I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the upcoming Braves season, and I’ve made some predictions in my head. I’ve stated them in various places, but I thought I’d put them down here for the record. Please, feel free to recall the record at any time when it turns out I was wrong.
1. Horacio Ramirez will not be in the rotation long, if at all. Injury or no injury it’s going to be hard for him to get things together this year. The mental aspect of coming back from what happened last year is plenty. Then, add to this the fact that his peripherals have not been very good, ever. The stat that worries me the most is Defense Efficiency Record (DER). You can see his DER at The Hardball Times Stats Page for NL Pitchers. It was .770; compared to the NL average of .711 his DER was two standard deviations above average among pitchers throwing more than 50 innings. That put him third in the league, and that’s what kept his ERA so low last year. So what’s the big deal? Isn’t a high DER a good thing? The big deal is that pitchers don’t seem to have much control over balls in play. Having a good DER is like winning the lottery. You’re happy it happened to you, but you don’t expect it to increase your chances of winning any future lotteries. With his propensity for putting the ball in play, I don’t expect him to have a good ERA unless he cuts out his walks, increases his strikeouts, or stops giving up the longball. I don’t see any signs of that happening. He was very lucky last year, and expectations will be high. That’s a lot for a young guy to cope with, especially when what used to work stops working.
2. Danny Kolb will be a middle-reliever, not the closer, by mid-season. He will be a valuable cog in the bullpen, though. Like Ramirez, Kolb was lucky last year on balls in play with a DER of .758. His ERA from last year may be a bit flukey, but he’s got two very good things going for him. He rarely walks guys or gives up home runs. His low strikeout rate (3.3 Ks per 9) makes him a very different type of pitcher than John Smoltz. The fact that Kolb doesn’t give up many free passes and can prevent the longball makes me think he will fit better into long relief. Keep the ball in the park and the game under control. I think Colon and Reitsma are better suited for closing duties.
3. Marcus Giles will be the MVP of the Braves for the 2005 season. Is this really a bold prediction? I mean the guy has been a stud for the past two seasons, but freak injuries have really slowed him down.
4. Brian Jordan will be a platoon player only. All this talk of BJ walking into his old role would be out of character for the Braves. He’s old, but with some speed, power, and on-base ability. If he bats only against lefties, and Langerhans can handle the righties it might be a very productive platoon. He’ll be 38 next season and he has a history of injuries; I just can’t believe he was brought in to be anything but a part-time player.
5. If no one gets hurt in the infield, Andy Marte will play in the outfield this season. Again, I’m going to disagree with some popular reports to the contrary that say Marte will stay at third. This move makes perfect sense even if the Braves are willing to play him in the outfield. Why make a young slugger uncomfortable at a new position if situations may dictate that he return to his old position? Chipper is getting older, and I have to believe that nagging hammy may flare up again. Chipper may not be in the outfield, but he has to run the bases. If Marte has to step in, have him step in from where he’s always been. But, I think that there is a good chance that Chipper may stay healthy just by his own will to stay healthy. If Marte, lights it up in the spring or early on in Richmond, he’s going to get his at-bats in Atlanta. All indications are that he will be lighting it up. And if Schuerholz was willing to play Klesko in the outfield he won’t flinch with Marte. And given that the Braves gave up after two days on a plan to groom him for the outfield, it makes me think that he did well rather than poorly.