Someone asked for a Keltner on Andruw and I had a half day free…

Ed. note: Once a year, Mac used to write up a Keltner List for a retired Brave, as a way of debating whether he deserved to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A few years ago, I wrote one for Kenny Lofton; two years ago, Sansho wrote one for Deacon White, who played for the Boston Red Stockings in the National Association and the National League, the team that is the forerunner to the modern Braves; and last year, Kevin Lee wrote one for Barry Bonds, who was nearly a Brave before the Pirates nixed the deal.

Here’s Mac’s standard preamble to Keltner lists: The Keltner List was developed by Bill James as a device to evaluate a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy. In The Politics of Glory James says that it is probably his favorite tool to do that. (You can read about the background in that book, or do a Google search, for further information.)

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

No. Andruw was considered the best defensive outfielder of his generation, routinely argued to be the best defensive player at any position during his prime, and arguably the best defensive centerfielder of all time. He was also clearly one of the best offensive players at his position for about 10 years. But in a league that included Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey among other notable superstars, Andruw was never, and never should have been described as “the best player in baseball.” At his peak, in 2005, he came in second in MVP voting to Albert Pujols.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Probably not. Always a core piece of the puzzle, he was nevertheless overshadowed by “the other Jones boy” or the “Big Three” in the rotation. You could make an argument for 2005, a year where Chipper was hobbled with injury and lacked the additional defensive value Andruw provided and only John Smoltz and Tim Hudson were around to compete on the pitching side, but the question isn’t if he was ever the best player on his team for a single year. Andruw was usually the second or third guy in the lineup (behind Chipper and someone like McGriff or Andres or Gary Sheffield) and, of course, there was always Greg Maddux to account for.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Again, a more difficult question than we as fans might like to assume. Andruw was always in the conversation, but he played against Griffey in his early days, and he played against Jim Edmonds in his later years. You can make arguments that he was the best CF in the game for certain years, but it’s hard to say he was better than Junior across the entirety of his career.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Yes. Absolutely, yes. Andruw was a core component of every Braves team from 1996-2006, which rather obviously includes pennant drives through 2005.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Uh…. No. No he was not. I mean, yeah, he plugged along as a league average DH/1B in the AL and Japan after the debacle in LA, but he was done as a regular contributor to pennant worthy teams by the age of 30.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Barry Bonds still exists.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

According to B-REF’s similarity scores, Andruw’s most similar historical comp is…Dale Murphy. Yeah. That seems about right.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

As noted in the comments of a previous thread, the Hall regularly undervalues defense and regularly underrepresents center fielders. Andruw’s core case for the Hall is that he was a world historical defensive talent who crushed 400+ homeruns out of CF. I personally think the Hall should recognize those types of players (inclusive of Edmonds and Murphy.) The Hall voters seem to ignore my suggestions on the matter. Perhaps my rhetoric is not civil enough for their delicate ears.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

This depends, once again, on how you value defense and how you rate defensive stats. I think Andruw is underrated by voters (or will be) because they underrate historic defensive value outside of pet project players (i.e. Ozzie Smith.)

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

You know, now that Junior is in, he very well may be. Edmonds has a case, with Murphy and Kenny Lofton sliding into the conversation after them.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Received MVP votes in 5 seasons, but only broke into the top 5 vote totals once. (2005.)

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Was an All-Star in all five seasons he received MVP votes (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006.) Was generally undersold as an All-Star due to the glut of Braves represented during those years, the glut of slugging OFs from other teams, the fact that Mike Cameron’s teams occasionally needed a representative, and/or the fact that people of the time really, really over estimated the value of Steve Finley.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

A team led by peak Andruw could win the pennant. It could be argued that Andruw led his team to the pennant in 2005.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Aside from vaguely educating a subset of MLB fans to the existence of Curacao and the Dutch Antilles in general, no.

UPDATE 12.22.2016: There’s a nice conversation in the comments thread below regarding whether or not Andruw’s manner of playing defense – playing very shallow to steal singles that other fielders let drop, and racing to the gaps to cover balls over his head – “changed the game.” I am not convinced it did, because I’m not convinced other fielders without Andruw’s instincts and preparations to read the ball off the bat can get the same jumps on the balls over their heads to replicate his defensive alignments. That is to say, I’m not sure he “changed the game” so much as he was simply better than anyone else and could play it differently himself. That said, it’s a good question without a definitive yes/no answer…

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Andruw was always trailed by complaints about his conditioning and competitive desire, almost entirely due to the fact that his resting facial expression was a smiling smirk. Bobby Cox once pulled him from a game for “loafing” when he was 19, and that stuck for years as a “thing.” He got a giant contract from the Dodgers in 2007, showed up out of shape and had a disastrous season, and folks don’t seem to be willing to look past that either. All of this is generally crap reasoning IMHO, but they don’t let me vote.

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108 thoughts on “Someone asked for a Keltner on Andruw and I had a half day free…”

  1. Nice work, Sam. I think “Both of them… Count it.” has to be added to further irrelevancies of point 15.

    But more interesting is point 14. What Andruw did was play the shallowest center field in history. The success he had doing that would have inspired a complete change in the way center field was played *if there were anyone else who could do it competently.* Everyone talks about how baseball employs so many more shifts than they used to. Well, Andruw was a one-man shift. That ought to count as an innovation. It’s obviously the correct place to play a center fielder if he can get the requisite jump… which no one else can.

  2. I always think of Andruw as great, but I tend to not think about just what a wizard he was out there. JonathanF hammers that point home nicely. He was so much fun to watch.

    Nice job, Sam.

  3. I had forgotten how long he played an elite centerfield. Fangraphs thinks through 2007. I’ve never seen anyone get jumps like him. I always thought of him as a natural, but I did hear about him constantly practicing his jumps during BP. I think there was a lot more work than he ever got credit for.

    I’d love to have him in as an instructor for Mallex or even Ender.

  4. Great job, Sam.

    I didn’t mean any disrespect to Spike other than the push-back that there are a myriad of reasons a player declines, and personal motivation is one of them. Shoot, our own Matt Kemp found love in a hopeless place, and he said himself that it affected him. Spike is usually on the right side when it comes to the critical thinking involved when people make wild assumptions on human behavior (like lineup protection and walk years), so I’m inclined to follow his mindset on these things. “Undisciplined”, as someone mentioned, might be a fairer assessment.

  5. Jonathan, I had not considered the “Andruw shift” up toward the infield a “change to the game” before, but you make a very good point. Andruw’s defensive wizardry was extensively tied to the fact that he got such absurd jumps on balls off the bat that he *could* play 10-15 feet farther “in” than any other CF, yet still get back on the deep balls to the gaps (i.e. he could do that “Spider-man” catch stuff on gappers.) That allowed him to steal tons of singles that other players simply picked up and threw back to second, which saved his pitchers arms, etc, et al.

  6. I can’t recall where I saw it, but one of the stories about Andruw’s jump on balls was that he would look in when the catcher was giving his signs to the pitcher. Then Andruw would know what pitch was coming and supposedly would know where the ball would tend to go if contact was made. The story goes he especially did this when Maddux was pitching.

  7. Between Inciarte, Mallex, and Acuna, the Braves could benefit a lot out of having Andruw as a special assistant. I can’t think of a position where a retired Brave could have that much defensive impact. Mad Dog, of course, but he’s with UNLV and the Dodgers.

  8. It’s worth noting that Andruw’s MVP cases might have been taken more seriously if he played today. He was second in position player WAR in both 1999 and 2000 behind only slugging first baseman types — Bagwell in 1999 and Helton in 2000. He might have been the Trout of his day — a brilliant young player with a lot of defensive value at a premium position whose overall game was overshadowed by more one-dimensional players.

  9. I have to agree that question 14 is key. I think the way he played center changed the way the game was played to a certain extent. I don’t know if that argument can be made effectively, but it is powerful if it can, and I think it should be.

  10. Sam at 5,

    14. Yes. He created and implemented the “Spiderman Catch.”

    Seriously, that is like Sutter’s splitter or Morgan and the backhand flip. His ABILITY to do that DID contribute to playing in.

  11. Assuming no other significant moves, I’m not really understanding the pitching staff. They said they’re going to carry a 13-man pitching staff, but even at that, it’s not adding up:

    LOCKS:
    Teheran
    Colon
    Dickey
    Garcia
    Folty

    JJ
    Vizzy
    Krol
    Cabrera
    Collmenter
    Ramirez

    The bullpen locks are based on them being out of options, fulfilling a specific role, and past performance.

    So that’s 11.

    OUT OF OPTIONS
    Roe

    HAVE OPTIONS
    Simmons
    Biddle
    Paco

    MUST BE ON 25 MAN
    Winkler
    Rivero

    GUYS ON 40 MAN WHO HAVE ML EXPERIENCE WHO COULD PITCH THEMSELVES ONTO THE ROSTER
    Hursh
    Luke Jackson

    So they must be assuming two of Paco/Biddle/Simmons will either be ineffective or unhealthy, and a guy as talented as Jackson won’t pitch himself onto the roster in Spring Training.

    It’s also really interesting that they’re going to the 8-man bullpen. Must be a reaction to what we saw in last year’s postseason, and the prevailing mindset about starting pitching.

  12. Another Andruw 14:

    When he dove at balls coming in, the opening of his glove was down. He said that was so if he hit hard, the ball wouldn’t pop out. Before him, I don’t ever remember anybody doing that. And he made outs almost every game by doing that.

  13. Duke battled Willie comparisons too. Being a Dodger fan way back then, I thought Snider was the equal of either Mays or Mantle. I’ve been wrong before, but I think Andruw was better than any of them afield. At bat? Not so much.

    Also moving to LA made a star of Wally Moon and an average duke of Snider. I guess that 250 feet to the left field fence and 450 to right may have had something to do with that.

  14. I like the Duke Snider comp, and I personally have been trying to get #OzzieOfTheOutfield to be a trending thing (failure so far). That said, all of the notes about how Andruw *played* the defensive game differently in CF doesn’t really mean he *changed* the game by doing that. I don’t know of anyone else who plays like him because he played that way, for example.

  15. @13 I think as fans we have a bias towards seeing defense as talent and hitting as work/decisions. Because we see what the pitcher is doing from our vantage point behind him, pitch recognition seems obvious.

  16. The Phillies picked up Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox. This is notable only because they paid significantly less to do so than the Braves did to get Jaime Garcia in a similar situation.

  17. All three of whom are better/more valuable than the one (1) prospect the Sox got for Buchholz, a 24-year-old second baseman who struggled in high-A last year. Kinda can’t help but feel Coppy got scammed here in his haste to collect starters on one-year deals, even if none of the players they gave up ever amounts to anything.

  18. Garcia is better (and a bit cheaper) than Buchholz, and Tobias is at least better than Dykstra (and maybe even Ellis)!

    But, yeah, I’d probably rather have Buchholz for a non-prospect than Garcia for one okay prospect and two non-prospects.

  19. These two trades make me think that there very well could be some sort of “distressed” principle in MLB. I and others have thought that ultimately the true market value for a player would be reached, regardless of circumstances. If you have 100 pitching prospects or 5, and you decide to trade one, you’re going to get the same return. Or just because a guy doesn’t have a fit on your roster (Rule 5, options, too many lefties in the pen), you can still trade that player to plenty of teams, so you’re going to get the highest possible return. But where this is different than any other market (real estate, cars, boats, jewelry, whatever) because all of the buyers are very aware of the circumstances of each team. Everyone kneow the Sox had to trade Buchholz, and everyone knew the Braves had to trade some of this pitching. Are the returns we’re getting for our pitching prospects and the return for what the Sox got for Buchholz indicative of distress and the market being keenly aware of the fact that they have to trade them?

  20. Garcia at $11.5M vs Buchholz at $17.2M tells the story here, right? That’s a decent difference in price for what you get.

    The problem with the “distressed” theory is that it discounts competition among buyers.

    The problem with arguing about the distressed theory vis a vis MLB trades is that teams and pundits have to estimate future player value, and those estimates vary. Think of perhaps Andy Marte (but you can find post hoc examples to fit most narratives). Of course there’s the Millwood trade, which might be a better example of a team in “distress” but even then the Braves got a pretty good return (according to bref WAR they were both worth 2.9 WAR for their new teams).

    Anyway, the point is we can’t really know how the teams valued the players or other available options, so while you can make a case … it is hard for me to believe.

  21. Well done, Sam.

    The discussion you started around point #14 made the article worthwhile.

    There’s a lot of talk about the “eye test” among sports radio. Watching Andruw for ten years told me he was very special. Saw him hit 2 homers in person in Cincinnati. And when Minute Made park showed a ridiculously deep center field wall, Andruw almost ran down the first ball hit to the base of it. For ten years, if the ball’s hit to center; you’re out.

  22. @25 At the time of the Millwood trade, NO ONE thought the Braves got a fair return. Kevin Millwood was coming off a 3.7 WAR season and looked to have finally worked through his issues. Hindsight may tell this story differently now, but Estrada was a flash in the pan with one quality season.

    If anything, the Kevin Millwood trade is the proof of a distressed market value. When you have to make a transaction, values reflect your plight. Who honestly did not want Kevin Millwood? That’s silly. Yet only one team was willing to offer anything of value for him. Everyone else was willing to roll the dice to see if the Braves would cough him up for nothing.

  23. @26, my bad, that definitely makes it a closer call. Must have misread the numbers.

    @29, you say Who honestly did not want Kevin Millwood?

    That is exactly the point. If everyone would want Millwood, then you have a couple of explanations:

    1) every other team that wanted Millwood passed, even though they valued him, and they let the phillies scoop them. What GM is doing that, and how soon can you hire a replacement?

    2) the Braves evaluated the deal differently than you and others did. They saw Estrada as a fair exchange, which it indeed turned out to be — not even considering the money saved.

    One of these stories makes sense. If this is the best argument for the distressed theory, which was the spirit I was offering the example, then I am unconvinced..

  24. Of course now I remember that the first chapter in JC’s Hot Stove Economics is literally titled “Why Johnny Estrada is Worth Kevin Millwood: Valuing Players As Assets.” Definitely worth a read.

  25. @31, at the time, Johnny Estrada was a 26-year old catching prospect who had a .619 OPS in 343 PA in the majors. It was viewed pretty unanimously throughout the league as a one-sided trade. As the AP wrote a year and a half later:

    They were winners of 11 consecutive division championships, but the Braves were accorded no respect and given no benefit of the doubt 18 months ago today when they traded Kevin Millwood to Philadelphia for Johnny Estrada.

    Schuerholz screwed up because he offered Greg Maddux a qualifying offer expecting it would be turned down, and so he had to scramble as soon as Maddux said yes. I’m sure that he seemed desperate at the time. He also apparently was unwilling to send a dime of salary relief over with Millwood, so that clearly reduced his options.

    But it wasn’t a good trade. Trading one of your best pitchers for a 26-year old catcher in Triple-A because you screwed up in your payroll projections is a bad trade. They got lucky because Estrada was a better hitter in 2004 than had been expected, but he didn’t have much of a glove, so he still only produced 2.7 WAR. It’s not Schuerholz’s fault that his career was ruined after a concussion. It’s absolutely Schuerholz’s fault that he played himself into a corner and felt he had to shed payroll by panic-trading Kevin Millwood.

  26. @34

    We needed a LF and CF by the second week of the season last year. As great as Inciarte is, he’s averaged 127 games played per season in his career. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mallex stills ends up with about 500 PAs.

    @33

    It appears reading that chapter will set me back a few bucks, but if you’ve read it, can you tell us if his point is that Estrada ended up being worth as much as Millwood, or there was data to suggest at the time that a 26-year minor league catcher was worth as much as Millwood coming off that 3.7 WAR season, was 27 years old, and finished 3rd in the Cy Young vote in the past? It’s hard to argue that they knew how both careers would go from there. It stills seems looking back that JS got lucky.

    But in these cases like our pitching prospects, Buchholz, Millwood, etc., is it that it’s a closed market, GMs know the circumstances of the seller (they HAVE to sell), and because there’s usually an equilibrium in the market, the limited number of buyers all independently determine that these players will be acquired for less, hold to a lower offer, and if you don’t get the player, who cares?

  27. Well, Alex pretty well covered it. I tell ya, I love it when I get lucky and reach the same conclusion as such a smart guy like AAR.

  28. @36 — The counterpoint to this argument is that teams get good packages for players everyone knows are going to be traded all the time. You can’t just lowball everyone because you know that their team is going to trade them eventually. Just this offseason it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the White Sox were going to trade Chris Sale, but the Sox still managed to get the best position prospect in the game and a premium pitching prospect, plus other stuff, for him. The Braves thought they might be able to wait out the market and get an ace at a bargain, and they (and the Dodgers, Astros, etc) were wrong.

    Most baseball executives don’t have the discipline to hold to a strict “If you don’t get the player, who cares” attitude. All it takes it one who knows that he can get the player if he raises his offer and decides to roll the dice.

  29. The Sale deal isn’t really analogous to the Millwood trade, because the White Sox were not constrained so completely by budget as the Braves were at the time. The Millwood deal was the absolute height of “negative leverage” for the Braves because everyone in the game new they HAD to dump that 10m of salary after Maddux took the arb offer (not a qualifying offer, which didn’t exist at the time, but agreement to a one year arb deal TBD rather than going onto the market that season.)

  30. Alex @35 is absolutely right that the Braves were forced into the Millwood trade by JS’s own miscalculations. But that doesn’t tell you the Braves got a bad deal. Neither does citing the consensus punditry on the trade – lots of people were willing to criticize it, but actual GMs with assets on the line weren’t willing to make a better offer.

    I can’t really sum up JC’s chapter quickly – you really should get both of his books – but one key point is that mid-level pitching was fairly cheap at the time and Millwood wasn’t a great deal for his contract. Remember, this was right when Millwood was getting expensive. And although people love to mention the year he was coming off of, his previous two seasons ERA+ were 99 and 103 respectively. In other words, Millwood didn’t have much marginal value above his contract, so you shouldn’t expect to get a strong return. Despite that, the Braves did pretty well in the deal. Here’s a bit from JC summing up:

    The irony of the Millwood-for-Estrada trade is that it is often mentioned as one of John Schuerholz’s worst deals, when in fact, it appears to have been a smart move. Not only did he dump Millwood, but he acquired an All-Star catcher who would become a major contributor to the big-league club for two years, then be traded to the Arizona Dimondbacks for pitching help. For all of this, the Braves paid Estrada less than $1 million, or less than ten percent of what the team would have had to pay Kevin Millwood for one season of work.

  31. I’ve never understood the Millwood deal. My recollection is that Millwood was traded VERY soon after Maddux accepted the offer. The Braves had a salary budget problem. To me it didn”t mean that Millwood had to be traded. Any number of players could have been traded. And why did he have to be traded like today? Players aren’t even paid until the season starts. Itseemed like a panic move to me and I still don’t understand why they didn’t wait to see how the market could develop.

  32. So JS had two options:

    1) Don’t offer Maddux arb and let him walk. It would have looked bad to the fanbase.

    2) Offer Maddux arb, and if he declines it, he saves face. If he accepts it, then he can trade Millwood. At that point, Millwood and Maddux were similar commodities albeit at different salaries (Maddux would make $14.75M that year). But would you rather have Maddux and Estrada or Millwood? He may not have maximized Millwood’s value, but he came out ahead in the end.

    But why did he accept a deal immediately? That also points to distress because JS is a smart guy, and he clearly had reason to believe that was the best deal he was going to get. In fact, and I’m just speculating, but he may had reason to believe that the offers would have gotten worse when JS’ payroll issue clocks continued to tick, further implying a distressed seller.

    Chris Sale, Shelby Miller, etc. are in a different class because there’s an additional trade partner, and it’s the most important one: the current team. As Coppy surveyed the landscape of offers for Miller, he began to establish the market and felt like if he didn’t get an offer at or better than what he was seeing, then he would just keep him. The only leverage in the deal is the ability to walk away, and Chicago and Atlanta could easily do so because of surplus value and circumstances. Millwood, Buccholz, and to a lesser extent these pitching prospects are in a different boat.

  33. Here’s the thing, though: Maddux had been a Brave for a decade. If JS was caught by surprise, that means that he either was not in communication with Maddux’s side, or that there was such a breakdown in trust that even if they had been in contact, JS had no idea what Maddux was thinking. That suggests a much earlier screw-up.

  34. The only leverage in the deal is the ability to walk away

    No, there are other teams in the market who can make a better offer. We don’t always know about the other offers because they aren’t public, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. As Coppy has said, he is always discussing trades with other GMs. He had surely discussed lots of deals involving our pitching prospects. He picked the one he wanted to do out of a set of options we aren’t aware of, and he surely called other GMs and said “You gonna beat this offer?” If they thought it was a bad deal, why didn’t they get in on that action? That’s where this theory breaks down — you have to believe that not only is the seller making a bad deal, but that all the other GMs are walking past piles of cash on the sidewalk, so to speak.

  35. I remember how furious I was at the time of the Millwood trade. I also thought at the time that JS panicked by trading him so quickly after Maddux accepted arbitration. Braves Journal melted down that day.

  36. AAR @ 48,

    Remember that Maddux was represented by Boras. I have a feeling Boras said something like “5 years, 100 million” (which then would have almost been a pitcher record) and Schuerholz responded “3 years, 50 million.” Then Boras said, “we will NOT accept 3 years.” So was Schuerholz going to ask Boras if he really really meant it and gotten a pinky promise? Boras overplayed his hand, then Schuerholz wasn’t aware just how much the one year arb figure WAS consistent with or above Maddux’ value, so Boras and Maddux took it.

  37. @47 — At the time, if you offered a player a free agent arbitration and he signed with another team, you got the signing team’s draft pick. So it wasn’t just a matter of keeping up appearances — the team got compensation for losing free agents in this fashion. Before Maddux, free agents-to-be accepting arbitration was virtually unheard of, so I can sort of sympathize with JS here… except for Alex’s point, which is that Maddux had been an integral part of the Braves’ organization for so long that JS should have had some idea of Maddux’s thinking even if he expected Maddux to walk.

    The Maddux debacle set the Braves’ player development back years; JS refused to deal with Boras after that, losing out on compensation for both Maddux’s second go-round at free agency (when Maddux did walk) and J.D. Drew’s a year later (when he really should have been rooting for Drew to accept arbitration). It, along with selling out the farm for a year and a half of Mark Teixeira for one last go at a ring in his final year, were really big blemishes on the latter part of JS’s tenure.

  38. Just had a look on Fangraphs, and I see that the Braves are predicted to have 76 wins. That feels about right, don’t know which side of the bet I’d take on that number.

    I remember the Millwood trade as a Braves fan in Australia. I had no understanding of the economics behind it, but felt really frustrated by it. I just re-checked Millwood’s career, and he had a much better one post-Atlanta than I remember. But after losing Glavine that off season, losing Maddux as well would’ve been horrible, so am glad he decided to stay for one more year, even if it meant having to trade Millwood.

  39. Didnt Millwood pitch a no-hitter the first season with the Phillies? Also, the Braves desperately needed a catcher.

  40. @53/56, I’d also take the under because until Freddie pops a 1.000 OPS two years in a row, I’m highly reticent to buy the “it was Kemp protecting him and this is his new normal!” line of thinking.

  41. @1, @5 – The argument might be better applied to question 9 than to question 14. He did things in a way that no one else could do; you can’t glean that from simply reading the stats.

  42. When Bill James formulated the Keltner List, he was using it alongside metrics he formulated like Similarity Scores, Black Ink, and Grey Ink — all of which are almost entirely measures of offense, not defense. So when he asks whether a player was better than suggested by his statistics, defense can be a big part of the answer.

  43. @58 Sam – the Fangraphs 2017 Braves projection which figures the Braves for 76 wins calls for Freeman to hit .275/.378/.490, which is more or less his career slash line (and 2.5 fWAR below his 2016 value) and seems to be a perfectly fair middle-of-the-road projection. There is plenty of reason to doubt the Braves’ 2017 projection (not the least of which is the looming possibility that Coppy keeps dealing away veterans as part of the rebuild) but that 76 wins isn’t built on a hope-and-dreams Freeman projection.

  44. I like this a lot. Slight risk, but Ender will be worth more than $30M over the life of this deal, I think.

  45. The only way this doesn’t work out is if he gets injured, and it should hopefully put to bed any whispers about him being traded. Nice Festivus gift.

  46. I love the signing but it doesn’t put any rumors to rest. Ender just became even more valuable in trade. Lots of players get traded after they sign extensions, Andrelton and Kimbrel for example.

    I’m going to throw out there that Ender will probably be traded in the offseason between ’18 and ’19.

  47. That salary escalation is really manageable. Considering where salaries will be 4-5 years from now, he could still be a steal at $8M per.

  48. Love the Keltner List write-up on Andruw, Sam!

    I will say that Andruw is clearly better than Jim Edmonds, in my opinion. Twist my arm for a decision and I’ll probably say that, overall, he was better than Dale Murphy (Murphy’s two MVPs are the only things that give me pause). But at the end of the day, I’m not a Big Hall guy. The end of Andruw’s career was disastrous, and he’s just not good enough for long enough to be in the Hall of Fame.

    I’ve heard arguments (not necessarily from people on here BTW) that if you excised his exact career from the era it was in and dropped it into the era we’re currently in, he’d be a shoo-in. Maybe so, but it doesn’t work like that, for a variety of reasons.

  49. @70

    I don’t follow Nocahoma’s love of the dingers at the expense of everything else as far as he does, but the players under contract for 2018 at RF/CF/SS/2B will probably hit about 25-30 total home runs. And I also recognize that I might have some blinders on because Inciarte is one of my favorite players. The guy doesn’t have a single plus tool (except maybe his arm), but he’s turned in 3.3 and 3.6 WAR seasons these past two years. This deal looks to be a fantastic one over the next few years.

    He had his fair share of highlights at all three outfield positions when he played for Arizona, but here’s one many probably haven’t seen:

    Here’s another one where he guns Fatt Blemp:

    I think what I like the most about Inciarte is how aware he is. The dekes, the quick decisions, the steady hand. He rarely takes bad routes, makes bad throws, puts in bad at-bats. He’s just a winning player that you need to surround with power hitters.

  50. I’d say the Ender extension means Mallex is either trade bait or the Braves see him in the 4th OF role moving forward.

  51. Yeah, I seem to recall teams winning the WS with the likes of Juan Pierre, Scott Podsednik, and Gregor Blanco. I’d take Ender over any of those guys.

  52. @66 — Simmons and Kimbrel were traded when the team is on the downswing. If the Braves are still on the downswing between ’18 and ’19, they’ve got bigger problems than what to do with Inciarte.

  53. @70 The Braves could certainly win a lot of games with a CF who offers a high OBP, excellent base running and top shelf defense like Ender provides. It would be nice if Ender could up his HR output to 8-10 a year, but over the fence power really isn’t his game and isn’t an absolute necessity – after all, he’s leading off and HRs from that spot are the least likely to knock in extra runs (you’re either leading off an inning or following the worst hitters at the end of the lineup). What’s most important is that he gets on base and finds a way to score runs.

    Consider this – Jacoby Ellsbury has played for a lot of winning teams in Boston and New York, and he’s hit only 10+ HRs in a season twice in ten seasons (while playing in parks that inflate HRs for lefty batters). Ellsbury is projected for .261/.324/.381 next year, while Ender projects for .279/.331/.378 (and he’s way younger and on a dirt cheap contract). Ender’s lack of XBH power is only a concern insofar as it allows pitchers to knock the bat out of his hands, a la Billy Hamilton / Dee Gordon (pre-2015). Ender looks like a good piece (if not a foundational one) for the Braves moving forward.

  54. @72, “I might have some blinders on because Inciarte is one of my favorite players.” You who were trying to get Incifarte into the Braves Journal lexicon? :p Wild mood swings, man! But it’s all good. Ender’s awesome.

  55. I stated that I don’t think that Andruw is a HOF, but I have to say after looking at the numbers he WAS a better player than Dale Murphy. And Dale is my all time favorite Brave so that sounds strange to say so.

    I remember thinking that when the Braves traded Dale that the sun might actually not come up the next day, but man, Dale just fell off a CLIFF after leaving. He did hit 18 HR with PHI his 2nd year there but he did not age well.

  56. If Andruw isn’t a HOF CF then there’s really no point in having a HOF. I understand the arguments to the contrary, but my thing is that you have to compare him to other CF’ers. He’s solidly in the top 5 all time for CF. If that’s not good enough then…ok, but if you go that route then no CF should ever be in the hall.

    The HOF is full of guys that would struggle to make the majors in today’s game.

  57. Yeah, Dale’s cliff was 1988. 1989 was another cliff. So was 1990. Dale’s career after 1987 was like those slapstick scenes where someone is perpetually falling down a cliff. It’s tragic because he’s everyone’s favorite player ever. If he could have had just one more big year…

  58. Dale was probably the one guy in the majors not popping greenies and the price he pays is no HOF but a clean and healthy life.
    I take option 2.

  59. @75 – I don’t think that’s really relevant. Ender just became more valuable and we are more than one piece away from the world series. With Mallex Smith a safe bet to give you 80% of Ender, with an outside shot at matching or beating him, and Ronald Acuna marching up the pipeline, I don’t think Ender plays in Atlanta to free agency.

  60. I seriously doubt Mallex Smith is anywhere close to a sure thing to approximate Ender’s contribution, now or in the near future. He’s not nearly as good a defensive player, and he has yet to hit at the big league level.

    Mallex is at least as likely to be the fourth outfielder for the next good Braves team as he is to be starting for it.

  61. I think all of these things are true, and they’re all independent of each other. Inciarte may have made more in arbitration over these next couple winters than he will under this contract, and at worst it’s similar, so it doesn’t affect the Braves financially for the next couple years. And since Mallex will not be better than Inciarte for these next couple years, it doesn’t really matter what happens with Mallex IRT what they do with Inciarte. And since Acuna is at least a couple years, if he even gets here at all, then Inciarte will still be very valuable to just about any team in 2019/2020. I don’t think the extension gives any reading into what the Braves plan to do with him long-term or what they do with Mallex in the short-term.

  62. I keep hoping we trade Markakis, plug Inciarte in RF, Mallex in CF, use Sean Rodriguez as the 4th OF, and get an Austin Jackson type off the scrap heap as a 5th OF/Kemp defensive replacement.

    Even if Mallex doesn’t hit, the defensive upgrade vs. Markakis will probably make it close to a push. Plus, at least then you know what you have with Mallex. I don’t know if he’ll hit well enough to be a regular, but I don’t think he has anything left to prove in the minors, and Markakis isn’t the difference between contending or not for 2017 anyway.

    Finally, as shitty as the Orioles and Blue Jays corner OF spots look now, you might be able to actually turn Markakis into something useful if they get desperate.

  63. I don’t think we’re at point of organizational depth where we should be unloading any of our outfielders. Next offseason, Markakis will have one year left on his deal, and if he maintains his production this year, he’ll have a lot more value. Mallex and Dustin Peterson will be a year older, so there will be more people to choose from should an injury occur. Kemp/Inciarte/Markakis is just too risky to get 450 games out of the three to not have Mallex ready to go. Trading Markakis at the deadline should Dustin Peterson be ready to go is also a good idea too. I just don’t see the Braves sacking the depth (albeit mediocre depth) at this point.

    I still think upgrading third base is the only realistic way to go to turn the 2017 offense into a strength.

  64. A sensationalist headline. What the article is actually about is that the realization that pitch-framing matters has raised the floor on the level of pitch-framing teams will find acceptable, so there’s less of an advantage to be gained from figuring out who the best pitch-framers are and acquiring them.

    It’s similar to the phenomenon that occurred after Moneyball was published — you used to be able to find good OBP for cheap, if you were willing to play fast and loose with batting average, defense, or baserunning. A few years later teams would pounce on anyone who had even a decent OBP, regardless of the rest of their profile, so you couldn’t eke out an advantage that way anymore.

  65. Merry Christmas guys. Thanks for the Millwood-for-Maddux discussion. I didn’t understand that seemingly horrible deal at the time, and it’s nice to see it broken down from different angles all these years later. The Ender contract is a flat steal.

  66. @91 — plug Inciarte in RF and Mallex Smith in CF .. you gotta be kidding … Inciarte is twice the OF that Mallex is …. and the commect about even if Mallex doesnt hit his defensive improvement on Markakis makes it a push !! Come On …. RF is a spot where you have to HAVE a hitter … Markakis is a good defensive Outfielder … Mallex makes too many base running blunders …. he needs to mature in minors …. I just shook my head when I read a couple of your comments .. i had to respond !!!

  67. @98 – and so eloquently too.

    Mallex hit 303/.371/.378 between AA/AAA in 2015, and put up video game numbers in the limited time he spent in the minors last year. I’m not sure what else he has to prove there; put another way, outside of hitting 20 homers, I don’t think there’s anything he can do in the minors to cement a case that he’ll be a first division regular.

    Nick Markakis is a below average defensive outfielder who hasn’t slugged over .400 in four years. His on base skills are useful, but that’s pretty much all he brings to the table at this point. Just looking at his age, past performance, and historical aging curves, you can pretty easily make an argument his trade value will never be higher than it is now.

    Rob’s point on organizational outfield depth is cogent, but the best case I see for the Braves in 2017 is being mathematically alive for the 2nd wild card spot in mid-September. Given that, I think figuring out what you actually have in Mallex as you plan for 2018 and beyond should be a higher priority than simply running out the string with Markakis.

    There are a few ways to skin that cat in that I won’t be upset if Mallex starts the year in AAA, but I think you’re doing a disservice to his development if he doesn’t get at least 400 AB’s in the majors this year.

  68. While I do think Mallex starts at AAA, he’ll still get 400 ABs. Kemp is 32, Markakis is 33, and Inciarte is injury prone. I’m not worried about that there. Remember, Frenchy logged 275 PAs last year all by himself. Ick.

    And along that vein, last year, 1,264 PAs were logged by Francoeur, Beckham, d’Arnaud, KJ, Snyder, Bonifacio, Castro, and Stubbs. If that can be replaced by a full season of Kemp, Sean Rodriguez, post-call up Jace and Adonis, a sprinkling of Albies, and more Mallex, this team will be much, much better. And if they replace AJP’s 259 PAs with a league average backup, then the new SPs, and the same bullpen (minus EOF, Weber, Grilli, and Kelly from last year), and it’s almost a mathematical impossibility that this team doesn’t put in a strong season.

    They could be a hybrid of the 2014/2015 Cubs.

  69. What was actually said at the beginning of the rebuild? How long have “rebuilds” typically lasted in MLB?

    I think we’ll win more games than the New York Yankees, by the way. They’ve not won 90 games since 2012.

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