Hitching Our Star to Vogt’s Wagen, Until He Comes Up Lame: Braves 7-6 in 10 Innings

Easily the MVP of 2021 Braves’ Third Basemen, though Camargo will get some down-ballot votes.

Chipwatch

“It’s the most amazing stat… I don’t know what the number is, but it just seems like every time you give a leadoff walk in the late innings it leads to big problems.”

Chip: 9/7/2021

Other than his signature call: “Line drive. Base hit. Caught out there. The runner tags. Throw to the plate. On target. And in time! A double play” which cost him who-knows-how-many dollars, this is about the Chippest comment you can make.  First, it refers to some statistic.  What statistic?  Doesn’t really matter… the statistic was only there as a prop.  Second, he surely had a statistic to make this point, but he couldn’t find it when he wanted it. Third, whatever this statistic might have been, it was in service of a point that isn’t true.  Sure.  Leadoff walks are bad in any inning, not just late innings.  And leadoff walks are a problem, and sometimes (not “every time”) those problems are big.  There is no possible statistic that makes this point, because it manifestly is not true. Here are the average runs scored in MLB by inning and the outcome of the first batter: Walk, Single or Other

 

As you might expect, walks and singles to the first batter are essentially identical in import. And in the late innings, the difference between a walk and something else is slightly lower than it is earlier in the game. The first and second innings are different because the first inning starts with your best hitters and the second has clearly worse hitters (on average.) The 9th inning has closers, and also has indifferent at-bats in uncompetitive games.

I don’t expect Chip to run these numbers, because he has a staff that can do them. (This inquiry took me about 20 minutes to do, about half of which was my crappy formatting of the table.) I don’t expect Chip to ask his staff to do this, because it is quite clear he doesn’t care.

So my guess is that the statistic Chip had in mind is something like: “A leadoff walk more than doubles the expected runs in an inning.” True, but dumb. As Bill James memorably said:

“Sportswriters, in my opinion, almost never use baseball statistics to try to understand baseball. They use statistics to decorate their articles. They use statistics as a club in the battle for what they believe intuitively to be correct. That is why sportswriters often believe that you can prove anything with statistics, an obscene and ludicrous position, but one which is the natural outgrowth of the way that they themselves use statistics. What I wanted to do was teach people instead to use statistics as a sword to cut toward the truth.”

And I understand Chip is live, and on for a long time every night.  And I’m sure he does a better job than most people would off the street.  But that’s not the relevant standard: Kameron Loe was 10,000 times a better pitcher than a guy off the street, but it doesn’t mean he had to be employed by the Braves to play baseball.  But just think of how little he says is truly spontaneous.

  • He has cards detailing various nearly irrelevant stats from which he can read when every batter comes to the plate.  His inordinate fondness for head-to-head matchups based on 5-10 at-bats against some reliever are a particular favorite.
  • His encyclopedic knowledge of town in Georgia to rip off his father’s foul ball shtick are probably written down already.
  • The repetition of the same tired observations about “rest versus rust,” “pitching is upsetting timing,” “there’s just no pitch he can eliminate,” “a bloop and a blast,” etc. etc. shows an arsenal of weapons to be deployed to fill time, not to actually convey information.  Some of the rote comments, like “buzzing the tower” even when the pitch is nowhere near the batter’s head are just verbal tics with negative content.

I said I was going to talk about the “Riley for MVP” thing that is the successor to “Riley’s numbers compare favorably with Arenado’s” thing from earlier in the season; the argument is so manifestly stupid.  Let’s be clear — Riley is having a great year.  The Braves would probably be around Miami-level playing Camargo or Adrianza at third every day instead of him.  He’s really, really valuable to the team. He is, however, as Keith Law points out  in a really good article about how good he is and how dramatically he changed his swing to be that good, “someone who should get some down-ballot MVP votes.”  Law is correct.  Chip is spewing nonsense.  Why can’t Chip be satisfied praising Riley for what he is?  I have no idea. The really horrible thing is that Chip will also preface this remark with something like “Not taking anything away from the Tatis’s and Harper’s…” and then promptly try to take something away from them. And when Riley finishes, say, 6th in the NL MVP voting he will say the voters didn’t really see him every day.

Next: Chip has a new theory that pitching in Colorado turns you into a zombie in your next start. This theory seems completely ridiculous to me, but it’s slightly more complicated to analyze, so I’ll do it over the next week. The fact that his evidence for this appears to be an ambiguous statement from Tom Glavine suggests that it is completely bogus…. But I promise to apologize to Chip in this space next week if I’m wrong.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t actually a criticism of Chip, but every time Kelly Crull interviews someone, or speaks, Chip says “Great interview, Kelly” or “Great report, Kelly.” Is it really possible to describe her every anodyne comment as Great? I’m pretty sure he’s been ordered to do this, but it’s embarrassing, and frankly Kelly Crull (who I find perfectly cromulent) should be mildly embarrassed as well.

Chip’s description of pennant race baseball is embarrassing, but I covered this problem earlier in the season, so I’m not going to reiterate it here. At least he’s doing it now in mid-September, not May. It doesn’t make what he’s saying any more appropriate, but at least he’s now saying it at the right time of year.

One last bugaboo (I feel like the season is running out of Thursdays and I’ve got so much more to say.)  Should pitchers throw more fastballs? [“I don’t know why Jackson doesn’t use his fastball more often.  A well-placed fastball is the most difficult pitch to hit.” (This is utter nonsense, since a well-placed curve ball is unhittable)]  or fewer? [“As Bobby Cox often said: if you show a major league hitter enough fastballs, they can time a jet plane coming in.” Chip used to say this all the time back when he wanted pitchers to use fewer fastballs.]  And what about “He shows that you don’t have to have great velocity to succeed in this league” said of every junkballer ever?

The Last of the Natspos

Without the Braves games against the Nationals, they’d be a 0.500 team. Tonight’s game started inauspiciously as Huascar Ynoa spotted the Gnats two runs in the top of the first. But two solo shots by Stephen Vogt (Yes, Stephen Vogt… the best-hitting of all Braves catchers this year not named d’Arnaud or Contreras. I’m on Vogt’s Wagon) sandwiched back-to-back doubles from the 2020-2021 MVP twins (Freddie and Austin) to give the Braves a short-lived lead, coughed up when Soto led off the 6th against Minter with a … walk? no, single, and came around to score. Note that if Soto had walked, we would have heard yet another diatribe on leadoff walks. Leadoff singles, however, earned a mere “Well, he made him earn it.”

Yet another Soler homer broke the tie in the bottom of the 6th, retied in the top of the 7th inning when Luke Jackson gave up a run on an inning that started with… a single. It got more exciting when, among other things, Vogt pulled a groin muscle (it looked like to me) on a Jackson wild pitch and Matzek was called up to pull an Avilan, which he did, barely.

The 8th saw Richard Rodriguez yield a solo homer, matched by a solo homer from Freddie in the bottom of the inning. Duvall then untied it with the 5th solo homer of the night.

Which brings us to Hancock. As Chip might say: “It just seems like every time you give up a leadoff triple in the late innings it leads to big problems.” (Joc Pederson might possibly have caught it, but Smith already almost killed him earlier in the season when giving up a shot off the wall, so I’m not cutting him any slack.) An errant throw from Ozzie almost corralled by Freddie got the game tied on a thwarted potential game-ending double play, and he completed the Hancock Hold (no… not the ubiquitous teenage boy activity but Smith giving up the lead without losing the lead. I call it the Hancock Hold because, once Smith is out of the game with a tie score, you like your chances.)

Jacob Webb took the 10th inning assignment and threw a clean inning assisted by a very nice play by Ozzie. The Manfred Mann was stranded on third, wrapped up like a deuce another runner in the night.

Wander Suero walked Soler in the bottom of the 10th (Ozzie was the Manfred Mann… Do Wah Diddy Diddy!) Freddie got him to 3rd on a Sac Fly, and the Downballot MVP was hit on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Duvall struck out. Pederson dropped one in left field and the Braves won.

What a pennant stroll. In six games against three of the worst teams in baseball, the NL East-chasing teams went 1-5, with the one win in extra innings. 14-5 against the Natinals, but no more games against the Natinals. They’re going to have to find someone else to beat to keep this thing going, because they’re done with this team.

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.

67 thoughts on “Hitching Our Star to Vogt’s Wagen, Until He Comes Up Lame: Braves 7-6 in 10 Innings”

  1. JonathanF, I don’t know how in the world you recapped a game that crazy that quickly, while more or less actually touching on the salient points of just what the hell happened, which I have to caveat by saying that while I listened to nearly the entire radio call, I certainly couldn’t come within a nautical mile of understanding what the hell happened. You’re good at this sports blogging!

    On the other hand, if Chip would just call her “Crull the Conqueror,” I’d withhold all criticism for at least two weeks.

  2. Very well said. I like the last point, the NL East is really filled with some mediocre teams!

    I actually had to take a break after the Luke Jackson gave up the lead. It was not good for my health. I’m glad I didn’t hang around, those last few innings look excruciating. But I’ll toughen up for the rest of them.

  3. Great recap and love your take on everything. Only have one nit to pick. The use of our 14-5 record against the Nats is using a statistic exactly the same way Chip would. I would also argue that we’re done playing the AL East so we should have a good chance of winning a majority of the rest of our games (6-14 against AL East which looks a lot worse if you remove the sweep of the O’s).

    Whenever the Braves are a winning team, they have at least one divisional foe they pick on. It’s been the Marlins recently but this year, it’s the Nats.

    The truth is that we are about .500 against MIA/PHL/NYM and if we play the rest of our games against them at .500 then it’ll be awfully difficult for either the Phils or the Mets to catch us.

  4. I found salvation in some of our commercial breaks by watching Tom Brady throw a pass or two, the ball going where intended.

    But although you have all piled on the manifold mistakes and shortcomings this was still a marvelous game to watch, couldn’t beat it. We’re not here to require perfection, collectively or individually. We offer none ourselves. The mistakes, both sides, add greatly to the drama, the entertainment because that’s what it is. And in the end we were spoiled by a stunning victory , the best of both worlds.

    I love a Braves victory in an important game as much as you do, believe me. But there’s something else there, on top of that. Raw, visceral, a contest of wills to the very end where no one knew what that end would be to a ridiculous degree. Up/down/dead/alive. Something important that was going to be decided in all finality. Messily in the main! How many more mistakes/heroics? Wonderful.

    We are all alive to watch it. Be grateful.

  5. Excellent work, JonathanF. Early in the season, when we went to extra innings, everybody’s in despair, every girl and boy. But with the additions by our Mighty GM, and with Ozzie as our Manfred Mann, everybody’s gonna jump for joy.

  6. Of course Blinded by the Light is a Springsteen song, but the version recorded by Manfred Mann did chart higher than any single recorded by the Boss himself. Just as Manfred Mann’s version of Mighty Quinn charted higher than any song released by Dylan himself.

    Manfred Mann for MVP of the Classic Rock era!

  7. @8

    Tom Brady can take his perfect passes and shove them where the sun don’t shine.

    On a related note, watching the fourth quarter of that football game after the Braves game finally ended made me even more agitated than the baseball game, as I found myself actually rooting for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a damned good thing that I didn’t have any sharp objects lying around at the time that I came to that epiphany.

  8. @12–that’s a very low bar, Alex. The case for Manfred Mann as MVP is absurd. He would not make the top 100 in a vote. (I know you know that. I meant it as an example of the speciousness of “you can use statistics to prove anything.”)

    But I don’t think the Riley for MVP argument is absurd in the same way. Of course he won’t be the MVP, nor should he be. He will, however, likely finish anywhere from 3rd to 8th in the voting. His WAR puts him closer to around 7th to 9th, but if the Braves win the division and he has a huge final 3 weeks he will likely finish top 5. I’m not excusing Chip, but is it worse than, say, voting for Juan Gonzalez over A-Rod in 1996, which most voters did.

    Ok, on second thought, if I think voting for Gonzalez was dumb, then I guess voting Riley #1 would also be pretty dumb.

  9. From yesterday’s thread:

    Just to be clear: the crapshoot theory doesn’t say that the worst teams have the same probability of winning as the best teams… It says the best team’s probability of winning is no more than 20 percent or so, and the worst (non-Wild Card) teams plus Wild Card Winners have probabilities no less than about 10 percent of winning. And given the imperfect correlation between payroll and quality, incremental payroll has a pretty small effect on the probability of winning the World Series (but not zero!)

    I found this persuasive. When the difference can be as much as ten percent, spending bigger seems worthy of strong consideration, at the very least…

    The other piece of this, from ownership’s perspective: how much does building a team that can credibly be marketed as a perennial winner affect profitability? How much more valuable are, say, the Yankees as a franchise than the playoff-drought-stricken Mariners?

    (I get that this is more a topic for the offseason.)

  10. We have reached Peak Mets.

    People should also watch both halves of the 9th from last night’s Phillies/Rockies game if you haven’t already. Good lord.

  11. Thanks all.

    @5: Yep.

    @19: In other news, Mo Vaughn reports than he’s in the best shape of his life. And Jose Reyes is going to be over that pesky hamstring thing any year now.

  12. Fun Police, you’re gonna have to change your name because watching that 9th inning was a hoot and a holler!

    Condensed game here: https://www.mlb.com/video/cg-col-phi-9-9-21

    The concept of Peak Mets is like the concept of a rock so heavy that God cannot lift it. There is no nadir so low that the Mets cannot submerge beneath it.

  13. @19: Just watched the end of that Phils game. Found it quite enjoyable. I live in the Philly area, by the way.

  14. That was a delightful 0-2, two-out meatball from Ian Kennedy.

    As annoying as our travails have been this week, it’s instructive to remember that a) we wound up winning the series, so I guess there’s a bit of all’s-well-that-ends-well there; and b) we at least have a division lead, so it could be worse…we could be Phillies fans who are dealing with the exact same type of thing with the knowledge that they have to win every single game they can and it still might not be enough. Take, for example, the two-game swing that was just served up to them when we found a way to win and they found a way to lose last night.

  15. and tfloyd,

    From news reports, it looks like Macon has tried to do a pretty good job of remembering Otis Redding.

    He could have been the MVP of the 70’s (and maybe later) if he had lived a little longer. Try a little tenderness people.

  16. I guess I’ll be the contrarian. While I was certainly glad the Braves won last night, and also glad the Phillies & especially the Mets lost, I didn’t enjoy the game as much as some of you because it’s pretty clear to me that this team is not all that good and doesn’t play the kind of baseball that I enjoy watching. Giving up runs in four consecutive late innings (and having to work to not give up more than one per inning) isn’t a sign of a good team, and four instances of bad defense just in the late innings (Ozzie’s fielding, Joc’s drop, Ozzie’s throw, and Freddie’s non-catch) isn’t either. I guess five home runs is nice, but after the first few, it starts to resemble beer league softball. It’s not just the Braves that are underwhelming – in their final three innings of regulation last night, the three teams fighting for the NL East gave up a combined nine runs to bad teams, allowing scoring in seven of the nine half-innings. Of course I want the Braves to win the division and more, but even if they do, I don’t think I would enjoy it as much as if it were one of the 2018-19-20 teams.

  17. @29

    The game sucked while watching it, which was why I was literally yelling at Chip to shut the hell up through my TV set with his playing up what a fantastic game it was. Close and decided late does not mean fantastic. However, all that matters today is that we won and the Phillies lost and we gained a game, and I don’t think one oughta be wringing their hands over what last night’s debacle of a win means about our playoff chances or anything.

    Also, I wouldn’t read anything into our crappy defense last night. I think it was pretty much just one of those nights.

  18. cliff–thanks for the Macon shout out. Lots of MVP-level talent from Macon, and the community has really embraced the heritage.

    Little Richard was a first ballot Hall of Famer (literally the first class in 1986). My employer Mercer University granted him an honorary doctorate before he passed away, and a major thoroughfare is Richard Penniman Blvd. He was certainly an MVP in the 1950’s–and as he would tell you, without Little Richard, there would be no Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, or Prince.

    Thanks largely to his family, Otis Redding’s (definite MVP candidate in the 1960’s and HOF class of 1989) presence is still large here 53 years after his death . The Big O Foundation does great work for kids and education. Although Otis didn’t record here, he was responsible for his manager Phil Walden starting Capricorn Records and Capricorn Studios here shortly after Redding’s death.

    Mercer has bought and restored the old Capricorn Studios. It’s now a great working studio just as it was in the 1970’s. You probably know the Allman Brothers lived here and recorded there (HOF class of 1995 and MVP contenders in the early 1970’s), but many other great records were made here, including many artists who weren’t on the Capricorn label.

    In the interest of full disclosure, Macon has not produced the same caliber of baseball player. The most famous Brave from here is John Rocker, to my mind the all time worst Brave.

  19. Yup, Little Richard & Otis Redding pretty much stand alone, in my mind…

    Also from Macon:
    Pitcher “Blue Moon” Odom of the Oakland A’s early ’70s dynasty.

    On the music tip, R.E.M.’s rhythm section (Mike Mills & Bill Berry).

    And for historically inclined UGA folks, Theron “The Drought-Breaker” Sapp.

  20. @29 I agree with you except I don’t necessarily agree about Pederson’s drop. Why was he even playing CF with gopher ball Sally pitching? I place that blame equally on Smith, Joc and Snit.

  21. Thanks, ububba. Should have mentioned REM (definite 1980’s MVP and HOF class of 2007). Of course they were an Athens band, but the heartbeat of the band, Mills and Berry, went to high school together in Macon and formed a band here before moving to Athens. The house where they lived together here is literally right around the corner from my house; there is a plaque out front acknowledging their presence there..

    BTW, Mike Mills is a huge baseball and Braves fan. You may have seen him in the TV booth with Chip and Jeff a couple of times.

  22. @29: I agree with almost everything you say, but I will note that while the bullpen has been a problem most of the year, and likely will not get better (portending an ugly divisional series), the defense has been stellar–so in that regard, last night was anomalous.

    Also, the fact that the Phillies lost in excruciating fashion gives me extra satisfaction, given that I am a Braves fan who has had to live in the belly of the (b)east for more than two decades. That kind of loss would make cause me glee even if they weren’t in a pennant race with Atlanta. (I actually pulled for the Phillies in 2008, because I thought it insensitive to do otherwise, since so many of my friends up here are big fans. But the very next year, I was rooting hard for the Yankees to restore order. Friendship has its limits.)

    I have a large baseball cap collection, and have been reduced lately not to sporting one of my many Braves hats at work, but to wearing whatever team is playing the Phillies. The sight of me sauntering around campus with my Rockies cap today probably had people quietly seething. But I take little pleasure in it. Indeed, I I’ve been reduced to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” behavior because the Braves are so unreliable–and, on the whole, so little fun to watch this season.

  23. I guess I’m different from a lot of you, but I got a lot of pleasure out of last night’s game. We’re in the last weeks of the season in a relatively tight pennant race. That doesn’t happen most years. And although last night’s game wasn’t well played in some respects, it was tight with multiple lead changes. Most importantly, we won and the Phillies melted down, so I’m happy.

    If the Braves do play in October, I’ll be happy with wins however they happen. And one more time: if we do make it to October, we’ve got a chance to go all the way. Not as good a chance as the Giants, Dodgers, Brewers, Rays, or Astros, but each of those teams is also a long shot.

  24. @29/37 – Have you guys been watching replays of the first half of the season since August 1? I think you must be watching a different team than I have over the last 6 weeks. Yeah, they struggled against the Dodgers and Rockies, but both teams are playing great at home and they could have won a few more games if a few breaks would have gone their way. I’m not going to complain about an 18 and 8 record in August and I think we’ll be firmly on the winning side in September. We aren’t as talented as the Dodgers or Brewers, but I think our effort is there. I don’t really understand not being fun to watch. The bullpen has definitely been a disappointment, but only the Astros and Athletics have made fewer errors, so it’s not like the sloppy play last night is a constant refrain.

  25. We’ve had more than our share of bad breaks this year, this team has very little business playing meaningful games in September, and yet…

    If you’re not finding this enjoyable, even in the moment, even with this bullpen, I don’t know what to tell you.

  26. @39: No, I’ve been watching the team all season. I already acknowledged that the defense has been excellent, last night excepted. The offense has been good pretty consistently, even with some major injuries (compensated for by the acquisitions of Soler, Duvall, et al). The starting pitching has gotten better over the course of the year (though I have to keep the Mylanta nearby for every Smyly–and, sadly, Touki–start.) The bullpen has been a persistent problem, except for one nice stretch in late July through most of August. For me–and, hey, I speak only for me–watching a bad bullpen takes a lot of the fun out of the whole affair.

    Even with all the positives (and there are several), this team is, as a major contributor to the site wrote not long ago, a modestly above-average team that had a hot streak. They’ve returned to earth and are now trying to hang on. I hope they do. But another west coast trip awaits. I fervently wish for it to be better than the last one. But based on the available evidence, it’s not unreasonable for me to be skeptical.

  27. #43
    And Mills sings that one, too.

    Funny, last night at the Yankee Tavern (post-game), I got into a “bar conversation” about who deserved the HoF more… Murphy or Mattingly. And no, I didn’t convince the guy.

  28. Has Chip supplied the verbal diarrhea about a Coors Field start screwing up a pitcher for his next start yet?

  29. @bravesorganist with “Remember Me” for Bryan de la Cruz — as in, the song from the movie Coco, sung by the character Ernesto de la Cruz.

    Man, that’s good.

  30. @48 – That rules. He is so good. I was listening to a game against the Phillies earlier this year and heard him play the Super Mario Bros. theme when Rhys Hoskins came up. I was racking my brain for the connection, until I realized… wait, was Bob Hoskins in the weird 90’s live-action Super Mario Bros. movie w/ John Leguizamo? And yes, he was, and yes, that was it.

    Also he played Fetty Wap (“Trap Queen”) for Erick Fedde last night. Dude is a treasure.

  31. You guys sound like you are speaking a foreign language when you talk about songs, singers, movies, etc. Fetty wap?? Really?? :-)

  32. I haven’t checked minor league stats much lately, but Drew Waters appears to be struggling. He’s only hitting .231/328/365 on the year and has struck out 127 times.

    Pache seems to be doing pretty well, though. I expect him to start Opening Day in CF next season.

  33. The booth was transformed tonight. Ambiance not dichotomy. A pleasure to hear the three of them, what they brought. We actually learn!

  34. CindyJ, haha re: “yeah yeah” music. Your comments call to mind the FBI’s investigation into the lyrics of “Louie, Louie,” which, b/c they were completely impossible to understand, apparently made everyone certain they were nefarious, somehow:

    “The FBI looked at the recording, Predoehl says, looking at it “backwards and forwards, they played it at different speeds, they spent a lot of time on it — but it was indecipherable at any speed.””

    https://www.npr.org/2015/05/02/403623915/louie-louie-indecipherable-or-indecent-an-fbi-investigation

  35. At the appropriate time AA should register our interest in Mister Rogers. For 4 innings he was a dominating colossus. Considering his age and the appalling summer he had with family issues there may be even more to come.

  36. Our three tired bats…Freddie has graduated, emphatically…Riley only half so. I have come to believe it may be nothing more than feeling the weight of the MVP nonsense Chip has foisted on him…Dans has come out, and all will be well.

  37. @60 That is funny. I remember that song, but it was before my time. I do remember nonsense about hidden messages in songs if you played them backwards on the turntable.

    I started listening to music in the early 1970’s (really a little after the “yeah yeah” era). But I did play some of the Beatles music. Left over albums from my uncle.

  38. Phaillies lose big. Despite our very mediocre play lately we’ve actually gained a game in the standings on them the last 10 games. And our playoff odds are up to 81.6%

  39. Time to sit down with Ozzie Albies. His huge talents – for all of the numbers – remain essentially unfulfilled by what they could be if he would stop and listen to the word around, the easy outs. To be fair Oz is tired too, he should have been included in the original list. The errors he’s making now speak to that.

  40. @64

    Harper must be exhausted, he was carrying them. But he’s a sulker too, when the worm turns. Woo Hoo!

    And…JTR is cooked now at the plate. Yes. What a multimillion combo.

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