It’s been one of those weeks, so I apologize for the lack of posts. I thought I’d do a mailbox before things get backed up again. A few thoughts before I begin answering questions.
— The Braves aren’t doing so hot as of late. The Braves have allowed more runs than they have scored pushing their Pythagorean record to 32-34; even with the Marlins and behind the Phillies. If it wasn’t for their hot start this team would be in big trouble. But, as long as you hang around, good things can happen. If the pitching can stabilize just a little and the offense gets a kick from Chipper, old-Andruw, and old-McCann, they can turn it around quickly.
— The O’s pitching staff is much improved so far this year. Might Leo Mazzone deserve a little credit for this? (see The Baseball Economist, Chapter 5). It’s still far too early in the season to say the O’s have turned the corner, but the staff has improved by more than a run over 2006 and about 0.36 better than 2005.
Season BAL AL ERA+ 2007 4.21 4.40 104 2006 5.35 4.56 84 2005 4.57 4.35 91
(Numbers from Baseball-Reference.com)
Yes, there are different pitchers involved, but this is just quick and dirty look.
— I’ve received plenty of feedback from my comments on Jayson Stark’s claim that Andruw Jones is overrated. Well, some more support for AJ just came in. Revised BIS zone ratings will soon be published at The Hardball Times, and David Gassko provides a list of the top and bottom three at each position. Andruw comes in second. I can’t vouch for these ratings, because I know very little about the new ZR metric, but the ranking is consistent with the Plus/Minus ranking.
Now to your questions.
I guess no one has noticed except for maybe some stat “geeks” but Andruw’s BABiP is .244 (through Sunday), compared to his career average of .288. I would think those batted balls will eventually start to find the where-they-ain’t.
Yes, Andruw has been unlucky this year, and his BABIP is below his career average of .282. Also, his PrOPS is about 100 points higher than his OPS. I am certainly anticipating some improvement. Whether he’ll recover this season, I have no idea. I don’t think he’s diminishing as a player, he is just having some bad luck. The team that signs him for next year will be getting the same old Andruw.
Do you have an opinion on Gary Sheffield’s comments. Have you studied the effects of race, nationality, ethnicity, etc. on a player’s ability to either hold a roster spot or cash in with a huge contract? Thanks.
Sheffield has a big mouth and a habit of wearing out his welcome wherever he plays. Only in Atlanta did he not have any problems, which speaks to Bobby Cox’s managerial skills.
I am very curious about the decline of African-Americans in baseball, and it is something that I would like to study. I don’t think it’s purely a demand-side problem as Sheffield suggests. The problem in studying race in baseball is that race data is not easy to find. I did one study on race and the price of baseball cards. Assigning a race to players based on baseball card photos is even more difficult than it sounds. There is no way I am going to do that over a period of decades. When I get my hands on some good race data, I will most definitely look into the issue.
One thing I do wonder about is why so many athletes of all races choose to play football or basketball over baseball. The financial rewards of baseball are higher and much more certain. In baseball, you can get paid out of high school to play in the minor leagues rather than playing for free in college. And if you are good, the player salaries are much better in MLB. Take Michael Vick for example, a left-handed quarterback and an amazing athlete. I suspect his arm is good enough that he could pitch in the big leagues—he was drafted by the Rockies in the 30th round in 2000. And top starting left-handed pitchers make more than what Vick makes as a QB in the NFL. Now, I’m not saying that Vick is a guaranteed big-league player, but I wonder why young athletes don’t put more emphasis on the returns to the sport they chose to play.
What do you make of arguments that Chipper should be shifted over to 1B? It seems there are two parts to the argument: first, that he’s not a great defensive third baseman (which seems less true after returning from LF), and second, that Chipper would stay healthier at a less defensively demanding position. What are your thoughts? I can’t discuss it rationally because Chipper has been the Braves’ 3B since I was about 9 years old.
— Tom O.
When I was nine, Bob Horner played third (I just felt like saying that). I have been advocating a move to first for Chipper for a long time. Putting him in the outfield was a huge mistake, and while I can’t prove it, I think it did some damage to his legs. As the injuries continue, getting him to a position that is a little easier might keep him in the lineup, but that is really just speculation. With Thorman playing poorly and Yunel Escobar playing so well, now seems like a good time to make the move. But the wrinkle is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. If the Braves lose Andruw Jones, Salty may be able to soften the loss of offense if he plays first while the Braves pick up a cheap defensive center fielder. So, I think a move to first in unlikely this year unless Salty is traded, which would surprise me.
One thing we have to remember is that some of Chipper’s injury problems have been flukey. For example, his current injury is a hand problem that resulted from a base running collision. The knee injury last year in Boston was the result of horrible field conditions. His legs have been good so far. I would not be surprised to see Chipper play 150 games next year at third. I also think that Chipper has a hand-shake agreement with management that he will play third. As a third baseman he has a better case for the Hall of Fame. He is an under-appreciated player and I wish he would get more credit. He hasn’t made the All-Star team since 2001, which is a shame.