Let’s just never go home game thread: May 11, Braves at Mets

Things I was wrong about, I: Batter strikeouts. There are a number of comments by me, in posts and in the comments section, to the effect that batter strikeouts don’t matter, that “an out is an out” and “at least he isn’t grounding into double plays.” This is probably incorrect — well, not the part about double plays, but the rest. What I didn’t recognize when I was saying things like that is that the connection between putting the ball in play and batting average is as strong as it is. A lot of players can strike out and maintain a good batting average, but it makes it harder. In the long term, batting average on balls in play tends to even out (not entirely, but somewhat) so one of the biggest controlling factors in batting average is strikeout rate.

Another thing I’ve mentioned before is that I was upset when the Braves traded Mel Nieves in the McGriff trade. I thought that they should have traded Klesko instead, because Nieves had more defensive value, while nobody knew if Klesko could play anywhere but first base. What I didn’t realize at the time, but I’m quite sure that the Braves at least suspected, was that Nieves’ strikeout problems in the minor leagues would translate into even more strikeouts on the major league level, and that those strikeouts would overwhelm his game. Nieves, when he actually hit the ball, hit it in the majors pretty much like he did in the minors; he averaged 22 homers per 162 games played on the major league level, which is quite good for a young player. But because he averaged 171 strikeouts per 162 games, he hit only .231, which meant that he was a substandard hitter overall despite his power and a decent walk rate (his isolated power and on-base were pretty much the same in the majors as in the minors).

What I’m saying, I guess, is that I don’t know that Jordan Schafer can survive if he’s going to strike out a third of the time.

161 thoughts on “Let’s just never go home game thread: May 11, Braves at Mets”

  1. So does this mean that a player has to have way above average power like an Adam Dunn to offset the tendency to strike out a lot?

    I can’t say so let me know your opinion. Is Schafer a plus defender?

  2. I don’t foresee death for Schaffer caused by strikeouts.

    I think Schaffer is playing because there aren’t any other good options (EERILY like 05 with Frenchy). However, it may overwhelm him.

    I don’t believe Schaffer is as bad in strikeouts as this recent stuff makes it look. He is working on counter adjustments. However, he is overmatched and could have used a few months in AAA.

  3. Dunns HR+BB are usually fairly close to his K totals.

    For his career he has 175 more Ks than HR + BB. Without doing any pointless calculations, I’d say he’s essentially, if not definitely, offsetting the negative impact of his Ks with the positive impact of the other two true outcomes.

    I have no idea what kind of ratio Schafer will approach as his career develops. In way too short a time period to make any judgments, he is on pace for 10 HR, 115 BB, and 219 Ks in his first season. That’s 94 more Ks than HR+BB, or in other words, half of what Dunn’s nine year career has yielded.

  4. I must have missed the batter strikeouts discussion, but let’s also not ignore the “other things” that can happen when a batter doesn’t strike out. For example, balls in play create errors, which don’t help the batter’s batting average but nevertheless do save an out and do put a runner on base. Batters that tend to strikeout a lot also take away from other aspects of a team’s offense, such as the hit-and-run and straight base stealing.

  5. I can pretty much assure you that Cox will not allow Schafer to amass 219 Ks this year.

  6. @1: I haven’t seen enough to say definitively, but I tend to agree with JC’s comment @107 on the last thread:

    “He looks completely out of control when patrolling the field. He’s going on nothing but talent out there.”

    Jordan clearly has the talent to be a plus defender in CF, but I don’t think he has the experience/training to consistently play at that level. I think it will develop, but I agree he could’ve used some more seasoning in Gwinnett (defensively, and offensively.)

  7. @5: In his minor league career he has struck out 358 times in 1597 PA, that’s 22.4% of the time. In his only time at AA, last year, he struck out 88 times in 349 PA, that’s 25.2% of the time.

  8. I’ve crunched some numbers looking at the factors that predict major-league success from minor-league performance. Strikeouts are a strong predictor of major-league success. Once you get to the big leagues, they don’t give much information beyond what’s contained in your main batting stats. Strikeouts are actually positively correlated with slightly higher performance, but they don’t cause it. It’s just that good high-K players (like Howard and Dunn) must make up for their deficiency in other areas.

  9. Maybe Cox will make him do push ups for every swing and miss against a fastball right down the middle, a la Willie Mays Hayes.

    But seriously, it’s not the strikeouts against Brad Lidge types that bother me, it’s swinging through or fouling off 89 MPH fast balls down the middle from the likes of Joe Blanton that concern me. That was the problem with later editions of Andruw and Jeffy last year, they were missing too many fat pitches. I think in each case they simply had too long of a swing. However, there’s help for Schafer because at least he looks like he is trying to have an approach up there and isn’t swinging at too many balls, unlike the other two I mentioned.

  10. It’s interesting — I was just looking at the K-rate issue, in terms of Omar Infante. For some reason, Infante was a mostly bad hitter in Detroit, and has been a mostly good hitter in Atlanta. One of the biggest differences, as far as I can tell, is that while his HR-rate and BB rate have stayed pretty constant, and his BABIP hasn’t been wildly out of whack, his K-rate is way down. Holding all other things equal, making a lot more contact is a very, very good thing.

    Of course, some guys just don’t make that much contact, and they can get away with it. I think Schafer’s ability to take a walk indicates that he’s not a Frenchy-type at the plate — he has some basic understanding of the strike zone, even if he swings from his shoetops and never catches up to the ball.

    In other words, I’d like to believe that Schafer has the strike zone understanding, bat speed and coachability to make more contact, while Frenchy’s K-rate has come at the cost of other mechanical cheats that have sapped his power and ability to hit the ball on the screws.

    But, yeah, you basically can’t ever succeed in the bigs with Jordan’s K-rate, and you have to be hella good to succeed with a K-rate anywhere close. I’m hoping he’s just young and can improve. I’m not worried yet cuz he’s a rookie. But it’s a definite issue to work on.

  11. And the Braves don’t have anyone to replace Schafer in CF if they wanted him to get more time in Gwinnett. Blanco is stinking up Gwinnett.

  12. “while Frenchy’s K-rate has come at the cost of other mechanical cheats that have sapped his power and ability to hit the ball on the screws.”

    Money quote; really right on. Can we ever hope to see this sort of sentence in the AJC?

  13. Mac, is there a way you could link to a site giving the Braves minor league stats on the sidebar?

  14. Early this season, the minor league pitching looked good, but not too great. All of the teams seem to have hit stride in the last 5 to 7 days and all 4 staffs are mostly “lights out” among starters with a few relievers doing the same.

  15. And Mac,

    I disagree with your conclusion. you weren’t wrong, except maybe in implementation.

    “All other things being equal” strikeouts by a batter do not matter. The problem is that it is hard for all things to be equal if you are striking out a lot.

    Chipper and Gary Sheffield are and were fun to watch for a “two strike approach” whenever they got a two strike count with a runner in scoring position. Chipper can (and Sheffield used to) really “dink” out some hits in those cases.

  16. JC, I think I understand your frustration with the almost indefinably fuzzy concept of “replacement level.” But I do think it has value, not least because I think that it’s one area that many GMs demonstrate an imperfect understanding of easily obtainable value.

    Rany Jazayerli has frequently written about Dayton Moore’s penchant for giving million-dollar deals to basically replacement level players — Willie Bloomquist (2 yr/$3.1 mill), Miguel Olivo (1/$2.05, option for $2.7 next year), Horacio Ramirez (1/$1.8), etc. His basic point is, you don’t need to pay millions of dollars to guys like that when it’s almost certain that you or some other team has another person of comparable value in AAA. (Or in the Mexican League, as with Julio Franco.)

    This is the reason a lot of us were pissed that Jeff Francoeur got almost $4 million this year. If you need a right fielder who can put up a .750 OPS, you should be able to find a guy who can do that for less than $4 million. (By comparison, we’re paying Greg Norton $800,000, Martin Prado $415,000, and Brandon Jones $400,000.)

    Meanwhile, Moore is paying $7 million to Ramirez, Olivo, and Bloomquist, fringy major leaguers on year-to-year contracts who aren’t appreciably better than many a AAA “organization guy.” (Think of Buddy Carlyle.)

    I was wrong in the offseason when I said I thought David Ross fell into that category. Ross is clearly a superior hitter to Olivo, or to our recent string of terrible backup catchers, and $3 million wasn’t a bad investment for a guy who in limited PT has shown he can hit like a regular. But that’s what you do: you pay the money to people who are appreciably better than an organization guy. Don’t pay the people who aren’t. Instead, find someone in your upper minors, or in an independent league, or an international league, or on the waiver wire, or a recently-released free agent, or a minor trade (like Brian Barton or Josh Anderson), etc.

  17. Whether strikeouts are a problem clearly depends on (1) how many; and (2) the type of skill sets you are talking about. Obviously, lots of great power hitters also have and do strike out a lot. At some point, though, as Mac suggests too many strikeouts means not enough contact. Unless you hit home runs every time you make contact, you aren’t going to have much value striking out a very large percentage of the time. But it also depends on the kind of compensatory skills; it’s one thing if you strike out a lot but also hit a lot of home runs; it’s another things if you are a singles hitter. At this point, Schaefer would have to hit a lot of home runs to make up for his strike out rate; at the very least, he needs to put the ball in play when there are runners on base. The Braves cannot carry a hitter this bad IMO even if he has a high OBP.

  18. Alex,

    I’m not going to go much into it here, I’ve done it plenty with my online anti-fanboys, and you can find some of it around my site. I disagree with Rany (whom I like) on this. He may know the medical stuff, but he’s wrong on the economics. Horacio Ramirez is better than some pitchers in MLB. His skills have value, and the scarcity of pitching is what drives his value above so-called “free” players. The Royals didn’t give him that contract because they were dumb, they knew that other teams would be offering a little less. And if guys are worth more than their salary, you can sell them instead of playing them.

    Just look at how hard it is for the Braves to find a replacement for all three of their outfield positions.

  19. Superfly,
    The reason I threw out Delwyn Young’s name is because I knew you would point to his major league stats and argue that Francouer is a better player. And naturally you obliged. In fact, Delwyn’s numbers were down across the board last year because he was battling injuries, including an oblique strain. But his .337/.384/.571 line at AAA in 07 suggests, even after adjusting for ballpark, that he is a better hitter than Francouer will ever be. And just watch what he does in Pittsburgh now that he is healthy. If I thought Pittsburgh would give him up for cash or a PTBN I would happily take him and waive Francouer, who would go unclaimed, because let’s face it, no MLB team needs a corner outfielder that OPSs less than .700. But look, it doesn’t have to be Delwyn Young, it could be any similar player that Wren could have traded for and paid the league minimum instead of paying Francouer 3.375 million. It’s funny, a month ago, based on a couple slap singles and a fluke triple, you were calling me insane for suggesting that Wren should have declined to offer him arbitration. Now your excuse for continuing to play him rather than someone like Delwyn Young is that Francouer’s salary is a sunk cost. Fine but it is also an opportunity cost: discovering a better, cheaper option for the future.

    All I want is an admission that what is unfolding was perfectly predictable and that a responsible GM would not have crossed his fingers and hoped for some kind of Sunday afternoon Disney movie, “Miracle in Right Field.”

  20. Okay, I added B-R’s “depth charts” which include minor league (and major league) hitting and pitching by position.

    JC, high strikeouts are also often correlated with “old players’ skills”. Is there evidence that high strikeout players age differently from more contact-oriented players?

  21. At the new Shea for the first time, without Chipper, and facing Johan Santana….

    What kind of odds would it take to get you to bet on the Braves tonight?

  22. No Delgado for the Mets tonight, which is alright because he kills Lowe (8/26 lifetime, 308/548/577).

    He has a hip problem & I’m hearing he could go on the DL.

    Off to Flushing…

  23. chipper’s out and who is our 3 hitter? MARTIIIIIIIN PRADOOOOOO! Johan Santana just shit his pants….
    By the way, I think a prado should be changed to a Pra-D’oh!

  24. How do you shorten a long swing? It can be done, but it takes admitting that changes need to be made. (As my old management professor used to say, “Nothing changes until the conviction of sin is reached.”)

    Anybody know of a good website that addresses shortening the long swing? (I coach 14-y-o baseball and we’ve got a lot of that.)

  25. I thought Bobby had gotten over simply putting the sub where the regular’s batting position would be.

  26. @31

    My own admittedly bizarre remedy would involve reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull. But that’s just me, I’m fairly sure.

  27. I read that particular book when I was in my Herman Hesse phase, but have forgotten its’ particulars.

    Care to remind me how it applies to molding the perfect swing?

    Or you could regale us with more basement adventures …

  28. Um, Prado has the best on-base percentage and best slugging percentage in the lineup. Against a lefty in particular hitting him third makes a lot of sense.

  29. i wasnt implying that it doesnt makes sense. it’s just hilarious what has to be done when chipper is out. it does make sense to put him third in this lineup, but not in an actual major league lineup under any circumstance.

  30. Startling lineup:

    Bobby’s Whipping Boy, 2B
    Frosted Tips, SS
    Nitram Odarp, 3B
    Heap, C
    Bizarro Vlad Guerrero, LF
    Krotchman, 1B
    Bobby’s Grandson, RF
    Jordan K’fer, CF
    Lowe Down, RHP

  31. Well, Jonathan was trying to dive faster than other seagulls could (and was somehow able to gauge MPH in his head, don’t ask me how), but he kept wiping out because he was a big, ungainly seagull with long, floppy wings. But when he tucked his wings in (like a falcon), he was able to execute 200 MPH dives. The whole key was compactness. Jonathan would be quite annoyed with Frenchy, the seagull who could not conceive of being anything else.

    The thing was, it took immense amounts of practice for Jonathan to perfect his speed diving, complete with repeated failures and frustrations. Eventually, though, he was able to dive so fast he entered alternate dimensions. This should be Frenchy’s ultimate goal — alternate dimensions.

  32. Mac,

    I haven’t looked at how Ks affect overall aging specifically. Or, I don’t remember anything standing out on how high-k guys age. Most guys who stick around to be old guys will have higher bb-rates as that skill peaks at about age 32.

  33. @25: Pointing out that Francoeur’s contract is guaranteed wasn’t any part of my case that Francoeur makes more sense than Delwyn. It was meant only to point out that comparing Delwyn’s contract to Jeff’s, which you included in your case, makes no sense at this point (unless you’re going to release/trade Francoeur.) If you want to play the hindsight game then you could include it, but you didn’t make that clear in your first iteration. I’ll continue to think you insane if you really believe Wren should’ve declined to offer arbitration to Francoeur this offseason. Jeff has value, whether it is the inconsistent value on the field or trade value to other organizations. There is absolutely no way that Francoeur would clears waivers. None, zero, zilch, nada.

    Now on to Delwyn. I admit I don’t really know much about him… I know Delmon and Dmitri, but haven’t found a reason to become intimately acquainted with the career of this particular Young.

    I have no clue how you could possibly use one season of Pacific Coast League baseball, admittedly a good season, to “suggest… [Young] is a better hitter than Francoeur will ever be.” That’s just absurd. In 2007, while Delwyn was a 25 year-old tearing it up in the PCL, Jeff led the Braves in RBI, was second in RP, and played in 162 games. Delwyn has shown promise, but he’s done nothing to suggest he can be a legitimate everyday major league outfielder. If we could have added him into the OF mix, I wouldn’t be against it (though PTBNL aren’t always as insignificant as they are made out to sound,) but he would still likely make more sense filling in in LF, than right.

  34. Thank you, sansho.

    And – you’re right.

    If we could get Pendleton to read that and Zen and the Art we might actually hit the dadblasted baseball.

  35. Very nice — it took a Prado and an error from David Wright for us to scratch a run across, but you better believe I’ll take it.

    JC, fair enough. I certainly can’t argue econ with you. I do think that GMs tend to overpay the devils they know when they might be able to scrimp and save with the devils they don’t, but I’m sure that imperfect information and the inability to scout cheap int’l league players as well as you scout your own AAA guys would lead a team to overpay a guy who fills a need if they feel they know exactly what he can provide.

    But it’s all a question of maximizing resources. When it comes to the outfield, I don’t think the Braves have done a great job of that, but a large part of the reason for that is the Jeff Francoeur Issue — there appear to be off-the-field reasons that they can’t treat him the way his on-field performance would merit.

  36. Schafer against Santana–this could be ugly.

    It was. Edit–yes 8 pitches isn’t too bad. Maybe we should play name that strikeout next time around–Santana can strike him out in 5 pitches, no 4 pitches …

  37. Also, I think even Mac would agree that the Braves’ one run this game was not just “unearned,” but was actually unearned. Of the Braves’ four hits today, two have been infield hits, and a third was a grounder to David Wright that he just whiffed on.

  38. I’m not an expert on hitting , but does it seem that Schaffer starts with his hands way too low?

    His hands look to be shoulder high instead of ear high like Chipper, Kotchman, etc.

    It looks like Schaffer has to push his hands back and up more than most and that looks to me to be a reason why he is late on fastballs.

    His swing plane is almost TOO flat because of where he starts his hands, and that slows his bat.

    Just an observation, but if he was to start with his hands higher and further back it would promote a more down and through swing.

    TP ought to be able to fix that (I hope).

  39. We had this conversation a week ago, but Santana balks everytime he throws to first.

  40. 56 — I couldn’t either, except he’s not REALLY a 3 hitter just because he’s the Braves’ 3 hitter… but still. Should’ve counted on it, I guess.

  41. Um, Prado has the best on-base percentage and best slugging percentage in the lineup

    If you think that will last the whole season, I’ve got a beach house in Arizona you can buy. lol

  42. I dont know what I dislike more, bunting anyone but the pitcher or all the alternate jerseys we wear.
    What happened to the road Grays? They were classy.

  43. Last year we wanted to burn the blue jerseys because of the bad luck. But, aesthetically, I kind of like them. Doesn’t mean I dislike the grays…

  44. And Steve Phillips continues to extol the changes Frenchy has made…

    wow, they even have an interview about it.

    Any chance other GMs still believe in him? Just curious.

  45. The amazing thing about ol’ Frenchy is that he’s actually walking less than ever this year (4 BB in 133 PA counting his first two tonight). It really is nearly time to close the books on him and bring up Blanco or dredge the waiver wire.

    Nice DP, guys!

  46. Good grief. Does Francoeur exchange free oral pleasures for all this unwarranted worship? Unreal.

  47. Nice of us to turn up the heat when we play against Santana.

    Just makes me wonder where the fire is in all the other games.

  48. its funny listening to them talk about how we overpaid for Lowe but at the same time how good Lowe could be in the Met lineup, oh well they wanted Perez

  49. Also, it just hit me: I think Matt Diaz and Martin Prado are almost the same player. Both put up a fairly empty BA around .320 a few walks and extra base hits, some ugly-looking (though well-rated) defense, and the ability to start or come off the bench. If they didn’t hit .320, they would be almost worthless. But as it is, they’re two of our best right-handed hitters.

  50. You can tell both pitchers are dealing because the ball sounds like a mush ball when the batters are hitting it.

  51. Santana up to 83 pitches through 5. A quick inning from Lowe and good 6th and we could knock him out after 6.

  52. Damn, here goes the lead, KJ did not seem ready for that ball to come through.

  53. Are we thinking Prado’s a .320 hitter yet? At least we’ve got like 1,000 atbats to give Diaz the benefit of the doubt when he looks like crap for awhile.

  54. No speed. No power. Ok now I get why Atlanta’s offense is so poor. Great job Francouer.

  55. the schafer/francouer combo is just brutal.

    find myself rooting for a walk so Derek Lowe gets to hit…

  56. Last couple of games Francoeur’s gone back to last year’s version of swinging hard at balls there to be hit, and looped them into the shallow outfield for easy outs.

  57. Maybe we can trade Jeff back to Texas for one of those guys we gave them for Tex.

    Not going to happen, but it would be fair.

  58. JC, I loved this post from the last thread:

    “Francoeur is above replacement level, but not by much. I hate replacement-level. If there was one concept I could banish from sabermetrics it would be this. It’s not necessary (we can all agree on what average is) and “replacement” players worth is not determined by the league minimum. Also, I’ve done quite a bit of work on aging, and I am quite convinced that peak age is 29-30. But some of the online “sabermetricians” don’t like my work. Their loss, in my opinion.

    I think we’re to the point now where Jeffy is keeping the position warm for his replacement. Why not just run him into the ground while allowing Heyward and Schafer to get ready. Mix him in a group with Diaz, Jones, Anderson, and Blanco. If that upsets Delta, so be it. There still people out there who think he’s an above-average player. He’s not, and I don’t know what else can be said to convince these people.”

  59. I think he was putting Victorino in the same class as guys like Mike Cameron, not Beltran.

  60. Now that is how an at-bat by most pitchers ought to go. Take until you can’t take anymore, and then do what you can.

  61. So it took a little longer. Let’s make them pay here.

    Edit: Kudos to Lowe for using up six pitches there.

  62. Damn, look back at the trade the Mets made for Santana, they gave up basically junk, then look at what we gave up for Tex, three guys who are starting for there big league club.
    Awful trade by JS, just awful.

  63. 94–how? by giving away outs via bad baserunning?

    Edit–97–I agree completely. I didn’t like the trade then and like it even less now.

  64. And as a Santana owner, I’m glad that those count as unearned runs, even though the unearned run rule is stupid.

    And well you might boo, guys.

  65. Major difference between Tex trade and Santana trade: Santana made it clear that he would not accept a trade to any team that would not immediately give him a huge, multiyear extension. Tex was a Boras client, so it was clear he couldn’t be extended.

    There were only a couple teams who could afford to pay Santana over $100 mill, which greatly decreased the pool of possible Johan buyers.

    YEAH, MATT AND KOTCH!

  66. And Lowe has only thrown 80 pitches. We get at least another inning from him, maybe two, with the big guys ready in case he falters.

  67. Why do Chip and Joe keep whining about Manuel taking out Santana? This is a 162 game season, and he’d thrown 108 pitches. Manuel made the right move, despite the result.

  68. “Giving the Mets fans a chance to boo their team again.”

    Music to my ears!

  69. A legitimately good at bat from Francoeur, based on Gameday at least, with the caveats that he swung at one clear ball and failed to swing at a curve down the middle.

  70. Have Feliciano pitch t Diaz was dopey, he does hit lefties well, Ron Darling was basically calling him dumb for allowing it.

  71. Ok, this is getting to the point that the Braves are going to have to do something with Schafer.

  72. So maybe I’m looking for what may not be there, but he fouled off some tough pitches before putting one in play. I would have much preferred he just demonstrate that power he used to have on that get-me-over curve than get a groundball hit, but I’m not making decisions for the Braves, so I can lower my standards a little for Frenchy.

  73. Would Jeremy Reed be the “replacement player” that value is compared to if he took someone else’s spot.

  74. Did Schafer misplay the ball that badly….or was it was it just the ESPN angle?

  75. This is a waste. Let Lowe finish the inning against the bottom of the order and save Moylan for the 8th.

  76. For a guy who could barely put the ball in play, Joe sure seems to think that these players always hit the ball where they want to.

  77. I would have gone with Bennett, and then Soriano if it was within 3. If not, then Carlyle or someone. Soriano and Gonzo are going to be overworked pitching in these non-3 run games.

  78. Using Moylan for one out, seems like a waste to only bring another righty in.

  79. MLB trade rumors has the FA list for this offseason up already
    we better trade for OF’ers.

  80. Gonzo gonna warm up now? It looked like it but you gotta be kidding me.

    edit: ballgame

  81. Solid win.

    Followed what I think will have to be the blueprint if we’re to have any success this year.

    Pitching and defense.

    Bullpen outside the “Big 3” is worrisome, and obviously, we’re not consistently putting up 8 on a daily basis, but solid win.

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