A few random, uncoordinated thoughts about a team playing random, uncoordinated baseball at the moment.
What's a guy got to do to earn a 40-man roster spot? Buddy Hernandez is having yet another good season in the minor leagues, this time with AAA Richmond. In 19 innings of work Hernandez has an ERA of 3.32 and 17 strikeouts to go along with 6 walks. Compared to some of his previous campaigns, 2004 looks like a struggle for the diminutive right-hander, who can't seem to garner the attention of the Braves' brass.
The J.D. Drew trade is still iffy, what with Drew's imminent free agency, but don't chalk it up as a disaster quite yet. Drew's hitting .295/.419/.571 and is pretty much the only reason Atlanta hasn't fallen completely out of contention yet. Meanwhile, after a hot start Adam Wainwright's ERA for the AAA Memphis Redbirds has jumped to over five, and while his strikeout rate has taken a nice bump, so has his walk rate, all the way to 4.275 per nine innings.
Kudos to ESPN.com for adding DIPS ERA to their sortable statistics page. It's a tremendous leap forward, and a sign that sabrmetrics is becoming more and more engrained in popular baseball thought.
Speaking of DIPS, guess which National League pitcher is most over performing his DIPS ERA? That's right, Braves' lefty Horacio Ramirez, whose 2.25 ERA, despite a K rate of 5.11/9 IP and mediocre walk rate, is more than two runs better than his DIPS number of 4.47. He's second in the major leagues in that category behind only the Indians' C.C. Sabathia.
It isn't all bad news on the DIPS front. Starters Jaret Wright and John Thomson both do very well when looking at DIPS, ranking 12th and 19th in the league in DIPS ERA respectively.
Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton are both substantially underperforming their DIPS numbers. Ortiz' 5.18 ERA is far above his 4.09 DIPS figure, and Hampton's 6.36 actual ERA far surpasses his 4.71 DIPS ERA. Look for better starts from those two in the near future.
And what about former Brave Jason Marquis, whose 3.44 ERA has been something of an embarrassment for Atlanta? A 4.99 K/9 IP figure helps Marquis to a decidedly mediocre 4.47 DIPS ERA.
Fourth outfielder DeWayne Wise is currently "hitting" .213/.232/.375 for Atlanta. Meanwhile, Russell Branyan is back to raking for AAA Buffalo, stroking the ball at a .263/.398/.526 clip. Wise has also struck out 18 times in 80 at-bats. I'm just sayin'.
Brian McCann may be one of the more overlooked catching prospects in the game of baseball. In one the most extreme pitcher's parks in organized baseball at Myrtle Beach, McCann is hitting .291/.339/.470. That power is beyond promising. He could be something special.
We all know that Julio Franco is the coolest player in the major leagues. That's a given. He's hitting .269/.387/.462 in 2004 while platooning with Adam LaRoche. That's not unexpected. What are unexpected are Franco's splits. After a three-year stint with the Braves from 2001-2003 that saw Julio post a .975/.686 left/right platoon split, Franco has actually pounded RIGHTIES to the tune of .323/.432/.645 this season, while hitting .190 with no extra-base hits off left-handed pitching so far. Bizarre.
Speaking of first basemen, what has happened to Adam LaRoche's plate discipline? After 1578 minor league at-bats saw him draw 161 walks, or one every 9.8 at-bats, LaRoche has taken only four walks in 105 major league ABs, or one every 26.25 at-bats. It's too early to draw any definitive conclusions, but if you're going to hit .238 at the major league level, you better draw some walks.
Can the Braves survive without second baseman Marcus Giles? Maybe, but it won't be because they found a way to replace his .856 OPS at second base. Nick Green was hitting well at AAA Richmond, but that was almost all because of a .377 bating average, a number he's come nowhere close to replicating at any of his minor league stops. Wilson Betemit has looked dazed and confused at the dish in both the majors and in AAA, and Jesse Garcia is nothing but a decent gloveman off the bench. If the Braves do survive Giles' absence, we'll likely have to look at positions other than second base for the reason.