Productive Outs

Tfloyd, when he isn’t waxing philosophic on the ways adversity builds (or perhaps reflects) character, asked a really good question about a standard Chip Caray regret regarding a particular stratagem from long, long ago, when men of impeccable character like Pete Rose played Our Game: the Productive Out.

Chip lauded Heredia for a productive out in advancing the runners to second and third with one out. I get it, but having a runner at third with less than two outs doesn’t mean what it used to. I haven’t looked at the stats, but I would think with all the strikeouts the odds of scoring from third with one out is a lot lower than it was a couple of decades ago.

There’s a lot that can be said about the “Productive Out,” (PO) much of it related to the arguments about the decline of the bunt (one prominent species of PO) but that’s much more than I can go into now. But the least I can do is answer tfloyd’s question.

As it turns out, the probabilities of eventually scoring from third with one out (I included times when there was also a runner on second, but I left out the times when the bases were loaded; this will still include all the times when the next batter walked to load the bases) have been pretty constant over time. The low point turns out to be the 1960’s (61.8%). There is a downward trend since the 1990s (66.9%) to today (65.4%). But it’s higher than it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s, so depending on when your TOTPO (Theory Of The Productive Out) was generated, today’s propensity to get a runner home from third with one out might be higher or lower.

This only begins to get at the big question, which is whether the PO is, in fact productive of runs, now, or ever. To get at that question, you’d have to factor in the probability of scoring from second with no outs (of which these productive outs are a subclass), the reduction in big innings and a number of other things. I may have more to say about this in the offseason if I get around to it.


When the Braves play the Mets or Yankees I am blacked out on MLB, so my ability to be annoyed by Chip is limited. I can tell you that Gary Cohen and Ron Darling earned their salaries last night — the ability to stay interesting in a 20-2 game going against you is one test of a broadcasting team. The discussions of the exact contours of the “unwritten rules” in blowout situations and the question of whether anyone over 35 can ever plausibly wear a jersey to a game were gold.

So while I haven’t gotten to hear Chip lately, he managed to blow up Twitter with his assertion that Ryan Hendrix is “the first and only major leaguer whose last name ends in X in the history of the game.” Pretty amazing. I commented on it at the time in the comments (there are in fact 352 such players and two others are currently active) but there’s no point in running something called Chipwatch if you can’t include this.

In addition, somehow only I heard him say that among the great catchers in Reds history (and he did mention some guy named Bench) he was “always really impressed with Corky Miller… remember him?” I have several things to say about this.

First, this phrase “Remember him?” is one Chip has used quite a bit lately. It is yet another completely unnecessary verbal tic. If I do remember him it is superfluous and if I don’t remember him it is at least slightly insulting, as it implies that I ought to.

Second, Corky Miller sucked, both for us and for the Reds. To quote Mac:

Hamster: Backup catcher Abraham “Corky” Miller. Before the 2003 season, I wrote of the declining quality of the backup catchers that “At this rate, in five years the Braves’ reserve catcher will be a hamster.” In Corky Miller, I was proven correct. (Added June 24, 2008)

For all I know, Corky Miller is a really fun guy to be on a road trip with, but that doesn’t quite rise to the level of “impressive,” unless you mean that when he sat on you, it made an impression.

Third, if you made a list of “Great Reds Catchers,” is there anyone other than Chip to whom the name Corky Miller (“Remember him?”) would occur. Corky Miller is 54th in lifetime WAR among Cincinnati catchers. David Ross only played in Cincinnati for 2.5 years and he’s in 33rd on that list. Only 202 people have ever played catcher for the Reds, though, so I guess Corky’s almost in the upper quartile. He was a lot better than Bill Plummer. (“Remember him?”)

Bobby Bonilla Day

He only gets one paycheck a year, but it’s a good ‘un. (If you haven’t seen his new commercial for Mint Mobile, take a 30 second break.) My annual gloating about this is slightly tempered by the fact that I learned this year that we will pay $1.3 million this year and $10 million next year to Bruce Sutter. (Since he’s still under contract, can’t we bring him back to shore up the bullpen? Could he be any worse than Jay Flaa?) But at least that brings Sutterpalooza to an end. Bobby’s got another 14 years of paychecks coming.

We are paying Bruce Sutter more this year than we are paying Pablo Sandoval, and Sutter won’t even wear an animal head. We are paying Sutter more next year than we are paying Ozzie Albies. Suit him up, AA.

DeGrom v. Anderson

Jacob deGrom is an anagram of Mr. Ace: Job? God. And that’s the way he’s pitched. So when Ian Anderson gave up a run in the top of the first, you realized the Braves were skating away on the thin ice of a new day. But then the guy who hadn’t given up three runs in a start all year, the guy who had had only given more than one run once all year, gave up three in the bottom of the first, with the critical blow a two-strike two-run line-drive-to-right homer by Riley.

After giving up two hits to start the 2nd, he was the great God deGrom. The entry immediately after “Hamster” is the Braves Journal Glossary is “Hibernation Mode.” That’s a little unfair when you’re facing deGrom, but 18 straight retired batters with 11 strikeouts (14 overall), if not hibernation, is at least a very healthy siesta.

Anderson gave up a solo shot to Dom Smith to make a one-run game in the seventh, but other than that he was completely in control after the first inning. But this is 2021. Guarding a one run in the eighth has all the guarantee of a Bernie Madoff promise to make a high enough return to easily pay Bobby Bonilla‘s salary outyears.

This was clearly shaping up to be a three Grammy-winner night. Tull was followed by Coldplay’s frontman, who got into trouble in the eighth, but got Alonzo to snuff out a threat. A similar threat in the bottom of the inning was similarly thwarted.

So the Fresh Prince completed the Grammy Trifecta, and blew yet another save on a hanger to Dom Smith for his second homer. This was, somewhat oddly, only the second game in which all three played in the same game, and the only game in which they were the only three Braves pitchers.

So then came the bottom of the ninth, facing Seth Lugo. The Mets, unsatisfied with the prospect of giving the Braves a runner on second to start the tenth inning, gave them a runner on second (Heredia) to start the ninth via a Lugo error. Heredia advanced to third on a productive out by the Panda. Kevan Smith proved he can only hit deGrom by striking out. Acuna was walked intentionally and Inciarte somehow worked a walk after going down 0-2. On the first pitch to Freddie, he rapped a ball off Lugo’s ankle which rebounded to Guillorme at third. Ronald was not running hard to third and it is possible, but not inevitable, that Guillorme could have beaten him to the bag to go to extra innings. Instead, he tried to get Freddie at first, which was impossible.

Will Smith got the win. Clearly, he deserved it. (OK, he didn’t, but we deserved a win for a change.)

The Braves are now over .500 at home and two under overall. As Tim McGraw’s daddy used to say: You gotta believe. Ok, maybe that’s not quite erudite enough, and I haven’t given any Latin phrases in this entry. So let’s go to Tertullian, a third century author whose most famous phrase (which he didn’t exactly say, but this is a Braves blog, not a scholarly disquisition) is Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is impossible.” That’s how the Braves season is going to go. What does it matter whether we have the tools to win or not? Have faith and we will.