Archive for Braves

The Trade-and-Sign Gambit: A Failing Strategy

What is these players have in common: Gary Sheffield, J.D. Drew, Tim Hudson, and Mark Teixeira?

They were all acquired by the Braves via trade, with two or less years remaining until they became agents. Also, in each case the Braves gave up prospects who were currently or would eventually play in the major leagues. For two years of Sheffield, the Braves traded Brian Jordan, Odalis Perez, and Andrew Brown. For Drew (and Eli Marrero) , the Braves traded Jason Marquis, Ray King, and Adam Wainwright. For one year of Hudson, the Braves traded Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer, and Charles Thomas. For Teixeira (and Ron Mahay) the Braves traded Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Neftali Feliz.

That list includes many high-level prospects, but the acquired players are all quite good. But there is another angle on these deals that I think is interesting. In all cases, the Braves attempted to use their exclusive negotiation window to sign the acquired player to a long-term extension. In three cases, the Braves were rebuffed and the player left as a free agent. Here is a summary of what happened to each player.

Gary Sheffield

Although they are trimming their payroll, the Braves have stated a desire to re-sign Sheffield. But their bid of about $10 million per season is well below what the Yankees reportedly are offering. (AJC, 11/30/2003)

Sheffield would eventually sign a three-year, $39 million deal with the Yankees; thus, the Braves were offering nearly 25% less than his eventual market value.

J.D. Drew

The Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a $55 million, five-year deal with with Drew, who hit .305 with 31 homers and 93 RBIs for the Braves last season. …The Braves wanted to re-sign Drew, but Boras didn’t even respond to the team’s initial contract offer of what was believed to be about $25 million for three seasons. (AJC, 12/24/2004)

Drew reached a five-year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers, from which he would opt out after three seasons. For the three years that he was in Los Angeles, he received $31 million. The Braves offer for this same time period was about 20% less than what he got. After opting out of his deal with the Dodgers, Drew received a substantial raise by signing a five-year, $70 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Mark Teixeira

“Teixeira said he had been “open” to hearing offers from the Braves all season, but got none. Wren said the Braves didn’t believe they could re-sign him after making an “aggressive” offer during spring training and having it rejected.

The GM said the offer would have made Teixeira one of the game’s highest- paid players. (AJC, 7/30/2008)

Now, we don’t know exactly what the Braves offered Teixeira, but “one of the game’s highest-paid players” is an empty PR statement that we all should ignore. A deal that averages what he turned down from the Rangers—$144 million over eight years, which translates to $18 million per year—would have made him sixth-highest paid players in baseball. The Braves had to be aware that a similar offer wouldn’t get the job done. This is also significantly less than the $20+ million/year deal that he is currently seeking. I estimated that he would be worth $24 million per year in a six year deal.

If the Braves offered him $19 million per year, that would fit with the Braves’ deficits in offers to Sheffield and Drew. That’s a lot of money, and it’s hard for anyone to sympathize with a player who receives a salary of that magnitude. However, someone will be reaping the financial returns of his good play. Is it so wrong that a player wants the revenue he is generating, especially after he played baseball for six years for a salary that was far below what he was generating in income to club that owns his rights? If you favor limiting player salaries because they are too high, then you need to ask yourself why you favor making owners, who are far wealthier than players, even richer.

Tim Hudson

The only player in the group whom the Braves have held onto is Tim Hudson. One factor that may have swayed Hudson, was his connection to the area. He grew up in nearby Columbus, Georgia, where he followed the Braves. J.D. Drew grew up in Valdosta, Georgia, but Valdosta is a solid four hours from Atlanta, and could easily secede to Florida and no one would notice. Tex went to Georgia Tech; but so did my sister, and she lives in San Francisco. As far as I know, Gary Sheffield doesn’t much like anything, and I suspect he doesn’t care much about geography. It seems that the hometown discount was the deciding factor…or was it?

The Braves signed Hudson to a four-year $47 million extension, which averages out to $11.75 million per year. Since that time he has been worth about $10.5 million per year in revenue, according to my estimates that are based on his play on the field. The estimates take into account both the growth in league revenue and playing time.

Why didn’t the Braves sign these players?

The reason that a team negotiates a contract before it is up is to take advantage of a player’s willingness to forgo risk. Most humans will sacrifice a higher probabilistic income for a guaranteed lower income. The Braves used this tendency to sign Brian McCann to a long-term contract that bought out years of potentially high-salary arbitration awards and free agency. Why didn’t this strategy work with three of the four players who turned the Braves down?

I believe the answer is because these players share two important characteristics: they were already quite wealthy, and they were close to becoming free agents. Gary Sheffield had accrued $93 million in salary from his baseball employers. J.D. Drew had received $17 million. Mark Teixeira will have banked $35 million before he hits the free agent market this offseason. By comparison, McCann’s $750,000 signing bonus and approximately $500,000 in major-league salary that McCann had received over the previous 1.5 seasons made him a pauper. What if he was seriously injured in a play at the plate in 2007? $1.25 million isn’t chump change, but it’s nothing compared to what he could expect to receive in the future and he’s not set for life.

The problem is that the Braves went after these players too late. These guys were already wealthy, and didn’t mind bearing a little risk in order to make a good bit more money during free agency, which was just around the corner. And for all three players it looks to have been the smart move—Teixeira’s fate is still uncertain, but he’s probably only improved his market value this season.

But what about Tim Hudson? Yes, he signed the contract; however, it seems that the Braves offered him his free-agent market value. No deal. If anything, the Braves overpaid Hudson despite the fact that Hudson has been a good pitcher (I like Hudson).

In conclusion, if the Braves have been actively trading for soon-to-be free agents in order to obtain an exclusive negotiating window, it hasn’t worked. The reasons why the strategy has failed are that players reached a point in their careers where they were willing to take on a little risk to shoot for a high return.

I grant that it is easy to criticize these deals in hindsight, and I admit that this problem wasn’t easy to spot at the time that these deals were being discussed. However, the experiences should serve as a lesson for all organizations why an exclusive negotiating window just before free agency isn’t all that valuable.

Is Hank Aaron Leaving Atlanta for Chicago?

John Manasso writes on Hank Aaron’s role in Sports Properties Acquisitions Corp (SPAC), which is one of the final groups bidding to purchase the Chicago Cubs. The story was originally written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, but Sporting News Today also picked up the story, which you can read here for free as long as you register.

It’s hard to imagine the Braves without Hank Aaron, but it is a very real possibility. At the end of the story, I comment on Aaron’s potential role in the deal, as well as discuss why the Cubs and Wrigley Field are being sold separately.

Clearing Some Things Up

My previous post on rebuilding the Braves has caused a bit of a stir. I want to clarify a few things.

— I do not think the Braves are in for a long rebuilding process. I suggest trading away players who may not be around for the long-term. I did not suggest trading away Yunel Escobar nor Jair Jurrjens because they are under the Braves control for five more years. As a fan, I sure hope, and expect, that the Braves will be competitive before these guys hit free agency. In fact, I wouldn’t be opposed to the team signing long-term deals with these players as the team did with Brian McCann.

The point is that if 2009 is lost—and I think it is—then go ahead and lose. Certainly, I don’t want the players on the team to give up. I think that a group of players who are scrapping for respect is a good story. And who knows? If some young prospects and veteran castoffs put together a good season, the team could make things exciting. Then you have the opportunity to make some in-season trades to improve the team in the present. I think building for 2010 and beyond, even if that means losing more in 2009, is the quickest way for the Braves to become competitive again.

— I agree that Kelly Johnson and Casey Kotchman are valuable major league players, and both individuals have opportunities to grow into better players. The fact that they are still controlled by the team that owns their rights for three more years means that they are good players to have on your roster. I get this. It is for this reason that I suggested that they be traded. The Braves can capture some of that value by trading them to new teams that will compensate the Braves for that value. Keeping them around to struggle to .500 doesn’t help much.

Below is a diagram of the relationship of revenue to wins from 2002–2004. (I have some more recent data on my other computer, and it looks similar. Also, I converted all revenue estimates into 2004 equivalents.)

Wins and Revenue

Wins are more valuable for teams that win more games, this means that there are gains from trading players who will have more value on winning clubs. Rather than win more games next season, I suggest the Braves forgo some of these wins in 2009 (which better teams will value more than the braves) for more wins in the future.

— I’m not completely opposed to signing free agents who will help in the long term. For example, San Francisco got a bargain by signing Aaron Rowand to a five-year deal. If the Braves have the opportunity to sign a free agent for a salary less than his marginal revenue product during this offseason, then I am all for it.

— A few posters at David O”Brien’s blog picked up my post, and here is what DOB had to say.

not being critical of the article or the view expressed, just letting you know: It’s not going to happen. Braves aren’t going to approach 2009 like that, and if you’ve heard Wren’s comments about the subject you’d know what I mean. They believe they’ll contend by strengthening a few areas.

Just telling you how they’re approaching it, because they’re not viewing it the way that article proposed. At all.

I’m not surprised. I don’t claim to have all the knowledge relating to the situation, nor am I trying to predict what the Braves will do. I’m a Braves fan, and this is what I think would improve the team. Maybe Chipper is more valuable to the Braves than I think he is. Maybe the gains to winning a few more games for an average team are more than I estimate. Maybe the budget is going to balloon and the team is going to attempt to improve through free agency and trading prospects for proven veterans. I don’t work from the Braves, and I know that I’m not the most popular guy in the executive halls of Turner Field.

But, I do hope that members of the Braves front office are not deluding themselves into thinking that there is a high probability that this team makes the playoffs next year by adding a few free agents. This team needs more than that. I’d rather see the Braves take a shot at retooling for 2010 and beyond than adding pieces for a run in 2009.

Addendum: I wasn’t clear enough in my discussion of Mark Kotsay. I don’t think the Braves should make signing him a priority at all. If he wants to give the Braves a discount to play everyday—something that I heard mentioned as recently as last night—then it might make sense to let him man the position instead of Gregor Blanco or Brandon Jones. I believe Blanco and Jones are marginal major league players who have value as back-up outfielders. If another team wants to trade the Braves something of value for them, Kotsay might possibly be the cheaper placeholder. But as a practical matter, I’m not sure they would bring much in return. There is nothing inherently wrong with signing free agents or trading away prospects. My point was that the decision to sign Kotsay depends on what the Braves can get for him or his potential replacements.

Looking Ahead

A common question I’m getting these days is “what should the Braves do now?” Until recently, I was hesitant to give a concrete answer, but I think my reluctance to comment was more a product of the fear of knowing the answer rather than not knowing. So, today I’ll offer up my plan for the future: the future is rebuilding.

When Tim Hudson went down 2009 was lost completely. The starting rotation next year looks like Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campillo, Charlie Morton, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Chuck James. Jurrjens looks to be good, Campillo has been surprising and could continue to pitch well (shame on the Mariners for not finding him some more innings), but the latter three are not dependable yet. What about help in the minors? Possibly, there is some help on the way, but I don’t think it’s good policy to count on players who are still in the minors for the following season. In fact, having prospects who are in single and double-A is more of a reason to sacrifice 2009 for 2010 and beyond. If Hudson would be there to anchor the rotation, I might be a bit more optimistic. But for the Braves to contend in 2009 with this pitching line-up, everything is going to have to break for the best. That’s not a good guide for planning.

On the hitting side, Chipper Jones continues to be one of the best sluggers in the majors, despite being injury prone. Brian McCann couldn’t play much better than he has. Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson are above-average hitters for middle-infielders. Casey Kotchman is serviceable, but not spectacular, at first base. The outfield is a complete disaster, and there is no help close on the farm—please, don’t count on Jason Heyward or Jordan Schafer just yet.

The Braves supposedly will have some money to spend on free agents, but even if the Braves could afford three top free agents like CC Sabathia, Pat Burrell, and Adam Dunn, this team still most likely misses the playoffs next year. And Chipper Jones will be a free agent after 2010, who will need to be replaced.

If everything breaks just right, it’s possible that the Braves could make a playoff run. But, it’s more likely that the team falls short, and ends up with a group of good expensive players without the supporting cast to push them over the top. So, what should the Braves do?

I think the Braves should trade the following players.

Chipper Jones: The Braves have an option on Chipper’s contract for next year for between $8–$11 million, that will vest when Chipper gets 450 PAs. Chipper has 10-5 rights, which means he must approve any trade. I think Chipper would be willing to play for another team that has a chance to win (a source has told me that this is the case). And if the Braves are rebuilding, I don’t think he’ll miss being part of the process. Sure, some fans will miss him, but it’s not like the organization heavily promotes him now. Chipper will go into the Hall of Fame as a Brave, that is settled. And the fact that his bat can net prospects that can help the team rebuild is an asset that the Braves shouldn’t waste. for nostalgia. Maybe Chipper doesn’t want to go anywhere, and I would miss seeing him in Atlanta, but I will not be shocked if he is traded. It is the smart move. His contract is affordable, and he should bring some decent prospects in return.

Kelly Johnson: I like KJ. He’s an affordable player who will become arbitration-eligible after this season. The fact that he is controlled for the next three years is what makes him valuable. If the Braves are contenders again in two years, he’s not going to be so cheap. I think the Braves should cash in his value, similar to what the A’s did with Nick Swisher last season. There is nothing flashing about Kelly. He’s an everyday second baseman with average defense and he is an average hitter—he would be an asset on most teams. Plus, if Bobby Cox likes Martin Prado so much, why not let him play some more?

Casey Kotchman: There is nothing special about Kotchman. He’s pretty bland, but he’s the type of player that many teams need to fill a hole. He’s cheap like Kelly Johnson. The Braves don’t need him, so I say move him if you can.

Omar Infante: He’ll be a free agent after next season. I see no reason to hold onto him if another team is willing to take him. He’s coming off his best season, so maybe he can snag an OK prospect.

Here are a few other questions that I’ve heard.

Should the Braves Jeff Francoeur? I don’t subscribe to the notion that bad players should be traded. He is better than his numbers, but that’s not saying much. On nearly every other team in the majors, he would have spent most of this season in the minors. The team rushed him and ruined any chance they had of fixing his obvious deficiencies. The Braves made him a piece of their marketing campaign—and the team should have known better—and that is a difficult thing to take back. If his reputation keeps the turnstiles rolling and a Delta sign over the 755 Club, go with it. At this point, I think the ship has sailed on making improvements that would turn him into a good player. I am curious to see what his arbitration award will be this season, but he’s going to be cheap. No team values Francoeur more than the Braves do, and thus I don’t think there are gains from a trade. He is where is services are valued the most.

Should the Braves sign Mark Kotsay as a free agent? It depends on what he wants. There is nothing spectacular about the guy. And it might make more sense to hold on to Kotsay and trade away Brandon Jones or Gregor Blanco. I suspect he’ll get a better offer from another team and move on. Players always say how much they like playing here before they take the biggest contract. I don’t blame any of them, I just don’t buy cheap talk.

What about preserving excitement? The Braves have missed the playoffs three years in a row. Is there much excitement about this team? The atmosphere surrounding the team is stale, and I think we could all use a change. Fans may prefer some buzz about a group of young players just on the cusp of success…that is, as long as the Braves don’t anoint a particular player as a star prematurely (see Jeff Francoeur).

So, there you have it.

So, You Think the Braves Are Going to Trade Jeff Francoeur?

Think again.

From the Atlanta Braves website.

Braves v. Cubs Ad
(Click on the image for full-size view.)

You read that right. “Jeff Francoeur and the Braves take on Alfonso Soriano and the Chicago Cubs” on August 12, 2008. That’s a right fielder with a .633 OPS versus a six-time All-Star.


RIP: Skip Caray

I am sorry to learn of Skip Caray’s death. Skip was always my favorite announcer. His irreverent humor and unbiased game-calling have no equal. Yes, he pulled for the Braves, but he would make it known when the Braves benefited from a bad call.

My favorite Skip moment happened about ten years ago. There was a ball that went right by the infielder—maybe it even went through his legs—but the official scorer ruled it a hit. It was a hard-hit ball, but it was a ball that major-league players are expected to make. It should have been an error. Skip was incensed. He complained about the call for the remainder of the half-inning. After the commercial break, Pete Van Wierin (I think) was the only man in the booth, and you could hear laughter in the background. He said something like, “Skip’s not back yet, he’s gone to talk to the scorer.” They then showed video through the window of the scorers office showing Skip poised like a fielder with his hands down.

When he returned to the booth, Skip gave a brief account of the discussion, and he was clearly not happy. I don’t remember exactly what he said, except for his last line: “we did not part friends.”

I’ll miss you Skip.

Did the Braves Overvalue Ohman?

I was surprised yesterday when the trade deadline passed and Will Ohman was still a part of the Braves. Ohman is a lefty specialist capable of throwing a lot of innings, and he’ll be a free agent after this season. He’s a good candidate for deadline deal. So why wasn’t he moved? According to General Manager Frank Wren, the available offers were not sufficient to compensate for his worth to the Braves.

Wren said the Braves planned to keep Ohman for the rest of the season after getting trade offers for the veteran left-hander that included only fringe prospects.

Ohman is projected to be a Type B free agent who would bring the Braves a “sandwich” draft pick — somewhere between the 30th and 45th overall selections in the June draft — as compensation from any team that signed him this winter.

Wren said it would have taken a solid prospect in an offer for Ohman to make it worth giving up that draft pick. Asked if that meant they wouldn’t consider trying to re-sign Ohman as a free agent, Wren said no, the Braves hadn’t ruled out that possibility.

Ohman is worth his services for the rest of this season and a probabilistic draft pick. Ohman’s performance could be worth three potential levels of compensation in next season’s draft. Here’s a primer by Keith Law, and a non-gated summary by Tim Dierkes. If Ohman is considered to be Type A free agent—in the top 20 percent of major league relief pitchers—he’ll garner a first-round pick and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds when signed by another organization. If he is a Type B free agent—in the second quintile of relievers—he’ll produce a sandwich pick only. If he’s not in the top 40 percent, the Braves will receive no compensation if he signs with another team. Though Ohman has pitched well this season, there is still time for things to go very wrong. Relievers’ performance statistics can move quickly as a result of their limited playing time.

Draft picks are nice, but I’m not sure if the Braves have them valued right, and it’s not because I’ve conducted an extensive study on the value of draft picks. Any team that acquired Ohman would also have acquired the right to the same draft picks; therefore, any acquiring team would value Ohman for this season’s performance plus the probabilistic picks. It is likely that any acquiring team would be a contender—a team whose winning increases its chance of reaching the riches of the post-season. The Braves have no shot at those riches, and will probably not see similar returns to Ohman’s performance. This points to an asymmetric valuation of picks.

If the Braves valued Ohman more than the offers that the team received, than the team must value the draft picks more than any other team. And this leads to the next question: have the Braves overvalued those picks? Several teams apparently think so, and this is a bit disconcerting.

Maybe the Braves are right and the rest of the league is wrong? I doubt it. All organizations are aware of the value of draft picks. Some may be better than others, but in this area I don’t consider the Braves to be the best.

However, another possible explanations doesn’t require different valuations by teams. Maybe the market suffers from some inefficiency. In this case, we had a few contenders vying for a few players. Each team has bundles of prospects that may or may not suit a trading partner. Teams are limited in the types of compensation they can use—straight trades of draft picks are disallowed and pure cash transfers are normally frowned upon by the league. Plus, we have the transactions costs of making this deal. The Braves potential trading partners were negotiating many complicated transactions. Devoting organizational resources for bullpen help isn’t that high a priority when you’re chasing Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay. In a 29 team auction for Ohman’s services with no other distraction, I suspect he gets moved.

I think the latter reason largely explains why no deal went down. The moderate inefficiencies of the free agent market also make me wary of using free agent market valuations the preferred method for estimating player marginal revenue products. This method is useful, and I use it on occasion; but, I do worry about the barriers to exchange in this market.

Did the Braves value Will Ohman? I think that’s part of the explanation, but we really shouldn’t be surprised the deal didn’t go down. A bigger puzzle is why the Reds held on to Adam Dunn.

Addendum: Tim Dierkes points to the work of Eddie Bajek on attempting to reverse-engineer the Elias rankings. Interesting stuff.

Tex for Kotchman and Marek

When I heard that the Braves had traded Mark Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek my first thought was, “that sounds about right.” And, upon further reflection, I still think that. Teixeira is an excellent player—no matter what DOB says—but he’s only controlled by his team through the end of the season. Teams just aren’t going to give up a lot for a near-term upgrade.

Kotchman looks to be a decent but frustrating player. In fact, this season looks quite similar to Jeff Francoeur‘s 2007. And fortunately for the Braves, a good season for Jeffy is a down season for Kotchman. Kotchman really doesn’t have the bat to be a good first basemen, but he’ll do. Could he develop into something more? Possibly, but I doubt it. He’s better than any other internal options that the Braves have. Please, don’t mention Freddie Freeman or Jason Heyward; they’re in low-A ball. And while we’re on the subjects of prospect hype, Jordan Schafer is stinking up the joint in Mississippi.

Marek is on the path to being a major-league reliever. His stats are good, but relievers are difficult to judge. I think he’ll be useful, and he has a chance to have a few good years in him.

In summary, I think Frank Wren got about all he could in the deal. First base is taken care of for a few years, but you won’t feel bad moving him if something better comes along. Also, you get some potential cheap relief help, which is always nice to have. I expect that the Braves will sign a free agent or two in the offseason. If Tim Hudson needs UCL replacement, then the Braves will have to go after a good starting pitcher if they want to compete next year.

Think of Mark Teixeira’s year with the Braves as a Whitman’s Sampler of chocolates. Though it’s good, the Braves ate most of it. A sour quince log and a dark chocolate rum cherry just isn’t going to get you much.

Thoughts on Teixeira

With Mark Teixeira‘s days with the Braves likely being numbered, I thought I’d make a few comments about him. I’m a huge fan, and I think he is a fantastic all-around player. His career line of .285/.372/.534 is quite good. And even though his performance was aided by the friendly hitting environment of Arlington, his career OPS+ is a robust 131. As a defender, he is outstanding. He’s won two Gold Gloves and Plus/Minus ranks him as the fourth best first-basemen this season.

He is the type of player you build a team around. I do wish the Braves could hold onto him, but it makes sense to trade him to a contender now. If the Braves want him back, the team should sign him as a free agent. While this scenario is unlikely, I do not think it is that far out of the realm of possibility. Of course, the Braves aren’t telling the media that they have some interest in him as a free agent. The team will need to replace Tex’s offense if it wants to contend next year, and there don’t seem to be many other internal alternatives. Maybe the front office doesn’t have the stomach or the budget to sign Tex, but if you are going to sign a player to a big contract, this is the right player to sign to a long-term deal.

First, let me comment on what I think it will take to sign Tex. Before the season started, I estimated that Tex would get a $26.8 million/year in a six-year deal. This estimate accounts for his previous play, park effects, aging, and the expected rise in salaries (which should NOT be called “inflation”: an increase in the price-level of the economy). I have since revised that estimate to $24.4 million. Tex is going to get paid a lot of money for two reasons. 1) He is an excellent baseball player. 2) Baseball revenues will continue to grow, which raises the marginal revenue products of all its players. In six years, $20 million won’t seem to be as exceptional as it seems today. If the Braves don’t want in on this, fine; but, that means there are going to be many other free agents out there that the Braves will also avoid.

Second, I would like to address the argument that Tex is not clutch. David O’Brien of the AJC made this case the other day.

Is Teixeira, with his Gold Glove-level defense and likely .290-30-120 to .310-45-130 offensive range for many years to come, worth $20 mill a season? I’d say only to a team that has a huge payroll, at least $150 mill or so. Not to a team with a $100 mill payroll, because while he piles up stats, he’s not a player, at least from what I’ve seen, who puts a team on his back and delivers big hits when the team needs it most….

Anyway, this isn’t to downplay his skills or output. Both are unquestionably big. He’s durable and piles up stats, year after year. But I know an impact offensive player, a player whose performance seems bigger than his numbers because he gets so many key hits. And I know the opposite.

These comments drew the ire of Fire Joe Morgan. DOB, who was a good sport about the fisking, later responded in his blog with a few numbers of his own.

That was outstanding. Beautifully done, and well-though out, I might add.

Fortunately for me, the vast majority of our readers — you know, actual Braves fans who watch most of the games — agree more with my assessment of the situation than you and your bud who wrote that post. But it was a beaut. I feel honored to have incited that response.

By the way, speaking of well-though out, you said the last few games you’ve watched, Tex has carried the team. Really? Then I gotta ask, do you watch more than one game a week?

Here’s what Braves have done in last 10 — repeat, TEN — games, and what Tex has done. You tell me who carried them to what in that span.

— July 7, 3-0 loss to Dodgers (Tex 1-for-3)

— July 8, 9-3 win vs. Dodgers (Tex 1-for-5, HR, 1 RBI; McCann 2-for-5, 2 HRs, 2 RBI).

— July 9, 2-1 loss to Dodgers (Tex 0-for-3, no RBI).

— July 11, 4-0 loss to Padres (Tex 0-for-4).

— July 12, 4-1 win vs. Padres (Tex 1-for-4, no RBI; Chipper 3-for-4, Fracouer 2-for-4, 2 RBI).

— July 13, 12-3 win vs. Padres (Tex 2-for-5, 2 RBI; McCann 3-for-3, HR, 3 RBI; Lillibridge 3-for-5, 2 RBI).

— July 18, 7-6 win vs. Nats (Tex 1-for-2, no RBI; McCann 1-for-4, 3 RBI; Lillibridge 2-for-4, 2 RBI).

— July 19, 8-2 loss to Nats (Tex 1-for-3, no RBI; Chipper 1 RBI; Norton 1 RBI).

— July 20, 15-6 loss to Nats (Tex 3-for-4, 2 HRs, 3 RBI).

— July 21, 4-0 win vs. Marlins (2-for-4, 1 RBI; Kotsay 2-for-4, 1 RBI; Chipper 1 RBI, Prado 1-for-1, 1 RBI; Campillo and two relievers, two-hit shutout).

Now, Braves Fan in Tn., I’m not suggesting you don’t watch many or any games, but if, as you say, Tex carried the team in the last few games you’ve watched, how long a span do we have to go back to get those “few games?”

Well-though out, indeed.

You know, I’ve been following the Braves just like most Braves fans, and I have quite the opposite view. And the stats don’t support DOB’s contention.

In those ten games, Tex posted a line of .324/.390/.703. This season, here is how he has performed in some measures of “clutch situations.”

Split 		OPS 
2 outs, RISP 	0.897 
Late & Close 	1.192 
Tie Game 	0.752 
Within 1 Run 	0.879 
Within 2 Run 	0.856 
Within 3 Run 	0.886 
Within 4 Run 	0.901 
Margin > 4 R	0.830

For his career, his numbers look like this.

Split 		OPS 
2 outs, RISP	1.067
Late & Close	0.915
Tie Game	0.896
Within 1 Run	0.881
Within 2 Run	0.893
Within 3 Run	0.885
Within 4 Run	0.895
Margin > 4 R	0.972

I watch the games too, but the differences in performance are so small that it is easy to gain false perceptions about players just from watching and remembering. The only way to see the difference is in the numbers.

Don’t think that I am arguing that Tex is clutch: I don’t believe in clutch-hitting as a true talent. My point is that I don’t think any team ought to be scared away by a lack of clutch ability. He’s a good hitting in all situations. And even if he is a little worse when the pressure is on, he’s still better than most options on the manager’s bench. I made these comments on his blog, but I got no response.

To the fans of the team that wins the Teixeira sweepstakes, I urge you to welcome him with open arms.

Intervention Time

After Marlins pitcher Rick VandenHurk walked the bases loaded in the fourth inning of last night’s game, Jeff Francoeur proceeded to swing at the first four pitches he saw—all of which were high.

Four swinging strikes

The problem isn’t the ugly strikeout, but the fact that he doesn’t seem to recognize that he has a problem. Here is his second inning plate appearance, which was preceded by a four-pitch walk to Brian McCann.

More of the same

Notice the pattern? VandenHurk, who was called up from the minors to start the game, had no problem picking up Francoeur’s weakness for for high cheese in this at-bat and exploiting it during their next confrontation.

On Saturday, Francoeur commented on his progress owards ending his slump.

“With my first home game back, I think I was trying to do too much,” the 24-year-old said after the 7-6 victory. “But I feel good. My swing is back where I want it. I’ll be OK.”

This has gone far enough. Francoeur may have had some bad luck this season, but right now his poor performance is the product of a flawed approach. The kid obviously has serious problems that he refuses to acknowledge. I’m not sure what Frank Wren’s options are, but, at the minimum, Francoeur needs to be removed from his everyday starting role. He’s not going to right himself when he doesn’t believe there is a problem.