This season hasn’t exactly gone the way most Atlanta Braves fans have wanted but it is long from over. Atlanta has greatly underachieved and yet are just 5.0 games back of the Wild Card leading Colorado Rockies and 7.0 back of the National League East Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite the early struggles Atlanta is far from done. Something I have noticed is that General Manager Frank Wren has been receiving a lot of criticism from fans for his “idiotic” moves. Let’s take a look and see how “idiotic” they really are.
The first move I would like to point out is the trade for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. Atlanta acquired the pair from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge. So far this year Javier Vazquez is 8-7 with a 3.01 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 140.1 innings pitched. Vazquez is tied for 3rd in the Major Leagues in WHIP (1.05) and has the 3rd best K/9 (10.13). In other words Vazquez has been spectacular this season. Logan on the other hand has been mediocre with a 4.50 ERA in 10.0 innings pitched.
Let’s look at what Chicago got. Tyler Flowers, was the starting catcher for the U.S. Futures team. Great, right? Oh wait that Brian McCann guy is blocking his way to the majors. Brent Lillibridge is currently sporting a fantastic .162 BA in 26 games for the White Sox this year. The bottom line is Frank Wren robbed the White Sox. That trade was not in anyway fair.
Wren has received some flack for the signing of Derek Lowe. Lowe is signed for four years and is making $15MM this year. Not a great contract but Lowe brings the post season experience Atlanta could use. Lowe just happens to be the only pitcher in Major League history to be the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the Divisional Series, Championship Series and World Series in one post season. That’s experience for you. Lowe is also very durable so the 4th year on the contract does not seem so bad. Lowe has pitched in no fewer than 180 innings in the last 7 years. Had Wren not offered the 4th year on the contract there is no way Lowe would have chosen Atlanta.
That is just terrible because Smoltz’s 2-4 record and 7.12 ERA looks so great. As for Tom Glavine, his fastball was topping out in the low 80’s. Really? Atlanta wants to win, not give out pity contracts.
A controversial signing was that of Japanese veteran Kenshin Kawakami. So far he is just 5-8 with a 4.37 ERA. One should also know that the ball is smaller in Japan so it can take some time for Kawakami to adjust. For comparison Daisuke Matsuzaka was 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA in his first season with the Red Sox. The next season he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. I’m not saying this will be the same with Kawakami but don’t condemn him yet.
Next we have the Nate McLouth trade that in the thoughts of has decimated Atlanta’s farm system. Atlanta gave up Charlie Morton, who has pitched well (2-3, 3.60 ERA), Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke. In Hernandez’s 53 games for AA Altoona he is hitting a sparkling .239 BA with 5 stolen bases in 10 attempts. Stealing bases is what he does so that’s not looking so great. Not to mention Hernandez and McLouth play the same position so he could have potentially been blocked. In Locke’s 10 games with Advanced A Lynchburg he has a 1-4 record with a 5.31 ERA. Again, Frank Wren robbed a team.
Recently Wren traded Casey Kotchman for Adam LaRoche and cash. This deal was obviously made in an attempt to give the power starved Braves lineup an added boost. Kotchman has hit just 6 home runs this season while LaRoche has 13. Kotchman’s batting average is 30 points higher but he has no where near the power of LaRoche. LaRoche also traditionally gets hot in the second half.
Another complaint is Kotchman’s amazing defense as he has yet to make an error. LaRoche has made just 1 this season while having 61 more total chances. LaRoche also sports a better range factor (9.94) over Kotchman (9.41). Is Kotchman’s defense really that much better? I don’t think so.
The bottom line is Wren has robbed 2 teams on the trade market and really made one signing that hasn’t helped Atlanta (Kawakami). That signing also hasn’t really hurt them either.
Frank Wren has done an above average job whether Braves fans want to admit it or not. He is just so easy to blame for Atlanta’s problems.
I think just about everyone who voted on this year’s All-Star teams has been frustrated in some way or another. Some guys got snubbed despite having a stellar season in favor of someone having a mediocre season but has that “reputation.”
As an Atlanta Braves fan my biggest issue is having Brian McCann make the team as a reserve and not a starter in favor of Yadier Molina. McCann is easily having the better season despite spending time on the DL and having horrible eye problems. Molina just happens to be the more popular player so he gets the nod even though he hasn’t been playing as well.
Another issue I have as a Braves fan is the fact that neither Rafael Soriano (1-1, 1.63 ERA, 8 saves) or Mike Gonzalez ( 3-1, 3.20 ERA, 9 saves) got voted in. I try to be as unbiased as possible but dammit at least one of those guys deserves to be in St. Louis. Instead of one of them Ted Lilly (8-6, 3.32 ERA) made the team. I obviously see that his record doesn’t tell the tale of his season but if you want to play that game then Jair Jurrjens (6-7, 2.91) deserves to be there.
Something that puzzles me is why does the National League have 4 first baseman? They have 4 first baseman while only carrying 2 shortstops and 2 third baseman. As for the first baseman I think Lance Berkman is having just as good a season as Ryan Howard. People talk about versatility, Berkman can play the corner outfield positions as well as first base. Did I mention he switch hits? Ryan Howard already as 95 strikeouts. Who wants to see a guy take an 0-2 with 2K in a freaking All-Star game? There are 4 first baseman while someone like Casey Blake is left off the team.
In the American League Dustin Pedroia who is having a solid season is starting over Aaron Hill while Brian Roberts didn’t even make the team. Everyone jumped on the Josh Hamilton band wagon and sent him there, the guy hasn’t even played. Hamilton himself said he didn’t deserve to be there. He made it instead of a guy like Juan Rivera, who is killing the ball this year.
What this all boils down to his the All-Star game is a popularity contest. The average fan knows the most popular players and that’s about it. The most popular players aren’t always the best ones. As long as the All-Star game actually “counts” the leagues need to be presenting the best team possible. Something interesting, the National League has 2 more teams than the American League which means they have to have a representative from 2 more teams.
If MLB wants this game to actually count then I want the players making the decisions. No one knows the players like the players so it’s only right. If they want the fans to get involved then make the game count for nothing or give them power over the reserves at most.
Over and out,
ESPN always seems to bring up the discussions comparing players and sparking the question, “Who would ya take?”
It seems as though I’m in the minority as I would take Brian McCann over Joe Mauer. Here’s a look inside the numbers. Currently Mauer leads most statistical categorizes throughout both players’ careers. Before writing off McCann one should know that Mauer started his fabulous career a year earlier than McCann. Mauer played 35 games in 2005 while McCann didn’t begin his MLB career until 2006.
Despite this most of the major statistics are somewhat close with Mauer having the edge in hits (733 to 549), doubles (140 to135), RBI (345 to 328) and total bases (1077 to 922). Mauer also has the advantage in career batting average (.324 to .299).
McCann seems to only lead Mauer in one major category, home runs (78 to 58). Right now you should be thinking this is a no contest, Mauer is obviously the better offensive catcher. This is before I inform you that Mauer also leads McCann with 616 games played to just 533. He also leads McCann in at-bats 2263 to just 1839. Not only has Mauer played in 83 more games than McCann, he participated in 76 of those as the designated hitter. McCann doesn’t have the luxury of the DH in the National League. McCann has only been able to DH 27 times in his career compared to Mauer’s 76.
The DH may not seem like a big deal but it can really boost one’s statistics. Mauer can occasionally take the day off defensively but remain in the game to hit. I believe it is common knowledge that catching is the most physically demanding position on the field. If McCann wants to hit he has to catch also. When McCann needs a day off he doesn’t have the luxury of the DH like Mauer does. Mauer gets his day off while padding his offensive statistics. When taking this into consideration Mauer has a large advantage in opportunities since the beginning of the 2005 season.
This proves that you can’t always take statistics at face value. Mauer leads the major statistics but has had more opportunities. On the other hand, Mauer has had more at-bats and games but still has a better batting average and only 14 more strikeouts. Statistics can also be warped by injuries. Mauer has missed a substantial amount of time this season while McCann spent about a month or so with terrible eye problems that forced him to the DL.
Joe Mauer currently owns the better fielding percentage (.996 to .989) but McCann has one more All-Star appearance. It really is a toss up between the two superstars. No matter what you think we are truly lucky to see two great offensive catchers playing at the same time. These two could go down as the two greatest offensive catchers to ever play the game.