Markakis and the Bambino… and another win

Lots of things annoy me about Chip, some of which annoy many of you (‘Ynoa still needs two more outs to qualify for the win’) and some of which are unique to me (‘Let’s see if Josh can induce a ground ball double play here.’) But among my new annoyances this year is the number of times (I think we’re at about 15) he has discussed Nick Markakis passing Babe Ruth on the doubles list. Let me be clear: (a) Nick Markakis has a hit a lot of doubles in a long distinguished career; (b) Babe Ruth was an extraordinarily good baseball player; but (c) Hitting more doubles than Babe Ruth does not make you a good comparable for Babe Ruth. 58 batters (now including Markakis) have hit more doubles than Babe Ruth. Many of them are in the Hall of Fame, but 20 are not. Of those 20, some are special cases like Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, or not yet eligible like Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, and Carlos Beltran, but three are active: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano. They are all very, very good, and they have something in common: they are all better than Nick Markakis. As was Babe Ruth.

Also ahead of him on this list are players who will (probably) not (ever) go the Hall of Fame: Luis Gonzalez, Bobby Abreu, Jeff Kent, Al Oliver, Dave Parker, Johnny Damon, Garret Anderson, and Scott Rolen. All of these players have at least some case to be made for being in the Hall. So will Nick Markakis. But invoking Babe Ruth’s name in this list is like noting that Rick Mahler had more wins than Babe Ruth. It’s true (by 2) but although Babe Ruth was also a very good pitcher, wins are not the stat he’s known for. Nick’s next double will tie him with Edgar Martinez, who got into the Hall of Fame last year. That’s really good! Stop talking about Babe Ruth. Or if you do, talk about Tris Speaker, who holds the record. Nick is only 279 doubles behind him. That’s roughly Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew’s entire career of doubles to go.

Babe Ruth had 1356 extra base hits, 4th all time. (Hank still holds that record, 37 above Barry Bonds.) Nick Markakis is 125th on that list, 11 ahead of Jermaine Dye. Passing Jermaine Dye on that list didn’t seem to elicit the same commentary from Chip for some reason.

The discussion last night of the Braves’ best free agent signings led me to compile this remarkable list. It is the sorted list of best OPS+ single seasons from Braves players since expansion in 1961. It is of course no surprise that Hank Aaron dominates this list, which doesn’t even include a couple of his best seasons. But Freddie’s short season is going to join The Hammer. The shortness of the season justifiably raises an asterisk, but it’s a small asterisk. What’s amazing to me about the Top 50 on this list is how few of the entries are “lightning-in-a-bottle-one-great-year,” but instead are the result of great careers. The only real exceptions are Adam LaRoche, Eddie Perez and Dick Dietz. Freddie now has 4 of the top 50 performances, passing Rico Carty’s 3. Aaron leads with 12. Chipper has 8. In the All Time List, Aaron has 10 of the top 50, while Freddie now has 2. Thanks, Freddie, for making this regular season fun to watch.

Oh, yeah… there was a game, too. What happened? First, the Braves emptied the bench, starting Hech, Flowers, and Enser. It wasn’t that long ago that those three at the bottom of the lineup would be regarded as an upgrade. Max Fried, having given up no home runs all season, gave up back-to-back homers in the first. This demonstrates little beyond the proposition that Max needs to learn how to quaff clinching Champagne and still be sober enough to pitch the next day. That said, Max pitched only the first inning and took the rest of the night off as (I think) a precaution to a tweaked ankle. I would point out that the ankle is connected to the Achilles, but I’m not (yet) worried.

All those who lamented the Braves failed to make moves not involving Tommy Milone at the deadline should consider the Phillies. They went all in to sign Bryce Harper and traded top prospect Sixto Sanchez and pretty good catcher Jorge Alfaro to get JT Realmuto. They failed to make the playoffs last year, it doesn’t look like they’ll make it this year, and Sixto Sanchez will be an important contributor to the Marlins. You can go all in, but it doesn’t get you in anything. Sanchez is not yet a polished pitcher, but I’d rather have the Marlins’ future than the Phillies’. Hell, I’d rather have the Marlins’ present than the Phillies’ present or future. So much for all in.

Anyway, Sanchez coughed up the first inning lead he was handed and Luke Jackson was the designated long relief guy. What it did was give the Braves to practice a bullpen game, which the playoffs might well see once or twice. He coughed up the lead, but the Braves got the lead back with a five run 4th, which relieved Chip of any obligation to guess who might be credited with a ‘win.’ But Luke pitched a fairly strong (and needed) 4 innings with two runs surrendered.

Dayton, Webb and a newly shaky Greene finished things up. And that finishes up regular season 2020 recaps for me. As Bartles and Jaymes used to say: “We thank you for your support.” One more with the Fish (though they’re still a possible first round playoff opponent next week) and then a series against the “Season? There was a season? Why didn’t anyone tell us?” Red Sox.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

36 thoughts on “Markakis and the Bambino… and another win”

  1. I’d rather have the Marlins’ present than the Phillies’ present or future.

    Jonathan, I disagree with you knowing that odds are that you’re right and I’m not, but the Phillies have demonstrated consistently over the last two decades that they are willing to spend, and the Marlins have demonstrated consistently over the last two decades that they are not. In fact, the two different times that the Marlins did decide to money, they immediately blew the team up and got rid of everyone and started over. Willingness to spend money isn’t everything, but there is absolutely nothing that makes me believe that the Marlins are actually going to spend a single dollar on the team. At least the Phillies are willing to spend a third of a billion dollars on Bryce Harper.

    The Marlins are a team that perennially spends like a 5th-place team and plays like a 3rd-place team. I hate playing them, but they still spend every October watching the playoffs from their couch, with a team with just as much potential and just as much up-and-coming talent as always. I’d rather be a fan of rich and stupid than cynical and miserly.

    That said, otherwise this was a great recap!

  2. We should acknowledge that it was right after the ankle tweak that Fried went HR, HR, double. I would think that, except for the ankle tweak, he’d still not have given up a HR this year.

    Another thing that’s crossed my mind is that, in each of the last three division winning years, there’s been a series in September against a rival who could take over the division lead (or come very close). I think it’s been Phillies, Nats, Marlins in order (or may have been the Phillies the first two times). Each time, on this blog, there have been questionable matchups and everyone hopes we can just get a split. Each time the Braves won the series outright and, more or less, secured the division. Combine that with the ongoing legend of late inning performance, tells me that these guys play exceptional clutch baseball as a team. That may be the best thing anyone could say about this team we have now and for the future and what makes them especially fun to be a fan of.

  3. @1: As a matter of history you are absolutely right, Alex. And this should finally be the year when the Marlins make the playoffs without winning the World Series, something that has never happened before. But I would not be so quick to project the sins of Huizenga and Loria onto Sherman and Jeter. True, the Jeter Era began with an astonishing housecleaning which was reminiscent of the worst teardowns of the past. But it was only two years ago and they’re almost back.
    In any case, my comment was really Phillies Schadenfreude, and not really intended to suggest that the Marlins are doing things the right way. Maybe the Phillies will get a big payoff… perhaps even this year. But that’s not the way I’m betting. But let me ask: would you have given up the equivalent of Sanchez and Alfaro for Realmuto? Say… Anderson and Riley? (That’s not quite the same, but never mind.) And where we would be this year if we had done so? Bryce Harper is a great player, but how does he change your odds of a ring? My only real point is that when you’re shooting craps, moving all your chips into the center of the table has a potential bad outcome as well as a good one.

  4. No, I thought they gave up way too much for Realmuto. (Alfaro is a pretty good catcher, and as good as Realmuto has been, the plausible upgrade they were getting was not worth Sanchez.) I was a fan of the Harper signing, which has perhaps been a slight disappointment (though he’s still been really good, he hasn’t quite performed to the level you’d want for a guy who’s going to be there for another 11 years), because it only cost money, and they have always spent like a team that has money.

    Honestly, if the Phillies had a league-average bullpen, they could have won the division. Klentak tried to help out at the deadline, but Brandon Workman completely faceplanted and they basically just shifted the deckchairs when they needed to steer away from an iceberg.

    I think Klentak has done some really good things, but there have been some misses on the personnel side and it feels like they basically ended the rebuild about a year early. He has basically been their Coppy.

    And I wouldn’t be too quick to give the Jeter group a pass, after presiding over the Yelich-for-Brinson trade as nearly their first move upon taking control of the team. I’m going to be skeptical of them until seeing what they do the year after they actually win something.

  5. Noticed something “fun”. This year’s playoffs could contain almost every team that has bumped Atl from the playoffs since 1991.

    Twins ’91
    Blue Jays ’92
    Phillies ’93 *prob biggest longshot to make it
    Yankees ’96, ’99
    Marlins ’97
    Padres ’98
    Cardinals ’00, ’12, ’19 (Bonus ’82)
    Giants ’02, ’10
    Cubs ’03
    Astros ’04, 05
    Dodgers ’13, ’18

    Only team missing is Dbacks ’01

  6. So what would be the most cathartic path to the championship?

    I’d say knock out the Giants in Round 1, Cards in the LDS, Dodgers in the LCS and or course the Yankees in the WS.

  7. Such elegance abounds in this exchange above, we hardly deserve it. Our two Gentlemen of Verona raise us to new heights of erudition. Right or wrong you hardly have the temerity to disagree. Both of you should be writing baseball professionally, full time, but if you were we would lose a great deal. As would you both. Thank you.

  8. First graphic of The Hammers tee came in. Sent back my suggestions for alteration and we should have something done by the end of the week.

  9. I’m not giving Jeter a pass, just a “wait and see.” And I agree with you about the Phillies bullpen, but you seem to be leaving the connection between the Phillies bullpen and Harper unexplored. You could just as easily say that without the Braves bullpen, the Phillies could have won the division. And the Braves had a lot of money to throw at the bullpen because bullpens are cheaper than Harpers.

    This is really a big point. It really is an important empirical (not to mention Moneyball) question as to whether or not 4 $6 million players are better or worse than one $24 million player. It is quite clear that if they are all healthy and all perform to their salary, the one $24 million player is way better. But is also true that the risk of nondiversification is much, much higher. If you can be the Yankees and pay everybody, this isn’t much of a problem. And historically, a bad bullpen can be addressed on the cheap, so that’s what you did. But AA has gone a different way, and I think it is a fundamentally better way, given the changes in the game. I will close by saying that I would rather have the Braves bullpen and Ozuna than the Phillies bullpen and Harper, and I would continue to say that even if Ozuna had been only Ozuna-productive this year. The money we didn’t spend on Harper bought the whole bullpen.
    Sorta. If you squint. (Note I think we are paying Smith and Melancon way too much as well.)

  10. Want to know something CRAZY?! Marcell Ozuna is leading the league in HRs, RBI, and total bases and has an EXTREMELY outside chance of winning the triple crown. Gathering 9-10 hits in the last 4 would give him a real chance.

  11. @ 11….that IS Amazing!! I was looking up National League leaders stats and all of Freddie’s counting stats had Ozuna right there with him. He should be in the MVP conversation as well.

  12. With defense factored in, Ozuna doesn’t really stand a chance right now. However, if he were to grab the triple crown, it would be hard to deny him.

  13. @10, broadly agree with everything you’re saying, with the minor caveat that I don’t accept the way that the teams describe their own salary constraints, and the major caveat that I think replacement value matters when constructing a team from expensive players and cheap players.

    In other words, signing Harper should not preclude a team from also employing 24 other cromulent players — teams are so profitable that I tend to believe that they ought to have a few more quarters under the couch when needed.

    In truth, Harper has done everything that they paid him to do, and so has Wheeler so far. The real problem is their homegrown pitching has failed. A few years ago, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Zack Eflin looked like an interesting core. But while Eflin still looks like he might be league-average, they couldn’t even make reasonable middle relievers out of Pivetta and Velasquez — instead, they traded Pivetta for two bad months of Brandon Workman. They had no contingency for that. It probably doesn’t make sense to blow the team up again and waste half of Harper’s contract, so instead they have to bail the boat as fast as they can while still sailing full steam ahead.

    In general, I tend to believe that buying four $6 million players is a worse use of resources than buying one $24 million player, because of replacement value.

    This is because $24 million players are well above average and $6 million players are somewhat below average. Therefore, each $6 million player has a fairly substantial chance of turning in sub-replacement performance, instantly nullifying their relative value (as Ender Inciarte has done this year, for example).

    As a result, I’m much more open to the possibility that three $20 million players are a better use of resources than two $30 million players, than to the possibility that two $30 million players are worth ten $6 million players. (And I think most fantasy sports draft strategies would bear that out.)

  14. That’s amazing about Ozuna. I had not even seen him creeping up the AVG list, but he sure is. At this point, I think NL MVP may be a five man race – Freeman, Betts, Machado, Ozuna and Tatis, Jr. (who has trailed off as of late, but I think still a popular pick by the people that pick these things.)

    As for the Phils and Harper, I thought then and still think now that it was a poor use of their resources. He’d been spectacular with Washington and yet never pushed them over the edge (see also Trout, Mike for the Angels.) Putting all those eggs in one basket was…not the wisest move. And now they may lose Realmuto to free agency after already losing Sanchez in that trade? It couldn’t happen to a nicer organization.

  15. I can see Bauer. Realmuto has started the decline phase of his career — and for catchers that decline is often quite steep. We also have Contreas and Langeliers in the pipeline with D’arnaud signed to another season. Our upgrades need to be in the rotation.

  16. So with this made-up, fake round where we’d play somebody like the Giants, if we win this series, does this count as “winning a playoff series” and therefore breaking our curse held since 2003?

  17. But we would have probably advanced in previous years had we been able to play the 7th-best team in the NL.

    But yes, Freddie is the MVP and that trophy looks just as good on his mantle as any other year.

  18. BTW, the Pirates seem really intent on helping the Braves finish w/ the #2 seed.

    If they hang on today & we win tonight, we’re 3 up on the Cubs with 3 wknd games to go.

  19. 25-I think we hold the tiebreaker in that scenario so could clinch the #2 seed today (not sure we want it if the Reds get the #7).

  20. It’s not like playing the crappy teams in round one has helped us. Bring us your worst (best), the Braves playoff series win drought is so monstrous at this point that I don’t care about the matchups.

  21. @ 14,

    Yeah, but.

    The Braves of the mid 2010’s clearly show that a good bit of not being a bad team is not having bad players. so if your worst member of your starting 8 is a 2 WAR player, you have a chance for the postseason.

    I think the most important thing you do with FA money is make sure if you are paying big, you have great room for improvement. That means if you have something close to 2020 D’Arnaud, you don’t gain much from having Realmuto. However, one elite starting pitcher almost always makes a major impact because of “chaining.” We could potentially use one more outfielder (or a DH if those come into play), but with Pache and a shot at Waters being good, do you want that play? We could upgrade at third and trade Riley. We could sign maybe one more reliever (Greene and Melancon are gone).

    But I think your position is generally strong and the market for free agents is showing that. For example, there is a decent chance Pache next year (offense and defense combined) is a 3 WAR player. Probably certainly not less than 2 WAR. Why sign a piddling centerfielder (besides we already have one)? So, the “middle class” of FA’s that used to hold a $ / WAR relationship similar to top talents no longer do. Earlier the thought was the one 30 mill guy could get hurt but if you have two 15 mill guys, that is half as likely. But also, it is much more likely that one of the 15 mill players’ competence crashes completely before his contract is up than it is for the 30 mill player. Right now Kershaw is pitching like a 5 WAR pitcher. That isn’t what he was signed for, but it is VERY above average (actually “near elite” rather than “elite”) and works fine for the Dodgers.

  22. 29 – I believe you are mistaken, but if not I apologize. The tiebreaker is H2h (N/A), then divisional record right? Braves have a 2 game lead in divisional record and both have one to play.

  23. @30

    Yes, I looked it up and intradivision record is the second tiebreaker…even among teams in different divisions. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that is the tiebreaker.

  24. Being the 2 seed or the 3 seed probably doesn’t matter. Either way you get three home games, right? But as to who we would draw, there are still several teams that it could be, and we have no control over that. I agree with those who worry the most about the Reds rotation, but the Brewers two headed monster in the pen is pretty intimidating.

  25. I agree in that both the 2 and 3 seeds avoid the Dodgers until the NLCS, will play each other in the NLDS and there’s probably not a whole lot of difference in first-round opponents…or to the extent that there is, it’s just as likely that you’d prefer the matchup you get as the 3 seed slightly to the matchup you’d get as the 2. It’s gonna be pretty much random. The 2 seed does get to bat last three out of five games in Houston for the NLDS, if that does anything for ya.

  26. I stand corrected. The last 2 nights put us ahead & now we have the tiebreaker.

    Re. – Potential 1st Round Match-ups.

    The Reds have good starting pitching (5th in NL ERA overall) & they hit HRs (4th in NL). However, they’re really a fairly challenged offensive team overall – they’re 13th in the NL in runs, 8th in OPS, etc. Anything can happen in a 2/3 series – they get a couple well-pitched games & Suarez hits a couple bombs, say – but they ain’t exactly the Big Red Machine of the ‘70s. If you like to point to the idea of HR-dependent teams not doing well in the post-season, this Reds club may be the poster child. But the top of their rotation is formidable & it may get to meet the greatest Braves offense in nearly a generation. Could be interesting, to say the least.

    Of the potential 1st round matchups, the Phils (4th in runs, 5th in HR) & Giants have the best offenses (5th in runs, 6th in OPS).

    Unsurprisingly, the teams with the best overall pitching – Cards (4th in ERA), Reds (5th), Brewers (6th) – are less-than-scary with the stick. Cards are 14th in runs, 14th in OPS; Reds (as noted) are 13th in runs, 8th in OPS; Brewers are 11th in runs, 9th in OPS.

    Phillies are dangerous b/c of Wheeler & Nola, but the rest (incl. that abominable pen)? 13th in ERA (5.12). Still high numbers with the bat – 4th in runs – but a schizo team that might not even make it to next week. Probably the most volatile mix in the group.

    Marlins…. they’re 10th in ERA, 9th in runs, 11th in OPS. Scrappy team, but decidedly not scary. The idea of losing to them might make me go into a meditation retreat.

    Overall, at this point (these are yesterday’s stats), the Giants (8th in ERA, 5th in runs, 6th in OPS) actually may be the most balanced, possibly the best of the bunch. But again… not really frightening overall.

    For the record, the Braves are 7th in team ERA (4.44), but the offensive numbers are ridiculous. They’re first in the NL in Runs, OPS, SLG, OBP & Avg. They’re 2nd in HRs. With the Dodgers looking like the only complete, potentially great club…. maybe these Braves can maul their way to the pennant.

    Btw, Padres fans can’t get a break… Mike Clevinger’s undergoing an MRI

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