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Colby Wilson’s Atlanta Braves Report: A future that looks like someone else’s present


Written by Colby Wilson

Clarksville, TN – Christ.

The Washington Nationals delivered a resounding beating to the Braves over the weekend that included all the things that inhabit Joe Simpson’s nightmares. Bryce Harper hitting two home runs. Bryce Harper hitting a walk-off. Bryce Harper being happy. Not the best of times.

In a season such as this, it’s not the journey that matters – blah baseball is going to be blah baseball regardless and even Don Sutton and Jim Powell are already taking shots at the Eric Young Jr.’s of the roster because really, if you had to choose, would you rather watch him or Mallex Smith? Phil Gosselin or Jose Peraza? Chris Johnson or Rio Ruiz? Whatever… we’ll get to them in 2016.

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

More pressing and distressing at the moment is that the Braves future is miles behind the already-finished product that is Washington.

Amongst the stable of prospects Atlanta spent the offseason acquiring is a lot of talent with a glass ceiling – a lot of people that grade out as good-to-very good if everything works out perfectly. Love him or hate him, Harper is a transcendent talent; same goes for Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg.

Those guys are young (Strasburg is the oldest, and he’ll be just 27 in July) and Washington is going to move heaven and earth to see to it that those three spend their respective primes in the Beltway. Given that the reprehensible Scott Boras represents all three, that may literally be true.

Add to that, the Nationals throw money around. Take it from Max Scherzer. And Jayson Werth. And Ryan Zimmerman. The Nats are players every offseason on some major free-agent and oh God, what if they go after Jason Heyward this winter, I don’t think I would be able to recover. They invest in the club to make the team better.

They also invest smartly; look at the names in the previous paragraph. The Frank Wren era left me a bit gun-shy on the concept of building through free-agency, and with Liberty Media grasping the purse strings ever-so-tightly, the Braves continue to operate in the tier below the top-level of free-agency spending anyway.

It’s the sort of overpaying for a name that might pay off that leads people to hand out big contracts to Melvin B.J. Leviticus Upton III of Wellington – as though ANYONE could be that stupid. John Hart is no Frank Wren (and thank goodness), but he’s monetarily trapped by the same constraints that proved too much of a hill for Franklin E. Wren to climb.

So that team is not going away unless the people in charge insist on mismanaging the Lerner’s money to a degree that would make James Dolan blush (fingers crossed). I like a lot of what Atlanta brought in this year – particularly getting rid of both Upton’s, even if it did cost Craig Kimbrel in the process – but nothing that happened this offseason heralded a home run.

Mike Foltynewicz looks good, particularly that glorious mustache. We’ve heard good things about Matt Wisler. Ruiz, Smith, the Peterson boys and Ricardo Sanchez are much-adored by people whose business it is to project such things but nothing is guaranteed. It’s a smarter gamble than going to war with the Upton’s, but it’s a gamble nonetheless.

What to Read

Poor Mike Minor. He needs shoulder surgery and his season – and most likely Braves career, since he’s a free agent – is done. So much promise, and it’s likely he’ll never be quite the same. The terms ‘exploratory surgery’ are typically followed by ‘torn labrum’, at which point pitching careers go straight in the toilet for even the best hurlers.

For every Chris Carpenter, there is Brandon Webb. Godspeed Mr. Minor and once again, I blame Fredi. Read a couple of things about that kind of surgery here and here.

Stat o’ the Week

We talk a lot in these parts about FIP and xFIP – fielding-independent numbers designed to display a pitcher’s skill level in a better manner than ERA. Skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) goes it one better by incorporating balls in play, adjusting for park factors, to determine why certain pitchers are more apt (as fly ball or ground ball pitchers, depending on park) to maintain a consistent level of success. Just read the Fangraphs definition.

Anyway, I bring that up because the Braves, as a unit, posted the majors 12th-best SIERA in 2014 (3.60) and have seen that mark crater to 23rd (4.14) this season. Since last year’s FIP (3.47, fourth) was better and this year’s is worse (4.42, 26th), it suggests that this team, when it is hit, is getting hit harder.

If you only catch one game of the Marlins series, make it…

Julio Teheran is starting to worry me. David O’ Brien’s piece earlier in the week on JT’s struggles no doubt resonated with those who watch him on a consistent basis; he doesn’t look like the same guy. He gets the Friday night start against the Fish at Jeffrey Loria’s Carnival Funhouse.

Complementary Old-Timey Baseball Quote

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore” – Yogi Berra (apropos for today’s Braves and happy 90th, Yogi)

Best Performance by a former Brave last week

Jason Heyward hit .409 and scored eight runs last week. He even had an OPS close to 1.000. That’s nice. Did I mention Shelby Miller has been HISTORICALLY good through the first handful of starts in his Braves career? I think that should be mentioned.




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