Braves still not actively pursuing Damon

Well it looks like National Signing Day will conclude without Johnny Damon knowing where he’s going to be playing this year.  But it still certainly appears that Atlanta isn’t in his immediate future. 

Instead of taking the negligent route of saying there is absolutely no way the Braves eventually sign Damon, I will acknowledge that this landscape could be quickly altered if one of Atlanta’s outfielders were to suffer an injury during the early days or weeks of camp.

Or maybe there will come a time when Damon would be willing to accept the $1-2 million the Braves might be willing to offer. But this seems doubtful given the likelihood that the Blue Jays or Tigers would seemingly be willing to provide something greater.

After a brief exchange with a team source again this morning, it was evident that the Braves still aren’t actively pursuing Damon. 

Placed in the same situation two years ago, when the 36-year-old Damon still had the youthful legs that provided him great range in center and the ability to sweep bags with regularity, the Braves might have shown some interest. 

Of course the price tag wouldn’t have been the same either. 

At the end of the day, the only reason the Braves would have interest in Damon is to allow him to serve as the leadoff hitter that they lack.  But while hitting .284 with a .349 on-base percentage and .446 slugging percentage on the road last year, did he really provide the confidence that he will be productive in this role. 

Another alarming stat comes from the fact that he attempted to steal just 12 bases last year. Over the course of the previous three seasons, he had averaged 34 attempts.  Was this a sign of age or just a product of the fact that he had been dropped down one spot, out of the leadoff role in a Yankees lineup that had plenty of middle-of-the-lineup power? 

While hitting in the leadoff spot last year, Nate McLouth hit .260 with a .354 OBP and .426 SLG.  In his 82 plate appearances as hit team’s first batter, McLouth hit .173 with a .244 OBP and .320 SLG.  In 183 PAs leading off an inning, he hit .204/.273/.365.  

These numbers don’t provide reason to believe McLouth is capable of serving as a consistently reliable table setter.  But the gritty outfielder serves as the club’s best source of speed.  Without the hamstring problems he battled during the final two months of the season, he would have likely swiped more than 25 bags. 

Because of his speed, it makes sense to keep McLouth in the leadoff spot.  Likewise, because of his ability to hit in clutch situations, it makes sense to continue providing Yunel Escobar an opportunity to hit in the fifth or sixth spots of the order.

But I think you can also argue that it makes the most sense to put Escobar in the leadoff role. Remember this argument proved futile over the course of the past two years, when Kelly Johnson’s name was being placed in the leadoff role. 

In 75 career starts as a leadoff hitter, Escobar has batted .309 with a .371 OBP and .428 SLG.  In the 75 PAs he’s totaled as his club’s first batter of the game, these stats are .411/.427/ .616.   In 360 PAs leading off an inning, these numbers are .312/.364/.423. 

Given that Escobar has hit .337 in his career with runners in scoring position, it would be tough to put him in a spot where he’d often come to the plate with the bases empty.  But at the same time, he provides reason to wonder if he would be the club’s best catalyst at the top of the lineup.

My Projected Lineup w/ Escobar in the leadoff spot:

Escobar
McLouth
Chipper
Glaus
McCann
Prado
Diaz/Cabrera 
Heyward

Separated at birth?
  A few years ago, I asked Frank Wren if anybody had ever told him he looked and sounded like ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.   At that time, he told me they both sent their kids to suburban Atlanta’s Landmark Christian Academy.

Wren.jpg 

Since then, I’ve seen fewer physical resemblences.  But when I awoke this morning with the television on, I could have sworn I heard Frank talking to me about something that Peyton Manning or Drew Brees was going to do this weekend. 

chris Mortensen.jpg

Listen to Mort as this week progresses and tell me if I need to get my ears checked.  Here’s a clip of  Frank’s voice.

 

30 Comments

Mark,
You’ve mentioned before that you believe Prado has a lot more pop in his bat than he has shown. I prefer Escobar down in the order to drive in crucial runs, as he HAS shown he can do. Of the two, who would you project to drive in more runs if placed in the 5th or 6th spot in the order? To me, that would be the real question I would ask in placing the order of the lineup. Obviously there are 4 different approaches to the leadoff spot in that lineup. McClouth, Prado, Escobar, and Diaz. I really don’t know how I feel about any of them leading off. McClouth is the best base stealer. The problem is we need him on base more than he is used to. Diaz probably puts the ball in play and is the toughest out. It really is a tough call.

Do you think Diaz’ success hitting leadoff last year was that he is actually comfortable in that role or that we were just on a hot streak (when everyone was hitting well)? Having a fast leadoff hitter doesn’t really mean much to the Braves, since Bobby hardly attempts to steal a base. It makes a lot of sense to bring McLouth down in the order to make use of his power. I like:
1. Diaz/Melky 2. Prado 3. Chipper 4. Glaus 5. Canns 6. Escobar 7. McLouth 8. Heyward
Diaz hits for average. So does Melky. Neither have much power, though they can find some gaps. McLouth does not hit for average but has power. Diaz also has a better OBP. Melky’s is about the same as McLouth’s. And it’s not like Diaz is immobile. He did steal 12 bases last year, though 12/17 isn’t great. I’ll Escobar with RISP than hitting leadoff any day. That is unless Heyward is hitting .400 by the all star break.

Mark, sorry but you’re crazy. Escobar is too much of a run producer and not patient enough to consistently hit #1. Also, your points about Damon’s numbers last year are irrelevant because he hit in the 2 spot. Look at his career numbers in lead-off and you will see he is a proven lead-off talent.

I would definitely prefer McLouth to bat down in the order, 7th or 8th.

Ideally a minor league manager get’s Schafer going again early and this discussion is moot. If Schafer got going, I think McLouth could become valuable trade bait. Although I think Esky’s run production and power will continue to increase over the next couple of years, I like him at 2 or 3 or 5 to 6. He is such a good clutch hitter and consistent run producer he needs to be in the middle of this line up. A lot of where he winds up I think will depend on what happens with Chipper. If his wheels get hurting early in the season it may be time to revisit HIS place in the lineup. Not that I think Bobby would ever be flexible enough to consider that, but it needs to be evaluated.
I don’t know if all of this made sense after my marathon NSD postings, but I gave it my best shot. Who knows, maybe the guys from Marshall will drop by to gloat, eh Mark?

Oh and I think after all that has been said over the last month, we should have a lineup card which specifies where Johnny Damon ISN”T gonna bat in our line up. Can somebody get those AJC guys to give it a rest?????

Whatever, Mark, I believe that Braves could be a better lineup with Damon and if you could sign him cheap, then you would be stupid not to make the move.

Let’s just state the obvious. Frank Wren shouldn’t even think about negotiating with Scott Boras. If he did that we would wind releasing Hanson so that we could sign the amazing JD. It ain’t gonna happen, it shouldn’t happen and god knows none of us want it to happen. I’d rather get a root canal than sign Damon.

Bravo, you’re right, I do believe that Prado has a lot of raw power and would be capable of hitting in the sixth or seventh spots. At the same time, he puts the ball in play consistently enough to be an asset in the No. 2 hole.

The good thing about this lineup is that it has a lot of pieces that can fit in a number of different places. Unfortunately, there isn’t one piece that will perfectly fit at the top of the order.

Nevertheless this lineup will be one than the one the Braves spent during the first two months of last season. I’ve heard players and coaches echo those of you who said they went into every game during that stretch with 12 of their 27 outs already accounted for.

Viva, in my mailbag, I wrote that Diaz could have centered a Zumaya fastball with a toothpick during that streak. I think it was a matter of being in the zone than being in the top spot of the order.

bravesrule, you are entitled to your opinion that Damon could help the Braves and you are correct, he’s going to have to be willing to play for a very small salary. But when I checked with my contacts again, I simply didn’t get the sense that the club is worrying whether he reaches a point where he says he wants to play in Atlanta.

Bill three of those guys decommitted from WVU and only one of them ended up at Marshall. One ended up going with the Mountaineers and the other went with Illinois. Pretty good day for Bill Stewart.

Hey we wound up sliding a pretty good kid, Hans Louis, back from Marshall, too. But now he plays for those mighty Bulls and you will get to meet him in person:)

I would probably construct my lineup with the premise of using Cabrera to get work in for Diaz and Heyward (of course this is assuming that Heyward makes the club and assumes a starting position). If this works out, Heyward would have a great opportunity to hit 8th in the lineup and cut his teeth before being put in the middle of the lineup in further seasons.
1. Diaz / Cabrera
2. Prado
3. Chipper
4. Glaus
5. McCann
6. Escobar
7. McLouth
8. Heyward/Cabrera

I can see some value in platooning Cabrera and Heyward- easing the manchild into the bigs. However, I still feel it’d be better to see Cabrera platoon in CF with McLouth, while letting Diaz get the everyday job in LF, at least until Schafer proves ready to man CF.

If Heyward bats 8th he won’t see a pitch all season. He may steal 30 bases, but he won’t get anything to hit. I would expect him to hit 7th, protected by a real hitter, and once he gets established going up to 6th.

McLouth
Prado
Chipper
Glaus
McCann
Escobar
Heyward
Diaz
pitcher

Diaz doesn’t care if they throw strikes to him anyway. He is the most likely guy to get on base to cycle the lineup to the top.

Heyward hitting 8th for a month would end up expanding the strike zone and getting into terrible habits. While I’m all for easing him in, 8th is one of the hardest places to maintain plate discipline in the lineup.

If Heyward is ready after Spring traning & Damon hasn’t signed yet, what about the option of taking a chance at Damon & trading off Cabera. I would rather have Damon at $3-5 mil than Cabera at $3 mil.

Rother, I see your point about Heyward hitting 8th. Seems to be reasonable enough. However, if the kid splashes on the scene we could see a completely different lineup altogether. It will also be interesting to see a lineup vs. LHP and the lineup when McCann has a day off.
Wayno, I don’t see the point in trading away a switch hitter in his 20’s that can play all 3 OF positions for a guy that is overpriced, aging, and diminishing in skills. It makes no sense to pay more money for a guy like that. Now if he wanted to play for $1-2/yr, i may see your point a little more.

putting both diaz or mcclouth at the leadoff is stupid the braves should send melky shcafer and medlen to the Nats for nyjer morgan sean burnett and mike morse

yes, let’s give away more starting pitching prospects. . . .

NCBravesfan82, that would be trading for the sake of trading, which is actually NOT what the GM’s job is. However, if we must continue making trades even after we have a solid line up, I’m going for the kid McCutchen in Pittsburgh instead of Morgan. I saw him come through Gwinnett before his call up and he is going to be an impact player for as long as he has legs.
As a side note, in Draw Poker it isn’t a good idea to ALWAYS take four cards, don’t know why I thought that would be helpful in this case, but…..just saying…..

rother the braves just traded with the pirates i dont see them giving him up i see them building around him but some one like morgan could be gotten if we send either melky or schafer for him and then we can build the line up around him mccann and heyward next year or so.

ok send melky and diory hernazdez to the nats for nyjer morgan and mike morse. morse can be an ulitiy guy and morgan would be our leadoff hitter bc thats one of out needs bc mcclouth and prado arent leadoff kind of batters.

How often does the average leadoff hitter leadoff an inning? 40% of the time, maybe? That works out to around 5% of the team ABs in a season, is it that big a deal that he has to be a slap hitting scat guy? If McLouth has an OBP during those ABs of .340, and the little roadrunner of choice has an OBP of .360, that works out 1 more time on base out of every 50 ABs, maybe 5 more times on base per season. I’m not losing his pop and SLG for 5 more times on base.
While we’re at it, a slap hitting leadoff guy, think Otis Nixon, is completely useless when there is a runner on first base. McLouth on the other hand is a threat to go deep. Unless Rickey Henderson is making another comeback, I’ll take what we’ve got over a Juan Pierre replica from the outlet mall.

Rother,

I agree with some of what you say, but I think this last post dispenses out some totally illogical premises.

The 1st comment is totally illogical. If a player leads off 40% of the time he leads off 40% of the time. That only has to do with innings, NOT AB’s. AB’s have limited correlation correlation to “innings lead off” only because a leadoff hitter will generally get the most AB’s over the course of a season.

Consider Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins when they were performing classic lead off duties. There are some real intangible benefits to have the “roadrunner” at 1st or 2nd when the pitcher is facing the heart of the lineup. I mean distraction is a huge part of the vital function a classic leadoff guy brings to the party. He can change the pitchers delivery(i.e slide step), he can change pitch selection and he can manufacture a run as a result of getting into scoring position. Those runs really add up.

Saying that a slap hitting “Otis Nixon” is useless when a player is at first is just mind boggling in it’s oversight. Usually that leadoff guy is the best bunter on the team, least likely to get doubled up and if he moves the runner over via walk or hit you now have a runner in scoring position. Did you consider any of that?

Last year McLouth scored 86 runs. Good leadoff guys always exceed 100. Runs are the bottom line. If you aren’t on base, you can’t score. A leadoff hitter needs to get on, period. His OBP is the most important stat for him, but the other elements listed above are critical as well. Jeters OBP was .406 last year. He stole 30 Bases and scored 107 runs. Give me a leadoff guy who gets on and steals bases and I’ll win the pennant more often than not. Pete Rose(the ultimate slap hitter) scored over 100 runs 10 times in 16 years in Cincy and he didn’t even steal bases, he just was on base all the time. His OBP was almost always .390- .420. Pete didn’t hit homers, he knew what his job was. GET ON BASE. Thats what a real leadoff hitter is supposed to do. It’s why McLouth is not great at leadoff. Low OBP, low runs scored and a lousy GO/AO.

rother~ when Otis Nixon was in Atlanta~ he was 4,5th outfielder(as good pinch runner~) not a leadoff(just sometimes)!! n he did good job with the braves~ n we made playoffs~

when Grissom Lofton Raffy with this organization~ we were the chams for NL east~

without a nice leadoff guy, No Playoffs!!!

the mcclouth trade ended up giving up one player that could have been used as a lead-off hitter and that was gorkys hernzadez if we didnt have to give him up in the trade to get mcclouth the braves would have him in lf or cf mclouth in center or rf and put diaz in rf or lf. Gorkys had all the tools that made a lead off hitter but instead they send him away to a team that aint gonna use him bc they already got a crowded outfield.

Have any of you guys taken a look at Mitch Jones? I was intrigued to take a look at his career… both collegiate and minor leagues. I have a couple of questions: (1) How has he not been given a real shot at the bigs? and (2) How can you not pull for this guy?
College stats:
Utah Valley – 41 homers in two seasons
Senior Year at Arizona State – 27 homeruns, .787 slugging percentage, and 92 rbis.
Minor League Stats:
Averaged 23.5 homers per season
Since 2003 he has averaged 80 rbi’s per season.
Career .255 hitter
Last year he hit 35 homeruns, 103 rbi’s, .297 batting average, .651 slugging, and .1.015 OPS in 434 plate appearances.
He is a career .853 OPS / .512 slugging % / and .341 OBP.
I hope he makes a splash in Spring Training! The guy has been a monster, hitting nearly 40 home runs two different times in the minors and has succeeded at every level. He strikes out a lot! (every 3.9 plate appearances). But so did Babe Ruth!!! He had 15 plate appearances for the Dodgers last year in the bigs and hit .308
Obviously a big draw back now is that he’s 31… but give the guy a shot!!!

In ’96, Grissom has 207 hits, 207 (not to mention 23 HR, and a .838 OPS). If that is not a productive leadoff hitter, I don’t know what is.
Also, how can you say Otis Nixon was a 4th outfielder? He had over 100 SB for the Braves in ’91 and ’92. Heck, if that is the production of a 4/5 outfielder, than Jason Heyward will be ROY and MVP.

there were players out there that the braves could have signed that would have made an excellent leadoff hitter such as Randy Winn Joey Gathright Juan Pierre Chone Figgins in the javy trade instead of getting melky the braves could asked for brett gardner who is a speedster or could have package that same deal to detriot and added schafer and the braves could have gotten granderson alfredo amezaga and the braves gave up barton i bet he could have been a great leadoff hitter but no the braves make trades for these guys and make them sit in the minors for long time or bring them up too soon. the a’s just let go willy taveras how come the braves dont pick him up or trade for him. earth to frank wren the braves need a leadoff hitter more then they need a power bat.

10 days until p & c’s report. wee hee. I am oiling up my glove and hitting the cages, just in case I get the call, “skip wants to see you in his office, reef”.

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