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May 2, 2014

Painting the Black

A Trip Through the NL West

by R.J. Anderson

A lot happens in baseball every night, and neither man nor Daniel Rathman can keep up with it all. So every few weeks we'll look at some stories within a division that would have otherwise slipped through the cracks. Let's start with the National League West.

Colorado Rockies
Walt Weiss might be the most unknown manager in baseball. The second-year skipper has more tenure than some of his peers, including rookies Matt Williams, Brad Ausmus, Bryan Price, and Rick Renteria, but Williams and Ausmus enjoyed longer, more distinguished careers, Renteria benefits from a larger media contingency, and Price is known as the guy who replaced Dusty Baker. Mike Redmond, also in his sophomore season on the bench, deserves consideration for most unconsidered, though Miami's tendency to change manager is a reasonable explanation for his anonymity. Weiss has no such defense.

In fact, the Rockies have fared well when hiring skippers. As Chris Jaffe wrote in Weiss' Baseball Prospectus 2014 comment, four of the five Colorado managers have won the Manager of the Year award during their careers, and the other finished in second. Giving the Rockies all the credit for their former skippers' success would be unfair; after all, Jim Leyland spent one season in Colorado, while Buddy Bell and Jim Tracy had previous managerial experience. The Rockies did launch the careers of Don Baylor and Clint Hurdle, however.

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8 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Suggesting that Wait Weiss had a more "obscure" career than Brad Ausmus ignores everything but longevity. Weiss was a fine defensive shortstop and a decent hitter. Ausmus may have been a bright guy and a decent defensive sub, but he was among the worst hitters of his era, and arguably the worst hitter to have had a career as long as he did, bad enough to have acquired the nickname "Bad Ausmus."

May 02, 2014 09:46 AM
rating: 1

Isn't it that badness that kept him from being obscure? You notice when someone that bad sticks around.

May 02, 2014 10:19 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

Fair objection. Let me explain why I disagree.

You are correct about Weiss out-hitting Ausmus. For their careers, Weiss hit .258/.351/.326 (a .246 TAv) while Ausmus hit .251/.325/.344 (.233). Weiss wins, no doubt. And Ausmus did accumulate about 1,600 more plate appearances. That additional playing time helps erase the offensive gap so far as value metrics are concerned. WARP gives the nod to Weiss, bWAR considers them even, and fWAR crowns Ausmus. If you go by wins-per-plate appearance Weiss is ahead. To illustrate that effect, I prorated his win rate (win/plate appearance) so that his playing time matched Ausmus. Here are those results:

Weiss without the adjustment: 17.2
Weiss with the adjustment: 22.1
Ausmus: 15.8

Weiss without the adjustment: 16.5
Weiss with the adjustment: 21.2
Ausmus: 16.4

Weiss without the adjustment: 14.8
Weiss with the adjustment: 19.1
Ausmus: 18.3

So the hitting and the rate statistics suggest Weiss was superior. But here's my argument for Ausmus:

1) I'm not sure we should dismiss longevity, and even if we do, I don't think the adjustment made above is the way to do it. We can probably agree that Weiss would not have played to his career win/PA rate had he stuck around for another three seasons. Maybe he would have, or maybe he would have dropped below replacement level and damaged his case here. Neither of us knows for sure.

2) This is the big one: I don't think Ausmus' defensive value is fully realized in these metrics. I realize there's no way to prove it one way or another, but the above metrics don't consider his receiving, game-calling, and staff-handling; aspects that he seemed to excel at. Teams continued to employ and play him despite his horrid offense for a reason. Perhaps they all bought into the hype, or maybe there was a Jose Molina-like aspect to his game. Again, we can't say for sure, but it wouldn't shock me if his true value exceeded the numbers listed above and, in the process, dwarfed Weiss' figures, too.

Of course I recognize those points (particularly no. 2) aren't for everyone, and I probably should've addressed the case in the piece. Rest assured, though, it wasn't a comment made without some thought.

May 02, 2014 10:32 AM

Weiss loses a lot of anonymity points for the R.O.Y. award and All Star appearance.

May 02, 2014 16:12 PM
rating: 1

I don't know if the math on bunting wisdom supports the need for this extra info, but, I would have liked to see what hitters were due up following the bunt. I imagine that affects the strength of the decision.

May 02, 2014 11:01 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

Good idea. Here you go. I went ahead and included the two batters afterward as well, so you can get the whole picture:

Barnes 4/27: Gonzalez (then Tulowitzki and Morneau)
Barnes 4/13: Stubbs (then Cuddyer and Gonzalez)
Barnes 4/12: Gonzalez (then Tulowitzki and Rosario)
Barnes 4/2: Blackmon (then Cuddyer and Stubbs)
Blackmon 4/30: Stubbs (then Gonzalez and Tulowitzki)
Blackmon 4/28: Barnes (then Tulowitzki and Gonzalez)
Culberson 4/23: Blackmon (then Arenado and Tulowitzki)
Culberson 4/9: LeMahieu (then Rutledge and Blackmon)
Rutledge 4/20: Pacheco (then Rosario and Blackmon)
Stubbs 4/30: Gonzalez (then Tulowitzki and Morneau)

May 02, 2014 11:28 AM

With all due respect, that doesn't tell the story.

May 02, 2014 15:10 PM
rating: -1
Richard Bergstrom

Quite a few people in Denver were upset with Blackmon bunting considering he has such a low strikeout rate and has remained one of Colorado's hottest hitters. Bunting might make sense if the hitter's prone to striking out, but if you have a tendency to put the ball in play, you might get more than just the advancement of the runner.

May 03, 2014 23:14 PM
rating: -1
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