Waiting for Ian and Huascar: No Joshing. Hammer and Sickles 12, Hammers 2

My sermon for today takes its text from the Book of Braves14, Comment 2384135:

I wasn’t impressed at all with the .500 Cardinals in the Central and the Braves seemed to be a vastly superior team in both series we played them. And the Braves seemed pretty even with the Brewers in that series. I wonder if the NL East records are partially because the teams are beating up on each other in division play.

The NL West is obviously the best division by far in the NL.

So the season is now far enough along to pull out my favorite team ranking toy: the Bradley-Terry Ratings.  I first did Bradley-Terry rankings here almost exactly eight years ago.  If you’re interested in early August 2013 rankings, or the math behind the rankings, you can go to that link. 

A few caveats.  These rankings are the simplest ones: (a) unadjusted for home field advantage; (b) with one blended rating for offense and defense rather than separately estimated offenses and defenses; (3) treating the team as if it is the same team the whole season, unadjusted for injuries or trades; and (4) renormalized for no particular reason from the old method. (Instead of the best team getting a ranking of 100, the sum of all the rankings is 100. This makes no difference at all. I just forgot how I used to do it.) 

Given the caveats, these are not intended to be predictive.  Instead, their main purpose is to allow you to easily calculate wins and losses when the strength of schedule is equalized.  So it helps answer questions like:

  • Are the Padres, Giants and Dodgers really that good?  How good would they be if they didn’t get to play Arizona a lot?  Conversely, how well would Arizona do in some other division?  Are they as bad as their record, or are they just unlucky to be playing the Padres, Giants and Dodgers almost 60 times a year?
  • What’s the best division?  What’s the crappiest?  You would know the answer to that question if everyone played the same balanced schedule.  It’s much harder to tell when the schedules are unbalanced.
  • If you want to be really expansive, you can swap teams across divisions and rejigger their expected wins just from the schedule differences.  Does it make a difference that the Mets play extra games with the Yankees (“natural rivals”) while the gNats get to Baltimore?

The new column is BSP: Balance Schedule Percentage.  By comparing the winning percentage of a team, or a division, with what their percentage would be under a balanced schedule (in which they played everyone other than themselves a fixed number of times) you get an idea of how much the unbalanced schedule helps them or hurts them, and it gives you a fair way to judge divisions based on their performance to date.

So here are the numbers:

Armed with these values, we can answer Braves14 question, and a few others besides.

  1.  When the Braves play the Cardinals, the Braves ought to win about 53% of the time.  Against Milwaukee, 44% of the time.
  2. The NL East and NL Central are essentially tied for crappiest division.
  3. Under a balanced schedule, only the AL East and AL West would be over 0.500.  The NL West would be essentially a 0.500 Division.
  4. The Braves, in a completely balanced league would be an 80 win team.  That is not the most mediocre team, but it’s close.  The Guardians are slightly more mediocre.
  5. Unbalanced schedules make differences at the margins, enough to tip close Wild Card or even pennant races.  The Brewers have the largest assist from an unbalanced schedule: about 7 games when projected to 162.  But since they’re overwhelmingly likely to win the division, it doesn’t matter much.  If they were a Wild Card contender, though, it would be borderline unfair.  As you’d expect, the Rangers and Orioles are badly hurt by playing unbalanced schedules, but the differences wouldn’t be enough to get them anywhere a Wild Card.

Sweep?

In the attempt to complete the sweep, Kyle Muller forgot to bring his broom and his control. The big blow was a Large Salami from Jesse Winker. Chip didn’t mention it, so I will: when you come out with two on, one out in the third trailing by three you rarely qualify for the win. Furthermore, if you are replaced by Josh Tomlin, it would probably behoove you not to leave men on base. The two men he left on scored, and Tomlin gave up a few of his own and it was 9-1 with one out in the top of the third. At this point, if I were Snit, I would simply pitch Tomlin until his arm fell off. That would save the important parts of the bullpen as well as getting rid of Tomlin. So far this year the Braves have DFA’d (or effectively DFA’d) La Gran Calabaza, Tyler Flowers, and Jonathan Lucroy (all 35 years old). Josh Tomlin is 36 and not producing. The lightning has all leaked from the bottle. Letting guys hang on for one last hurrah is something done by terrible teams and juggernauts. Teams in pennant races have no room for such things. If all goes well, Ian and Huascar can be slotted into Kyle and Josh’s spots. Something else might happen of course, but this seems pretty obvious.

They took Tomlin out after 67 pitches and he left down 11-1. I was watching when he left, and the arm was apparently still attached to his shoulder. One can dream.

I suppose that some miracle was still possible, but the one-miracle-per-homestand rule was invoked by the Reds and it was over. But look at it this way: After the first day of the season the Braves were one game behind Philadelphia for first place. We are still one game behind Philadelphia for first place. If all you care about is the playoffs, you could have gone into a 4 1/2 month coma and not missed a thing. Me? I like watching baseball.

Chipwatch

[Both of these were from Wednesday night… I didn’t pay that much attention this afternoon, and most of what I did hear were repeats of previous pet peeves, e.g. “Huge Reds fans after today”]

“Were it not for Pablo Sandoval and Adrianza hitting those pinch hit home runs in the first five [or] six weeks one can only imagine where the Braves would have been recordwise this year.”

Pablo Sandoval hit pinch hit homers in four games.  The Braves were 3-1 in those games.  We’ll never know what the person who would’ve batted had we not had Pablo Sandoval would have done, but the Braves’ record is surely no more than two games better for those homers.  Meanwhile, his aggregate WPA for the season was 0.796 suggesting that he made the Braves’ record no better than 1 game better, which seems about right.

Adrianza hit home runs in games the Braves won 8-1, 13-4, 20-1 and 20-2.  That pretty much defines useless in the HR category.  His WPA is -0.187, which includes his bases-loaded walk against the Cardinals in Walkapalooza worth 0.238 and his -.142 strikeout last night with the winning run on 3rd. 

So yeah, Chip, I can imagine.  Maybe a game or two back?

“That walk in the third inning tied [Votto] with Ty Cobb; imagine being tied with Ty Cobb in anything!”

First off, I’m confused.  According to Stathead, going into tonight Votto had 1260 walks and Ty Cobb had 1249.  (Maybe they’re including playoff appearances?  Nope. Votto has 5 postseason walks and Cobb had 3.)  1260 is a lot of walks, good enough for 53rd alltime.  But it’s still less than say, Adam Dunn, who will never be in the HOF.  Votto trails Eddie Yost by over 300 walks.  Eddie ain’t in either.

But more importantly, being better than Ty Cobb at any one thing is no challenge at all.  Heck, I know a lot more about statistical analysis than Ty Cobb did.  Even turning to baseball, Ty Cobb hit 117 homers. 792 players have hit 117 homers or more.  Nobody is known for everything they did.  His walk total is not that outstanding.  Carl Yastrzemski, Rickey Henderson, and Hank Aaron all had many more walks in about the same number of plate appearances.  Ty Cobb generated 151.5 WAR, but his skill at drawing walks just wasn’t a big part of that.  Joey Votto has generated 62.6 WAR.  He may possibly go into the Hall of Fame.  But it won’t be because someone marvelled at his ability to get more walks than Ty Cobb…. unless they give Chip a vote.

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.

51 thoughts on “Waiting for Ian and Huascar: No Joshing. Hammer and Sickles 12, Hammers 2”

  1. Great analysis JF. I wonder if the Braves will still be an 80 win team in a balanced league at the end of the year. I’m guessing you can add 3 or 4 expected wins.

  2. Snitker said postgame that Muller is being optioned back to Gwinnett. One would have to imagine they’ll call up a fresh reliever until this turn in the rotation comes up again, then Ynoa should be set to return.

  3. Thanks JonathanF.
    This continues to be the best place on the internet. Thank you to all recappers!

  4. Braves first round pick Ryan Cusick has a good first start striking out 7 in three innings for Augusta.

  5. Timo, are you still across the pond? You keep up with what’s going on. I learn a lot from you.

    Thank you.

    Did Jayson Stark die?

  6. Washington has pretty much mailed it in, right? Even still, tough to expect we’d take 2 of 3 from them on the road. Hoping so, all the same.

    Phillies have the Reds in town for 3.

  7. They don’t have a whole lot beyond Soto right now, and that bullpen is dire, but I wouldn’t put anything past them: they’ve played us awfully tough the last few years and I expect that they’ll be able to get a lot of clubhouse motivation to try to play us as spoilers.

    The plan for the rest of the year should be for Kyle Muller to replace Josh Tomlin in the pen. Stretch him out next year.

  8. @ 10,

    Once again, an intelligent thought from Mr. Remington. I kind of like Tomlin (to the ext4nt that we can, from this distance), but he adds nothing now. My version of “true xfip” for him is about 9. If you can get him through 2 innings without 2 runs scoring, then that is about as good as you can get. Kyle Wright, Muller, Ynoa, de la Cruz, hell even young uns like Indigo or Strider, they can all beat Tomlin.

  9. @10, 11
    No reason for Tomlin to be here when we have arms like you mentioned. Let them get used to big league hitters and jettison that guy right quick.

  10. If another starter or two gets hurt between now and the end of the season and Muller isn’t stretched out, then what? Do you really want a prospect who’s even more unproven than Muller to have to start a game that could decide a pennant race, just because you’d rather waste Muller’s competence (relative to Tomlin) on meaningless innings?

    The thing that Tomlin adds is innings pitched when the outcome is not in doubt–without sacrificing things such as Muller’s long-term development as a starter (debatable how much we care, pennant race or no) or (more importantly to me) keeping starters like Muller stretched out in case of emergency.

    In a way, the Braves releasing Tomlin would actually be a sign that they have also “given up” on whoever takes his role.

    IMO Tomlin has become fun to watch in kind of a meta way. I enjoy the broadcast team’s inevitably futile efforts to market his value to the team. They can’t say that Tomlin is a walking foregone conclusion because that’s as tough a sell to viewers as you can imagine, but that’s exactly what the team needs Tomlin to be.

  11. Apparently Cusick also hammered the strike zone and touched 100 in his first start. I don’t see him staying in Augusta long that way; he has nothing to learn in low-A.

  12. Tomlin’s value is also “having more pitchers who can credibly start a game that does matter and are prepared to do” >>> “having someone marginally more competent pitching innings that do not matter”

    Or “Tomlin pitching meaningless innings in crap-tacular fashion” >>> “Missing the playoffs by one game because keeping Muller in your bullpen instead of Tomlin forced you to call up Spencer Strider* to start a must-win game–and congrats, now you’ve also turned Strider into the next Joey Devine.”

    *I know this is extremely unlikely to happen, but you get the point.

  13. Or put it yet another way: Tomlin appearances are always a symptom and never the actual problem.

    In this case, the actual problem is some combination of poor starting pitching depth (Kyle Muller is in our rotation) and a tired bullpen (either Will Smith’s fault; or a roster construction error, having the right relievers in the wrong roles, leading to bullpen over-usage; or both).

  14. @16, Pitchers get hurt. More of them will. You have to assume that more starters will get hurt. We can only hope that Ynoa can return to effectiveness — maybe he will — and that Anderson will pick up where he left off, and so forth.

    However, Tomlin is literally, definitionally providing negative value to the team. He should be replaced.

    I’m with Cindy in that I don’t think the Gwinnett Shuttle has proved particularly helpful in getting a lot of our Quad-A starters over the hump, and I personally believe that experiencing major league success in the bullpen can be a very useful developmental stage for a lot of pitchers, particularly ones who struggle with nibbling and trying to be too fine, which is exactly what we saw from Muller last night.

    (In DOB’s postgame story, Muller confessed that he intentionally was taking something off the fastball because he didn’t trust his command: “Once your command is the issue, I feel like that’s a common thing, to take a little bit off and try to get in the zone, and then ramp it up from there. Like Snit said, I didn’t really get in a groove to start letting it rip. But that’s definitely going to be my focus in my next couple of outings.”)

    So I think that putting Muller in the pen could solve three problems: replacing the worst member of the pen; giving us another good late-inning option; and allowing Muller to develop greater confidence.

    But on the other hand, Josh Tomlin cannot “credibly” start a game. He’s 36 and can’t pitch one inning. Trusting him to throw five is silly. Just for comparison, he was pressed into five starts last year. His numbers in those games: 21 1/3 innings (an average of just under 4 1/3 per start), 12 strikeouts, 4 walks, 6.33 ERA, .871 OPS against. He was 35 then; he’s 36 now. He’s a right-hander who was throwing 86-mile-an-hour fastballs last night. He would be roughly as effective an emergency starter as Ender Inciarte. He’s got to be gone.

    The strategy for Muller should prioritize his long-term development. I think the best chance of both building him up for long-term success and putting him in the best position to help the team in 2021 is putting him in the pen, where, incidentally, we have some dead weight we badly need to jettison. Best of both worlds.

  15. @7 Coop, Thanks for checking in. Yes, still in Switzerland. Cannot wait for the US to open travel for us over here to come over and catch a Braves game.

  16. Pitchers get hurt. More of them will. You have to assume that more starters will get hurt. We can only hope that Ynoa can return to effectiveness — maybe he will — and that Anderson will pick up where he left off, and so forth.

    I mean, you can do more than just hope they can return to effectiveness…you can plan for contingencies. That means keeping more pitchers who can start stretched out. This is what the Braves are doing, in effect, by keeping Tomlin on the roster–if you think the next guy in line to replace him would be one of those AAA starters.

    However, Tomlin is literally, definitionally providing negative value to the team.

    But he’s not… at least as long as he’s only pitching innings in which the outcome is already determined, one way or the other. He provides positive value! We’re not wasting pitchers we could be using in meaningful situations in the very near future.

    I’m with Cindy in that I don’t think the Gwinnett Shuttle has proved particularly helpful in getting a lot of our Quad-A starters over the hump, and I personally believe that experiencing major league success in the bullpen can be a very useful developmental stage for a lot of pitchers, particularly ones who struggle with nibbling and trying to be too fine, which is exactly what we saw from Muller last night.

    I don’t have a problem with this, in a vacuum, and it’s worth taking into consideration. At this moment, I care more about the Braves making the playoffs than I do about Muller’s development. If he were a different prospect, given how mediocre this team is, I might feel differently, but it’s Muller, and so I don’t. I think the best way to ensure the Braves make the playoffs is to keep Muller stretched out in case more starters get/stay hurt. Beats having him pitch only when it happens that the game is already won or lost, the rest of the bullpen is tired, and then he’s not available if Anderson/Ynoa have setbacks, etc.

    So I think that putting Muller in the pen could solve three problems: replacing the worst member of the pen; giving us another good late-inning option; and allowing Muller to develop greater confidence.

    I’ve already said why I think one is pure myopia and three is dubious, but… if he could be a good late-inning option, it’d be a slightly different story, though. In that case, he should replace, say, Minter :)

    But on the other hand, Josh Tomlin cannot “credibly” start a game.

    This isn’t my claim. By keeping Tomlin in his (non-starting) role–and presumably not filling that role with a AAA starter–the Braves have more options to credibly start a game.

    Starting pitching depth is really valuable to contending teams. Much more than the aesthetics (let’s be honest, that’s what it is…) of whoever’s pitching whenever the game is no longer a real contest. Also more than the developmental value of having that guy pitch major league innings however often Tomlin would be pitching.

  17. I mean, you can do more than just hope they can return to effectiveness…you can plan for contingencies.

    Agreed. We should keep stockpiling pitchers. But we should keep cutting the negative-WAR ones. I don’t think we should trot out any more Jay Flaas, either. I would genuinely, hand to my heart, really, truly rather put the ball into Tucker Davidson’s hands than to put it into Tomlin’s hands. If he succeeds, bully for him. If he doesn’t, try the next one.

    He provides positive value!

    Not what the numbers say.

  18. Not what the numbers say.

    Do you agree or disagree that the innings Tomlin pitches have virtually no bearing on the outcome of the game?

    If they don’t, then why would it matter what his WAR is, or whatever? They’re just innings that the Braves need to get through to get to their next opportunity to win. That’s all.

    Like, what is the actual downside here when the starter pees his pants in the third inning and the rest of the bullpen is gassed? Take the long view: there’s no real road to a comeback win yesterday. Who really cares how ugly the next three innings are? Maybe there’s a concern that Tomlin’s going to get a defender injured with all the hard-hit balls?

    Also: is it not heroic in a real way that Tomlin is willing to humiliate himself out there? I am talking myself into liking the guy…

    We should keep stockpiling pitchers. But we should keep cutting the negative-WAR ones. I don’t think we should trot out any more Jay Flaas, either. I would genuinely, hand to my heart, really, truly rather put the ball into Tucker Davidson’s hands than to put it into Tomlin’s hands. If he succeeds, bully for him. If he doesn’t, try the next one.

    OK, so, if there’s a pitcher in our system that could do Tomlin’s job for cheaper, better, or both–and without subtracting from starting pitching depth–then great. Maybe, at the risk of angering prospect mavens, Tucker Davidson is that guy. I have no idea.

    It doesn’t seem insane to me that that guy doesn’t exist, though. The Braves see what we’re seeing. They optioned Muller and kept Tomlin. Maybe they’re idiots, and my appeal to authority is misguided. But it seems to me that there is a non-intuitive reason that they did what they did. It’s a long season with a lot of pointless innings. The decisions Snitker et al make today impact tomorrow and the next day. The best argument to get rid of Tomlin right now, to me, would be an argument to construct the bullpen completely differently. Maybe Kyle Muller lets you do that. I doubt it, but honestly, what do I know.

  19. @21, @22, Tomlin’s bWAR for the season is -0.2, but his WPA is 0.0. WAR is context-neutral, but as I understand it, a big part of FP’s argument is that because of the context in which Tomlin pitches, his relative lack of success hasn’t really hurt the team, and the non-negative WPA supports that. (Actually, it seems like a 0 WPA would mean his innings have been as much of a contribution towards winning as those of all pitchers in the league on average, which would mean he’s been better than replacement.)

  20. See? So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong, and you’ll finally see the truth, that a hero lies in Josh Tomlin.

  21. Mop-up man is a role. And not everyone can do it without feeling like a (fill in your favourite curse word.) It doesn’t contribute towards winning the game being played, but it does contribute to the NEXT game.

    At my job there was an older dude who wasn’t better than me at “the job” but he was better than me at “life” and thus was good to have around. I’m sure Tomlin contributes to the team in ways that coaches can’t. I hear Darren O’Day was also great for that.

  22. If your sole criterion is a guy who’s only in the game when he can’t hurt the team, then I’m happy to collect the major league minimum and put Tomlin out of a job. The danger of having a manifestly crappy player on the 25-man is sooner or later he’s in a position to suck when the team would materially prefer he not do so.

  23. Burrows, Arano and Kelly at Gwinnett are all on the other side of 25, no longer top prospects, and having seasons in AAA worthy of a look in the majors. I don’t see why they couldn’t be called up and provide at the value, positive or negative of Tomlin. There’s also a possibility that one of them or someone else I’m overlooking proves to be useful. Iow, worst case is a Josh Tomlin clone, best case is useful reliever. I see no value in keeping Tomlin.

  24. Freddie has been putting a ton of first pitches in play during his 1-18 streak without a lot of hard contact.

  25. So how many “bad days” in a row are enough? 3? 4?

    AA might have to get involved in this one

  26. How about that? Smith weaseled out of it .
    Morton with some stones to grind out 6 solid innings and Matzek looking strong again in the 8th. Back on top!

  27. I like that Jeff said “that wasn’t pretty, but hopefully it gave Will Smith some confidence.” Did it give confidence to anyone who watched it? Anyone? Anyone?

  28. Whew! Good to have TdA back.

    And Dan Winkler had the un-Braves of the Day day. 0IP 4H 6ER for the Cubs vs the Fish. Poor guy.

  29. @46 And guess who hit a 3-run HR off of ole Dan? Alex Jackson.

    I think the best idea I heard about what to do with Tomlin was @18. Get a decent enough pinch hitter to be your regular mop-up man and you solve two problems. A guy to pitch useless innings in games with useless innings and a guy that can pinch hit hen you need him. The man for the job? Charlie Culberson.

    And you know…. I think Riley might be a decent useless pitcher. He came out of HS as a pitcher as well a a hitter.

  30. Vodnik had a good game in Mississippi – 5IP oH 0R 9K
    Wright was Wright – 5IP 6H 3R (2ER) 1BB 5K

  31. Dansby with 21 HR. Surprised to read that no Braves SS has ever hit 21 HR in a season. Dansby is having himself another real nice season. He also played excellent defence last night.

  32. Another ho-hum win.

    First place just feels inevitable. This team knows how to win.

    Night, Tink. Night, Snow White.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.