The Atlanta Braves still don’t have a General Manager, but they are still making moves – even if they don’t announce them for a while. While no official word has been released to this point, the Braves are expected to part with long-time coaches Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez.
Named the 1991 MVP while a member of the Braves, Pendleton spent the last 16 years on the coaching staff beginning as the team’s hitting coach in 2002. In 2011, he was moved to first base coach and spent much of the last two seasons as Brian Snitker’s bench coach. Perez replaced him at first base and he former personal catcher just concluded his 11th year as a Braves’ coach. Before that most recent assignment, Perez was the bullpen coach for three different managers with the Braves. He also was a player-manager in Mississippi during his final year of ball in ’06 before getting the bullpen coach assignment.
Could these moves be signs of what the front office might look like moving forward? President of Baseball Operations, John Hart, has come under fire for either not knowing or doing nothing about former GM John Coppolella’s actions that ultimately led to the latter resigning. Hart, whose contract ends after this season, is acting like a guy who thinks he’s sticking around. The decisions to sack both Pendleton and Perez didn’t come from Snitker, who commands little power in this organization considering he likely was heading to the unemployment line himself before the mess with Coppolella. These decisions have the fingerprints of Hart on them.
As does the reported decision to bring Walt Weiss in as the new bench coach. Weiss, who managed the Rockies for four years before being let go last winter, is a highly respected figure in the game. He worked with the front office in Colorado and as a special instructor for a number of years before landing his managerial job. Of course, before that, he retired after a career that spanned over 13 years – including the last three seasons in Atlanta. Weiss checks another box the Hart-led front office was looking for – a bench coach who understood analytics and could advise Snitker. It’s actually a good choice as much as that goes – Don Wakamatsu‘s analytics knowledge helped to shape some of Ned Yost‘s decisions in route to the Royals winning a World Series. While Weiss isn’t exactly a big nerdy SABR guy, he improved each year in Colorado with understanding the data and utilizing it – especially in regards to defensive shifts.
Back to Hart, the bench shuffle would seem to indicate both he and the Braves expect that he’ll return in 2018. That might have serious ramifications as far hiring a general manager goes. While Dayton Moore seems less and less likely as an option for the Braves, he’s almost certainly a “no” with Hart overseeing him. Other established general managers would likely balk at having to report to Hart rather than have some degree of autonomy. That would likely mean the Braves would be seeking more of a first-timer as GM – someone who Hart can mentor. With just three teams still active this year, Atlanta shouldn’t have any trouble getting interviews set up for assistant general managers looking for a promotion.
Ian Krol Outrighted
Meanwhile, the Braves also made a roster decision as they designated Ian Krol for assignment and sent him outright to Gwinnett. It was the first of many decisions that will need to be made moving forward as the Braves have 39 players occupying the available slots on their 40-man roster. Three other players – Jacob Lindgren, Armando Rivero, and Danny Santana – are on their 60-day DL and will need to be placed on the 40-man roster after the baseball season ends. The Braves might only care about keeping Lindgren at this point, though.
The lefty Krol entered 2017 as a trusted reliever and was expected to be a big part of the bullpen picture. Don’t believe me? Well, listen to what this guy said.
Can Krol repeat this in 2017? Well, the Braves did change pitching coaches and Krol’s success reminds me what former pitching coach Roger McDowell stressed so frequently (sinkers and grounders). That said, much of the work began with the Tigers in 2015 and was only refined and tweaked by the Braves last year. That gives me hope that Krol will continue to pitch well into next season.
I probably should quote someone else. Oh, and guess that didn’t work out so well, Past Tommy.
I’m not saying, by the way, that the dismissal of McDowell led to his troubles or conversely, Krol didn’t mesh with new pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. It’s hard to really label what led to his issues. His release point did alter a bit compared to 2016 which may have led to the decreased ability to throw strikes. Krol’s never been a guy who couldn’t find the strike-zone. While the walks may go up-or-down, the zone rates have always been above average. This year, it slipped from 47% to 41% with the major league average at 45%.
Part of that could have been more sliders and less four-seam fastballs – which was another weird decision. In 2016, roughly 65% of his pitches were fastballs (close to 40% more four-seamers rather than sinkers). In 2017, his fastballs percentage fell 15% and he threw 17% less four-seam fastballs. While his slider is his best pitch, it probably wasn’t a good idea to throw less four-seam fastballs which have a higher probability of being strikes to throw the slider more.
Krol is still in the organization, though we will see if that continues. He was arbitration-eligible for the second time and I had him projected to earn slightly less than $1.3M. With Lindgren returning and the Braves already sporting Sam Freeman and A.J. Minter – plus early Arizona Fall League standout Corbin Clouse – the return of Krol was doubtful before this news. Now, it seems like he’s thrown his final pitch.
(Thanks for reading! We hope you like our new design. Let us know if you have any issues with the blog or the design.)