It's been awhile since I've posted anything. Sorry, for those of you who missed me. If you didn't miss me, then why are you reading?
I heard someon mention at our softball game yesterday that they now no longer care if the Braves win, as long as Chipper gets 2 hits. That's a pretty good intro...
Look, I'm not the biggest fan of Pythagorean Records. Why? Well, the Braves' Pythagorean Record tells us we are one of the better teams in the league.
Um, sorry, but we aren't. I don't need a math formula to tell me otherwise.
Sure, it's nice to know where our record "should" be. But it all boils down to the fact that we aren't there.
We have a super utility and a backup infielder splitting time in LF. We have the league's worst right fielder. We only have 1, arguably 2-3 if you count the LOOGYs, reliever who can be labeled "reliable." We have only one starter who can go past the 6th consistently. We only have 2 starters that can go past the 5th consistently.
Sorry Mr. James, but the above is not a formula for success. Common sense beats the calculator here.
Is it that bad?
Probably not, but we'll see in September. I hear a lot of moaning and groaning about 1 run losses. There is some validity in those groans (we do need a better bullpen, for example) I like how Bobby worded it in an interview yesterday when he said "we're in every game". By that he means, we don't get blown out, yesterday's game excluded which is bound to happen every now and then. I do think it is a positive sign that we really don't get destroyed that much in our games this season.
The injuries are going to happen. In the 90s it seemed like we never lost a key player for an extended period of time (Justice, Galaragga, and Smoltz are the only ones I can think of in about 10 seconds of thinking.). Since we were a bit injury lucky in the 90s it seems to be catching up with us in the current decade. Is it random chance? Possibly. However Smoltz of this decade is 10 years older than Smoltz of last decade. Plus, Leo Mazzone has a better (I'd argue - The best) philosophy of pitcher maintenance which he documents in his book (oh and by the way, he's available to return to coaching). Still, injuries are going to happen.
Where do we go from here?
We probably need to think about restocking on prospects more than we have been. I'm not saying we should forfeit the season, but there are going to be a lot of changes in the next 2 offseasons with a lot of money to spend. Plus, IMHO, we haven't fully recovered from the prospect drainage in the Tex trade.
We paid too much for him. I'm sorry to those who disagree, there are plenty who do. If you don't believe that we paid to much, compare that trade to the Johan Santana trade, or the Bedard trade. The Dan Haren trade?
Yeah, we gave up too much. Oh, and don't look now but Salty has been sporting a nice OPS+.
So where do we go from here?
I do think there are a few things that could be done to get a few more wins out of this squad.
The first issue I see is the Lineup. If you ask 10 different Braves fans what the lineup should be, you'll probably get 10 different answers, regardless if the fan is a Bill James junky or not. It's tough to build a lineup on stats when stats are changing after every game. Still, the Braves have a problem in this area. Our two best hitters (Chipper and McCann) rarely hit in the same inning. Frenchy is continually occupying the middle of the order (anybody else noticed he hit 3rd yesterday with Chipper out?) while being a GIDP machine. What a rally killer. Even with Tex heating up we seem to be stranding runners on base like crazy.
I used Baseball Musing's Lineup Simulator, plugged in the stats (I used Hudson's hitting stats for the pitcher spot and I used Infante for the LF spot), and it came up with this lineup:
The simulator is several years old. There might be a better one out there now. But that's the lineup it came up with and its pushes out 5.649 runs/game. You may or may not agree with this. On first glance it looks as if Chipper won't get very many RBIs with the Pitcher and Blanco hitting in front of him. But hey, I can't argue with Chipper getting more at-bats.
The other thing that could use a bit of tweaking is bullpen management. It's tough to say what the future holds for Soriano. Sometimes he feels pain, sometimes he doesn't. I think when Mike Gonzalez comes back many of our problems will be solved. But I question the use of Manny Acosta. He should either be bumped to low leverage situations or demoted to the minors. I'd suspect a move will be made even after Mike Gonzalez returns. There is way too much unreliability out there. Bennett and the 2 LOOGYs are the only ones that don't drive me crazy right now.
The longer we stay at .500 the tougher the road is for us in August and September. Right now we've played 65 games. Not exactly the halfway point but close enough. If the Phillies play .500 ball for the rest of the season they'll end up with 87 wins (I had the Phillies at 90 wins at the beginning of the season).
For the Braves to end the season with 87 wins they'll have to play win .567 of the time. Can we play .567 while they play .500?
I guess we'll have to wait and see.