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As cited by Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post, Fredi Gonzalez and two other coaches have been fired by the Florida Marlins.
The reason this has significance for the Braves, is that many see Gonzalez as a likely candidate to succeed Bobby Cox as manager next season. The Marlins firing him makes him an even more likely candidate. For four seasons prior to being hired by the Marlins after the 2006 season, Gonzalez served as the third base coach for the Braves. In addition to coaching third, Gonzalez also managed the then triple-A affiliate Richmond Braves for a season in 2002. He is liked within the franchise.
I’ll have a piece speaking about my personal feelings on the possibility of Gonzalez becoming the next Atlanta Braves manager. Frankly, I am not a big fan of his managerial decisions. Having seen the Braves play the Marlins and seen questionable bullpen management and in game strategies, I do believe there are better options.
With the surplus of arms the Braves have in the minors, it is no surprise that both members chosen to represent the Braves in the futures game are pitchers. Mike Minor was the Braves first round selection last year and Julio Teheran was one of the top international prospects when he was signed in 2007.
Some questioned Minor’s overall talent and projectability when he was drafted. Many saw him as a third starter with limited strike out ability. The southpaw has changed his perception for the better this season, as he has struck out 101 batters in 80 innings at double-A Mississippi. Expected to be a control pitcher, his strikeout total is as surprising as his walk total. His 33 walks are not an impressive number, but if he continues to strike batters out at this pace it becomes more acceptable. Minor will pitch for Team USA.
Minor’s stats: 2-6, 4.16 ERA, 80 IP, 101 K, 33 BB, 1.23 WHIP
Julio Teheran is seriously coming into his own as a 19-year-old. Coming off of a season in which his ERA was 3.65 in 14 starts, he has pitched to a 1.26 ERA in 13 so far this season between low-A Rome and high-A Myrtle Beach. Teheran has been absolutely dominant this year, striking out 10.8 batters per nine, and 11.3 in his six outings at Myrtle Beach. His 7.00 K/BB ratio is unfathomable and by the end of the year there is a very good chance of him being a top-10 prospect in all of baseball. Teheran will pitch for the International Team.
Teheran’s stats: 5-3, 1.26 ERA, 78.1 IP, 94 K, 17 BB, 0.90 WHIP
If you haven’t seen Minor or Teheran pitch live or on video yet, be sure to catch them on the futures game live on July 7 at 6 pm EST.
The rosters for both teams can be found here.
In 158 plate appearances since moving to the leadoff spot, Martin Prado has a line of .378/.410/.534. Every one of those numbers leads the league (with a minimum of 75 leadoff plate appearances). The next highest leadoff average comes from Ichiro, at .341. That’s a difference of .037 points, and Ichiro is known for having possibly the best bat control in baseball since Tony Gwynn. The next highest OBP comes from Ichiro as well, who has walked 17 more times than Prado. The next highest SLG comes from the player Prado replaced at second base, Kelly Johnson, who already has 30 extra base hits.
Prado’s career numbers as a starter are .319/.363/.459. While those numbers aren’t quite the dominating stats he has as a leadoff hitter this season, they are very impressive to say the least. Having quickly glanced over them they remind me of one player instantaneously, Derek Jeter.
Derek Jeter’s career numbers are .316/.383/.458. So Jeter does gets on base a bit more, but the numbers are scarily similar outside of the .020 points in OBP.
But Back to Prado, he’s currently leading the league in batting average (.340), hits (100), and multi-hit games (33). Six of those multi-hit games have come in the Braves’ past seven, and for the month of June he is batting .390.
Martin is hardly your prototypical leadoff hitter, but he has responded well to the role since the Braves have put him there. They have had a great deal of first inning success and have went 25-10 since Martin has entered the first spot in the lineup. In addition to an astonishing record, the Braves haven’t lost a series with Martin batting first. This is absolutely not a coincidence, and while Jason Heyward moving up to the second spot has helped as well, Martin is the one who has seen his numbers jump drastically since changing spots.
By the way, vote for Prado for the all-star game.
Currently, Prado is projected to have 237 hits, get on base 284 times, hit 14 home runs, and hit 50 doubles. Those a pretty amazing numbers for a utility man turned starter, aren’t they?
The Atlanta Braves just took 2-of-3 from the Rays after taking 2-of-3 from the Twins, two division leaders in the better American League. This is one of the more impressive feats the Braves have accomplished in the past five years.
The Braves current record of 39-28 stands as the best record in the National League. In addition, their run differential of +61 stands as the best in the NL as well. Since their May 7-9 series loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves have not lost a series. That is 12 straight without a loss, impressive to say the least.
The Braves winning percentage of .722 since then also ranks as the best in baseball. The 26-10 record they have posted since that series is astonishing considering how mediocre the Braves looked up until then.
Who should be the fifth starter and who should be in the bullpen, Kris Medlen or Kenshin Kawakami?
Obviously, this is a question that needs an answer because Jair Jurrjens is coming back, and he is coming back soon. Jurrjens has two more rehab starts before he is set to come back off the DL if everything goes accordingly. With him coming off the DL, one of Kawakami or Medlen will have to be moved to the bullpen with Christhian Martinez or Craig Kimbrel being optioned to triple-A.
The argument goes deeper than simply who has pitched better as a starter. If that were the only factor, I think it would be easy to say Medlen should start as he has had much better results on the mound than Kenshin.
One factor is that Medlen is probably a better reliever as well, and with the Braves lacking experienced relievers in critical roles, Bobby would certainly rather go to Medlen in those situations than Kawakami.
Another factor is a potential innings limit. Medlen’s career high in innings came last year when he threw 120.1, and this year he is already half way there at 61.1. If he were to start the rest of the season, which would be about 19 outings, with an average of six innings per start, Medlen will have thrown 175 innings. That’s a pretty big increase. It would be even bigger if he averages more than six innings, and I’m not positive it is one that the Braves are willing to take on.
With that said, Kawakami, of course, hasn’t pitched nearly as bad as his 0-9 record would suggest. He’s pitched well as of late but overall for the year he has been a bit worse than a league average starter. You can live with that from your fifth starter, you don’t need five Tommy Hanson’s or C.C. Sabathia’s to get to the playoffs. Kenshin’s FIP and ERA are actually identical right now and by most modern standards, he has thrown the ball similarly to how he did last year.
The problem comes with Kris Medlen being much better than league average. Medlen strikes out more batters than Kenshin, walks less, lets much less batters on base, and lets less runs across. More or less, everything he does on the mound he does better than Kenshin.
This is what got me.
Kawakami does not do anything particularly well on the mound. He doesn’t get a great deal of ground balls. He doesn’t strike a great deal of batters out. He doesn’t avoid the walk as well as a lot of other starters. His split finger (3.8w) and curveball (2.2w) are solid pitches but his fastball has been awful (-8.8w) this year.
Medlen, on the other hand, has impeccable control, and outside of the game in Arizona against a home run hitting offense, he doesn’t allow many home runs. He throws his curveball (-0.3w) 9% of the time, and the fastball (2.5w) and changeup (3.8w) combination which are thrown the other 91% are both very effective pitches.
Simply put, this team would be much better off with Medlen in the rotation. His fastball and changeup combination are lethal and he can go through a lineup multiple times with success. With Kenshin’s limited skill set on the mound, I cannot say the same for him. Some games he has solid outings and gets out of trouble, but for the most part he gets hit rather hard when he is on the mound compared to Medlen.
With Kawakami in the bullpen, it could move Kimbrel into the role Medlen would have assumed. Medlen and Kimbrel manning the starting role and a middle relief option is better than Kawakami and Medlen in those two positions.
For the argument about the innings limit, if Medlen is put back into relief he will probably only throw at maximum 60 more innings. With Medlen obviously capable of being a starter in the majors, the long term goal should be to have him in the rotation. That should start next year and since he is vastly more inexpensive than Derek Lowe or Kawakami, one should be traded so that room is made for Kris. If he is to start next year, he will have ran into a similar problem in terms of innings. He will have to be limited due to throwing a low amount of innings the previous year compared to how many he would throw with 32 starts. Jair Jurrjens (+45 innings in ’08 from ’07), and Tommy Hanson (+65 innings in ’09 from ’08) saw big jumps as well, so hopefully the Braves realize that Medlen can tough through the increased amount of innings unscathed. Despite Jair seeing some injuries, I have trouble directing them towards an increased amount of innings from two seasons prior, although it is indeed a possibility.
Simply put, the Braves would be a better team now and for the future with Medlen in the rotation. He is a more well-rounded pitcher than Kawakami, and I have faith in that remaining the case for the long term.