“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.