Rants Raves and Writin’

Why the Atlanta Braves lost two games to the Reds

In the game of base ball, there are two teams playing. Unlike individual sports like golf or Olympic diving, athletes in the game of base ball belong to a team and their team is always competing against another team. At any given point in the base ball game, one team is on offense while one team is on defense, and it is the only team sport in which the defense has the ball. Each team is trying to win.

In golf, a player steps up to the tee box alone. Aside from their own thoughts and personal limitations, no one is attempting to get in the golfer’s way of hitting the ball of the tee. The same thing goes for diving. In diving, a diver climbs to the top of the platform alone. The only competition the diver faces is the diver himself.

In base ball, and other team competitive sports, while the player is certainly at the mercy of his own thoughts and limitations, he’s also at the mercy of the players on the other team who are trying to win. As mentioned previously, each team is trying to win, and each player is trying to impede the opposing players from performing their tasks.

For example, when shortstop Dansby Swanson steps into the batters box, he faces an opposing pitcher. Webster defines “opposing” as being in conflict or competition with a specified or implied subject. While Dansby’s job is to get a base hit, or at the very least get on base, the pitcher’s job is to get Dansby out. Thus creates an atmosphere for what is known as competition.

Furthermore, in sports an athlete is often judged and valued on their ability to perform in clutch situations. Websters defines “clutch” (in sport) as denoting or occurring in a critical situation in which the outcome of a game or competition is at stake. Great examples of this in other sports might be former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and current NFL quarterback Tom Brady (former draftee of the Montreal Expos). Manning seemed to perform excellent at his everyday job, but struggled in clutch situations. Brady seemed to perform well in both.

On Monday, the Braves faced Reds pitcher Matt Harvey who was trying to prevent the Braves from getting on base and scoring. For the most part, Harvey succeeded, just giving up one run in 6 2/3 innings. The Braves could only score 3 runs that game, while the Reds scored 5.

On Tuesday, while the Braves scored 4 runs in the fourth inning, and while the Reds trailed 5-3, the Reds did not give up and ended up scoring 3 more runs, making the score 6-5. Had the Braves scored more than 6 runs, they would have won the base ball contest.

The Atlanta Braves remain in first place in a division where there are other base ball teams also trying to win games. Tomorrow they’ll face the St. Louis Cardinals, another base ball team, who are in the central division of the National League. The Cardinals will try their very best to win and prevent the Braves from winning, while the Braves will do their best to remain in first place.

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The Unsung Hero of the Atlanta Braves

Knockahoma Nation FanPost by @dren_braves on Twitter. @dren_braves is a mustache grower and mountain unicyclist who lives at the feet of the Wasatch Mountain Range in Salt Lake City, Utah where he watches Atlanta Braves games.

“This isn’t a try league…They better be ready to come play tomorrow…I was pissed, there’s a process that wasn’t sustained.  The first three innings, I loved it. And then we just kind of punted the last six innings. That pissed me off.” –Brian Snitker, following being swept by the San Francisco Giants in Atlanta

Just kidding, that wasn’t Brian Snitker, it was Dodgers manager Dave Roberts after losing the first of four games to the last place Cincinnati Reds.  Yes, those Dodgers who won 104 games just last year. Those Dodgers who won 43 games in a 50-game stretch in 2017, the most dominant 50-game stretch in 105 years.  Those Dodgers who breezed their way to the 2017 World Series.

2,179 miles away in Cumberland, Georgia, the Atlanta Braves are responding to their worst losing streak of the season (3 games) by winning 6 of their last 8 games. They are in sole possession of first place in the entire National League. Yet, nobody seems to be paying attention to this red-hot team. Sure, the Braves have some very bright young stars who are beginning to capture some national attention. We all know about Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr., but are these two players the reason this team is currently atop the National League? There is no doubt they are playing an important role as the top two hitters in the lineup. But it takes much more than a couple of young stars to make a good baseball team (just ask the Anaheim Angels). The Atlanta Braves are a complete baseball club. They have good pitching, great defense, and solid hitters top-to-bottom. One of the many guys holding this team together is…

El Chapulín Colorado

(Still trying to get this nickname to stick)

More agile than a turtle, stronger than a mouse, nobler than a lettuce, his shield is a heart…It’s Ender “El Chapulín Colorado” Inciarte!

One of the most polarizing players right now for the Atlanta Braves is Ender David Inciarte Montiel. The ladies swoon, while the SABR nerds spit all over him. Meanwhile, I’m over here listening to his interviews, laughing about how much he sounds like Vito Corleone.

I think even the most hardened SABR folks will acknowledge that Ender is adept at getting on base by hitting singles.  But they will quickly jump to, “but he doesn’t walk at all and doesn’t hit for power”. I am not here to argue that Ender is good at drawing walks, or that he is a power hitter. I am here to argue that Ender is an above average hitter, and a crucial part of the Braves’ success.

FanGraphs is a holy source of data for Ender’s detractors. But according to this holy scripture, an On-Base Percentage of 0.340 or higher is considered “above average”. Let’s see I’m just going to go look at Ender’s…oh my goodness he has a career OBP of 0.340! I am not surprised. That’s because hitting a single is just as valuable as drawing a walk when it comes to OBP. This is not the whole story though. When you draw a walk, any runners on base in front of you only get to advance one base.  If there’s an empty base in front of you, they don’t get to advance at all! However, when you hit a single, all of the baserunners can advance as far as possible. Very often a runner can go from first to third on a single, or from second to home! That means a runner scores! I feel dumb saying this but people seem to have forgotten that singles are more valuable than walks. A guy with a 0.340 OBP and a low walk percentage is more valuable than a guy with a 0.340 OBP and a high walk percentage.

I don’t mean to keep beating up the Dodgers, but they provide such a stark contrast to the Braves this year that really helps us understand what’s going on in Atlanta. Cody Bellinger is one of the bright young stars for the Dodgers. He had a monster rookie season last year. On April 29, 2018, he hit a ball into “Triples Alley” in San Francisco, and casually trotted into second for a double. The aforementioned Roberts benched him the next game for not hustling and trying for a triple. I challenge you, the reader, to find a time when Ender did not run at full steam on a ball hit in the gap. I think Ender probably leads the league in replay reviews on bang-bang plays at first [citation needed] (this, despite being one of the slowest centerfielders in baseball according to Statcast).

Bellinger opened eyes again last Saturday when in a close game in the bottom of the ninth and nobody on base, he bunted a 3-0 pitch right to the pitcher who easily threw him out for the second out of the inning. Ken Rosenthal later reported that Bellinger ignored a sign to take the pitch with three balls and no strikes. He ignored his manager and surrendered in a winnable game against a bad team. Oof. (Rosenthal, The Athletic)

Now let’s flash back to SunTrust Park on April 21, 2018. The Braves were down 3 runs to the rival New York Mets and managed to scratch out 3 runs to tie the game in the 8th and 9th innings. Ender Inciarte came up to bat in the 9th with 1 out and runners on 1st and 3rd in a tie game. Earlier in the game, in a crucial situation, Ender stole third but upon replay review was called out because he momentarily popped off the bag.  It was a deflating play, but Ender and the Braves always feel they can win, no matter the circumstances.

Back to the 9th inning: Freddie Freeman who was in-the-hole later explained, “I didn’t even grab my stuff because I told Snit, ‘I believe in Ender, I’m not even going to go up there’. Next thing you know he’s bunting and I just, like, start panicking. And then all of a sudden just awesomeness happened. I don’t think anyone else would have thought about that except Ender.”

We later learned that Ender did not go up to the plate planning to bunt. He dug into the box thinking, “I’m gonna swing, I’m gonna swing, I’m gonna swing.  Then I walked into the box and I saw Camargo (at third base) and I looked to first and I changed my mind.  I said, you know what, I can lay a bunt right here; it’s the right situation.” (O’Brien, AJC Article)

“It’s the right situation”. How many times have you watched a team try to win a game, and the guy at the plate just totally whiffs as he tries to hit the ball to the moon? Or let’s get weird, how many times have you watched a team try to win a game, and the guy at the plate bunts a 3-0 pitch right to the pitcher with nobody on base? The point is, Ender Inciarte is a great baseball player who knows his role. He doesn’t need to hit a 3 run bomb with a runner on third in a tie game. That RBI bunt single isn’t going to give a boost to his SLG, it’s not going to make his WRC+ look sexy, and it’s not going to make a huge boost to his WAR.  But Ender Inciarte won a ballgame that day for the Atlanta Braves.

We are very fortunate to be able to watch the rise of the next Atlanta Braves dynasty. The Braves are just so fun to watch right now, every day. Ender Inciarte is a big part of that excitement, and plays a huge role in every win. He’s out there every day making tough catches look easy. He’s out there every day getting on base. If you ever find yourself thinking, “but I wish he would draw more walks and hit more homers”, just STOP.  You’re trying to make yourself miserable. Enjoy the ride, you knuckleheads.

Sources:

Ken Rosenthal, “Are the reeling Dodgers really this bad or can they turn their season around?” The Athletic. https://theathletic.com/353492?shared_by=163314

David O’Brien, “Game-Ender bunt for bold Inciarte” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. https://www.myajc.com/sports/baseball/game-ender-bunt-for-bold-inciarte/5L3HsEaxVaI8EwFnJoJhJK/

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The Acuña Ascension

Hi, Ken and Dan here. Since there is so much talk on the twitters regarding the ascension of the Holy One, Ronald Acuña Jr., we thought we would sit down and share some reasonable thoughts for why the Braves might choose to wait on promoting the young phenom. The following is our completely reasonable analysis of why the Braves organization might make different decisions regarding “He who will save us”.

Dan: It is no secret that the Atlanta Braves will, at some point, promote their 20-year-old phenom Ronald Acuña in 2018. There was even thoughts of him possibly making the Braves opening day roster coming out of spring. While I think those thoughts were more hopes than realistic expectations, based on how Acuña, Jr. performed in 2017, it gave inclinations as to what he could do on a baseball field.

However, his ascension through the ranks of minor league baseball in 2017 was unprecedented, even for a top prospect. There’s no question Atlanta could use his skills in the lineup and in the field; but do they need him right now?

As the 2018 spring season opened, there was controversy on when Atlanta would in-fact, promote Acuña. As fans, most of us think we understand the business side of things well enough. We knew in order to maintain control of Acuña for an extra year, the Braves would start him in Gwinnett and possibly bring him up no sooner than this week. But a few wrenches have thwarted his possible mid-April call-up.

Those wrenches? Preston Tucker and Ronald Acuña. Preston Tucker has gotten off to a decent start. Ronald Acuña has not.

Ken: A few extra weeks for other teams to look at Preston Tucker and possibly decide he deserves a big league chance (worth trading some real prospect capital for) before the Braves are forced to evaluate the option of trading him away, is certainly defensible.

Dan: So far in this early 2018 season, as of 16th April 2018, Acuña has 36 PAs yielding 33 ABs. In those 33 At-Bats, he is 5 for 33 that include 4 singles and one double. He has 2 runs scored and zero RBI. In those 33 PAs he’s drawn 3 BBs. This slow start looks like this in slash form: .152/.222/.182/.404. Not exactly tearing it up early on.

He has an ISO of .030, a .238 BABIP, a .198 wOBA, and 18 wRC+. In 36 PAs he has struck out 12 times. He struck out only 48 times in AAA last year in 243 PAs. In 2017 his K% was 19.8%. In 2018 so far, it’s 33.3% in 33 PAs. In 2017, that a K for approximately every 5 PAs and in 2018, a K in every 2.7 ABs.

Is it too early to panic? Probably.

Now there are reports coming out, that because of not only this slow start, but also the play of Preston Tucker, that it has given the Braves some time to think. And while they are thinking, the Super-2 status conversation is churning.

Ken: Those are great thoughts and statistics Dan, and I believe certainly have played into the Braves reasoning. However, I’m going to take a strictly cynical approach to might thoughts on the Braves dealings. I think they are keeping him down because they hate looking like liars. Do you remember the vitriol that the Chicago Cubs received when they kept down, the obviously ready, Kris Bryant? I do. The national news crucified the Cubs for manipulating service time, which is against the rules of the MLB CBA. Bryant (amongst others) filed grievances with the MLBPA against the Cubs, as Jeff Passan wrote here.

Why would keeping Acuña down look like the Braves were lying? Let’s not kid ourselves, the primary reason he’s being held down is to do exactly what they aren’t supposed to do, manipulate his service time. But because that is illegal and the Braves are coming off of a winter that featured the harshest penalties in MLB history against a baseball franchise, they truly can’t afford to look like cheaters. If they sent Acuña Jr down to “€œwork on some things” as they have stated, then bringing him up in the middle of a terrible start looks like outright lying. Acuña has struggled to find his timing at AAA and has struck out far too often in his first few games. If he had started hot, I doubt we are having this discussion or writing this article, and I would assume he would be starting today for the Atlanta Braves.

Dan: New Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos, has gone on record saying he would have not progressed Acuña through the minor league system so swiftly, which leads me to believe, by the way, that we won’t see that same progression rate for Christian Pache. I believe, right now, there are fans on either side of the fence on Acuña right now. I don’t feel any of them think Acuña won’t get promoted this year, but I think there are contingents that are realizing mid-April may not be the best time to bring him up.

Ken: Of course there is another contingent that has decided that the Braves are the trashiest organization that they have ever seen and that there is a personal vendetta out against Acuña Jr, for some unknown reason, and that they are out to stiff fans and the young phenom destined to save the organization. Some fans have insinuated that this is a way to pad attendance numbers and create multiple weeks of expectant fans buying pre-sales to see Acuña at his first game. While it certainly is possible, that doesn’t seem to fit with just about anything else the front office has done since Alex Anthopoulos has taken over, so I for one choose the benefit of the doubt. Why not just call him up and pack all the games if you are truly only doing this for a few extra ticket sales? That would be the penultimate example of obscene pettiness and feels like the ramblings of conspiracy theorists aka: impatient fans.

Dan: Let’s look at few numbers for a minute. Ronald Acuña, Jr. played at three levels of minor league baseball in 2017. He dominated every level, that’s apparent. However, I think his domination in 2017 was more about inconsistency, rather than a sustained display of consistent dominance.

Let me explain:

I don’t want to focus too much on stats here. What I want to do, is look at one number and one column: Games played.

  • High-A: Florida Fire Frogs – 28 games played
  • Double-A: Mississippi Braves – 57 games played
  • Triple-A: Gwinnet Braves – 54 games played

Acuña has not been in one place long enough to find a routine or establish himself. Routines are a big part of the game. You hear it all the time from pitchers. When talking about, or analyzing Ronald Acuña’€™s 2017 and his early 2018, you have to remember that he played at three levels last year. All completely different levels in any regard. There was hardly any time for either Acuña or the league for that matter, to adequately acclimate. This slow start in 2018 could be showing not only Braves, but also Acuña that maybe, he isn’t quite ready. He’s close, really close, but just not there yet.

Ken: That’s certainly one way to look at it, and I think the argument you are making is exactly the argument that the Braves front office will use, should Acuña and his agent choose to file a grievance for service time manipulation. That being said, Mike Trout, Ken Griffey, Andruw Jones, Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas, Trevor Bauer, and Kirby Puckett didn’t have any trouble shooting through the minors and making a big league team while finding their routines and rhythms. Heck, Bob Horner is one of many who skipped the minors all together, and he hit a homer in his very first at bat. As to struggling, after being called up, even Mike Trout struggled a bit to make the major league adjustment, but I don’t think anyone was complaining about it.

But to your point Dan, it wasn’t that long ago that a large contingent of fans were freaking out about Dansby Swanson having a down year after being called up “too early”. Yet another reason that the Braves can use to validate their decision to keep him down. They don’t need the next ‘face of the franchise’ to struggle, the way many of even the biggest stars do, and once again be facing the persistent allegations of fans who believe they moved “too fast”.

The truth is, Dan isn’t wrong at all, but I think the reverse argument can weigh just as heavily. Get the kid up, he proved in the spring he was ready, there is no reason to wait… unless you’re worried about the organization taking a shot from national writers when their reputation is already in the mud.

Dan: I’m not saying Acuña won’t make his debut this year, but I think there is some merit to him never really getting settled at any level last year long enough, to really know how he’d respond to any adversity. Acuña will be a superstar in this game, and for all intents and purposes, he may already be there. If he wants to make this Atlanta ball club, though, in 2018, he probably needs to prove that he can sustain his productivity for an extended amount of time.

Ken: By an extended amount of time, I’m thinking 3-5 days.

Dan: I mean, have we really seen enough to know how he would handle a slump yet? Pitching at the MLB level is nothing at all like the pitching in the minors, even at AAA. If he has trouble responding to the likes of International League pitching, how will he respond to the Scherzer’s, deGrom’s, Strasburg’s, and even Kershaw’s of Major League Baseball?

Ken: Some things are worth learning on the fly. My guess is that he will be set to get a nice taste of Scherzer, Strasburg, DeGrom, and Syndergaard before 2 more weeks are up. So for all those worried enjoy the anticipation. Think of it like Tantric sex. The longer you wait the better it’ll be… or something like that.

Dan: I think the Braves have a lot of legitimate reasons to wait if they want to use them.

Ken: I think you’re absolutely right, and for a club who’s previous regime left it with a ‘€œdamned spot’ that won’t easily wash away, some good rationale and a little patience are wise moves to make before throwing your name into the national headlines as the bad guy again. It’s nothing to do with their faith in Ronald Acuña Jr., his performance, or spite for fans. As the Godfather said, “It’s just business.”

The truth is Dan and I both think he’s ready, we’re just trying to help you Knuckleheads realize there is more than one way to look at it, and it might be worth a deep breath. Share this junk with your friends.

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“Come on Meat”: Bull Durham’s 30th Anniversary

“Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic … So relax! Let’s have some fun out here! This game’s fun, OK? Fun goddamnit”.

“Come on, Rook. Show us that million-dollar arm, ’cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours”.

The Film

If you’re like me, you know all too well where these famous lines come from. If you’re not like me, you should still know where they come from. However, I won’t hold that against you. Instead, I’ll just educate y’all a little.

These lines are two of my favorite quotes from the movie Bull Durham. The character that made them famous? Crash Davis. Kevin Costner’s Crash was the “player to be named later”; the veteran journeyman, career minor leaguer, that spent 21 days in the show once. Davis was brought in to mentor the young rookie phenom, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins.

This much most of you probably know, but did you know that, as far as I can tell or find out, Crash Davis is the only fictional character to have his number retired by a minor league baseball team? It’s true. On July 4th, 2008, during the film’s 20th anniversary, Kevin Costner’s band Modern West performed for the Durham Bulls. It was to that point, only the second number that Durham had ever retired. The first was Joe Morgan (18) … Yes, that Joe Morgan.

Since then, two managers and one player have had their numbers retired. Managers Bill Evers (20) and Charlie Montoyo (25), and some SS who goes by the name of Chipper (10). Of course, as with all Major and Minor League teams, Jackie Robinson’s number 42 is retired as well.

2018, marks the 30 year anniversary since the movie’s release in theaters.

Costner’s character Davis eventually leaves Durham after Nuke gets called up to the show. At one point in the movie, it’s revealed that Crash needs only a handful of home runs, and he’ll be the all-time minor league home run champ. After he leaves Durham, he winds up joining the Asheville Tourists, hits his “dinger” and goes back to Durham to retire. Because of the 30-year anniversary, Asheville will also paying homage to the classic film. They will wear replica uniforms from the movie this summer at one of their home games.

The History

You may be wondering, “Yeah, so what? What’s this got to do with the Braves? Isn’t this a Braves site?” As it happens to be, Bull Durham was released in 1988 (I was 9, by the way). In 1988, the Braves minor league affiliates were all clustered together. Richmond, VA was home to the Triple-A team, Greenville, SC was home to the Double-A squad, and they had three Single-A level teams. The Burlington Braves, the Sumter Braves, and the Durham Bulls. So, in essence, this was a movie about the Braves, and the team Nuke gets called up to, is the Atlanta Braves. The Bulls became the AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they expanded into the league.

The cool part to me is the number retirement itself. Crash Davis wore the number 8 in the film for Durham. So, if you have ever been to a Durham Bulls game, and saw a number 8 on the wall, you now know why. Another bit of fun information about the Bulls was the big giant mechanical bull behind right field. That bull was only intended to be a prop for the movie. However, fans loved it so much, the team decided to keep it as a permanent attraction. Bull Durham was filmed in Durham at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, also known as DAP. And the road game scenes were shot in the surrounding triangle of ballparks.

The Durham Bulls served as Atlanta’s Class A and/or the Class-A Advanced organization from 1980 to 1997. Since then, Atlanta has had the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Lynchburg Hillcats, Carolina Mudcats, and now, the Florida Fire Frogs.

The Fun

Bull Durham had some of the best lines and monologues in cinema. One, in particular, I can’t leave here. NSFW Rules do apply, we are a family show after all. However, as I wrap up this little tribute to the wonderful Ron Shelton classic, I’d like to leave you with a few more of my favorite lines from the film.

Crash: “This son of a bitch is throwing a two-hit shutout. He’s shaking me off. You believe that shit? Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well”.

Crash: “Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob”.

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: “How come you don’t like me”?
Crash: “Because you don’t respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don’t respect the game, and that’s my problem. You got a gift”.

Crash: You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.

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Ronald Acuña, the first baseball player with swag

Over the weekend, I was spending time with my friends, my wife, and my dogs in the lovely mountains of Boone, NC when I made the mistake of checking Twitter. Saturday afternoon, I saw several tweets calling out John Kruk for his terrible remarks about a certain Ronald Acuña home run.

From my understanding, based on the tweets I saw, Ronald Acuña had hit a homer (again) and admired it before proceeding to first base. It appeared that John Kruk had scolded Ronald Acuña for admiring his work. Some tweets even insinuated that Kruk was a racist for having such a response and that old white people are going to hate the way he is going to play the game.

Then I watched the actual clip Monday morning.

Saturday’s John Kruk/Acuña drama has led me to the conclusion that I need to spend less time on social media.

There seems to be a lot of younger fans on the interwebs who believe that older white folks are going to hate the swagger that Ronald Acuña plays with. There seems to be folks who think Acuña is the first young baseball player to admire a home run, and that all old white men will hate the way he plays baseball.

Here’s a fun Ryan Klesko bat flip compilation. He’s a white guy.

Check this guy out. He’s also a white guy.

This cracker had the audacity to pump his fist around the bases after blasting one into the seats.

Look at all the angry white people in the stands after this guy gloated after murdering one of his 493 career home runs.

Check this guy out with his chains and swag. Then notice the angry white folks.

White people are fun. Non-white people are fun. Baseball is fun. The end.

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Nick Markakis: Ballplayer

I know I’m probably in the minority when I say this, but I absolutely LOVE watching Nick Markakis play baseball for the Atlanta Braves.

Markakis may not be the player you or many other Braves want him to be, but he’s the leader in the clubhouse who’s value reaches farther than the stat sheet. When the Braves do get back to those winning ways, it will be in large part because of the veteran mentorship and wisdom he left in the clubhouse.

The insufferable intolerance of Nick Markakis among many Atlanta Braves fans is long past overkill. It is now mostly white noise and borders upon the absurd.

It’s not lost on me that Markakis is on the downhill decline of his career and thus, more than likely, won’t be a Brave in 2019. I’ve accepted that, and when the time comes, an ode to Markakis will probably be penned. In the meantime, he is still an Atlanta Brave. It’s discussed, ad nausea, about Markakis being primarily a singles hitter; those sentiments are justified, to an extent.

Since 2006 (Nick’s rookie season), he ranks second among all active Major League players with 1,438 singles; Ichiro ranks first. It’s ALSO TRUE that he ranks third in DOUBLES with 431, only Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera rank higher at one and two, respectively. In that same span, Markakis is in the top 10, with runs scored (965), top 25 in RBI (876), and first in plate appearances with over 8000.

Additionally, since Ender Inciarte joined the Braves in 2016, he has hit more singles in a Braves uniform than Nick Markakis has. In 2016 Inciarte had 118 singles; Markakis had 110. Last year, Inciarte had 158 (of 201 hits) … one-hundred and fifty-eight … That’s almost 80% of his total hits last year. Markakis had 115 (of 163 hits), a whole 10% less than Inciarte. That’s 278 singles for Inciarte and 225 for Kakes in two seasons.

Yet what confuses me, was the praise and excitement Ender garnered from fans for leading (at one point) all of MLB in singles. Compared to the malevolent diatribe cast at Markakis.

He’s not an elite defender. BUT, in 15,518.2 innings in right field, he has made only 23 errors. In comparison, Jason Heyward has had 25 errors in 9,198 innings. My point is that Kakes is still an average, serviceable right fielder for one more year in Atlanta, especially with the makeup of the current roster. Nick Markakis, yes, hits a lot of singles. But so does Hunter Pence, Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki.

But, of everything Nick does well, or for everything he doesn’t do well, there’s one thing you have to respect about the man. He comes to the park ready to go every day. He puts his head down and does his job. He’s the quiet leader in clubhouse and doesn’t say a lot. But you have to at least respect the opinion of a Hall of Famer when Nick Markakis is the topic of discussion. #StopHating

You don’t have to hit 30 home runs in a season or drive in 100+ runs to be considered productive. And you certainly don’t have to be an elite defender, saving 25 runs a season. you still need to see the guy actually play baseball. Yes, I know, it’s an anomaly that players don’t play on a sheet of paper. There’s a reason teams still employ scouts and send them to watch guys, you know, actually throw or hit a baseball. You need that part of the evaluation. Every player on the team (*AHEM*) on … the … TEAM, plays a role.

One guy’s role may be to hit home runs, one player’s role may be to pitch in the 7th inning (sidenote: this is called a starter). Another player’s role is to come in off the bench and provide a late inning spark and maybe, it another olayer’s role to be the veteran mentor to a group of kids who need some direction, and whatever else they contribute is gravy.

Nick Markakis is a ballplayer. #SorryNotSorry.

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Why do baseball players wear baseball gloves?

A baseball glove is a large leather glove worn by baseball players of the defending team. They’re sometimes called “mitts.” They are meant to assist players in catching and fielding baseballs hit by a batter or thrown by another teammate.

If a baseball player is right-handed, he wears his glove on this left hand. Conversely, if a baseball player is left-handed, he wears his glove on his right hand. This allows the baseball player to throw the ball with the hand that is not occupied by the glove.

To expound a bit, a baseball team is challenged with of two main jobs. To accumulate runs and to stop runs. A game is comprised of 9 innings and there are two halves to each inning. The visiting team always bats first, which means they’ll be on offense during the top-of-the-first inning, at which point the home team with be on defense. After the top of the inning, the teams switch. The home team then goes on offense, as the visiting team makes its way to the field to defend against the offense.

The field is comprised of defensive positions. Catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base are your infield positions. There are three outfield positions – right field, center field, and left field. When a team is on defense, they send a man out (wearing a glove) to occupy each of these positions. Sometimes the manager of the baseball team might induce a shift, which means positions shift to another part of the field. For example, if the left-handed hitter at the plate has a propensity to pull the ball, the team on defense might institute a shift, moving defenders to a far right position.

Historically, the team on defense puts these efforts into place in an attempt to prohibit hits. For example, the second baseman and shortstop wear gloves and are standing at a ready position in the event that the baseball is deflected from the bat to where they can stop the baseball with their glove. If they catch the baseball in the air, it’s an automatic out. If they stop the baseball, after the baseball has already hit the ground, they must throw the ball to first base before the batter crosses the bag. If the batter crosses the bag before the first baseman catches the ball, this is called a hit.

Up until very recently hits mattered, which warranted the above mentioned baseball players and scenarios. Since 1887 baseballs that were hit, landing where defenders were not located, which didn’t make it over the wall (which is called a home run) mattered. One of the best hitters during the 20th century was Roberto Clemente. While younger generations now might not recognize him as an effective baseball player, because he was very proficient at getting hits, its important to remember the history of the game.

While hits no longer matter, clinical psychologists are trying to understand why giving up hits does seem to matter. Studies have shown that fans, and even writers, seem to display angry online behavior if a baseball player gets lots of hits, which would lead one to believe that, by the same logic, they would not care if their favorite pitcher gives up lots of hits. But alas, no-hitters and prohibiting hits are still en vogue on the defensive side of the ball.

There have been many new progressive solutions to fix the game of baseball since discovering that hits don’t matter. One idea has been to allow the defenders to play red rover while the opposing team is up to bat. The pitcher and catcher, of course, would not be able to engage in the game of red rover because they would be occupied with throwing to the batter, trying not to give up home runs (the only type of offense that is now awarded with any type of statistical value or online respect).

Another idea that has been floating around thought circles has been to allow the defenders to engage in staring contests. Some analysts include blinking in the confines of staring contests, while others believe that as long as you don’t laugh or smile, you win the contest. According to Baseball America, Matt Wisler of the Atlanta Braves has the strongest stare and could be one of most effective starers in 2018.

Perhaps the idea that is gaining the most popularity over the last several months is also the most noble idea, because baseball fields (especially world-class Major League baseball fields) are meticulously maintained, there seems to be an opportunity to turn these green spaces into urban farming communities. Opponents of this idea argue that if this were done, teams would be wasting money that they already have invested in defenders, especially center fielders. The argument against this is – if teams can teach defenders basic farming practices, they could utilize their investments (the players) in more effective and noble ways. Concerns of covered stadiums still need to be addressed, should MLB go this route.

According to the Ecology Center, urban farming communities do more than merely harvest food. They reduce carbon emissions, they improve overall public health, and most importantly, they enhance the overall food quality.

Such drastic changes and ideas are certain to bring fear into the more traditional baseball fan. But, now that hits do not matter and baseball players like Nick Markakis serve little-to-no purpose, something needs to be done to make the baseball field matter again.

Since baseball gloves are also no longer needed to prevent hits, there have been many folks within the baseball community trying to figure out new innovative ways of using the baseball glove.

Toronto Blue Jays fan and musical artist, Justin Bieber, has offered to incorporate a baseball glove in his act, much like Michael Jackson’s famous glove. The idea would be to enhance his stage performances when people like Andy Harris go to watch him.

Another idea has been reallocating gloves to pursue medical needs. Proctologists for years have touted the glove snap. Because of this, progressive thinkers believe that former baseball fans like Stephen Tolbert might be open to having their prostates examined for sticks up their anal cavities if said proctologists were using baseball gloves to perform their examination. This could encourage men to get checked at younger ages, which could in turn prevent prostate cancer.

Now that hits and their counterpart, baseball gloves, no longer matter, hopefully baseball fans can now turn their attention to other things that actually matter. Like spending time with each other, exploring the great outdoors, or rescuing a dog from a local shelter.

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Knockahoma Prospectus: A Knucklehead’s guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves.

If you’re a casual fan like I once was, then the start of the new baseball season is often simultaneously exciting and confusing. You may have been paying attention to a whole bunch of other crap that was more important to you at the time. If you’re from Braves country you might have been chasing the Georgia Bulldogs, Clemson Tigers or the Alabama Crimson Tide fighting for the College Football National Championship. Maybe you were watching the Falcons break your heart, or the Jags nearly pulling off an NFL miracle, not to mention those of you who are college football fans watching the coaching carousel fiascos.

The point is, I get it. I know what it’s like to suddenly tune back into baseball and not have a clue what is going on. Add in the fact that the Braves have had arguably the weirdest winter in the team’s history, and it’s quite a bit to take in. I thought it might be helpful to give you a fast review of all the things you might have missed. So without further adieu, I give you…

A Knucklehead’s Guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves.

First let’s recap the offseason.

John Coppolella quit. He got into a metric crap-ton of trouble and he resigned as GM. Oh yeah, he’s also now banned from baseball for life.

  Let’s keep it simple and say 

– He cheated.

– So did everyone else.

– He cheated and didn’t hide it.

– He wasn’t very good with leading people.

– MLB needed an example, they made one.

The basics: he bundled contracts of not so good international players and funneled that money to better players so they would sign with the Braves to get around rules that say you can only spend so much on international bonuses. This is a set of really ignorant rules that MLB has in place to keep teams from paying players what they are actually worth. That being said, rules are rules and Coppy and his team broke them.

The results: The Braves get smashed by MLB and 13 Braves prospects become free agents and sign with other teams. The only one you probably knew is Kevin Maitan. He’s now an Anaheim Angel (like half of the former Braves players and prospects, seriously they are like “Braves West” now).

The Braves also can’t sign any international prospects for a few years (there’s more details, but you probably don’t care, and if you do there are better articles for that).

Braves keep all their really good prospects other than Maitan. Including OF Drew Waters (it was about 50/50 on him going away there for a while).

Ok, so now we’re past that Crap storm.

Oops, wait, no we aren’t. In the midst of all that, John Hart (VP of Baseball Ops) appoints himself as decision maker and signs Snitker to a one year deal as well as firing half the coaches under Snit (Pendleton and Perez – fortunately they stayed with the organization), while hiring several new faces (Walt Weiss and Eric Young, Sr to name a couple).

But wait, it gets better. Then the Braves hire Alex Anthopoulos (AA) to come be the new General Manager. This was a great hire. He comes from winning teams and understands baseball. But here’s the kicker:, John Hart then rides off into the sunset (Anthopoulos probably kicked his butt out) scott-freaking-free. In fact, last week MLB hired him to return as an anchor on MLB tonight. So the guy who oversaw the greatest scandal in the past 20 years of baseball gets off without any accountability whatsoever. Ain’t baseball grand?

Ok, so back to the team.

Anthopoulos. Really smart. Basically Coppolella with hair and personality.  They even sound the same (it’s freaking weird).

AA pulls a rabbit straight out of his butt and trades Matt Kemp and his giant gut and colossal contract to the Dodgers for Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson and Adrian Gonzalez’s colossal contract. Simply shipping Kemp is a feat in and of itself, but back to LA makes it even more hysterical.

Before you get all excited about names… Gonzalez (who has been atrocious the last few years) was immediately cut loose by the Braves as part of the deal. Kazmir, while once terrific, is coming back from a few years of significant injuries, and McCarthy (who had a great year last year) is a bit of an injury concern himself, having only pitched in about 17 games last year. Long story short, there is some good potential here for quality players, but the best part of the deal was dumping Kemp’s contract, bad hamstrings, and apocalyptic defense.

Next – Addition by subtraction.

These guys are all gone now…

Matt Kemp – Gone.

Matt Adams – Gone. The Braves didn’t sign him back because he has no place to play. (NO, he can’t play outfield or ANY position other than first base and that position is taken.)

Adonis Garcia – Gone. A-dong-is wanted to play in Korea. HE GONE.

R.A. Dickey – Gone. Retired.

Jim Johnson – Gone. Traded to the Angels for Justin Kelly and the rest of the Braves 2017-2018 Int’l bonus pool funds.

Jason Motte – Gone. Braves only had him on a 1 year deal, he’s back with the Cardinals now.

Jace Peterson – Gone. Non-tendered. Signed a minor league deal with the Yankees with an invite to Spring Training.

Ian Krol – Gone. Non-tendered. Signed a minor league deal with the Angels with an invite to Spring Training.

The Braves didn’t do anything.

Well that’s what fans will be telling you anyway.

– They didn’t sign a big name 3B (No Todd Frazier or Mike Moustakas). They didn’t sign a big name pitcher (No Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta). They didn’t sign a big name LF (No JD Martinez, Corey Dickerson, or Adam Duvall).

– Looks like they aren’t spending any more money. (lots of possible reasons, but this ain’t the time or the place – read Boggy’s 2-part article right here for more info).

– They did add some bench pieces like Charlie Culberson (Dansby’s Doppelgänger), and Preston Tucker, but these are mostly bench and depth moves.

What does that mean?

Johan Camargo is going to be playing 3B – most likely.

Nick Markakis is going to be playing RF – most likely.

– MLB’s #1 Prospect, Ronald Acuña will be playing LF (after April 13th) – most likely.

What does all of THAT mean?

– Well, it means ATL isn’t going much over $100M in payroll despite what they said last year.

– It means Camargo is going to get a real shot to show what he has.

– It means the Braves don’t have a ton of power.

This last point is the one everyone is going to harp on, and they probably should. The Braves have one guy projected to hit more than 20 HRs – Freddie Freeman. This team is going to be an on-base dependent team. They’ll pop a home run or two (and maybe more than people think), but for the most part, they’re going to have to play a bit of old school baseball; get them on, get them over, get them home. Fortunately, nearly the entire team has speed and should be fun to watch.

What to watch for in 2018.

Across MLB:

Well, they changed some rules, nothing too major (thankfully), but they did limit coaching/catcher visits to the mound per game, and the amount of time in between innings, let’s see if it speeds things up or not.  

The Twins added a bunch of talent in the off-season, as did the Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton is now a Yankee). The Red Sox signed JD Martinez to try to keep up. The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani (famous pitcher/hitter from Japan) sweepstakes. Oh, and if you tuned out before the playoffs, the Washington Nationals STILL have not won a playoff series in team history.

What to watch for on the Braves:

YOUNG PITCHING.

There’s going to be a ton of it. Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, AJ Minter, Akeel Morris.  All names that you’re going to be hearing this year. The talent is starting to make it to the majors and it’s going to be legit. Also, there’s a name or two you may see disappear if they don’t figure things out. I’m looking at you Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler (but for now they’re still trying to make a go of it and Blair lost 40 lbs over the winter).

YOUNG HITTING.

Oh you thought the Braves only had arms… sorry they have MOARRRR HITTERZZZ.

Ozzie Albies

Dansby Swanson

Johan Camargo (5 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs in 87 ABs in the 2017/18 Dominican Winter League)

Ronald Acuña. Acuña, baseball’s #1 prospect, is going to explode on the scene this year and he’s full of piss, vinegar, and a whole lot of swagger. You might not like him if you like your players to act like a stoic member of the Queen’s guard.

At the end of the day, this team is going to be fun and fast. They may be bad at times, they may be really good at times. However, most of this year is going to ride on their ability to pitch.

Watch for how Snitker develops the young kids (he’s spent his whole life doing just that), and look for the kids that truly surprise at the Major League level.

Now that you’ve read a knucklehead’s guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves, you know enough to be horribly dangerous when talking Braves baseball with your friends. If you have questions feel free to ask them in the comments and I will fill in any gaps that I can. Chop on!

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Show Me The Money! Part 2/2

In part one, I showed that I believe the Braves 2018 payroll currently stands at $99M. Considering the 2017 Braves opened the season with a payroll of $126M and finished at $123.3M, one would think the Braves should have a lot of funds available to spend this season, perhaps as much as $30M or more. Which begs the question that I’ve heard time & time again this off-season: “Why haven’t the Braves spent any money?!?! Sign Martinez! Sign Moustakas! Bring in Jake Marietta!!! Spend some money you cheap bastards!!!” There are a multitude of reasons, but I need to start by explaining why my $99M payroll figure doesn’t tell the whole story of the Braves 2018 spending.

I think the Braves have to set aside more funds than just for the active roster payroll. I think their total expenditures for the season also has to include money for in-season acquisitions (like Matt Adams in 2017), bonuses for the amateur draft, and international free agency signings. In my experience, a suitable amount to set aside for in-season acquisitions is about $6M. In 2016, the Braves spent $16M on the amateur draft, but they had 2 extra picks in the first 2 rounds which boosted their pool amount. In 2017, they “only” spent $11.8M on the amateur draft. The pool values for the 2018 amateur draft have not be released yet, and the final draft order won’t be known until the remaining free agents that received qualifying offers are signed (Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland, Lance Lynn, & Mike Moustakas). The Braves have the 8th pick in the 2018 draft but they lost their 3rd round pick and the money that goes with it. The Braves max out their draft spending every year, almost always spending up to 99.5% of their pool. Using the pool value of the team with the 8th pick in the 2017 draft, my rough estimate for the Braves amateur draft spending for 2018 is $9.8M. The Braves international bonus pool for 2018-2019 is $4.75M but they’re limited to signing players for no more than $300,000 since they went over their pool during the 2016-2017 signing period. I would guess that they’ll try to trade some of that money to other teams that aren’t restricted but I think they’ll also sign some talent. Let’s be generous and say they use a little over half of their pool for 2018 – $2.5M.

$6M + $9.8M + $2.5M = $18.3M

Add that to the $99M for active roster payroll and the total for player costs comes to $117.3M. Even with a budget of $130M (which I think is a little high), that actually only leaves $12.7M to spend on free agents, which isn’t much. I can only venture to guess at what the Braves’ budget for player costs is, but I think it’s fair to say they might be looking at the total picture, rather than just the active roster payroll. This could explain why they haven’t spent any money this off-season – they actually have less available than we think.

I’ve read lots of opinions on why the Braves haven’t spent any money this off-season – Liberty Media is cheap, they want to recoup the signing bonus money they lost when MLB took away their international prospects, the free agents aren’t a fit, Liberty Media wants to sell the team, the team is gun-shy after the big money failures of Bartolo Colon, BJ Upton, Hector Olivera, etc. All of these might come into play in some form or fashion, but I’m pretty sure it all starts with what happened on October 2, 2017.

That’s the day John Coppolella was forced to resign by the Braves for his infractions in the international free agency market. That forced the Braves to completely reset the way they run the team – they had to bring a new GM (Alex Anthopoulos) and overhaul the entire front office. It would make sense that this new front office might not be the kind of free spenders the fans would expect, especially when they have to get used to a brand new team, learn about the assets they have, and the budget that might be imposed by team ownership. Going into the off-season, prior to the IFA penalties that MLB dropped on the Braves, it was probably fair to say that the Braves could be spenders this off-season in an effort to turn the page on the re-build. But once Coppy was canned and a whole new front office was brought in, I think the Braves organization had to take a big step back and look realistically at where they are and whether it was a good idea to spend a lot of money this off-season. They decided that 2018 was not the season to spend big and that they would make every effort to move any cumbersome contracts that would restrict their future spending *cough* Matt Kemp *cough* and see what the young stash of prospects they have can do at the major-league level.

Let’s take a quick look at what the Braves have on their team right now. They have a known quantity at first base, center field, and one rotation spot. That’s it. 3 players. 3. Right field, catcher, & 2 starting pitchers (Brandon McCarthy & Scott Kazmir) are free agents after the 2018 season. Left field (assuming it’s Ronald Acuña), second base, 2/5 of the rotation, and over half the bullpen are rookies or players with less than a year of experience. Shortstop still has a lot to prove, third base is a black hole and has been since Chipper Jones retired. The Braves aren’t going to be able to answer the questions at those positions by spending a whole bunch of money in 2018. They have to give it another year to really see what they have. If the young starting pitchers click & third base remains a black hole, then they know they need to spend on third base next year. If Austin Riley slugs his way to AAA by the end of the year, Ronald Acuña wins the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, but the rotation struggles, the Braves know they need to sign an ace to lead the staff next year. If the 2018 Braves bullpen blows lead after lead after lead this year, that’s where some of the future spending might have to go. There are too many unknowns on this team right now to warrant spending much money this season.

I don’t think Liberty Media is being cheap this year. I think the new front office, led by the bright and forward-thinking Alex Anthopoulos, is making a concerted effort to actually see what the Braves already have and where they may need to spend in the future to create a fully competitive team. I can’t image a smart guy like Anthopoulos would have accepted the Braves GM job if he knew that ownership was gonna handcuff his ability to spend.

I read somewhere once that most Unsuccessful rebuilds pay money for something they think they need before they actually know what they need when they are truly ready to compete. That screams of the San Diego Padres of the last few years to me. The just signed Eric Hosmer to a huge deal thinking he’s their answer, but is he? Most don’t think so. To me, if the Braves were to sign Mike Moustakas to a huge deal this season, it would be the exact same thing – sinking a lot of money into something that a lot of fans think is the answer for the team, but in reality, it’s not. Why spend a fortune on a guy who averages 2 WAR per season when you could wait a year and get one who averages 7 (Josh Donaldson)?

Side note: the argument for signing Moose to a cheap 1-2 year deal since he’s stuck out there on the free agent market is also a bad argument b/c he would cost the Braves their 4th round pick in this year’s draft. There would be no way to recoup that pick either because Moustakas can’t be given another qualifying offer when his contract is up – player’s can only receive one in the their career under the new CBA. With the Braves’ restrictions on signing international players from now until 2021, I feel like amateur draft picks should be treated with even more value than before – the Braves are going to need as many of those as they can get to keep the farm system stocked with top tier talent in the coming years.

The Braves rebuild has taken over 3 years now, and it’s destined to take one more before we fans really get to see the upswing and return to legit contention. But the Braves have the pieces in place with a lot of potential to be a great team very soon. I’m sure a lot of fans are tired of being patient with this team and really want them to do something big RIGHT NOW to start winning again RIGHT AWAY. But think about it – would you rather spend it all too early to maybe win once, or would you rather hang on to see if your investments grow into valuable commodities, then spend to fill in the gaps to send the team over the top and win for many many years to come?

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Show Me The Money! Part 1/2

The Braves have long been tight-lipped about their annual budget for the 25-man roster. Rarely has it ever been stated “Hey, we have $100M to spend this season.”, but I suppose that’s pretty normal for most ball clubs to not come right out and tell the public what their roster budget is for the year, except for the Marlins, but that’s a dumpster fire for another day. Apologies to their fans, both of them.

While we never really know what the Braves roster budget is for a season, we can estimate it based on previous years’ payrolls and what the team already has on the books for that season and beyond. The Braves’ 2017 Opening Day payroll was $126M and by the end of the season, they’d shed almost $3M from that total – the final tally for 2017 was $123.3M. Those totals, combined with statements from the team that revenues should pick up from the new stadium and surrounding Battery, led many to think $130M could be the rough roster budget for 2018. Then Coppy resigned & Alex Anthopoulos was hired and the entire front office was re-worked and in short, things changed drastically. I’m not so sure that we can expect the payroll to be that high anymore, or at least, we have to change the way we think about what the Braves are spending their money on.

All that being said, leads us to my breakdown of the Braves 2018 payroll so let’s dig into what that situation is right now. As of today (2/22/18), the Braves have 15 players under guaranteed1 contracts for 2018:

Total Guaranteed Salaries – $77.66M

1 Only the first 8 contracts listed are guaranteed. All the rest are 1-year arbitration contracts or non-guaranteed major-league deals signed during Spring Training. These 7 players can all be released before the end of Spring Training and only be owed a portion of their salary (30 or 45 days’ worth, depending on the day they’re released). Once they’re placed on the 25-man roster, their contract becomes guaranteed.

2 Half of Kazmir’s $16M salary for 2018 is deferred to 2021.

3 Moylan’s contract is non-guaranteed. It becomes guaranteed and escalates to $1.25M if/when he makes the 25-man roster

4 Brothers and Whitley signed non-guaranteed split contracts for 2018. This means they’ll get one base salary if on the major-league roster ($1.1M for Brothers, $0.8M for Whitley), and a different, smaller salary if in the minors. The totals above are the minor-league base salaries for their split contracts so I’m adding that in as the guaranteed amount for those 2 players.

You might be wondering why I didn’t include Chris Stewart and his $0.575M salary for 2018. His deal, like Moylan’s, is non-guaranteed. I think he made a bet on himself to make the OD roster and guarantee the contract. When he said he wouldn’t come to Atlanta unless it was a major-league deal, he was at least guaranteeing himself $92,742 (30 days’ worth of his $0.575M salary, if he’s released before March 13). If he is DFA’d and remains with the Atlanta org, he’d still be entitled to the pro-rated portion of the $0.575M deal if/when he’s added to the 25-man roster during the season. If he’s DFA’d and chooses free agency rather than accepting the outright assignment, he’d forego the entirety of the $0.575M.

To fill out the rest of the roster, we can simply add in 10 players being paid league minimum. It doesn’t matter which players we use – Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, AJ Minter, etc – they’ll all get paid roughly the same amount, league minimum, which is $0.545M for 2018.

10 players X $0.545M = $5.45M

It’s worth going ahead and adding in a league minimum player that will spend the year on the disabled list – there’s always at least one.

Grant Dayton$0.545M

Now for the retained money, aka dead money. These are funds paid to players that are no longer on the team. Either they were released, retired, or have bonus deferrals in their contracts

  • Dan Uggla – $0.25M (His $1M signing bonus was deferred to 4 payments of $0.25M from 2016-2019)

Total Retained Money – $22.25M

Plus that pesky fee for drafting a player in the Rule 5 draft (Anyelo Gomez). This is in addition to said players’ salary, which would be league minimum and is included in the “League minimum” total above.

Rule 5 fee – $0.1M

Add all those figures up and this is what you get:

TOTAL EXPENDED: $106.005M

But wait! There’s more! Believe it or not, the Braves are receiving money from other teams for BOTH of their Matt Kemp trades: $2.5M from the Padres in the trade that brought Kemp to ATL and $4.5M from the Dodgers in the trade that sent him back out west.

From others: $7.0M

Subtract that from the TOTAL EXPENDED amount and the final tally is…drum roll please…$99.005M.

Now, you’re probably thinking “But Boggy, why do other websites like Cot’s Baseball Contracts and Spotrac have the Braves at $116.1M and $109.8M respectively? Your number is WAY lower!” The easiest explanation is this: those sites pro-rate signing bonuses across the life of a player’s contract, which is the same thing MLB does for the purposes of calculating team payrolls in order to determine if a team has to pay the luxury tax. The easiest way to explain “pro-rating signing bonuses” is to use an example. Suppose a player signs a 5 year, $55M contract that includes a $5M signing bonus and salaries of $10M annually. For sites like Cot’s, Spotrac, & MLB, they divide up the signing bonus over the life of the contract ($5M / 5 years = $1M per year) and add that to the base salary for each year. Thus, to them, the player is making $11M per year.

But I have a big problem with that. To me, a player that receives a signing bonus gets that money right away. Otherwise, what’s the enticement to sign for that bonus? This is the real world, not the luxury tax world, and in the real world, that money is spent the year the contract is signed, unless otherwise noted (like Uggla). As an example, Brandon McCarthy’s contract included a $6M signing bonus that was paid in 2 installments the year he signed that contract. For my purposes, I will never pro-rate signing bonuses – I will always apply them to the year a contract is signed, unless otherwise noted.

That’s one difference between my figures & theirs. The other main difference is that those other 2 sites are not deferring half of Scott Kazmir’s salary to 2021. After much research into Kazmir’s deferred payments (and consultation with @jervass of Outfield Fly Rule), I’ve confirmed that the Braves are only responsible for Kazmir’s $16M, but that they will pay it out as noted in the deferral: $8M in 2018 and $8M in 2021. Here’s an AP source that states it clearly. This will inevitably vary by news source over the course of this season and future seasons, but for the sake of doing the most accurate bookkeeping, the $16M should be realized when it’s paid – half in 2018, the other half in 2021.

So, $99M is what I estimate is on the books for the Braves to open the 2018 season. I will go further into what this means for what’s actually available to spend in Part 2 of this post. For now, I’ve spoken enough about salary figures and deferrals and non-guaranteed contracts for one day. Please digest this and wait patiently (ha!) for Part 2.

Cheers knuckleheads.

– Boggy

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