Reader Mail

After the first round of mail I got a flood of follow-ups. I’ll go ahead and answer them.

First, I was trying to do a search to see if you commented on Liberty Media and the sale of the Braves and the search engine on the site was not working for me. I tried google and came up with nothing so I wanted to know what your thoughts were about the Liberty Media sale? Is it a good economic decision? Do you like it for the future of the Braves? Also, purely as a fan, what do you think about the increased role Hank Aaron will have with the team? Sorry, I know that was lengthy but hopefully not too bad.
— Andrew T.

Is it a good economic decision? Well, the parties involved both think it’s mutually beneficial so on one level it is. However, because the sale was triggered by taxes, the distortion inefficiency of this transaction is probably large. I doubt Liberty would have been a buyer otherwise.

How will this affect the Braves? In the short run, it creates some flexibility for the front office. Though upper management told the media that it had no effect on the team, it is obvious it did. My sources were reporting to me that that many in the organization were so frustrated they were looking to join Stan Kasten in Washington (that’s just what I have heard). I still wouldn’t be surprised to see some turnover. In the long run it will have almost no effect. Time-Warner and Liberty are both publicly traded companies whose managers seek to maximize profits for shareholders. Liberty might be a better organization, but I doubt it. I thought TW was an excellent owner, and I don’t expect much different now.

On Hank Aaron, I really don’t know what he has been doing or will be doing. He does have great seats though.

Follow-up to the question you took on what happens in CF next year: Is there any
chance Francoeur could move over? While I’m guessing he won’t be Andruw out there, could he be a decent stop-gap until Brandon Jones is ready? Surely it’s easier to find someone to fill RF than CF.
— Tom O.

What do you project Andruw Jones next contract to be worth?
— Andrew T.

I wonder about Francoeur in center, too. My guess is that he is not being considered there. I don’t believe he played much CF in the minors. Plus, he’s had some defensive lapses lately. He might fill in occasionally, but I think the Braves want a serious defender in center. If Andruw leaves, the Braves may try and go get an all-defense kind of a guy for cheap (think Charles Thomas) and use Saltalamacchia at first to replace the offense. I think Thorman will develop into a major league hitter, but I don’t think he will be good enough to earn consistent play at first base.

What kind of contract will Andruw get? I’d say he’ll get between 17-19 million per year from 5-7 years. I’ll say 6-years, $112 million. If he signs with the Braves, he might cut them a deal. He wants to play for Cox, and I suspect he is willing to take a discount as long as it is not insulting.

The Braves have played quite a few games against LHP (23)- more than any other
team in the NL East (the Mets have played 15). Their record against lefties (11-13) is in stark contrast to their record against righties (19-10).

Could this explain their recent losing streak? Could their record improve once they start seeing more righties? Does this form an effective argument against the platoon (the Braves use platoons heavily, but have a poor record against LHP. The Mets don’t use any platoons, as far as I know, and have an 11-4 record against them)?
— Erik

I like platoons, because it increases the production of weaker players by giving them mostly opposite-handed at-bats. In the long run, it’s possible that left-handers may suffer some in their development, but I don’t know this. Now, it may be that the Braves right-handed hitters aren’t as good as their left-side hitters, but I don’t see it. Both Thorman and Diaz performed better than Wilson and Langerhans, but I think that had more to do with chance than ability. I think we are seeing is a sample-size issue. I expect it will even out over the year.

It seems like a lot of teams that are successful in the playoffs make late season deals to bring in some help. I was wondering if there was any statistical evidence to the point that there is a correlation between late season additions and success in the postseason. Maybe, maybe not.
— Brian

I don’t know of any evidence of this, but it shouldn’t hurt to bring in additional good players.

Are there any objective statistical measurements for managers? If so, how does
Bobby Cox rank both compared to other active managers and all time?
— Ron

I have seen many studies of managers over the years, but I can’t recall a single one off the top of my head. Managerial influence is difficult to quantify. I actually had planned a chapter on this in The Baseball Economist, but it didn’t make the cut. The preliminary results did show some managers helping their players, and I recall that Bobby Cox did have a positive influence. I expect to finish the study in my next book. No title or date yet—I’m just gearing up to search for an agent and publisher.

6 Responses “Reader Mail”

  1. studes says:

    Bill James had a study of managers in his Manager book, of course. That book is one of the finest baseball books I have read. Also, I think Chris Jaffe probably produced the definitive ranking of managers to date in his three-part series at BBTF.

    Here’s a link to the third part, which includes links to the previous two articles.

  2. Ron says:

    It seems more likely the Braves would use Willie Harris in CF than Francoeur if they don’t resign Andruw then platoon Thorman and Diaz in LF with Salty at first assuming they don’t trade him or Thorman for pitching help this July.

  3. tangotiger says:

    If I remember right, Bill James compared Cox’s record year-by-year to expectation based on whatever, and Cox, every year, was a plus.

  4. Brent says:

    Personally, I think a comparison of pythagorean wins and losses to actual record is a good look at overall team decision making on the part of the manager. Blown quality start % is a good look at bullpen usage, I think. As for managerial effect on player performance, I don’t have the slightest idea.

  5. Kevin Feasel says:

    Regarding LHP versus RHP, there’s a fairly simple reason for the big difference: their OPS versus right-handed pitching is 791 versus a league average of 734. Against left-handed pitching, their team OPS is 747 versus an average of about 760.

    The biggest drags?
    Scott Thorman – 40 AB, 459 OPS
    Chris Woodward – 39 AB, 487 OPS
    Brian McCann – 68 AB, 645 OPS
    Craig Wilson – 43 AB, 646 OPS

    So basically, versus left-handers, the Braves have 4 easy outs including the pitcher when Woodward starts games. Thorman has never hit left-handers in his minor league career and I don’t expect him to start doing so now. Woodward is toast. Wilson is gone. And McCann has actually hit left-handers in the past, so I could see him turn it around.

    Incidentally, thus far, Kelly Johnson is the second-best hitter against left-handed pitching in the lineup [small sample size alert], with Edgar Renteria the only better one (Chipper is also better, and hopefully he gets well soon). Over the course of the season, I would expect Andruw Jones to hit better, and perhaps Francoeur as well. McCann should also improve. But I don’t think Thorman will get that much better, and he needs a platoon partner.

    With center field, if the Braves don’t re-sign Andruw, they might give Gregor Blanco a chance, as he has a great defensive reputation, plays center field, and is a leadoff hitter type who gets on base well. On the negative side of things with him, he has little power and terrible baserunning skills for a man of his speed.

  6. Jason says:

    I certainly wouldn’t call TW one of the worst owners in baseball, nor I would call them “excellent”. I think you’re overrating them only because Schuerholz has done wonders with a limited budget. Freer spending might have produced another World Series winner instead of constantly competing with seriously flawed teams that get beat in the first round of the playoffs.

    I am absolutely amazed that people would want to join Stan Kasten in Washington. Kasten is THE most overrated sports executive in history. Does nobody remember the “magic” he did for the Hawks, who are STILL years away from being able to get into the playoffs thanks to Kasten’s inability (and that of the current owners) to find a decent GM? Did no one notice that the Thrashers made the playoffs AFTER Kasten left? Did no one notice that Kasten was basically a figurehead with the Braves and that’s why they won? I see Washington’s dismal performance and the presence of Stan Kasten as cause and effect. Good luck to anyone who wants to work for that guy.