Monday, February 8, 2010

Musings on the Atlanta Braves with 11 Days Left Until Spring Training

As with many of the late musings, little has happened in Bravesland.

Well, I should say that little had happened transaction/real news-wise...the blogosphere always yeilds something to discuss.

This musing is a day late, so I did have time to find one big-time juicy nugget to work with.

With that said, I see no other direction to go other than right into the content...

First thing, the Braves' Caravan.

No. I am not from the Braves' PR Department.

But, let me tell you, this is quite an experience.

Even though the event I want to in Charlotte this past Wednesday didn't have the cream of the Braves' traveling crop (Peter Moylan, Brooks Conrad, Otis Nixon, Eric O'Flaherty, Terry Pendleton, Zane Smith, and Frank Wren--who is surprisingly short...I'm 6'1" and when he walked by me before the autographs started he was probably a little above my shoulder), just to see the people that you've admired and followed in person is pretty cool.

Maybe that feeling came from the fact that I've never gotten any kind of autograph before...but still.

If the Caravan is going to come anywhere close to you in it's final week, I would highly recommend that you get to speak to the players, to get them to sign your stuff, and (if you're fortunate enough to have the event you attend be at a Wild Wing Cafe) great food.

I mean, look at how much fun homer was having... I filmed him on my low-quality cell phone camcorder (just so you know why the quality's so bad).

Oh, and, no, I wasn't skipping school...we had a snowday but the highways going from Winston to Charlotte were clear so a friend and I decided to go.

Second thing, what's with all the criticism of the Braves' rotation?

Now, this isn't the first time I've seen something like this quote I read from Mark Bradley's blog today.

But, it is the first time that I've seen an "expert" say this and I feel that this is a good base from which I can fully assert my opinions on this matter.

Here's the meat of Bradley's blog (which totaled 285 of his own words) in which he responded to/agreed wit Jon Heyman's analysis of the Braves' offseason:

"My two cents (hey, I’m cheap, too!): Even if the Vazquez trade helps the Braves down the road — I’m thinking of prospect Arodys Vizcaino — there was no way they should have surrendered the man who might well have been their Opening Day starting pitcher without getting a starting position player in return. (Cabrera is seen as a fourth outfielder.) And I don’t buy the argument that the Braves’ rotation will be just as strong without Vazquez.

With Vazquez, the fourth and fifth starters would have been Lowe, who even in a down year won 15 games, and Tim Hudson, who had Tommy John surgery in 2008. Without Vazquez, those two must move up a slot and Kenshin Kawakami, who won seven games last season, again becomes the No. 5 starter. I’m sorry, but that’s a downgrade."

Now, I'm not going to say that I have no idea where he's coming from with this...because I do.

This reaction (especially the part about KK only winning seven games last season...I'll go into more in a second) just strikes me as something that a very, very, very lazy person would write, though.

Not a paid sports journalist.

And I have some serious qualms with someone with the stage and "influence," if you will, of Bradley spewing something of this low of a caliber out (not saying that I'm the be-all, end-all of the Atlanta Braves or anything) without any real statistical backing.

I can tell you with full confidence that the 2010 version of the Braves' starting rotation will be just as strong and reliable as the 2009 version.

Timmy Hudson is a career 3.49 pitcher with 148 wins and served as (virtually) the Braves' ace from about 2006 until his Tommy John Surgery, posting 13, 16, and 11 wins in those seasons (with a 3.17 ERA through 22 starts in the 11-win campaign).

Right there is your replacement for Javy Vazquez who was due for a regression following a season in which he posted career bests in ERA, walks allowed, H/9, and HR/9 and his second best K total.

Jair Jurrjens is, simply put, Jair Jurrjens.

There's no reason his stuff, command, and mound presence shouldn't improve.

Tommy Hanson...see JJ.

He's young, his stuff's dynamic, and he didn't bat an eye against some of the best hitters the bigs have to offer.

Derek Lowe should gravitate back towards his career norms as Vazquez will.

I don't want to carry on for too long here, so I'll give you this link that gives you a nice, long explanation, if you care to read it.

Now we come to Kenshin Kawakami.

Even though the Japanese right-hander only posted seven wins last season, I'd like for you to examine this:

In the months of April, May, June, July, and August, Pitcher A started: 5, 6, 5, 5, and 5 games; posting an ERA of 3.38, 3.76, 1.98, 2.94, and 3.03; K totals of 42, 44, 39, 33, and 34; and 2, 2, 1, 3, and 3 wins in those months (this pitcher had 32 starts total).

Pitcher B started 4, 5, 5, 5, and 6 games with ERAs of 7.05, 3.03, 3.33, 4.72, and 2.87 with Ks totaling 18, 26, 16, 16, and 22 with 1, 2, 1, 1, and 2 wins (this pitcher had 32 starts total with some of his appearances in August coming in relief).

Pitcher C started 5, 6, 5, 6, and 6 games with 1.72, 3.38, 3.68, 2.09, and 3.65 ERAs, totaled 16, 24, 28, 25, and 29 Ks and had 2, 3, 0, 4, and 1 wins (this pitcher had 34 starts total).

Notice that if you throw out the highs and lows in ERA between A and B and do the same for strikeouts between B and C, you'll find that those pitchers (for either category) compare quite favorably.

It's obvious that Pitcher B was Kawakami, but when compared directly to Javier Vazquez (A) and Jair Jurrjens (C), he doesn't look too bad.

If he can continue to adjust to all of the factors that were working against him last season (culture and baseball), then he should only see improvement.

There's more to dissect in his blog, but I've already offered more in my rebuttal, if you will, than he typed up, so I'll stop with this here.

(That wasn't necessarily all about "calling out" Mark Bradley, it was more about this growing idea that the 2010 team lacks something the 2009 team had)

Last thing...

This isn't really so much of a "point," as much as it is a general question.

But, what's your favorite spring training facility?

I've only been to Legends Field (now Steinbrenner Field) in Tampa, but if I were to go back down, where would you say is the best place to see a game?

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