Sunday, June 16, 2013

Braves-Giants Preview, 6/16/13

Kennesaw, GA- Julien B.

Braves (40-28, 5.5 GU, NL East) vs. Giants (35-32, 1.5 GB NL West), 8:05pm EDT; ESPN

Good morning, Happy Father's Day to all the great dads across this great nation. It's a great day for baseball in Atlanta, and the Braves will try to make all of us happy by winning tonight's game and the series vs. the San Francisco Giants. The match-up is Tim Lincecum (13 GS, 76 IP, 4.70 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 0.7 WAR) vs Julio Teheran (12 GS, 77 IP, 3.62 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 3.91 xFIP, 0.8 WAR).

Lineups- Braves: 
Tonight's lineup vs. SF (8:05, ESPN/680AM/BRN): Simmons 6 Heyward 9 JUpton 7 Freeman 3 BUpton 8 McCann 2 CJohnson 5 Pena 4 Teheran 1

From the lineup hitters- Simmons has never faced the FreaK; JHey 4-15, w/ a 2B and 5 BB, 6 Ks; Justin 11-47 w/ 4 2B and 1 3B, 4 BB, 17 Ks; Freeman 0-11, 1 BB, 2 Ks; Melvin is 0-2 w/ 1 BB, 1 K; Mac 11-33, w/ 5 2B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 11 Ks; CJ 2-6 w/ 1 K; Ramiro Da Gawd 1-3; Teheran has never faced him

On the bench- Uggla 0-13 with 2 BB, 6 Ks; Reed, 1-11 w/ 1 2B, 5 Ks; Schaf 3-9, 3 Ks

Tonight's (6/16) lineup - Blanco CF, Crawford SS, Posey C, Pence RF, Belt 1B, Torres LF, Arias 3B, Noonan 2B and Lincecum RHP

No Giants hitters have faced Teheran enough times for the stats to matter

Pitching Comparison-

Lincecum- Lincecum has had a rough year. He had a decent April, but got completely torn apart in May, to the tune of a 6.37 ERA. His 2 starts for June have been good (11.2 IP, 2.31 ERA), but that was versus the Blue Jays and Pirates; not exactly teams that have firepower like the Braves. He still gets his strikeouts, even despite a drop in velocity. He is, however, more apt to allow walks, so a patient approach from the Braves tonight would be nice to see. Right-handed batters have fared better against Lincecum than lefties this year, by about 100 points in OPS. Tonight would be a good night to see Gattis or Chris Johnson get a start over guys like, say, Pena or McCann.

Teheran- Teheran was the focus of much hype the past few seasons; he was also the cause of major concern last year as he got dominated by AAA hitters. He has laid much of these fears to rest however, and is now looking like the guy that he was projected to be. His K% needs to rise, but he's not doing too bad right now; the strikeouts will come. What he is doing is limiting walks (4.7%), and this is allowing him to work through many innings without surrendering runs. Until his start in San Diego, Teheran had put together 8 straight starts during which his cumulative ERA was 2.13. He threw 69% of his pitches for strikes (yes!) and had a K for about every 4 outs. He's getting ground balls (44% GB) and a fair number of fly balls as well. If he keeps this up, he'll be a very good starter both tonight, and for the rest of the season.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Braves Top 25 Prospects

6/15/13, Kennesaw, GA- Julien Benjamin

After the draft last week, I'm feeling in the mood to write up a list of our top prospects. Included are some details on the top 5 prospects. I'm not a guru like Mr. Purser or Mr. Hipp (From TC/Twitter), so my info is a bit more limited. For most of the prospects listed (the ones who have played minor league ball), I have included links to their fangraphs pages so that you can see their stats. This is a working issue, so I will likely be updating this soon. Anyways, do enjoy.

1.Alex Wood

The 22 year old starter was drafted last year out of Georgia. He went on to post a 2.22 ERA (2.58 FIP) at Rome over 52+ innings (13 starts), while striking out nearly 25% of his batters.  He continued the good work at AA Mississippi this year, posting an even better 1.26 ERA (2.27 FIP). Since being called up, he hasn't been used much (5.2 innings in 13 days), but has shown flashes of his brilliance. A solid fastball/change and an improving curveball can one day make him a dangerous starter, with #1-2 potential. ETA: Now

2. Christhian Bethancourt- Solid defensive catcher, still struggling to hit well in games. Many questions remain about his power and contact ability. At best, he becomes a solid, 1st division starter, that averages .250/.310/.400. At worst, he becomes a defensive backup catcher, albeit a very good one. ETA: Not before mid 2014

3. JR Graham- Graham was drafted in 2011, and since then has taken great strides to securing a big league job with the team. He's currently battling shoulder issues, but is expected to bounce back from them and possibly make an impact for the team as soon as this year if he gets healthy. He has a plus plus fastball that he works 94+, reaching 100 in short bursts; if used as a reliever, I'm sure that he would work 96-98 regularly. His slider is his 2nd best pitch, and it is a damned good one. Not much projectability left, needs to control it a little better vs. LHB, but he's doing well here. His only problem is the changeup. It's useable, but tends to stay up in the zone. ETA: 2014

4. Jason Hursh- The Braves 1st round pick of the 2013 draft has a very good ceiling. His fastball is his best pitch, but his slider is very useable and projectable. His changeup needs work, but if he can develop it, he has the potential of a #2-3 starter. If he ends up being just a fastball/slider pitcher, he can be a late inning bullpen anchor. ETA: 2015

5. Lucas Sims- The Braves 1st round pick from the 2012 draft has had success in the past year since being drafted. He has a 3.32 ERA (and a good FIP) along w/ a very nice K rate. He has struggled a bit with control, but for a 19 year old at Rome, he is progressing very well. I expect him to finish out this year at Rome, then be moved up to Mississippi next season. ETA: 2016

6. Joe Terdoslavich
7. Cody Martin
8. Mauricio Cabrera
9.Tommy LaStella
10. Edward Salcedo
11. Victor Caratini
12. Carlos Salazar
13. Jose Peraza
14. Sean Gilmartin
15. Aaron Northcraft
16. David Hale
17. Phillip Gosselin
18. Luis Merejo
19. Bryan de la Rosa
20. Matt Lipka
21. Todd Cunningham
22. Kyle Kubitza
23. Josh Elander
24. Ian Thomas
25. Robby Hefflinger

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Freddie Freeman's Defense

Julien Benjamin, Atlanta, May 18, 2013

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss the topic of Freddie Freeman's defense with the average, non-statistically inclined Braves fans, and came to the realization that many believe that he's a gold glove caliber first baseman. While I like Freeman, I disagree with this, using both the sabermetric numbers, and visual scouting, by watching him in games, be it in person, or on TV. I have come to the following conclusion:

Freddie Freeman is not a GG first baseman, due to a lack of range, and not enough extraordinary catches to overcome that.

How did I come up with this? Well, from visual scouting, I see that due to his height, Freeman has trouble moving to his right to get to balls between him and Uggla. Neither guy has much range in the hole on that side, which is why we see a lot of balls get thru the right side. Now, onto the real fun, the sabermetric angle.....

Freeman vs. Other 1B

You have to keep 2 things in mind: the frequency with which different skills are applied and the fact that players are compared to their peer group (other MLB 1Bs, in this situation).

Let’s agree to say Freeman is really great at “scoops”. FanGraphs shows some evidence for this. He’s made 106 scoops since the start of the 2011 season, which is tied for 2nd with Eric Hosmer of the Royals in the MLB behind Carlos Peña (who has 126!). The average, decent MLB starting 1B (calculated from players who averaged 850 innings or more a year), in that many innings, would have made 78. Freeman is thus 35% better than average, but we’re just talking 12 extra scoops per season—not really all that many.

Now let’s look at the number of plays he’s made on balls “in his zone,” a stat also provided by FanGraphs. Freeman has made 301 (successful) fielding plays the past two years. However, that’s out of 404 balls hit in his zone, meaning he’s only converted 74.5% into outs. The MLB average is 79.5%, which works out to 321 plays per that many opportunities. So Freeman is worth -9 plays per year. So Freeman is “only” about 7% worse than average, but because there are so many more fielding chances than “scoop” chances (about 4 to 1), he’s losing more value from range than he’s gaining from scoops.
In all, Freeman adds 12 extra scoops per season, but takes away 9 plays in his zone, for a total of +3 total “plays” above average. As far as his ability to “make some great diving stops and keep the ball in front of him,” literally every major league 1B can do that. That's what they're trained to do. Rarely, if ever, do 1B let balls fly past them into their dugouts or roll down the RF line.

That’s a very simplistic analysis, ignoring many factors, but you can see how a player could rate poorly overall in these metrics even if he has good hands (which I think Freeman does). A fielding chance is ~4 times more common than a scoop chance, so even a small deficiency in range can more than outweigh a player’s other defensive abilities. Range may be less important at 1B than most other positions, but it’s still the single most important fielding skill, and by a wide margin.

I don’t think Freeman is a terrible fielder, but instead believe that he's close to average. But if we’re all in agreement that he has poor range, there’s not really any chance that he could be above average overall, no matter how good he is at the other aspects of fielding. The most likely scenario is that he’s somewhat below average, with poor range partially but not entirely offset by other factors.

Hope that helps .

P.S. If you want me to take a look at some former GG winners, shoot me a tweet @bravesfanjulien
Next upcoming story, if all goes as planned, will be a story about the struggles of BJ, Heyward, and the rotation; who to worry about?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pre Spring Training Predictions

February 12, 2013- Julien Benjamin- Atlanta

Good Tuesday morning everyone! Pitchers and catchers have their first workout today! We have about another month and a half or so before we get to some real baseball, but for now, the spring training sessions allow us to get our baseball on, getting us pumped for the season (and for the worried folks like me, it's a month spent hoping no one even gets a cramp). I made some season prections for what is my projected 25-man roster. In a later post, I will post what my goals are for our players.

2013 Season Predictions

Batters (in order of Fredi's projected lineup)

Andrelton Simmons- .266/.331/.361/.692, 28 doubles, 3 triples, 7 HR, 48 RBI
Jason Heyward- .280/.353/.476/.829, 31 doubles, 3 triples, 29 HR, 89 RBI
Justin Upton- .290/.373/.533/.906, 35 doubles, 4 triples, 33 HR, 96 RBI
Freddie Freeman- .283/.357/.469/826, 31 doubles, 1 triples 24 HR, 97 RBI
BJ Upton- .243/.314/.431/.745, 27 doubles, 4 triples, 24 HR, 75 RBI
Brian McCann- .262/.342/.440/.782, 24 doubles, 17 HR, 65 RBI
Dan Uggla- .257/.342/.427/.769, 29 doubles, 2 triples, 21 HR, 71 RBI
Juan Francisco- .233/.303/.428/.731, 28 doubles, 1 triple, 55 RBI

And for the bench.....

Gerald Laird- .272/.324/.364/.688, 9 doubles, 3 HR, 15 RBI
Evan Gattis- .263/.333/.474/.807, 1 doubles, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Matt Pagnozzi- .214/.267/.214/.481

Ernesto Mejia- .275/.322/.450/.772, 5 doubles, 3 HR, 11 RBI

Paul Janish- .200/.226/.233/.459, 1 double, 1 RBI
Tyler Pastornicky0 .268/.328/.393/.721, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Chris Johnson- .282/.330/.447/.777, 13 double, 6 HR, 24 RBI

Reed Johnson- .304/.356/.377/.733



Kris Medlen 15-9, 3.31 ERA 196 IP
Mike Minor 12-8, 3.72 ERA, 184 IP
Tim Hudson 13-9, 3.69 ERA, 173 IP
Paul Maholm 12-10, 3.73 ERA, 179 IP
Julio Teheran 7-11, 4.19 ERA, 144 IP
Brandon Beachy 2-2, 3.67 ERA, 27 IP


Craig Kimbrel 41 Saves, 1.69 ERA, 64 IP
Eric O'Flaherty 2 Saves, 2.47 ERA, 62 IP
Jordan Walden 2 Saves, 3.26 ERA, 58 IP
Jonny Venters 1 Save, 3.14 ERA, 66 IP
Luis Avilan 1 SV, 3.27 ERA, 55 IP
Cory Gearrin 3.33 ERA, 51 IP
David Carpenter 3.99 ERA, 68 IP

I know that I am on the low side for bullpen innings, but these will be updated before the start of the season, and my official numbers will be released then. For now, this just gives the general range that I expect for our players.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Braves 25-Man Roster

February 6, 2013- Julien Benjamin

Spring Training is about to start, and so with this, I'm going to predict what I think the Opening Day Roster will look like, and what battles there are to watch this ST.


Okay, starting first with the rotation. We have 5 spots, as does every team, and we have 4 pitchers who are guaranteed spots. In the 5th spot, I think it's Teheran's job to lose.

1. Kris Medlen- After posting a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts last season, why wouldn't he have a starting job?
2. Mike Minor- He had a very rough 1st half of the season, but had some massive correction in the 2nd half, posting a 2.16 ERA over 14 starts. Despite the struggles, he pitched the most innings on our staff (while on the Braves)
3. Tim Hudson- The veteran. He's in a slight decline in my opinion, had a rough finish last year, with a 3.80 ERA in September, but he has the most experience and savvy of our starters.
4. Paul Maholm- The Braves traded for him last year because he was consistent. He'll continue to do so this year, and so he wins the 4th spot.
5. Julio Teheran- After the trade of Delgado, Teheran really has no competition. The job is his to lose to either Sean Gilmartin or J.R. Graham.


The first 5 spots are guaranteed. The last 2 will be up for grabs, likely between Cory Gearrin, Christhian Martinez, David Hale, Juan Jaime, and Anthony Varvaro, and David Carpenter. I think Gearrin has nothing left to prove in AAA, and did look good in limited appearances at the MLB level. Martinez has done a good job, but is a bit pricey for the 7th reliever in my opinion. The Braves will probably trade him, and use one of the younger cheaper arms who has a good spring.

1. Craig Kimbrel- Closer
2. Eric O'Flaherty- Lights out set-up man
3. Jonny Venters- Rough May last year, but finished strong with a 1.71 ERA in the 2nd half
4. Jordan Walden- Former closer, throws gas. 7th inning guy
5. Luis Avilan- Looked really good in his debut last year.
6. Cory Gearrin
7. David Carpenter

Position Players

C- Brian McCann- He had a rough season last year, but he's still Brian McCann. He makes $12mil as well.
1B- Freddie Freeman- Had a little regression last season, but should hit .280+ w/ 20-25 HR.
2B- Dan Uggla- Last year was Dan's first really bad season. He drew walks to score runs, but the average stayed low and his power disappeared.
SS- Andrelton Simmons- He wasn't traded to the Rangers for Mike Olt; why wouldn't he win the job? Great glove, leadoff potential
3B- Juan Francisco- I think Juan wins this spot. He had a good winter, lost weight, and has been training hard. He also has more power potential than Chris Johnson and is younger.
LF- Justin Upton- After trading for him, he will be the starting LF. Expect him to repeat his 2011 numbers.
CF- BJ Upton- He received the richest contract in Atlanta Braves history. Starting CF
RF- The RF GGer Heyward will start in right, looking to further improve.


Backup C- Gerald Laird- He was signed for this role. If McCann can't go on Opening Day, he will likely start and either Matt Pagnozzi or Evan Gattis will back him up until McCann returns.

Backup 1B- Chris Johnson- He has played this position before, and I expect the Braves to get him some work at the position. It would allow them to keep either 2 middle infielders or 2 OFers on the bench.

Backup middle IF- Paul Janish- He was great for us last year when Simmons went down, and the Braves seem to like having defensive infield backups.

Backup 3B- Chris Johnson- He will backup Juan at 3B as well

Backup OF- Reed Johnson- He was signed for this role. Good pinch hitter, and we definitely need that.

Last bench spot- I think that it will be another outfielder, and Jose Constanza will get the call. He has some speed, an okay bat, and I think the Braves will put him on the bench mainly for late inning pinch running duties.


5th starter- Teheran, Gilmartin, Graham
6th and 7th relievers- Gearrin, Martinez, Hale, Varvaro, Jaime, Carpenter
Backup C (To Laird)- Pagnozzi and Evan Gattis
Backup SS/2B- Janish, Pena, Pastornicky
Backup 1B- Chris Johnson and Ernesto Mejia
2nd backup OF- Jordan Schafer and Jose Constanza

What would Julien do?

If I were in charge, my roster would look like this (and since my post is so long, won't post explanations)

Rotation- Medlen, Minor, Hudson, Maholm, Teheran

Bullpen- Kimbrel, O'Flaherty, Walden, Venters, Avilan, Gearrin, Varvaro

Position Players- McCann, Freeman, Uggla, Simmons, Francisco, Heyward, BJ Upton, Justin Upton

Bench- Laird, Mejia, Pastornicky, Chris Johnson, Reed Johnson

Spring Training

February 6, 2013- Julien Benjamin

Hello Braves fans! It's been a while since my last post, I'm updating here before Spring Training. It's, what 5 days away? Can't wait!

Anyways, baseball rumors and stories continue on, though not much on the Braves front after the great trade we made for Upton. Bourn is still unsigned, same as Kyle Lohse. Both are Boras clients. I find this so funny, it seems that his tactics have backfired on him. With Bourn, it seems like he's trying to trick the Mets into rushing into signing him, by saying that he has other offers. This is a pure bluff. If he did, Michael would be signed already, seeing that ST is about to start. The Mets are doing the smart thing, and trying to secure their #11 pick (a pick that I think they should be allowed to keep).

However, that's not our main focus here. Our focus is Braves baseball. I'm planning a series of posts, that I hopefully should get posted soon, comparing the Braves and the Nationals, our closest rivals in the NL East. At this moment, I think that they are marginally better than us, and will attempt to prove this in my next few postings (memory willing). Also, I hope to go around the league, providing projections for different teams, and identifying teams that we should watch for in the league this season to surprise us.

My next post, which should hopefully be out today, will detail our 25-man roster, and who I expect to see win spots and why. I'll also give my thoughts on who should win these spots.

Any questions or comments for me, you can leave below, but most preferably, tweet me: @bravesfanjulien . I also appear frequently on David O'Brien's of the AJC Braves blog, under the moniker TheOnlyBravesFan

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Baseball Blog

Hola and hello to everyone, and welcome to my Braves (and baseball in general) blog. Maybe even with some random football/weather thrown in as well LOL. If you're reading this, I'm sure that you have read or seen of me on twitter or on the AJC's David O'Brien daily blog. On twitter, I'm known as @bravesfanjulien, and on the AJC, TheOnlyBravesFan. I'm sure that you noticed that I have chosen to use that name here as well. It's not meant as a putdown of other Braves fans at all, it's just a name that I've been using online as my screen name for many many years.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to sharing many many insights on here, and interacting w/ fellow Braves fans.

In the Braves we trust,