The All-Blah Braves, redux
This is not a collection of the worst Braves, simply the least inspiring, or most forgettable.
So don’t look for Jody Davis or Pat Rockett on our list — their awfulness ensures they’ll be remembered by generations of Braves fans. But 20 years from now, will we remember Casey Kotchman for anything besides the Teixeira trade?
To put it another way, it’s unlikely any dads ever encouraged their sons to emulate Joe Boever or Melky Cabrera.
SP: Mike Hampton, John Thomson. The infamous bruised titty was one of many injuries that caused Hampton to sit out half of his six years in Atlanta. Not that he was terribly missed, posting a 4.10 ERA and 1.432 WHIP in the 85 starts he made. Thomson‘s stats were almost identical (4.15 ERA, 1.392 WHIP) and he was nearly as delicate, missing the equivalent of one season out of his three with the Braves. In his last season here, Thomson asked out of a one-hit shutout against the Padres despite throwing only 74 pitches and retiring the last 12 batters he faced, prompting this response from Bobby: “I didn’t think I would ever take out a pitcher with a one-hitter.”
RP: Joe Boever, Jim Acker. Our closer had a misleading surname, while his set-up man was, according to Baseball Reference, the pitcher most similar to Boever, so you can’t have one without the other. Acker‘s numbers in Atlanta weren’t terrible: 3.71 ERA, 1.285 WHIP in 4 seasons. Still, being a middle man for the late 80s Braves meant you couldn’t beat out the likes of Charlie Puleo for a spot in the rotation or Boever for the closer’s role.
Ah, Boever the Saver, who combined pedestrian stuff with spotty control. In 1989 he put together one of the ugliest 20-plus save seasons in recent memory, losing 11 with a 3.94 ERA and 1.360 WHIP. And that was one of his better years.
Honorable mention: Jeff Dedmon (3.77 ERA, 1.435 WHIP).
C: Ozzie Virgil. The Wizard of Blah was an All-Star in 1987, entering the break with 20 HR but only 43 RBI. This despite the Braves having the NL’s second-best team OBP. But when the score was 7-2 in the 9th and the bases were empty there was no hitter more dangerous. Baserunners seemed to distract Virgil, who finished ’87 with 27 homers — 20 of which were solo shots.
In at-bats when the Braves were either ahead or behind by four runs or more (usually behind), Ozzie resembled Miguel Cabrera, compiling a 1.026 OPS in ’87. He was Chris Woodward in AB’s that mattered, hitting .183 with two outs and RISP. Only four of his homers came in “late and close” situations, when his BA was .208. In tie games Virgil hit .133. The less said about his defense the better.
1B: Casey Kotchman. Our pick at first base embodies the true spirit of this list, or lack thereof. Kotchman brought a J.D. Drew-like joylessness to Atlanta after he was acquired from the Angels for Borasbot. The former first-round draft pick, once compared to the likes of Will Clark and Wally Joyner, hit .267 in 130 games as a Brave with a .346 OBP and .378 slugging percentage.
2B: Keith Lockhart. Who else but Capt. Mediocre? Lockhart‘s numbers in six seasons as a Brave: .248 BA and .312 OBP. Capt. Barely Average (which also describes his range) would’ve been a more apt sobriquet. A big HR in Game 3 of the 2002 NLDS couldn’t make up for the 10,000 soft flies to shallow right-center field.
Lockhart edges out Rod Gilbreath, a Brave for seven seasons in the mid-to-late-70s with nearly identical numbers: .248 BA and .320 OBP.
But the Braves didn’t trade Jermaine Dye to get Gilbreath, whose shortcomings were minimized because he played on subpar teams. There were many Rod Gilbreaths back then. There was only one Captain.
SS: Tyler Pastornicky. Twenty years from we’ll have a hard time believing the Reverend beat out Andrelton for the starting SS job. He didn’t keep the job for long.
Now, two years later, Pastornicky stands a decent chance of earning a second act. And few will complain if he’s successful, for that means Dan Uggla will either be the highest-paid reserve infielder in baseball history or some other team’s problem. Better “blah” than “blech.”
3B: Ken Oberkfell. His only big hit came against the Braves, not for them, when Brett Butler misjudged Obie’s liner off Geno in Game 2 of the ’82 NLCS. His trade from St. Louis marked a turning point for the Braves, who were in first place, 9 games over .500, when the deal was consummated. They were 48-59 after Oberkfell‘s arrival in 1984 and from there, things only got worse. Much worse. At least Obie was consistent, never topping 5 HR or 50 RBI. He wasn’t anything special with the glove, either.
LF: The white Garret Anderson (B.J. Surhoff) or the black Surhoff (that be Anderson). Not much difference — the black Surhoff had a bit more pop while the white G.A. showed a bit more, uh, urgency in the field.
Surhoff had 13 homers in 101 games with the O’s but devolved into a singles hitter once he came to Atlanta late in 2000, hitting just 1 HR in 44 games. He was equally uninspiring the following year, hitting 10 HR and driving in just 58 despite batting 4th against right-handers.
The expectations were a bit lower for Anderson, signed over Bob Abreu because, we were told, FW had reservations about Abreu’s defense. Apparently Wren never saw Anderson occupy LF. Abreu had a .390 OBP in 2009, with 103 RBI — .87 points higher than Anderson, who drove in just 61.
CF: Melky Cabrera came to the Braves with a reputation for doing the little things well, a player who outperformed his numbers. Instead he showed up fat and proved to be even worse than his stats suggested, which doesn’t speak well for a guy who hit .255 with a .671 OPS. His defense was even worse. Melky would’ve been forgotten if not for his antics one summer night in 2012, recounted the following day by CD:
The guy acts like he’s going to toss baseballs to the fans, and then doesn’t. Like some smart ass 13-year-old, he taunts Heyward to run to third. He cadillacs out of the box after hitting a ball that nearly scraped the top of the wall on its way out.
Never mind that he has decided to take the game seriously only after being in the big leagues for several years. I hope he blows a hammy or loses 100 points off his batting average by the end of the season. Maybe he’ll get busted for ‘roids. I wouldn’t be surprised.
RF: Ryan Langerhans. Eight years ago, while lobbying for Bobby to bat Langerhans second instead of newly acquired Edgar Renteria, I wrote what remains the most foolishly optimistic line in Office history.
Langerhans finished last season with a very respectable .348 OBP. Contrast that with the Braves’ new SS, whose OBP the last two years averaged out at .331. While his career on base total is comparable (.345), Renteria has always done his best work hitting lower in the order, as was the case in St. Louis.
Putting Langerhans in the second spot also gives the line-up better lefty/righty balance.
Beyond that, I think we have a potential Paul O’Neill on our hands. Batting behind Giles and in front of Chipper would only aid Langerhans’ development as a hitter.
At least he inspired delusion.