner as Billy Chapel

Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella
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2012 player preview: Yohan Flande

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Ah yes, Yohan Flande. He's also known by the English translation of his name, "AAA roster filler". But let me be serious for a minute. Flande isn't in the top ten starting pitchers on Atlanta's depth chart, and he's really just....a warm body to fill out the AAA rotation.

You can do a lot worse than Flande, though. In 137 innings for Gwinnett, split between the starting rotation and the bullpen, Flande had a 4.01 ERA, struck out 104, walked just 38, and allowed only nine homers. That translates to a 3.37 FIP, which is pretty damn good for a guy I'm calling roster filler. When you consider that 2011 was his first year pitching at AAA, things get a little more impressive.

But sometimes, you have to think realistically. With the Braves starting five right now, along with Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and JJ Hoover in Gwinnett and Zeke Spruill in Mississippi, the highest you can put Flande on the major league depth chart is tenth, and that's assuming you don't think much of Todd Redmond. Flande could actually probably start and do an adequate job for a bad team in the majors, but he's really not going to get a shot with the Braves. For now, he'll continue to hold his own in Gwinnett, and perhaps he'll be able to get a late season callup for a bullpen role. But if he's starting in the majors for Atlanta, things have taken a really bad turn for the Braves. No offense to Flande, but there are so many better options for the team right now.

Check out THT's projection for Flande here 

Fredi Gonzalez isn't good with cliches

Written by Joe Lucia on .

SPRING TRAINING, HELL YEAH! Fortunately, that means we get access to a new round of awesome Fredi Gonzalez interviews. Today, Fredi spoke with reporters upon the opening of spring camp.

"Stop looking in the rear view mirror and start looking in the front mirror to see what's ahead of us"

So uh...stop looking in the rear view mirror, that's self explanatory. If you're looking at a mirror, you're seeing what's behind you. If you were looking in a mirror that would show you what's in front of you...it's just glass? It's not a mirror at all?

"In the major leagues today they're breaking camp today, or broke camp yesterday, I think Seattle broke camp a week ago..."

Note to Fredi: breaking camp is what happens at the end of game, thus you'll hear the phrase "broke camp and headed to Atlanta to start the season", not "broke camp and started practicing in Orlando".

Guys, I have a feeling our manager isn't too smart.

[h/t: Dirk Hayhurst on Twitter]

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Hanson in car accident to start spring

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Braves starter Tommy Hanson, who missed a nice chunk of time last season with shoulder problems, was involved in a single car accident this morning on his way to the Braves complex in Orlando. According to Mark Bowman, Hanson blew out a tire and bumped his head. He showed up at camp, but didn't participate in any workouts, and went to a doctor to be checked for a concussion. No word on what the results of the tests are.

....and so begins the Braves' spring camp. Hanson is going to be a huge part of Atlanta's success or failure this season, and a concussion, no matter how minor or how severe, would slow his progress in his return to facing live hitting his spring. Concussions are serious business, and it would be an absolutely crushing blow to the team early on if he suffered one. Here's hoping that Hanson is fine and in camp tomorrow to resume workouts and drills.

The MLB blackout rules and you

Written by Joe Lucia on .

There is a lot of hubbub lately about FOX extending their national blackout window into primetime this year, opting to televise numerous games locally over an eight week period as opposed to the usual three or so in the afternoon. Braves fans locally in the south really shouldn't care about this, because they'll get the games on FOX, and that'll be the end of that.

But Braves fans are everywhere nationwide, and this is more complicated than "southern fans are fine!" Here's a list of the games where the Braves game on Saturday will fall into FOX's broadcast window.

June 16th, 7 PM: Orioles @ Braves
June 23rd, 7 PM: Braves @ Red Sox
July 7th, 7 PM: Braves @ Phillies
July 14th, 3:30 PM: Mets @ Braves
July 28th, 3:30 PM: Phillies @ Braves
August 25th, 3:30 PM: Braves @ Giants
September 1st, 3:30 PM: Phillies @ Braves
September 8th, 3:30 PM: Braves @ Mets

So the Braves are going to be featured in FOX blackouts just eight times, out of a possible 22. The final two Saturdays of the season are up to FOX as to which games they want to feature, so the max possible amount is ten blackouts, which isn't that terrible. Compare that to some other prominent teams though. The Phillies have seven games on nationally, the Red Sox, Cubs, and Yankees have nine, the Mets have eight for some reason...you get the idea. Most of the good teams in the league in larger markets have a lot of games on, while the smaller market teams don't have many.

What does this mean for you if you're an out of market fan looking to buy MLB.TV or Extra Innings? Well, in addition to the local blackouts you'll get (living in central PA, I get four: Phillies, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates), you'll be blacked out of eight additional games unless you're in the viewing area for those games. Note that all but one of the FOX telecasts are against teams located in the northeast, which means that fans west of maybe Ohio would be screwed for watching Braves games on FOX.

Personally, the blackouts aren't a huge deal for me. They'll always be around. They totally suck, but they'll be there for awhile. But the thing that irks me are the local overall blackouts, because I'm thinking about ditching my cable box....which would take me out of the running to view games on Root Pittsburgh, Comcast Philly, and MASN. That's what, 47 games I wouldn't be able to see? At worst, let me watch the non-local feed on MLB.TV. It's the least you can do, right?

2012 player preview: Robert Fish

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The Braves took Robert Fish in this year's Rule 5 draft, and he'll compete for one of the coveted bullpen spots (which are scarce at the moment). Fish spent last year with the Los Angeles Angels (after being taken by the Yankees in last year's Rule 5 draft before being returned to LA). He spent the majority of the year with Arkansas of the AA Texas League. For Arkansas, Fish showed some good qualities. In 30 1/3 innings, he struck out 41, and had a 1.88 ground ball to fly ball. He also allowed just one home run over the course of the season.

The 24 year-old showed a negative trait, however: walks. Fish walked 18 hitters in those 30 1/3 innings, but with all due respect, seven of those came in one disastrous appearance in September. Take that outing out, and Fish struck out 41 and walked 11 in 28 2/3 innings. Combine that with the 19 hits he allowed (again, excluding that seven walk appearance in September, where he also allowed two hits), and Fish had a fantastic 1.367 DOM on the season. That is a fantastic number.

In AA last year, Fish did show some platoon splits against lefties and righties. Against lefties, he walked four and struck out 17 in 11 innings (1.133 DOM). Against righties, he struck out 24 and walked 14 in 19 1/3 innings (0.800 DOM). That's a definite split, and he could have a role on the team as a lefty specialist, much in the role that George Sherrill had last year (and was effective at, despite fans and their silly anti-Sherrill crusade).

Fish has thrown just 2/3 of an inning in AAA, and his lack of experience at the level could submarine his chances at making the major league roster. He's a nice guy to have in the organization, and I hope that even if he doesn't make the major league roster, the Braves are able to work something out with the Angels to keep him in the organization.

Braves miss a great chance with Fukudome

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Today, former Indians and Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome signed with the Chicago White Sox, for the low cost of $1 million. When I saw this, I immediately began to think how great of a fit he would have been with the Braves, especially at that price.

The Braves' fourth outfielder right now is Matt Diaz, with Jose Constanza looking to rip that title from him. We all know what each player is at this point in time: Diaz is a platoon bat who is losing his touch for hitting lefties, and Constanza is a speed merchant with no power or plate discipline. Got it. On the other hand, Fukudome is a versatile bat with good plate discipline and average power for a center fielder. He's only a year older than Diaz, and his walk rate is routinely twice what Diaz's normally rests at.

The major difference that Diaz and Constanza have over Fukudome is their batting average. Fukudome is a career .260 hitter, while Diaz (when on) and Constanza can crack .300. But then again, we're in the year 2012, and we should know that getting on base is the overall name of the game, and Fukudome does that better than Diaz. Constanza is a guy who just be a pair of legs if the BABIP bubble bursts (as it did after his miracle run last year), and I'm not sure that's a risk I'm willing to take.

At the end of the day, Frank Wren's trade for Matt Diaz last August continues to haunt the team. He's an inferior player to Fukudome, and he's more than twice as much. Seriously? Feel good stories are all well and good sometimes, but only when they work out well. The Diaz acquisition continues to plague the Braves, nearly six months after it happened. 

Exploring DOM, Atlanta's pitching stat of choice

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Today at Georgia Tech, Braves GM Frank Wren and Scouting Director John Coppolella were giving a guest lecture in a sports analytics class. The lecture gave an inside look into the Braves operations, and some of their analytical tools. Nothing too note-worthy came out of it, aside from the fact that the Braves use a stat called DOM to evaluate pitchers. DOM is thought of by the organization on the same scale as OPS, with the major league average last season being .602. To calculate DOM, you divide a pitcher's strikeouts by his walks plus his hits. Below is a list of each Braves pitcher's DOM for 2011.

Kris Medlen 2
Eric O'Flaherty 0.838
Jonny Venters 1
Craig Kimbrel 1.588
Anthony Varvaro 0.885
Randall Delgado 0.419
Jair Jurrjens 0.484
George Sherrill 0.844
Tim Hudson 0.645
Peter Moylan 0.667
Cristhian Martinez 0.773
Tommy Hanson 0.934
Scott Linebrink 0.532
Brandon Beachy 0.988
Mike Minor 0.626
Arodys Vizcaino 0.68
Julio Teheran 0.345
Derek Lowe 0.486
Scott Proctor 0.36
Jairo Asencio 0.381
Cory Gearrin 0.862

Some interesting observations coming out of the list...

-The holy trinity in the bullpen was excellent
-Of the starters, DOM liked Hanson and Beachy the most
-DOM wasn't a fan of Hudson and Minor
-DOM absoutely hated Delgado, Lowe, and Jurrjens
-Some reliever you didn't expect to be good were (Sherrill, Gearrin, Varvaro)
-The relievers you expected to be bad were (Linebrink, Proctor)

Some things I don't like about DOM...
-It doesn't penalize a fly ball, high home run pitcher
-It doesn't reward a ground ball, weak contact pitcher

One thing I noticed while looking at this is that the stat really doesn't favor some legendary Braves. Greg Maddux's career DOM is .588. Tom Glavine's is .450, and John Smoltz's is .755. Compare that to current players and their career DOMs, like Jonathan Sanchez (.749), Oliver Perez (.684), and Rich Harden (.789). What those numbers tells me is that the stat is skewed towards high strikeout pitchers, and doesn't give "finesse" guys a fair shake.

When tracking the minor league stats for 2012, I'll be keeping track of DOM from now on, just to see if promotions match the newly unearthed stat. It'll be interesting to watch for sure. 

2012 player preview: Luis Durango

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The Braves signed Luis Durango this offseason as a minor league free agent, and invited him to spring camp. Looking at Durango's skills overall, he reminds me a lot of someone else that will be in camp, but on the 40-man roster: Jose Constanza. Durango has gotten brief cups of coffee in the majors over the last three seasons with the Padres and Astros, and has really only shown two skill: speed, and plate discipline. In his 39 games in the majors, mostly coming in off the bench, Durango has just a .653 OPS, not logging one extra base hit over his 74 plate appearances. However, he's walked seven times (9.5% walk rate) and has stolen seven bases, being caught just once.

Comparing the 25 (soon to be 26) year-old to Constanza's stint in the majors this past year, you get a sense that Durango is a lesser version of Constanza. Constanza received 119 plate appearances last season, his only career major league action, and had a .724 OPS. He walked six times (5.0%), and stole seven bases, but unlike Durango, he was caught four times. Constanza also showed more power than Durango, rapping out four extra base hits, including a pair of homers.

Looking at each player's minor league numbers tells a different story. In AAA last year, Durango had a .640 OPS for the Padres and Astros organizations, while Constanza was at .712. Durango went 28/42 on the basepaths over 108 games, while Constanza went 23/31. Comparing power, Constanza and Durango had the same pathetic ISO of .039. 

Neither guy is ideal for a major league roster, but comparing the two, it looks like Constanza is the better player. With him around, I don't see any reason that the Braves would let Durango get extended playing time in the majors unless Constanza gets hurt. Even then, neither player looks like much of a major league stalwart, and appears to be AAA filler. With the expected promotions of Cory Harrilchak and Mycal Jones to Gwinnett, I don't think Durango will even get a ton of playing time there.

Check out Durango's projection on THT here 

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