Thursday, December 27, 2012

A "Flawed" System...Seriously???

We all hear many of the same things this time of year when frequenting various message boards - "Our GM is crazy", "Our ownership sucks", "We're going to be terrible next season because we didn't sign _______", and the one that really eats at many longtime Braves fans "Our system is flawed". I've always found that one pretty comical, particularly when hearing another Braves fan make that statement. The Braves have consistently been in the middle of the pack salary wise over recent years, but continue to put a competitive team on the field year in and year out.

Just for a little fun, let's take a look at 2012. The following numbers provide player salaries spent per win last season (salary info is opening day commitments provided by Cot's Baseball Contracts).

2012 MLB Salaries Per Win

Washington - 98 wins - $92,534,929 = $944,233.97/win
Cincinnati - 97 wins - $87,826,167 = $905,424.40/win
Yankees - 95 wins - $209,792,900 = $2,208,346.32/win
San Francisco - 94 wins - $131,355,298 = $1,397,396.79/win
Oakland - 94 wins - $52,873,000 = $562,478.72/win
Atlanta - 94 wins - $93,529,667 = $994,996.46/win
Texas - 93 wins - $120,836,000 = $1,299,311.83/win
Baltimore - 93 wins - $84,102,333 = $904,326.16/win
Tampa Bay - 90 wins - $63,627,200 = $706,968.89/win
Anaheim - 89 wins - $151,381,000 = $1,700,910.11/win
Detroit - 88 wins - $133,475,000 = $1,516,761.36/win   
St.Louis - 88 wins - $111,858,500 = $1,271,119.32/win
Los Angeles - 86 wins - $105,419,833 = $1,225,812.01/win
Chicago White Sox - 85 wins - $97,669,500 = $1,149,052.94/win
Milwaukee - 83 wins - $98,150,833 = $1,182,540.16/win
Philadelphia - 81 wins - $172,093,902 = $2,124,616.07/win
Arizona - 81 wins - $75,417,833 = $931,084.36/win

The teams that finished with losing records in 2012 were as follows...

Pittsburgh - 79 wins - $51,932,333 = $657,371.30/win
San Diego - 76 wins - $55,621,900 = $731,867.11/win
Seattle - 75 wins - $84,928,100 = $1,132,374.67/win
NY Mets - 74 wins - $94,508,822 = $1,277,146.24/win
Toronto - 73 wins - $83,739,200 = $1,147,112.33/win
Kansas City - 72 wins - $64,001,725 = $888,912.85/win
Boston - 69 wins - $175,249,119 = $2,539,842.30/win
Miami - 69 wins - $101,628,000 = $1,472,869.57/win
Cleveland - 68 wins - $65,430,300 = $962,210.29/win
Minnesota - 66 wins - $100,435,000 = $1,521,742.42/win
Colorado - 64 wins - $81,135,571 = $1,267,743.30/win
Chicago Cubs - 61 wins - $109,316,000 = $1,792,065.57/win
Houston - 55 wins - $60,799,000 = $1,105,436.36/win

That's an average of $1,238,958.42 per win for the $3,010,668,965 spent by all 30 teams. Seventeen MLB teams finished with .500 or better records last season, and roughly half (actually 9) of those won 90 or more games. Teams that finished at or above .500 in 2012 paid $1,230,833.16 per win, and teams that won 90+ games paid $1,104,336.67 per win.

The 2012 Atlanta Braves paid 80% of the average investment per win compared to the league average figure. Furthermore, they paid 81% of the average investment per win compared to the average paid by teams finishing above.500, and 90% of the average investment per win compared to the average paid by teams that finished the season with 90+ wins.

That's fine you say, but why aren't they doing more with less like the Rays or the A's? Braves fans tend to hate the stathead crowd, but Moneyball was written about Oakland for a reason - Billy Beane STILL gets more out of less than anyone in the game. Tampa's #2 SP (James Shields), HR leader (B. J. Upton), and franchise 3B (Evan Longoria) were each playing for SIGNIFICANTLY below-market contracts, and Shields and Upton have since been deemed to be too expensive and subsequently dealt away or allowed to leave.

If you exclude those two organizations, no one does it better than the Braves. Of the teams finishing above .500, the figures show that Washington, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Arizona each paid less than the Braves per win last season. However, none of those teams has been close to being considered a contender on a consistent basis like Atlanta has. A deeper look at the "bad" teams shines an even brighter light on how well the Braves do things - yes, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Kansas City paid less per win than Atlanta in 2012, but they've been perennial "doormats" for years. Powerhouses like Houston (110% of Atlanta's investment per win), Seattle (112% of Atlanta's investment per win), Minnesota (135% of Atlanta's investment per win), and the Cubs (144% of Atlanta's investment per win) all paid significantly more for the wins they got last season.

The Braves' system is "flawed"??? It sure doesn't look that way to me. Only three teams won more games than the Braves did last season, and only one of those (the suddenly budget-concious, formerly free-spending Yankees) got there by throwing big money at big names. It appears as though Frank Wren should be one of those prominently mentioned in conversations concerning GMs that do more with less.

Bravo Frank...keep grinding!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When Sid Slid's 2013 Atlanta Braves' Top Prospects

2013 Top 20

1.) Julio Teheran, RHSP - Gwinnett - 22 - 6'2", 175
2.) J. R. Graham, RHSP - Gwinnett - 23 - 6'0", 185
3.) Evan Gattis, LF/1B/C - Gwinnett - 26 - 6'4", 230
4.) Mauricio Cabrera, RHSP - Rome - 19 - 6'2", 180
5.) Sean Gilmartin, LHSP - Gwinnett - 23 - 6'2", 190
6.) Lucas Sims, RHSP - Rome - 19 - 6'2", 195
7.) Alex Wood, LHSP - Lynchburg - 22 - 6'4", 215
8.) Jose Peraza, SS - Rome - 19 - 5'11", 167
9.) Zeke Spruill, RHSP - Gwinnett - 23 - 6'5", 190
10.) Nick Ahmed, SS - Mississippi - 23 - 6'3", 205
11.) Christian Bethancourt, C - Mississippi - 21 - 6'2", 219
12.) Aaron Northcraft, RHSP - Mississippi - 23 - 6'4", 225
13.) Tommy La Stella, 2B - Mississippi - 24 - 5'11", 185
14.) Luis Merejo, LHSP - Rome - 18 - 6'0", 175
15.) Todd Cunningham, OF - Gwinnett - 24 - 6'0", 200
16.) Cody Martin, RHSP - Mississippi - 23 - 6'2", 210
17.) Edward Salcedo, 3B - Mississippi - 23 - 6'3", 195
18.) William Beckwith, 1B/LF - Lynchburg - 22 - 6'2", 220
19.) Josh Elander, C - Rome - 22 - 6'1", 215
20.) Juan Jaime, RHRP - Mississippi - 25 - 6'1", 230

Honorable Mention

David Hale, RHP, Gwinnett; Navery Moore, RHP, Lynchburg; Carlos Perez, LHP, Lynchburg; Joey Terdoslavich, 1B, Gwinnett; Ross Hefley, 2B, Lynchburg

Youngsters To Keep Your Eye On

Fernelys Sanchez, OF, Rome; Connor Lien, OF, Rome; Andy Otero, RHP, GCL Braves; Iosif Bernal, OF, GCL Braves; Jose Rosario, RHP, GCL Braves; Luis Monasterio, 2B, GCL Braves

Another year, same old tune - the numbers on the calendar change, but the storyline looks familiar. An organization long known for its development of good pitching has a top prospect list that's extremely top-heavy with Pitchers. GM Frank Wren vowed to return the farm system to one known for continually producing a steady stream of arms capable of helping make the big league club remain competitive. He and his associates have certainly accomplished that, having developed and graduated such recent high-end talent as Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, Craig Kimbrel, and Jonny Venters, and there seems to be plenty more where that came from.  

Diehard fans and prospect watchers feel like Julio Teheran has taken forever to arrive, many even teetering on the edge of losing faith that he'll ever live up to the hype. They'll soon find out that he's been worth the wait. Hanson was traded in December to allow Julio and Delgado to compete for the final spot in the 2013 rotation, and after tinkering with his mechanics last season minor adjustments to them have been made to return him to his "old self" (prior to turning 21, that is). Some of these adjustments will be discussed when our Top 10 Prospect Capsules comes out within the next week.

As with any good story this one has multiple significant characters, and if you include Delgado (who is no longer considered a "prospect" despite his limited big league experience) there are six other Pitchers with upsides as # 2 or # 3 starters at worst. Delgado still has significant talent, and we've seen what Mike Minor was able to accomplish once he "got it". Graham and Cabrera are viewed as potential top of the rotation starters (albeit with substantially different ETAs). Gilmartin and Wood have the ability to be pushed quickly if needed, and Lucas Sims will have the luxury of being able to develop at his own pace without being rushed or pressured.

Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be nearly as much to be excited about when it comes to offense. It's a little tough to criticize the organization that has graduated Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons in the last three years, but outside of a couple guys there doesn't look to be much in the pipeline. While non-prospect (and non-Braves farmhand) Juan Francisco has trimmed down and looked impressive in winter ball and "old" prospect Evan Gattis has been a pleasant surprise, the rest of the system looks to be light on potential everyday talent. Both Bethancourt and Salcedo have been considered by many to have the tools to eventually be successful at the big league level, yet both have underwhelmed at the plate so far and questions remain as to whether Salcedo can even remain in the infield (having already been moved off of SS). Combine that with the fact that the fact that the players that have shown promise are likely staring position changes in the face if they remain in the system - Ahmed, Beckwith, and Terdoslavich certainly aren't likely going to displace Simmons and Freeman - the cupboard appears to be pretty bare. One player to monitor closely is Peraza, who has serious upside and is still extremely young. He and Simmons could potentially create the same kind of situation for the Braves in a couple years that Texas has now with Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar.

The organization has seemed to shift focus recently to drafting more athletic players with the hope that the tools they do possess can be sharpened and others can be learned. Many of these draftees also have been guys that are slightly older (often considered to be less risky) college players. While it is great to see kids that can really run, jump, and dive all over the place, the vast majority of success the organization has had has always been in gambling a little more with younger kids with greater upside - Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Heyward, Freeman, and Simmons all come to mind. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why The Deck Is So Stacked Against The Braves

Like everyone else, I hear other Braves fans consistently complain that Liberty Media, Frank Wren, and others are simply putting money in their pockets by not spending big dollars on free-agents and having a payroll that ranks right up there with the big boys. The simple fact is they can't possibly compete on that level given today's circumstances.

What in the world would ever make someone think the organization could ever compete with large market franchises? According to the Wall Street Journal (via SNL Financial), while this "large TV market" fans refer to might be reflected in the number of cable subscribers, it certainly has nothing to do with the revenue produced by those viewers. SportSouth is indeed second only to the YES Network in subscribers, but the network's monthly revenue per subscriber lags FAR BEHIND those other "large markets" - almost 6 times less than the revenue per subscriber generated for the Red Sox via NESN.

If you calculate those 2011 numbers, it's easy to see just how bad the Braves' deal is.

Yankees - $33,600,000 per month
Rangers - $21,546,000 per month
Angels - $18,886,000 per month
Mets - $17,612,000 per month
Red Sox - $13,735,000 per month
Dodgers - $13,514,000 per month
Phillies - $9,393,000 per month

Braves - $4,959,000 per month
That doesn't take into account the Dodgers' new deal or the fact that the revenue generated by those other deals increases over time. 

Further limiting spending are the ever-dwindling ticket sale numbers. The Braves ranked 21st - yes, 21st - in home attendance percentage in 2012, drawing 2,420,171 fans (29,878/game) according to ESPN's 2012 MLB Attendance Report that can be viewed here  

The Brad Pitt as Billy Beane line from Moneyball  comes to mind when looking at those numbers (you even know the line even if you are the biggest scouthead vs. stathead there is) -  "The problem we're trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there's fifty feet of crap, and then there's us."

What should this tell Braves fans who continually whine about the decisions Frank Wren makes when it comes to building the team into a contender? That he's doing an awfully good job given the resources at his disposal. Other organizations keep making splashes and headlines, and the Braves keep winning. They've done it without much money to throw at free agents, and without being able to add many of the "can't miss" high-end prospects because they constantly pick long after those future impact players are off the board. There's little question that even though there's been turnover in the scouting and player development departments over the years that these guys know what they're doing. The only times in the last ten years the Braves drafted higher than 23rd overall (Jeff Francoeur in 2002) they landed Jason Heyward at number 14 in 2007 and Mike Minor at number 7 in 2009. They continue to produce impact talent WITHOUT the opportunity to select the "no-brainer" kids like the Harpers, Strasburgs, Prices, Uptons, Mauers, Adrian Gonzalezes, and Josh Hamiltons.

Here's holding out hope that someone will finally be able to pry the team away from corporate ownership and buy their way out of the Braves' dreadful TV contract, because with the exploding revenues in other markets it will only become tougher moving forward. Some organizations are playing with Monopoly money and it will become increasingly tougher to compete consistently without it no matter how good Wren & Company are. We're used to hearing Arthur Blank and even cries for Ted Turner to come back mentioned when this is discussed, but I've got a little different idea that would hopefully help to drive attendance even more. I'd love to see someone organize an investment group somewhat like the Dodgers' crowd and get some of the local heroes involved. How much support might result from including say Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Chipper Jones as minority owners and mouthpieces like Magic Johnson is for Los Angeles? That would be a great Christmas present for the organization and city that would keep on giving for years.