Great analysis of the Braves demise. But I think we are overreacting. This should be a playoff team next year. Not being a homer but we just have too much talent.Prado am Heyward do raise concerns but I guarantee both can’t be as bad as last year.
Fair enough. But I would counter that this should have been a playoff team this year. Should have won the Wildcard by 5 – 7 games. And, wouldn’t you have guaranteed that Prado and Heyward wouldn’t have been this bad this year?
Between Hudson, JJ, Hanson,Delgado, Minor, Beachy, and Medlen my concerns about the rotation are minimal. I just want these guys to go deeper in the game. I’m more worried that we have a 40 year old 3rd basemen next year. God Bless us cause Chipper is going to be out alot next year. Michael Cuddyer would be a great acquisition for us. He can play OF,3b, and 1st.
I’m more worried about the offense. Wren has to make some decisions with all of these starting pitchers, and he needs no find some hitters with the ones he doesn’t want. We have like 9 guys who could start a game but 0 guys who can hit with RISP.
I think several thing about the 2012 Braves. One, get rid of Hanson. He’s a Boras player and we need to trade while his value is high. ZERO % chance Braves will be able to afford to resign. Two, do not resign Gonzo. Defense is great, but bat way too light. Third, let Chipper know that Freddie will be batting third ALL the time. Chipper needs to bat 6th next year (for the 76 games he plays). Forth, get a 2 hole hitter. Whoever is SS could be the guy. 5th, also considering…wait for it…trading Prado. I think he MIGHT have had his best years already. 6th, do not rely on OVB to be the same three guys next year. Eric O’F will not be the same guy, bet on it. Lastly, Hire Francona…but that’s my dream suggestion.
I think it’s insane to not have some concerns about the starting pitching. Hudson could easily be very spotty next year, we’ve seen what can happen with JJ and Hanson, Beachy was more than average in the 2nd half, Minor has never been that overwhelming. So you are left with Delgado, who might or might not even make the team and who will be asked to do more than he ever has in his career to this point, which might mean he is on a pitch count, and Medlen, coming off of surgery. That makes me a little nervous.
Does it piss anyone else off that the Cardinals always have these guys like Berkman come in and win come back player of the year? If I remember correctly Reggie Sanders and Larry Walker did similar things for them. The old, slumping veterans only play like old slumping veterans when they join the Braves.
Curt, the pitching is still a worry for me, but not as much as our offense. If anything, this postseason is proving that big name starting pitchers aren’t as important as scoring 5+ runs. That being said, Huddy feels like the only sure thing we have right now as far as pitching goes. I would like to see this rotation: Huddy, Hanson, Medlen, Beachy, Delgado, with Teheran or Minor as possible spot starters. Is Vizcaino going back to starting next year?
I don’t think Wren/Fredi would put more than one of the Big Four in the rotation to start the year. That would just destroy the ‘pen. A combo of more than 1 rookie plus Hanson and Beachy’s high pitch counts. Yikes.
I’m worried about all of it, but I guess less so about the starting rotation. Both JJ and Hanson will be healthy, I’d guess, to start the year. And I believe we’ll get something for one of them at the trade deadline.
But it’s the offense that worries me the most. I bet that we have the same starting 8 as we had this year. And yes, we’ve said it a bunch of times, they should have kicked ass. On paper they look great. But I’m not done being wigged out yet.
The good news is, a collapse won’t happen next year. If we need to make adjustments next year we will cause we still have the pieces to do so. Prado, Heyward, Alex gonzalez are all on probation and trades will be made in the middle of the year if need be. This year Wren won’t wait for anybody to struggle the whole year or hit under .200 through the first 81 games( cough ….Uggla)
#16 – maybe. It depends. If it’s the high priced or established guys struggling I don’t think Wren will do anything of substance (see: Chipper, Mac, Bourn, Uggla and, to a lesser extent, Freeman). It’s nice to think that no one or no thing is sacred after the collapse, but I don’t know if it’s true.
Very intuitive & intelligent interview. I do agree that we’d benefit if we got Evan Longoria for two of our top of the line rotation guys, but they ain’t gonna trade him for that…he’s gotta be the next Miguel Cabrerra minus the DUI’s. Less sold on Tulo, seems like he is streaky & strikes out a lot.
My disagreement is not about Fredi’s lack of leadership skills, but certain decisions. I think if he’d gotten Hinske & Conrad among others more playing time (even when the others were hitting well) they’d been more useful as PH and others would be more rested. It seems Fredi is afraid to take (the Big Hitters) out of a game for fear of criticism or fear of losing, thus missing the big picture:
Prime example: Jim Leland has not caved to media pressure regarding use of Justin Verlander. I use this as a “good” example b/c so far it has worked, but even if it didn’t…it would be the correct decision, b/c Jim Leland has a “big Picture” mentality and he knows: 1) whats good for the pitcher and 2) the best likelihood of making it all the way to World Series Victory.
So, Verlander is only scheduled to pitch for ALCS game 5. If they loose the series he will be criticized that he should have pitched Verlander more often, yet Leland knows that that gives his team the best odds of competing for the whole thing.
Win, Lose or Draw…I think he’s a genius. Of course, we also have his track record to rely on.
I have to admit, I had my biases regarding Chris Domino. Having not listen to much of him, I thought he was a typical, loud-mouth sports-talk guy. But he is actually very thoughtful and intelligent about baseball, which is pretty unusual in the sports-talk world.
I like the original and bold idea of offering up two starting pitchers for a stud position player, provided it’s a rather young position player that the Braves can count on at reasonably close to market value for the next 5-10 years. They would probably have to throw in a little more than two starting pitchers but it would probably be worth it.
This Red Sox stuff is a joke. Obviously it’s not ideal and certainly not how I would want a clubhouse to be but it’s blown way out of proportion.
Really? These pitchers and perhaps others weren’t doing this stuff earlier in the season, when the Red Sox were dominating? Why not point it out then, if you though it was a problem, Boston media?
And do people really think this kind of stuff, if not worse, never goes on in other clubhouses, even winning teams’ clubhouses? It’s all sensationalism. Again, not ideal but in the grand scheme of things, who cares?
I can’t believe the Red Sox organization and media just took a huge dump on the manager that won them 2 World Series after they hadn’t won since like 1918. That organization owes Tito better than that, so does the spoiled, fickle fans and media that cover and watch the BoSox. The stuff about the pain killers and his marriage don’t need to be a crutch for Red Sox players terrible on the field performance.
Who he hell plays video games and eats fried chicken in the clubhouse during a MLB game. These guys may be grown men but they have the tendencies of little boys. So unprofessional. The Red Sox organization should be embarrassed.
Walker, I would guess that kind of stuff, or worse, happens in maybe a majority of major league clubhouses. These are guys in their 20′s and early 30′s playing a game for a living, basically living together for six months. You don’t think a lot of clubhouses have a frat-house environment to some degree or another?
Not saying it’s ideal. But the reality is that this is being blown out of proportion so the Red Sox media has stories to sell. Drama sells.
If it was that big a deal and a factor in the collapse, the media would have brought it up much sooner, as soon as they learned all this was going on, and they wouldn’t have waiting until the season was over. It’s all about creating drama to sell stories.
Great interviews with DOB and Chris. Thanks fellas.
I was a bit surprised to hear DOB say that Prado could be traded this winter — surprised, I guess, just in the sense that I just assumed that they’d hang onto him until he reached free agency. Like DOB said, I wouldn’t mind one bit if we traded him and could bring in a heavy hitter in LF.
I was gonna say that I’d love to see us trade for Jose Bautista, but I didn’t realize that they had signed him to an extension ($14 mil/year through 2015), so that would be about as likely as us trading Uggla this offseason. And with Terdoslavich developing like he is, perhaps we’ll just need a stopgap guy in LF for a year or two.
Shaun (23) – Dimino is not only a knowledgeable baseball guy who spends a great deal of time around the team, he’s also one of the most unassuming guys around who really just enjoys talking sports. After we concluded the interview at around 10pm that night, he just stayed on the phone and to keep talking with Curt and I for 15 more minutes. Just a really good guy.
#29 – walker, that’s a great read. And its what I raised with DOB about unequal treatment that Heyward seemingly received. DOB’s semi-freakout response made very salient points. Particularly that for a team that built it’s marketing around him and consider him the future, why treat him poorly? But, the fact remains that they seemingly were more down on him than anyone else. I really do think that there’s some clubhouse issue with attitude or something like that that’s a contributing factor. I’m basing that on nothing other than it’s the best explanation I can come up with.
The Tito smear campaign (and that’s what it was, despite John Henry’s protestations to the contrary) was just despicable. I mean, of course someone carefully leaked the marriage stuff and someone on the team medical staff must have leaked the pain killer stuff. What a total betrayal. And someone on the board mentioned it, the man brought Boston two freaking titles after a 80+ year drought. Unreal.
Regarding the clubhouse stuff, it sounds pretty freaking bad. And I disagree that it’s going on like that in most places. I bet the majority of veterans around the league are more responsible, grateful and respectful of the game to let frat boys treat it that way. I’ll admit I may be a pollyanna in this regard.
#32 — I’d bet the same, if only because I don’t think Prado’s trade value is very high right now. I think the Braves would want to hang onto him and see how he does with the TBA hitting coach, and to give him an offseason of rest and a chance to play healthy next season.
The weird thing about the Cardinals going to the World Series is that it is completely the Braves fault. The Brewers and Phillies have to be wondering what would have happened if the Braves played just played two games better.
I had to paste this just because it is so incredibly bad. (From DOB):
“By the way, speaking of Albert and St. Louis, going into their game tonight (Sunday) against Milwaukee, the Cards are now 17-12 in 29 postseason games beginning in 2006.
That’s four more postseason wins for the Cardinals in 29 games over the past six years than the Braves have in their past 41 games going back to the 1999 NLCS vs. the Mets.
And the Rangers are 15-11 in the 2010-2011 postseasons, two more wins than the Braves have since … well, you get my point.
Atlanta won six consecutive postseason games in the 1999 division series vs. Houston and first three games of the NLCS vs. New York. Then they lost nine of their next 10 postseason games, beginning a stretch in which the Braves have gone 13-28 with a .230 batting average and 4.35 ERA in 41 postseason games, including 6-15 at home. Yikes.
Chipper Jones, the only Brave who’s been with the team for all those postseason games, hit .255 with six homers, 21 RBIs, a .393 OBP and .824 OPS in 37 games during that period (he missed the four last year vs. San Francisco recovering from knee surgery).
He was pitched around frequently in those games, in part because other Braves hitters rarely gave opposing teams reason not to. (See: Sheffield, et al.). For his career, Jones has a .288 average, .411 OBP and .870 OPS in 92 postseason games, with 13 homers and 47 RBIs.
Besides Chipper, Andruw Jones is the only other Brave to play in all of the games in that Atlanta playoff drought except, obviously, last year’s series vs. San Francisco.
In the other 37 of those 41 Braves games, Andruw hit a respectable .279 with a .365 OBP, but drove in only 17 runs and struck out 30 times (with 18 walks) in 136 at-bats. The Braves were 12-25 in the last 37 postseason games Andruw and Chipper played together.”
Ok after reading this article I’m having fun thinking of all the possibilities of the Butterfly effect. It’s crazy to really break everything down. A game here to a play there to a pitch here. How about the possibility of 1 pitch selection by rookie Randall Delgado actually directly dictates who wins the World Series this year. It crazy to think if Polanco strikes out that it leads to a Philly championship. A negative outcome actually would have turned into the most positive rewarding outcome in baseball. Throw a slider and the Rangers are champs….. Throw a fastball and the Phillies are champs. I say this because I think the Cardinals were the only team that could beaten the Phils. OK I’m done with my weird rant. It’s funny how baseball works. Maybe there is an alternate universe somewhere and the Braves are in the World Series. LOL Right.
Steve, yeah, I definitely let my biases affect my view of Domino. Seems like the type of guy any Braves fan would want to have a beverage with.
Regarding the Heyward thing, I think it was about measuring Heyward against his hype and relying too much on batting average as an indicator of offensive value over OBP and SLG and things of that sort. Also, he may not get the respect defensively he deserves. He tied for the team lead in Defensive Runs Saved.
But with Heyward, no one (in the mainstream media at least) seemed to wonder whether he was one of the best three outfield options, particularly against right-handed pitching. Everyone wanted to essentially just bring up that he wasn’t living up to his prospect hype and the fact that he was having a bad season. No one denied either of those two points. The only thing that mattered in terms of his playing time was whether he was one of the best three outfield options. Clearly, against right-handed pitching, he was the Braves’ best outfielder this season.
I like the Rangers in 6. That team can really hit, and the back of their bullpen with Ogando(sp?), Adams, and Feliz is pretty solid. I feel like the Cardinals luck with using their bullpen so much is about to run out.
The Cardinals haven’t seen a quality lineup this deep so far this postseason. Texas’ offense looks more like a mid-’00s offense than one from 2011. And Texas’ run prevention is underrated. Second-best ERA+ in the American League and third-best in the majors.
Congrats to him. Now he can teach our players how professionals hit. By being patient and not swinging at pitcher’s pitches before getting two strikes. Get two strikes and protect. Get 2-1, 3-1 counts and rip.
Back before this World Series started, I said Rangers in 5 (along with #50). I figured that their offense would continue hitting well and their pitching would stifle the Cardinals’. Obviously, I was wrong with that prediction.
What I’m more glad about, though, is that we’re seeing a good, evenly-matched WS. The fact that we haven’t had a Game 7 since 2002 and only two Game 6s (’09 and ’03) since then has made me want it to be at least exciting and not one-sided.
Good to see us actually on the winning side of one of those “all-time” series. Smoltz said something after the Braves lost that 18-inning game to the Astros that he was tired of being on the losing end of the greatest “blankety-blank” games or series.
Maybe I’m just extremely forgetful, but why don’t I remember much of anything from that 1999 series except Ventura’s grand-slam single and Andruw’s walk-off walk? And am I the only person who feels this way? It doesn’t seem so, since no one really talks about this series as an all-time great series. How is such a dramatic series so forgetful?
I guess maybe it’s just that, although the games were very close and there was a lot of late-inning drama, there just weren’t that many walk-offs for such a close series. There weren’t many what we might call signature moments, aside from those mentioned above.
I think it’s because there weren’t many walkoffs and because it looked like the Braves were going to sweep the series when they won the first 3 games. The series wasn’t really close until Ventura hit that homer. That’s when it got going.
I must be rooting for the Rangers. Way to blow 2 2-run leads. Cruz has to make that catch, or know he won’t and field that better. What a terrible play. And then to have the outfield playing so deep in the 9th where any little flare is going to drop in and score the tying run. Crazy. Very Braves-esque.
Should be an interesting next 3 months. Since the lack of offense killed the Braves the last 5 weeks of the season, my guess is that all position players except Freeman and Chipper are available for the right offer. I also feel that every pitcher is available also. Boras players should go first. Someone (Even Kimbrel) could go if buddled with Lowe to a team with a dumb enough GM. The Braves can’t afford to keep all their young talent long term. Someone unexpected is going; bet on it!
It would be completely ridiculous to even consider trading Heyward or McCann. Even with Freddie’s good year Heyward still has the higher upside. Making that kind of trade could burn a franchise for two decades. It’s better to hold on to him.
If the Braves had gotten in and somehow won the World Series, of course I’d be happy. But I’d also feel kind of dirty about it because the Braves and Cardinals and teams of that ilk were around the 6th or 7th best teams in the majors.
This is nothing new. By allowing four teams from each league in the playoffs there is usually at least one team in each league that has no business competing with the big boys for the World Series title. Give the Cardinals credit. They did what they had to do and earned it. It’s not their fault that MLB has a system in place that discredits the regular season.
Why have a 162-game regular season if teams like the Cardinals are going to have a decent chance to win the Series?
If MLB is going to have this many teams in their postseason tournament, stack the deck more against the lesser teams.
@76 I’m glad they won simply because it makes a good story. Cinderella and all that Jazz. Did anybody notice in game 6 bottom of the 9th 2 strikes on Freese and the dugout was full of hope. Every guy on the rail with grins of anticipation. They never doubted…not for a minute. Plus I had a bet with my boss and now he owes me lunch.
The postseason would be more interesting if the games were amongst truly the top-tier teams. If MLB is going to let teams in the Cardinals/Braves tier into the playoffs, they should make is much more difficult for such teams to advance.
That’s why I actually think the one-game playoff idea may actually improve things a bit. But MLB needs to seed teams according to record. I don’t want to see the one-game playoff automatically go to wild cards. It should be among the two worst playoff teams. And MLB should do all they can to make sure there is no off-day for the winner of the one-game playoff in the division series round.
The Atlanta Braves announced today that they have picked up the Club option on infielder/outfielder Eric Hinske, thus agreeing to terms on a one-year contract for the 2012 season, and have declined to pick up the Club option on outfielder Nate McLouth. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.
From Jeff Schultz: Braves will effectively pay $11.25 million to Lowe (10) and Nate McLouth (1.25 option buyout) to NOT play for them next season.
That may be a good indicator that you’re not what you were when the contract was signed.
Just saw that Grady Sizemore’s option was not picked up by the Indians. Grady falls in the club of players for whom you can say “He’s a really good player if he’s healthy.” JD Drew is the club’s president, Matt Holliday is the VP, Chipper is the treasurer, and Jason Heyward was recently named secretary. Mike Hampton is the current Alumni Advisor.
#78, never said that “I” would trade Heyward or McCann. Just keep in mind that players as good or better than McCann have been traded. Players as good as Heyward are playing in the minors. Anything can happen and as I said, Braves cannot afford to keep all their young talent; so, if a good offer comes along, I’m for it.
By the way, every other GM in the business knew the Lowe contract was too long. Now, Braves have less money to put towards being a contender. GM’s make mistakes but not owning up to it is even worse. As I said at the end of the season, I hope we never see Lowe in a Braves uniform again; oh happy day. Still trying to remember why he was given the ball 5 times down the stretch. Fredi didn’t want to make Wren look bad?
I understand trading players you can’t afford but only when they are on the cusp of free agency. McCann, Heyward,Hanson are under control. The braves are extremely close in this small window of winning a championship. There’s no reason to break up the team just because we are afraid we can’t sign Brian McCann or Hanson.
The question remains as to where the guy is on the Braves who shoulders the load and delivers the clutch plays to get us to the championship. We talked about it with Dimino on this show. Where is the Freese on this team? Where is the Mike Deveraux for that matter. Only way the Braves can be back in the mix is if all these guys come back and contribute.
Just look at our dugout when we were down to our final outs of the season. Then look at the Cardinals dugout when they were down to their final strike. One group looks like a bunch of self-loathing losers, the other looks like World Champions. I think we still have a long way to go. This is especially frustrating when you’ve read a 1,000 articles mentioning how great out team chemistry is, and then you see them with that demeanor when the Phillies are putting them down for the season. I’ll feel like we’re close to a championship once we stop playing the role of the Phillies little brother and start hitting with RISP.
Curt @92, I think McCann, Chipper, possibly Uggla and Heyward are those type players.
I think it all depends on how one views clutch play, philosophically. Is or was there really something within David Freese that made or makes him more clutch than other players? Or is he just a very good hitter that happened to get hits when he had the opportunity?
I’m of the mindset that if a guy is talented enough and can overcome pressure enough to make it through all the filters required to reach the majors, he’s clutch. Basically being clutch is pretty much a prerequisite to reaching the majors. If a player succeeds or fails in clutch situations, it’s not likely because he has or doesn’t have something within him that makes him more clutch than others. It’s either because of randomness or because he is a better or a worse baseball player or some combination.
So I think the Braves look like they can again win around 90 games. If they get another talented player or two, they can win 93-95 games. I don’t think they lacked clutch and I don’t think they need to go out and try to acquire clutch. They need to go out and try to acquire talent. Because I don’t think coming through in the clutch is something that is predictable; it’s largely random. Talent is more predictable.
The Braves missed the playoffs because their offense under-acheived for most of the season, likely because of injury and perhaps because of coaching, because of pitching injuries, and a little because of randomness, chance, luck, whatever you want to call it.
Nate @93, if the Cardinals won because they were more spirited or whatever, why did they barely make the playoffs? Why did they finish 6 games back in their division?
Let’s not kid ourselves. The Cardinals winning the Series was flukey and was mostly a result of the flukey nature of baseball that tends to show up in short series.
I don’t think they were any more spirited or clutch or gritty or whatever vague adjective you want to use than many other teams, or else they would have dug down deep inside for all of that earlier in the season and wouldn’t have had to depend on a Braves collapse and a late-season charge to barely get into the playoffs. They also wouldn’t have had to go the distance in their series with the Phillies to win it. They also wouldn’t have had to play a close, 7-game series against the Rangers.
The Cardinals won because they have a lot of talent (including the best player in baseball), and their team leaders did it in 2006.
David Freese’s approach at the plate makes him a better clutch hitter right now than any Atlanta Brave not named Chipper Jones. You could say the same about Pujols, Holliday, Berkman, Craig and at times John Jay, Theriot, and Punto. Ironically, the only one I would say didn’t work the count was former Brave Furcal. They all looked relaxed when they were up in those big situations. They didn’t press. Our guys just hack, hack, hack in those situations. Everyone of them becomes Alex Gonzalez with RISP. Our guys couldn’t even lay down a sacrifice bunt when it mattered.
Also, I would just prefer it if my team didn’t look like their dog just got run over when they are fighting to get into the postseason.
The Cardinals had talent, no doubt. But the Phillies and Brewers had more and some other NL teams had just as much. Even more AL teams had more talent than the Cardinals. The Cardinals beat the Phillies and Brewers because they got to play them in short series. I don’t think the Cardinals were any more clutch than those teams. The Phillies, Brewers and Rangers were better teams. Eighteen games doesn’t change that. The Cardinals didn’t beat those teams because they had something within them that caused them to be more clutch that those teams. They won because randomness is a much greater influence on the outcome of games over the course of 18 games than over the course of 162.
The Braves offense wasn’t good and the Cardinals was the best in the NL. That is the biggest reason why the Cardinals were better in the clutch. It wasn’t that the Cardinals were more spirited, more clutch, more gritty, etc. It was that they were better hitters.
Again, if the Cardinals had some sort of internal spirit, clutch ability, grit, etc.; why didn’t it show up earlier in the season?
For all who think clutch is some separate skill that some major leaguers possess and others don’t, why would players only utilize it in clutch situations instead of all situations?
The players that lack an ability to overcome pressure and things of that sort, most likely get weeded out long before they make it through little leagues, high school ball, possibly college, several levels of the minors and into a situation in the majors where they are allowed to get even moderately important plate appearances or mound appearances or defensive appearances.
Milwaukee series was not a short series. It was best of 7. I don’t buy that the playoffs are some random crap shoot where anyone can win. That’s the talk of Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz making excuses for having won one WS in all their tries. And even then, statistics are such that the Braves should have randomly won one more over that time.
I get that to make the major leagues you have to be at the peak of your profession, but that doesn’t make you clutch, that makes you talented. Clutch is getting a big 2 out hit to drive in runs to help your team win. Clutch is hitting a triple in the 9th to tie a WS game in your hometown and a homer to win the game when your team was one strike from losing the whole thing. Clutch is pitching a 1 hitter in game 6 against the Indians to win the WS. Talent and clutch are completely different. That’s why you have AAAA guys. Players who are so much more talented than the other guys in AAA, but who can’t hack it when they get to the majors. There are guys who are super stars in smaller markets who implode when they go to play for NY or LA because they can’t hack the big market scrutiny. There is a reason that when George Steinbrenner signed Dave Winfield to replace Reggie Jackson (see: Mr. October) he famously called him “Mr. May” when he went 1-22 in the WS. And it wasn’t to compliment him.
We can talk randomness all we want, but that is twice in the past 5 years that St. Louis has won the WS when they were not even close to the best team in the tournament. And we can talk all we want about how they wouldn’t have been there if the Braves hadn’t collapsed, but they made the absolute most of the opportunity. Does anyone on here think the Braves could have beaten Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Texas to win the WS this year?
Shaun, your theory seems to imply that every professional athlete has the same amount of “clutch”, or the same abiltity to use clutch, if it were a video game attribute. That’s kind of ridiculous. I would say Michael Jordan, Curt Schilling, John Elway, Joe Montana, Derek Jeter, Dennis Eckersley, Cal Ripken Jr, Mariano Rivera, Xavi Hernandez, and Zinadine Zidane have a little bit more clutch than everyone else (and those are just the sports examples I could think of in 8 seconds). You can equate clutch with talent, but if that’s the case, then why was Freese the WS MVP and not Pujols?
Also, I would argue that the Phillies and Brewers both had a better offense last year. The Cardinals offense was being driven by a comeback player of the year, Berkman, a frequently injured Matt Holliday, a mostly dormant Pujols, and Freese. The Cardinals probably had the weakest rotation of all those teams, too. Also, I don’t think prople give Tony LaRussa enough credit.
Curt @99, 7 games is a short series. How often do really good teams lose to inferior teams in 4 out of 7 games throughout a baseball season? It happens fairly regularly.
Getting a clutch does not necessarily mean a player has some skill separate from pure baseball skills that is vastly better than all other major league players.
Throughout the history of the game, find me a player that, over a sample of something like 100-200 games, performs vastly better or worse in any situation you would define as clutch than in all other situations. Coming through or not coming through in the clutch is largely a result of randomness. If a player fails to come through in the clutch, it’s either that he wasn’t good enough at baseball or because of randomness/chance/luck/whatever you want to call it. It’s not because he lacks something internal. There is just no way a person who becomes so nervous that he can’t handle pressure will ever make it through all the filters that one must go through to reach the majors and be given playing time in the majors in situations we would call clutch.
Success in the postseason of course has to do with talent. But it also has to do with having certain skills that take away some of the randomness, like having high-strikeout pitchers and great defense. These things take away the prospects of the other team getting seeing-eye hits.
Success in the postseason also has a lot to do with randomness/luck/chance. If a great team loses 4 out of 7 to inferior teams during the regular season, especially if their close games, it’s sort of brushed aside. If a great team loses 4 out of 7 close games to a really good team in the postseason, everyone wants to read into it as the great team lacking something internal, not being gritty or clutch, etc.
Also, do we want our favorite teams to have players that can only psych themselves up in clutch situations? That seems to imply that certain players are not trying to be clutch and utilizing that side of themselves in the first inning of a 0-0 game.
Nate @100, funny how all those clutch players are also great players. Given enough opportunities to shine, great players are likely going to shine. Does that mean players who fail in the clutch don’t have the ability to overcomes pressure and choke in big-time situations? I highly doubt anyone who has gone through everything it takes to reach the majors and are given important plate appearances, defensive appearances or mound appearances lack the ability to overcome pressure. If they fail it’s not because they lack that ability. It’s because they aren’t good, the match-up doesn’t favor them or because of randomness.
Why was Freese the WS MVP and not Pujols? Because that’s the nature of baseball. It happens all the time. Inferior players often out-play better players over the course of 7 games or 10 games or a month. It happens in April, it happens in June and it happens in October. Was it because Pujols lacked some sort of clutch ability and Fresse didn’t or that Pujols clutchness was inferior to that of Freese? I find that highly unlikely. I highly doubt Pujols was more nervous or less focused or something like that.
I agree that LaRussa deserves a lot of credit in managing his pitching staff this postseason, with the exception of the bullpen-gate game. A huge factor in the Cardinals winning was him throwing out different looks at opposing offenses, not letting hitters measure up one particular pitcher and playing match-ups.
I think that’s a major factor in why the Rangers lost. Ron Washington didn’t play match-ups as he should have. Lance Berkman was allowed to bat left-handed way too often. Berkman is out of his mind as a LHB. How did Wash not know this?
The reason they keep stats like RBI or BA w/ RISP and 2 outs is because they show clutch. Hitting from the 7th inning on, things like that. Holds, saves, blown saves, all gauge levels of clutch, not just skill. Lots of guys can throw it 98 miles an hour, not a lot of guys can produce when their team is up 1 run and the game is in the 9th inning with the heart of the lineup due up for the opposing team. That’s why closers get paid more than middle relief guys. They all can’t handle the pressure of that situation. You don’t have to be super talented to be clutch. Robert Horry was a marginal basketball player who hit more big shots than most guys will in their careers. He literally made a living being the guy who could knock down a huge three in the playoffs and, as a result, he won a bunch of championships that would not have been won if not for his performance. But no one confused him with Micheal Jordan. Ever. Or even Dominique Wilkins, for that matter. Why can’t Duke basketball players make it in the NBA, yet win championship after championship? Christian Laettner was one of the most amazing clutch performers in the history of sports. Period. He was a terrible pro player. It’s because they are in a system that targets guys who are unflappable, not the most talented. UNC always has the better athletes. Dean Smith won 2 championships. And there is something to say about coaching that out of players too. Was that women’s Japanese soccer team more talented than the USA? No. Did they make the plays when they needed to in order to win the World Cup? Yes. And what did the Americans do? They choked. The opposite of clutch.
And I’m not sure how many games you would have them play in the post season? You want it to be a 13 game series? At what point is it enough time to not be a fluke that one team beats another?
Shaun, agreed on La Russa and washington. I definitely understand your point in greatness overcoming the situation, but I’m still in the camp that believes certain athletes have that it-factor/clutchness/swagger/whatever you wanna call it. That’s why everyone can look great in practice, but only some can be great in the actual game.
Curt @103, I’m not denying certain stats show clutch. I’m denying that certain players who make it to the majors are generally more clutch than other players in the majors, insofar as defining clutch as some sort of ability to overcome pressure, not get nervous, etc. in certain situations.
I believe if a pitcher has the stuff and the smarts to know what pitches to throw in certain situations, and he has the make-up that allowed him to make it all the way to the majors; he can close games. This idea that certain guys in the majors have a better “closer’s mentality” than other pitchers I believe is bogus. I think the guys that get all weak kneed and nervous in a close, 9th inning aren’t getting much past Double-A, if that far.
If Laettner and others truly had some sort of clutchness that was better than other players, why wouldn’t he be able to utilize it in all situations and become better than others in all situations?
What you are essentially arguing is that Laettner and others are only capable of being unflappable in those high-pressure situations but not in other situations, otherwise they would have been great players. This seems like a rather weak argument.
Did the USA women’s soccer team choke because they lacked some sort of clutchness that was separate from soccer skill? Did the Japanese team win because they had some sort of clutchness that was better than Team USA’s? Or is it just the nature of sports, especially a sport like soccer, where even if one team is better and could win a majority of the times they play the other team, and inferior team could find a way to win one game or 3 of 5 or 4 of 7?
There is no way to completely do away with flukiness and still have a watchable and entertaining postseason that doesn’t drag on too long. There is always going to be an element of randomness in the postseason, and I’m okay with that.
What I would prefer is that MLB do its best, with a playoff system, to weed out the teams that don’t belong with the upper-tier teams. Either let fewer teams in the playoffs (which isn’t going to happen) or make it tougher for the teams that are clearly inferior going in to win in the postseason (which is more likely to happen).
What’s the point of a 162-game regular season if a team that wins 102 games and is clearly the best team in the league has to play a 90-win team in a 5-game series with just one extra home game as its only advantage? Oh, and the team that won 90 games played in a division with three 90-loss teams, including one 106-loss team, with an unbalanced schedule that allowed them to play those teams more often.
I actually don’t think RBI or AVG w/RISP, saves, blown saves, etc. tell us much. I believe these stats are a lot like pitcher wins. They are more situational stats than stats that tell us anything about a player’s skills and abilities and what those skills and abilities allowed a player to do.
Take a player like Jose Bautista. Clearly the best hitter in baseball, best power hitter in baseball, etc. but he fell short of having the most RBI. Is Jose Bautista truly less of a “RBI guy” than any other hitter? Or was his relative lack of RBI, compared to other clearly inferior hitters, just a result of fewer opportunities. Bautista didn’t play on a great offensive or great OBP team. He also didn’t get many pitches to hit. Basically, he lacked the opportunities of other players because of his teammates and because he was a victim of his own success (pitchers didn’t throw him hittable pitches).
RBI are like pitcher wins, if not worse, in terms of telling us something about players. At least with pitcher wins, a pitcher has to be good enough to go 5 innings and typically has to allow fewer than 3-4 runs. With RBI, a player can rack them up if he’s just at the right spot in the order enough times with the right guys around him and the pitcher is willing to throw him strikes. See Jeff Francoeur.
I don’t think a guy like Francoeur, when he was driving in 100 runs, was any more clutch, less nervous, more unflappable, etc. than Jose Bautista. He just got as many or more RBI in a couple of seasons because his teammates were better, pitchers weren’t afraid to throw him strikes and he swung at everything this side of the Mississippi.
I do believe the best of the best of the best–the type players who clear every hurdle to make it to the majors–all have the it-factor/clutchness/swagger/whatever you wanna call it to a large degree. Maybe some have it more than others to a minor degree. But I think in a vast majority of instances players don’t fail in the clutch because they lack the it-factor/clutchness/swagger/whatever you wanna call it. I think having it is sort of a prerequisite to making it to the majors. It’s kind of like having a fastball over 86-mph or something. If you don’t have it (of course along with all the talent and skills required), you probably aren’t making it through all the filters and into the majors.
Everyone looks great in practice but not in games because all major leaguers are extremely skilled and talented, more so than the rest of us, and they are facing batting practice pitching and things of that sort. I don’t think that has much to do with clutch/it-factor/etc.
I think clutch does exist. There are plenty of great athletes that get nervous and break down when their team needs them the most. Sometimes its because they just plain get beat however most of of the time it’s because the pressure is too much to handle. A great player rises to the occasion by bearing down and wanting it more than anyone on the field.
I too think clutch exists. I just think human beings who reach the major leagues are almost by definition talented enough baseball players, disciplined and focused enough people in the ways that they need to be, and are capable of overcoming intense pressure. Clutch exists and a vast majority of major leaguers possess clutchness to an enormous degree.
I think the exact opposite. I think the most of the time if a player fails, it’s usually not because the pressure is too much to handle. Maybe at the high school level that’s the case but I don’t think that’s the case with major leaguers.
If a person has the talent, focus and drive, etc. but can’t overcome pressure, I don’t think he’s reaching the majors, getting playing time in key situations and staying in the majors.
Remember in the ALCS, Nelson Cruz dominated. In the most important fly ball in the World Series, he failed to catch it. Did he all the sudden forget how to be clutch? I don’t think that’s very likely at all. I don’t think he missed that fly ball because he didn’t bear down and want it. If that were the case, how do you explain that he bared down and wanted it in the ALCS but not the World Series?
I just don’t think there is any reason to believe nor is there any evidence that clutchness, bearing down, wanting it more, the it factor, etc. is what separates the performance of one major league player from any other.
Major league players have every incentive to want it a lot and bear down to extreme degrees. There are millions of dollars riding on their performances. Messing up would lead to public embarrassment on an enormous scale. These players have worked all their lives and put themselves through a lot just to get an opportunity to play in the majors. I think it’s very unlikely that one player bears down or wants it drastically more than other players.
If there are plenty of great athletes in the highest levels of pro sports (particular baseball where there is such an intense weeding-out process in the form of the minor leagues even after a player gets drafted into pro ball) that get nervous and break down when their team needs them most, where is the evidence that a noticeable percentage of those players exist?
In general, I agree with Shaun. I know – my opinion means a lot.
Clutch is largely a function of over-mediated perception. People develop a narrative about certain players and teams, then self select memories to reinforce their opinion. And because we have so much media coverage, so much opinion out there, it’s easy for people to spin these narratives. That’s why Cruz can be clutch in one series, but not in the next. Or Conrad and Hinske can be clutch one season, and then not the next. This is certainly a function of random success, and not at all indicative of clutch.
Clutch is more accurately used as a descriptive term for a play rather than an attribute for a player. Pros make clutch plays, but that doesn’t mean they have some mystical quality that allows them to excel over another in a specific high pressure situation.
However, I think Shaun is totally sterilizing the human element of sports. There are a rare few players that outperform their talents in big spots on a regular basis. Curt referenced Robert Horry. I’m sure there are more examples. Reggie Jackson maybe. And while RBIs, save, holds, wins, and many more are stats of opportunity, I don’t see how average/RISP or two out hits over the course of a season or several seasons can’t be considered at least indicative of clutch.
You say, “Major league players have every incentive to want it a lot and bear down to extreme degrees.”
That is not supported in many cases. Pitchers drinking beer in the duguot. Guys like Doc Gooden or Albert Haynesworth. Plenty of guys don’t bear down and underperform for lots of reasons.
If MLB increases the number of teams in the playoffs, they will be an even bigger joke than the NBA and NHL. Baseball is strong in tradition and crappy teams don’t belong in the playoffs; they didn’t earn the chance during the long season so, they shouldn’t get the chance to get lucky.