Ok, the Brattain lovefest is over on the MockingBird. I for one have a pretty serious chip on my shoulder when it comes to the guy. Not for any of his stuff on the Hardball Times which is pretty thoughtful, but for this article from sympatico sports, which is not only philosophically flawed but has some serious logic problems.
Obviously I wasn’t the only one who had problems with it because now he’s backpedaling. But this comes short of the complete apology and retraction that would stop me from foaming at the mouth…
1) I get the idea he says he was trying for. Unsettled pitchers and defence. Announcers remind me of it every time someone takes more than a two step lead off first base. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t exist. More balls go through the infield but batters also suffer with baserunners on the move.
We don’t have Rickey Henderson on this team anyway. (It seems Toronto fans and writers are going to be referencing him for the next century as what the team needs after he stole 7 bases in the 1989 ALCS. Does anyone remember that what really killed us was he hit .400 and had an OBP of .600?!) What pitcher is going to lose his cool with Johnny Mac dancing off first?
Anyway, this was mentioned NOWHERE in the first article. It’s all about “productive outs” and “a coherent plan” for manufacturing runs and how they Jays were leaving runners out there. Nowhere is pressure or predictability even hinted at.
2) He constantly cherrypicks stats down to the point where they have no relevance whatsoever and then presents them overdramatically. For example, in his latest article he says:
An extra run squeezed out here and there can be huge. This year, 21 of the Jays 64 losses came in games where the pitching staff held opponents to four runs or less. They lost 11 of those 21 games by one run and the other five by two runs…If the Jays managed to go 6-5 in these 11 one-run losses, they’d be a half-game back of the Yankees and in the thick of the wild card hunt.
True…if we found a way to win substantially more 1 run games then we would be in contention for the wildcard. But we weren’t bad at winning 1 run games, and there is no evidence that being able to win them at a higher rate is anything other than luck. If there was some proven way to “squeeze out a run here and there” that would be amazing. If there was some way to sprinkle these runs over one all our 1 run losses, that would be INCREDIBLE. But there isn’t and no team can.
This is about as useful a suggestion as saying that the Jays underperforming their projection because they win too many blowout games, so they should “save some of those runs” for close games.
Another example of mangling stats is in his first article:
In the 20 aforementioned at bats where the Jays were first and second nobody out, the Jays grounded into 10 double plays.
Oh my god! The Jays GIDP almost HALF the time!!! Why wouldn’t they bunt?! Oh, wait. But those are just the at-bats where the Jays were 1st and 2nd with nobody out and didn’t score. So obviously a significant numbers of times that happened because a double play happened. Do they Jays GIDP more than your normal team? No. If they bunted every time they were 1st and 2nd with nobody out would they score more runs? No. Have they bunted less that your average team this year? Well, not really. But I digress, back to the backpedal…
3) He said a LOT more than the Jays need to be more “unpredictable” in his first article. Some highlights:
The Jays bat .215/.283/.299 with men on first and second (regardless of number of outs) and he still insists of letting hitters hack away rather than moving runners up 90 feet.
So instead of giving up a productive out and having runners and second and third with one out (and a team that hits .267/.337/.414 in that situation), instead Gibbons gives the opposition two unproductive outs at no cost. The Jays end up with a man on third/two out—a situation where the Jays bat a “Royce-tastic” .226/.325/.356.
Both these quotes imply that the Jays should implement a strategy where they bunt runners over to bases that when they are occupied their team hits for a better average. I don’t even know what to say, I’m just sputtering something about sample size and that being a ridiculous way to understand baseball and try to run a team. Can you imagine? “Well, the Jays need some runs, but as a team they’re hitting much better with runners on second and third and two outs instead of first and second with one out, so Rios is squaring around…”
His lack of understanding what is going on with his team’s offence and refusing to rectify it has turned a potential playoff team into (barring a miracle) an also-ran.
I think this is the part that most people who don’t hate small ball as much as I do went ape over. Brattain started his article with a lot of bluster and cute writing about the team being “royally plucked” and implied that they should have been a contender. That probably appeals to a lot of emotional fans because this season was such a disappointment, and maybe it’s true- but for other reasons…there is NOTHING that you could strategy wise to have made this year’s offence anything but abysmal. It doesn’t matter if the point is “productive outs” or “unpredictability”, neither of them have such a huge impact as not getting on base and not hitting home runs like the Jays have done this year.
Often in the National League, runners on first and second—nobody out, or man on second (nobody out) requires a bunt to move base runner(s) over.
Just while I’m at it…this is received wisdom. The NL doesn’t really bunt much more except for their pitchers these days- about 3 times a year per team.
Anyway, I think I’m done. Just to prove I’m not just a bitter blog writer lashing out at the Ivory Tower of Hardball times writers, I agree with one point Brattain made:
If you have two men on, none out and John McDonald (an accomplished bunter) is up to bat, the defence has to decide what to do. Anticipating a bunt, they start shifting the infielders once the pitcher throws; if McDonald swings away, then the ground ball is that much harder to field and may become a base hit. Or if they’re drawn in, they have less time to react. Conversely, if they play back for the double play and he lays down a good enough bunt, then he might be able to leg it out for a hit.
I think it’s true that having the infield in at the corners or whatever might raise McDonalds average, but would be hard to detect in a stat. And if he legs out a hit through the bunt when it was really a sacrifice first, that doesn’t show up. And runners on first and second with nobody out is one of the situations (due to the possible sac fly coming and getting out of the DP) where a sacrifice bunt significantly increases the chance of scoring one run. But on the other hand, Mac is already second in the league with 11 bunts, so what’s to complain about?