Braves Bet on Regression to the Mean

With Spring Training approaching the Atlanta Braves claim to have put their historic 2011 collapse behind them. Unlike their brethren in collapse — the Boston Red Sox — the Braves made very few changes to the team or baseball organization in the wake of the collapse. Significant off-season transactions were limited to the firing of rookie hitting coach Larry Parrish, trading Derek Lowe to the Indians in a salary dump, and allowing shortstop Alex Gonzalez to leave as a free-agent and replacing him with Jack Wilson (and Tyler Pastornicky, as noted below).

The lack of moves by the Braves stands in contrast to the rest of the N.L. East where all of the other teams made major moves. The Marlins, Phillies, and Nationals all added major pieces through the free-agent market, while the Mets cut payroll and allowed Jose Reyes to move to the Marlins. While claiming to have an open mind about adding players later in the Spring, Braves GM Frank Wren seems to be betting that the Braves will be competitive without a major addition, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley:

If everyone bounces back, then we’ve got a good ballclub that doesn’t have a major need.

In essence, Wren is betting on regression to the mean. Hoping that players who struggled last year will revert to their normal performance level. In 2011 the Braves were generally quite good at preventing run, as there 605 runs allowed was second in the N.L. behind the Phillies. Scoring runs was the problem for the Braves, as they finished 10th in the N.L. with 641 runs scored. At what positions can the Braves expect increased offensive production this year?

As the table below demonstrates, six of the eight players projected to be regulars in 2012 underperformed their career wOBA in 2011. Freddie Freeman was a rookie in 2011 and projected starting shortstop Tyler Pastornicky has never played in MLB. This table suggests there is some reason for optimism about the Braves run production in 2012. Martin Prado was slowed by a staph infection and should be at full strength in 2012. A full season of Michael Bourn will be an improvement over Nate McLouth and Jordan Schafer. If Brian McCann can stay healthy, he should return to form. Dan Uggla’s 2011 was the worst season of his career, so is it not unreasonable to expect him to be better with the bat in 2012 (the glove is a different story). The biggest question mark though is Jason Heyward. If the 2010 version of Heyward shows up the Braves will have a competent if not powerful offense, however, if we see the 2011 Heyward a trip to AAA for Heyward would not be unwarranted and the Braves do not have another outfielder on the roster worthy of starting in an outfield corner.

Player Position 2011 wOBA Career wOBA
Brian McCann C 0.348 0.361
Freddie Freeman 1B 0.345 0.345
Dan Uggla 2B 0.331 0.355
Chipper Jones 3B 0.345 0.399
Martin Prado LF 0.296 0.337
Michael Bourn CF 0.305 0.322
Jason Heyward RF 0.314 0.350

On the flip side, at age 40, Chipper Jones is more likely to decline than to reach anything approaching his career norms. Freddie Freeman’s 2011 was on the high end of what was expected from him offensively, so it would likely be a mistake to count on a major breakout from him in 2012. By signing Jack Wilson to back up rookie Tyler Pastornicky, Wren is essentially punting the shortstop position from an offensive standpoint. Taken as a whole, the Braves offense is likely to improve in 2012, but still has major question marks at shortstop and in the outfield, especially considering that Martin Prado will be expected to play 30 – 40 games at third base in place of Chipper Jones.

Of course, regression to the mean works both ways. Taking a look at how Atlanta’s pitchers performed in 2011 suggests that the Braves may not be as good at run prevention in 2012. As the table below demonstrates, four Braves pitchers, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Jonny Venters, and Eric O’Flaherty had 2011 ERAs that were considerably lower than xFIP, which suggests that all four may regress this year. To be sure, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, and Tommy Hanson had higher ERAs than xFIP in 2011, but given the poor defensive infield that the Braves will have in 2012, it seems more likely that their pitchers will underperform than overperform their peripherals. In addition, Hudson, Hanson, and Jurrjens are all attempting to come back from moderately severe injuries.

Name 2011 ERA 2011 xFIP
Tim Hudson 3.22 3.49
Jair Jurrjens 2.96 4.23
Brandon Beachy 3.68 3.16
Mike Minor 4.14 3.62
Tommy Hanson 3.60 3.29
Jonny Venters 1.84 2.88
Eric O’Flaherty 0.98 3.05
Craig Kimbrel 2.10 1.94

As Mark Hulet noted last week, the Braves do have an enviable amount of pitching depth to rely on in case of injury or poor performance by the pitchers projected to be on the roster. In contrast, the Braves have no ready offensive replacements and passed on opportunities to upgrade the offense in the offseason. Perhaps they will be able to trade pitching depth for offense at a later date, but they missed a huge opportunity in not actively pursuing Marco Scutaro when the Red Sox were trying to move him and his $6 million salary to 2012. Scutaro would have provided an instant upgrade over what the Braves got out of Alex Gonzalez in 2011, and is projected to hit much better than the Pastornicky/Jack Wilson combination currently on the roster. The Braves certainly had the minor league pitching depth to match the Rockies offer for Scutaro and the $6 million would not have been a budget buster given the $5 million they saved in the Derek Lowe trade and the $1 million given to Jack Wilson.

Braves players profess to be happy that Wren showed confidence in them by not upgrading the roster. As Chipper Jones noted:

You sit back and you watch some of the other teams in your division make moves, you’re thinking to yourself, ‘They’re getting better by the day.’ But that’s the nature of the beast. It really doesn’t mean anything.

Except it does if those other teams pass the Braves in the standings and the team finds itself at home once again this October.




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I am political science professor at the University of North Carolina. I grew up watching the Braves on TBS and acquired Red Sox fandom during the 1986 World Series. My other hobbies include cooking, good red wine, curing meats, and obsessing over Alabama football---Roll Tide! Follow me on Twitter @ProfJRoberts.

64 Responses to “Braves Bet on Regression to the Mean”

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  1. sprot says:

    Totally yo, its about regression. Everything must be regressed. Regress it up, regress it down, but regress it either way.

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    • Aty says:

      regress
      1. to move backward; go back.
      2. to revert to an earlier or less advanced state or form.

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    • Baltar says:

      “If everyone bounces back, then we’ve got a good ballclub that doesn’t have a major need.”
      Wow! What a relief that must be for Braves fans. It is a statistical certainty that every player who played below his norm will regress all the way to his norm and every player who played above his norm will stay above.

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        Think you’re taking that comment too seriously. Poor choice of words on the part of Wren with starting it off the word ‘everyone’, but the point being a lot of players under-performed last year and it’s a solid bet that two or three of them bounce back. That’s all they need, really.

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  2. sprot says:

    Jack Wilson was a smart deal for them. 1 year, $1M.

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  3. Joe Peta says:

    There is one area of regression to the mean may be very cruel to the Braves. In 2012, their bullpen provide more fWAR than any other team in the NL. For the past decade, I’ve found league avg bullpen WAR in year t-1 is a better predictor of year t bullpen WAR than a team’s prior year bullpen WAR. This is one of the hidden areas of unrepeatable performance which is often overlooked in projections. (It’s also why the Diamondbacks worst-to-first run last year wasn’t so unforseeable. Their 2010 bullpen was historically bad.) In 2012, this regression alone could cost the Braves a few wins and push them closer to a .500 record than 90 wins.

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    • Bronnt says:

      Bullpens usually experience a lot of turnover, though. The Braves will return the top four guys from last years bullpen in terms of innings, along with a fifth who contributed some good innings as well.

      Not that I don’t expect a regression. Based on historical expectations, I’d expect one of their great bullpen trio to miss significant time with injuries, and another one to be somewhat less effect than he was last year. They might also miss George Sherrill, who was effective as a LOOGY, which allowed O’Flaherty and Venters to be locked into the 7th and 8th innings. There’s not really another LOOGY ready to step in. Kris Medlen will probably provide a boost to their bullpen, but I’d wager heavily against them repeating as a 7-WAR bullpen.

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  4. Bronnt says:

    I’m also disappointed that they didn’t pursue J.D. Drew, who I don’t think is necessarily done, and who would have made an excellent fourth outfielder for them, at least. He probably could have been had cheap if they had been willing offer two years (assuming he’s still interested in playing at all), and at the minimum, he’d make a great platoon partner in left field, where he could be better defensively than Eric Hinske. And Drew might still be good enough to actually step in and start if there’s an injury.

    Instead, the plan seems to be to carry 3 reserve outfielders, none of whom are really good enough to be starters.

    Of course, the Braves have a couple of handicaps this year-Brian McCann hit every single escalator in his contract, so he’s much more expensive than last year, and they’re still paying Derek Lowe $10 million. With a full season of Michael Bourn, they’re essentially right where their payroll was last year without any other additions, despite ditching KK and $5 million of Derek Lowe’s salary.

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  5. DuPu says:

    I personally think the bullpen could be even better than 2011′s. We let Linebrink go to free agency and Kris Medlen essentially takes his place (though Kris Medlen has been a dominant reliever and could do high leverage). Craig Kimbrel had an amazing 2011, but short of his BB% regressing, he didn’t seem especially lucky last year – seems repeatable. We have a full season of Arodys Vizcaino as well, who profiles in relief as high leverage and potentially closer. Jonny Venters should remain about as good as 2010-2011, and I expect Eric O’Flaherty to regress in 2012 if Fredi G. continues to deploy him against righties. One or Jairo Asencio or JJ Hoover will hopefully inhabit the bullpen along with Christhian Martinez for mop-up. A LOT could happen (and knowing Fredi G., will) but the Braves are deep in high upside relieving. I expect them to have a top 5 bullpen in 2012.

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    • Bronnt says:

      If the Braves put Vizcaino in the pen this year, I really am going to be upset. I don’t know why you’d convert a guy who can potentially be an ace starting pitcher into a reliever so he can be the 4th (or, after Medlen, potentially the FIFTH) arm in your bullpen. It makes no sense at all. But I’ve said that a lot over the past year of watching Fredi Gonzalez manage that team.

      And EOF, Venters, and Kimbrel all logged a ton of innings last year without getting hurt. Don’t expect a repeat of that-it’s historically unlikely.

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      • DuPu says:

        I agree about the injuries possibility – that’s a necessary caveat to projecting any bullpen I imagine. Even in the event of injuries there will be a lot of good replacement candidates. I wholeheartedly expect Fredi G. to have Vizcaino in the bullpen to start 2012. Heck, he’s talking about putting one of Teheran or Delgado in the bullpen already.

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      • LuckyStrikes says:

        Agree. I fully expect a TJ surgery announcement regarding either Kimbrell or Venters in 2012. They were worked hard.

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      • Surrealistic Pillow says:

        I used to agree with you in these sorts of situations Bronnt, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve seen enough bullpen-to-rotation success stories in the last few years (C.J. Wilson, David Price [albeit briefly], Luebke [tentatively], potentially Feliz & Bard this year) that I think sticking a young arm in the pen can be a nice way to acclimate him to the bigs and get value from him without pushing his innings limit.

        You do have a good point, though, on him bein g the 4th or 5th arm out of then bullpen. Not similar to Feliz/Bard in that regard, and he may be better off working on his secondary offerings in AAA after all…

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      • DuPu says:

        @LuckyStrikes
        http://capitolavenueclub.com/?p=4903

        Perhaps the reason people think it will happen is because they both throw hard, in addition to the high IP totals in 2011? As I mentioned before, RP injuries are a known evil, but as the link mentions above, Jonny Venter’s workload in 2011 was not especially remarkable.

        I mentioned on Twitter that I hope Craig Kimbrel doesn’t use his CU/SL (“Slurve” according to Kimbrel) more than in 2011: a curveball thrown as hard as 87-89 MPH can’t bode well for the UCL.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Surreal, C.J. Wilson is a very unique case, but that’s a good point in favor of your argument. But that’s a very rare thing, and it seems entirely founded upon the development of his cutter, which he didn’t have as a reliever, and it became one of the best pitches in baseball.

        David Price, I see as a different case. He was essentially ready to be a starter, but he was converted at the very end of the season so he could be used as a closer during the playoff run. He was a much more developed pitcher than Vizcaino-he was a top college starting pitcher and 23 years old by the time he debuted as a reliever for the Rays. Vizcaino is 21 years old. His development has been slow, and he lost almost all of his age 18 season because he was hurt, and before he turned 21, the Braves converted him as a reliever so that they could use him in limited situations. He is not as polished as Price, though he might have similar upside as a starter. But he still has something to prove. Additionally, the Rays needed ANYONE who could pitch reliably for them in the playoffs. The Braves have at least 3 guys ahead of Vizcaino, and perhaps 4. The benefit of converting him now just isn’t that great.

        It’s too early to say anything about Feliz and Bard, since they haven’t actually made the conversion yet. And think about this-if Vizcaino is going to be more valuable as a starter, then why on earth should the Braves start his arbitration at a very young, raw age to use him as a middle reliever?

        This reminds me too much of Jennry Mejia. He hasn’t yet come back to become a valuable starter. And it took the Rangers years and years before they finally found the intenstinal fortitude to try and make Feliz a starter again. And again, he was a closer for them. Why convert a guy to make him your FOURTH reliever?

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      • Josh says:

        It’s not like a move to the pen would have to be permanent, there are plentiful cases of teams putting young guns in the pen to start out. Just off the top of my head I can think of C.J. Wilson, Cory Leubke, soon to be Neftali Feliz.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Josh, think about his arbitration clock, too. Wouldn’t you really rather potentially have Vizcaino’s age 26-27 season as a starter, than his age 21 season as a fourth reliever?

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        I hate to defend Fredi here, but I think Bobby would’ve had Vizcaino in the pen this season. They have a ton of pitching depth and Vizcaino can be deadly in the pen…..

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  6. Bronnt says:

    Braves also finished 8th in the NL in WAR, but 5th in wins. They could show improvement this year and actually win fewer games.

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    • ryan c says:

      I think it’s safe to assume that our bullpen had 2 fairly large holes last year in Proctor and Linebrink. Players like Venters and O’Flaherty might regress a bit but I don’t see that there’s a chance in hades that 2 players like Linebrink and Proctor will single-handedly lose games like those 2 did last year:

      Looking at the inning that the pitchers entered and the ending result, Linebrink and Proctor were directly responsible for 8 Braves’ losses. That’s only counting games where they came into the ballgame with a lead and left the game behind. Between the 2, there are 5 more games where one of them came into the game with the lead and left with it tied, or came in with a tie and left being down.

      Point being: looking at the names to choose from, there’s little to no chance that anyone in this bullpen could be responsible for so many losses.

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  7. John says:

    REGRESS REGRESS REGRESS

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  8. Tomas says:

    Let’s just wait and see on Tyler, really don’t know anything about him. Prado, I got to throw those stats last year off the table, because he was dealing with a lot of stuff. Signs are Heyward is in good shape and not injured, and don’t worry about the pitching there is a lot of depth.

    Assuming career averages to everybody except Chipper, I think they have a very good team with weak infield defense, but okay speed now with Bourn, Heyward, and now Pastornicky, good pitching.

    Look at career average OPS+ for everybody on the lineup(Chipper look last year because certainly we can’t expect him to meet his career averages).

    CF Michael Bourn 88
    LF Martin Prado 108
    3B Chipper Jones 123
    C Brian McCann 122
    2B Dan Uggla 116
    RF Jason Heyward 116
    1B Freddie Freeman 115
    SS Tyler Pastornicky Rookie, let’s assume league average 100

    Everybody is over league average except Bourn and that’s because he had a few bad years at the start of his career, last year it was 104.

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    • Ben Duronio says:

      That’s a bit optimistic for Pastornicky. League average wRC+ for shortstops last year was 88, and that’s around the level I think he’ll be this year.

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  9. Dekker says:

    How does a team go from 101 wRC+ in 2010 to 90 wRC+ in 2011 despite upgrading Melky for Uggla and Glaus for Freeman?

    Standing PAT is a move itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if an 87 or 88 win team gets the NL wild card this year since the NL West and Central look so unimpressive. I imagine the Braves will be in contention all season long.

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  10. Nik says:

    Don’t discount the fact that 2 of the teams they play 18 times a year have gotten considerably better, especially in terms of pitching.

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    • Bronnt says:

      I thought about that, but the Mets could end up being terrible this year. The Phillies will likely not be as good either-at least, I severely doubt they’ll win 100 games.

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    • Steve says:

      Yeah, they still won’t finish ahead of ATL in the WC race. They’ve gotten better, but they still aren’t “there” yet. Florida has the talent to compete for the 2nd place spot, however, in future years …. they have crippled themselves. WSH is still 2-3 years away from truly contending IMO.

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    If we really believe in sabermetrics and its processes, then the Braves should be praised for referring to it and relying on it, because every system and process we use suggests that the Braves should regress (players performing to their career norms) and that will be significant improvement over their under-performing 2011 … where they still just missed the playoffs.

    Plenty of other teams would have knee-jerked and paniced and did something dumb like sign a 1B for 214/9.

    For a team/org that doesn’t have a really good saber-reputation, the Braves seem to be a damn smart club.

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    • Bronnt says:

      We’ll have to wait and see if that really holds. If they put convert Vizcaino to a reliever so he can be their 4th bullpen arm, that won’t be smart. They don’t have a really solid back-up plan to Chipper Jones’ injuries, aside from playing Eric Hinske or Jose Constanza in left field.. They don’t have any reasonable fall-back if Pastornicky proves to be unready for big league pitching.

      I didn’t want them to make a stupid, hasty move over the offseason, but I wanted them to try to address some of their difficulties. They did not.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Don’t get so hung up on reliever ranks, as that’s far more fluid than the starting rotation. Vizcaino might start the season pitching in the 6th or 7th inning, but move up to the set-up role if he proves successful. Moreover, his skill set really does seem more suited to being a dominating reliever than a starting pitcher. Plus, Atlanta obviously has a crowded rotation for years to come with other young talent who have done more to prove themselves as starters. The only worry I would really have about hurting Vizcaino by putting him in the pen would be either his potential trade value, and even that presumably wouldn’t be undermined by one season as a reliever.

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  12. joe 1 says:

    anyone remember playing fantasy when bonds hit 73 homers? everyday would be a tatter tat???

    the next year hit only hit 46 but had a .370 clip. theres always regresssion when someone has a lights out career year. expect that from verlander and krimbel…

    verlander being a member of the tigers.

    jhey better work better.

    another note: i also expect slumps from KEMP too.

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  13. jim says:

    will kris medlen return as a starter or reliever?

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    • Anon21 says:

      Reliever. The Braves never wanted him as a starter, and with the enormous depth they have now he has no chance to crack the rotation.

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  14. bstar says:

    Suggesting Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens overachieved because they outperformed their peripherals is just plain lazy. They’ve both outpeformed their FIP and xFIP for their entire career; I wouldn’t expect that to change at all.

    I’m just not seeing the “Braves will regress in positive way” thing right now. It’s too much of an ask for the back end of the bullpen to be historically great two years in a row. With every growing year, the odds of Chipper continuing to be productive go down. I worry Freeman might have a Heyward-esque sophomore slump. I’m not convinced Heyward is going to magically bounce all the way back. Are Hanson or JJ or anyone else every going to truly become a #1 starter? Until someone does, they are going to be at a disadvantage in a short series if they make the playoffs.

    I still think the Braves clearly need one more big bat, and I dearly hope Mr. Wren is still trying to ship a couple of our young arms(do we really 7 or 8 starters??) for that. Otherwise, we’re probably going to watch the Braves barely crawl into the playoffs and then lose, or miss the dance entirely. It always seems to be a lack of offense that does us in; really, it’s been the same damn story since ’91.

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    • Tommy says:

      Unless Freddi changes his swing drastically for the worse, he shouldn’t have a slump. He just doesn’t have a major hole in his swing

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      • bstar says:

        Yeah, I’m not worried about that golden swing either. What concerns me is that pitchers are going to adjust to what Freeman did last year and pitch him differently. Ultimately, that’s what hurt Heyward last year; he had no answer for the year two approach that the league threw at him.

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    • Phantom Stranger says:

      I really can’t agree more with what you have said, bstar. Asking the bullpen to repeat its historic season again is a dumb strategy to base a whole season on. The Braves clearly needed a bigger bat and were hamstrung by a very tight budget they can’t increase because of a bad television deal.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      bstar……from IMDb?

      I think what hurt Heyward the most last year was the shoulder never being fully healed. His swing was all out of wack and his shoulder wouldn’t allow him to make the adjustments he needed to make.

      Around mid-season of last year, Chipper talked about Heyward having ‘one swing.’ Said he’s never seen him get fooled on a pitch and adjust to make solid contact because of that ONE swing. After that, his swing was all over the place. It looked different seemingly every time he was at the plate. Not saying it’s Chipper’s fault, I just think it had more to do with his shoulder and the frustration of not being able to produce that did him in….

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  15. Tyler M says:

    “If they put convert Vizcaino to a reliever so he can be their 4th bullpen arm, that won’t be smart.”

    Vizcaino currently has two pitches. Until he works on developing his changeup, he isn’t going to be an effective starter. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not see him develop that pitch at the major league level.

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  16. Undocorkscrew says:

    Assuming Hanson and Hudson can stay healthy, they’re in better position to upgrade the offense mid-season than any other team in the NL East. I think that was Wren’s plan all along. Stand pat(for the most part) in the off-season and see if these guys can get back to their career norms while monitoring Pastornicky, and if not…….trade for a bat. It’s not a bad plan…..

    I fully expect a better offensive showing this season. Overall pitching might not be as great, but it’s hard to believe they went from leading the league in OBP in 2010 to ending up near the bottom the following year with the same club(replacing Infante with Uggla) without some bad luck.

    Also, Andruw Jones made more sense to this team than any other player on the FA market(given the Braves financial restraints).

    1. Braves struggle against LHP, Jones does not.
    2. He would’ve came relatively cheap.
    3. Decent fall-back option should Heyward continue to struggle or Chipper goes down.
    3. Would’ve improved the defense in a number of ways. On days Chipper needs off, Prado moves to 3B and Jones goes to LF. Two positions upgraded defensively.
    4. This was just a theory, but they could’ve sat Chipper when a lefty is on the mound and moved Prado to 3B and Andruw to LF. That upgrades both positions in terms of offense and defense.

    Instead, they re-signed Hinske, who’s a nice bench player but can’t really play defense. Not saying Andruw would’ve accepted that same contract he signed with the Yankees had the Braves offered, but I really think he could’ve helped this club quite a bit.

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  17. Tyler McAdams says:

    Also, you have to think that replacing Proctor and Linebrink with Medlen, Vizcaino/Moylan is better for the ‘pen.

    The person replacing Derek Lowe’s 5.05 ERA will also likely be much better which could balance out some regression back to the mean.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      With Fredi managing, we’ll probably see Teheran, Minor, Vizcaino, and Deglado in the pen at some point. Varvaro is a guy I really like, and C-Mart seems to be getting better with each outing……I don’t expect a historically great pen, but I’m not all that worried about it either considering the depth that they have. My worry is with Fredi’s usage, not the performance.

      Oh, and I better not see Moylan face a single LHB this season. He is god-awful against them…..

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      • bstar says:

        I seem to be one of the few Braves fans who actually likes Fredi Gonzalez. I think he did at least a few good things last year:

        1. Once Dan Uggla started hitting(and the Braves were hurting badly for offense at the time), he moved Uggla to the cleanup spot and put F Freeman, another hot hitter in the middle months of the year, at the three slot. Essentially, they carried the team for a month or so, and it was a wise move for Fredi to get his two top hitters at the time in the 3/4 slot.

        2. I don’t think he mismanaged the bullpen all that badly, if at all. His overreliance on O’Ventbrel stemmed from 3 things:
        a. the inability of anyone except the top three to effectively pitch in high leverage situations. Seemingly every time we tried to give Venters or Kimbrel a day off, Scott Linebrink couldn’t get the job done. Kimbrel especially had more than a few extra appearances because he had to come mop up the mess that Linebrink left. I won’t even get into what happened when we had to call on the Proctologist to pitch an important inning. I’ve blotted that out of my memory.
        b. O’ventbrel were just so DAMN GOOD at what they were doing! I won’t rehash their historically great stats from last year, but wouldn’t a time where your top three are performing at a super elite level be a REALLY GOOD time to lean on them heavily?
        c. September was supposed to be a month where these three were going to get rest, but the injuries to starters, bad overall SP, and bad offense all happened that month. It’s kind of hard to give those guys rest when St. Louis is coming out of nowhere to overtake you. I find it hard to blame Fredi for the teams’ September collapse. Looking at those three factors, I think he did the right thing pitching O’Ventbrel as much as he did. Plus, they were so dominating that their pitch counts(esp. Venters’) per inning were lower than that of a normal late reliever.

        3. Considering Uggla’s bad start, Prado’s bad health, Chipper’s long list of minor injuries, Heyward’s bad year, and centerfield being a black hole for 4 months, it’s quite an accomplishment that the Braves were sporting the NL’s second best record for a good part of the season.

        4. The Braves outperformed their Pythag. by 4 wins. Not substantial, but still note-worthy.

        5. The Braves woeful drop in wOBA last year falls mainly on the players, then the hitting coach, and then maybe Fredi. Hard to make him #1 most responsible for that.

        I look forward to the replies that hopefully will follow explaining everything he did wrong.

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  18. MGL says:

    There are two possible usages of the word “regression” in this kind of context: One, is the statistical term, which is regression TOWARD the mean, not TO the mean. And that refers to the mean of the population of which the player is part.

    “Regressing” to someone’s true talent is tautological. EVERYONE is expected to “regress” to their own true talent level, by definition.

    And, since that is not a statistical expression (regressing TO one’s own true talent) or concept, it must simply be an English expression. If it is, it is a poor or at leas somewhat unusual use of the word “regression,” since, as someone pointed out at the beginning, the word “regress” is usually pejorative in that it implies “getting worse.” It would be odd for someone to say that so and so is going to “regress to an earlier, but BETTER state.”

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  19. When we speak of regression at FG, it almost always means TOWARD their career BABIP as its often the difference between good/bad seasons.

    We should never expect a player to hit AT their career norms but for their future performance to move toward their career norms.

    We had this discussion last year. If Pujols hits .220 over the first 2 months that doesn’t mean that we should expect him to hit .400 for the next 2 months to “balance out” at .310. But we should expect home to hit “around .310″ for the next 2 months and bring his AVR up to .265 or so. We see this in the rest of the year projections.

    IIRC correctly almost the entire ATL offense suffered in BABIP last year. What we’d need to calc is whether the increase in projected offense production via regression to career norms (and/or league average) is greater than any regression in other areas that would lead to less projected performance, such as bullpen.

    We’d also need to be confident in “level” for their young players, and their performance level at 1-2 years needs regressed to league average as well.

    IMO, this is where we can use projections b/c that is already done for us.

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    • MGL says:

      BABIP is way overused for hitters. I don’t even know where that came from.

      Circle, when did u start writing for FG? ;)

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        As say “we” intentionally, when I am referring to community that I participate in.

        I do that so when I am pointing something out that can be done better (IMO) or in a different way it doesn’t sound as if I am preaching from upon high or speaking from a position of authority (especially so in areas where I am not an authority).

        I’m definitely not trying to claim any kind of status, but rather the exact opposite.

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    • Reality says:

      What if Pujols had an underlying injury in your silly picture?

      What it the Braves stressed contact last year and tried to minimize strikeouts (not saying its a good thing) in your circumstances?

      There is a lot of of statistical laziness both here and in a lot of blogs referenced here, but I don’t expect any better of baseball fans who got an A in their 101 stats class at a state school and thing they could apply and get into any front office.

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  20. cs3 says:

    Anyone else having problems navigating articles from their mobile device?
    I find that scrolling is impossible because the page jumps around uncontrollably. This is on an android device fwiw, and only started happening when fangraphs switched the default comments view to on

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  21. CircleChange11 says:

    Looking at the 2012 Braves Zips Projections,

    Dan projects 6 ATL starting batters to be league average or better, and Bourn to be darn close.

    He also projects 6 SP and 4 RP to be league average or above.

    FWIW, Philly projects similarly.

    IMO, If ATL and BOS both win on the last day of the season we probably don’t have much/any concern for them entering the 2012 season (except maybe BOS SP).

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  22. @reality

    As a former college pitcher and coach, BABIP is one area that has lots of facets. Even good hitters can lose their timing for periods, confidence confidence is a factor, as are injuries that they play through.

    But from what I know about regression is that players the vast majority of time perform toward their average performance.

    What we need to know is if certain situations change their “talent level” even for that season. For example if Utley and Heyward are batting injuries then maybe they are a “3 WAR” player for that year due to being 80% of what they normally are. But we assume at full health they’ll perform at their career norms and did not experience a permanent change in true talent.

    Pujols is a good example. His 5 WAR 2011 may not be a decline at all. He experienced a major slump and an injury. Yet he still pulled off a +5 season.

    But until we have a better large scale process, regression toward career norms seems to be our best way of looking forward. The other option is to put more value on recent, smaller sample, performance than what the player has traditionally done. That probably works for a few guys but not the vast majority.

    We do the same thing with the -0.5 WAR per season for aging. It’s an average that gives us the highest level of certainty, which is the best we can hope for until we have something better.

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  23. Dave Woody says:

    I certainly agree with everything CircleChange11 has said here.

    We also have to admit the possibility–however unlikely–that Heyward and Uggla both put up .400+ wOBAs. Scouts seem to agree that if Heyward tweaked his swing just a little bit (supposedly he has done this over the offseason), he wouldn’t hit so many ground balls. This could immediately make him a 7-8 WAR superstar. I actually think that will happen this year. And yes, I’m insane.

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  24. Antonio Bananas says:

    I’m optimistic about the offense also because of the new coach. I know it’s not quantifiable (not really anyways) but I think there’s something to be said about that much of a drop in OBP. Hitting the ball is one thing, a strategy going in is another.

    The pitching probably will regress, but they are also extremely deep there so in relation to everyone else, they’re still near the top. Also, I don’t think Hudson will drop anymore than his aging will dictate, he consistently seems to outperform his FIP.

    As for the other teams getting better, really? I don’t think the Fish got that much better. I’ll believe Jose Reyes is a big help when I see it. He’s on the wrong side of 27, is a “speed guy” and has a well documented injury history. They also signed an old closer and an old starter, awesome. The Nats definately got better, although Gio is a prime candidate for Oliver Perez disorder so the jury is still out on him.

    Should be an interesting year. If I were to rank the top 5 teams in the NL on paper, probably 3 of them are from the NL East, which sucks for Atlanta, but at the same time, they should at least be wild card. The Cardinals will be worse, Reds didn’t get THAT much better, Brewers will be worse, Pirates got marginally better, Chubs and Stros still suck, in the West the Padres will be below .500, the Giants have Posey back, which is huge, I feel like the D’Backs pitching will be worse than last year (something like 8 of Kennedy’s last 10 starts were against the 3 worst offenses in the NL), the Rox pitching is a mess, and the Dodgers are a mess.

    Basically the weak NL West and Central, combined with how much better the offense should get, should off-set however much worse the pitching is.

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  25. JT Grace says:

    Good article. I also think the Braves made a huge mistake in not going after Scutaro from the Red Sox, or even Jed Lowrie. I think Pastornicky has a chance to be a decent major league starting SS but I think he needs at least one more year at AAA. Jack Wilson is worthless.

    Another thing the Braves needed to do was get a valid 4th outfielder who can also play CF. Cody Ross signed with the Red Sox for almost nothing and the Braves evidently weren’t even remotely interested in him. Ryan Spilborghs was another player they could have signed. As it is now, if Bourn or Heyward gets hurt Jose “AAAA” Constanza will be starting in the OF. If that happens, they may just as well start planning for 2013.

    If the Braves have no plans for Vizcaino other than being a relief pitcher then they should trade him for a young back-up outfielder.

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