It's been exactly one week since the Miami Marlins announced the firing of manager Ozzie Guillen, officially making him the fall guy for last season's 69-93 season.
With the search for a new manager underway, we've perhaps gotten a glimpse into the front office's decision-making process, and it's not necessarily good news.
Case in point: managerial candidate Larry Bowa, during a chat with Chris Russo on "SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio," (you can read the Palm Beach Post's full transcript here) described how his official interview with team owner Jeffrey Loria went. One statement particularly stood out to me.
Russo: "Are you optimistic that something could happen there?"
Bowa: "You know what, Chris, you know how that goes. When you get interviewed you don’t know. You know, you think you did good, maybe you didn’t do good. I thought it was a good interview. We made some good points with each other."
Russo: "That team could use a little feistiness from you."
Bowa: (laughs) "Yeah, that was one of the issues that was brought up."
Russo: "They asked you how you are going to approach this team that underachieved, is that what they basically said?"
Bowa: "Well, no, they didn’t say underachieved. They said, are you gonna be, we need some intensity out there and we need some guys to play better than they played."
If you've seen any glimpse of a Marlins game or checked a box score over the past year, chances are the phrase "they didn't say underachieved" was one that caught your attention immediately.
As a refresher, here's the Merriam-Webster definition of the word "underachieve," or "underachiever" as it's listed sans one small change:
one (as a
studentplayer/team) that fails to attain a predicted level of achievement or does not do as well as expected
There are obviously a litany of words that could describe the Miami Marlins' season in 2012, several of which are inappropriate to use in this post, but "underachieve" is certainly one of them. For a team that began the season with players like Josh Johnson, Omar Infante, Giancarlo Stanton, Anibal Sanchez, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle on the roster, 93 losses certainly qualify as some level of disappointment. You may not have thought that the Marlins were a team ready to take the NL East division crown, but there were very few people who could have predicted just how bad the Fish were last season. And as petty as this may be to point out, if this is truly how the Marlins' front office is viewing the failures of the 2012 season, it'll be a long time before they're able to implement the "winning culture" Larry Beinfest has been talking about since Guillen's departure. Perhaps Bowa was just being politically correct (which is entirely understandable) during the interview, but if the Miami brass believes that a sprinkle of intensity is the solution to the problem, the task of making this ballclub relevant again will be that much more difficult.
On a side note, saying "we need some intensity out there" after having Ozzie Guillen as your manager further drives home the point that Ozzie's fate was pretty much a foregone conclusion. "Ozzie Guillen angry" on Google returns 509,000 results.
The offseason is still young and the Fish have already rid themselves of two of the biggest sources of headaches from the 2012 squad in Guillen and Heath Bell, but it's imperative that the organizational plan moving forward stresses honest evaluation and understands when "underachievement" does in fact fit the situation.
P.S. - For any of our East Coast readers out there, I hope you've been staying (and continue to stay) safe during Hurricane Sandy. Y'all are in my thoughts this week.
From the request form at the Astros website:
Requesting Orbit to visit your event is easy. Just complete the online appearance request form below. Upon receipt of the form, a representative from the Houston Astros will contact you to discuss guidelines, costs and availability.
All requests for appearances must be made at least three weeks prior to the event. Completion of the form is a request only and does not guarantee an appearance.
If that wasn't enough look under the submit button:
Thank you for your interest in the Houston Astros Mascot "Orbit."
The leak is now complete.
With a hat tip to Astros County, according to MLB's twitter profile the leak on Tuesday was due to super-storm Sandy. If you don't believe me check it out for yourself. Maybe this falls along those same lines and we're just catching it now. It'll be interesting to see what they have to say about this one if they even say anything.
I know Orbit is a beloved figure in Houston, but sometimes the things with the most nostalgia are often disappointing to us as adults. I know Junction Jack wasn't a popular mascot among adults, but he was popular with my three year old daughter and had he stuck around I'm sure she would have formed some nostalgic memories with him. That's not to say Orbit will be a terrible mascot I'm just weary of his return. Not all remakes end up being as good as the original.
I'm also a bit miffed by the fact that this re-branding was supposed to take elements of the past and update them. We still need to see everything, but I feel like this re-branding has been more of a retread than an update to branding from the past.
What does Dave Trembley bring to Bo Porter’s coaching staff? The obvious answer is that he has American League experience which is something Jeff Luhnow was looking to add to the staff. Another obvious answer is that as a former manager he should be able to provide rookie manager Bo Porter guidance throughout the season. After all Trembley was in a similar position in Baltimore as Porter is in Houston being a first-time manager on a rebuilding club that was expected to take their lumps over the next couple of seasons. He should be well-equipped to offer up the “I’ve been there before” advice.
Besides the obvious answers though there are several other intangibles that Trembley brings to the table that could make him a key member of this coaching staff.
Trembley has a wealth of managerial experience in the minors. He had managed for twenty seasons in the minors prior to getting his opportunity at the major league level with Baltimore. During that time he developed a strong reputation as a “player development” guy, and also for teaching solid fundamental baseball to the younger players. This caught the eye of the Orioles who were looking to improve upon an underachieving farm system and hired Trembley in 2003. In his first year on the job he earned the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award. Given that the Astros ended the 2012 season with the youngest team in the majors, having someone who can teach fundamental baseball and assist in furthering the development of the team’s young players should be a valuable attribute to add to the team.
Another area in which the Astros should be able to benefit from Trembley’s presence is preparation. In this interview conducted by David Laurila Trembley talked briefly about being prepared and how to utilize the abundance of information that is readily available.
As far as Baseball Prospectus, I've been subscribing for about five years. As a manager, I looked at all of the numbers and all of the match-ups. I get the book every year and it's been kind of a Bible to read during the off-season, and then in spring training, with all of the stats. I also really like the stories and articles, like John Perrotto's. They really keep me up to date.
I used all of the services: BATS, Inside Edge, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs. I looked at all of them. Match-ups, left-versus-right, home-and-away, night-day...but in the end, this is who you have and sometimes you just go with the best guy you have that day. If it works, fine. If it doesn't, that's baseball.
I used numbers a lot, but I also think that Jim Leyland said it best. He said, "Go ahead and manage the game and don't worry about what you're going to say afterwards." Tony LaRussa would tell me, "Hey, you have to look at all of the numbers and you have to be prepared, but when you have to make a decision, go with your gut. But do it with that information and framework of reference in the back of your mind."
Even though the quotes above don’t exactly paint Trembley as the most saber-oriented guy out there they do a good job of showing the amount of preparation and information that he will be able to provide for game situations. It will be nice to know that Bo Porter should have all of the above mentioned information readily available to him for in-game strategy. After all Brad Arnsberg became a beloved pitching coach amongst the players in Houston due to his detailed prep work and elaborate game plans that he drew up for each pitcher. Too much information can’t be a bad thing can it?
Dave Trembley may not have the shiniest resume in the world with a career 187-283 record as a manager for the Orioles. He also possesses the unique distinction of being one of only nine managers to have managed in the majors without playing professional baseball. What he’s shown in the past is that he comes well prepared which hopefully will put young Astros players in the best situations for success in the future. What he has demonstrated is the ability to connect with young players and teach them the fundamentals of baseball. In that regard he has more experience than anyone else on the Astros coaching staff. Oh yeah, he also has American League experience as well.
Bruce Springsteen. Sort of. The table below shows, for each of the past five years, the four pitchers who haveRead the Rest...
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Beginning Saturday, the Rockies will be able to sign free agents in the hope of improving on their 64 win 2012. Not that they will, because this is the Rockies we're talking about. Thomas Harding thinks that the Rockies will be conservative in free agency this off-season, which is pretty hard to disagree with.
After all, the Rockies have just three of their own free agents to re-sign...and Jeff Francis is the best of them. Still, Francis is a fringe starter, Jason Giambi will hopefully not be playing for Colorado, and Jonathan Sanchez is going to be signed by the Giants on a minor league deal and win 25 games next season. Stupid Giants.
Financially, Colorado is getting $5.3 million in payments to players who didn't play for the Rockies last year off the books, plus the salaries of the three free agents. That money will help pay for arbitration raises to Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin, and Jhoulys Chacin. Other than that, I don't see a whole lot of money in the budget for someone new without a Michael Cuddyer trade. Not for a 64 win team, that is.
If you buy into the narrative that Colorado's hopes were derailed by injury, then you will probably like this off-season. Yes, having Troy Tulowitzki back for a full season will be helpful to the Rockies' cause, as will a healthy Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa. The improvement (fingers crossed!) of young players will be an asset as well. Even with all of those guys back though, it's hard to imagine Colorado as a winning team in 2013 as currently constituted.
No, Rockies fans, Colorado isn't headed toward contention in 2013 with the talent on hand barring major improvements from young players -- and looking at the talent on the free agent market, it's hard to see anything changing much on that end. That leaves a trade as the avenue to improve -- but there will be plenty of time this off-season to discuss all of that.
Here are a few good articles to ease you into Hot Stove Season:
Rockies Manager Search Update
Per Troy Renck, the six manager candidates we have so far (Walt Weiss, Jason Giambi, Tom Runnells, Jerry Manuel, Pete Mackanin, and Matt Williams) are probably the only ones the Rockies will interview. In other words, no Dave Martinez for you, Rowbots. If I had to pick one at this point, I'd go with Weiss with the hope that he'd improve our fielding and base-running. I would expect a decision to come down by Friday on this one.
Congratulations to Carlos Gonzalez on his Gold Glove win. Not that he in any way was a great defensive left-fielder in 2012 or anything (rated negatively by every advanced defensive metric), but bully for him. It's good to see Rockies players win something. Also, Mike Trout didn't win? C'mon son!
Troy Renck writes that it will be very tough for Colorado to contend with the Giants in years to come. At this point, the Rockies should worry about competing with the Padres to get out of the cellar.
The Rockies are 75:1 long shots to win the World Series next year. Patrick Saunders looks at some other long shots in Colorado sports.
Kent Matthes is playing well in the Arizona Fall League. The 25 year-old outfielder just missed the Fall 2012 PuRPs List but is making the most of his opportunity for extra baseball this fall. In other AFL news, Tyler Chatwood is done for the year, citing fatigue and not an injury.
Beyond the Boxscore has a great interview with former farmhand and author Dirk Hayhurst, who will become a broadcaster with the Jays next year.
The all-time leader in career home runs for the Cincinnati Reds is Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. Bench connected for 389 home runs for the Reds during his playing days. The second place spot is held by fellow Hall of … Continue reading →
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The Miami Marlins struggled so badly through the month of July that the team decided that it needed to make a number of trades to utilize additional assets that they had through the end of the year. One of those assets was Hanley Ramirez, who was traded for Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough to good results thus far.
The other major deal the team pulled off this past season was the trade of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers that netted the Fish top pitching prospect Jacob Turner along with catcher Rob Brantly and relief pitcher Brian Flynn. The Marlins traded a starting pitcher who would be leaving soon for greener pastures, as Sanchez is a free agent after 2012, and a cheap, worthwhile asset in the underpaid Omar Infante. In return, the Marlins received a group of prospects that helped fill two needs on the team, in particular a replacement starting pitcher and a future catcher.
At the time of the trade, I deemed this a perfect return for the Marlins and Tigers, as the trade value of both packages appeared very close to even. It was also a trade that clearly signaled that the Marlins were moving towards the future with their deals rather than continue to play for the 2012 season. But for the Marlins through 2012, they have to be happy with the early returns seen so far.
Anibal Sanchez entered his time with the Detroit Tigers with a 3.94 ERA and 3.43 FIP, with many of the things he was doing with the Marlins living up to his expectations. He started poorly with the Detroit Tigers, as he put up a 5.29 ERA through the end of August for the Tigers. Of course, by the end of his time there, he came out having performed about as well you could expect Anibal Sanchez to perform. His 3.74 ERA almost exactly matches his career 3.75 ERA and the 3.68 FIP was very similar to his career mark of 3.79 as well. As mentioned yesterday, Sanchez continued to drop his walk rate while still maintaining a decent strikeout rate, even as it dropped a little with the Tigers. Either way, the fact that he performed at about the expected rate even though he moved to the American League is impressive for the Tigers.
Clearly Infante's hot streak that carried him through the 2012 season with Miami cooled off by the time he arrived in Detroit. With the Tigers, Infante was awful at the plate, worse than he was last year with the Fish and more reminiscent of the first half of 2011 than the player he has been for the last five seasons. His terrible walk rate in Miami (3.5 percent) continued with Detroit (3.7 percent), but this time he brought along with him an extended run of bad luck on balls in play, as he hit just .269 on balls in play with the Tigers.
Thankfully for the Tigers, Infante's defense was still a major positive. Both UZR and DRS had him as three runs better than average during his time in Detroit, and he solidified a glaring hole at second that has been present for since Placido Polanco left. Now the Tigers have a Polanco lookalike who is below average at the plate but a great defender.
I will discuss more on Jacob Truner later today when we talk about the other pitchers who were regular rotation members on the Marlins, but I have already discussed Jacob Turner's relative success earlier in the review series. Turner's primary concern of a lack of strikeouts was quashed during his time wiht the Marlins, and now the team can expect him to continue to improve on his strikeouts and walks while expecting regression on his over-the-top home run rate. The fact that Turner produced almost the same level of play as Sanchez did in terms of ERA and FIP has to be promising for the Marlins, especially after the struggles Turner had in the minors and majors in 2012 before coming to Miami.
As I covered earlier in the season review, Brantly's breakout performance in 113 PA is yet another confidence booster for the Marlins in 2012. Brantly was called up in August and immediately latched on to a big half platoon role with the Marlins thanks to the struggles of John Buck. It is obvious that the Marlins cannot expect this performance going forward from Brantly, but for a 23 year-old rookie to perform as well as he did, his prospects for a successful career are greatly improved. Just this season, the Marlins got the same production from Brantly as the Tigers got from Infante in twice the playing time, and the Fish got it in a position of dire need.
Flynn received some playing time as a starting pitcher in the Marlins' Double-A Jacksonville affiliate, but the prospect gurus say that Flynn's ultimate role will eventually be as a relief pitcher. Still, he started eight games for Jacksonville and threw 45 innings with a 3.80 ERA and 3.78 FIP. While these are not overly dominating performances, they are good enough to continue Flynn as a starter for the time being, likely repeating Double-A. If he can keep up this relative success, he may stick as a lefty starter, but the Marlins have a chance at a decent, homegrown reliever if he does not work out.
The trade for the Marlins in 2012 did not work out in the sense that the team picked up the same number of wins from Turner and Brantly as they gave up in Infante and Sanchez. But with 2012 a lost cause, Sanchez's remaining 1.5 wins were almost irrelevant, and it does seem as though the Marlins picked up two players who could contribute 1.5 wins each as early as next season. In that light, picking up two young players with upside who are already at that caliber seems like a clear win, this season or otherwise.
When Dirk Hayhurst retired from professional baseball early in 2012, he thought he was done with the game he had spent his whole life playing. He had planned to pursue further education while working on his third book, a follow-up to his two hit books, The Bullpen Gospels and Out Of My League. Instead, in the mould of The Godfather III, just when he thought he was out, the baseball world pulled him back in.
Hayhurst is now a baseball analyst for Rogers Sportsnet 590 Radio in Toronto, co-hosting Baseball Central at Noon every weekday during the season. I spoke with Hayhurst at length about his transition into broadcasting, the challenges associated with his new career, and the introduction of sabermetric analysis into baseball telecasts.
Blake Murphy: As a Jays fan I was privy to your work with Sportsnet over the summer. I appreciated you occasionally mixing in some of the more advanced stats that may not be familiar to everyday fans. Was this something that was requested of you or something you wanted to incorporate on your own?
Dirk Hayhurst: When I started with Sportsnet for Baseball Central at Noon, Sam (Cosentino, his co-host) and I had never met each other before. So we’re going to work together on this show and I had never done broadcasting and he had never worked with me. So we were trying to get each other felt out, and he said, "I think it’d be great if we did advanced sabermetrics because that’s stuff’s getting big!" and I was like, "sure." But I didn’t want it to be like Dungeons and Dragons conversation.
So I was intimidated. I’m not great with stats. Actually, most of the players I know don’t do any of their research themselves; it’s all brought to them by somebody who is hired to do this. So we’d get color sheets, just these squares with colors, and you want to go at the blue ones and stay away from the red ones, and that’s about it.
I didn’t want it to be like Dungeons and Dragons conversation.
So I’m thinking we’ll have somebody at the radio station who does this, surely. It’s a ubiquitous part of the game, Moneyball and all. Everybody has to understand this by now, we just need somebody to make it stupid for us. But I found out no, it’s not like that in the outside world, you’ve gotta do all this yourself. I thought, "oh this will be easy, I’ll just hop online and figure out advanced sabermetrics," thanks to Fangraphs or Baseball Reference, and they don’t explain it to you either. They’ll explain some things, but not others. And then some stats, WARP and VORP and such, are different for each site, the math that’s used for each individual site.
I actually contacted Baseball Prospectus and said, "you’ve gotta explain this to me, because I’m going to be using your site a lot." So I got a front row seat at a lecture from the Baseball prospectus people and they broke it all down for me.
BM: I’d assume that was quite a learning experience.
DH: I learned a couple things about stats, the stat world, fans, and the game of baseball. And the first thing is that you don’t have to understand stats at all to enjoy the game of baseball. It’s baseball first and stats second. You can still appreciate the game without knowing stats, but if you know stats it helps you understand the context that the game is set in.
But then the advanced stats, I feel like those are fantastic for people whom really enjoy the micromanagement process of the game. I enjoy that, I’m a big RPG player, I love that stuff. So the more I know, the more that factors in for me.
But what I abhor, and this is why I think a lot of people hate stats, is that people fight to the death over obscure numbers. I hate it when I’ll be talking about a guy as a player, and I’ll say like "this guy has a great personality, he’s good for the clubhouse, and I think every team has a player on the team who is great at diffusing tension," or something like that, and you can’t quantify that. And people who want the quantifiable numbers will get pissed at that statement and say, "well you can’t spend that kind of money just because he’s a clubhouse clown." But then you’re neglecting the personal element that is involved in the game.
So I really enjoy adding the stats in there, but they have to mesh with the reality of working with teams that are built from human people. The stats have to have context to make them really valuable, but they have to take a secondary place.
In the last couple of years, the pressure among athletes and psychological disorders has lit up. There’s no stat for that, how do you track that one? So when you say a guy fails and you look at it purely objectively from a numerical standpoint, he’s a huge bust and you’re massively disappointed because you boiled him down to the numbers.
As a player who went through a lot of psychological issues myself in my career, the reason I wanted those stats was so that I can control people’s perception of them better. And I can help people understand the game better but also understand the person better. And I don’t think you can talk ill of one or the other, I think they both have a place, but they have to mesh. And I try to help them mesh.
BM: I know some stations are making an effort to use stats, Sportsnet has started to use Game Score, for example. Do you feel there’s a greater need for that now?
DH: I think there are better stats now. For example, I feel that WHIP and FIP are better evaluations of a pitcher than ERA, and I feel they should be used more. And people say, "yeah but people aren’t gonna understand FIP." But you just tell people what it is consistently and they’ll figure it out. I think if you give the right context and you give a clear explanation, once you get it, all it takes is an explanation to people. Sam is weary of it becoming a classroom, but I think that’s really what we should be doing.
I feel like if, at the end of the day, if I haven’t at least taught the person listening something about the player or the stats, I’ve wasted their time, I’m just filling up an hour running my mouth.
Because the Jays are a Rogers product and Rogers owns most of the venues in which they’re communicated about, Rogers has a unique opportunity to change the way baseball is communicated about that a lot of other venues do not have. Because they’re the main venue through which it is distributed, you can change the information and the context of the information around the game to educate the fan more. In Canada, there’s only one team and one network, really. If you lose the fan in an American broadcast, they can always go somewhere else, so I think Rogers has been smart (to take advantage).
I feel like if, at the end of the day, if I haven’t at least taught the person listening something about the player or the stats, I’ve wasted their time, I’m just filling up an hour running my mouth.
If you’re a television analyst you only have a minute to three minute window to talk about what you saw on the field, give a personal insight that’s relatable, and kick it back to the game. As a radio show guy you’ve got more time, and that’s what’s important. It’s the amount of time you have to break down the stats.
BM: Plus with the Jays, you have a GM in Alex Anthopoulos who talks publicly about advanced stats.
DH: All GMs lean heavily on advanced stats. But he conveys advanced stats, and he’ll mention them when talking to the fanbase. He’s talking about it, so he’s offering a new environment wherein people have to understand definitions they may not have known about baseball before.
The more stats you have out there, the more you start to see the hidden value and talent of some of the guys, where you’d be like "oh his batting average sucks, he’s terrible," but then you realize, "oh wow, he’s one of the league leaders in defensive Wins Above Replacement."
When people start understanding how that works, they might reject it but they were probably rejecting it anyway if they’re just boiling somebody down to just this or just that. If you give them more numbers to attain value from or plot and scheme through, instead of losing them you might just get their interest. And I’ve seen that happen, and people are coming out more satisfied because they get it.
BM: We’ve talked a bit about the importance of simplicity with these stats. Is it even a matter of the simplicity of the names of the stats, do you think, making them easier to accept?
DH: I’ve seen some acronyms that are called things that they’re not even abbreviated into being. Like FIP is a good example, Fielding Independent Pitching, could be Pitching Independent of Fielding, or Pitching Minus Fielding, PMF doesn’t sound as cool as FIP. And Wins Above Replacement, you know, that’s not a true telling. What the hell is a replacement? Wins Above the Next Best AAA Talent Base? You can’t say that, WATNBATB, nobody would say that!
There’s a market for fan retention, you want people to know more about the game but you also realize, and no offense to the people who run blogs on stats, if you spend too much time in the realm of entertainment, it’s wasted time you could be spending in other venues of real life. There’s a time and place for busting all this stuff down, and that time and place is people who stand to profit off doing such a job. For the rest of the world, they have to go off and do other things, and baseball is still meant to be an enjoyment or distraction for them. So the people who need to know what all that stuff means, it’s in their best interests.
What the hell is a replacement? Wins Above the Next Best AAA Talent Base? You can’t say that, WATNBATB, nobody would say that!
For the casual fan who wants to be entertained by baseball, you have to Keep It Simple Stupid for them because they’re only going to retain it by bumping into it again and again in passing. In order to make it accessible to everyone, it has to be boiled down into something that’s really easygoing or at least easy to pick up and understand. If it wasn’t, people would reject it, and I think that’s key to any adoption process.
People in the past who came up with this and broke ground and loved it, it’s going to get simplified down to the point where more people are going to understand it. They’re going to have access to it and feel empowered because they have access to it. You’re seeing this happen now because you’re seeing things like Yahoo fantasy league tools or ESPN fantasy league tools that break it down for you and make it dumb, and they let you sort it through tables or whatever. And now there’s a monetary value to a move, and I’ll be the coolest guy at the water cooler if I make it. And I think that’s important.
BM: Have you had any feedback on your use of the more advanced stats? Have people been understanding it?
DH: I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t even understand sometimes. I struggle with Weighted On Base Average, for example, because I don’t always understand the weights, they change every year. So trying to explain that to people all the time, if you explain it wrong, one group of fans is all over you because they have spent way more time on it than you have in your one hour prep session before you go on air. The fans who really love the in-depth technical analysis stuff will get upset because the radio guy has to understand that 90% of the fanbase doesn’t understand, and so they don’t spend a ton of time talking about it.
You try to appeal to the lowest common denominator. And it sucks. It’s not my nature to want to appeal to stupid people, I don’t like it. I’d rather appeal to the smart people, but I run into two problems. One, it’s not my show, so I have to appeal to the biggest base. And two, I’m kinda stupid myself, so I can’t always understand all this stuff, I’m terrible with math, I don’t always understand the metrics in play. If you go too in depth, people get upset with you for spending too much time talking about math. If you go not in depth enough or screw it up, people get pissed at you for screwing it up.
You try to appeal to the lowest common denominator. And it sucks. It’s not my nature to want to appeal to stupid people, I don’t like it.
Note: We got off topic a bit for this part but I had to include it for the Undertaker reference. On reaction to him suggesting Jose Bautista should be traded…
I believe that, I do, because I don’t think he’s ever going to hit another 50 home runs, I think he has good value right now, I think that someone else could really use him, I think the Jays need starting pitching, there’s a tonne of reasons why. It’s easier to get somebody who can hit for power if you have payroll freed up, maybe not as much power as him but nonetheless.
That’s just my opinion, but people will tell me I’m a bastard and I should go to hell because it’s Jose Bautista, and I’m an idiot and I should be fired and Sportsnet should kill me and Rogers is gonna hunt me down. It’s like wrestling fansites, that kinda stuff, "the Undertaker is gonna come for you if he hears you talking about him, and he’s gonna put you in the Tombstone."
I hate that, but I understand it. I hate even worse, getting corrected for not using something correctly, being called out because I talk about an advanced metric wrong, but most people probably heard it for the first time in my broadcast. So I stay away from stuff that I can’t figure out. It’s not like there’s a tonne of people to go to out there in the world who are gonna help you break it down in a competent way. I call on Tom Tango a lot. When I don’t understand what I’m doing, a contact him and he does a good job breaking it down for me. He slammed my book on his website for not giving him enough inside the locker room math, and I like jumped him, and ever since then we’ve become good friends.
BM: If there was one thing you wish everyone in your audience understood, statistical or otherwise, what would that be?
DH: I would say the one thing I wish fans understood more than any is that they are talking about human beings. Those people out there are humans but also performers. Their job is to entertain and when they fail, they’re disappointed. A lot of those guys can’t make the separation between who they are as a person and who they are as a player. They hear what other people think about them, and it’s impossible to separate yourself from what the world around you perceives you as.
A fine example is look at Ricky Romero. He implodes this year, he feels like everyone hates him, he’s getting hate on Twitter to validate that. Even though of the amount of people that follow him on Twitter, probably a fraction of those were actually mad at him for any reason. The angry local sports population represents a small population but nonetheless that stuff gets back to the player. And the player is a person, and so he gets damaged by it.
...the one thing I wish fans understood more than any is that they are talking about human beings. Those people out there are humans but also performers.
The negative stuff for performance, the hatred, that branding, it’s damaging. It’s hard for those guys to separate their personal life from their private life because sports are so frenetically over-covered. If you feel like everyone in the world looks at you as a failure as a human being because you have bad stats, it’s crushing if you can’t separate it. It’s stress, a huge amount of it, and I always feel bad for the guys that go through this because they’ve done something as trivial as fail at a baseball game.
I wish fans truly understood what that meant and how hard it is. That’s actually what my third book is completely about it.
You can find more from Dirk on his website. You can also expect his second-and-a-half book, Wild Pitches, in early 2013, a collection of untold stories from his first two books in advance of his third major book.
After a fine sophomore season, Freddie Freeman has firmly implanted himself as Atlanta's first baseman of both the present and the future, but the future is nowhere near as clear across the diamond, where the retirement of Braves legend Chipper Jones has left the team with a gaping hole at third base. Fortunately, the Braves have money to spend as well as viable internal options in Martin Prado and Juan Francisco to fill the void at third, because they don't have anyone on the farm who's ready to make an immediate impact.
1. Edward Salcedo: 3B, B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'3", Wt: 195, DOB: 7-30-91
The was a lot of fanfare when the Braves signed Salcedo out of the Dominican Republic in March of 2010 for a 1.6 million dollar bonus, but so far, the 21 year old hasn't lived up to expectations. After shifting from shortstop to third base full time in 2011, he spent all of 2012 at the hot corner, but still made 42 errors. And while he put up some encouraging stats, including 26 doubles, 17 homers, and 23 steals, his overall numbers weren't very exciting, a .240 average, a .707 OPS, and 61 RBI.
Even after two full seasons in the system, Salcedo is a bundle of potential. He's big and strong, yet athletic and fast, the kind of power/speed combo that lends itself well to projection. Despite racking up huge error totals, he is a slick defender with a strong arm. His defensive issues arise when he loses focus, as shown in the fact that most of his errors came in 1 or 2 game clusters. At the plate, he is more than capable of putting a sting on the ball, rapping out 40% of his hits this season for extra bases, but he struggles making contact, striking out in 28% of his at bats, and he's shown little patience, walking in only 6% of his plate appearances. What Salcedo needs to do to realize his potential is obvious, he needs to shore up his mental lapses on defense and become better at pitch recognition to allow himself to make more consistent contact so that he can utilize his natural power.
When the Braves first signed Salcedo they were hoping they were getting the next Miguel Cabrera, but at this point his career path looks more like Wilson Betemit's a former Braves prospect who was full of excitement and potential that he never quite realized, yet was able to parlay his natural skills into a respectable Major League career. Salcedo is still young, he won't turn 22 until the end of July, but 2013 is going to be a put up or shut up year as far as his status as a prospect. If he can put some things together and have a good year with AA Mississippi, the Braves and fans alike will feel more sure about his future. If he has another maddeningly inconsistent year, other players are going to leapfrog him on the prospect list.
2. Joey Terdoslavich 1B, B: S, T: R, Ht: 6'0", Wt: 200, DOB: 12-9-88
After an outstanding 2011 with Lynchburg that saw Terdoslavich break a 65 year old Carolina League record by clubbing out 52 doubles, the Braves had high hopes for his 2012 season, moving him across the diamond from first base to third, and skipping him up to AAA Gwinnett, with the hopes that he could make himself a viable incumbent for Chipper Jones in 2013. That plan fell through almost immediately, as Terdoslavich had trouble at the hot corner, committing 8 errors in 56 games with Gwinnett, then took those defensive struggles to the plate, where he hit just .180 with a .515 OPS, 4 doubles, 4 homers, 20 RBI, and 50 strikeouts in 215 plate appearances with Gwinnett. At the beginning of June, the Braves demoted him to AA Mississippi and shifted him back to first bases, moves they hoped would salvage his season, and it did the trick, as he managed to hit .315 with a .852 OPS, 24 doubles, 5 triples, 5 homers, and 51 RBI in 333 plate appearances with the M-Braves, though he did make 11 errors in 68 games at first.
Terdoslavich's biggest problem as a prospect is that the Braves play in the National League and can't use a DH on a daily basis. He actually wasn't a terrible fielder at third base, his biggest problem was a poor throwing motion that cause the ball to sail on him, but when he struggled there and at the plate the issues compounded one another. He's adequate enough at first base, but has hard hands which lead to more errors than most teams would be willing to accept at that position. Terdoslavich's bat is going to play well in the Majors, as he's a line drive hitter who generates torque with a strong lower half and he doesn't strike out much for a power hitter, fanning in 21% of his plate appearances with Mississippi, while walking at a good clip, taking a walk in 8% of his AA plate appearances.
As a hitter, the 24 year old Terdoslavich is close to Major League ready, and could likely contribute to Atlanta sometime in 2013, but with Freddie Freeman firmly entrenched at first base, the Braves will likely try to change his position again, possibly even giving him another try at third base. Terdoslavich will return to Gwinnett to start the year, and we shouldn't expect him to have any trouble hitting there like he did this season. No matter where he ends up, he'll probably always be a subpar defender, but his bat should be potent enough to make up for his defensive shortcomings.
3. William Beckwith: 1B, B: L, T: R, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 220, DOB: 8-19-90
Beckwith turned in a solid debut season in the GCL after the Braves drafted him in the 21st round out of Wallace Community College in Alabama back in 2010, but he put himself on the prospect radar with a dominant 2011 that saw him hit .282 with a .929 OPS, 13 doubles, 3 triples, 11 homers, 45 RBI, and 8 steals in 248 plate appearances for Rookie level Danville. He followed that up with an impressive 2012 where he was Rome's most consistent hitter by batting .291 with a .838 OPS, 26 doubles, 15 homers, 78 RBI, and 17 steals in 426 plate appearances.
Beckwith possesses a thick, strong body, which some have called pudgy, that allows him to generate a great deal of power with his bat, with 37% of his hits this year going for extra bases. He's also fairly patient for a power hitter, talking a walk in 8% of his plate appearances this season, and he strikes out at a reasonable rate given his skill set, fanning in 24% of his at bats. He's also a surprising athlete for a player of his bulk, stealing 25 bases in 164 games in the last 2 seasons, and that athleticism might serve him well if the Braves choose to move him to the outfield, since he is, at best, an average defender at first.
So far, Beckwith seams like a nice steal in the draft, and he'll move up to Lynchburg in 2013 as a 22 year old and continue to refine his game. It may take another few years of facing more advanced pitching before the Braves really know what they have in Beckwith, but he seems to be on the path of becoming a quality Major League contributor.
4 Joe Leonard: 3B, B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'5", Wt: 215, DOB: 8-26-88
Leonard had a disappointing 2011 with Lynchburg, hitting .247 with a .689 OPS, 27 doubles, 8 homers, and 63 RBI in 452 plate appearances, but he was able to turn in a more respectable 2012, hitting .263 with a .733 OPS, 22 doubles, 3 triples, 9 homers, and 66 RBI in 487 plate appearances with Mississippi. After the season, he was named a Rawlings Gold Glove winner, being cited as the best fielding third baseman in all of Minor League baseball.
Defense is Leonard's calling card, as he could step onto a Major League field and instantly become one of the best fielders at third base at the game's highest level. Big, strong, and sure handed, he rarely makes either physical or mental mistakes. Still, he has yet to really show dominance at the plate, though there are strong signs for his future, as collected a walk in an impressive 10% of his plate appearances this season while striking out in a reasonable 20% of his at bats. The Braves thought they were getting a power hitter when they drafted Leonard in the 3rd round in 2010, though that hasn't really been the case so far. Despite slugging at a higher rate this season, .392 compared to 2011's .378, he actually had a lower percentage of his hits go for extra bases, 30% this season compared to 36% in 2011.
Leonard will move up to AAA Gwinnett as a 24 year old in 2013 and he'll have to have a more than solid offensive season to give hope that he can become a Major League regular. While having an outstanding defender at any position is a huge plus, most teams look for offense out of the corners, so Leonard's projection as an average to poor Major League hitter hurts his prospects. If he can build on the improvements he made at the plate in 2012 and tap into his huge frame for some extra base power, the Braves could very well have their long-term answer at third base.
5 Brandon Drury: 1B/3B, B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 190, DOB: 8-21-92
The Braves knew Drury was raw when they drafted him out of an Oregon high school in the 13th round in 2010, so it wasn't much of a surprise when he struggled in his debut that year, hitting .198 with a .539 OPS, 7 doubles, 3 homers, and 17 RBI in 207 plate appearances in the GCL. What was surprising was his 2011 season that saw him win a batting as an 18 year old with Danville, hitting .347 with a .891 OPS, 23 doubles, 8 homers, and 54 RBI in 278 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he couldn't build on that success in 2012, struggling though his season with Rome, hitting .229 with a .603 OPS, 22 doubles, 3 triples, 6 homers, and 51 RBI in 480 plate appearances.
As bad as his 2012 season was, Drury was able to show an ability to make adjustments and improve, recovering from hitting .187 with a .495 OPS in the first half to hit .279 with a .730 OPS in the second half. He has a tendency to be a handsy hitter with wandering feet, which prevents him from using his size to drive the ball and allows more advanced pitchers to take advantage of his aggressiveness. That aggressiveness is his biggest problem as a hitter, as he walked in just 4% of his plate appearances this season, which was actually an improvement over the 2% of the time he walked in 2011. Still, he only struck out in 16% of his at bats this year, so he isn't as wild a hacker as he could be. Defensively, the Braves are still trying to figure out what to do with Drury. He was drafted as a shortstop, and played a few game at second base early in his career, but seemed to settle in well at third base before the Braves tried him out at first base this season, where he excelled, committing just 1 error in 55 games. Even if he's able to reach his full potential at the plate, Drury is unlikely to profile as a typical first baseman, so the Braves may give him another chance around the infield.
Drury is still young, so it won't hurt his development to return to Rome in 2013 as a 20 year old. If he can return to his 2011 hitting form and find a defensive home, the Braves will have a very promising prospect, but if he falls prey to being too handsy and aggressive at the plate, he might never make it out of A ball.
Happy Birthday Fred McGriff!!! That’s right, the ‘Crime Dog’ turns 49 today!!! Fred McGriff is arguably one of the most underrated baseball players from the last 20 years. An extremely consistent hitter over the course of his 19-year career, McGriff … Continue reading →
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