Offseason PrimerPosted: October 8, 2012
Just like that, the offseason is here. The wild card game was a painful way to end the season, almost enough where I could care less about the rest of the playoffs. I’ll still tune in, but not with the same enthusiasm. Over the next five months, I plan on taking an in-depth look at the team from top to bottom.
While there is not much activity until after the World Series has been completed, teams are continuously planning to improve their rosters. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a big offseason for the Braves because of the amount of money coming off the books along with the production that will be lost. After a couple quick back of the napkin estimates, the Braves should have $25-$30M to spend this offseason. The biggest salaries coming off the books are Chipper’s $14M, Derek Lowe’s $10M and Michael Bourn’s $7.8M. Some of it will go to arbitration raises and finding some low costs bench pieces, but they should be able to make a couple of mid level signings and/or extend players currently on the team.
The good news is the Braves have a talented young core of players coming back in the lineup, the rotation and the bullpen. Having all these young players under team control for the next couple years means their window to win is wide open. Offensively, the team finished with the 6th highest fWAR, 4th best in the NL. Unfortunately this is a little misleading on the offensive side because their team wOBA was 21st in the MLB and 9th in the NL. Most of this value was due to their defensive and base running components. Their fielding component along with UZR was first in the MLB by quite a large margin, of course most of this was due to one of the best outfields anyone has ever seen. On the bases they finished 6th in the MLB and 3rd in NL. However, this is a very minor part of team value. When looking at pitching fWAR, the team finished 10th in MLB and 6th in NL. The value was fairly evenly distributed with a slight edge to the bullpen. 2012 was another great year for the bullpen, especially historic seasons for O’Flaherty and Kimbrel. Starters pitched 66.4% of the innings while accumulating around 64.3% of the fWAR. A normal team filled with replacement level players would, on average, win around 45 games over the course of a 162 game season. Offensively the team contributed 30.4 wins while pitching contributed 18.5, add all that up and you get 93.9 wins. That’s about as close as you get to their actual of 94 (the correlation of fWAR wins to actual wins is about .88). The two main players they will be replacing are Chipper (3.0 fWAR) and Bourn (6.4 fWAR). Somehow during the offseason they must theoretically find 5.5 wins to return to the 90 win level. Again, we’re talking in general macro terms for now, but the front office should be able to put together a team that will contend into the playoffs again.
Speaking of 90 wins, the Braves passed that mark winning 94 games this season which was T-4 in MLB and T-3 in NL. If you look at their Pythagorean W/L record it is very close to their actual wins, 92.3 (6 in MLB/3 in NL). I like to look at Pythagorean W/L because it judges teams on how effective they are at scoring and preventing runs. Based off a pure averages, the greater a teams run differential, the more wins they should expect over the course of a season. Of course there will always be outliers like the 2012 Orioles. The difference between a teams actual and Pythagorean W/L record, is most often described as how lucky or unlucky they were during the season. Some people believe teams can inherently outperform their Pythagorean record. Not to get too far off track, but a good bullpen can be one explanation for this outperforming. This was also a trait shown with 2012 Orioles. Their top bullpen arms allowed them to win close games but didn’t factor into many lopsided losses. I’m not exactly sure what side I stand on because neither has seemed to be proved to be right or wrong yet. Anyways, if we look even further into expected records for all the stat heads out there, we can look at a teams 2nd and 3rd order winning percentage. These standings and explanations of each order can be found at Baseball Prospectus. 2nd and 3rd order wins are deemed even more accurate ways of judging how many wins a team should have expected. The Braves 2nd order winning percentage calculates out to 91.6 wins (7 in MLB/3 in NL). If you want to look even deeper at their 3rd order winning percentage, the Braves finished with 91.5 wins (7 in MLB/2 in NL).
The take away from all of these stats that half of you probably don’t find interesting, or understand, the Braves were a top 3 team in the NL no matter which way you slice it. It can be important to look at these record though because it can show whether a team truly played as good or as poorly as their record would suggest. In the Braves case, there is no need to blow anything up. Because of the new MLB wildcard system, the Braves unfortunately were forced into a coin flip game to advance to the real playoffs. There not much else to say besides the core of players will put us in good position for next year. One loss will not change that. While they will be losing some key parts, they will have the money to fill those spots with quality players.
I quickly broke up the 40-man roster to give a quick outline of where each player stands contract wise.
Retiring: Chipper Jones, Ben Sheets, Jack Wilson
Signed: Dan Uggla ($13M)
Club Option: Brian McCann ($12M), Tim Hudson ($9M), Paul Maholm ($6.5M)
Free Agents: Michael Bourn, David Ross, Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske, Jeff Baker, Reed Johnson, Lyle Overbay, Chad Durbin, Peter Moylan, Miguel Bautista *should be on retiring list*
Arbitration Eligible: Martin Prado (3), Eric O’Flaherty (3), Jair Jurrjens (3), Paul Janish (2), Jason Heyward (1), Tommy Hanson (1), Jonny Venters (1), Kris Medlen (1)
Pre-Arbitration: Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Juan Francisco, Brandon Beachy, Christain Martinez, Mike Minor, Anthony Varvaro, Tyler Pastornicky, Randall Delgado, J.C. Boscan, Jose Constanza, Luis Avilan, Cory Gearrin, Julio Teheran
Eventually the Braves will need to narrow down that list of minor leaguers and add players to the active 25 man roster.
Based off some of the information above and other topics that have floated around various placed, here is a list of offseason topics that should be discussed, no particular order.
- How to approach Michael Bourn
- Brian McCann’s situation/extension
- Players with club options
- What to do with Tommy Hanson
- How quickly to non-tender Jair Jurrjens
- Finding OF options
- Where should Martin Prado play
- Martin Prado extension
- Bench players to sign/let walk
- Bullpen arms to sign/let walk
- Free Agent targets
- Possible trades
- Starting rotation outlook
- Roster & Salary projections
- Ownership situation
I will try to refrain from talking about Braves prospects. This isn’t because I don’t find it interesting for fascinating, I do. Honestly, it is just that there are plenty of better sources other than me to talk about prospects. I have never been to a Braves minor league game and I don’t live close to anywhere I could watch them play. My thoughts and opinions of prospects come from articles and reports I’ve read on the internet. Me discussing prospects would offer no new knowledge that can’t be found elsewhere. Now, I will still talk about them with how they may fit into future plans using my acquired thoughts and opinions. But if you’re looking for prospect rankings or a scouting breakdown of each player, there are a number of other quality blogs and sites that are written by experts that have seen these players in person. I will be happy to send links to anyone interested.
Here are some important dates to keep an eye on this offseason.
- Immediately after World Series, eligible players become free agents
- 6th day after World Series, eligible players can sign with other teams
- 12th day after World Series, last date for a player who declared free agency to accept an arbitration offer from a former club
- November 30, last day to tender contracts
- December 3-6, Winter Meetings in Nashville, TN
- December 6, Rule 5 Draft
Please don’t bother memorizing any of these dates. Moves will periodically happen through out the winter so be sure to check in regularly. In a couple of weeks I will post my first roster projection including player salaries. News and decision wise, the offseason is one of my favorite times. While 2012 is unfortunately over for the Braves, the process for next season has already begun.
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