According to the community research section over at Fangraphs, Alex Wood could very well end up being the "NL's version of Chris Sale." Wood had about as successful of a season as we could've imagined, compiling an ERA of 2.78 and a FIP of 3.25, all while maintaining his K/9 number at 8.91 (it was 8.92 during 2013) and slashing his BB/9 to 2.36. If that keeps up, we could very well have an outstanding pitcher on our hands like the White Sox do, and not just a good one. Color me excited.
Earlier this month, the crew over at Fangraphs decided to use WAR to try to figure out which teams had the biggest needs left and how they'd go about trying to fill those needs. For instance, the NL East Champion Washington Nationals had a team average WAR of 2.06, but their 2B WAR was 1.0, making for a difference of -1.06 WAR. Clearly, the Nationals have addressed that issue by signing Dan Uggla, right? Meanwhile, our Braves made the top 10 of this list, and the position that is their biggest need right now, according to fangraphs, is 3rd Base. From the piece:
The last spot in the top ten belongs to the Braves, and their third baseman, who they just signed to a three-year $23.5m contract that starts in 2015. And in San Diego, the rumor was that they were attaching that new signing to Justin Upton to try and get out from under that money. Maybe they want to see what Kyle Kubitza can do in the major leagues after he was 45% better than the league as a 24-year-old in Double-A. Steamer has Kubitza projected for an 84 wRC+ next year, Johnson for a 94, and Johnson isn’t known for his glove. I doubt Kelly Johnson or Juan Francisco are going to move the needle.
It's interesting to note that Kyle Kubitza's offensive production in AA was done in what MiLB.com described as a "notorious pitcher's park," so the future at 3rd Base may indeed be a bright one for the Braves. But for now, it's pretty dark, especially with the way that the Braves have been trying to move Johnson as of late.
Meanwhile, Grant Brisbee took a look at every NL Team's biggest hole over at the SB Nation MLB Mothership. Brisbee noted that this could have gone to Chris Johnson as well (which would make it now 2 prominent baseball blogs saying that the Braves current situation at 3B is a mess), but instead he went to the other clear black hole: Center Field, which is where B.J. Upton is currently primed to spend another season as the starter. Here's Brisbee's thoughts on Bad Upton:
If Upton were a minor-league free agent at the start of last year, he would have been a minor-league free agent again this year. But he's still owed more than $46.5 million for the next three years, so the Braves have a year to see if he can at least be slightly below average for that money. In a way, he fits the not-rebuilding-but-kinda-rebuilding-dunno-whatever strategy the Braves are deftly deploying this offseason.
So, this season's Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is clogged up like your arteries after a visit to the infamous Heart Attack Grill out in Las Vegas. In addition to the players who put up gaudy numbers but have the cloud of PED suspicion surrounding them, there are other shoo-ins on the ballot as well, which means that the voters (the ones who put actual time and research into their ballots and don't just cry "woe is me" in slogging columns because they're faced with such an excruciating task of trying to figure out who had a good enough baseball career than others) have one heck of a choice on their hands. However, a guy who just might sneak into the Hall on the first ballot just might be John Smoltz. He'd be joining Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Bobby Cox as yet another titanic figure of the Braves' amazing run in the 1990s, but while most figured that Maddux and Glavine were first-ballot locks, it would be considered a minor shock if the ace starter-turned-shutdown-closer-turned-starter again were to make it it on his first try.
Smoltz now looks like a lock for first-ballot success. With the voting deadline looming tomorrow and the verdict arriving a week from today, 99 ballots have been disclosed and collected — about 17 percent of the pool, judging by last year’s electorate. Johnson and Martinez are enjoying near-universal support: Every voter but one has swiped right on Johnson, and only two have passed on Pedro.1 Smoltz, who’s polling at 88.9 percent, is also in line for election, ranking ahead of Craig Biggio (who fell two votes short of a shiny new plaque in 2013) and Mike Piazza, the only other players polling above the 75 percent election threshold.
Our friends over at Let's Go Tribe decided to debate Smoltz's Hall of Fame merits as well, so I definitely suggest that you guys go and check that one out.
Jesus Montero used to be one of the most promising prospects in baseball, but now Seattle's C/DH/1B is fighting to stay in the Mariners' Major League plans after a tumultuous 2014 season. However, reports are coming out that he's lost a good chunk of weight so far this offseason which means that we've got ourselves a good ol' "Best Shape of His Life" report! We've still got a few hours before 2015 and these stories are coming out!
If the name Chin-Hui Tsao doesn't ring a bell, it's probably because you aren't a Dodgers fan or a Taiwanese baseball fan. If you're one of the two, then you probably know about this guy's history -- such as the fact that he's banned from Taiwan's baseball league for allegedly conspiring to fix games.
An investigation reportedly found Tsao had accepted these "benefits" (sex, among them) and was expected to throw those two games during the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s 2009 season. One game was rained out. The other didn’t come off because of lack of support in the locker room. His punishment was limited to expulsion from the league. Presumably he was saved further legal consequences because of his own inability to predict the weather or the competitive temperaments of his teammates.
All of that might sound a bit murky, but the main reason why the Dodgers are going after the 33-year old is simple: He can still bring the heat, and clearly the Dodgers are willing to look past Tsao's checkered history as long as he can keep on throwing 95 out of the bullpen.