Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blog Transition to ATL All Day

Hey everyone. I just wanted to let yall know a piece of news that I got this week. I contacted the guys over at Fansided, a partner blog with Sports Illustrated, and they really liked the work I've been doing here on Braves by the Numbers. So, they've offered me a staff blogger position at ATL All Day, the local Atlanta sports blog on their Fansided Network.

It's a great opportunity to head over there and do some work for them covering the Braves and some UGA sports with a great group of other passionate bloggers. The downside is that they have a non-compete so I can't do both blogs at once. The upside is they have links to SI, a picture sharing deal with USA Today, and an audience of almost 30,000 to 40,000 viewers a month. Really, I'll get to work with a team, which will cut down on some of the work I have to do daily, but it will mean more exposure and opportunities, which is the great part about it.

So I want to let you know that you can find me over there at ATLallday.com writing under my real name Ben Pace. You can also keep track of things I'm doing on my twitter @BentheCPA. During this 2014 season I'll be working with them, and I'm looking really forward to it. I hope you look forward to checking out my articles over there with all the new fancy pictures.

So make sure to take a look, and let me know what you think of the change. It should be a great way to track the Braves as they get ready to take on the 2014 NL East.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spring Training Schedule 2014

For those of you who are looking forward to baseball season beginning again (like me), here's the Spring Training Schedule for the Braves. Most of these games aren't televised unless you have MLB's package or whatever, but I will be recapping them semi-weekly in 3-4 game bunches so we can have some talking points on the new Braves roster. Anyway, the countdown to the first Spring Training game is on, and it's about 50 days away if you're counting.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox Elected to Hall of Fame

Tom Glavine: 305 Wins, 3.54 ERA, 22 Seasons, 682 Starts, 56 Complete Games, 2607 Ks
Greg Maddux: 355 Wins, 3.16 ERA, 23 Seasons, 740 Starts, 109 Complete Games, 3371 Ks

Two legendary pitchers of Atlanta Braves history are going into the Hall of Fame today on the first ballot. It's well deserved for both given their on the field performances. We're unlikely to ever see another 300 game winner the way rotations work now in the MLB, let alone how the Tommy John surgery has claimed season after season for young pitchers. Greg and Tom anchored a staff along with John Smoltz that helped the Braves dominate the NL East for over a decade.

Greg Maddux is the pitcher I think of when I think of the most accurate hurlers alive. Maddux could masterfully pain the corners with his fastball, put the ball exactly where the mitt was placed, and catchers would jokingly say you could catch the man with your eyes closed. He's the perfect picture of consistency, tendency, and baseball IQ. He knew hitters and knew how to confuse them. He knew where they would and wouldn't swing. He knew how to change speeds and go up and down the ladder at will. Most importantly, he was a stubborn bulldog who never wanted to give up on any pitch or any count.

Glavine was the classic young lefty who started with good speed on his fastball and later developed into the traditional "crafty lefty" that could beat you with a combination of the fastball and changeup. He would confused hitters at the plate and then catch them off guard with an array of other pitchers that included the curve and the slider. If Glavine were pitching today in his 20s, he's probably be as famous as Clayton Kershaw, or David Price. He would be the Ace that every team would want to pitcher first in the playoffs for their team. And Atlanta had THREE of those guys during the 90s with Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. It was an embarrassment of riches. It also shows you how much pitching matters when it comes to winning games.

One legend across all of baseball, Bobby Cox, was also included in the Hall of Fame this year, and we'll forever remember Bobby as the manager during these pitchers' tenure in Atlanta, as well as bringing Atlanta its only professional sports championship in 1995. Without that, the city of Atlanta would have absolutely nothing to be proud of except for a continuous streak of division titles. And let's be fair, we'd trade that for another World Series ring.

Those were the glory days of the Atlanta Braves. We're probably not going to win that many division titles in a row, nor will any other baseball team. But we do have a good shot at putting 3 dominant pitchers on the mound to win a World Series. The Braves have always valued good pitching over all else, and it shows by all these men making it to the Hall of Fame today. I congratulate them all as a fan and ticket-holder.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Phillies sign $2.5 Billion TV deal

Yep, take that handful of salt and rub it all in the wounds of our current payroll situation. A couple billion could buy our way out of a lot of problems like Dan Uggla and BJ Upton if he doesn't turn a corner. The Phillies will get about $100M takehome a year in their deal just on TV rights alone. The Braves will get about $20M max a year on that same period.

For the next 14 years, we're completely screwed on TV dollars.

That's why we moved the stadium, because the Braves will soon be the only team in the Majors that isn't making at least $50M a year on their TV rights, and we have a larger following than almost anybody in baseball. The Braves have to find a way to make the revenues match up to other teams through better attendance, more parking money, more naming rights money, and more amenities. For now, we're going to be okay. In the next 5 years, we might be okay. In 10 years, I'm not sure.

There are possible dark days coming between 2020-2027 when most teams will have already renegotiated their TV deals, and the Braves are still operating a team at $95M in payroll. The Braves are already in 18th place in payroll in 2013.

But hey, money isn't everything. Several teams spending less than the Braves made the playoffs, like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Oakland. It's not impossible to craft a team with a low payroll threshold and produce a consistent winner on the field. The Marlins proved in 2003 you can even win a World Series with the 25th payroll in the league. Still, your winners this year were the Boston Red Sox, a team that was 4th in payroll. The Giants in 2012 were 8th. The Cardinals in 2011 were 11th. The Giants in 2010 were 10th. I can go on and on, but for the most part, the winners of the World Series have averaged out in the top half of payroll in the MLB. That means the bottom half has for the most part gone wanting on the big trophy, regardless of playoff appearances.

If there's one thing the Braves need to lobby for it's either amnesty out of bad contracts, or a salary cap in the MLB. Otherwise, Frank Wren is going to have to become a master of moneyball.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Atlanta Braves New Years Resolutions

A little early, but I'm going to be travelling on actual New Years Day, as I expect many of you will. So I'll do this on Friday to get the jump on the New Year. Here are the things I think the Braves should resolve to do in 2014.

1 - Be Better in Center: We all know BJ sucked, and he was part of the reason the Braves couldn't get anything going at the back end of the order. Hell, he was so bad it was record-setting. He's a killer to a lineup if he's wrong. That means if the Braves want to have a remote shot at taking the division again next year, they need him to hit over .240 at the least.

2 - Make Better Decisions at the Plate: There are times when a walk is as good as a hit. There are other times when a walk is a situational killer because a guy batting sub-.200 is behind you. If we have two outs, two on, and Jason Heyward at the plate, I want him free-wheeling on the ball when Dan Uggla is behind him. I don't want that walk to make the bases loaded for a bad hitter who doesn't even put the ball in play 50% of the time. You can't play the odds that way and expect to score. Too many times the Braves were swinging when they shouldn't (guys like Simmons jump to mind), and taking when they shouldn't (guys like Justin jump to mind). As a result our RISP was terrible, and that's what making better decisions improves foremost.

3 - Embrace Thievery: Speed was supposed to be one of this team's assets. You know how many bases we stole last year? 64. That was 24th in the Majors. When you struggle with RISP, it helps to get more chances with RISP. I mean even if you're hitting .250 in that category, you'll still score a run if you stretch 4 singles into runners on second with smart base-running.

4 - Stay Healthy: How many injuries can you take to a team before it takes a toll on your performance? How many times did a pitching injury or hitting injury change the whole outlook on a month? The Braves need to take a look at how they approach games, as does the manager. They need to question their conditioning heading into the season if they are constantly coming up with tweaks and problems to almost everyone in the lineup. If there's one thing I can say for Dan Uggla, dude is in shape and doesn't get injured that often.

5 - Minimize the Snowball Effect: The Braves were bad about giving up the big inning that would completely sink the game in 2013. Somehow one run would turn into 4 runs with a lot of walks, errors, and bombs. Example, in game 3 of the playoffs, the Dodgers got two leadoff hits. Then the Braves got a strikeout. At this point, all you need to do is get a ball on the ground or in play. Nope, Teheran walked the bases loaded. Then he gave up a sacrifice. Okay, so the damage was just a run. Get an out and you're out of the inning. Nope, 3 run bomb to Crawford with two outs. Not just with 2 outs, with 2 strikes as well. That's what I mean about the snowball effect, and it happened to the Braves all season. In fact in September, the Braves gave up 9 innings of 3 runs or more. That's just in one month. Those are game-changing innings that more often than not cost you wins down the stretch.

Those things are the resolutions I'd love to see the Braves make in the New Year. Oh, and will somebody adopt Dan Uggla please? Maybe we can put him on one of those ASPCA-type commercials with Sarah McLachlan singing "Eyes of an Angel" and distribute it to all the GMs. For just $35,000 a day, you can give an Uggla clean drinking water, baby Tees, and a good home.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Braves Contract Talks Part 5

Small update, the Braves have signed Beachy to a 1 year deal to beat arbitration, but they won't say how much. My guess is not much. Beachy hasn't been right since he had the Tommy John surgery in 2012, and frankly I don't think the Braves really trust his health now. They want the one year deal to get him on the roster in a prove-it-to-us scenario, but if Beachy can't regain some of his velocity and break on the ball, he's not going to be a long-term answer in the rotation for the Braves.

If you remember last season, Beachy was like the prodigal pitcher that was coming to save us. Except that day never really came. He only started 5 games all season, and he was pretty mediocre in those starts. The WHIP was a solid 1.03, but he was giving up long balls and big hits like crazy. A 4.50 and 5 bombs in just 30 innings isn't going to excite anybody, especially when the fast ball wasn't topping out in the mid-90s. He had a procedure in September to work out whatever the problem was supposedly, but I'm going to have a very close eye on him in spring training to see if he's ready.

Seven players are still left to sign contracts, including Kimbrel and Freeman, so we still have a ways to go on the late year contract talks, and hopefully the Frank Wren wheeling and dealing.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Braves Contract Talks Part 4

The Braves have inked Gavin Floyd to a 1 year deal. A friend and reader texted me asking who the heck Gavin Floyd was. Honestly, I had no idea so I did some digging. The deal for Floyd is a $4M one year deal that pulls him in as a FA out of the White Sox. No wonder I didn't know the guy, he's in the AL, the place where good pitching goes to die. Unless you are named Verlander. Moving on.

The move is obvious, Floyd is meant to take over the seasoned right-handed veteran role that Tim Hudson provided the Braves last season. He's a 30 year old pitcher, a 70-70 record, a kid out of Baltimore, MD, and a 4.48 ERA in the DH league. That's probably akin to a 3.98 ERA in the NL. He's spent 7 years with the White Sox, during that tenure he's been able to rack up 4 seasons of 30+ starts, and one season of 29 starts. Last year he was put on IR with a Tommy John injury, so the Braves will be getting him off of that surgery. He can put up 190+ innings a year when he's healthy, no problem. Also, he's a decent strikeout guy with a 7.1 K/9 ratio. Basically it's a 1-year value play tryout for a guy coming off a surgery with little downside. For $4M plus another $4M in incentives, the Braves are getting a pitcher who is guaranteed to play hard for the extra cash, and a guy that will fit nicely into the 3-4-5 spot of the rotation.

Now, what does this mean for the Ace discussion? In my mind, you know you have 3 solid starters, Medlen, Minor, and Teheran. Now you have Floyd. You want to add Beachy back if he's healthy. That's your 5 right now. If you make a trade for Price, you're going to have to deal one of those guys back, otherwise you've screwed up your rotation. Yes, you want depth, but that's why you have guys like Alex Wood and David Hale in the wings. I think it's still possible, but I'm starting to believe that like the Dan Uggla trade, the mythical Ace trade is just that. A Myth.