You Know Spring Training Is Dragging On When Smitty Asks For (And Alex Accepts) A Yale Hockey Thread (By Jonathan F.)

So while I hear rumors that other college sports hold championship tournaments in the spring, we all know that the only one people really pay attention to is Division I NCAA College Hockey. Since there are only 59 Division 1 teams, a 16 team single elimination tournament suffices: four regionals followed by a Frozen Four for the four victors. This year the Frozen Four is in Pittsburgh.

My alma mater the Yale Bulldogs have never made the Frozen Four, well at least not since such a thing really existed. Indeed, although they started playing hockey in 1895, Yale has only played in the NCAA tournament once before 2009, in 1952. (That was sort of a Frozen Four, but only four teams were in the tournament. Yale finished 3rd.)

Like the Atlanta Braves, however, the program has risen up, making the NCAA field in 2009, 2010, 2011 and, after a stumble last year, are almost surely going to make it again this year. Also like the Braves, however, they have knocked on the door in those three tournaments without quite breaking through, losing the last two times to the eventual champion. Like baseball, the playoffs are a crapshoot.

One of the interesting things to a math geek about hockey is that tournament invitations come from a complex mathematical formula rather than from the head-scratching deliberations of a committee. Thus, when you’re on the bubble, you know it, and you know exactly what you need to do to get in. Amazingly, although Yale has only two games left to play (the ECAC Conference Tournament this weekend in Atlantic City) through brute force enumerations of the formula for all 18 games remaining in the various conference tournaments, we know that Yale will finish somewhere between #3 and #18. While they aren’t yet assured of a spot, the odds are really, really good. (Almost like having an insurmountable lead over the Cardinals in Septem… oh, never mind.)

Nicely for a Braves fan, the playoff season occurs just as spring training is driving you crazy. So I’ll be going to the ECAC Championships this weekend in Atlantic City to see Yale play: Friday night and either Saturday afternoon (the consolation game) or Saturday night (the ECAC Championship). Unless you have another rooting interest, I hereby nominate the Yale Bulldogs as the Atlanta Braves of College Hockey.

109 thoughts on “You Know Spring Training Is Dragging On When Smitty Asks For (And Alex Accepts) A Yale Hockey Thread (By Jonathan F.)”

  1. OK, this really does open the door for an epic VU Baseball post that only Parish and Big D will read.

  2. I’d read a VU baseball post. I mean, I read a Yale hockey post didn’t I?

    Proof: Yale can wind up anywhere from #3 to 18 depending on how the conference tourneys play out. See? If I hadn’t read the post would I know that? And this is from a person who still thinks the Thrashers play in Atlanta.

  3. I hope we get that far. You never can tell when we might draw a USC in a Super Regional and poop the bed.

  4. Hockey? That’s the one where we seed teams and then farm them out to rural Western Canada, right?

  5. @9- Ha you know nothing about crapping the bed! I went to Georgia Tech, the team that is consistently in the top 10, sometimes will hover around the top 5, and then lose in the Regional that they’re hosting. Oh, the Atlanta regional has Southern Miss, Georgia State, and Elon? Better drop 2 of 3 to Southern Miss! It’s unreal, and I can only hope that trend stops in my lifetime.

  6. A brief note on Kimbrel: In an article up today on Baseball Prospectus, Ben Linderberg attempts to compare Rivera’s career with starters. In doing so, he produces a list of the best 0-start pitchers (by WARP) for every year since 1996:

    1997: Danny Patterson
    1998: Robb Nen
    1999: Keith Foulke
    2000: Gabe White
    2001: Kyle Farnsworth
    2002: Eric Gagne
    2003: Eric Gagne
    2004: B.J. Ryan
    2005: B.J. Ryan
    2006: Takashi Saito
    2007: Carlos Marmol
    2008: Brad Lidge
    2009: Jonathan Papelbon
    2010: Carlos Marmol
    2011: David Robertson
    2012: Aroldis Chapman

    One thing I took away from that list is that “elite” is a very fleeting thing for a relief pitcher. A lot of those guys burned out relatively quickly. Watching Kimbrel last year so incredible. I hope it’s the same this year, too, but eventually it won’t be. So make sure to appreciate that crazy-good heater and unhittable slider. Really enjoy it every time he makes a hitter look absolutely foolish. Revel in those 2-strikeout innings where the only contact was a weak dribbler to the mound or a popout. Because young as he is, there’s a fair chance he won’t be doing those things with anywhere near the same consistency 4 or 5 years from now.

  7. @13

    Definitely. The best of the best last maybe a decade. Mo. Billy Wagner. The others can be dominant closers, but they’re not otherworldly more than a couple of years. That’s why all of the money should be spent on Heyward, Freeman, Simmons, Medlen, Beachy or Minor, not on Kimbrel. You let the reliever walk if he gets too expensive.

  8. mavery (btw, did you change your name?) – did the author offer any reason why excellence from a closer is often unsustainable?

  9. For me, the question is, if you’re willing to let him walk at the end of his team-controlled years, at what point do you start seriously thinking about selling him for prospects? Every couple of years there’s a playoff bubble team with a crappy bullpen that is insanely desperate for a guy like Kimbrel.

    (I mean, hell, once upon a time we traded our top pitching prospect for Dan Kolb.)

  10. @10: Sam — I’ll have you know that Yale’s 25 man roster (another baseball parallel) has but 4 Canadians (and a Norwegian). Furthermore, next year’s goaltender, barring some new hotshot recruit, is from Cary, NC.

    OK… time to hit the road! Go Blue! (Milking this for another couple of days at least.)

    Ububba: if you know of any good BBQ joints in AC, let me know now.

  11. @15- I dropped the middle initial for consistency across different boards. It was becoming burdensome to try to remember where I was what.

    To answer your actual question, that was just my reaction to seeing the list; the point of the piece was to place Rivera in the context of different starters.

  12. So, I know that Braves Journalers recently have been discussing reasonable expectations for Gattis, and whether or not we can find any good comparables to base projections on – has anyone mentioned the similarities between Gattis and the Phillies’ Darin Ruf?

    They were born 20 days apart, both are big RH sluggers – Ruf 6’3″ 220, Gattis 6’4″ 230. Ruf put up .317/.408/.620 in AA in 2012 (he lead the minors with 38 HRs, then hit 3 in a cup of coffee for the Phils). Gattis doesn’t have nearly so many minor league ABs on his record, but in A/AA in 2012, he finished with a composite line (assuming I calculated it right) of .296/.382/.612, which is nearly identical to Ruf’s line.

    Generally speaking, the projection systems think Gattis is a bit more contact-oriented than Ruf (fewer strikeouts, fewer walks) but project to have similar power and overall production in the .750 OPS range for this season. Frankly, I think I’d take Gattis over Ruf because he 1) can catch at least some, and 2) appears to be marginally more gifted athletically. However, at least from the hitting standpoint, Ruf might be a good data point to compare to Gattis.

  13. If four Canadian bears sh*t in the woods, and it freezes, do they all play hockey with it at Yale?

  14. Mac on Durbin:

    The decision to sign Durbin (sending Yohan Flande to the minors a day after he was told he had made the Show for the first time, like some sort of cruel joke) is basically inexplicable, but then all of Durbin’s (now thirteen season) career has been inexplicable. He has had one good season, and that came after he’d already had eight bad ones. He wasn’t ever a hot prospect, or a first round draft pick, or the sort of physical specimen to make scouts lose their minds, or anything that would call for extra chances despite repeated failure. He’s not even lefthanded. There’s really no reason he isn’t selling insurance now instead of picking up a major league paycheck. He’s made about $6.6 million playing Major League Baseball, and there’s no evidence he’s run out of chances.

  15. @20 Ruf is not a good comparable for Gattis simply because Ruf was not out of baseball for four years. And yet Gattis has a better approach at the plate and makes better contact. And Gattis is not a little but a lot more athletic. Ruf might as bad a left fielder as I have ever seen. If you have doubts watch the highlight from last week when he stumbles, juggles Freeman’s flyball and then somehow manages to knock it over the wall for a homerun while falling down. Phillies fans can only wish Ruf was Evan Gattis.

  16. BJ barely even swung at that and it left the park. Can we just start the damn season already?

  17. Nice swing there by Upton.

    I’m sure that Gattis won’t be much of a defender in left field, either. I like Gattis a bit better than Ruf, but I think they could both have some nice years. The best-case for Gattis, I think, is Josh Willingham, a former catcher who doesn’t really have a defensive position but hits so damn well that it just doesn’t matter.

  18. There can be a big difference between below average and bad. Ruf’s ceiling in left is bad. Gattis has a strong arm and can catch the ball. His ceiling in left is (perhaps only marginally) below average.

  19. But really it is kind of a moot point. Because Gattis can catch. And he can hit the other way.

  20. I hope you’re right. I’ve gotten to know Mike Newman at Fangraphs, formerly of Scouting the Sally. He doesn’t believe Gattis can stick behind the dish. It looks like the Braves are trying to give him a chance to prove himself this spring, and he hasn’t embarrassed himself yet. He clearly has an arm. The real question appears to be footwork and positioning. I’d have the same question for him in left field. Dude can hit, I’m just not sure how mobile he is.

  21. From what I have seen this spring, Gattis is already a better catcher than Chris Johnson is a third baseman.

  22. I haven’t seen any video of Ruf (aside from the clip where he gifts Freeman a HR) and I’ve got no doubt that Gattis is more athletic – really, my point was to look at Ruf solely for the purposes of asking whether Ruf’s 2013 offensive projection was a good point of comparison relative to Gattis.

    Based on what I’ve seen so far, I will optimistically peg Gattis for something close to Freeman’s 2012 slash line – .260/.340/.460. That may be a little pessimistic on the AVG and optimistic on the ISO, I’m not sure.

  23. I don’t think we need Laird either. We grossly overpaid for a guy no one else wanted and now there’s hemming and hawing about his spot on the roster.

  24. I think Laird should sit, but Gattis would still go down to AAA upon B-Mac’s return.

    Also, I had a friend who played hockey at Yale, until he got kicked out of school.

  25. Given McCanns injury situation, and the uncertainty over Gattis, you have to have a guy like Laird on the team. I don’t care if he never starts a game here, but there is just too much risk at the moment to not have a professional catcher on the team. 1.5M is not a ton.

  26. Agreed. Laird is a necessity at least until McCann proves he can play at least four days a week.

    Darin Ruf won the game (albeit against Daniel Rodriguez) then got sent down to AAA to work on his defense.

  27. Rodriguez is the guy they found in the Mexican League I think. He’s 28, so basically just someone they took a flier on.

  28. #17
    JonF,
    Sorry, was traveling today.

    AC isn’t much of a BBQ town, to be honest. There’s a place called Corky’s on the Boardwalk (Tropicana, I think) that’s alright. It’s a chain, I believe, but I’ve never seen it anywhere but Atlantic City.

    When I’m down there, for food, it’s usually a casino steak joint or Italian place on the high end or a great subshop called White House on the low.

    BTW, there’s a great Irish pub down there called… The Irish Pub. It’s on New York Ave & Boardwalk. It’s open 24/7 & serves food all night.

  29. Sounds like Gattis is definitely on the team, and likely to at least share starting duties with Laird. DOB: “Gonzalez said all spring that Gattis’ defense has been fine, and bullpen coach and former major league catcher Eddie Perez said Gattis blocks balls in the dirt, throws well, and has steadily improved his game-calling.”

    To return to Alex’s point in 32, I think the “scouts” sometimes overanalyze this stuff. My take having watched Gattis catch four or five times now is that his defense is plenty good. There might be something to be said for footwork but there have been no shortage of virtually immobile MLB catchers that have been able to catch the ball and throw it down to 2B just fine. To me the biggest question mark is game-calling. If he figures that out (and it is interesting that Eddie noted a need for improvement), the other stuff hardly matters.

  30. I’m looking forward to watching Gattis hit in the regular season, but there are several facets to catching that are performed literally 15000+ times per season by a starter, and watching a few spring training games hardly overrides the scouting consensus. It’s probably best to accept that he’s going to be a below-average defensive catcher, at least for a while but probably permanently, and hope his bat overrides that fact. Which it very well might.

  31. There is no alleged scouting consensus. All that exists are some comments on the internet, mostly unattributed, and sometimes, I suspect, based on having actually watched fewer innings of Gattis behind the plate than we have seen this spring.

  32. Todays game is being replayed on MLB Network right now. Gattis is behind the plate so tune in and watch to see what he looks like back there.

  33. When I saw the MLB.com headline “Back in the game, Gattis close to realizing dream” on this site’s sidebar, I didn’t even click on it and just assumed he’s going to make the team.

  34. I’m kind of just doing this to bait people. Even saying that upfront, I bet it will work…

    Cody (Atlanta, GA)

    KLaw, what do you think about Evan Gattis? Playing for Lynchburg and is absolutely raking. I know he is a little old for that league, but he was out of baseball for four years. Great story.

    Klaw (1:08 PM)

    A little old? I hear teammates call him “Methuselah.” He’s not a prospect. He’s beating up on much younger, less physically developed competition, and offers no defensive value at a corner position.

  35. Wait, I thought that’s what you were just railing against! Of course there’s a scouting consensus. They’re at every game, and it’s their job to judge defensive mechanics. They’re better at it than we are. Do they band together and issue press releases? No. But the consensus is revealed in media reports, quotes from coaches and other players. Every one of which I’ve seen has been attributed, because who is hiding behind their opinion of Evan Gattis’s defense?

    Look, I happen to think catching is a hard thing to do well, and it would be frankly amazing if Gattis WAS average at it, given his lack of experience or athleticism. But the point is, he doesn’t have to be, if he hits well enough. Mike Piazza got by.

  36. I admit to some bias — I prefer to have a starting catcher whose defense enhances the performance of the pitching staff, and I could live with less-than-stellar offense as a tradeoff. I’m WAY more excited about Bethancourt, although at the moment I suspect I may be alone.

  37. I used to go to UAH games when I was a little kid. Still have a stick sitting around the house somewhere.

  38. My point is that while scouts are always scouting very few scouts have seen much of Gattis behind the plate, simply by virtue of the fact that he has not caught many games at any one level, and the viewpoints of those who have seen the most of him are not necessarily the same as the consensus cited by guys like Sickels or Law (I doubt I am not the first person to suspect that they often simply make shit up).

    The fact is that we really don’t know if he can be a league average defensive catcher. He has sufficient physical tools to be a league average catcher. But the most important variable is mental. Can he call a good game. Right now, I don’t think we have any way of knowing that, do we?

  39. Gattis is the man. I had a dream last night that Chipper came out of retirement and was traded to the Marlins. What a shi**y night’s sleep that produced.

  40. So far, disaster. In a (so far) replay of the 2011 Braves, a Yale loss last night combined with 3 or 4 long shots cut our NCAA chances from 99 percent to 75 percent in one day. The good news… Win or tie on this last day of the season and we’re in. I thought this was my chance to redo summer 2011 with a happier ending. Now I’m just reliving the sinking feeling in my gut.

  41. I’m a little concerned about Gattis game calling, personally. This is obviously purely speculative, but my concern comes from the poor performance of our starters this spring, coupled with Mike Minor’s comments after his own games. In that (obnoxious) way that Minor has of mentioning things that went wrong around him, but not saying its their fault, Minor has at least twice talked about Gattis calling for different pitches than Mac would’ve, and saying “I just threw what Evan called for.”

  42. 56- Ditto. It was pretty clear that he called a poor game in that second start (in the first start Minor put up zeros for four innings then had an episode). In fact Minor also mentioned that the pitching coach came out to talk to them about pitch selection. That is something you don’t often hear about. But at the same time Minor never once that I saw shook Gattis off. That’s a bad combination.

    On the other hand, throwing to Gattis Maholm has not given up an earned run in either of his last two starts. They look like they have nice rhythm and Maholm specifically mentioned that he liked the way Gattis was calling the game yesterday.

    For the time being I’d avoid putting Minor and Gattis together in games that matter, and let him catch Hudson and Maholm. Let Laird catch Teheran, Minor and Medlen.

  43. @56 – That concerns me more about Minor than Gattis. Hopefully, privately he is working with Gattis on his pitch calling, in addition to publically calling him out.

    Bottom line is, it’s the pitcher’s responsibility to accept a sign or shake it off. If the pitcher doesn’t let him know he doesn’t like the sign, what does he expect is going to change next time? I would think spring training especially is the time for this.

  44. Gattis is catching Teheran today, and Pagnozzi has Gilmartin. That tells us all we need to know about who is going to make the roster. But I’m still surprised Laird isn’t catching Teheran. This should be interesting.

  45. The pitches could be called from the bench if that is a problem. Either McCann, the other catcher or the catching coach

  46. Based on the quotes Bowman has up right now, I don’t think McCann is going to be ready until May at the earliest. I knew he’d only been doing long toss but this is the first I’ve heard about him having any discomfort.

  47. I’m not expecting McCann for at least a month. When he had the surgery, wasn’t it expected that he’d miss at least 6 weeks at the beginning of the season?

  48. Can you guys see the game at Disney? For some reason I can’t get a feed through MLB.TV up here.

  49. Teheran through five: no hits, nine Ks, three walks.

    Uggla and Gattis home runs. Typical Simmons unworldly defensive play.

  50. Even though it’s only the Astros (and I couldn’t for the life of me tell how much of that line-up is their “major league” team apart from Altuve) 9 K’s in 5 innings is still pretty nice to see.

  51. Thanks. I’m listening now. MLB.com was advertising watching “Atlanta phenom Julio Teheran” on the front page.

    Anyone heard how many pitches Teheran has thrown? Gameday is showing 45 but that is impossible.

  52. Gameday has two 5 pitch innings and a 7 pitch inning, and now 2 outs on 2 pitches in the 6th, so you never know.

    Edit: Ok, unless *everyone* is swinging at the first pitch, that seems like spring training gameday.

  53. So… I haven’t been keeping up on the games here, and I just spent the last half hour watching the highlights on Braves.com… and I know that watching only hightlights is self-selecting for, ya know, highlights.

    But.. this team is mashing the ball. I’m officially amped.

  54. Teheran’s WHIP this spring is 0.62. Even with a small sample size, that is almost unbelievable.

  55. He signed as a shortstop, but they shifted him to third base because he has an arm but he’s a really big dude. Usually, second basemen don’t need quite as much of an arm, but I don’t know if he’s mobile enough. I suppose he could probably be serviceable if he worked with Glenn Hubbard, though.

  56. Is Hubbard back in the organization?

    Not meant as a smart-ass question, just genuinely curious since I can’t remember hearing anything since he was let go a couple years ago.

  57. You know, I had forgotten that they let him go. But really, his greatest gift seems to be teaching people how to play second base better. He did that with Marcus Giles, Kelly Johnson, and Martin Prado, as I recall. They’d be smart just to hire him as a personal coach.

  58. Capitol Avenue Club had a great article about Craig Kimbrel and his command, recently.

    Showed that he basically reduced his walk-rate by throwing it down the middle of the plate and daring them to hit it.

    I don’t remember if they proposed, or if I just concluded myself, that this was why he seems to get hit around early in the year and at periods of over-use. He just grooves the ball up there, but when he is missing a mile or two per hour, or when his pitches aren’t biting and flatten out, he turns into a mortal heaver, rather than the killing machine he is the rest of the time.

  59. Salcedo’s just hit a 3-run HR. He’s trying really hard to convince us that he’s still got a future.

  60. 91 — I never understood why he didn’t get some position as a minor league instructor, but it’s also entirely possible that he just wasn’t interested in whatever offer he might have gotten.

    I’ve never seen anything about where he ended up or what he ended up doing after leaving the Braves. From all accounts he was fantastic at teaching infield defense, so I’ve always been very curious as to what happened.

  61. Gattis was behind the plate for Teheran today. Seems like the game calling was just fine. I still don’t think you can analyze a starters performance in Spring Training. They might still be working on release points and certain pitches more than anything.

  62. Hubbard was let go when Gonzales was brought on board. Either the two didn’t get along when they both coached under Cox, or Hubbard did something to piss off the organization (there was a coach who was telling Escobar to ignore Cox’s admonitions and maybe it was Hub). In any case, it seemed like a weird ending for someone with the long history he had with the team.

    He ended up coaching in Kansas City.

  63. As near as I can tell, McLovin is coaching against Curly on CBS. Can the hockey tournament match that?

  64. Sorry ti hijack the thread I started, but another horrible day for Yale… But they’re still alive for the NCAAs. Notre Dame and Michigan play tomorrow. If ND wins, Yale is in the NCAA tournament. I loathe ND, so this just proves to me I have no pride.

  65. From the sounds of it, Roy Halladay is pretty much toast. We’ll see on April 3rd.

  66. All the more reason to appreciate that Hudson’s been able to perform at a high level even with his advanced age (at least in baseball terms)

  67. Hudson is a sinker ball pitcher. They do well when their arms tire during the game.
    Bethany is smart even though I do not know the color of her ride.

  68. No doubt we’ve been fortunate to have gotten as much out of Hudson as we have, but we also never gave him 20 million a year and at this point we are built to survive without him. The Phillies without Halladay? Not so much.

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