Tagged: Mike Gonzalez

What To Do Now?

Derek LoweEveryone probably knows by now that the Atlanta Braves went out and got the guy they wanted, Derek Lowe. They have gone out and solidified their starting rotation, but now what? Atlanta is still not a playoff team.

If you look at their rotation you will notice one thing they all have in common. They are all right-handed. Every single one of them. Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, and Kenshin Kawakami are all right-handed pitchers. There needs to be a little variety in the starting rotation. That’s why I think they need to bring back Tom Glavine. He may not be what he used to be but the fact that he is left-handed gives him an advantage over other pitchers vying for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Tom GlavineI would think if Glavine returns he would be given the 3rd spot in the rotation just because of the fact he is left-handed. Being able to throw different styles of pitching at an opponent is an underrated part of the game. If the other team knows you only have right-handed pitchers it will make it a lot easier for them to game plan against you. Hence the idea of bringing back Glavine.

Will OhmanI also think that if Glavine is physically able to pitch and the Braves don’t resign him there is going to be an outcry from Atlanta faithful. Already this season the Braves let long time favorite John Smoltz go and now if they were to let Glavine go things could get ugly around Atlanta.

Another addition I think the Braves need to make is resigning Will Ohman. He isn’t Brian Fuentes but he is a very good left-handed reliever that played really well for the Braves last year. Atlanta’s bullpen also lacks a wide array of pitchers, seeing that they are overloaded with right-handed pitchers. The only lefty in the bullpen is closer Mike Gonzalez. Atlanta needs to have a lefty specialist that can come in to face the murder’s row of left-handed batters that the NL East is home to. They include Carlos Delgado, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. Atlanta has to have someone that can come in and get key outs when those guys are batting.

I would really like Atlanta to add a bat like Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher but the Yankees appear to be asking too much. Nick Swisher isn’t what he used to be a few years ago and Nady is only under contract for 2009. His agent is Scott Boras so it is safe to assume he won’t be sticking around for anything less than $700MM over 8 years. If things continue the way they are it doesn’t look like the Braves will be able to add another bat. If Jeff Francoeur can produce I don’t think adding a bat would even be needed.

Jason VaritekIn other baseball news it looks like Jason Varitek could be returning to the Red Sox. He wants to come back and I think Boston knows the fans want him back. They call him “Captain” for a reason. He is the heart and soul of that team, they need to bring Tek back. This should be an easy decision.

In more MLB news where is Manny Ramirez going to end up? The Angels don’t want him and the Dodgers don’t want to give him more than three years. Will the Giants take another risk on a super star becoming a huge bust (Barry Zito)?

Everyone knows the guy can hit but if he doesn’t get his money he will not be a happy Manny. And we all know an unhappy Manny can be a cancer to his baseball team. Boston found out the hard way.

Till next time,

~Ben

Whats Next?

What is next for the Atlanta Braves? That is the question of the day. They let a fan favorite in John Smoltz pack up and head to Boston. They lost out on Jake Peavy, A.J. Burnett and finally Rafael Furcal.

Kenshin KawakumiNow they are after Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami. Here is the scouting report for everyone. His fastball tops out in the low 90’s and he mixes in a slow curve with a cutter. I haven’t heard of any crazy sounding pitches like the gyro ball that Daisuke Matsuzaka has. He sounds like a normal pitcher to me. He doesn’t have the typical deceptive delivery that is normally seen from Japanese pitchers, this guy just relies on his natural stuff. That could be good, then again, it could be bad.

Heard of that Kei Igawa guy? That turned out great didn’t it? (Laughs to self)

Japanese players can be really good like Matsuzaka, or they can be a complete bust like Igawa. I’m hoping he isn’t the later if he signs with the Braves. Baltimore however is also interested so don’t get your hopes up Braves fans. The Orioles have already signed Koji Uehara who is also a Japanese pitcher. Playing with another Japanese player may sway Kawakami’s decision to the Orioles. The Braves are apparently really close, but it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

Derek LoweThe other pitcher Atlanta is going hard after is that Derek Lowe guy. I hear he isn’t bad either. That’s just what I heard though. Atlanta is apparently getting ready to propose an offer, but how do we know Lowe won’t turn around and use that as leverage for the Mets? (cough, cough Rafael Furcal, cough.)

Signing Lowe would be HUGE for the Braves. They would fill a need while stealing him away from those darn Metropolitans. They have made major changes, especially in the bullpen. They are already making me sweat with J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez in the 8th and 9th innings.

The Braves can also have that luxury in the bullpen with Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, and Rafael Soriano. If that darn Soriano would just stop having mysterious injuries that won’t allow him to pitch but are invisible to MRI’s. He has been leaving the team doctors puzzled and the Braves’ fans pissed. Oh so convenient that right after you sign an extension you “get hurt.” Prove it bud and you can sit all you want. Ask Mike Hampton, he did it.
Confused doctor

This off season the Braves have been all talk and no action. They talk of great things, but get nothing. As a fan, I am hurt by this. It really hurts when your team does nothing to make the team better. Sure, they signed Javier Vazquez. That is nice and all but it isn’t what they really need. Now I know what the Nationals, Marlins, Blue Jays, Padres, and Twins feel like. Every year they sign a whole bunch of nothing and their fans have to watch that bunch of nothing try and compete in a league stocked with talent. That talent is just stacked in a handful of places, not everywhere like it should be.

Maybe Atlanta can pull some strings and pry Xavier Nady away from the Yankees for less than they want. Fill a team need and make the Yankees worse, sounds like a deal to me. I doubt the Braves will get him as I have heard New York wants some top of the line prospects for him. Every Braves fan already knows Frank Wren won’t dare trade a prospect that may or may not suck. We learned the hard way in the Jake Peavy deal.

By the way, congratulations to Florida on winning the BCS National championship game and being voted the #1 team this year. Utah deserved both of those and got neither but whatever. That’s sports politics for ya.

Have a nice day,

~Ben

Happy Holidays

I just wanted to say happy holidays to everyone and I hope you all have an amazing weekend. I hope everything you wished for is under your tree and you have a great time with your family. We all know some people got everything they wanted and more, cough, cough Yankees, cough. Just remember that the holidays are about spending time with your family and loving life, not presents. Presents are great and all, but family is better.

Will OhmanWhat do I want for the holidays you ask? The Braves to not suck next season. They may not land any big names like Derek Lowe or Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, but I think they can get some mid level guys that will contribute to the team.

I think signing Will Ohman would be a great piece to have come back. He isn’t Brian Fuentes but he is going to come a lot cheaper if they sign him before Fuentes lands somewhere else. Ohman was great last year as a lefty out of the bullpen and I think the Braves need to bring him back.

Ohman will be a solid piece to help anchor down the bullpen which I believe is the strength of the team. Mike Gonzalez is an excellent closer and Rafael Soriano is another closer caliber pitcher that will set up Gonzalez.

Peter Moylan is a great right handed pitcher that I think will come back from elbow surgery and dominate again. The Braves will have 3 players that could close on a lot of teams and that is their strength. Blaine Boyer is also a solid reliever but was just overworked to the point where his game suffered greatly. I think this boils back down to the weak starting pitching last year.

The starting pitching issue I think can be somewhat solved with Jon Garland. I know, I know, he isn’t a great pitcher with a sub 3 ERA. What he does do is eat innings and keep the team in the game. That is what the Braves need. Garland and Javier Vazquez will night in and night out go and throw 6 or 7 solid innings so when the bullpen does need to be used they are fresh and on top of their game.

Tommy  HansonThe Braves have some young talent like Charlie Morton and Tommy Hanson. They are going to stumble in games and need the bullpen to bail them out. That bullpen will be fresh after they get a few days off after Vazquez and Garland pitch. Morton pitched hurt most of the season which caused a lot of his bad numbers. Hanson has been dominant but we cannot count on him to do the same at the major league level. If we do we are setting ourselves up for disaster, again. 

We counted on Kyle Davies, Chuck James, and Jo-Jo Reyes to come in and dominate and it bite us in the butts.

I honestly don’t think the Braves will win the World Series next year. I don’t think they will make the playoffs. I hope they do, more than anything. But unless Atlanta lands a few more players and plays out of their minds it doesn’t look good. The Cubs, Mets, Phillies, and Dodgers are all going to be really good. So that means the Braves have to be better. Hopefully they can at least make it competitive.

Be safe and happy holidays,

~Ben 

Now What?…Again

Well, the Braves lost the bidding for Rafael Furcal on questionable acts by his agent. I’m not going to turn that whole debacle into a huge thing. It is what it is.

Rafael FurcalThat move could have opened things up for the Braves. Furcal could have played second base and Kelly Johnson could have been used as a trade piece. The Cardinals are apparently interested in Johnson, but I don’t really see the Braves moving him. I heard rumors about Johnson and a pitcher going to St. Louis for Ryan Ludwick, but that deal is dead. Rick Ankiel is a possibility, but he is left handed so I doubt the Braves would pull the trigger.

I was really looking forward to having Furcal back. He provided the speed at the top of the lineup that the Braves have lacked since he left. He was a great guy in the clubhouse but obviously things weren’t going to work out. I blame a lot of that whole signing on Furcal himself, if he wanted to come back to the Braves he would have. I think he is just greedy at this point. He passed up going somewhere he could have been really happy for a bigger contract.

A minor signing I would like to point out is that of Greg Norton. He may not be a super star but he is a switch-hitting pinch hitter that can knock in runs when they are needed. He can play the corner outfield positions and first base. He was a clutch hitter for the Braves after they signed him. I was hoping they would bring him back and they did. Next I want Atlanta to bring back Will Ohman. It may take more than they wanted but we all know the Braves have been saving up as they have done almost nothing this off season. Ohman is a top notch lefty that will come a lot cheaper than Brian Fuentes.

Jason Heyward

I still think the Braves should take a shot at Pat Burrell. I was not high on him at the beginning of the off season but the Braves have cornered themselves into this position. Burrell could be a short term solution before Jason Heyward is ready for Atlanta. Burrell is a right handed, power bat that Atlanta has been looking for. I like Jermaine Dye better, but I would think the Braves would have traded for him at the same time as Javier Vazquez. It just makes sense.

Jordan SchaferIf Atlanta went into the season today, I would be hoping for 3rd place in the division, at best. They don’t have a power-hitting outfielder. They don’t have an ace. They don’t have an established lead off hitter. The outfielder may not be needed if Jeff Francoeur can bounce back, while Jair Jurrjens is no ace. He has the potential to be one, but he isn’t one now. Josh Anderson has the potential to be a legitimate lead off hitter, but I want to see him do it over the course of an entire season. I would almost rather take my chances with Jordan Schafer, who can be a 5-tool player. Gorkys Hernandez also has the potential to be a 5-tool player, but I think Schafer has a little more power.

I actually like Atlanta’s bullpen. Mike Gonzalez is great at the end while Peter Moylan is an excellent set up man. I would like Rafael Soriano to be the set up man, but he has yet to prove he can stay healthy. I had thoughts that he may be faking his injuries since the trainers couldn’t find anything wrong. Every time he said he was healthy, bam, he is hurt again. I was actually beyond frustrated with him. Blaine Boyer is not as bad as people think, he just was overworked.

If things stay the way they are I think the Braves can compete, but not win anything big. I’m not going to sit here and tell myself the Braves are a lot better than they are. I’m not going to sit here and tell all of you the Braves are better than they are. Right now they are mediocre at best. If they stay pat, 85 wins is a good season.

Over and out,

~Ben    

Roster Game

I got the idea from Scott over at The Good of the Game. Basically you put together a roster of players and try to keep the salary below $100MM. I made up my 25 man roster that includes:

C. Brian McCann – .301 BA, 23 HR, 87 RBI ~ $966,000

C. Geovany Soto – .285 BA, 23 HR, 86 RBI ~ $401,000

C. Jose Molina – .216 BA, 3 HR, 18 RBI ~ $1,875,000

1B. Prince Fielder – .276 BA, 34 HR, 102 RBI ~ $670,000

2B. Ian Kinsler – .319 BA, 18 HR, 71 RBI ~ $700,000

3B. Kevin Youkilis – .312 BA, 29 HR, 115 RBI ~ $3,000,000

SS. Hanley Ramirez – .301 BA, 33 HR, 67 RBI, 35 SB ~ $439,000

LF. Ryan Braun – .285 BA, 37 HR, 106 RBI ~ $435,000

CF. Grady Sizemore – .286 BA, 33  HR, 90 RBI, 38 SB ~ $3,166,666

RF. Josh Hamilton – .304 BA, 32 HR, 130 RBI ~ $396,000

SP. Cliff Lee – 2.54 ERA, 22-3, 170 SO ~ $4,000,000

SP. Tim Lincecum – 2.62 ERA, 18-5, 265 SO ~ $405,000

SP. Jon Lester – 3.21 ERA, 16-6, 152 SO ~ $421,000

SP. Justin Verlander – 4.84 ERA, 11-17, 163 SO ~ $1,130,000

SP. Cole Hamels – 3.08 ERA, 14-10, 196 SO ~ $500,000

Bench

IF. Chone Figgins – .276 BA, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 34 SB ~ $4,750,000

IF. Mark DeRosa – .285 BA, 21 HR, 87 RBI ~ $4,750,000

OF. Nate McLouth – .276 BA, 26 HR, 94 RBI ~ $425,000

OF. Jacoby Ellsbury – .280 BA, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 50 SB ~ $406,000

Bullpen

C. Jonathan Papelbon – 2.34 ERA, 41 SV, 77 SO ~ $775,000

SU. Mike Gonzalez – 4.28 ERA, 14 SV, 44 SO ~ $2,367,500

RHP. Joakim Soria – 1.60 ERA, 42 SV, 66 S0 ~ $426,000

RHP. Bobby Jenks – 2.63 ERA, 30 SV, 36 SO ~ $550,000

RHP. Jose Valverde – 3.38 ERA, 44 SV, 83 SO ~ $4,700,000

LHP. George Sherrill – 4.73 ERA, 31 SV, 50 S0 ~ $980,000

Grand Total : $38, 634,832

Yup, I made a domination squad while spending less than $40MM. I think this team would win at least 120 games during the regular season. It has a balance of speed, average, and power. The starting rotation is staggered lefty, righty, lefty, righty, lefty. This will make it harder for the opposing team to game plan.

The bullpen also features 2 left handed pitchers in Mike Gonzalez who will set up Jon Papelbon and George Sherrill who would be the lefty specialist. Chone Figgins and Jacoby Ellsbury provide tremendous speed off the bench in case a base needs stolen. Mark DeRosa and Chone Figgins can both play 3B, 2B, LF, and RF. This gives the bench great versatility. Nate McLouth also provides above average defense and a great, left-handed bat off the bench. There are also at least 5 pitchers that can hit 98 MPH on the radar gun consistently.

Jose Molina is on the roster for defensive purposes if you were wondering. Verlander also has much more potential than his statistics shows which is why he is on the list. The fact that he can throw over 100 MPH consistently also helped his cause. Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee are the 2008 Cy Young winners of their respective leagues. This roster is not only built to win now, but for the future. Most of the salaries on here will sky rocket after last season but I used the ones from 2008, so you can too.

Here is the link to the salaries if you would like to play – http://www.sportscity.com/MLB-Salaries/

Later,

~Ben

Bold Predictions

It is time for me to make some bold predictions about Atlanta’s roster next year.

Starting lineup:

1. CF Josh Anderson/Jordan Schafer
2. SS Yunel Escobar*
3. 3B Chipper Jones
4. C  Brian McCann
5. LF Rocco Baldelli/Delmon Young
6. 1B Casey Kotchman
7. RF Jeff Francoeur
8. 2B Kelly Johnson
9. SP see available starters below

*I could easily see Baldelli/Young moving up to the 2 spot and Escobar dropping down to 7 and having Kotchman and Francoeur move up to 5 and 6.

Utility Players:

1. Martin Prado
2. Omar Infante
3. Greg Norton
4. Ruben Gotay

Starting Rotation:
1. Jake Peavy
2. Jon Garland
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Jorge Campillo/Tim Hudson when healthy will switch to the 2nd starter
5. Tommy Hanson

Bullpen:
Setup man 1. Soriano
Setup man 2. Moylan
Setup man 3. MAYBE Smoltz
Closer: Mike Gonzalez

This is what I think Atlanta will look like next year. Not eye popping or anything, but a strong lineup nonetheless. Atlanta will be carried by a strong rotation and bullpen. They will produce runs with speed at the top and good but not great power in the middle. Sorry if you are upset that Francoeur is batting 7th, get over it. He actually deserves to bat 8th but I really like him.
Well, that’s my team for next year. Share your thoughts and comment away.