Saturday, June 29, 2013

Atlanta Braves 2013 Myths: Part II

Previously, I began a series to seek out the truth behind some of the comments typically made about the Braves, often from observational bias.  Today, we continue as we try to find out more truth about the Atlanta Braves current philosophy.

1. Atlanta doesn't make productive outs because of strikeouts.

2. Atlanta seems to fall behind early and has to play catch-up.

I'm not entirely sure where this idea comes from, but I have seen it presented on message boards and on facebook, typically after a loss or even a come-behind win.  Sometimes, commentators will add a sense that the players just don't care early, though the idea is rather absurd.  Not that a player might not have his head elsewhere for a game, but truly, to believe these guys just don't care all that much whether or not they make an out or get on base is ridiculous.

But hysterics aside, the entire idea being presented is just wrong.  Here is a breakdown for Atlanta's run-scoring abilities at different points in the game.

Innings Runs Scored
1-3 98
4-6 129
7-9 91
Hey, cool, a table.  A crude one, but it's been several years since I have attempted a table.  Go me!  Anyway, the evidence doesn't support the notion that Atlanta turns it on late.  In fact, they seem to turn it on middle.  Course, there are several possible of reasons for that.  Hitters are typically seeing the opposing starter for the second and third times in the middle of the game.  That not only helps hitters time a pitcher, but pitchers make more mistakes when they are deeper into a game.  The OPS for the team from the first time they see a pitcher vs. the 2nd rises 51 points.  From the second to third time, the OPS rises an additional 80 points. 

In addition, the little change between early and late in the game also is added up when you compare the first time the team sees a starter vs. the first time the team sees a reliever.  Atlanta does fare slightly better in those situations (.693 OPS vs. 680), but there is not much difference. 

I understand that we tend to associate what we think we see with the truth.  Maybe for a week this season, Atlanta didn't seem to wake up until the seventh inning and after that, we seem to recall the instances where that also occurred.  However, typically, this could not be more from the truth.  The Braves might struggle early to get going, but once they get a look at a pitcher and what he is bringing that particular day, Atlanta's chances of producing rightfully improve.  The more chances, the better it typically gets until the bullpen gets the call for the opposing squad. 

Makes sense, right? 

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