Saturday, May 14, 2016

Braves Saturday Stats Pack - Markakis, Teheran, Vizzy

This article used to be a staple of my time at AtlantaBraves.About.com, but with my contract with the company ending - and their sports department being blown up - I'll continue the series here.

Homers < Wins

Over the history of baseball, winning more games than you homer is not a grand accomplishment. After all, before the introduction of smaller ballparks, expansion, and the realization that chicks dig the long ball, homeruns were not celebrated like they are now. Since Babe Ruth changed the face of baseball, less and less teams have been able to win more games than their team's total output of homeruns. Almost none of them also contended for a playoff birth.

When Freddie Freeman hit his sixth homerun last week, it gave the team nine homeruns compared to just eight wins. That's the thinnest of margins and considering 66.67% of the remaining team homeruns have been shipped out with the banishment of Adonis Garcia and release of Drew Stubbs, could the Braves do something that just never happens in the modern game? Could the Braves homer fewer times than they win games?

I can't answer that, but I can say that if they did, they would be the first team in over 20 years to do so. The last team to win more games than they sent dingers flying into the seats was the 1992 Milwaukee Brewers. It was really the perfect storm for the Brew Crew that year to pull this off. Two years before, they had waved goodbye to "swing hard in case you hit it" Rob Deer. Without his steady source of power, Milwaukee needed nice homerun numbers from a pre-Coors Dante Bichette while also requiring their Hall of Fame combo of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor to not remember that they were hitting their upper 30's. None of those things happened and in 1992, Milwaukee hit just 82 homeruns, the second worst mark in the American League. Yet, they won 92 games and their 20 September wins had the Brewers just two games behind the Blue Jays with two to go. They would lose their final two games and the Jays would win the AL East, the AL Title, and...you know the rest.

By Keith Allison on Flickr
[CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Nick Markakis' Power Outage

In the first 832 plate appearances of a four-year, $44 million contract, Braves right-fielder Nick Markakis has nearly matched his Baltimore batting average (one point higher as a Brave) and also has maintained a statistically insignificant advantage over his OBP as an Oriole (11 points higher). In many ways, Markakis has shown no let-up when it comes to his offensive game.

Except for power, of course. No one thought Markakis would come to the Braves and hit 20 homers yearly after only doing that twice in his career (2007-08), but the expectation of more dongs was definitely higher than what the Braves have received thus far. In case you weren't aware, Markakis has homered three times as a Brave. While his gain in OBP may not be significant, his loss in slugging certainly is. As an Oriole, his ISO was .145. As a Brave, it's just .082. Now, one could argue the Braves should have seen this coming since his ISO over his final two years with the Orioles was .098, but even that would be an improvement. To bring perspective to his total of homers as a Brave, of the 51 players who have amassed 500 PA since 2000 as a Brave, only one player (Gregor Blanco) homered fewer times than Markakis. Blanco hit just one, by the way. Only one other player has three homeruns like Markakis - Tim Hudson in 250 fewer PA. None-power hitters like Melky Cabrera, Jordan Schafer, and Quilvio Veras look like Barry Bonds compared to Markakis.

He's had long homerun droughts as a Brave. His first homerun didn't come until plate appearance #396. His most recent one isn't quite as stark, but over his last 179 plate appearances dating back to when he led off September 25, 2015's game with a homerun, Markakis has just a dozen extra base hits in that time frame. All are doubles. Markakis has been productive as a Brave (105 wRC+), but it's a stretch to think he's been $44M productive.

Julio Teheran's Durability

With Bud Norris banished to the bullpen and Jhoulys Chacin traded to the Angels, Julio Teheran becomes the rotation's oldest and most experienced starter. Teheran has been amazingly durable as a professional pitcher and that has only continued as a major leaguer. Since the beginning of 2013, only six pitchers have made more starts than Teheran, who has taken the ball 104 times.

This is Teheran's Age-25 year. That's a simple way of saying what his age will be on June 30th of the season. If he picks up 22 more starts this season, he'll reach the 30 start plateau for the fourth consecutive year. Since 1990, only 16 players have done that before they turned 26. Just five reached five years of 30 GS or more by the age of 25. Only one - Felix Hernandez - had a half-dozen years of 30 GS before his 26th birthday.

Arodys Vizcaino's cFIP is Very Impressive

It's difficult for Vizcaino to find work as the Braves' closer. With so few opportunities, he has logged a lot of innings trying to keep a game tied or give the team a good inning to keep them close. He's been dominant when used - which you know if you've watched him pitch. A deep dive into his performance with Baseball Prospectus shows that he's been nearly as effective as the former Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel. So far this year, Vizzy has a cFIP, of FIP in context, of 74. That not only matches (in many less innings) Stephen Strasburg, it's not too far removed from Kimbrel's 71. DRA, or Deserved Run Average, also paints a picture of outstanding performance. When compared to their peers with 100 as league average, Vizzy has a 83 DRA-. Kimbrel's? 82. I definitely recommend further reading into both stats, but suffice it to say, each number tells us that - to this point - Vizzy has been every bit the performer the Braves traded right before the 2015 season starter. Vizzy's doing it for many millions less, by the way.

Slightly low on the number of stats for this week's stat pack, but I hope you found the ones I touched on interesting. Later this afternoon, I'll hopefully have the minor league portion of this series. (edit, here's the link.)

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