Tommy Hanson 2010 Outlook

January 18, 2010

Hanson has arrived (Suss-Man/Flickr).

The history of stellar young pitchers developed through the Atlanta Braves organization is well documented. The Braves’ newest anointed future ace has already started his career off very strongly and looks to build on this success during his sophomore season.

With Tommy Hanson the Braves are hoping this tall, lanky right hander turns out to be that future ace. Hanson has a plus-fastball with good movement in the mid-90’s, a solid change, and a “knee-buckling” curve that is one of the best in the game today to top things off. He has a very commanding presence on the mound which when coupled with the ability to throw all his pitches for strikes makes him very difficult to hit.

After finally getting the call last June, Hanson went on to dominate in his starts which helped give the Braves a late season surge towards the National League wild card. While the Braves fell short of the playoffs, they got a glimpse into what kind of an arm this young kid has and how well he fits into their future plans.

So what can we expect from Hanson heading into his first full season in the big leagues? Here’s a look at how Bill James, CHONE and I, the Diamond Cutter, project his numbers to look:

2010 PROJECTIONS
LIST W-L ERA IP SO WHIP
Bill James 14-7 3.30 191 206 1.15
CHONE 9-8 3.91 152 158 1.30
Diamond Cutter 16-8 3.15 198 210 1.14

As you can see, I believe Hanson will have a very successful sophomore campaign for the Braves. CHONE doesn’t see Hanson pitch quite as much this year whether that means they see him skipped in the rotation or shut down early. For me I don’t think Atlanta will even have the option to shut him down as he will emerge as their best pitcher and I believe they will be in the wild card hunt through September. He will be that big of an impact in Atlanta.

The biggest deciding factor on Hanson’s success will be how he makes adjustments now that the league has seen him and will have even more exposure as the season goes on. This is such a telling time for a young pitcher as they learn how to adjust to the big leagues.

Luckily for the Braves Hanson is a very smart pitcher.

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News and Notes: “Mop-Up Duty”

January 18, 2009

Ace Cole Hamels is the latest to sign long-term with the team he loves (BernMarsh/Flickr).

Ace Cole Hamels is the latest to sign long-term with the team he loves (BernMarsh/Flickr).


Today’s “News and Notes” is going to be a delightful hodgepodge of baseball stuff all thrown together. Sort of like a long reliever in some mop-up duty, I have a large array of items to get through and clean house with. Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but whatever. Hopefully it sticks to the wall and we can call it a big win. Now on to the news and/or notes…
Boston has inked the heart of their team for years (keithallisonphoto.com)

Boston has inked the heart of their team for years (keithallisonphoto.com)

MLB NEWS
• Two of baseball’s biggest contenders were able to avoid arbitration with one their best players and signed each of them to deals this past week. First Boston signed their first baseman Kevin Youkilis to a four-year, $41 million deal, then Philadelphia followed suit and inked up their ace Cole Hamels to a three-year, $20.5 million contract. Both of these were fantastic signings by these clubs as not only did they prevent having to deal with arbitration, but now they each have one of their stars locked up for the next few seasons. Not only that, but both teams received “hometown discounts” with their players as each made it clear they wanted to stay with their organizations. While this helps out the Red Sox (who also received a great deal locking 2008 MVP Dustin Pedroia up long term earlier this winter) and Phillies tremendously, it hurts free agents still looking for teams as well as other players who are coming up on arbitration situations. Clubs now have an opportunity to say to their players, “if a reigning MVP (Pedroia), a man many believe should have won the MVP (Youkilis) and a playoff hero and rising star (Hamels) all took discounts, why can’t you?” I believe this will play a large part in many team’s negotiating tactics very, very soon.

• It appears as if Frank Wren has finally woken up in Atlanta after landing Derek Lowe this week to head up his staff in 2009. I discussed this about a week ago in a “GM for a Day” article stating how the Braves could not afford to let Lowe get away from them like AJ Burnett and John Smoltz did. In fact, it now looks as if the Braves are taking a little more of my advice and looking to bring both Tom Glavine and Andruw Jones back to Atlanta. I’m not sure if Wren returned from an extended vacation or started reading this site, but either way, it’s nice to have you back.

BASEBALL BLOGGER NEWS
• Patrick Sullivan wrote a fantastic article for Baseball Analysts depicting how unjust (and uneducated) some baseball writers are in their selection process for the Hall of Fame. He breaks it down and shows how individual awards (MVP, Cy Young) are weighed too heavily by many writers and the player’s statistics in his era should mean more. Check it out.

• My old Minnesota Twins discussion buddy Nick Nelson has posted his Minnesota Twins top 10 prospect list over at his site Nick & Nick Twins Blog. My Twins Top 5 prospects list should be up very soon and I look forward to getting Nick’s thoughts on this as well.

• I finally picked up my edition of “The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009” the other day at Barnes and Noble. I had been looking for it for a while now in bookstores as I was too lazy to order it online (even though I’m on a computer a lot). I’ve been trying to find some uninterrupted time to dig into it and I think I finally have some today. So far it has been a great read and I highly recommend it. I’ve spoken before about how much I enjoy The Hardball Times site and thus far the book hasn’t disappointed. I’ll give you more updates as I go.

DIAMOND CUTTER NEWS & NOTES
I just wanted to take a look ahead at what is coming up here on “The Diamond Cutter” over the next week or two as I have been receiving some emails as of late wondering.

Click above for Top 25 Prospects!

Click above for Top 25 Prospects!

• The Top 25 Prospects list will continue to take shape as I gradually unveil them one at a time. We will also see the return of the Top 5 Prospects by organization return in the next day or so after a brief hiatus. I wanted to try to space these out a bit so they don’t get too mundane and repetitive. I want to keep these fresh!

• I am currently in the process of working on a couple of larger articles that are taking quite a bit of time. One is a detailed biography of a future Hall of Famer (I assume they will be in the Hall based on their historic statistics, but of course I could be wrong based on if the Baseball Writers Association has a predetermined bias against him already) who I will name at a later date and the other article is a continuation of the “Deconstructing Series” (click here for the first one about Andruw Jones’ collapse) where I will be discussing the rise and fall of Dwight Gooden. Stay tuned for both of those…

• The next couple of weeks will also be another interview (click here for my last one with Red Sox prospect Jeff Natale) that I am in the process of setting up with Toronto Blue Jay catching prospect, JP Arencibia. He has already graciously agreed to speak with me and now it’s just a matter of finding a time for us to meet.

• As spring training draws closer and closer, I will continue the “GM for a Day” series as well as start reviewing each division which will ultimately lead to one of my favorite parts, the predictions for the 2009 season. This is always a fun time as I compile everything that has happened over the winter and smash it into each team to see if we can make some sense out of the upcoming season. I also ask for a large amount of participation from you the reader during this time as I feel it makes it a whole lot more interesting.

Stay tuned for all this and don’t hesitate letting me know if there are more things you want to see more (or less) of.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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Top Prospect #20: Frederick Freeman

January 17, 2009

20
NAME: Frederick Freeman
POSITION: First Base
AGE: 19 | BATS: L | THROWS: R
ORGANIZATION: Atlanta Braves

2008 STATISTICS
LVL AVG R HR RBI OBP SLG
MiLB .316 70 18 95 .378 .521

Scouting Report: Nobody was sure what to expect from Freddie Freeman in his first full season of pro ball in 2008 considering he was only 18 years old. But after a good first half of the season he exploded in the second half posting a line of .349/.418/.562. This got scouts (including myself) to sit up and take extra notice as most kids his age experience growing pains in their first year. Freeman’s maturity and discipline help with his outstanding pitch recognition and selection at the plate. Because of this he should be able to hit for a high average in large part due to his ability to drive the ball. He will be able to hold his own in the middle of the Braves lineup someday as a run producer. Also is a good defensive first baseman which makes him all the more valuable. With how good he has proven to be at such a young age he has set quite a high ceiling for himself which is exciting if you are a Braves fan.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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GM for a Day: Atlanta Braves

January 11, 2009
Atlanta needs some help immediately in order to salvage 2009 (FLC/Flickr).

Atlanta needs some help immediately in order to salvage 2009 (FLC/Flickr).

Originally I had another team in mind for the second installment (here’s our first) of “GM for a Day,” but with how much suffering the fans in Atlanta are experiencing this winter, I figured it was my duty to help Frank Wren out and give him some tips.

The Braves were in great position at the beginning of the winter with two main goals (big outfield bat and ace/front line starter) and a lot of cap space to accomplish it. Thus far Wren has failed miserably causing me to question if he was awake or even knew he could add players during the winter months. This is especially true considering the blunders he’s had already (Burnett, the Furcal flop, not signing anyone to help plug holes and disrespecting a legend in Smoltz). So Frank, here’s what you need to do to salvage your team and your fan’s hopes over the next month:

Atlanta needs Lowe at the top of their rotation (oneidaprincess/Flickr).

Atlanta needs Lowe at the top of their rotation (oneidaprincess/Flickr).

1.) Sign free agent starting pitchers Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf to a contract immediately.

I know he’s not AJ Burnett like Atlanta wanted, but Wren missed the boat on him. But then again, Derek Lowe is actually a much more reliable pitcher and a good fit for Atlanta.

As you can see by the stats below, you know what you will get from Lowe (around 14 wins, ERA in the mid-3’s and a great ground ball percentage). The ground ball percentage is especially nice to have in Atlanta when it starts to heat up and the ball begins to carry more in the humidity. Plus you have to remember that Lowe has had very little run support during his tenure with the Dodgers. They have had an offense that has been very weak at times which is why it is important for the Braves to bolster it a bit. Here’s a look at Lowe’s stats the past three years:

+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+-----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM     | IP    |  W-L  | ERA  | SO  | WHIP | GB% |
+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+-----+
| 2006 |  33 | Dodgers  | 218.0 | 16-8  | 3.63 | 123 | 1.27 | 69% |
| 2007 |  34 | Dodgers  | 199.3 | 12-14 | 3.88 | 147 | 1.27 | 65% |
| 2008 |  35 | Dodgers  | 211.0 | 14-11 | 3.24 | 147 | 1.13 | 60% |
+------+-----+----------+-------+-------+------+-----+------+-----+

In addition signing Randy Wolf (12-12, 4.30 ERA, 162 SO in the 2008 season) would not only bring more stability to the rotation but it would bring a lefty to help break up the string of righties the Braves have/would have. Wolf would be a nice pick-up for them and you could sign him to a 1-year $5.5-$6 million contract with a second year option. This would be a smart signing for the club.

2.) Trade prospects Gorkys Hernandez and Kris Medlen to the Yankees for Nick Swisher.

Some of you may think I came out of nowhere with this one, but it has been reported that the Yankees are shopping Nick Swisher around now that they have signed Mark Teixeira. With Teix taking over first base and an already crowded outfield, Swisher is going to struggle to find playing time and the Yankees would like to bring in some young prospects. Here’s a look at how Swisher has produced the past three seasons:

+------+-----+-----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM      | AB  |  AVG/OBP  | HR | RBI |  R  | 2B |
+------+-----+-----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2006 |  25 | Athletics | 556 | .254/.372 | 35 |  95 | 106 | 24 |
| 2007 |  26 | Athletics | 539 | .262/.381 | 22 |  78 |  84 | 36 |
| 2008 |  27 | White Sox | 497 | .219/.332 | 24 |  69 |  86 | 21 |
+------+-----+-----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
Swisher would bring flexibility to their lineup (Kimberly*/Flickr).

Swisher would bring flexibility to their lineup (Kimberly*/Flickr).

As you can see he’s never been a big average guy, but I do believe last year was a fluke season for him in large part due to the White Sox’s inability to use Swisher properly. He wasn’t given a full opportunity to play especially at the end of the season after acquiring Ken Griffey Jr. Given the chance to play in Atlanta, I see Swisher giving a line of .260/.380/.495 with 28 homers and 98 RBI. This is pretty much what they were expecting from Jeff Francoeur but with a higher OBP.

3.) Sign free agent Bobby Abreu to a contract.

I know I used this one on the Cubs GM plan already but they made a mistake and signed Milton Bradley instead. My main choices were between Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn. On one hand the Braves could use Dunn’s power in the clean-up spot, but they already have quite a few high strikeout hitters in the lineup with Swisher and Francoeur. With that in mind I figured another OBP guy who is also a nice three hitter would be a better fit.

+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM     | AB  |  AVG/OBP  | HR | RBI |  R  | SB |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2005 |  31 | Phillies | 588 | .286/.405 | 24 | 102 | 104 | 31 |
| 2006 |  32 | PHI/NYY  | 548 | .297/.424 | 15 | 107 |  98 | 30 |
| 2007 |  33 | Yankees  | 605 | .283/.369 | 16 | 101 | 123 | 25 |
| 2008 |  34 | Yankees  | 609 | .296/.371 | 20 | 100 | 100 | 22 |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+

As you can see, Abreu’s presence in the lineup would be very beneficial for the Braves who need an outfielder to help them on offense. With these additions, here’s how the lineup and rotation would now look:

Escobar will help Atlanta with his bat and glove (artolog/Flickr)

Escobar will help Atlanta with his bat and glove (artolog/Flickr)

1.) Yunel Escobar, SS
2.) Kelly Johnson, 2B
3.) Bobby Abreu, LF
4.) Chipper Jones, 3B
5.) Brian McCann, C
6.) Nick Swisher, CF
7.) Casey Kotchman, 1B
8.) Jeff Francoeur, RF

Derek Lowe, RHP
Jair Jurrjens, RHP
Javier Vasquez, RHP
Randy Wolf, LHP
Jorge Campillo, RHP

(Also the Braves may sign Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami who could slide into the five spot in the rotation as could Tom Glavine depending on what they do with him).

I really believe that these additions will help make the Braves a contender in 2009. As they stand now with Wren’s inactivity, the Braves will not be in contention in the NL East. They will finish a distant fourth which will not make Atlanta’s dedicated fan base happy especially with them being accustomed to their organization’s long standing tradition.

Wren must make some moves because as of now he is doing nothing but hurting the Atlanta Braves as well as their chances for 2009.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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News and Notes: “Is Wren Home?”

January 9, 2009
Apparently GM Frank Wren hasnt tuned into a Braves game over the past 20 years (Mori Claudia/Flickr).

Apparently GM Frank Wren hasn't tuned into a Braves game over the past 20 years (Mori Claudia/Flickr).

After quite an array of articles over the past week here on “The Diamond Cutter” which have generated a lot of great discussion, I figured we had better address some of the items that have happened since our last “News and Notes” segment. Today’s will be a very signings intensive News and Notes as that is where all the MLB action has been taking place…

• In an unfortunate turn of events, the Atlanta Braves let the face of their franchise and future Hall of Famer John Smoltz leave town for the Boston Red Sox who now have a 17 man rotation. At this rate each starter will have a solid two week break in between starts in order to better rest them for the post season.

But in all seriousness, someone in Atlanta had better nudge Braves’ GM Frank Wren to see if he’s awake or even has a pulse at this rate. He has had two goals this winter: get an outfielder with a big bat and an ace/front line starter. Thus far he has acquired Javier Vasquez who is at best a number three starter. Not only has Wren already lost out on AJ Burnett (who the Yankees out bid him for), Rafael Furcal (who along with his agents screwed the Braves over even though as we go I’m thinking more and more that Wren was just as much to blame as he shows his lack of effort) and Jake Peavy (who San Diego was asking a lot for). Plus he’s pretty much out of options for impact pitchers and is losing the big outfield bats by the day.

Braves fans everywhere are in an uproar over this and calling for Wren’s head saying he is “singlehandedly destroying the organization.” While I’m not ready to go that far, I am ready to say that he needs to move with a little more sense of urgency. Now to compound the situation he has lost Smoltz, a front line starter and your franchise player, over only $3 million.

I just don’t get it and it makes me mad that they essentially disrespected Smoltz and his legacy (I’m ready for them to do the same thing with Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones next).

Are Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine next on the diss list in Atlanta? (since1968/Flickr)

Are Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine next on the diss list in Atlanta? (since1968/Flickr)

• Speaking of disrespecting a future Hall of Famer and the face of an organization, Trevor Hoffman has officially signed a one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers for a reported $6 million. He will now close out games for the Brewers after the self-destructing Padres basically told him to get out. Free agency is good for the sport, but many of these teams have to understand what they are telling their fan base when they kick their favorite players to the curb over small amounts of money (small in terms of baseball salaries).

Giambi comes home (keithallisonphoto.com).

Giambi comes home (keithallisonphoto.com).

• The Mets are on the verge of signing free agent pitcher Tim Redding to a one-year contract for a reported $2 million. This would be a fantastic signing by the Mets as Redding is about as solid of a number five starter as you’ll find in baseball. He is durable as a starter and will give them around 10 wins with an ERA around 4.50-5.00. I’m actually very surprised more teams weren’t in the running for him.

• The other signings that have happened recently: Rocco Baldelli joins Smoltz in Boston (great signing for Boston), Milton Bradley is introduced in Chicago which we discussed in comments this week (stupid signing by the Cubs as Bradley’s fragile body needs protection in the AL with the DH) and of course Jason Giambi comes home where he belongs back to Oakland (fantastic signing as he’s still got pop and the fans love him there).

• The ESPN Prediction Questions article I put up the other day received a lot of great discussions in the comments section and via email. It was good seeing what everyone else thought was going to happen with players this upcoming season. I’m planning on doing more interactive posts like this in the future and will definitely see more before the season starts. Thanks again to everyone who participated and if you haven’t yet, go write yours in or email me at mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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Deconstructing Andruw Jones

January 2, 2009
Andruw Jones with a long walk back to the dugout after yet another strikeout (kla4067/Flickr).

Andruw Jones with a long walk back to the dugout after yet another strikeout (kla4067/Flickr).

In 1996, nobody outside of Atlanta had ever heard of the 19-year old center fielder named Andruw Jones. In fact, even those who closely followed the Braves hadn’t heard much more about him other than the fact that they have had him locked up since the ripe old age of 16.

That was until his first two World Series at bats in historic Yankee Stadium.

Back then prospects weren’t as highly tracked or widely discussed as they are now. If word on some fresh young talent made its way up to a team’s typical fans it meant they were something big. But to have info on a Braves prospect available to typical fans in say Seattle, it was much less common than it has become here in 2009 where detailed scouting reports and ranked lists tell you everything you need to know.

So I can say first hand when I was watching the ’96 series as a 17-year old and saw this unknown teenager step up to the plate, I was with the majority of the country when I said “who?”

As true baseball fans we can always remember big moments in our favorite pastime. World Series moments especially have a way of ingraining themselves into our heads. Watching a relatively unknown teenager hit not one but two home runs in his first two at bats of a World Series in Yankee Stadium as a visitor is one of those moments that stick with someone.

And I’m sure it stuck with Andruw too.

And I’m sure the success Jones had over his great stretch with Atlanta has stuck with him too. In fact that might be part of the reason he’s have such a tough time rebuilding his once stellar career. But we’ll get to that in a moment. In the mean time I have to ask the question of what happened in the world of Andruw Jones to cause such a dramatic collapse of one of baseball’s brightest stars?

Before we dive into what some of the causes could have been, we need to look at what kind of collapse we are talking about. Take a look at Andruw’s career numbers and the dive they started taking immediately after his giant offensive seasons of 2005 and 2006.

As you can see Jones was pretty consistent in most of his offensive statistics from about 1998-2004 with the exception of stolen bases which started a dramatic drop off in 2000. But then 2005 came and we saw an incredible jump in home run totals for Jones. From 1998-2004 Jones averaged a little better than 32 homers, 98 RBI and hit .272 during that span including seven straight Gold Gloves. These were very strong numbers and any team would have loved to have that type of averaged stats from their center fielder despite a 18.76 K%.

Jones takes his lead while with the Braves (Dianne Pike/Flickr).

Jones takes his lead while with the Braves (Dianne Pike/Flickr).

Then the two big years (2005-06) came for Jones in which he hit .262, crushed 92 homers and drove in 257 RBI with a K% of 17.82. Those are huge numbers for anyone over a two year period and it was an incredible jump in power numbers. Over those two seasons it was way off his normal trend which saw a jump in homers average from 32 to 46 and RBI average jump from 98 to 129. His batting average however took a dive from .272 the previous seven seasons down to .263. Basically 2005 and 2006 were mirror images of each other except 10 less homers which look to have translated into a few more doubles.

At first look you may think that this was just a fluke and that was the reason for the large jump in numbers. But flukes are usually the result of one big season and Jones strung together two virtually identical giant years. A big reason for the increase in power was due to Jones opening up his stance and driving through the ball more. He made this adjustment before the 2005 season and ran with it. As you can see this adjustment made a huge difference almost immediately and helped solidify the heart of the Braves order. Everything was going fantastic for Jones especially with his contract coming up after the 2007 season. If he could continue his success he would be seeing an enormous payday heading into the winter of ’07.

Unfortunately for Jones, his 2007 season saw a tremendous drop off in numbers. Not only did his homers (26) and RBI (94) numbers drop off significantly, we saw his batting average drop 29 points below his lowest thus far (2001) and an astonishing 48 point drop from his lowest slugging year (2001). To say Jones had hit a low was an understatement and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for him with his contract coming due that winter.

Luckily for Jones he had super agent Scott Boras by his side and if there’s one thing we have learned, Boras clients never lose out on a big payday. Boras used his slimy ways and was able to convince the Los Angeles Dodgers that Jones was the man they wanted patrolling center heading into the 2008 season. So in typical Boras fashion, he was able to spin Jones’ awful 2007 campaign off as just a fluke season and that he truly was the player they’d seen the previous years. Jones then signed a two-year, $36.2 million contract while Boras laughed all the way to the bank.

This is where the story really turns out ugly for the Dodgers. Not only did the Andruw Jones from ’05-’06 not show up, the Andruw Jones with the horrible numbers from 2007 didn’t even show up. All they received was an overweight, overpaid ball player with the same name.

Things just got worse following spring training as not only did Jones suffer injuries allowing him only 209 at bats, but when he was in the lineup he posted a putrid .158/.256/.249 line with 76 strikeouts causing a K% of 31.93 which I still have trouble wrapping my head around. Not only did Jones waste $14.7 million of the Dodgers money last season, he was a liability to have in the already punch-less Dodgers lineup.

Now that we’ve assessed the mess that has amassed for Andruw Jones, let’s take a look at what could be at the root of the issues.

I’ve already addressed and disregarded his two big seasons as being flukes especially considering he was a star before those happened. Some say that Jones’ weight issues and fluctuations have caused to part of the problem. While this may have a tiny effect on him at the plate, I don’t see it being that much of an impact. If anything it would have more of an effect on his defense and wouldn’t explain his troubles at the plate. Others have said that it could be his age that is catching up with him. I also find this one hard to believe considering he is only 31-years old and hasn’t shown any drastic signs of premature aging. Not only that but Jones has been a healthy and durable player for his entire career previous to this as he has never played less than 153 games since 1997. So that discounts any lingering injury that might be plaguing him. So what is it?

To see what type of a hitter he is at the plate, let’s take a look at my scouting report I wrote about Andruw during the 2008 season:

Andruw Jones has a very original and now counterproductive approach at the plate. He widened his stance at the plate back in 2005 which lead him to great success. His stance now has become even more spread out and that hurts him when he’s out in front of a pitch and can’t stay balanced. This coupled with a maximum effort swing which produces a violent motion a lot of torque only adds to his recent troubles. He has incredible raw power and kills fastballs and mistake breaking balls when he’s locked in. The trouble is that he hasn’t really been locked in since 2006 and has spiraled downhill since. He has lost total control of the strike zone and is swinging at balls up, down and off the plate. This coupled with his erratic swing which isn’t one which mechanically can be easily adjusted to help break free from a slump, has caused Jones to drift deeper and deeper into a giant funk that may end up causing him to find himself out of baseball for good.

Not exactly the glowing report I wanted to give to him but the fact is fact. Jones’ has completely lost himself at the plate. The problem is that this has gone on for so long that he may not be able to find his way out of it. For hitters like Jones who aren’t fundamentally sound with their swings to begin with, it’s even more difficult to pull them out of their slumps once they are stuck in it. You can’t adjust their swing and get them back to basics when they didn’t really ever use the basics to begin with.

I believe Jones’ issues stem from not only his unconventional approaches at the plate and the fact that it is now stuck in his head, but the fact that he had two huge years in Atlanta and pressed himself too hard to keep repeating those type of numbers in 2007 and subsequently driving him to try too hard to hit homers. This threw his swing out of whack causing him to press harder and eventually throwing him into the mess he’s in now.

This really is too bad for Andruw Jones as he was an incredible player once upon a time and was so much fun to watch. While I wish him the best in trying to find his way again, I just don’t see it happening. At least not any time soon. I think after the 2009 season when his contract is up that Jones may find himself nowhere to go and just taking some time away from the game before trying to break back in a few years later. This may be the best way to go as he needs some time away to clear his head.

This just goes to show what a mental game baseball truly is. Once something gets in your head in this game it is so difficult to get it out.

While I really hope it isn’t too late for Andruw, I have a sinking feeling that it is.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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News and Notes: “Rafael Fur-real?”

December 22, 2008
Furcal continues to spin his agents wrong doings (Malingering/Flickr).

Furcal continues to spin his agent's wrong doings (Malingering/Flickr).

• The Pittsburgh Pirates have reached a three-year deal with catcher Ryan Doumit that will lock him up through his arbitration years. Last year Doumit had a fantastic year out of nowhere hitting .318/.356/.501 with 15 homers and 69 RBI. While my former MVN co-worker Cory Humes at Pirate Revolution believes the Pirates should trade Doumit (or hear his podcast about it), I personally believe that Doumit is an example of the type of player they need to begin to build around. With players like Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez coming up through the system as well other bright youngsters the Bucs need to start now rather than continuing to hit the “reset” button. I do however agree 100% with Humes that the Pirates should sign slugger Adam Dunn as part of the solution.

You know what you will get with Dunn (SD Dirk/Flickr).

You know what you will get with Dunn (SD Dirk/Flickr).

• Speaking of the giant slugger Adam Dunn, why aren’t more teams interested in bringing him aboard this winter? Yes I know he had a strikeout rate of 25.9% last season and yes I know he won’t be winning any Gold Gloves in the outfield any time soon, but who couldn’t use his presence in the lineup? While his career average is .247, more importantly his career on-base is .381 and career slugging at .518. Plus you know he will be healthy and you will get 40 homers and 100+ RBI. So why do I keep hearing about teams not too interested in him or preferring a player who is a head case and will most likely miss 20-40 games a year? I would personally rather have Dunn or Pat Burrell over both Bobby Abreu and Milton Bradley. Call me crazy.

• I’ve already covered the Mark Teixeira saga enough on here by discussing where his options are as well as my annoyance about all the back and forth about who’s in and who’s out. I really hope Jon Heyman’s report on Teixeira’s decision coming by Christmas day is true as I can’t take much more. I think the scorecard has the Orioles, Nationals, Red Sox, Bears, Knicks and three teams from the WNBA as the top contenders.

• The New York Yankees and pitcher Chien-Ming Wang have avoided salary arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract thus insuring the Yankees the first ever 11-man starting rotation heading into the 2009 season. Awesome.

• And finally more on the Furcal vs. Braves situation as Furcal continues to lie about his agent’s dirty tricks. Even our poll on this site last week showed 100% of people believe Furcal and his agents screwed the Braves. Just stop talking about it Furcal, we know its not true.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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