2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Atlanta Braves

My second-to-last stop on the tour (#29!) was actually my last stop on my actual tour of the U.S.  Well, it’s not exactly a tour, but my wife is from Atlanta, and we were down there with my in-laws (and my nieces!).  But it sounds cooler to say things like “I’m on a tour of the U.S.”  In a year and a half or so, we’ll likely be moving down to Atlanta… so I’m guessing that my kids will grow up to be Braves fans…
Record: 84-78, 3rd in NL East
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula):  88.70 wins (810 runs scored, 733 runs allowed)
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Overview: A great injustice happened to the Braves in the 2007 season.  The Braves has the second best Pythagorean record of any team in the National League, yet missed out on the playoffs.  Pythagorean record is a better predictor of future performance than is actual record.  Dare I say that it’s a better measure of actual team quality (rather than “team performance.”)  One of the best four teams (actually two of them… the Padres being the other) in the NL missed out on the playoffs last year.  But, luck was not with the Braves. 
What went right: Chipper Jones went right.  35 year old guys who post an over 1.000 OPS get mentioned.  Larry Wayne is walking a bit more, as often happens with older players, but he doesn’t seem to be losing any of his other skills that usually decline (strikeouts have stayed pretty constant, still a decent enough fielder not to be an embarassment).  Pretty good bet to be a very useful player for the next 5-6 years still.  Here’s an interesting question.  Is he a Hall of Famer?  He’s 123 HR away from 500 HR (which is probably do-able at 4 seasons x 30 HR), and about 880 hits away from 3000 (less likely, but I suppose within reach), but let’s say that he retired tomorrow.  Is he a HOFer?  I say yes, based on the fact that he has a career OBP of .403.  Impressive.
Time for a warning about a set-up guy that had a phenomenal year, but is due for a crash back down to earth.  Peter Moylan had a BABIP of .236.  He strikes out 6.3 guys per nine innings, but walks 3.1.  That kind of a K/BB ratio doesn’t scream dominant.  In fact, Moylan’s FIP (which is ERA with a good amount of luck stripped out) was 3.93, a number that out-stripped his actual ERA by a full 2 runs.  Moylan went right last year because of a lot of luck.  Remember Moylan, thou art mortal.
Getting Mark Teixeira on a one-and-a-half year lease was a pretty good move (and apparently I wasn’t alone).  Yeah, the Braves had to give up Jarrod Saltalaralphmacchio to get him and that’s eventually going to hurt, and it didn’t pan out last year, but the Braves replaced Scott Thorman (VORP of -9.6) with Teixeira (27.1).  It’s still a gutsy move and signaled the Braves’ intention to win now, but it’s a well placed gamble, and it should have paid off with an NL East crown.  But, the Braves can go at it again this year. 
What went wrong: Andruw Jones.  And for the life of me I can’t figure out why.
Yeah, that about sums it up: Julio Franco was not only present at the first baseball game that I ever went to, he had been in the league a few years at that point to boot.
Frenchy and plate discipline: Jeff Francouer swings a lot (57% of the time in 2007, putting him even with Vladimir Guererro for one of the free-est swingers in baseball), strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk very often.  Is he a disciplined hitter?  Would you believe me if I said that while I don’t think he’s very disciplined, he’s a mid-range guy when it comes to discipline at the plate.  Consider that he sees 4.01 pitches per plate appearance and makes contact 75% of the time, it means that he works the count and would rather put the ball in play.  His .342 BABIP suggests that he had the right idea.  Walks and strikeouts are only part of the story on plate discipline.  It’s just as “disciplined” to put a ball into the left field corner. 
Brian McCann: OK, will the real Brian McCann please stand up?  Those of you familiar with baseball should be familiar with “regression to the mean.”  Since McCann has put in two seasons at the big league level, that could mean one of two things.  His 2006 season was his true talent level, and he will regress back to that mean from his comparatively awful 2007.  Or his 2007 season was his true talent level, and 2007 was his regeression back to the mean from his over-his-head 2006.  Or maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  Either way, in 2007, all of McCann’s important indicators went down (BB, K, LD%, BABIP, ISO), and that’s not a good trend line. 
Outlook: For some reason, people are convinced that the NL East is a two-team race between the Phillies and Mets.  Not so, say I!  The Braves have two waves of players right now.  One of them has been around since the 1995 World Series win (sore subject around my house… wife is from Atlanta… I’m from Cleveland), and the other is the next generation.  That sounds like the perfect set up for a Star Trek reference.  So, this season is going to be like Star Trek 7 where the old generation meets the next generation and they have a great adventure and save humanity.  Starring William Shatner as John Smoltz and Leonard Nimoy as Tom Glavine.  Wow, I went way too far with that analogy.


One Response to 2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Atlanta Braves

  1. Great, now I can’t stop singing the Tieixieiriai song. When all else fails, just insert an “i” after each letter.
    Chipper gets my vote for HOF hands down without debate. Even if he doesn’t get to the “criteria” of 500 or 3000. I like to think of the HOF as an historical document that will inform future generations of the players that should learn about and Chipper is definitely one of them.

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