Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

I don’t want them forget Ruth; I just want them to remember me. -Hank Aaron

11 Mar

Greg Maddux sighting

United Press International: Atlanta 5, Los Angeles 3

Actually, that should read Greg Maddux sighting. Four innings, no baserunners, three strikeouts… Odalis Perez had four scoreless innings for Team Evil/West Coast, but Pedro Borbon was the loser in relief. I don’t know if Brian Jordan did anything. If they can’t beat us, get our players, is I guess the theory Rupert’s boys are working on.

Fourth outfielder update: Darren Bragg homered, but Ryan Langerhans had the game-winning hit and Donzell McDonald an RBI double. Personally, I think all these guys can play some and the Braves should keep at least two over have two mopup men, but that’s not my call.

11 Responses to “Greg Maddux sighting”

  1. 1
    bledsoe Says:

    Mac, is it my imagination, or is the bench actually something to cheer about this year? It seems like for the first time in six years, we’ve got some actual talent on the bench rather than your Lockhart/Guillen/Belliard usual suspects.

    And I think I finally had a Bobby Cox epiphany. Maybe this is obvious to you, but it just dawned on me why Cox likes players who can’t play. They remind him of himself.

    I know this sounds like a (rimshot) joke. But I’m dead serious. Cox was a lousy, punch and judy infielder who lasted in the bigs only, what, 3-4 years? He sees these guys like Lemke and Lockhart, and even Castilla, and they remind him of himself — play hard, all hustle, smart, love the game, can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. He also remembers what it was like to be told he wasn’t good enough anymore, and he just can’t bring himself to cut these dead weights loose to go to their waiting beer distributorships.

  2. 2
    Matt Davis Says:

    I think Rob or Rany had a similar theory regarding Tony Muser.

  3. 3
    Creg Says:

    You could make the same argument about Tony LaRussa. But there are exceptions — Earl Weaver, Whitey Herzog, and even Ron Gardenhire and Buck Showalter in today’s game (not to mention Billy Beane on the management level) –were also weak hitters as players. Ability to think outside the box involves more than personal experience.

    Actually, other than Frank Robinson, Joe Torre and maybe Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou, there aren’t many managers in the game today who were star-quality or even better-than-average players at least at the major-league level (I suppose Bob Boone, Mike Scioscia and Tony Pena might be in this category as well, and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone). Most of the guys who were really very good, at least in the last 30 years, made enough money as players that they don’t need or want full-time jobs with big-league clubs.

    Then there’s the Ted Williams argument, which asserts that Hall-of-Fame-type players can’t be successful managers because they can’t accept less than superhuman ability and/or work ethic from their players. But that obviously doesn’t apply to our boy Bobby.

    (On a side note, Cox did only last a few years in the bigs, but he had some horrible knee injuries. You can see that when he walks out to the mound to make a pitching change. That said, I don’t have any idea how good a player he would have been had he been healthy).

    To me, Cox’s attachment to mediocre players exists because of two reasons: (1) like many baseball men of his generation, he overvalues defense and “little-ball” skills and (2) he wants, nay he needs, a harmonious clubhouse, and a guy getting paid $4 million to hit .220 isn’t likely to gripe about anything.

    As soon as a young Braves player with above-average talent speaks up for himself or complains about playing time, he either gets buried on the bench or shipped out (see Marcus Giles and Tim Spooneybarger as the most recent examples). The Braves have won so much with this approach that it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It could be worse, we could be Brewers fans.

  4. 4
    bledsoe Says:

    Yeah, but none of those mediocre players who became managers have the devotion to mediocrity in their players as BC. Before a certain stathead owner of this site chimes in, BC’s numbers are simply bad: .225/.309 in 220 games as a 3B with the Yankees.

    That BC favors defense over offense is clear, but 1) the degree of favoritism is psychotic; and 2) the players he fields on the basis of their “defense” are often not good defensive players. Lockhart? He’s average to below average. Belliard? Made all routine plays, made no extraordinary plays. GUILLEN? Please. (Castilla is obviously an exception, but I think no one is big enough to say we made a huge mistake and release him.)

    As a personal insight, I feel I’m on the right track as to BC’s empathy for washed up infielders. I know that in my brief career as a high school basketball coach, I favored – semi-consciously — players who resembled me as a player — undersized, tons of hustle and desire. My degree in psychology from Dimestore U. tells me BC is doing the same thing. He’s still fighting for that third base job in NY, and is still PO’d that he got cut. He’s not going to do the same thing to whatever has-been or never-was on his squad until his AARP papers come in.

    As for Spooneybarger and MG, I don’t think either was traded/benched for attitude. Spooneybarger’s trade was a no-brainer, and MG got hurt, and the Braves kept winning without him. So he got an extended view (along with DeROsa) of AAA.

  5. 5
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Bobby’s fondness for Lockhart was, I was sure, based on his own career. What you don’t mention about Bobby is that he spent about a decade in the Dodgers’ farm system before he finally got the shot with the Yankees, by which time his knees were shot. From what I can tell, he probably was a major league player before he hurt his knees, not really a good one but one who could help the team as a second baseman or utility infielder. (And he’d take a walk.) Lockhart didn’t have the injuries, but he too left his best years in the minors. He was a better major leaguer than Bobby, genuinely useful for 3-4 years.

    The theory that managers manage to the type of player they were has been around for awhile. It probably has some basis in reality. The other half of that is that they manage like the people who managed them. It should be recalled that the Yankees of Stengel and Houk (the latter was Bobby’s only major league manager) put a huge emphasis on defense up the middle and turning the double play. (It should also be pointed out that they were phenomally successful with this.) And Ralph Houk, of course, was the manager who put two .300-OBP middle infielders in front of Maris and Mantle in 1961…

    It’s not really fair to say that Bobby only stresses defense. He does in the middle infield, and probably more at first than most contemporary managers. But (as I’ve pointed out) he’s stretched the defense at third base a lot over the years, and Vinny is an aberration. He’s had a lot of thunderers out in left, and a lot of right fielders who couldn’t really throw.

  6. 6
    bledsoe Says:

    Yeah, but one of my points (and support for my BC psychoanalysis) is that these “defensive” players aren’t. That may be his excuse for playing them, but claiming you’re playing Lockhart for his defense is a giggler.

  7. 7
    bamadan Says:

    No doubt that Keith Lockhart was kept years too long. But his defense last year was great and has always been good. That personal observation is well supported by defensive stats, like Zone Rating, Win Shares, and Baseball-Prospectus’ adjusted range factor-like metric.

    As a player, Cox walked a good bit and had mid range power, but his batting averages were generally pretty low. As a manager, he has rarely had a player who fit that pattern. Rather, his players for the most part, seem to get much of their offensive value from their batting averages rather than their secondary skills.

    And I read so often about Cox’s distrust for young players. Every time I read that, I wonder if we’re talking about the same guy. Name another manager who has (1) stayed at the top while (2) completely rebuilding his team (3) using young players at least as often as old ones?

    Cox’s pencance for old players is seen *only* in his use of role players. Guys who’ll get 200-300 ABs for a Cox club are rarely young prospects. Either a young player is good enough to start or he stays in the minors getting a chance to play daily.

    Young players, with the exception of Giles, rarely fester on the Atlanta bench. And you know what? I think that is a good thing not a bad one.

  8. 8
    john Says:

    as i recall we let mcgriff to to tampa, and we traded Odalis and Jordan to them.

  9. 9
    bledsoe Says:

    >>But his defense last year was great and has always been good.

  10. 10
    bledsoe Says:

    >> But his defense last year was great and has always been good.

  11. 11
    bamadan Says:

    Bledsole,

    I assume that you are looking at the Range Factors from Baseball-Reference for you Lockhart numbers. If so, I think you should throw it out the window.

    Why? Several reasons.

    First and foremost, the calculation there is plays made / games. That calculation severly hurts a player who doesn’t appear in the game for a full 9 innings. If Player A successfully makes 4 plays in 9 innings and Player B makes 3 plays in 6 innings, which has better range? Well B-R would say its the first, but I think that’s stupid. Keith Lockhart has always been a role player – often pinch hitting and then coming into the game more than half way through.

    Second, Range Factor doesn’t adjust for playing on a strikeout staff. Fewer balls in play results in fewer opportunities. A second baseman behind Randy Johnson will have fewer assists and putouts than will one behind Jamie Moyer. The Braves haven’t had any one individual with eye-popping K totals, but as a team and until last year, they have had very good collective numbers.

    Third, Range Factor ignores unsuccessful plays and that there are 27 outs per game regardless of quality of team defense. Two scenarios: first – batter 1 hits a slow bouncer up the middle that gets through, batter 2 a flare into center that drops in, batter 3 a roller between 1B and 2B that sneeks in, batters 4 and 5 strike out, and batter 6 hits a routine grounder to second. Second – batter 1 is put out on a great play up the middle by the second baseman, batter 2 has his bleeder caught by a flying Andruw, and batter 3 is put out 1B to pitcher covering. The second baseman in both scenarios has one successfull play and will have identical range factors. But the second was 1 for 1 on chances while the first was 1 for 2 (or 3). Which is better?

    Check out where Lockhart ranks in more precise metrics like Zone Rating, Win Shares, or FRAA. Metrics that adjust for opportunities show Lockhart ranging from above average to excellent, something I trust much, much more than Range Factor.

    Lastly, where did you get the idea that the Braves are a ground ball dependent staff? In 2002, they ranked 7th of 16 NL clubs in g/f ratio. In 2001, they were 8th. I don’t have the info on prior years handy, but don’t recall anything putting them out of the middle of the pack.

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