Sunday, January 29, 2012

The First Post

Alternatively: The Post That Should Have Been the First Post

The idea of a baseball blog has been bouncing around my head for somewhere around a year now, and yesterday I finally decided to man up and commit to it.  This is The View from Turner Field - brilliant name, I know - and I'm Daniel.  My aim for this blog is to deliver quality baseball analysis, primarily focused on the Atlanta Braves, but also reaching elsewhere as I see fit.  I'm not the kind of guy who'll be able to tell you that Player X's new batting stance has really allowed him to turn on that inside fastball, but I hope to be able to discuss signings, trades, statistics, and managerial decisions fairly intelligently.  I am not a writer by trade, and the majority of my in-depth baseball exploration to date has been conducted over Google Talk, so this blog will definitely be a growing experience for me.  I'll produce as much original, informative content as I can, and I hope to learn a lot in the process.

It's fairly likely that anyone reading this post knows who I am, but in case you don't, and you want to know more about me... I'm a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Computer Science and Mathematics.  Originally, though, I hail from the great state of Georgia, home of the Waffle House and the Braves.  I've been a fan for a long, long time, and it really isn't fun sharing a city with the Phillies.  (You get over it, though.)  I've got problem sets to get to, but I'm definitely going to try to update this thing three or four times a week.  If you're interested in baseball and/or the Braves, need something to read, or just want to watch as I attempt to form sentences, feel free to come back here any time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Freddie Freeman and the NL 1B Situation

This offseason has seen a mass exodus of talent from the first-base position in the National League.  I'm not complaining - seeing Albert Pujols a few less times a year does not bother me one bit.

(Sidebar: I was in computer science lab when I saw the Prince Fielder signing and actually let out an audible "oh my god."  The market was completely barren, right?  He was bound to sign with the Nationals (heaven forbid) for 6/150 or maybe, somehow, end up with the Rangers to make that team even more terrifying, right?  If there's one thing we learned this offseason, it has to be either that Scott Boras is a miracle worker, or that being fat/old is not as important of a market factor as it should be.)

The implication of this is that the Atlanta Braves may suddenly possess one of the premier first-base talents in the NL in Freddie Freeman.  While this is not that interesting in a competitive, who-wins-the-most-games sense (see also: Kershaw, Clayton and Kemp, Matt of the Los Angeles Dodgers), it is interesting in a "hey guys, this is pretty cool" sense.  It's also interesting in that Freeman is pretty overrated by the general Braves fanbase, in that his lack of range is problematic and his offense doesn't exactly put him among the elite at his bat-first position.  It's not that Freddie Freeman is incredible, but that the NL has a sudden dearth of top-tier first basemen.

Let's start with the NL East.  After (wisely) not ponying up the big bucks for Fielder, the Nationals will be trotting out Adam LaRoche at first.  At best, serviceable, at worst (last year), you may just be better off with your favorite minor leaguer.  For the former Florida Marlins, Gaby Sanchez has put up about the same level of offensive production for the past three seasons, two of them for 150+ games, and all of those were below Freeman's rookie showing.  Ike Davis was a prime candidate to break out last season, he did just that for about 20 games before an ankle injury derailed his season.  I'd still take Freeman over him.  The most interesting case is Ryan Howard, he of the 5-year, 125-million-dollar contract extension that begins this year, his age 32 season.  Howard injured his Achilles at the end of last season's playoffs, and we aren't exactly sure when he will take the field in 2012.  What we are sure of, however, is the precipitous decline of his offense in recent years.  I wouldn't be shocked if Freeman produced more at the plate this season due to Howard's lost time, and I fully expect Freeman to be objectively better than Howard in 2013.

Who else is left?  Joey Votto is clearly the best first-baseman in the NL.  The question becomes if he will still be here next year (or even in July, if things don't break right for the Reds).  After a career-resurrecting year last season, Lance Berkman is probably the second best.  Paul Goldschmidt, Yonder Alonso, and Brandon Belt are all exciting young talents with something to prove this season.  Belt has yet to produce at the major league level, but many expect him to come out ahead of Freeman, and probably tops this grouping.  The Cubs and Brewers trot out somewhat-youngsters of whom much less is expected, while the Astros, Pirates, Rockies, and Dodgers will be playing first-basemen who are either well past their prime or have already proved their... non-worth.

All things considered, Freddie Freeman put up an impressive rookie season at the plate last year.  If not for the dominance of Craig Kimbrel, he would have deserved to take home Rookie of the Year.  While the projections only expect the smallest of steps forward offensively, it shouldn't be unreasonable to expect more.  My hope is that he was informed that being able to scoop a ball at first is not enough, and that he spent some portion of the offseason working on his range at first.  If Freeman progresses this season instead of taking the Jason Heyward route, it's somewhat reasonable to expect him to be the 3rd best first-baseman in the National League.  In fairness, though, that isn't really saying much.