Grading the Braves Pitchers

Here are my grades for pitchers. You do not receive extra points for being young, old clutch, or gutsy. Pitchers get one grade, even if they pitched both as a starter and reliever.

Starters: C-
John Smoltz: A
Tim Hudson: C
Chuck James: C
Horacio Ramirez: C
John Thomson: C
Kyle Davies: F
Jorge Sosa: F

John Smoltz is proving to everyone that Schuerholz was wrong to put him in the bullpen. You know that’s got to make him smile. What’s wrong with Huddy? The Braves just have to hope he rebounds, rather then pitching like Horacio Ramirez. Tim, that slot is taken. Chuck James pitched well for a rookie, but he’s got to limit the long balls. Kyle Davies isn’t ready; another case of the Braves rushing a youngster. John Thomson started off great, but then must have asked Tim Hudson for some advice, because he just collapsed. Couple his performance with his injuries and he’s looking at a tough year on the free agent market. Jorge Sosa, DIPS proponents thank you for making the point.

Relievers: C
Bob Wickman: A
Chad Poronto: B
Mike Remlinger: B
Macay McBride: B
Tyler Yates: C
Lance Cormier: C
Ken Ray: C
Kevin Barry: C
Oscar Villarreal: D
Chris Reitsma: F

I think the bullpen looks a little better than it was because when you blow the lead in the bottom of the ninth, the other team doesn’t keep batting. You couldn’t ask for anything more from Wickman. I wonder if anyone in Cleveland thinks he was slacking. Poronto had a career year; good for him. I thought Remlinger shouldn’t have made the team, but now think he shouldn’t have been cut. McBride turned his F-season around. If he keeps his walks down, he’ll be good. Tyler Yates, yuck. Lance Cormier, ehh. Ken Ray was a nice story, but he wasn’t very good. Kevin Barry: freed, but so what? The Vulture at one point was pitching almost as bad as Reitsma, but no one noticed because of it. He pitched nicely as a starter at the end of the year, but it’s not enough to make up for his atrocious first half. Closer material? I don’t think so. At least he stayed healthy. For Chris Reitsma’s sake, I hope his injury was responsible for his poor pitching.

Not Graded
Dany Baez
Blaine Boyer
Joey Devine
Wayne Franklin
Peter Moylan
Anthony Lerew
Jason Shiell
Travis Smith
Phil Stockman

As you can see, there is hope here. This Braves pitching staff was not good, but it could have been a lot worse. In fact, the difference in making the playoffs may have been Leo Mazzone. This is not to put down McDowell, either. Simply, the transition costs are large and I think that has reflected tough years for both McDowell and Mazzone. One thing that is clear is that Leo was not a problem, which the Braves P.R. machine was selling to anyone who wasn’t even listening. If Schuerholz valued the post-season streak, he should have ponied up the dough to keep Leo. For the price of Daryle Ward, he probably could have kept him. Oh well.

The good news is that if the Braves can get a few more arms, and find the real Tim Hudson, the team has enough bats to contend next year. Finding them is easier said than done, but the Braves are in a better position than a lot of teams. One thing I would advise against is re-signing Wickman. He was great for the Braves, but I don’t expect it to continue. It’s a great opportunity to overpay. Twenty innings is a small sample. Also, don’t get too excited about Mike Hampton coming back. He’s a C pitcher, and the team has enough of those. Blaine Boyer? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be excited about. 2005 was good in a very small sample. John Foster? He’s just not very good. Joey Devine? Who knows what this kid will be.

23 Responses “Grading the Braves Pitchers”

  1. A.West says:

    Given his last few starts, I think Smoltz only deserves an A- or B+. Hudson deserves a lower score than James, particularly considering his cost, I think Hudson gets C- at best, and James deserves a C+, or B-.

  2. JC says:

    I didn’t give out pluses or minus to individuals. I think five grades is enough. Also, at Kennesaw State we don’t give pluses or minuses. ;-)

    James has some serious HR issues that he needs to fix. That Hudson makes a lot of money will affect John Schuerholz’s grade, not Hudson’s. I evaluate each player only on his performance relative to every other player in the NL. And Hudson actually had a slightly better year than James.

  3. flournoy says:

    You were much more generous than I would have been. I would have given Hudson, Thomson, Remlinger, Yates, Cormier, and Ray one grade lower. I would have tried to find a way to give Sosa and Reitsma an even lower grade.

    I am not at all excited about the 2007 pitching staff.

  4. Marc says:

    Agree with Flournoy. I don’t see how the Braves are going to improve–they haven’t really been improving for the last several years. Even if they trade, say,Giles, I can’t see him fetching a real good pitcher. I agree that Hampton coming back is no great deal–he is overrated at best. I think the Braves need to focus on offense and try to bludgeon teams like the Mets do because I can’t see the pitching improving that much. Hudson is pretty much a number 4 starter, Smoltz is getting old, Davies hasn’t shown much but as JC notes, he, like Francoeur, was rushed to the majors.

    In a way, it’s probably good that the streak has ended and maybe even that the Braves won’t make the playoffs this year. I think that some of the moves JS has made in recent years have been somewhat shortsighted for the purpose of continuing the streak. Maybe now, they will make more rational decisions. The problem is with a GM and manager both in their mid-sixties, they aren’t likely to want to build for the future.

  5. A.West says:

    Ok, then Hudson deserves a D, not a C. C is supposed to be average, but Hudson isn’t even average. His ERA and WHIP are below average, and he only pitched 7 or more innings in a third of his starts. On a relative to expectations scale, he gets an F. If he’s hurt, he should admit to it now so he can recover during the offseason rather than waiting till next Spring and then have season ending surgery wiping out all of 07. Same goes for Smoltz, if something is causing him to collapse at the end of the year again, though he’ll probably quit rather than have another surgery.

  6. JC says:

    FIP says Hudson is slightly better than average. I don’t look at BIP-tainted info when I evaluate pitchers.

  7. Johnny says:

    ‘In fact, the difference in making the playoffs may have been Leo Mazzone.’ Really? I’m pretty sure that Jesus himself couldn’t have turned that pitching staff around. I agree that Leo wasn’t the problem but given the results in Baltimore he wouldn’t have been the solution either. Repeat after me ‘He is just the pitching coach.’

    Well your grades weren’t as ugly as I thought they’d be. I know that you did your usual thorough analysis so I won’t quibble. I’m really concerned about our talent base though.
    Smoltz is old. Hudson looks done. And our young guys have issues. There are no great arms waiting in the system. But you are right there is hope.

    The Mets ironically are examples of why we should have hope for next season. They have prospered this season based on a powerful offense, just enough starting pitching, a terrific bullpen filled with never heard of them guys that bridge to Billy Wagner and the general lack of quality in the NL. Our base of talent in the starter arena is actually better than theirs. Now if John Schuerholz can just build a bullpen.

  8. Johnny says:

    Can’t wait for the managment grades.

  9. ChuckO says:

    The Braves’ commentators, as well as others in baseball, have described Chuck James as pitching like Glavine. However, at this point, that is a false comparison in that James is a flyball pitcher. Like Glavine, he should be getting a lot more groundball outs. His stuff just isn’t good enough to count on fly outs. As we saw this season, too many of them ended up flying right on out of the park.

    As for the ratings in general, I wouldn’t have been as generous as JC in a lot of them, and I’m really not sanguine about the pitching for next season. Smoltz will be another year older. There’s no real empirical reason to believe that Hudson will rebound given his performance in recent seasons. Hampton is a big, and expensive, question mark. If he turns out to be a mediocre starter next season, the Braves should count themselves lucky. Horacio Ramirez seems to do it with smoke and mirrors. I don’t know how one projects him. As for Kyle Davies, he’s a mystery to me. When he first came up, he looked like a real stud. About his fourth or fifth start though, he came apart. Maybe somebody in the organization can figure out a way to fix him. If so, he could be solid.

  10. Mac says:

    I don’t know about rating Villarreal lower than Hudson. After his first few outings, he pitched pretty well, and a lot better than Hudson. Going forward, Hudson might be more valuable — if he can maintain the gains in his strikeout rate — but frankly I’ve lost all confidence in him.

    I had some hopes for Hampton before he got hurt, because he’d finally gotten his walk rate under control. He was also getting more ground balls and allowing fewer homers. (Obviously, small sample size.) I’m not confident we’d see that in 2007, though, considering the control issues TJ patients have.

    By Win Shares (THT hasn’t updated them since August, but nothing much has changed) the Braves’ seven most valuable players this year have been hitters. If the Braves are going to win next year it’s going to have to be along the lines of the 2003 squad, bludgeoning people to death.

  11. Mac says:

    Oh, and I’ve seen enough of Franklin that he gets an F. Or dragged off campus by security, beaten, and left in a gutter, if that’s possible.

  12. Johnny says:

    The 2003 MO works in the regular season but as we found to our dismay and I think the Mets will too, it doesn’t work in the post season. But after this season’s debacle getting back to post season baseball should be our first goal.

  13. Jeff M. says:

    I’d like to get back to the postseason too, but I’d be happy to have a team that is just plain fun to watch as well. This team can be fun, but only when the score is lopsided and its the ninth inning (since Wickman, anyway). The rest of the time, I find my stomach hurting as we enter the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, as I wait for the inevitable bullpen collapse.

    So, if we must bludgeon, then, its time to call a halt to the trade of Giles, Andruw, and LaRoche, and work seriously hard on getting a masher for Left field, like Carlos Lee. Some prayers that as Frenchy grows a year older, he’ll fulfill a bit more of his promise with either a higher batting average or a higher walk total will be imperative as well.

  14. Andrew says:

    I wish we still had Dayton Moore. I think his loss is potentially the worst part of 2006 because unless we can lure him back, what happens when JS finally retires?

    Also, where are all of the Braves’ prospects this year? Usually we churn out break-out seasons like we did pennants but this year both have been missing. I honestly cannot wait until Campbell and Andrus are ready.

    Also I think our bullpen next year may actually be fairly strong. If we resign Wickman for one year, we can trade him when we are out of the race next year. I think Joey Devine will be ready(in the year that he probably should have been making his debut). Also Will Startup and Kevin Gunderson can team with Macay to form quite a nasty trio of lefties. A healthy Blaine Boyer and we have a solid bullpen, right?

  15. Tom G says:

    Chuck James certainly looked good against my team last night.

  16. Marc says:

    I’m not well versed in the statistics, but I have a hard time understanding JC’s argument that Tim Hudson was better than Chuck James. At least over the last several starts, James has been much better and Hudson continues to struggle. And it’s not as if James is not getting any strikeouts. I recognize that James had a stretch where he really struggled, but he has improved (at least according to my non-quantitative observation) while Hudson has really only had a handful of good starts. The flyballs might be a concern, but he does pitch in a big park and it’s not as if Hudson was limiting home runs. At least Chuck was not giving up 3 run jobs regularly.

  17. Mac says:

    I’ll do my best in JC’s absence, Marc… I believe that the argument would be along the lines of the DIPS argument. In summary: Their BB rates are basically the same (James, in just about half as many innings, has just about half as many walks); James’ K rate is a little better (about .6 K/9) but Hudson has a slightly lower HR rate (24 versus 15 — remember, in twice as many innings).

    I don’t know. I think there’s something to be said for DIPS, but at the same time I’m reluctant to say that more than a run of ERA (and more of RA, since Hudson has had a lot of unearned runs and James few) is due purely to luck and defense. Moreover, James is a rookie and Hudson a veteran with several years of decline behind him. Most of all, even if it’s luck and defense, James is better suited to take advantage of defense, because the Braves’ outfield defense is usually good, while the Braves’ infield can best be described as inconsistent.

  18. Erik says:

    You’ve got to be effing crazy to give Chuck James a ‘C’. He’s got a 10-3 record with a 3.33 ERA- the best among staters, and a whole half-run better than Smoltz. His HR/9 is a bit high, at 1.32, but it’s nothing to go screaming about- he’s a fly ball pitcher, and he’s gotten significantly better at containing them in his past 8 starts. There’s no reason to believe that trend won’t continue.

    This year he’s been a better pitcher than Smoltz. Hands down.

  19. JC says:

    Chuck James has a FIP ERA of 4.74. For a rookie that is outstanding; overall, it is league average. I am very happy with James’s performance this year and disappointed with Huddy’s. However, over the entire year, they’ve pitched about the same. I know some of my younger readers are used to grade inflation (where an A- is average) and evaluatations on some sliding scale based on trying, but Chuck James has been a league average pitcher this year. That’s how I assigned the grade. To me, that’s a good thing. I think he’s been a bright spot, and I think he’s going to prove that there is such a thing as a good flyball pitcher.

  20. John says:

    (Beyond what randomness would suggest) Are there pitchers whose DIP result is consistently better than their ERA?

    Does any DIP measure make adjustments for ground balls vs fly balls? Or does it just disintegrate into a constant BIPA assumption?

    Thanks.

  21. Marc says:

    JC,

    Well, I’m not one of your younger readers. My point is that James has improved over the season and Hudson–until last night–has not. That has to count for something, especially for a rookie. It seems unrealistic to evaluate a pitcher without considering the trend line. While I understand that ERA is not a perfect stat, it does show something and Hudson has been giving up five runs per game–and I don’t think bad luck has been the primary determining factor.

    I’m not saying Chuck James is a great pitcher or even that he will continue to be a good pitcher next year. I’m just saying that, at this point in the season, if I had to choose between Hudson and James to pitch one game, I would choose James.

  22. jon says:

    IIRC Leo left mostly because Sam Perlazzo one of his best friends got the managing job in B’more. THey had apparently agreed that if either of them ever had a mojor league managing job the other would join him if possible. I know that Mazzone wasn’t happy towards the end of his run, but I don’t htink any amount of reasonable money would have kept him in Atlanta.

  23. JC says:

    Improvement does not count in my system. You get punished for bad pitching, and rewarded for good, whenever it happened. The seasonal grades are not a reflection of whom I would want in the game right now. If that were the case Villarreal would get a higher grade. But he was beyond bad in the first half.