Archive for December, 2014

Atlanta’s Incoherent Offseason

After years of winning division titles — 14 in a row from 1991 to 2005 — it’s been something of a slow decade for the Atlanta Braves. They’ve rarely been bad, losing 90 games just once since the streak ended, but they’ve also won only two playoff games and zero postseason series in nine seasons. After a disappointing 79-83 finish in 2014, good for second place but also 17 games out of first, the Braves fired GM Frank Wren, a move that club president John Schuerholz admitted had been a consideration for several seasons.

A change in regime would seem to be the perfect opportunity to start fresh and re-position the organization toward a successful first season in its new suburban stadium in 2017, a goal that team officials have quietly admitted is important. With two star outfielders entering the final years of their contracts (Jason HeywardJustin Upton) and more holes than a team on a limited payroll could fill in order to put up a fight in 2015, a new front office with a little bit of creativity and without the baggage of the recent past could easily make moves to limit the rebuilding period and get a competitive team back on the field in Atlanta as soon as possible. After all, just look at what new GM A.J. Preller has done in San Diego in just a few months on the job.

The Braves traded both of those final-year outfielders, sending Heyward to St. Louis and Upton to the Padres. If, at the end of the season, you had known both had played their final games in Atlanta, you might have expected that a full rebuild was in the works. But that’s not what’s happened. The Braves have weakened their 2015 roster while failing to fully commit to a rebuild, and the moves they’ve made symbolize a team that can’t figure out what it is or where it’s going. Welcome to baseball’s most confounding offseason. Read the rest of this entry »

The Quietly Great Cleveland Rotation

Some of the traditional American League powers haven’t exactly had a banner few months as far as rotation strength goes.

The Red Sox couldn’t bring back Jon Lester and had to settle for midrotation guys Rick Porcello,Wade Miley and Justin Masterson. The Yankees lost out on Brandon McCarthy and might not have a single healthy, reliable starter. The Tigers (without Porcello) and Royals are still waiting to see what Max Scherzer and James Shields are going to do. The White Sox added Jeff Samardzija but still have huge questions after him, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. The Athletics bid Samardzija farewell, the Rays dealt Jeremy Hellickson to Arizona, and the Rangers haven’t done much more than bring back Colby Lewis yet again and gamble on Ross Detwiler.

For many of those teams, there are more questions than answers. So in the meantime, allow us to present one possibility for the best rotation in the American League in 2015, a group of pitchers that probably didn’t come to the forefront of your mind. Let’s talk about the Cleveland Indians. Read the rest of this entry »

Reasons For Hope For Ryan Braun in 2015

There’s a pretty easy narrative to regurgitate about Ryan Braun. It goes something like this: After a disastrous 2013 that ended in July with a 65-game suspension for violating baseball’s performance enhancing drug rules, Braun came back in 2014 and had his worst full season, setting career lows in all three triple-slash stats, wRC+ and WAR. For many, it’s easy enough to connect the dots and leave it at that, arguing that Braun can’t perform when he’s “clean,” however you define that.

But coming back from PED suspensions hasn’t prevented Nelson Cruz or Melky Cabrera from performing well, and clearly Braun’s own actions have left him without the benefit of the doubt, which is no one’s fault but his own. But to merely take the 30,000-foot view and assume that Braun’s time as one of baseball’s best hitters is now over because of what’s happened over the past 18 months risks glancing past some very positive signs for Braun, ones that indicate he could still be a very productive player in 2015. Read the rest of this entry »