Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chipper Jones is so close, yet so far...

I'll finish my recent little run with that vaguely promised post about Chipper Jones and Buster Olney. It isn't anything too crazy, but I said I'd write about it and I need to recharge for my next couple of big posts. Here we go...

So anyway, Chipper Jones almost understands how baseball works, as seen in this blog entry by Buster Olney, a man who sure knows how to dump a link.

Some players don't like to make numerical goals, but Chipper Jones came to the Braves' camp with a specific number in mind: One hundred fifty.

That's how many games he intends to play in this year, and considering that he once played in 153 or more games in eight consecutive years, this might seem absolutely reasonable, almost a given. But Jones turns 36 on April 24, and 150 is about the number of games he's missed over the last four seasons -- 158, to be precise.

I'm probably just being paranoid, but I always get nervous when sportswriters throw tons of numbers around, none of which happen to be stats. Games played, years old, date of the year...none of these are baseball statistics, and yet all are numbers, which is something the SABR-chip Voros McCracken implanted in my cerebral cortex can't quite grapple with. I'm especially wary of the "[X random stat] in [Y consecutive seasons]." All I'm saying is, I'm raising the alert level. Let's see how the rest of this goes.

He thinks back on his injuries last season and believes their freakish nature is not something that he could've helped; there was nothing he really could've done differently, in a year in which he missed 28 games. But Jones knows how important his presence is in a relatively young Atlanta lineup and he is devoted to the idea of playing in 150 games.

Right, because Chipper posted a 10.5 WARP-3 and a .339 EQA last year in 134 games. The WARP-3 is a spike from previous years, even accounting for injuries, but he had a tremendous 2007 campaign and will give tons of value to the Braves lineup if he even approaches that previous work. Not sure what PECOTA thinks of him (I'm between subscriptions with Baseball Prospectus at the moment), but the main value Chipper will add is his value of being good at baseball.

So how do you hope to avoid injuries this year, Chipper?

He hasn't prepared any differently for this season. He didn't bulk up or slim down. He is just locked in on the number: 150. "I think it's just a mind-set, to be honest with you. It's a long, hard marathon. You've almost got to treat it like your basic 9-to-5 desk job. You've got to wake up every morning and you've got to go do it. You just stay focused on one game at a time, and before you know it, the season is over.

I don't have a 9-to-5 desk job, unless you count surfing the web between 9:00 PM and 5:00 AM every night to see whether any sizzling sex tapes (or, even better, late night Deadspin posts) have hit the series of tubes. But even so, I think playing professional sports is slightly different from your standard 9-to-5 job. For one thing, I don't think most office workers talk about "taking things one collation at a time." For another, you're unlikely to be drilled by a baseball traveling upwards of a 100mph in most offices. And if you are...that's sort of an awesome office. Where should I forward my resume?

"Not to sound brash, but we need me in the lineup to be successful offensively. I've got to be healthy."

Dude, you were worth 10 wins last year all by yourself. That's not brash at all.

"That being said, for me to be successful, Tex [Mark Teixeira] needs to stay healthy."

He was worth a combined 7.1 WARP-3 splitting time between Texas and Atlanta, so he's definitely really good. But you realize most of your play is dependent on...well...your play, right? Tex isn't coming into the batter's box with you, you know. And I know the presence of Teixeira might force pitchers to throw to Chipper more, but I'm guessing that isn't tremendously significant. The point is that I'm pretty sure Chipper is completely missing the point, which is a shame because he's legitimately pretty awesome.

"It just seems that when I'm not in there, too many people have to hit out of their comfort zone, in a different place in the order, and we just don't have the same fluidity in the lineup."

Well, they're also faced with playing in a lineup without a dude who is worth ten wins. If by "fluidity", you mean "ten wins", then yes, yes there are problems with fluidity in a sans-Chipper lineup.

C'mon, dude! You're no Erstad or Eckstein! Don't sell yourself short by talking about weird bullshit like "comfort zones" and "fluidity." Talk about VORP and MLVr and OPS+ like you know you desperately want to. All the cool kids are doing it.

His physical problems the last two years came on odd plays, weird plays.

"I flipped over a third baseman in Pittsburgh last year and it cost me a month," Jones recalls. "The year before, I slipped on a wet track in San Francisco and I missed a month. Those things, you can't help. It's not like you've got a torn oblique, or a chronic hamstring thing. People can say 'Your body is breaking down.' It's not breaking down. I've run into a couple of freak plays that I'll just have to try to avoid this year."

Right...but there's really no way to do that. That's why they're freak plays. Shit happens.

He acknowledges in his next breath, however, that there's really no way to do that. Stuff happens.

Thanks for agreeing with me there, Chipper, though you could have at least changed a few words around so that the plagiarism isn't quite so blatant. Also, feel free to swear; ten-win dudes get to cuss a little. We've come a long way since 1898, you know.

Also, why is this article being written? I haven't noticed a more substantiative point than "Chipper Jones is good" and "The Braves would benefit if Chipper Jones was healthy."

Jones had one of the best seasons of his career in 2007, in many respects. A .425 on-base percentage. An OPS of 1.029, his third-highest ever.

Good, good. These are great stats that really illustrate his value.

His ninth season of more than 100 RBI.

For the love of fuck, Buster...

The second time that a pitcher worked through the Atlanta lineup, he hit .380; in those instances when pitchers faced him a third time in a game, he hit a staggering .412.

WHAT!? That's seriously a stat you're going to quote? I mean, it's awesome and all and cool in a "Hey I'm Jayson Stark here are some weird stats I noticed" sort of way, but please don't use them as some sort of evidence of Chipper's real value. Those are pretty much the definition of non-repeatable skills.

But this success only magnified his own angst about missing 28 games last year.

It is extremely frustrating, "especially when your teammates express to you on a daily basis how much you're needed, and they get to the point where they come out to the press and say how much you're needed."

Bunch of fucking crybabies, those Braves. Of course, that total bust Jeff Francoeur is twelve-years-old and possibly French, so I'm not surprised.

But lest there be any doubt: He is needed, as someone who can be the difference between the Braves having a good lineup and having an exceptional lineup.

Right. Ten wins worth. That's it.

I know they mostly eschewed any talk of intangibles, but I'm super-paranoid at the moment. Also, I think Buster and Chipper can be saved from the twin demons of hustle and grittiness, so I'm willing to make the extra effort. And by "extra effort", I mean "make a mountain out of a molehill" and "say 'fuck' a lot." Because I care.


Djmmm46 said...

Archie Micklewhite, be prepared to be CALLED OUT.

The second time that a pitcher worked through the Atlanta lineup, he hit .380; in those instances when pitchers faced him a third time in a game, he hit a staggering .412.

WHAT!? That's seriously a stat you're going to quote? I mean, it's awesome and all and cool in a "Hey I'm Jayson Stark here are some weird stats I noticed" sort of way, but please don't use them as some sort of evidence of Chipper's real value. Those are pretty much the definition of non-repeatable skills.

Uhmm doesn't it stand to reason that this is a VERY repeatable (although meaningless) statistic since when Chipper's facing a pitcher for the second or third time, he's thrown more and more pitches and is therefore likely to be a LITTLE bit fatigued? BOO YAH!

Archie Micklewhite said...

Few points...

1. I'll buy fatigue as a possible factor, but that's not causing a .043 swing above his general average on the second go-round and another .032 on the third. Maybe ten points or so, but I'd need to see a proper study before I buy fatigue as anything more significant than that.
2. It's batting average. It's a shitty, luck-based stat. This bears remembering whenever we're discussing it.
3. There may be a sample size issue here, considering fewer pitchers make it a third time through the order than do those who make it through twice, which is also smaller than those who get through once. This may also imply some manner of lurking variables.
4. I use "non-repeatable" in the sense that I don't think this is a skill that is likely to show much of a year-to-year correlation. I'm guessing that whatever the trend is for all hitters in terms of situational batter, over his career Chipper regresses to the mean. So either his .337/.380/.412 split is reflective of the MLB average (in which case it isn't really worth mentioning) or it is a performance that isn't consistent with his overall career.