Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Braves coaches released

In the wake of their first losing season since 1990, the Braves have released Pat Corrales (bench coach) and diminshed the role of bullpen coach Bobby Dews. Third base coach Fredi GOnzalez had already left to manage the Marlins.

Unfortunately, one of the coaches returning is Roger McDowell, after a subpar performance by the Braves' staff last year. The team ERA of 4.60 ranked 17th, tied with Texas.

Texas plays in a bandbox. Turner Field is a pitchers' park. Atlanta's 4.60 ERA placed it behind PITTSBURGH (4.52)!

So, shakeups have begun within the coaching staff. But what about the roster itself?

Offensively, they were not too bad overall. They ranked 5th in MLB in runs scored, 6th in OPS, and were 2nd in HR with 222, behind only the White Sox. They ranked in the middle of the pack in AVG and OBP. Essentially, the offense seemed like an old Earl Weaver team - get on base, not too much speed, and bang the ball out of the park.

Renteria led the team with a .293 average and 17 SB. While he did score 100 runs, he was a bit of a disappointment. He did improve over his Boston numbers, but he needed to get on base more and make things happen.

LaRoche finished with decent numbers overall, but had several fluky plays which cost the Braves wins. He singlehandedly kept the Braves from .500 with a couple of inattentive and stupid plays to cost the 2-3 wins.

Andruw Jones, Franceour, and Chipper Jones performed as well as could be expected. Chipper had great numbers in 110 games, but the season is 162 games. Andruw and Franceour provided the power (with Frenchy nabbing 100 RBI) but didn't on base nearly enough, hitting around .260 apiece. Franceour only had 23 walks, and that needs to severely improve.

McCann was the best of the young crop, putting up .333-24-93 in only his second season. He's still only 22 and could be an All-Star for quite a long time if he keeps this up.

Both of the Jones, though, are still signed to monster contracts, and Chipper's health is an even more obvious problem considering the amount left ot pay him. Andruw will be a free agent after next season in which he is paid $13.5 MM.

Giles keeps having ailments or injuries of one type or another, and his numbers (.262-11-60, 5 SB) were solidly unspectacular for a $4 MM salary. Not bad, but not worth that amount of money, either.

The pitching was an absolute mess. There's just no other way to put it.

There was only one "bright" spot, and he will turn 40 next year. Smoltz went 16-9, with 211 K's, a WHIP under 1.2, and a 3.49 ERA. He could have had 20 wins this year with a decent bullpen that didn't blow so many leads.

Hudson turned in another disappointing year. He is supposed to be the leader of this staff, not a .500 pitcher with an ERA near 5. He walked 79 batters - inexcusable for a ground-ball pitcher in a pitcher's park. I don't know if frequent tweaks and pulls have shot his confidence, but he's not the same pitcher he was in Oakland.

Chuck James was a nice surprise, but missed a third of the season.

All other starters were absolutely horrendous - Sosa, Thomson, Ramirez, and Davies combined for a 13-29 record, a 1.63 WHIP and a 5.65 ERA in 56 starts.

And Mike Hampton missed another entire season. His salary is finally coming off the books, though.

The bullpen? Glad you asked. It did markedly improve after the Braves acquired Bob Wickman from Cleveland, and they have smartly re-signed him for another season already. Reitsma is gone, along with his $3.5 MM salary. Danys Baez will return and could become a serviceable set-up man for Wickman. Villareal might return as well, and hopefully he will not vulture as many wins next year by not allowing all of his inherited runners to score. Beyond those faint hopes - ouch.

So what now?

Hampton and Reitsma's salaries are gone. The Braves may try to trade LaRoche (only making $400K) and Giles for pitching help. Acquiring a #3 or #4 pitcher isn't too far-fetched for those guys, or some decent bullpen help. Chad Bradford, Octavio Dotel,

This would leave openings at 2B, 1B, and OF, assuming no other deals (though it is possible they trade Andruw in the offseason, but I think the Braves would have to be blown away and Andruw's now a 10-5 guy).

Prime free agents include Alfonso Soriano, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. Secondary free agent targets include Mark Redman, Jason Schmidt, Scott Williamson, Adam Eaton, Preston Wilson, and Mark Buerhle.

Let's try one from column A and two from Column B. Whaddaya say?


Big Daddy Jeff said...

So many responses. Overall, I like your analysis. Slightly too pessimistic for me, but also a valid critique. I do think you need to give McDowell some credit for the progress made by the pitching staff. Yes, they finished 17th in ERA. But where were they July 31? Probably a lot lower. McBride and James should be good pitchers for years to come. That didn't happen by accident. Hopefully he can right Joey Devine too.

McCann is a major find. The guy may be every bit as good as Mauer and then some. Look at the numbers. And that's saying something.

And I don't care what his numbers were, Renteria did not disappoint me. That was the best .293 I've ever seen. He had at least 3 12+ game hitting streaks. Good power, good speed, good defense. His numbers are very similar to Furcal, for a lot less, considering the Red Sox ate money on the deal.

Also check your info. I'm 99% sure Mike Hampton is back next year. The announcers referred to that all season long and how he was looking forward to a new start in 2007 as a Brave. Plus the Marlins still subsidize that contract too.

Finally, you're way too hard on LaRoche. Yes, you're right about the bonehead mistakes. But the guy has ADD. And he started taking medicine just this year. You can't blame him for trying to deal with it on his own. Now he's getting help. His 2nd half numbers were amazing. I believe only Ryan Howard had better post A.S. break power numbers in the N.L.

It was a rebuilding year. Sad to see the streak end. Sadder to see it end to the Mets. But this happens in baseball. In a way, it's even kinda fun seeing the team being rebuilt. New guys to root for and all. My biggest concern is getting another quality pitcher. Also doing something about Andruw Jones so he's not a lame duck next year. Preferrably, extend his deal. If not, get a lot in return for a team like the Red Sox or Dodgers.

I trust Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz. They deserve that. And so far they are 3 for 3 in moves for 2007 with Wickman, Smoltz, and shuffling the coaching staff. Keep the faith!

Francase said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Francase said...

Renteria was indeed streaky - several long hitting streaks, but several long 0-fer streaks too.

Agreed on Andruw. It's also possible a certain team in NY might go after him too, with Matsui being a FA too.

LaRoche kept screwing up AFTER he went on "meds" as well. Remember the bunt he tried? Way after that started.

Hampton, I think, had signed a six-year deal after the Mets season in 2000. Could be wrong - I'm going on memory.

McBride, I'm not so sure, and Devine is just not going to be major-league caliber. I like James if he can stay healthy but he did miss a third of 2006 so that is a concern.

They may have to move Andruw and Hudson, but should only do so if they get a whole lot in return from NY, LA, BOS, etc. Personally, I don't think they have to do that, given the free agents available. If they can trade at least Giles and LaRoche, and beef up pitching, and use Reitsma's $$ for free agent(s), good. If Hampton's number gets reduced or disappears, even better. They have made some good moves with Wickman and Baez, but there's still a lot more that needs to be done.

Big Daddy Jeff said...

Hampton actually signed an 8 year, $121 million contract. So they have him for 2 more years (at half price since the Marlins picked up 3 of the 6 years following the 3 team trade from Colorado). That makes the move of shutting him down in 2006 for the surgery look even better. He should be a very good #3, assuming his surgery went as well as Smoltz's did.

Matsui just signed a big 4 year contract last offseason. The Yanks outfield is stacked. And I can't see the Mets bringing in another CF when they have Beltran. I still think the Red Sox are the best fit. Maybe Dodgers too since it seems to be a home for ex-Braves anyway. Remember Andruw is a Soctt Boras client (bad) but last time around negotiated his own deal with his dad and the Braves personally and still gave Boras his commission anyway (good).

I still like LaRoche. He giveth, he taketh away. But he's not the problem. Bobby's best move was making him an everyday player even against lefties. That's when he blossomed. No more dinosaurs like Franco or Jordan next year, ok?!!

Francase said...

Two more years of Hampton?