Thursday, March 24, 2011

Video: Ozzie Guillen Reviews the Great Gatsby

Brilliant Chicago improv and sketch troupe Warm Milk have made a hilarious web short called "He's a Great Book! with Ozzie Guillen." Watch the video below:

He's a Great Book! with Ozzie Guillen -- The Great Gatsby from Dan Bulla on Vimeo.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Checking in on Mike Minor

The Screaming Indian has been very high on Mike Minor ever since he started striking out AA batters with reckless abandon in 2010. In fact, we billed him as the fifth overall and most MLB-ready of the Braves prospects.

It looks like he's going to slot in as the fifth starter for the Braves this year. But Minor offers mid-rotation upside, even in his rookie season, because he's already very polished.

One concerning trend that we noted in our write-up of Minor's prospect status is his sudden fly ball proclivity (47.6% flyball rate) upon being called up to the big leagues at the end of last season. So far this spring, Minor's groundout/airout ratio is an amazingly low 0.35. If this trend continues, the young lefty is going to be highly susceptible to the long ball in his rookie season. His 7/4 K/BB ratio in 10 IP is also a cause for concern.

Meanwhile, Brandon Beachy - Minor's competition for the role of fifth starter - has 7 Ks and 0 BBs in 5 innings with a GO/AO ratio of 1.67. It's worth noting that Beachy has been with the "B Squad" and facing weaker competition.

It's also worth noting that fans - particularly fans like me, who aren't scouts - are at a huge information disadvantage in spring training. Maybe Minor's working on some things, and we're not privy to what it is that he's working on. Maybe he's just struggling though. He hasn't surrendered any home runs yet (which has helped him coast to a glossy 0.90 ERA), but at the rate that he's giving up fly balls, he's going to be badly bruised the long ball if this trend does not reverse.

I don't think it's time to discount him yet, but I'd keep him on a short leash as we start the season. Beachy proved himself a competent enough option at the end of 2010.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A scout talks to Buster Olney about Carl Pavano

To me, this begged a few obvious questions:

I'll let you know if he responds.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can McLouth rebound?

It gets said a million times, but spring training is just spring training. It's difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from the statistics being generated because, unlike during the regular season, the main objective of each team is not to win the game being played.

That said, Nate McLouth is having a very interesting spring. McLouth has come to the plate 20 times this spring and has not struck out a single time. Since being called up to the big leagues, Nate McLouth has never - never - gone more than 18 consecutive plate appearances without striking out. That stretch of plate appearances ran from September 8-11th of 2005 when McLouth was a rookie and a Pittsburgh Pirate.

It's an especially encouraging sign after 2010, when an inability to make contact in April and May (68% contact rate and 72% contact rate, respectively) caused him to be demoted to a part-time role before a June concussion caused him to miss most of the season's remainder. McLouth was much improved when he got healthy. In fact, McLouth's .467/.636/.800 spring comes on the heels of a September where he hit .275/.339/.549 in September while making contact 86% of the time in 51 AB.

Even by spring training standards, it's still extremely early to be making statistics-based judgements about player performance. But with Jordan Schafer scuffling at the plate again (.182/.206/.212), McLouth looks primed to claim the center field position outright. He's still not a very good defensive center fielder, but the Braves will be happy if his bat has regained the potency that it once had in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

If you think that the Braves' pitching is almost as good as the Phillies', you're too drunk to drive

Today on Twitter there was a certain amount of murmuring - as far as I can tell, created by a Jayson Stark radio hit - regarding the notion that the Braves' pitching is actually pretty good (it is), maybe even nearly as good as the Phillies' rotation (fuck no it isn't).

For the purposes of my argument, I'm only going to look at the top 4 pitchers in each rotation. The fifth starter could conceivably change at any given moment. Based on Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections for 2011, the Braves' top 4 starters (Hudson, Lowe, Hanson, and Jurrjens) will be worth 9.8 wins above replacement (WAR). Philadelphia's? 17.2. That is not a typo. That's 7.4 wins better than the Braves' rotation. To put that in perspective, 7.4 WAR is roughly equivalent to a "down year" for Albert Pujols (that is, if you consider 2010 a down year).

The Phillies' rotation has the potential to be one of the greatest in recent memory, perhaps even of all time. Not unlike Charlie Sheen, this pitching staff has tiger blood coursing through its veins. 

Saying that this Braves staff is "almost as good" as a staff of that caliber is absolutely ridiculous.

Now maybe you're saying, "Why the hell should I care about a projection? PECOTA predicted that Matt Wieters would be a superstar." Fair enough. Let's only look at past performance.

Suppose for a moment that the each member of the Braves' rotation has a career best season in 2011. Below are career bests for each:

Tim Hudson: 5.3* (2007)
Tommy Hanson: 4.3 (2010)
Jair Jurrjens: 3.8 (2009)
Derek Lowe: 6.0 (2002)
Total WAR: 19.4

Now, let's look at Philly's staff last year:

Roy Halladay: 6.6 (his worst season in the past 3, in which he still won a Cy Young)
Total WAR: 22.2

So even if the Braves' top starters manage to have the best seasons of their careers, they will still fall short of the collective 2010 performance of the Phillies' rotation.

If you've read this and you still think that the Braves' rotation has a good chance of equalling the Phillies', driving is not recommended.

*Here, I switch to FanGraphs' WAR metric because Baseball Prospectus doesn't have WAR for past seasons.