Give the Braves a chance, OK?

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Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Braves did a good job in the Vazquez trade. There are many potential sliver linings to what some are unfairly calling the blackest of clouds, but Atlanta clearly didn’t get anything approaching equal value for a pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. Melky Cabrera is clearly not going to make the difference in Atlanta. The Yankees won this trade, no doubt.

But while it’s one thing to call the Braves the loser of yesterday’s trade, it’s another thing altogether to use that trade as a blanket indictment of the Braves, their ownership and their desire to win baseball games.  That’s what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus did in his column yesterday (sorry; most of it is registration-only), and he said so in no uncertain terms:

The Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media
wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes
$11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less
(I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5
million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano,
for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four
games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in
making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that
Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and
everything else is irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Joe Sheehan for years, and I gotta tell ya, I was pretty sure before yesterday that he knew that the rosters didn’t freeze and the season didn’t start on December 23rd. I was pretty sure he knew that when a team frees up salary in a trade, they have more than eight hours to spend it on other players before they can be accused of pocketing the money and pissing on the hopes of the fans. I was pretty sure that he knew that it was prudent for a team that has a surplus in one area to trade some of it away in order to get players (or money to acquire players) that addressed a deficit in another area.

Which, by the way, is what the Braves have shown every intention of doing. As Braves GM Frank Wren said yesterday, the team is going to use the $8 million or so that they have freed up as a result of dealing Vazquez to pursue a bat. I don’t know whose bat. And heck, maybe Wren will make a bad choice in the bat he gets. But the fact is that they had six starters and no first baseman or left fielder when we all woke up yesterday. If they
break camp with five starters and a first basemen and/or a left
fielder, they will have made the team better, even if the team they have is sub-optimal.

Look, I am just as frustrated at Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves as the next guy. And I think Sheehan makes many excellent, general points about the drawbacks of corporate ownership in baseball in the course of his article.  But to say, mere hours after the Vazquez trade that the deal stands as a shining example of corporate neglect of a baseball team is outrageously premature.

Let’s see where the team
is in April. If the Braves have done nothing to improve their offense by then, great, I’ll buy what Sheehan is selling. Until then, give them a chance, OK?

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.