Armageddon Game Thread, And A Tribute To Michael Harris II

Going onlne for $8.00 per card

There is nothing to be said about the biggest regular-season series in recent Braves memory that hasn’t been said a thousand times already.  So I won’t try.  Let’s win the first one and take it from there. I want to talk about @MONEYYYMIKEE.

Michael Harris II has now played 109 MLB games.  As of Wednesday night, he has now been put in all 9 slots in the starting lineup.  I wanted to take a look at how unusual this is.  So I made a list of everyone who has ever been written in the starting lineup in all 9 positions in a single season.  (As always, this list is based on the Retrosheet Database that doesn’t include the current season.  So if there’s someone other than Money Mike who has done so this season, I won’t know about it.)

It turns out that 90 different player-seasons have featured players batting in all nine lineup places.  Unsurprisingly, all date after the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973.  Some players have done it in more than one season – Dave Bergman (1988, 1989), Lorenzo Cain (2012,2021), Robbie Grossman (2017,2018), Enrique Hernandez (2017-19), Kelly Johnson (2011,2015), and Josh Reddick (2017,2019).  So it’s only 83 players.

Although the list could have a lot of ‘70s and ‘80s players on it, it has very few.  This is clearly a result of the fact that, partly influenced by sabermetrics, where guys sit in the batting order has moved around a lot more lately.

Harris’ full-spectrum batting feat over 109 games is not even close to the shortest time.  That record belongs to Matt Duffy, who started at all 9 places in only 41 games in 2019.  Runner up is Williams Astudillo, who spanned the order in 46 games started in the same year.  At the other end is Dansby, who did it last year in 174 games played, counting the playoffs. The full list is below, sorted by games started, if anybody’s interested, though depending on where you’re reading it you may have to squint a little.  I’m not sure there’s any one common denominator of these guys, except for the fact that none of them are superstars. A lot of them played for the Braves at one point or another: Grossman, Swanson, d’Arnaud, Kelly Johnson, Matt Kemp, even Mudge.

But the amazing thing about Harris is that he is only the second rookie to bat in all nine positions.  This is unsurprising.  Lots of rookies have very few appearances at all, and are reduced to pinch hitting roles or very circumscribed places low in the order.  Indeed, Harris was in that mold: the bulk of his early appearances were all in the 9th spot, which represents almost 2/3rds of his starts.  What is remarkable is how quickly he has proven himself reliable enough to be put anywhere in the order if the situation calls for it. Only Adam Kennedy has a roughly comparable number of games in the 9th spot. In any case, in the history of MLB, only one other rookie has batted in all 9 positions: Dan Ford did so for the Twins way back in 1975. 

But that brings up a question that has been asked: is MHII our 2022 MVP?  Obviously, his counting stats come nowhere close to the traditional measures.  But here’s the thing: the team turned around when he showed up, and this isn’t just a coincidence.  He simultaneously brough Andruw-level (OK… a few hairs below, but a hair below is still amazingly good) play to center field, and replaced sub-replacement at-bats (and there were a lot of them… Mike Ford, Travis Demeritte, Robby Cano, Alex Dickerson, Phil Gosselin et al, all negative WAR) with 7ish WAR-level production when extended over a full season.  That’s the difference between being us and, say, the Milwaukee Brewers.

I don’t have a good answer to Braves MVP.  Among hitters, the only possible choices are Riley, Swanson and Harris.  Among pitchers, the only possible choices are Fried, Wright and Strider.  I think cases can be made for any of those 6, but the fact that there are two rookies (and Wright, while technically not a rookie, is an astonishing surprise) in that mix, and one of them didn’t make his major league debut until the cusp of June is astonishing. The fact that none of them is near 30 (Fried is the elder statesman at 28) makes me optimistic about this series, and the future.

So let’s sweep the Mets with some Harris Heroics (though frankly I’m willing to accept heroics from anyone ready to be heroic) and take it from there.

Appendix: Wherever You Want To Bat Me, Coach

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

60 thoughts on “Armageddon Game Thread, And A Tribute To Michael Harris II”

  1. I’m going tonight and tomorrow night, to the most significant regular season games in a couple of decades. I keep trying to convince myself that the Braves will be OK even if they have to go the wild card route, so the stakes are not as high as they might otherwise be. But myself is not convinced–I really want to sweep this weekend.

    JonathanF is right to wish to turn the page from the discussion of mid to late seventies music. I completely agree with his point (as I usually do–although if he is ever wrong some day I’ll be quick to tell him). I even drafted a comment in my head about all the great music that was made from 1970-73, and how virtually all those artists never measured up to their own standards from earlier in the decade. But then in my mind’s eye I saw the eye rolls and heard “OK, Boomer” from most of you, so I’ll refrain.

    [It is ironic that the seventies music discussion was in the thread of Cliff’s masterful “Blinded by the Light” recap. The Boss’s version, released in 1973, failed to chart at all; the Manfred Mann version, released in 1976, was #1 on the Billboard charts.]

  2. Austin Riley has had a marvelous year, nearly identical to last year’s breakout. A churl might wish he had taken another step forward, but what he’s producing is terrific.

    Dansby has taken that step forward we all hoped for, though a churl could wish he could be more consistent. (Dansbo’s OPS by month: .644, .847, .953, .786, .675, .640.) Matter of fact, Dansby’s career OPS in March/April and September/October is .667; his career OPS from May through August is 100 points higher, .773. He takes quite a while to warm up, and then it seems possible that he wears down over the year. He hasn’t taken a day off in 2022 but quite frankly I think he probably should. His bat has disappeared for the past two months.

    Anyway, Harris came up two months into the season and is only one WAR behind Riley and Dansby for the whole season. For me, there’s just no comparison — he has clearly been our most valuable player, just like Pete Townshend was clearly the best songwriter in The Who, even though John Entwhistle wrote some great songs and Keith Moon wrote “Boris the Spider.”

  3. I agree that MH II is the team MVP, but it’s a closer question than Alex asserts. Of course Townsend (for all his pretension) was the best songwriter in The Who. It think it’s more like who is the best songwriter in the Drive By Truckers, Hood or Cooley? Or in the Indigo Girls, Saliers or Ray?

    (Did you notice that I know some music that came after the 1970’s? Not exactly recent, but at least Patterson, Mike, Emily and Amy aren’t 60 yet!)

  4. @4, yes, except that it’s not really for all the marbles, it’s just to avoid a postseason series with probably the Padres (which is something but not everything) and for bragging rights (more important, imo).

    Since I doubt MLB will ever make me happy by agreeing to do away with wild cards, this weekend is about as good as it’s ever going to get. I plan on appreciating it.

  5. @3 Dansby’s offense hasn’t really taken a step forward; he’s the same guy he’s always been except this year he has a .351 BABIP. He’s never approached an .800 OPS in a full season’s worth of games (even this year with the elevated BABIP) and likely never will unless the ball goes back to being super-bouncy.

    Dansby is who is he is – a well rounded player at an important position (solid shortstop, good enough hitter, good baserunner) with great hair. For my money, Riley or Harris have been the offensive MVP of the 2022 Braves.

  6. Swanson, Olson, and Riley are numbers 1,2, & 3 in innings played this year. They’ve all seen their production tail off markedly the last two months. Meanwhile, guys who have not played nearly as many innings, D’Arnaud, Contreras, Harris, Acuna, Arcia, Rosario, and Ozuna all seem to be holding up or improving. Coincidence? I think not. (Disclaimer: This opinion based mostly on the eye-test)

  7. @8–spot on about Dansby. He is a very good all around player at an important position. But Turner, Correa, and Bogaerts are all significantly better offensive players than he is. I’d still like to sign him long term, but he ought to come for a lower cost than the other three free agent shortstops.

  8. @12 Agreed. We probably won’t pay in the levels that Turner, Correa and Bogaerts will need and Dansby seems to fit the fabric of this team much like Freddie did. I would hate to see us roll the dice in that regard again next year and have to hope it works out.

  9. Hopefully Fried keeps it close through 5 until we get into Mets pen:

    deGrom 2022:
    Innings 1-5: 2.02 ERA, 44% K rate
    Innings 6+: 7.71 ERA

    Bullpens in 16 ATL/NYM games:
    ATL bullpen vs NYM: 3.14 ERA
    NYM bullpen vs ATL: 6.29 ERA

  10. @18

    Ugh, what? No. Why? Obviously they know more about his Veteran Presents and whether his bum leg was still bum earlier in the year.

  11. It’s interesting because he had a $20MM option for 2023. So the only reason to do this is to lock in a price for 2024.

  12. Exactly. Are they just intent on staying a year ahead with him? Why? I agree with krussell or Chief or whoever said it that when aging pitchers fall, they fall hard. It’s crazy that they’re going to just keep paying him market rate until he just completely falls off a cliff. I like the Branch Rickey line that it’s better to get rid of a guy one year too early than one year too late.

  13. The Braves have some good pitchers on tap. The problem is that the Mets have great pitchers up. And most of their batters are doing that working-counts thing that causes so many problems.

  14. As Crow T. Robot once said: “Well believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid… and I went ahead anyway.”

  15. Have to say, it is pretty cool when they turn off the lights and the whole place goes nuts. Wonderful atmosphere tonight. Come on AJ!

  16. Playoff baseball in September. Woo! Let’s win a couple more.

    And a Chipwatch cuz why not. Regarding MH2: “Lefties don’t bother him a bit.”

    287 points of OPS might disagree, but ok. You do you, man.

  17. @58

    What a fabulous article about the baseball environment in which Michael Harris II grew up.

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