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05 Aug

Sheesh

The Macon Telegraph | 08/05/2003 | Not pairing Lopez with Maddux remains a puzzle

“All the other guys don’t have a problem throwing to him, why should I? That’s just how it’s been.” — Maddux, on Javy.

Don’t ask me.

33 Responses to “Sheesh”

  1. 1
    bunyon Says:

    “We’ll deal with it (in October),” Cox said.

    I’d really like to think that this means Javy will catch Maddux. But I fear that it doesn’t.

  2. 2
    John Says:

    The last few years this policy has been tenable because JAVY HAS SUCKED!

    However, now that the guy is second in the NL in home runs behind Barry Bonds, and in front of Gary Sheffield, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones, it is time to put him and Maddux together. Like now. The Telegraph article aludes to the many ways in which this arrangement doesn’t make sense. It’s time for Bobby to do the right thing now.

  3. 3
    Rob J. Says:

    I read the same article in the paper this morning. Hopefully, Lopez will be used with Maddux in the playoffs. He may need that bat in the lineup now more than ever, especially if they get into a slugfest with the Cardinals in the NLDS.

  4. 4
    Colin Says:

    “It’s not that it bothered me, I just didn’t know what was the reason,” Lopez said. “I heard so many explanations, I didn’t know which one was the real one. Some people say (Maddux) doesn’t want me to catch him and some people say it’s the manager. I don’t know what the real one is and I don’t really care.”

    See, thsi is why I think everything we’ve heard from Maddux himself and Cox on this is utter crap. If Javy himself doesn’t know, then this whole thing has been handled just about as poorly as it ever could be.

    Cox’s “We’ll deal with it” line likely means the BS will continue. In October he’ll simply say that because Javy hasn’t caught Maddux all year, it would be foolish to begin that now. Because, after all, there’s absolutely no opportunity with an 11 game lead for Javy to get a Maddux start here or there as a tuneup for the postseason…

  5. 5
    Robert Says:

    Statement 1:

    Maddux denies it, saying the decision to match him, first with backup catcher Eddie Perez in 1996, then with Paul Bako, and now with Henry Blanco, remains Cox’s decision.

    Statement 2:

    Lopez has not started a postseason game with Maddux on the mound since 1996.

    The only way for both statements 1 and 2 to be true (and of course we know 2 is true) would be to conclude that Bobby Cox has no interest in maximizing his chances of winning in the post season. This would be very unusual behavior for a manager. More likely, statement 1 is BS.

    …it is well-known in the home clubhouse that Maddux doesn’t want to work with Lopez.

    So most of Greg teammates would agree that statement 1 is BS. The question is why is Boris having Greg try to spin this now? Does being a flake really hurt your free agent asking price that much?

    There is clearly no real reason for freezing Javy out:

    And the numbers suggest Maddux is more effective throwing to Lopez than any other catcher. In ’94, Lopez’s first full season in the big leagues, Maddux was 14-5 with a 1.60 ERA with the Puerto Rico native handling the catching duties, and in ’95 he was 19-1 with a 1.35 ERA with Lopez behind the plate.

    And that was when Javy was young, certainly he must be a better game caller by now. It’s going to be interesting to see who wins this tug of war in October. The pitcher and his stubborn pride or the manager and the good of the team. Clearly, Greg is digging in for battle:

    “It’s easier for the pitcher not to change catchers.”

  6. 6
    Matt Davis Says:

    Want to see Cox break the land-speed record for pinch hitting when Maddux gives up 4 runs in the 1st two innings and some nasty lefty is on the mound?

  7. 7
    Chief Noc-a-homa Says:

    Why do you include Robert Fick as an answer on your ‘worst arm’ survey? Consider the following information:

    “He topped all major league outfielders with 21 assists; the 21 outfield assists are the most by a major league outfielder since Baltimore’s Joe Orsulak had 22 in 1991.”

    I hope Chipper is moved to first next year for protection and they move Fick to left. He is definitely more than capable.

  8. 8
    Cheif Noc-a-homa Says:

    BTW- those 21 assists by Fick came his last year in Detroit. The boy can throw, man.

  9. 9
    Rhett Says:

    The bad arms constantly get a chance to prove themselves.

  10. 10
    Matt Davis Says:

    Pardon me for stating the obvious, but doesn’t a pitcher forfeit his rights to force the top catcher in the league to sit when his SNVA (support neutral value added) is below replacement level?

  11. 11
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Because when I put the poll up his shoulder was acting up and he was having trouble throwing to second.

  12. 12
    snellville jones Says:

    Fick was actually pretty poor in the outfield; many of his assists were a direct result of misplayed balls. As far as the post-season personal catcher, I’d like to see Estrada called up before September and give him the role. He would give us a better line-up with Maddux and give us a better bench for the rest of the games.

  13. 13
    Colin Says:

    >i>”It’s easier for the pitcher not to change catchers.”

    And yet in 2000, Maddux faced not just Eddie Perez, but also Paul Bako and even Fernando freaking Lunar.

  14. 14
    dabraves Says:

    I could accept Cox’s argument that it is good for a catcher to rest during the grind of the regular season, but it doesn’t make since to wait until the playoffs start to suddenly use Lopez with Maddux.

    Lopez should catch at least one or two games for Maddux before the playoffs start I think, to get used to each other again.

  15. 15
    Drew Says:

    I posted this before, but it was accidentally under the wrong heading, so I don’t think anyone saw it. How about a favorite Personal Catcher poll? It would have to include some of those obscure guys like Tim Spehr (remember him?), Torrealba, Greg Myers (having a good year now…), Pascual Matos, pretty much anyone other than Javy. Might have to handicap it against Eddie Perez somehow though.

  16. 16
    Matt Davis Says:

    I have a half-assed theory. Maybe Leo’s brilliance in teaching guys to locate the ball effectively backfires on certain pitchers who might not have the consistent control to pull it off. I was watching Ray King walk yet another hitter, trying to hit the edges of the strike zone, and thinking that maybe the same strategy that works wonders with a lot of guys might totally screw up a few others.

  17. 17
    Colin Says:

    Matt – Seems like Odalis Perez voiced that very sentiment. He said he improved the year after he left Atlanta because LA was willing to let him go after hitters, whereas Leo wanted him to pitch like Tom Glavine, nibbling and nibbling and nibbling.

  18. 18
    bamadan Says:

    … which is obviously why, pitching in a park bigger than Yellowstone, that Odalis has an ERA higher than the struggling Maddux.

    Anyway, back on topic.

    During the regular season, I can see a reasonable justification for the catching rotation. As routine rest is necessary, no catcher will compete with Gehrig or Ripken. Javy despite the hamstring injury that had Estrada in the Show in April, after all, is in the middle of the pack in plate appearances among NL starting catchers.

    Since the “how much” question seems to be fairly uniformly decided throughout the league, the only question is “when.” I don’t really see a huge advantage one way or the other for the catching rotation in Atlanta versus other teams day game after night game, etc. (Although that was tempered in years past when Baco or Myers or another LH catcher was Javy’s time-share partner.)

    But when it comes to post season, its a horse of an entirely different color. Rest days are built into the schedule. The only justification is that Maddux is *so* much better with Blanco than Lopez that the obvious offensive differences are overwhelmed. And simply, the evidence as listed by Colin (?) several times over the years, just doesn’t support that argument.

    Come on Bobby, play Javy in October!

    And while we’re at it, three catchers in the post season? Not on my watch!

  19. 19
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Bamadan, we’re sure to wind up with three catchers, because (a) Estrada is Richmond’s best player, and (b) Blanco is going to be on the roster. Sorry.

  20. 20
    Troy Says:

    This year, I’d be fine with three catchers. Consider that it’s Estrada we’re talking about, not Torrealba or Lunar. This guy is going to enter the postseason roster and hopefully do his thing to the enjoyment of all of us.

    I don’t know that he’s gonna get starts over Blanco (Cox/Maddux are just too damn stubborn for that) but having Estrada on the bench to spell either Blanco or Javy, not to mention pinch hit, will be an October bonus.

    And all things considered (incl. that there’s no way to get Blanco off the team), I’m happy that Estrada is in Richmond. He’s getting regular work, so he should be polished and ready to go when we need him.

  21. 21
    bunyon Says:

    Maybe Darren Bragg can make himself useful and “accidentally” fall on, and break, Blanco’s legs in the dugout. That should also go far to get him run off the club. Estrada gets called up, Bragg never bats again…paradise.

  22. 22
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Maybe Ray King or Roberto Hernandez will eat Blanco’s leg.

  23. 23
    Mathew Says:

    Fick can be the emergency catcher in postseason, that should be good enough for Bobby and maybe we can get a usefull player like Donzel up for his speed.

  24. 24
    Rob Cope Says:

    When Surhoff was with Atlanta, did they use three catchers in the postseason? He was supposed to be their emergency catcher, but I think they called up either Torrealba or Lunar for the postseason.

  25. 25
    Colin Says:

    which is obviously why, pitching in a park bigger than Yellowstone, that Odalis has an ERA higher than the struggling Maddux

    Duly noted (I tried to get aroudn thsi by referring only to the year after Odalis left, but that was intellectually disingenuous of me).

    I really see no good reason to have a strict catcher rotation, even in teh regular season. Why? Because for one thing, I think each pitcher should become familiar with each catcher. For another, and mroe importantly, it leads to some bizarrely arbitrary silly situations. Here comes curt chilling – but because we have a rotation, we have Blanco in the lineup against a guy who’ll be tought to score on.

    It’s absolutely good to get your starting catcher adequate rest. However, there are just better ways to do it. Maddux has faced a disproportionate number of above-average opposing pitchers this season when I checked a few weeks ago, the EA of Maddux’s opposing starters was a combined 3.75 or so, a full half run better than league average). Yet for those games with better opposition, Javy has sat. Where does that make sense?

  26. 26
    bamadan Says:

    Post season roster should have only 10 pitchers. But the Braves will go with 11 or 12. Assume they go with 11.

    Add the 8 regular position players and you’ve got 19 slots filled.

    Franco, Franco, DeRosa, Bragg, and Blanco are ~ barring injury or felony indictments ~ assured of a spot.

    One roster spot left open. Is Johnny Estrada the smart choice? I don’t think so.

    Having a third catcher opens up the possibility of pinch hitting for the starter. But is there a pinch hitter on the staff that can bat for Lopez? Of course not. It also opens up the chance of using a pinch runner. While Bragg has acceptable speed, he is no burner and in any case wouldn’t be used until very late in the game when the third catcher is less important.

    So Estrada is available for pinch hitting duties? Who is he a better hitter than? I would say Castilla, particularly against a righty, but it will be a cold day in hell before Cox pinch hits for Castilla. Maybe he could be better than Fick versus LHP, but Franco the elder would get the first shot at that.

    Basically Estrada’s role on the post season roster is (a) be around in case a game goes to the 14th inning and the second catcher gets hurt or (b) be the fourth (or fifth) choice for pinch hitting for the pitchers slot after Franco-x-2 and DeRosa (and Bragg?).

    I want the Braves Brass to take a page out of Earl Weaver’s book. Look at what situations can reasonably be expected to come up and make sure personnel can fill those roles. Pinch running and defensive replacements are much more valuable in a short series where marginal differences are magnified. Find a Herb Washington to run. Find a Gary Pettis or Raphael Belliard to field. Find a Terry Crowley, Gates Brown or Manny Mota to pinch hit. Find a player who does one thing very, very well and be willing to utilize that strength rather than a player who is just ok at everything, but lacks any identifiable and usuable talent.

    And that Estrada is doing well in Richmond doesn’t really impress me much. A 27 year old player repeating AAA ought to do well. Heck, if he has any future in the Show, he ought to dazzle and amaze at that level at that age. Estrada is better than a heaping pile of dung ~ as he was named following the Millwood debacle ~ but he is no post season cog in our machine.

  27. 27
    bamadan Says:

    Colin,

    You posted responding to me while I was typing my last diatribe. So anyway …

    I don’t disagree that pitchers should get used to all catchers. I do, however, think that is highly overrated. Particularly in this era of coaches calling pitches from the bench. The Keith Woolner baseball-prospectus study of catcher effect on pitcher ERA suggests (doesn’t prove, but does suggest) that came calling or other receiving skills have di minimus effect on outcomes. With his breakdown going into very small sample sizes, it seems likely that getting used to a catcher has little or no resulting increase or decrease in pitching effectiveness.

    As to playing Lopez against Schilling, and his ilk, with as large a lead as the Braves have historically had, it seems that maximizing the chance of winning any one regular season game via a cost of altering rest patterns seems pennywise and pound foolish.

    Further, wasn’t there a pretty detailed study of pitcher matchups published at either primer or prospectus last year suggesting that if the opposing team is starting pitchers 1, 2, and 3, your best matchup is not to likewise go in declining order of quality, but rather try to assure success in one game (i.e. use #1 against their #3) and then close the edge with #2 against their #1 and #3 against their #2)? If that study holds water (an assumption that is provable only in simulations not real life) wouldn’t it likewise make sense to maximize chances – during the regular season when we all agree rest is neccesary – of beating Brian Anderson or Elmer Dessens rather than Schilling or Johnson?

    Again, in the post season, I would throw all this out the window. Rest for the catcher isn’t necessary (except where nursing a serious but not disabling injury?) so when it is parcelled out is not an issue. Starting Blanco in October is dumb. Starting him for Maddux April to September is justifiable.

  28. 28
    Creg Says:

    Dan,

    Part of Earl Weaver’s “book” was to have three catchers, with one of those a left-handed hitter and one who could play multiple positions. Now Estrada qualifies as one of those (lefty, actually switch-hitter) but not the other. Of course, Weaver also usually had nine pitchers on his roster, so the third catcher was probably the first guy to go when a 10th pitcher came on.

    All that said, having Estrada on the postseason roster would be valuable, in that (1) it would “allow” Cox to pinch hit for Blanco with Javy should Maddux get knocked out early without having to worry about burning the backup catcher early in the game and (2) it would allow Cox to use Javy as a pinch-hitter for someone else in a Maddux game without “having” to put him behind the plate.

    By the way, the quotation marks above reflect relative truths that exist only in Bobby Cox’s world. The rest of us know better…

  29. 29
    bamadan Says:

    Creg,

    I see nothing wrong with carrying three catchers as long as it doesn’t limit the other options. Weaver’s last post season team (1979) had 9 pitchers and 16 position players. He could have had a third catcher without giving up options, but he didn’t. The ’79 O’s went into October with only one backup catcher (Dave Skaggs backing up Rick Dempsey). He had a middle infield defensive replacement (Mark Belanger who backed up Kiko Garcia) one defensive outfielder who could pinch run (Pat Kelly) and a bunch of hitters who excelled in limited roles (Benny Ayala, Terry Crowley, John Lowenstein, Lee May …).

    Weaver did carry three catchers in the 1974 ALCS (Andy Echtebarren, Earl Williams, and Elrond Hendricks) and 1969 (WS & LCS), but two in ’73, ’70, ’71 (both WS and LCS). I don’t see much evidence that Weaver’s book emphasized a third catcher and certainly no evidence that it emphasized carrying one who would only be used in case of an injury.

    That way, Weaver could pinch hit for a pitcher or the weaker position players or play the percentages with a platoon. Cox’s bench only allows for pinch hitting for (a) the pitcher or (b) Blanco. Since Blanco shouldn’t be playing in the first place, that leaves only the pitcher’s slot as having any need for a pinch hitter. Rather than having the breath of skills that would enable the team to bring in a left handed bat to hit for Castilla or a vaguely fast runner to run for Lopez or a defensive replacement for Fick, we have a short and one (zero?) diminsional bench.

  30. 30
    bamadan Says:

    By the way, I loved seeing Brooks Kieschnick homer last night. That is the kind of player Weaver would have loved. Not a good pitcher, but competent enough to be the 10th or 11th man on the staff. Not a great hitter, but good enough to be a third pinch hitter and a legit power threat. Can competently play either corner OF and has briefly played 1B as well. He gives his team strategic options, something always important but vitally so in October.

  31. 31
    Mac Thomason Says:

    See, I was thinking Kieschnick would have been the type of player John McGraw would have liked, not Weaver. McGraw always liked to have a pitcher who could pinch-hit, though Kieschnick is more a hitter who can also relieve, at least in a mopup role.

    He’s a better pitcher than Boom-Boom, of course.

  32. 32
    Colin Says:

    Dammit, I just had a long response post, and accidentally hit cancel instead of Preview. Phooey.

    Anyway, the upshots:
    –Lopez should have been allowed to face Schilling in past seasons, because Schilling was a likely postseason opponent, against whom hitters might benefit from a few regular season PA to get a feel for his stuff. But the arbitrary catching situation (and if I recall one specific Schilling game, it came on a Friday after Thursday off day) kept Javy out of a game from which he might have learned.

    –Comfort levels are important. Blanco — IMO massively ovverrated on defense to begin with – needs a few games to get used to, say, Ortiz’s relative (to Maddux) wildness and movement on his pitches. Maddux neeeds some Javy games in-season tso that the two of them can work out whatever the hell their difficulties are with each other and be on the same page. Regardless of what Woolner’s study suggests, Maddux seems to have a comfort level issue with Javy, and that doesn’t get worked out by never pitching to him.

    –As for starting Javy against Schilling upsetting a “pattern of rest”, I see no evidence suggesting rest needs to come in any strict pattern. Regular rest is absolutely useful, but nothing says it needs to come after every fifth game, or every fourth; so there should no problem with a day off after 5 games one week, and then 6 the next, and then for a day game after a night game.

  33. 33
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