Archive for September, 2005

The Unsung Hero

I’ve just been toying with David Pinto’s Day by Day Database. In all of the hype surrounding Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, and Bobby Cox for end of the year awards, someone very important has been overlooked: Chipper Jones. Chipper has had a fantastic season, in which only injuries have held him back. Now, I’m not saying Chipper should be MVP, just that he’s played better than both Andruw and Francoeur this year.

Andruw: .264/.347/.579/.927
Jeff F.: .306/.343/.565/.908
Chipper: .292/.406/.547/.952

Then let’s break it out for the past two months.
Andruw: .244/.327/.558/.885
Jeff F.: .282/.329/.485/.814
Chipper: .306/.418/.611/1.029

It’s not even close. Chipper has carried this team down the stretch.

But here’s another curiosity. Look at how fast Francoeur drops off from August 1 – August 11 (the day The Jeff Francoeur Game started).

Jeff F. (since August 11): .247/.303/.438 /.741

He’s been a very different player since his first 86 ABs when he hit .419/.425/.802/1.228

14!

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves. 14 Division titles in a row. We’ll just gloss over the strike season, because true Braves fans know the Braves would have made a second-half run to catch the Expos—if it wasn’t for the strike this would be 15.;-)

I know the rest of the baseball world has to hate the Braves and their continued success, even if they appreciate it. It’s no fun to watch a consistent winner. But, you have to remember how bad the Braves were before the run started in 1991. From elementary school through high school, being a Braves fan was hard. In 1991, I was a senior in high school. That season was just such a relief. I could actually enjoy being a Braves fan. When Sid slid I was back in my freshman dorm room (Marsh 421). I had walked back from a party to pick up some more liquid refreshment, because I couldn’t stand to watch the Braves lose at the party. When I turned on the TV in my room, I experienced the most exciting baseball-viewing experience of my life. He was safe, and we all started jumping up and down in this tiny dorm room, so we had to run out into the hall. It turns out every one in my dorm had the same idea, and the entire population of the floor spilled out to the hall to celebrate like we were in the locker room. It was amazing. I learned never to give up on the Braves ever again. Though the fun of those two seasons was fantastic, it still never seemed to make up for how bad the Braves were.

Last night, those feelings of relief, of winning and not losing, came back. It’s fun to win, and there are no diminishing returns to it. The 14th time feels like the first time to me, so I can imagine that it must feel 100-times greater to the guys on the field. Congrats guys, you played a great season. Through all of the frustrations, you’ve managed to do it again.

Now, here’s what I want for the playoffs. I want the Astros, not because I think they’re easier than the Phils, but because they’re better. I’m going to root for the Cards in the Division Series. I want to see La Russa lose to Cox, how sweet. And then, I want the World Series, the AL opponent doesn’t matter. If the Braves get there, that’s what matters, I think they have a shot. No doubt they have some magic. Go through the best. Don’t try to win the World Series, try to win every baseball game. Play hard, keep your head on straight, and leave it all out there on the field. For a long time this team has played not to lose in the post-season. It’s time to just play. This is going to be fun!

GO BRAVES!!!!

Highest Praise I’ve Ever Received

I’ve never thought my name gave me so much respect. From The Roto Authority:

I didn’t actually do much digging, because the ESPN article pointed me directly to the blog of John-Charles Bradbury. I immediately knew I’d have to eat crow – dudes with two first names are rarely wrong.

Most people, when they are confused by my name—I go by John-Charles or J.C., not just my first or middle name like most normal people—they most often say, “Is that a Southern thing?” Translation: “Are you some kind of hick, or what?” I guess my accent doesn’t help the situation. I understand the confusion and don’t mind being called something other than what I grew up being called. I’m certainly not offended. But, I’m going to have to start throwing around this two-first-names thing more often.

Further Thoughts on Andruw Jones

Let’s think some more. How difficult is it for Andruw Jones to catch up to Lee and Pujols in linear weights (that is, the amount of runs he produces above the average player) on defense? The nice thing about LWTS is that you can measure runs saved as well as runs produced.

Let’s assume that an average fielder could not make 10% of Andruw’s outs . That number is way high, by let’s try and get AJ’s numbers up at the high end. And let’s further assume he’ll end up with 400 put outs plus assists (again, this is high). That gives Andruw 40 extra outs over the average fielder. What are these outs worth. Let’s assume he turns 20 singles, 10 doubles, 5 triples, and 5 home runs into outs (do you get the picture that I’m trying to go beyond generous?). Given the LWTS for these events that means Andruw saves just about 30 runs above average on defense. Assuming Pujols and Lee are average fielders, that is they save no runs on defense over the average player, AJ is now just about equal with Pujols and still many runs back of Lee. The point is, even with wildly exaggerated numbers that favor Andruw, he’s still barely catching up.

So, You Think Andruw Jones Should be the MVP…

I will say this flat out, Andruw Jones is one of my favorite baseball players of all time. I’ve always liked and defended him. This year has been “the year” we’ve been expecting from Andruw for so long, and I think that he is going to get even better and possibly win multiple MVP awards in his career. However, I don’t think he deserves it for the 2005 season. I say this with a heavy heart, because so many of my friends have written me proclaiming this year to be Andruw’s year. I want to believe them so badly.

So many of the anti-Andruw arguments have been plain stupid—if you think Andruw should be denied the MVP because of his batting average in scoring position, I’ll give your opinions the time they deserve. Obviously, if he’s not doing things with men on, he’s making up by doing very well when they are not on. My goodness, the guy leads the league in RBI and he’s hitting poorly with men in scoring position. Hmmm, I wonder how he’s doing it then?

Some people say AJ’s defense is off, I don’t buy that either, though it’s not a bad argument to make. The guy may not look fast, but no one takes a better angle to the ball and carries such a huge gun. The fact that the defensive measures we use are so limited gives them little value. His ZR, RF, Assists, Put Outs, Errors, etc. aren’t so hot, so what? Judging AJ on these measures is like dumping a supermodel because she has a pimple on her back. David Pinto’s PMR, a very good defensive measure, has him as the top regular center fielder for two-years running. I don’t know what he rates this year, but I bet it’s good again.

After reviewing these arguments, I was actually starting to believe that maybe AJ was deserving of the MVP. I can’t say exactly how much defensive skill he needs to catch up with the other candidates—Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols, who clog up the old-folks home of first base on defense—on offense. And there’s no doubt he’s leading the intangibles category, you can’t argue with that. ;-) I needed to know if he was even close.

So, I decided to go back to the stats for another look. Let’s break this out using linear weights. Here are the top ten NL batters in linear weights (minimum 500 PAs).

Rank	Name		LWTS	Games
1	Derrek Lee	81.144	146
2	Albert Pujols	74.366	150
3	Jason Bay	57.518	149
4	Bobby Abreu	50.176	150
5	Carlos Delgado	50.004	133
6	Miguel Cabrera	49.332	148
7	Todd Helton	48.154	131
8	Brian Giles	44.248	145
9	Andruw Jones	42.984	149
10	Adam Dunn	42.400	147

And my heart sinks. There’s Andruw at number (gulp!) nine on the list, just edging out Adam Dunn. No matter how much better Andruw is on defense. No matter how “clutch” his hits have been. No matter how much his leadership matters. No matter how much his home park hurts him. I don’t see how Andruw makes up for the difference between himself and Lee and Pujols. I can bump him up to number three without any guilt, based on all of the other stuff he does well. But, Lee and Pujols are just in a different class of player this year. That’s testament to how good they have been, not to how poorly Andruw has played.

Braves fans, hold on. An MVP season from Andruw Jones will come. It’s just should not be this year. If I had a vote, I’d vote for Lee.

ESPN on Leo

Thanks for those of you who pointed me to this weekend’s article about Leo Mazzone on ESPN’s E-Ticket. I get a nice mention in the article

There are those who suggest Mazzone’s success is based more on good fortune than anything else. Who wouldn’t look good coaching Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Steve Avery, Neagle, Mark Wohlers and the other great pitchers acquired by general manager John Schuerholz or developed in the Braves’ farm system? But the fact is this: Most pitchers get better when they join the Braves, and many get worse after they depart.

There is clear evidence. Economist J.C. Bradbury’s concludes from his extensive statistical analysis at the Sabernomics Blog, that “working with Leo shaves off between .55 and .85 points of a pitcher’s ERA.”

If you want to see the work I’ve done on Mazzone, the original article is here and the follow-up is on Baseball Analysts.

Thanks to Jeff Merron for the mention and writing a very good article.

Success in Colorado

David Gassko tackles an important question over at THT: How to Pitch in Colorado. Using the Lahman Database and scouting reports from The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, he looks at what types of pitchers have succeeded in Colorado. I’m glad to see the N/J Guide being used in this way.

He concludes:

But the next time you talk about what kind of pitchers the Rockies want to sign or develop, you should know that guys with good control and good two-seam fastballs are the most likely to succeed.

The Dan Kolb of Hurricane Recovery

I support this cause.

Fire Brown Now! : Countless people in Louisiana and Mississippi have died this week waiting for the cavalry to come to their rescue. FEMA Director Michael Brown has showed he’s not up to the job of answering that call. Before he can do any more damage, it’s time for him to go!

Thanks to Skip Sauer for the pointer.

Wither Ichiro!

David Gassko asks Whatever Happened to Ichiro? over at The Hardball Times. Ichiro is batting .297 this year, which is well under his career average of .332.

It’s interesting that SSPS predicted Ichiro to hit .292 this year, which is a prediction that looked way out of whack at the time. However, SPSS also had his SLG declining, but it has not changed.

More Quick Hits

Again, I apologize for being swamped. There’s not much I can do about it right now. I expect things to clear up next week.

  • New Braves Blog: Joe Hamrahi has started Talking Chop, a SportsBlogs™ site about the Braves. You may know Joe from Baseball Digest Daily.
  • Fans Scouting Report: Tangotiger is asking for volunteers to help him with his 2005 Scouting Report by the Fans For the Fans. If you’re interested, stop by and give your opinion. At least, let’s try to eliminate the idea that Adam LaRoche might win a gold glove one day. I think it’s interesting that so many people criticize Chipper’s defense, which really isn’t that bad, yet Adam gets all sorts of praise for his — and I’ve never even seen him make anything close to a “web gem.”
  • September Call-Ups: So, who’s going to get the call? Obviously, Brower will be back (yuck). Pena ought to come up (double-yuck), because a third catcher is nice to have. Davies will certainly be up, with Chuck James possibly getting a chance. Devine looks to have delayed his call-up with a poor outcome at Richmond last night. Marte has been trying to make a case with strong play as of late. I really would like to see him get a chance to redeem himself. I suspect Chipper’s stomach bug and Furcal’s injury make the call-up more likely. No more Giles at third, please. The acquisition of Todd Hollandsworthless means there’s no chance Jurries will come up, though he’s had a fantastic season (.284/.357/.537 with 21 HRs). But on the bright side, this looks like the end of Brian Jordan’s shot at the post-season roster. I’ll make one last effort to lobby for Matt Childers in the bullpen, who’s had a very nice season in Richmond (3/1 K/BB, with 4 HR in 70 innings).
  • Rating OF Arms: Here’s a fantastic study over at Protrade by Gabriel Desjardins.
  • Proud Father: My daughter now says, “Go Chipper Jones, hit the ball.” The funny part is, I never taught her to say that. I guess Daddy talks to the TV too much.