A Better Way To Do World Series Home Field Advantage (by JonathanF)

The change in the CBA which now will end the experiment to make the outcome of the All Star Game determine home field advantage in the World Series has met with general acclaim; this is mostly because people didn’t like the idea in the first place, not because it’s being replaced with something better. It’s being replaced with better regular season record, which is simply not a very good idea at all.

Let’s start with the fact that it doesn’t matter very much. My previous statistical exploration in Braves Journal was devoted (unsuccessfully) to explaining why baseball’s home field advantage is so small, much smaller than any other sport. That series focused on the regular season, but it’s not much different in the World Series. The AL won 11 of 14 “This Time It Counts” All-Star Games, but only 6 of the resulting 14 World Series. That’s barely even evidence; in fact they won just over half of their advantages (6 out of 11) while the NL won all three of theirs, but that is entirely consistent with the advantage being worthless.

For Braves fans, 1991 still sticks in the craw as the World Series Determined by Who Played At Home and The Hulk Hrbek And Those Stupid Baggies In The Outfield, but for every 1991, there’s a 1996: home teams went 1-5. And, while not a very good measure, home teams in Game 7 in the ASG-determined years are 1-2.

That said, on the assumption that fans of a team want the 4-3 advantage, there is a case to be made that the better deserving team gets the “advantage.” There might even be some extra revenue in it.   People seem to forget that the old system was for the home field advantage to alternate. The NL got the odd years and the AL got the even years. Nothing a team did determined whether or not they got the advantage. That said, ever since the playoffs began in 1969 (remembering Braves debacles seems to be my specialty in this essay) the better regular season record got home field advantage, so it was somewhat natural to think of carrying that system into the World Series.

But in an unbalanced schedule, it really makes very little sense, beyond the fact that it’s easy to calculate. After all, a coin flip is pretty easy to calculate too. Teams with better records are very often worse teams. This is particularly true when the records are close. I don’t think this surprises anybody, but we put it aside in determining, for example, who gets in the playoffs except when we want to argue about some really good team that didn’t get in.

And to be honest, I think the quest to get the best team is a little silly anyway, so I’m OK with using a not-particularly-good index of goodness to measure it. But for those who want a better measure, they abound, and we don’t use them for three reasons: (1) they’re more complicated; (2) they are more out of a team’s own control than their own win-loss record; and (3) people don’t care enough.

A simple robust measure is a Bradley-Terry ranking. A variant of this (ELO ranking) is used to rank chess players and it is pretty standard in comparing college hockey teams, where it goes by the name KRACH, which stands for Ken’s Rankings of American College Hockey, after Ken Butler who first used it in this way. His original explanation of how it works is clearer than I’m going to be here, so people who want the details can go there, but I’ll give a little flavor here, for the MLB version. In Ken’s spirit, I’m naming it JOBA, for Jonathan’s Overall Baseball Assessment. I chose this name because it will take the world by storm, be attacked by a swarm of small insects (metaphorical critics) be ridiculously overused and then fall into obscurity.

JOBA is a vector of values, one per team, which summarizes their chances of winning every head-to-head match between the two teams. If The Braves have JOBA-value B and the Mets have JOBA-value M, then the chances that the Braves will beat the Mets in a head-to-head match is B/(B+M). That’s it. We then pick the 30 JOBA-values to best explain how teams did head-to-head against each other. In fact, what we do is pick JOBA values that get the aggregate win-loss numbers for each team exactly right given the schedule they played. The only data you need is the 30 x 30 matrix of head-to-head wins. And the programming to get the ratings is not that complicated.

So while all JOBA does is recover the exact win-loss record for each team, it does it in a way that accounts for scheduling differences. 93 wins is a much better record in a good division (the AL East, last year) than 95 wins is in a division that has some bad teams in it (looking at you, Nationals.) We know this, and we talk about it, but JOBA makes a unique simple adjustment for it that in some ways explains where the won-loss record comes from by eliminating strength of schedule considerations.

JOBA ratings aren’t actually unique. Note in the example above that if we multiply B and M by the same constant we get the same prediction. So while the relative ratings are unique, we can change how we express them up to a constant. I have chosen to make the Atlanta Braves have a permanent JOBA rating of 1000. Every other team is determined relative to the Braves. This decision doesn’t affect the relative rankings in any way. When ESPN takes over this idea, they’ll do something like have the Red Sox and the Yankees add to 100… doesn’t matter. Any single constraint that fixes the level of any one team will do, as will any scaling constraint that sets the total range.

So, based on the 2016 regular season, here are the JOBA rankings:

  CHC  2297   103
   TEX  2156    95
   BOS  2093    93
   CLE  2078    94
   BAL  1940    89
   TOR  1916    89
   WSN  1836    95
   SEA  1759    86
   DET  1731    86
   NYY  1723    84
   HOU  1681    84
   LAD  1646    91
   KCR  1536    81
   NYM  1526    87
   STL  1525    86
   SFG  1510    87
   CHW  1445    78
   LAA  1362    74
   PIT  1288    78
   MIA  1283    79
   OAK  1205    69
   TBR  1195    68
   COL  1157    75
   MIL  1121    73
   PHI  1061    71
   CIN  1024    68
   ARI  1010    69
   ATL  1000    68
   SDP   987    68
   MIN   923    59


First off, while these ratings don’t mirror wins, they go in pretty much the same direction, as you’d expect. (The correlation coefficient is almost 95 percent, for those who care.) And where they diverge (as with Boston versus Washington) they go in exactly the way you’d expect: Boston was a much better team than Washington last year despite having two less wins.

The other thing that leaps out at you in these rankings is how badly the NL sucks right now, top to bottom. Tampa Bay is a pretty bad team, but they are actually slightly better than Colorado, who won 7 more games. Note by the way that the interleague games are telling you everything you can possibly know about the relative strength of the two leagues, but that instead of just looking at the interleague record, they look at whether strong NL divisions played weak AL divisions, and vice versa.

There are another couple of advantages to using JOBA. First, we would no longer care how the interleague schedule works out. Plus, teams would get full credit for how they did against who they played. Second, makeup games at the end of the season and ties leading to one-game playoffs could be played if you wanted to, but you wouldn’t really need to: the 162 game JOBA and the 161 game JOBA are not going to be very different, and you could break regular season ties with JOBA. Even better, you could use JOBA to pick wild card teams. (The only difference last year is that Cardinals would have gotten in instead of the Giants, so maybe records are better: the Cardinals should never get in.)

So there you have it: JOBA. I’d use it for standings, wild cards, and every playoff matchup, but that’s definitely just me. W-L isn’t that bad. But if you think home field advantage in the WS matters, if you aren’t going to use JOBA, go back to alternation. It’s fairer.

94 thoughts on “A Better Way To Do World Series Home Field Advantage (by JonathanF)”

  1. Bringing this over from the previous post.

    Acuna vs Andruw: It seems that even the coaches hold a negative bias towards Andruw Jones for what really amounts to an ugly perception that his career prematurely went off a cliff due to a poor lifestyle (“laziness” and “gluttony”). By contrast, he had a 16-year career, which is just two less than Chipper. Perception is an ugly thing.

    This is a bit fringe-y, but if we accepted that Andruw was really 23 when he broke into the league, then his career took a dive at age 34. That’s actually not unheard of, no? All about perception.

    We should all be tickled to death if Acuna can be a 15-20 homer guy with solid defense for 16 years. I’ll take a team of him, please.

  2. He can get outta here with the “If Acuna reaches his potential, he could have a better career than Andruw.”

    Andruw was a top 5 defensive player of all time, and he hit 434 god damn home runs. Gimme a break.

    When Andruw misses the Hall of Fame, he’ll be the first guy ever punished for not being Willie Mays. Except maybe Duke Snider. But they still put Snider in the Hall of Fame.

  3. I think Andruw is a fringe Hall of Famer, but it’s disingenuous to compare him to Chipper. Andruw was done as an everyday player by 30 and spent the rest of his career knocking around as a bench player. Chipper was putting up starting-quality seasons (by rate, at least; he was hampered by injuries in the latter half of his career) all the way up until the end, and could have hung around longer to compile if he’d wanted.

    None of this has anything to do with Acuna, of course. Take your prospect comparisons with many grains of salt.

  4. Andruw is still my favorite all time Brave, although that other kid from his island is pretty high up there. Must be something in the water.

  5. Andruw shoved a Hall of Fame career into a single decade and then he was fat and awful for the last five years of his career. I think I’ll do a Keltner List on him this offseason. I’m an enthusiastic Andruw for HOF guy, far more so than I ever was for Dale Murphy.

  6. @1 Yes, if Andruw was 5 years old than his birth certificate, then I suppose his career path (abrupt collapse at age 35 / played until age 40 – instead of collapse at age 30 / played until 35) would look more befitting of a HOF candidate. Of course, considering the Braves signed him at “age 16” it would pretty crazy if he were able to hide being actually 21 at the time.

    Fairly or not, Andruw got slapped with the dreaded ‘squandered potential’ label for the crime of being transcendently good at an extremely young age and then subsequently failing to meet his perceived talent ceiling. Side note – at this rate, JHey is going to get the same label.

    I’m glad to hear that Acuna is a legit OF prospect, and it also sounds like he may be able to stay a bit under the radar by virtue of coming to the fore after Swanson/Albies and before Maitan. If Acuna could develp into a solid regular that would be an enormous help.

  7. @8

    Andruw’s biggest crime was hitting two home runs in a World Series game.

    Also, Heyward isn’t close to as good as Andruw

  8. Andruw is still my favorite all time Brave, although that other kid from his island is pretty high up there

    Randall Simon?

  9. Andruw isn’t getting into the HOF because too many see the body change and think steroids. His defensive 10-year peak to go with a near-elite bat makes him a no-brainer HOFer if not for the steroid suspicion.

    Paint it how ya must, but that is the only reason people aren’t voting for Andruw. He averaged over 6 WAR/year for a decade.

  10. Memory plays funny tricks on us, doesn’t it?

    I lean towards putting Andruw in the Hall of Fame because he’s one of the five or ten best fielders of all time, but I don’t think it’s very true to say he had a near-elite bat.

    From 1997-2007–Andruw’s Atlanta years–his 114 OPS+ is tied for 65th best among players with at least 3000 plate appearances. That isn’t near-elite, although it’s plenty good for the best fielder in baseball. (Bonds-Pujols-Ramirez are 1-2-3 on that list; Chipper is tied with Edgar Martinez for 9th. Ellis Burks might be considered near-elite at 25th. Troy Glaus is 50th. Geoff Jenkins is 60th. Even Kevin Millar comes out a tick above Andruw at 63rd.)

    Meanwhile, it also isn’t true that Andruw fell off a cliff the way that Jason Heyward has. Andruw’s bat got a little slower, so he stopped being able to make up as well for the bad habits he always had. (He also had a couple of pretty good hitting seasons after the cliff, anyway, albeit not as a regular.) Heyward in 2016 was a fundamentally different hitter–a pathetically hapless and weak and lost hitter–than he has ever been in his career. I have never seen anything like it–unless it’s like Chuck Knoblauch getting the yips about throwing the ball to first base–and I hope it isn’t a permanent change.

  11. I know it’s not what you are trying to measure Jonathan since JOBA seems to really just account for wins and losses compared to strength of schedule, but I have little trouble if the point of the exercise is to say which teams are the most deserving then the Rangers with a +8 run differential come out #2.

  12. Meanwhile, it also isn’t true that Andruw fell off a cliff the way that Jason Heyward has.

    The year that Andruw Jones left the Braves, 2008, he headed to Los Angeles on a two-year, $36 million contract, and he proceeded to hit .158/.256/.249 and produce -1.1. He was arguably the worst everyday player in baseball until he was finally benched.

    Jason Heyward has never come close to that.

  13. Andruw had a very odd career arc, sure, but it still doesn’t change the facts:

    -10-time Gold Glover (tied for 2nd-most all-time by outfielders), and one of the best defenders in the history of baseball
    -Best defender in baseball for almost 10 years
    -Hit 434 HRs, including 25 a year for 10 years, and 51 in one year
    -Had a 100 OPS+ or higher in 11 seasons

    Did he fall off a cliff? Sure, but he still hit 66 HRs after his career supposedly ended. He was a very good player at 20, and one of the best players in baseball from ages 21 to 29. As Game, Blauser eluded to, let’s say he had come up at 24, became one of the best players in baseball at 25 until he was 34, then had a 95 OPS+ from age 35 until 39, then I think we’d look at his career a lot differently. I just don’t see how you keep one of (if not the) best center fielders in baseball who also happened to hit 434 HRs out of the Hall of Fame.

    The steroids stuff is really the crazy part. I guess because of his steep decline he must have been taking steroids, but that’s the reverse logic of the players at the time. The proof that Roger and Barry (and many others) did steroids is because they didn’t decline. I think it’s pretty simple with Andruw: he’s just lazy. He had tremendous outfield instincts, and he was a phenomenal athlete. He had his fair share of personal indiscretions with the Gold Club incident and getting arrested for domestic violence. I think he got lazy, fat, and couldn’t ride his instincts well into his 30’s.

    He’s still a Hall of Famer. I hope someone does a Keltner on him.

  14. @19

    I think the first LA season after he left Atlanta is burnt into the brains of Braves fans. At the time, he had just won his 10th straight Gold Glove, but his bat was fading (.222/.311/.413). He had the atrocious first season in LA, but he ended up having seasons of 100, 120, and 126 OPS+ in the AL next, so most Braves probably forgot about him and assumed his career essentially ended after that LA season. I don’t think he had a Dale Murphy-type career where he peaked and then was completely gone.

  15. I don’t love Matt Weiters, but he seems to be the odd man out in this game of musical chairs. His ever dwindling market may cause him to sign for cheap or at least take a short pillow contract. But the nats probably would lime a decent catcher and I never count out the angels on free agents.

  16. Putting Jason Heyward at Andruw’s level is an absolute crime. Jason can only dream of having a career like Andruw. Seriously, the guy was not a corner outfielder. He was probably the best defensive centerfielder ever while consistently hitting over 30 HR every year.

    The best centerfielder ever with a career OPS of .823 and hitting 434 homeruns. For me, whatever criticisms he got and are still getting is totally unfair.

    And he went around Scott Boras to agree a contract extension with the Braves. I love the guy.

  17. I’m genuinely surprised to see how many articles on the internet say he’s not a HoFer. And I’m a small Hall guy, and I think he’s still in. Another fun statistic is that he played 153+ games a year for 11 straight years. The dude just got fat and lazy.

  18. @24 That’s because he played for the Braves. I think Scott Boras did the right thing by trying to move him to a big market team to build up his reputation for HoF. Just didn’t happen the way he wanted it.

  19. I doubt playing for the Braves is going to hurt Andruw in the voting. The Braves will have, once Chipper gets in, four HoF players, a manager, and a GM from those years. One of those guys (Smoltz) was arguably helped by his association with that team — his career compares to some contemporaries who missed out.

    Andruw will miss out on the Hall because the latter half of his career was so underwhelming that it obscures the brilliance of the first half, and because of the squandered potential narrative. There’s no anti-Brave bias evident in the voting.

  20. @26 Another thing that may work against Andruw Jones is that he was never part of a World Series winning team. Sounds utterly ridiculous as an argument, yes, but to the informed HOF voter, to whom it may matter to, Jones was only apart of teams that lost the Series going forward. All the Braves players who have entered the Hall from that team were on the 1995 World Series team. Andruw Jones obviously was not part of the 1995 team, and no Braves players who joined the team after that will be up for HOF consideration.

    Just think that this is an interesting angle. It’s not my personal argument but something my brain spat out. I think it’s irrelevant, personally, but I won’t be shocked to hear it as an argument against him.

  21. @26 Are you kidding me? Is Smoltzie the only pitcher ever to have 200 wins and 200 saves and 3000 Ks in the history of baseball? And you say his HoF case needs help?

    My thinking is: If Ozzie Smith and all the defensive wizards are in the HoF, Andruw should make it easily.

  22. Andruw isn’t getting in. Voters will look at his low BA. He never hit the magic 500 HRs
    He is going to be lumped with the roid guys because he had a massive spike in HRs in one season.
    The Braves never retired his number.All world defense shortstops get in, but voters don’t value defense at other positions.
    Fair or not, he isn’t getting in.

  23. It is interesting that the Braves haven’t retired his number yet. I think perhaps there are indicators they will: he’s been brought back into the Braves fold as an instructor, and it would be something to retire somebody’s number in the new stadium if only to connect new direction with old. I can’t think of anyone else than Andruw worthy enough to have their number retired that hasn’t had it done already.

  24. @10 @23 To be clear, I wasn’t arguing (or even suggesting) that JHey’s career is comparable to Andruw’s – all I was saying is that they both will likely be put in the ‘wasted potential’ category by baseball fans for the crime of failing to reach (and remain at) their perceived ceilings as players.

    Andruw does have a HOF case, but IMO it’ll be tough for him to get in. Funny enough – his career fWAR (67.1) is nearly equal to that of all-time defensive great Ozzie Smith (67.6). I won’t jump in ahead of the Keltner post but I’d bet good money that Andruw won’t get into the HOF. FYI, here’s a list of OF by career fWAR from 1900 to present. Andruw is 26th all time, behind Larry Walker (won’t get in to HOF) and Carlos Beltran (TBD).

  25. Larry Walker was a fine player. I always wished he played for us.

    Not in center, though: Andruw was the best there these old eyes ever saw.

  26. @29 — I don’t think it’s clear that Smoltz had a significantly better career than Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, or even Kevin Brown, none of whom gained much traction in the voting. Smoltz’s case was clearly bolstered by his inclusion in “the Big Three” and the voters’ love of symmetry.

    For the record, I would put all four in the Hall, so I don’t think Smoltz is undeserving or anything. But he clearly rode on Maddux and Glavine’s coattails a little when it came to the voting.

  27. Andruw will not be elected to the HOF for the same reason Jim Edmonds will not be elected to the HOF. The Hall voters categorically underrate center fielders (and 2b and 3b.) To get into the Hall a CF must hit like a corner OF (or have played in historical eras.) Andruw’s bat was marginal compared to the sluggy-mcsluggersons of his era*, and his world class defense will not get him past the post for a majority of voters. The same people who whack one out every third week about “scrappy defense and ‘glue-guys'” will once again ignore defense entirely for any player not named “Ozzie.”

    *Andruw will also take a doubly negative impact from playing in the “steroid era.” Voters, being stupid morons who probably can’t find their own rental cars on most mornings and could almost certainly be replaced by 1970s era AI tech, will simultaneously discount his counting stats because he played in the 90s and early Aughts, while also comparing him (poorly) to corner OF and first basemen who raked up bigger counting stats during that era.

    The voters are morons. They will fail Andruw (and Edmonds.) The only CF from that era who will get in will be Griffey, Jr.

  28. 35—Not sure I agree with you. I don’t think “The Big Three” had much to do with anything, other than they were all the best pitchers on that string of great teams. I think the greatness of his teams probably helped, of course.

    I think his election was more about the novelty of the 200 wins/150 saves thing, though. Well, that and his postseason numbers.

  29. Today, i posted this…


    A fan…rightly or wrongly i have always assumed two things about your recent career path. One, you were horribly compromised through no fault of your own by the whole Paterno mess. The timing could not have been worse – large check already in the bank, living on campus, close to the family then the skies opened and invective poured in on your subject’s head. No win.

    Two, the recent past culminating in what you have written today. For many weeks the blogs had been sporadic it seemed, unpredictable, uneven. Then you threw a switch and suddenly there they were, sometimes two in the same day. Tell me i’m wrong but i interpreted that volte face then, and certainly now, as an attempt to restore your credibility. And get a new job offer. I am delighted it appears to have succeeded.

    Baseball. Joe P. Yes please.

    in response to this…


  30. @11, 12: Thanks!
    @18: If you want to look at the quality of teams, you definitely want to look at run differentials, and the main alternative method to JOBA, namely Poisson regression, does exactly that. The post was long enough already so I didn’t describe this alternative.
    BUT: the point of baseball is to win games, not to run up run differentials. It is certainly possible to have one without the other and if run differentials actually determined anything, games would be managed a lot differently, and not for the better. Plus there’s the problem that a few blowout losses or wins can skew run differentials very badly. 20 one-run wins is a better sign of a good baseball team than one 20 run win… Suffice it to say that over the course of a season, the competition-weighted run differential and JOBA aren’t usually that different, and, where they are, you can usually point to a handful of outlying scores to explain it.

  31. It is well worth going back through https://twitter.com/Braves and reading Coppolella’s #AskCoppy from yesterday. I was struck by these two comments.

    This question was about Albies:

  32. I will look forward to your perspective on Andruw’s HOF candidacy. Personally I have always felt he needed 2 to 3 more elite level years. Of course, he started younger than most and I don’t think I fully took that into account.

  33. I feel like if you’re as good a defender in centerfield as Ozzie Smith was at shortstop, and you hit 434 homers, you get into the Hall.

  34. @45 So Andruw Jones was the best defender in center field ever?

    If so, then I would see that as a very compelling reason for him to enter the HOF.

  35. So Andruw Jones was the best defender in center field ever?

    How much do you trust defensive metrics?

    That’s a link to B-REF’s career leaders in dWAR. Andruw clocks in at #20. He is the only player in the top 50 who was primarily an outfielder. 30+ of them are shortstops, or SS/3B combos. There are a few high end defensive catchers, and a couple of 2B.

    And then there’s Andruw.

  36. The next outfielder on the list (not counting a couple of guys from the early years who played SS and OF) is Willy Mays. He is #63 on the list.

  37. The difference between Ozzie Smith and the next best SS in history (Mark Belanger) is 4 dWAR.

    The difference between Andruw Jones and the next best OF in history (Willy Mays) is 6 dWAR.

  38. Looking at Andruw’s accomplishments, and then Willie Mays’, and even adjusting for era, it’s clear: if Andruw is not a Hall of Famer, it’s because he’s not Willie Mays. Very unfair.

    RE: Coppy

    Considering what Mike Dunn just got on a three year deal, and the public comments about AJ Minter, I can see why Coppy hasn’t signed a reliever this offseason. There’s very little public hype about Minter, but based on the rare instances that he’s been mentioned, they seem to really like him. I wonder if they’re not hyping him up because he’s an injury concern, and if he’s healthy, he can just be this huge surprise.

  39. Simmons is already 69th on that list in 5 seasons.

    I would have Andruw in the HOF, best CF in history, premium position. And valuable with the bat as well.

  40. I was really encouraged to see that Albies is ahead of schedule, too. IMO, he is maybe the biggest wild card for next year, as 2B is one of those positions we really need to improve. Imagine our up-the-middle defense with Dansby, Albies, and Inciarte.

    And re: Minter, relief pitching is at such a premium. A team that can produce it on the farm and flip it at the right time is doing it right. I think that’s an underappreciated aspect of the FO’s high-upside pitching prospect philosophy. If some of these guys “only” turn into good relievers, then they are still worth a lot.

    Edit: yes to Andruw in the Hall, btw. Loved the way he would play shallow and pick singles off the grass.

  41. It’s funny that with all this talk about Andruw’s historically good defense, nobody has uttered that dread phrase “dWAR overrates defense”. I guess when we’re arguing for our guy to be in the hall, it’s forgotten.

    I say yes to Andruw for the HOF, but it’s closer than I think it should’ve been. He really could’ve been one of the all-time greats.

  42. @54 I think that’s what Coppolella has been imagining all along and is why I have Albies on my suspected untouchables list. Hopefully he makes the jump some time next season. It’d be nice to go ahead and get familiar with our long term infield (if it pans that way).

  43. @58
    It may be overvalued, but if the guy has the highest dear at his position he is an all time great right?

  44. @57, I don’t know if dWAR overrates defense (but wait, isn’t dWAR purely a defensive stat?), but it doesn’t at all surprise me that there’s a metric that confirms what I saw all those years on TV and in the stands watching the Braves. Watching Andruw day in, day out, I couldn’t imagine I could see CF defense played any better, and lo and behold: dWAR.

  45. One can both believe that WAR overvalues defense, and believe that higher dWAR means a better defender.

    You can believe that defense is generally over rated without believing it cannot be quantified and therefore should not be considered.

  46. I think Andruw is the most talented Braves player I’ve ever watched. I vote him into the Hall without hesitation. I think when you are a star that burns brightly for a decade then that is just as impressive as being consistently good for 15+ years.

  47. Pedantry aside, if dWAR significantly overvalues defense, Andruw goes from a fringe HOFer (60-70 WAR) to not even close (40-50 WAR).

  48. So Wellington Castillo will be an Oriole. It seems 6 million with a 2nd year option of 7 million would be the exact kind of a deal that the Braves would be looking for. I don’t understand why they didn’t pursue him. All I can figure is Atlanta puts a high value on pitch framing.

  49. Could be that Castillo has a bad reputation. I’m not trying to say that the guy IS a bad teammate, bit the Dbacks inability to move him raises some questions.

  50. I don’t think there’s a stat that accurately tells how well a catcher calls a game. I would also bet that the Braves don’t like the way Castillo calls a game.

  51. @64 That’s not how it works, JohnWDB. Using Fangraphs’ WAR measurements, Andruw’s career defensive value was about 28 fWAR (out of a total 67 fWAR). It’s certainly fair to say that there’s some uncertainty as to defensive measurements, but that implies potential measurement error could either underestimate or overestimate a player’s defensive contributions – it does not mean the proper response is to almost completely discount the calculated defensive WAR.

    Practically speaking, HOF voters undervalue defense relative to offense (except in the rare cases where a player’s defensive value is part of a broadly-agreed upon narrative of greatness, eg Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith and Ivan Rodriguez). Andruw was the best-fielding OF in the history of baseball during his Braves’ tenure; if his defense aged gracefully I suspect he’d have been a HOF shoo-in. However, as we know, Andruw thickened up a lot in his late 20’s / early 30’s and immediately lost his defensive value. I have to think the dominant narrative for Andruw as far as HOF voters are concerned is that he *was* great defensively and prematurely declined due to weight gain, which would be *his fault* as opposed to, say, injury issues outside of his control. Consequently, HOF voters will feel empowered to discount Andruw’s Braves-era defense somewhat because he had the temerity to gain weight and cease being an all time defensive great at age 30.

    After turning 30 and leaving the Braves, Andruw Jones was never again a good fielder or even a full-time regular. He bounced around between teams, batted under .200 in two different seasons and never hit above .250 or 20+ HRs in a year. I think those years do a lot to sour his HOF chances.

    @66 Of note, Welington Castillo’s nickname is “Beef” according to BRef. Perhaps with the Tuffy Gosewisch signing the Braves felt they were already stocked up on awesome names. Or perhaps they saw a guy who doesn’t project as appreciably better than Tyler Flowers and also bats righty so isn’t a great fit (unless they then moved Flowers). Also, Castillo doesn’t fare well by framing statistics while Flowers rated as excellent in 2016 (Statcorner Catcher Report). Of note – Matt Wieters also rated poorly at framing per that report, which is likely a good part of why he is having such a hard time finding a team to meet his contract demands.

  52. He doesn’t have to be better than Flowers, though. He has to be better than Anthony Recker, which isn’t a particularly stiff task.

    Castillo (and Ramos, for that matter) went for significantly less money and years than I anticipated, and it looks like Wieters will as well. Even if they’re not perfect fits, I’m still kind of curious as to what Coppolella’s ideal catching addition even was. It’s not like the Braves even have a hotshot catching prospect that they want to keep the door open for — that position is barren until, at least, single-A. If 1/6 is too rich for the Braves’ blood, I’m not sure what the solution is.

  53. All this debate over Andruw may be for not. Let’s see what happens with Ivan Rodriguez who is basically the Andruw Jones of catchers. Pudge is just a short hop from Andruw among DEF leaders on Fangraphs. Everyone in that neighborhood is basically in the HOF. Jones is literally sandwiched between hall of famers. Narrowing the list to just outfielders makes it glaringly obvious that no one has ever manned the outfield like Andruw Jones. No one.

    I think the narrative surrounding Andruw Jones going into the Hall will be shaped by his glove and topped off by his 50-homer season and multiple 20-20 years. I’m changing my opinion, here, and saying first ballot entry as he stands [very alone] in a category of defenders.

  54. In fact, I suspect Chipper Jones being on that ballot is going to fuel votes for Andruw as well. I think that is a story that may hold fascination with voters: Chipper and Andruw enter the Hall together. Any takers??

  55. It is amazing to think that we may have may have 6 hall of famers that solidified their claims playing or coaching for the Braves over about a decade beginning in the mid 90s.

  56. Acuna is crushing it in Oz by the way:
    “Ronald Acuna, rf, Braves. The Braves’ No. 6 prospect is playing for Melbourne in the Australian Baseball League. In a Saturday doubleheader, Acuna was 3-for-6 with two doubles and three walks in a sweep of Sydney. Overall, Acuna is slashing .375/.446/.556 with 13 stolen bases in 72 at-bats.”

  57. Man there is just something fingernails on chalkboard when I hear athletes described as “lazy”.

  58. Yeah, I always thought that “lazy” was an unfair criticism of Andruw. He never learned to lay off low and away sliders, but he played 160 games a year for a decade and his body broke down. He worked harder than I think most fans appreciated. Remember how he showed up with a different batting stance every year after hitting the video room? He never took a day off, he caught more balls than perhaps anyone who’s ever played center ever caught, and he did it in 98-degree humidity in Atlanta.

    I think the guy just gave everything he had to give.

  59. It always occurs to me that people who complain that athletes get “lazy” after they get paid big are usually 5’9″, 285 lbs of beer flab. Andruw Jones put in more work before he turned 16 than his detractors ever did their entire lives.

  60. I’m not 5’9″, 285 lbs, but it is hard for me to see how a 30-year old adds about 25 lbs over a 2 year period while playing at the highest level of sports. Andruw’s great, and I still think he’s a HoFer, but I do think that he let his body go as he got older. “Lazy” may be a harsh word, but I don’t think he got to a point where his metabolism failed him, and I don’t think he was putting in the same intensity of work that he was doing previously. “Lazy compared to his previously elite standards” if that works better.

  61. The idea that someone who had spent a decade keeping themselves in shape to the extreme level that Andruw did just woke up one morning and saidt ah fuck it and let himself get fat is the least likely thing I could think of to explain his weight gain. That’s why I’ve always hated the tautology of laziness as a rationale for performance. It’s a hearsay accusation like clubhouse cancer and to me, an exceptionally “lazy” way to characterize someone with a moral failing without having very specific proprietary and legally protected health information.

  62. I think “undisciplined” is what people really mean when they accuse Andruw of having been lazy. It’s not that he lacked effort or desire for baseball. Everyone knows Andruw Jones loves playing baseball. I have no doubt his offseasons were spent thinking about the sport. I don’t believe Andruw Jones ever demonstrated discipline in his approach to the game, his approach at the plate, and on his way home passed the McDonalds [or that one strip club].

    Let’s be real. Andruw Jones never returned from Curacao where we didn’t hear remarks about how good the home cooking is there.

  63. Is the suggestion being made that it is somehow impossible for professional athletes to fall into laziness?

  64. It does seem like the idea is being put forward that an athlete is exempt from the temptation of complacency.

  65. I think I put the proposition pretty clearly in number 82 and lspecifically wrt Jones, so please don’t mischaracterize what I said here. But in any event the last few comments have certainly convinced me that it’s way past time for me to go back to my lurking hole.

  66. The comment from me is that “fat lazy Andruw” was still fitter and better prepared to work as a biological machine than any of his critics ever will be.

  67. @86, Asking a question isn’t making a characterization. I was honestly trying to get further into your reasoning. @82 seemed as interested in characterizing harshly those who might wonder why a talented player like Andruw would fall off a cliff, and visibly so. I don’t think anybody here is suggesting Andruw or players like him just woke up one morning and said “ah fuck it I think I’ll get fat .” That would be a straw man. More likely is that, as players get older, and as the contracts get bigger and more long-term, some of them might gradually slacken off on the kinds of training that kept them fit at the exact time their slowing metabolisms might not permit it. Before you know it: Pablo Sandoval. He’s admitted what everybody suspected.

  68. @88 I think it’s more likely that if effort was the issue, it was not that he slacked off, it’s that he didn’t work even harder than he already was. That’s one of the fun things about aging: you have to increasingly work harder just to try to maintain yourself.

    Murphy fell off a cliff, too. I recall reading that a friend of his said that Murph had many interests besides baseball, and when it got to the point where he had to dedicate most of his time to working just to stave off his decline, he didn’t. Nobody called him lazy.

  69. The point I find amazing is that any athlete that makes the top of his or her field, even the bench warmers, are in the top .001%, or higher, of human performance. And, as they age, it doesn’t take much to fall from that pinnacle. And for whatever reason, Andruw couldn’t maintain the elite peak. I’m sure he didn’t want to become the stiff he became with the Dodgers, but he did.

    I’m not going to speculate on the reason. I’m just glad I got to witness a decade of the greatest centerfield defense ever.

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