Morning Chop: A Summary of Atlanta Braves’ News
Half-full, half-empty: Brian McCann
After playing through a bad shoulder in 2012 and struggling through the worst season of his career, Brian McCann had surgery in the offseason, returning to the Atlanta Braves lineup in early May and producing a typically solid season, even making the All-Star team for the seventh time. He hit .256/.336/.461 with 20 home runs in 356 at-bats.
McCann enters free agency as a prized commodity — a left-handed-hitting catcher with power and leadership skills (and he definitely plays the game the right way). The Braves have Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt, and with McCann expected to receive something in the range of five years and $90 million, they’ll likely let him depart — perhaps to the Red Sox or Yankees.
McCann has seven 20-homer seasons; only six catchers have had more (Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk and Jorge Posada). He is entering his age-30 season, so he’s young enough to produce several more and actually had the best home run ratio of his career with one every 17.8 at-bats in 2013. Particularly appealing is his ability to hit right-handed pitching, with a .512 slugging percentage against them in 2013 and .495 for his career.
2013 NL Manager of the Year: Fredi Gonzalez Should Win Honors
The finalists have been announced in the National League Manager of the Year category for Major League Baseball’s end of the season awards. They are Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves. Each manager clearly did a great job getting their respective teams through the grueling regular season but Gonzalez is most deserving of this honor for 2013.
First of all it seems a bit ironic that two of the three finalists have had to deal with just as much slamming as they have praise for their managerial jobs this past season. I think it will probably be one of the two often slammed Gonzalez or Mattingly that will take the award but it should definitely go to Fredi. The Dodgers certainly owe Mattingly for the job he did but to be honest, a lot of that had to do with the right players catching on fire at the right time.
He deserves plenty of credit for managing the roster in a way that allowed the hot players to lead the team and I don’t pretend he doesn’t. However, Gonzalez just had more to overcome. He lost Jason Heyward twice, one of them at the end of the season with a broken jaw of all things. NL MVP candidate Freddie Freeman was down for a while at the start of the year as well.
Braving New Territory: Defending WAR
Here are some common misconceptions and why they’re misconceptions:
- “I watch a lot of Braves games …” – I bet you do, but even if you do, you only see 6-19 games of a certain opposing player. And American League players are seen even less. For NL East players, I’m guessing you can rank defensive players pretty well. The rest of baseball, though? I’m more skeptical, even of myself. You just don’t get a great point of comparison, and being “good” is relative to your peers.
- “I’ve been watching for years …” – Again, I bet you have. But memories tend to fade, and you tend to remember things you want to remember – good or bad. You’ll have to forgive me for not just taking your word for it.
- “I know what good defense is …” – Aaaagain, I bet you do. But again, we’re differentiating between the best in the world. People often talk about the shift in offensive environments, but they tend to forget that defensive players are probably better now than they ever were. The defensive talent level fluctuates position-by-position just like anything else. Chances are that you can’t detect those differences.
- “Player A would have made that play.” – Just stop. Chances are that you’re talking out of the place where the sun don’t shine. For one, you didn’t see where the player started because the TV just doesn’t show that, and for two, I doubt you can remember a batted ball speed and exact placement for each player. Sure, you have a decent idea, and guys like Andrelton Simmons make it more obvious because they are simply the extreme. But you really can’t say this with any sort of certainty.
Brian McCann goes to bat for cancer research with Rally Foundation
ATLANTA — Where Brian McCann might end up as a free agent was on the minds of many of those who came to Coolray Field on Saturday to benefit the Rally Foundation for childhood cancer research.
For McCann, though, it was a time to put aside where he might be playing in the future for a cause that is so dear to himself and wife Ashley, also a Duluth graduate.
“Today’s all about the kids,” the seven-time all-star catcher said.
McCann slugged a homer his first time up in the celebrity softball game, but the biggest cheer of the day came when he helped a young cancer patient swing the bat and then carried the child around the bases.
It was the sixth year for the event and the third time it was held at the home of the Gwinnett Braves. The temperature was on the cool side and clouds dominated the skies, but that didn’t damper spirits.
“It keeps getting bigger and better each year,” McCann said of the event. “We’re raising awareness for a great cause.”
The McCanns welcomed a son, Colt, in 2012 and a daughter, Colby, in September. That has made the Rally Foundation even more important to them.
“Now that we have kids we get that feeling of what some of these parents must go through,” McCann said. “It’s touching to feel connected with these kids and these parents.”
Atlanta Braves teammates Freddie Freeman and Kris Medlen joined McCann at the Rally Foundation event and took part in the softball game. Joining them were New York Mets rookie pitcher Zach Wheeler and top Braves prospect Lucas Sims, as well numerous former players and athletes in other sports.
East Notes: Braves, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Red Sox
Matt Eddy at Baseball America has a nice writeup on recent minor league transactions, noting that the Braves use various pro scouting channels to amass cheap bullpen talent. Recent additions to the team’s 40-man roster include 29-year-old Wirfin Obispo, who was signed as a minor league free agent in 2012 and reaches the upper 90s with his fastball. The Braves also added lefty Ryan Buchter, whom they acquired in 2011 in a trade for another minor league arm. Buchter, 26, was one of just four pure relievers in the minor leagues in 2013 to record 100 strikeouts.