The Braves are winning. And it's not because of "grit"


I follow the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Dave O’Brien on Twitter because (a) I’m a Braves fan; and (b) because O’Brien is pretty darn good. I think he’s a good writer, a good analyst, he’s entertaining, he likes good food and good music. You fit that description, and I’m just about guaranteed to follow you.

In the last couple of days, O’Brien has tweeted a number of facts about the 2010 Braves.  They’ve been pretty good facts too!  For example:

  • The only two NL players who’ve been on base more
    than Martin Prado (117) are Albert Pujols (123) and Prince Fielder

  • Billy Wagner’s past 12 appearances: 11-1/3
    innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts, .105 opp avg, and
    8-for-8 saves converted.

The team is getting on base! The leadoff hitter is one of baseball’s most overlooked studs!  The closer is unhittable.  These, combined with an entire feature he wrote today on how good Tommy Hanson has been, plus the oodles of pages of analysis he’s written on Jason Heyward all provide ample explanation for the Braves being in first place.

Except that’s not good enough for O’Brien, apparently. Check this out:

Hudson hit nail on the head: These Braves are
tougher, grittier.

Then he links to a blog post he did today in which he accepts Tim Hudson’s assertions that the Braves are winning this year because they are just a tougher, grittier baseball team then they used to be. Literally, he says there’s “a toughness, a grittiness, a dirt-ball determination” about the Braves that is the difference between the 2010 edition and any of the other teams from the past five years.

O’Brien doesn’t dismiss actual performance — the latter half of the article expands on the facts from his tweets — but this stuff drives me nuts.  Yes, a player said it so you probably have to quote it, but I wish writers would acknowledge that in almost every single case a player’s characterization of his team as “tough” and “gritty” is a post-hoc determination that happens only on winning teams. Indeed, if anyone can find me an example of a losing team that was described as tough or gritty, I’ll eat my hat.

I don’t mean to pick on O’Brien here. It’s just that he writes so much and he writes so well most of the time that it kind of bums me out that he goes with this whole grit thing.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

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It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.

Report: Around 20 teams have contacted the Braves about Shelby Miller

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The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.

Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.

Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.