Thursday, July 17, 2008

Braves at the Break: Part II

We finish our roundup with an examination of the pitchers, which I've divided into appropriate categories. Enjoy.

The Infirmary
All players in this section are on the Disabled List as of July 16.
Tom Glavine (SP)
As BP noted when discussing (ugh) Lance Cormier, the Braves did not resign Glavine for "his vivid memories of the Civil War." He made 12 starts before being shut down over a month ago, going 2-3 (5 QS) with a 4.85 ERA. He wasn't exactly lighting up the world, but he is better than some of his replacements. At the time, it is unknown if he will return for this season, and there are rumors that he was planning on retiring after this season.

John Smoltz (SP)
Smoltz is also mentioned in those retirement rumors. He had massive damage in his shoulder that required surgery and is out for the year. Statistically, he was wonderful in his first 4 starts: 3-1, 0.78 ERA, .179 batting average against, 495 OPS against. His 5th start on April 27th went poorly: 4 IP, 4 ER and a loss. He went on the DL after this with shoulder pain and was shut down for the rest of May. He attempted to make another come back as a reliever, being brought in to close against the Marlins on June 2nd. He was one out away from getting the save but blew when on a single to left. (The Braves managed to salvage the game, tying in the 9th and winning in the 10th.) The next day, Smoltz woke up and the pain in his shoulder was too much - had surgery a week or two later and was shut down for the season.
I'd said to anyone who'd listen at the beginning of the year that Smoltz's arm is like that ex-police car in the original Blues Brothers movie - it's just waiting to fall completely apart. I think Smoltz wants to pitch again, but it may ultimately be time for him to end his career.

Mike Hampton (SP)
Many are looking, for some reason, to Hampton to solve the Braves' pitching issues. (Note: the Braves largely don't have pitching issues - they have some bullpen issues, but it's safe to say that with the 2nd best ERA in the National League the Braves are not hurting for pitching - they are hurting for an outfield bat of some sort.) At any rate, he almost got back to the bigs earlier in the year but was scratched from his start with yet another injury. He started last night in the minors but was scratched after two innings. He was hoping to come back after the break, but who knows if that will ever happen at this point.

Rafael Soriano (RP)
The closer coming into the season, but has been something of an enigma injury-wise. He's got issues with his elbow, but repeated examinations have failed to find any actual damage. His appearances have been shakey, but he did garner 2 saves before having to go back to the DL again. No one knows when he will be able to return.

Peter Moylan (RP)
The loss of Moylan is probably bigger than the loss of any other Braves pitcher, excepting Smoltz. He's the kind of set-up man most teams drool over - super reliable, doesn't let inherited runners score, and doesn't let very many runners on (1.06 WHIP last year, .208 average against). The Braves continued to use him in this fashion and he even picked up his first save of the year in his last appearance on April 11. The next morning his elbow hurt and within a week he was out for the year.

Manny Acosta (RP)
This is one guy I don't particularly mind being on the DL. I have very little tolerance for bad relief pitchers (ask me about Chris Reitsma sometime ... actually, on second thought, don't—unless you want to be covered in spittle and bile). He was actually relatively good in April and May, with an ERA of 1.30 in 27 and 2/3 IP (with a .198 average against). Then the wheels came off. From May 31 to June 6, he made 4 appearances and couldn't do anything right. He ended up with 7 hits, 7 earned runs, 3 homers and a .583 average against in 2 IP. He got the loss 3 times in that stretch and in the game he didn't lose he did blow the save. Since then, he hasn't been as bad (13 and 2/3 IP, .265 average, 6 earned runs, but an alarming 10 walks to only 3 strikeouts), but those totals aren't great, or really even very good either. I don't really remember why he's on the DL, but again I don't exactly miss him.

Too Early To Tell
Julian Tavarez (RP)
I guess signing this guy is just the cool thing to do in baseball right now, or he really just wanted to go on the Braves history tour (his prior stops this season being Boston and Milwaukee). He made his only appearance July 8th in Los Angeles, allowing 2 walks, 2 hits, and a run in a third of an inning. The trigger was quickly pulled, but for the time being he's still with the team.

Charlie Morton (SP)
Morton hasn't pitched that badly, but he hasn't been great either. He's had two really bad games, but outside of that pitched relatively well in his other 4 starts and has gotten to 2-2 for his efforts. He's the Braves' 5th starter for the time being and this probably won't change unless Glavine or Hampton come back.

Vladimir Nunez (RP)
I don't have anything to say about this guy really. He made an appearance July 7 and got the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the 8th. He's been made the last couple of seasons, for what that's worth.

Jeff Ridgway (RP)
Same here. He made 4 appearances in June, pitched okay in a couple and badly in the other two, including a blown save on June 19. He hasn't made an appearance since then and was optioned to Richmond on June 21.

Phil Stockman (RP)
This guy's been up and down from Richmond a few times this year and last. The big Aussie righty throws hard but lacks control and has been unable to break into the regular bullpen rotation, appearing mostly in mop up duty. His stats aren't bad: 7 and 1/3 IP, 9 K, 4 walks, and a couple hits, no runs, and a great looking .087 average against. Guess Bobby Cox just doesn't like him, as he was sent down to Richmond on June 18th.

Mike Gonzalez (RP)
Made his first appearance of the year on June 18, where he got a save against the Rangers. Basically the Braves' closer now, though they haven't had much to close as of late. He's pitched 10 and 2/3 innings and has the kind of stats you like from a late inning guy: 6 hits and no walks (0.56 WHIP), 16 K and a .153 average against, though the 2 homers are worrying. Nonetheless, he seems healthy and made two consecutive appearances going into the break.

The Bad
Chuck James (SP)
Started off the year on the DL and went downhill from there. He made 6 starts, and allowed less than 4 earned runs only once. After a bad start on May 15 in Philadelphia he was optioned to Richmond to get his head on straight, and I haven't heard any talk of him coming back any time soon.

Chris Resop (RP)
A 1.4 WHIP is not very good. Resop made a lot of appearances in April and May (16) and allowed 16 hits, 10 walks, and 12 runs. He was designated for assignment in late May and hasn't been heard from since.

Blaine Boyer (RP)
I think Bobby Cox has been a pretty good manager over the years, but one thing that drives me crazy is how he sometimes gets attached to relievers. (Again, if you like hearing angry rants, ask me about Chris Reitsma sometime.) His path is pretty Acosta like, actually. He started off the year strong, and through June 4 he had a sub-1.00 WHIP and a .205 average against. Then he blew a save on June 6th and in 18 and 1/3 IP since then has a 4.91 ERA, 10 runs, and a .284 average against. He's been a little better in over the past week, but that's not saying much.

Jo-Jo Reyes (SP)
Jo-Jo is one of the handful of pitching enigmas on this team. On June 29, he pitched 7 innings in Toronto and only allowed a run and the Braves ended up losing 6-3. The start before, he went 2 and a third innings and allowed 4 runs. He hasn't been great, but he's probably not quite as bad as his record, either. Would probably be the 5th starter if the rest of the rotation were healthy.

The Decent
Will Ohman (RP)
As much as I like to use his last name for the bad pun lamenting his entering the game, he's actually been pretty good. He's also currently the only lefty in the bullpen (besides Mike Gonzales), and he's good against them (.141 average against with 21 strikeouts). Except for a June 20th disaster against Seattle, he's been pretty good as a setup guy as well and has made many appearances to that effect (as opposed to a situational guy).

Jeff Bennett (RP)
Long reliever from the pen and has also made 3 starts this year, though let's just not talk about those. He's been mostly decent from the pen but hasn't seen action since surrendering a couple of runs a couple weeks ago.

Buddy Carlyle (RP)
Mercifully not starting anymore and is also a long reliever. Hasn't had any major implosions so far this year - which is something you generally want when you're coming into the game in such situations. In 29 innings he's allowed 5 runs and no homers and might start seeing more work in the second half.

The Good
Tim Hudson (SP)
Hudson has been very good this year and deserves a lot better than 9-7. He has only what I would call two bad starts on the year. In 7 quality starts that resulted in losses or no decisions he pitched 47 and 1/3 innings, allowing 16 runs for a 3.04 ERA. The Braves scored more than 2 runs only twice in those 7 starts - converting the losses into wins over that span gets him to 12-4 before we even start talking about the no decisions. On the year, he's 8th in the NL with a 3.13 ERA, right behind...

Jair Jurrjens (SP)
Part of the Edgar Renteria trade with the Tigers, Jair has been better than expected, to say the least. He's got a 3.00 ERA and a 9-4 record, and has only 3 bad starts. (He escaped with two no decisions and a win, though.) The feather in his cap so far is the 8 inning gem he pitched in Toronto, where he allowed 3 hits and a walk.

Jorge Campillo (SP)
Jorge's been a pretty pleasant surprise this year. He got drafted into starting duty for a double header and May and has done reasonably well for himself since then. He's been slightly shakier on occasion, as he loves his big 12-to-6 curveball that he can sometimes leaves up in the strike zone. Considering the circumstances, there's little room to complain, though.

Well, this wraps out our look at the Braves through their first 95 games. I realize the look at the pitchers was somewhat less analytical, but we've been through a lot of them this year and I wanted to get this done before the second half actually started. Overall, I'll stick to what I said for the hitters - the Braves have scored a lot of runs, but they lack luck with their horrendous one-run records dating back to late last year. This can be attributed to several factors - shaky end-of-the-game solutions in the bullpen or shaky late-game hitting, but it does make one wonder when, exactly, the whole thing stop being attributed to merely luck.

Anyway, I'll be back soon with my final thoughts on college football schedules, most likely a couple weeks before the season starts. Later.

1 comment:

asimperson said...

I've been talking about the one-run thing a lot, but Rob Neyer summed it up well on a discussion on Pythagorean records on Monday:

"And then there's the Braves, who are 45-50 despite the run differential of (typically) a 52-43 team. Of course the Braves' problem is obvious: they're 5-22 in one-run games, which I might guess is impossible except it's obviously quite possible."