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Baseball Hall of Fame 2014: BBWAA Proves Le Batard’s Point with Lifetime Ban

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America thought it was fixing a problem.

Instead, with one swift, sweeping act of judgement it revealed its true nature—the BBWAA, at its core, is nothing more than a frightened dictator.

By releasing a statement that Dan Le Batard would be banned for giving his vote to Deadspin, the BBWAA flaunted its power to show the baseball world that its word is final, to cast fear into the eyes of anyone who even thinks of rebelling against it.

The voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a deeply flawed and broken process. From the voting limit of 10 players to the vague criteria and lack of leadership the Hall has shown regarding players in the steroid era to even the composition of the voting body itself, the cracked and antiquated process cries out for a change. 

Here’s what Le Batard had to say about it on Deadspin:


I don’t think I’m any more qualified to determine who is Hall of Fame-worthy than a fan who cares about and really knows baseball. In fact, many people analyzing baseball with advanced metrics outside of mainstream media are doing a better job than mainstream media, and have taught us some things in recent years when we were behind. In other words, just because we went to journalism school and covered a few games, just because accepted outlets gave us their platform and power, I don’t think we should have the pulpit to ourselves in 2014 that way we did in 1936.

Baseball is always reticent to change, but our flawed voting process needs remodeling in a new media world. Besides, every year the power is abused the way I’m going to be alleged to abuse it here. There’s never been a unanimous first-ballot guy? Seriously? If Ruth and Mays and Schmidt aren’t that, then what is? This year, someone is going to leave one of the five best pitchers ever off the ballot. Suck it, Greg Maddux.


Bottom line: The system is broken. If you couldn’t tell that by players such as Jacque Jones, J.T. Snow, Armando Benitez and Kenny Rogers receiving votes, then maybe the Deadspin vote is the revolutionary spark to reform the voting process. 

Le Batard’s vote was a mockery of the Hall of Fame’s voting process—this was the very point he was trying to make. But even so, it wasn’t Le Batard’s vote that kept surefire Hall of Famer Craig Biggio out of the Hall for the second straight year, but rather the voters who mailed in blank ballots out of protest. Who committed the crime here: Those who deliberately chose not to vote, or the writer who allowed himself to be made a pariah in order to demonstrate this to us?

Le Batard decided that enacting change to a broken process was more important than sitting idly—for this, I respect him. He was willing to break a rule and pay the price for it in exchange for the possibility of reform. In battle, it’s always the front lines that endure the harshest casualties. 

By swatting him away, the BBWAA proved Le Batard’s point for him—its chokehold on this broken system is about power. And like all dictators, it fears losing its power. 

One writer was brave enough to expose this. Regardless of how you feel about his methods or his ballot, if you can recognize the flaws in the voting you can appreciate the guts it took to put himself on the front lines of reform.

Winston Churchill once said, “You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police…yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home—all the more powerful because forbidden—terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.” 

Le Batard is the first mouse to enter into this room. He won’t be the last.

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Braves Offseason: Why Atlanta Needs to Trade for Jose Tabata

It’s no secret that the Braves are looking for a left fielder—preferably one with a good OBP and some speed that could hit leadoff. 

Coco Crisp is the obvious option, but with his $7 million dollar contract, he might prevent Atlanta from making any deadline moves (unless Wren were to move Maholm).

Lately the rumors surrounding Michael Bourn have heated up, and ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweeted that he may yet return to Atlanta. However, unless Liberty Media opens up its checkbook, Bourn will still be an expensive purchase.

While these two remain options, but there’s one player potentially on the market that would fit Atlanta’s roster perfectly.

Debuting in 2010 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jose Tabata quickly proved to be an asset at the top of the order, hitting .284 with a .348 OBP over his first two years in the league while collecting 35 stolen bases. 

Pittsburgh believed in Tabata so much that he was signed to a six-year contract extension in 2011.

But then 2012 happened.

Through July 1, Tabata was hitting .230 with a .295 OBP. He had been benched for not hustling to first base, and his poor performance was clearly affecting him psychologically. 

Soon, the frustrated Tabata was sent to Triple-A, where he was supposed to iron out his problems at the plate and renew his focus.

Unfortunately, while he played moderately well for Indianapolis (his stats can be found here), he didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his .707 OPS. 

Regardless, it was good enough for Pittsburgh to call him up in time for their (hopeful) stretch run. From August 19 to the end of the season, Tabata hit .284/.376/.370 in a part-time role, and will look to make his closing performance a launching pad for the 2013 campaign.

However, whether or not Tabata still has a full-time role in Pittsburgh is yet to be seen.

Andrew McCutchen is quickly etching himself into Pirates lore and Starling Marte looks to patrol an outfield spot for a long time coming.

That leaves one spot for Tabata, but he’ll have heavy competition for it. Garrett Jones will be getting full-time at-bats, but if Gaby Sanchez performs well enough, he could force Jones to either split time at first and right field, or simply move into right field for good. 

Travis Snider is also in the conversation for Pittsburgh’s right field spot. Snider mauls Triple-A pitching, and the Pirates have taken it upon themselves to work with him and try to develop him into an offensive threat. 

Alex Presley will look to act as a fourth outfielder for the Pirates. Should Snider fail to develop, Presley would be splitting time with him in a platoon.

In the big leagues alone, that’s three players (Sanchez, Snider, Presley) who will either be taking at-bats from Tabata or competing for a full-time spot in the Pirates lineup.

That’s not even mentioning the outfield prospects the Pirates have stashed in the minors. Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell and Barrett Barnes are all high-upside players in the low-minors who could be knocking on the door to the big leagues in just a couple years (according to Jonathan Mayo, their major league ETAs are all 2015), especially the advanced bats of Polanco and Bell.

Needless to say, Tabata‘s future in Pittsburgh is pretty cloudy.

Enter Atlanta.

Tabata‘s fit with the Braves is pretty unquestionable. His speed and on-base skills would allow him to hit atop the Atlanta lineup, and his athleticism would allow him to play left field pretty well (especially with BJ Upton covering a fair amount of ground in center). 

Frank Wren would be taking a small gamble that Tabata would return to his performances of 2010 and 2011, but it’s one worth making, especially considering Tabata‘s long-term contract.

Tabata is owed just $1 million dollars in 2013, and still only $11.5 million from 2014-2016. After that, Atlanta would have two club options in 2017 and 2018.

Basically, if Tabata performs as he did in the closing stretch of 2012, he’ll be an absolute steal financially, and he could potentially bat leadoff and play left field for Atlanta for six years.

And at just 24 years of age, it’s very likely that Tabata and his right-handed bat bounce back better than ever.

He might not even cost that much in terms of prospects. Pittsburgh needs pitchers, and if he’s fallen out of favor in the Pittsburgh organization, he could probably be had for a mid-level arm, be it a starter or a reliever.

If the Pittsburgh brass still looks at Tabata the same way it did when Tabata was extended for six years, I’m not sure it would be out of line to dangle Randall Delgado. At worst, Atlanta could nab another prospect in addition to Tabata in return for Delgado.

Regardless, though, Tabata needs to be brought to Atlanta. He’s criminally affordable, under control, and a perfect fit atop the Braves lineup.

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Minor Matters: Braves Lefty Reason Why Fredi Gonzalez Is Smarter Than You

Fredi Gonzalez is smarter than you.

Sure, he decimated the bullpen in 2011 (something he has corrected in 2012). He’s not a particularly brilliant tactician either, and I might tend to agree with John Smoltz with regards to whom the Braves should start in the Wild Card Showdown.

But there is one man who has made Fredi Gonzalez look like an absolute genius the entire second half of the season, simultaneously making a very large portion of Braves Country look very, very silly.

His name? Michael David Minor.

By all means, Braves fans were right to be frustrated with Minor earlier this season. Before the All-Star Break, Minor compiled a 5.97 ERA over 92 innings, giving up 40 walks and an astounding 19 home runs. That’s a season-total for most pitchers.

The abhorrently awful statistics don’t stop there. Minor could not find the strike zone in the first half of the season, posting walk rates of 4.62 and 5.53 in May and June, walking 10.5 and 14.1 percent of opposing hitters, respectively (or not so respectively).

Minor’s May WHIP was 1.89. His May and June FIPs? 8.24 and 5.78. 

He was, in a word, terrible.

Fredi Gonzalez didn’t care though. Amidst all of the pleadings of Braves fans to send Minor down to Triple-A Gwinnett, Gonzalez kept plugging Minor into the starting rotation. Every once in a while, he would flash potential of the pitcher he could be, examples being his April 14 and 19 starts (15.1 innings, 13 strikeouts, one walk, one run) and June 12 (7.1 innings, 4 strikeouts, one walk, one run).


He must have seen an internal change in Minor, because the Mike Minor of the second half has been an entirely different act than the erratic homer-prone charade he performed before the All-Star Break. 

In 81 innings since the Mid-Summer Classic, Minor has compiled an eye-widening 2.33 ERA with 16 walks and a more earthly seven home runs. His opponents have reached base at less than a 25 percent clip and have OPSed .577.

There’s more. His August strikeout rate is perplexingly low, but July and September saw him strike out more than 8.5 hitters per nine innings—pretty strong for a lefty with a 91 mile an hour fastball. He compiled monthly FIPs of 3.55, 3.73, and 2.91, posted monthly WHIPs of 0.73, 1.10, and 0.77, and tallied July and August walk rates of 1.32 and 1.27.

Minor’s dominance has not only cemented him a spot in the Braves 2012 postseason rotation, but also his future with the club. It was only this previous offseason that Minor had been rumored to be on the trading block, with the Mets as the most interested suitors.

Now, it seems as if Minor has transformed himself into a strike-throwing machine, wielding a very good fastball when paired with his very good secondary pitches. He may not be the second coming of Tommy Glavine, but Mike Minor has a bright future with the Braves, as he looks to be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come.

And Fredi Gonzalez is enjoying every minute of it.

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Atlanta Braves Postseason Rotation: The Case Against Tommy Hanson

What I am about to write may not be very popular. In fact, I’m sure it won’t be.

Six weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed I would be advocating this. It’s a reality that has been tough to come to grips with, but it’s a reality that the Braves must face so they can move forward.

There is absolutely no way Tommy Hanson can be allowed to be a part of the postseason starting rotation.

When Hanson came up as a rookie, it seemed that the sky was the limit for him—he possessed a strong fastball, a killer slider and a promising curveball that projected him as a definite No. 2 starter with a ceiling of staff ace.

The naked truth though is that the Tommy Hanson of 2012 is simply not the same Tommy Hanson that was heralded as the next Atlanta Braves ace. Injuries and mechanics have ravaged his right arm, his potential and perhaps his future.

Can he ever become the pitcher he was supposed to be? I hope so, but everything is trending down for Hanson. He has lost a lot of velocity—three miles an hour on his fastball and curveball, two miles an hour on his change-up and four miles an hour on his slider.

The spin on his slider is loose, his command is lacking and the advanced metrics doesn’t help him out any—his 4.65 FIP and 1.44 WHIP suggest that he is pitching worse than his 4.46 ERA lets on. 

Unfortunately, my disposition towards Tommy Hanson’s abilities has decayed to the point that I no longer expect anything but misfortune when he takes the hill. And on September 21, I reached my breaking point.

I watched Hanson employ his weakened fastball, loosened slider and spotty command against the Philadelphia Phillies and I found myself cringing every time he threw a pitch over the heart of the plate. Through just five-and-a-third innings, Hanson gave up three walks, four hits, three home runs and five earned runs. 

I wish I could tell you of my sunny disposition towards Hanson’s future starts, especially those in the postseason, but from where I stand, I just don’t see it. I don’t believe you need velocity to succeed; Jered Weaver, Tim Hudson and even Kris Medlen have shown us this much. However, they have two things that Hanson doesn’t, great command and an out pitch—Weaver has a great slider, Hudson uses a series of sinking fastballs and Medlen possesses a devastating change-up.

Could it be that the once “Golden Boy” of the pitching staff would be detrimental to the Braves World Series hopes if employed as a starter? Considering the fact that Hanson is the worst-performing 2012 Braves starter, it very well could be.

Take this into account: due to increased rest in the playoffs, postseason rotations typically consist of four men. Assuming Atlanta rolls with its best four starters, who would toe the October rubber?

Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen are absolute locks, there is no argument here.

Since July 5, Mike Minor has pitched 81.1 innings and allowed 58 hits and just 17 walks to pair with his 2.32 ERA and .203 opponent average. He’s not only been on a tear, he’s turned a major corner. He’s in if the Braves have any sense.

Paul Maholm has had two hiccups in September, but even with those 13 runs in 6.1 innings, he’s pitched to the tune of a 3.39 ERA since April 21. He bounced back against Miami on September 18 though, pitching nearly seven innings of four-hit, one-walk ball. He makes for a very nice back-end starter.

Not only does Tommy Hanson not hold any water in the comparisons against the other men in the Braves rotation, he also wouldn’t be able to stand up to comparisons with a healthy Ben Sheets. If Sheets is back and ready to go for the playoffs, he could conceivably start if needed to—his experience and veteran guile would be more valuable than Hanson’s propensity to get hit hard.

I’m not a pessimist. I hope Tommy Hanson can get back to where he was in 2010.

But there’s no way I’m starting him in the postseason.

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Atlanta Braves Send Message to Washington Nationals with Walk-off Win

It’s become somewhat of an expectation for Braves Country that good things happen when Kris Medlen takes the mound.

And with an ERA of 0.86 and 66 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched since joining the starting rotation, Medlen has certainly made many good things happen for the Braves. In fact, Atlanta has won each of the last 20 games that Medlen has started, a feat last replicated by Roger Clemens in 2001after donning the Yankee pinstripes.   

It should come as no surprise then, that when Medlen calmly strode to the mound against the Nationals, who have taken 10 of 15 games against the Braves this year, he would set the tone of the series in a commanding fashion. 

Medlen took one look at Jayson Werth digging in on Friday night and decided that he didn’t care about Washington’s 8.5-game stranglehold on the division, or even that the Braves were just swept by the red-hot Brewers—so he struck him out.

Then he struck out 12 more Nationals over the course of seven innings; the lone blemish on his night a solo-homer to Bryce Harper, leaving the bullpen to tend to the one-one deadlock.

Craig Kimbrel was brought in to slam the door on the Nationals’ hopes of pushing ahead in the ninth inning and almost tied a record, striking out Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, and Danny Espinosa on three, three, and four pitches, respectively.

In the home half of the ninth inning, Andrelton Simmons provided the offensive lift that the Braves had been missing for the past few months by igniting a rally with an infield single and advancing to third on a Michael Bourn flare to right.  

With runners at the corners and one out, Tyler Pastornicky rolled over a Sean Burnett sinker, and Ian Desmond came up with the grounder cleanly. However, Desmond was unable to make a good throw to home, the error allowing the winning run in Simmons to score.

In this sequence is a biting irony in how the seemingly superior shortstop (Desmond) was outplayed both offensively and defensively by his rookie counterpart (Simmons), who came up big for the Braves when a big moment was needed the most.

It’s just one game, but like Chipper Jones’ walk-off against the Phillies earlier this month, this game could mean a lot to the Braves when the postseason rolls around. In just nine innings, many statements were made by the Braves.

Kris Medlen let Washington know that he can match any pitcher the Nationals throw at him. Craig Kimbrel asserted that he is utterly dominant and completely untouchable: a true ninth-inning stopper. Eric O’Flaherty proved to not be impressed by Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman, handling the top of the order in the eighth inning in just 12 pitches.

Martin Prado showed that he will eat Nationals pitching alive, ripping off three hits in his four at bats. Andrelton Simmons reminded the Nationals that with him in the lineup, the Braves play invigorated and the lineup has no holes.

Finally, with a ground-out, hard-fought, well-earned walk-off win, the Braves sent a very clear message to the Nationals on Friday night: “We are not going away. We’ll see you in October.”

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Chipper Jones’ Walk-Off Homer a Turning Point for Atlanta Braves

Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning against the Phillies on September 2, dreary skies clouded the spirits of Braves Country.

Down 7-3, Atlanta was in danger of extending its recent skid (in which the club dropped 10 of 14 games) by virtue of getting swept by Philadelphia. However, the Braves would mount a rally and found themselves within two runs with two on and two outs and Chipper Jones strutting to the plate.

What happened next is something I believe will be looked back on as perhaps the turning point in Atlanta’s 2012 season.  

With the count 1-1, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon tried to sneak a 95 mile an hour four-seamer on the outside corner past Chipper, probably to set him up for a devastating slider. Unfortunately for Papelbon, he missed his spot, and the four-seamer ended up right over the plate.

And a four-seamer over the heart of the plate is not something that Chipper misses often.

So he hit it 443 feet into the night, landing somewhere in the right-center bleachers of Turner Field.

With one swing, the weight of the last 15 games had evaporated. A boyish smile was plastered on Chipper’s face as he rounded the bases, while youthful jubilation swept across the rest of the Braves roster; their Christmas morning had arrived nearly five months early.

During the collapse of 2011, the Braves didn’t have moments like this. There was no time for celebration. There weren’t any superheroes to come and save Atlanta’s season.  

In 2012, though, things seem to be different. Kris Medlen, of all people, has picked the Braves rotation up and put it on his back, pitching simply incredibly over the last month. Jones, though, might have given the Braves a season-altering swing on September 2. Since he stepped to the plate against Papelbon on Sunday night, Atlanta has won five of six.  

Unlike many of the baseball writers out there, I don’t believe all 162 games were created equal.  While games in April are undeniably important, September affairs have a certain gravitas that weights them a little more.  

Games like this can inspire a club, especially when they come at opportune times.  When the book on the 2012 season has been written and completed, Chipper’s “shot heard ’round the world” will prove to be the ultimate turning point in Atlanta’s season.

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Jeff Baker Acquired by the Atlanta Braves in a Subtly Brilliant Move

On August 31, 2012, the Atlanta Braves made a deadline deal that rounded out the club in a very significant way: they acquired Jeff Baker.

Hold on, hold on.  Hear me out.  I’m actually being completely serious here.

The Atlanta Braves do not hit left-handed pitchers—this is a fact of life.  The lineup stacked with four left-handed bats (and a switch-hitter whose power comes almost exclusively from the right side) has hit .247 with a .317 OBP and a .382 SLG against lefties in 2012.  

Dan Uggla, one of the right-handed bats responsible for hitting lefties well, has posted a .239 career average against southpaws, a ways south of his .258 career average against righties.

So consider this: Atlanta just added an infielder (who primarily plays second base) with a career slash line of .298/.346/.505/.851 against lefties.  

Now the move becomes more interesting, doesn’t it?

Before the Baker deal, the Braves boasted the best bench in baseball.  Amongst Atlanta’s reserves were a veteran catcher capable of reaching 20 home runs, a third baseman with ridiculous power (no really—the power Juan Francisco possesses is quite silly), and a gutsy fourth outfielder with plenty of hustle who may just be the best pinch-hitter in the game.

Atlanta then decided to bolster its left-handed hitting supply by signing first baseman Lyle Overbay, who got on base at nearly a .370 clip in 110 plate appearances with Arizona earlier this season.  A professional hitter, Overbay will compete with Eric Hinske, who has been completely ineffective in 2012, for playing time.  

And if Hinske continues playing like he has this season, Overbay and his career .354 OBP will win out.

With the left-handed bench bat shored up, the Braves then turned to their infield, and found that Tyler Pastornicky’s .289 OBP was simply not good enough to continue getting at-bats.  Enter: Jeff Baker, the veteran infielder who can play both second base and first, and who is OPSing .851 against lefties on his career.

Suddenly, Atlanta has five viable bench options.  Baker even has the potential to start at second against southpaws if he can live up to his career averages.

Far from a glamorous move, Atlanta has solidified its bench and strengthened one of its biggest weaknesses by acquiring Jeff Baker.

That’s probably a sentence you never expected to read.

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Ben Sheets Is Back: Why Atlanta Braves Ace Is the Real Deal

When the Atlanta Braves signed Ben Sheets earlier this season, I didn’t think much of it.

In truth, I saw Sheets as a once-dominant but injury-prone 34-year-old pitcher, four years removed from being his vintage self.  Nothing more, nothing less.

On top of that, due to Tommy John surgery, Sheets hadn’t even thrown an inning of professional baseball since 2010.  Before that, he hadn’t pitched since 2008.  

So pardon me if I didn’t cheer in jubilation when Sheets began his comeback trail with the Mississippi Braves on July 4.  He was more of a footnote to me than anything, as I still had notions that Atlanta would make a move for Zack Greinke or Ryan Dempster.  

Five weeks later, Sheets is anything but a footnote.  

He only threw 10.2 innings in his two minor league starts, but did so with a 1.89 FIP and 10 strikeouts against a single walk.  

Atlanta rushed him up to the majors on July 15 to plug a hole in the rotation, and Sheets responded with a six-inning, five-strikeout, two-hit, one-walk effort, in which no runs were surrendered.

And the rest, they say, is history.

Through five starts in an Atlanta Braves uniform, Sheets has tossed 32 innings, recording a 4-1 record while posting a 1.41 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.

He is not without his critics though, as they point to his 87.8 percent strand rate as an indication of fortunate bounces, and his average fastball velocity of 90.6 as a declining skill.


I would be naïve to suggest that Sheets is likely to maintain his 1.41 ERA, or to even ponder the possibility of a return to his 2004 form, which saw him post a WAR of 8.0, an ERA of 2.70, a K/9 rate of 10.03 and a BB/9 rate of 1.22.  Either instance would make me worthy of being beaten with a stick and chased out of the Writer Community here at Bleacher Report.

But still I wonder, just how good will Ben Sheets be the rest of the year?

I’m going to trash the velocity aspect altogether.  Sheets’ average fastball velocity this year has been 90.6, and when he’s needed to, he’s been able to dig down deep and come up with 93.

That’s not the 95-mile an hour Ben Sheets fastball of old, but velocity isn’t necessarily indicative of success.  Jered Weaver, arguably the American League Cy Young winner at this point, throws an 88.3 mile an hour fastball.

The advanced metrics don’t even suggest a steep decline in Sheets’ future performance. Sheets’ .309 BABIP against is actually .14 higher than his career norm, and his FIP, a stat that suggests what his ERA should be—independent of the abilities of the fielders behind him—is 2.80.  If Sheets were to have logged enough innings with his 2.80 FIP maintained, he would rank third in baseball in FIP, behind Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg.

I’m not even sure a comparison of this version of Ben Sheets to vintage Ben Sheets is even fair anymore, because he has literally reinvented himself.  He’s become an entirely different pitcher.

With lesser velocity, he no longer overthrows, and his command has benefited greatly.  Sheets’ BB/9 (1.97) is the best it’s been since 2005.  His strikeout rate has declined to about 6.5 K/9, but he’s also not allowing home runs (.28 HR/9).

And get this: in five starts and 32 innings pitched, Sheets has a WAR of .9.  “Big deal,” you may say.  But if you extrapolated that over 30 starts (roughly 192 innings), his current performance would garner him 5.4 WAR, which would have been 12th in baseball last year, ahead of Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum.



Here’s my favorite part: he now throws a pretty dominant change-up to keep the hitters guessing.  His curveball (or his “dragon snapper,” as ESPN Fantasy Analyst Matthew Berry refers to it) is still as sharp as ever, and he’s still throwing it as much as he ever has (career usage rate: 28.5 percent, 2012 usage rate: 28.6 percent).  In other words, by using his fastball roughly 12 percent less than his career average (understandable since he no longer throws 95), he has been able to increase his change-up usage rate to 23.2 percent, as opposed to 7.8 percent in 2008.   

He throws his fastball with impeccable command, he teases hitters with his improved change-up and then flashes his vintage curveball to remind everyone of the pitcher he used to be—and the pitcher he is still capable of being: a crafty frontline starter with veteran gall, brilliant command and one heck of a curveball.

Ben Sheets is back.  Back from a surgery he didn’t think he could come back from, back to a level no one thought he could reach again.

And in a season chock full of the tremendous stories of Mike Trout, R.A. Dickey and the Pittsburgh Pirates, the comeback trail of one Ben Sheets may top them all.

Ben Sheets is helping rewrite the 2012 MLB season.  But in his version, he’s much more than a footnote. 

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Atlanta Braves: Can the Braves Still Win the East Without Brandon Beachy?

Coming into the 2012 season, the Atlanta Braves had high hopes for playing deep into October.  

Finally healthy, Jason Heyward was looking to recapture the magic of his rookie season and take a couple steps forward. Atlanta fans were looking forward to a full season of Michael Bourn leading off, patrolling center and wreaking havoc on the basepaths, as well as a full season of productivity (as opposed to a half season) from Dan Uggla.  

The starting rotation was looking to gain notoriety as one of the best in baseball. And after a wonderful Hall of Fame career, Chipper was going to call it quits at the end of the season.

Things were indeed looking up for the Braves in 2012.  

Half a season later, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla are hitting under .250, Freddie Freeman has fallen victim to the dreaded sophomore slump, Jair Jurrjens has been demoted to the minors, and Brandon Beachy’s season has been cut short by a torn UCL and Tommy John surgery.

Yet, in spite of all this, Atlanta stands firmly in the middle of a pennant run, just a few games behind Washington in the ferocious National League Eastern Division. The Braves find themselves in these surprisingly favorable circumstances thanks to incredible play from Michael Bourn and Martin Prado, a recent resurgence from Jason Heyward and excellent play from hotshot shortstop of the future Andrelton Simmons.  

Needless to say, there’s definitely hope for the Braves this season. Losing Brandon Beachy, who had taken many a step forward towards becoming an ace, is a very tough pill to swallow.  However, it can be overcome.

The lineup does not need fixing. McCann and Uggla are professional hitters; they’ll come around. Freeman has enough talent to reemerge as a middle-of-the-order threat. Everywhere else, Atlanta has been fine. The defense is even much improved from last year, with the addition of Simmons at short (a plus-plus defender).  

The problem, ironically, lies in the rotation. Irony resides here because of Atlanta’s wealth of arms. None of them, however, can replace Brandon Beachy. Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson have been solid, but that’s about it.  

Mike Minor has pitched terribly during the first few months of the season, Randall Delgado hasn’t exactly given Atlanta much confidence when he takes the hill, Julio Teheran hasn’t blown Triple-A hitters away this year, and Jair Jurrjens, although pitching extremely well in his first start since being recalled from the minors, has been a shell of himself returning from injury.

There’s reason for this hope, though. To win in October, Atlanta needs three very good starting pitchers in a rotation of four. They currently have two: Hudson and Hanson.  

If Atlanta trades for Ryan Dempster (which I wrote about in this slideshow #mce_temp_url#), an option that would not cost a lot in terms of prospects, suddenly the rotation looks much more formidable.  

Add to that the inevitability that another Atlanta pitcher will step up, be it Minor, Jurrjens or Delgado, and the Braves’ weakness becomes a strength.  

The bad news is that Atlanta will need to make a move (Dempster, Dempster, Dempster) to overtake Washington for the NL East crown.  

The good news, however, is that Atlanta is still in the thick of things, and they should only look to improve as the season ages. During Chipper’s final season, the Braves will start playing inspired baseball in the second half of the season, led by a resurgence in a pitching staff that has not seen its best starts yet.  

So with much baseball left to be played, don’t count the Braves out in the NL East just yet.

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My 2010 All-Star Game Ballot

For my first article in a long time, I thought I’d usher myself back into the writing world with my insight on the All-Star Game ballot.

There are a few easy picks, a few close calls, and a few players that are constantly glossed over en route to pick the superstar of that position. In addition to showing you my AL and NL ballots,

Because the game is played in Angel Stadium, I’ll just add another NL offensive player to play DH, even though there isn’t an NL DH player to vote for on the ballot. Each stat line is current through June 19.


Begin Slideshow

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