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September 11, 2009

Prospectus Today

Dunn'd and Damned

by Joe Sheehan

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The Braves' offensive explosion last night was good for a hang-on 9-7 win over the Houston Astros, but it may have come a bit too late, as it followed a devastating hitting week that saw them squander some of the best starting pitching you'll see a team get in one swing through the rotation. Starting last Friday against the Reds, the Braves got five straight quality starts, their starters allowing just seven runs in 36 innings, going at least seven innings every night. All told, their pitchers allowed 13 runs in 47 1/3 innings in the five games.

The Braves went 1-4 in those five games, scoring seven runs, with no more than two in any contest. Legends such as Kip Wells-pitching for his seventh team in four years-and Felipe Paulino put the Braves' bats in lockdown, helping push the team seven games behind the Rockies in the wild-card chase and effectively ending their shot at the postseason. It was a waste of resources even the federal government could take pride in, perhaps a permanent counterexample to the phrase "pitching is [DUMB_NUMBER] percent of baseball."

When a team racks up 1.4 runs per game, singling out any one player for blame is a bit foolhardy. Let's be foolhardy and note that Garret Anderson went 1-for-12 in that stretch, sitting out two of the games. His lone hit was a single, his lone other success getting in the way of a pitch, for an .083/.154/.083 slash line. This example of veteran leadership yanked Anderson's numbers down to .278/.314/.421 on the season, making him almost exactly a league-average producer at the plate (.258 EqA). As consistent as they come, this performance would mark the fourth time in five seasons that Anderson's EqA has landed within three points of league-average, and it's also within three points of his PECOTA weighted-mean forecast of .261. He's played slightly more than PECOTA projected him to play, a point that would weigh more in his favor if his doing so was helping.

While Anderson was hitting, professionally, for a 237 OPS as his team sank into the Atlantic, another left fielder, also a free agent last winter, was also watching his team lose four of five. Well, not "watching" so much as "doing a lot to try and prevent it." Adam Dunn, playing first base in the absence of the traded Nick Johnson, hit .364/.391/.364 during the five days in question, in the lineup for all nine innings every day. That's an unusual stretch for Dunn, who is currently going through a power outage that has seen him go without an extra-base hit since August 29, and without a double since August 20. Even at that, he's been a productive hitter, with a .372 OBP and .431 SLG in the three weeks since his last two-bagger. For the year, Dunn is hitting .282/.411/.557, making him the fifth-best hitter in the league with a .327 EqA and 105.2 Equivalent Runs produced. This is the best offensive year of Dunn's career to date, thanks to slight improvements in strikeout rate and batting average on balls in play, and better power once you consider his move to DC. He's outperformed both his recent seasons and approached his 90th-percentile PECOTA projection.

Dunn was a free agent for a long time last winter, eventually signing a two-year contract on February 11 that is paying him $20 million total, and $8 million in 2009. Eleven days later the Braves, who may have had Dion James leading their depth chart at that point, signed Anderson to a one-year deal for $2.5 million. They saved $17.5 million over two seasons, and just $5.5 million in 2009, by filling their left-field hole this way. Dunn has produced 61 batting runs above replacement, or 48 more than Anderson. Forty-eight runs is just shy of five wins in a vacuum, and for a team so desperate for offense, for OBP, and for a middle-of-the-order hitter, Dunn would have been worth even more than that to the Braves, as his plate appearances would have been more valuable than the average player's. Even if it's five wins, those five wins would put the Braves two games behind the Rockies-and four behind the Phillies-with a little more than three weeks to play. Make the minor assumption that one of those five might have come at the Phillies' expense, and it's easy to see the Braves, led by Dunn, making our September a lot more interesting.

To repeat, the decision to sign Garret Anderson rather than Adam Dunn saved the Braves $5.5 million this year. The decision may have cost them ten times that, however. What's a post-season berth worth in direct revenues, or indirect revenues? What's an extra 2,000 people a night coming to the park just in the last homestand add to the till? What's one series win, advancing to the NLCS, do for the coffers? The decision to sign Anderson instead of Dunn may well be the difference between going to the playoffs and not, and it stands out as one of the most penny-wise, pound-foolish decisions in recent memory. The Braves went cheap because they cared more about the cash commitment then about the impact on the field, and it went about as badly as it could: Anderson gave them exactly what they paid for, and the difference between him and a real left fielder may well be the difference between success and failure in 2009. It was the kind of decision you make running a corner grocery, not a baseball team, and the outcome was predictable on February 22.

I've focused just on offense here, which is mildly shortsighted given that it's Adam Dunn we're talking about. Plus/minus calls the two even this year as outfielders, while Ultimate Zone Rating indicates a small edge for Anderson in left field. Dunn has cost his team runs at first base as well. However, I'm comparing him to a 37-year-old who played about 40 percent of the time as a DH in his last season in the AL, and who is someone who routinely gets lifted for a defensive replacement. Anderson may be better than Dunn, but he's not good. You don't sign Garret Anderson because you're looking for glove, not when you have Josh Anderson and Gregor Blanco in the room.

If the Braves have Dunn, do they trade for Nate McLouth at midseason, or deal Jeff Francoeur for Ryan Church? Both deals made the team slightly better this season, maybe by about win total, so even if they elect to do both they're ahead of the game. McLouth is having a better season defensively-basically average-and has hit for a .281 EqA with the Braves, so he's been a help. A Dunn signing would have made the Braves less likely to take on McLouth's contract, which I'm not sure would have been such a bad thing in the long term. In any case, the benefits of having Dunn would have outweighed the short-term gains made in the trades.

I'm focused on the Braves here because of just how stark the difference between having Dunn and having Anderson would be in terms of their chances. You could actually make the argument that not signing Dunn was the critical decision of the winter for a number of teams, given the gap between his performance and what they've gotten from their left fielders or first basemen or DHs. The Giants have one above-average hitter, and have gotten .332 OBP and .391 slugging from their left fielders, and .323/.422 from their first basemen. Dunn would have them leading the wild-card race. In retrospect, nothing would have saved the Mets' season, but Dunn would have helped a team whose left fielders slugged .418. The Mariners went with Ken Griffey Jr. instead of Dunn, and have gotten a .325 OBP and .404 SLG from their DHs. Dunn puts them in both the wild-card and AL West races.

No team will regret the decision to pass on Dunn more than the Braves will, however. As they limp home in front of a half-empty ballpark, headed for elimination, it is impossible to not look at the decision to save $5.5 million, a pittance in baseball finance, and wonder how it might have been different.

Perhaps someday MLB will encourage the purchase of teams by ownership groups who understand that the benefits of running a franchise aren't in the annual bottom lines, but in the intangible benefits of the property as you operate it and the financial gains when you sell it. Until that time, however, the game will be ill-served. No amount of revenue sharing, draft slotting, or complaining about market size will overcome the damage done by owners who just don't give a damn.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Braves,  The Atlantic

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

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lemppi

Great look at things, Joe. I argued long and loud about the Tigers signing Adam Dunn in the off-season when it was becoming apparent that he was going to come at a rather inexpensive pricetag. I don't know how the league-change would have changed his level of production but there was/is no question in my mind he'd have helped Detroit this year.

The Tigers are in first place and its been fun...but the popgun attack they've featured for most of the season is the primary reason the Twins still have a pulse left in this race. Dunn's bat would have sealed this thing up already I think.

But I feel Dombrowski was paralyzed a bit by the economy and was not going to take on Dunn even at a cut rate (assuming Dunn would have signed in DET) given the malaise in Southeastern Michigan's economy.

Sep 11, 2009 09:40 AM
rating: 0
 
alaime

Yeah, I was surprised both at the lack of interest in Dunn and at seeing him winding up on the Nats. A lot of teams could have used him, especially in the AL. I think the bias against K's and low AVG hurt him as much as the economy did.

Sep 11, 2009 09:59 AM
rating: 2
 
lemppi

It would be interesting to know Joe's opinion, or even Dombrowski's of course, about whether the Tigers just didn't view Dunn as a great player to add or if they just didn't feel they could risk adding payroll. Or did Dunn want no part of Detroit....

Sep 11, 2009 10:07 AM
rating: 0
 
pcanderson

This is indeed a wonderful piece -- and yet is also sometimes illustrates the difficulty of using statistics in a vacuum. Joe himself points out that a number of teams passed on Dunn; the onl team to take him was a loser with a need to put fannies in the seats. That suggests to me -- overwhelmingly -- that teams wanted no part of Dunn for reasons having nothing to do with numbers.

I'm not sure, in other words -- although I love this piece -- that the Braves, or anyone else who didn't sign Dunn, or anyone else who didn't even trade for him at the deadlines, "regret" their decision at all.

Sep 11, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Given that Dunn signed on February 11 with a bad team in fairly unattractive city where he has no obvious connection for a contract that was unimpressive, I'm going to speculate that the Nationals were the only team to make a remotely reasonable offer. So pretty much 24 teams could have done better had they wanted, for one factor or another.

I'm not sure Dunn was an obvious fit given the Tigers had Ordonez, Sheffield and Guillen for big money. Where could you have played him prior to the Sheffield release? I'm not arguing against the idea, just saying there's a logjam of contracts.

Sep 11, 2009 13:59 PM
 
Slingerland65

I would say that the Indians followed this advice to a "T" in signing Kerry Wood, but didn't get the same return on their investment that the Braves would have with Dunn.

Sep 11, 2009 10:08 AM
rating: 2
 
hallse

The Braves have "owners who just don't give a damn"?!? I don't think the track record warrants that characterization. They did sign Lowe and trade for Vazquez over the winter, both which added significant payroll.

Sep 11, 2009 10:21 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Per Cot's, the Braves' Opening Day payroll in 2008 was $102,365,683.

Per Cot's, the Braves' Opening Day payroll in 2009 was $96,726,166.

So let's not make it sound like Liberty Media went all Daniel Snyder on the market. They lopped John Smoltz ($14MM), Mark Teixeira ($12.5MM/~$8MM paid out), Tom Glavine ($8MM), some fraction of Mike Hampton ($15.98MM, but not all theirs) and Mark Kotsay ($7MM/~$6MM paid out) off the payroll.

The acquisitions they made didn't amount to a spending spree. They merely dragged the payroll to about where it was in '08.

All arguments about what Liberty could "afford," or the economy, or the possibility that they would lose money, are what I'm addressing in the last part of the piece. There's no risk here of bouncing checks; the risk is short-term small-number negative cashflow on an asset that is constantly appreciating and providing massive tax benefits to the corporation. If you're making bad baseball decisions based on trying to avoid a seven-figure loss, just sell already. This is one of the biggest problems facing so many teams today, this silly fear of red ink in a single season. If the appetite for risk is that small, get out of the business.

I really think I'm on solid ground with this, and I don't understand the relentless defense of ownership groups, corporate and otherwise, based on a fear of losing money. If you can't stand to lose money, buy savings bonds. Running baseball teams this way is bad for the industry, and awful for the individual fan bases.

Sep 11, 2009 13:55 PM
 
misterjohnny
(925)

The only reason Liberty owns the Braves is because it helped make a bigger deal tax free. They have no interest in the Braves and will sell them as soon as they can do it with a tax free transaction.

Sep 11, 2009 14:38 PM
rating: 2
 
Matthew Avery

Joe's point is why not invest a little to make that asset you're selling worth more down the road? A team that draws well and has an engaded fan base is a team that's worth more than one that hasn't seen the playoffs in 4 years and doesn't have bodies in the seats.

Sep 16, 2009 14:32 PM
rating: -1
 
mark1623

The Braves went out and spent a ton of money to sign Derek Lowe and trade for Javier Vasquez, so I don't think they were just being cheap. I think the real problem is that there is still a feeling, clearly misplaced, within front offices in baseball that Adam Dunn is not that good of a baseball player.

Sep 11, 2009 10:22 AM
rating: 2
 
Ameer

I'm not sure the Braves were being cheap - I think Anderson has been overvalued his entire career and Dunn undervalued. So isn't it possible that this is a player valuation problem and not a penny-pinching one?

Sep 11, 2009 10:39 AM
rating: 4
 
Christopher Miller
(88)

That argument would make sense if Anderson hadn't come so cheaply--probably valued about what he was worth.

Sep 11, 2009 14:01 PM
rating: 5
 
dianagram

The Mets could have used Dunn too. Though seeing him attempt to patrol the nooks and crannies of Citi Field would have been maddening.

Sep 11, 2009 10:44 AM
rating: 1
 
airlifting

nooks and crannies are small....

Sep 11, 2009 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

He meant the jagged configurations- the height and depth changes along RF and LF are very idosyncratic. These are small nooks and crannies in a BIG english muffin

Sep 11, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: 1
 
bobgale

Outstanding column, Joe! Very interesting to see the Anderson/Dunn decision quantified and explored in such terms! Sometime, if you are so inclined, I would be fascinated to read your take on the Brewers going into the 2009 season with the starting rotation that they did, while all the while acting like they intended to be playoff contenders.

It seems like there is some sort of disconnect in there somewhere. If you would consider exploring that topic, that would be outstanding. I know they had no chance at re-signing Sabathia, but was there nothing they could have done other than "defer"?

Sorry to stray so far off-topic..

Sep 11, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: 0
 
sbussmann

Few people could have guessed Dunn would be one of the top hitters in the league this year. PECOTA expected a WARP of 1.1 for Anderson and 2.9 for Dunn in 2009. Given the difference in their salaries and the fact that the Braves added quality starting pitching over the offseason, I don't see the evidence that the Braves' owners "just don't give a damn".

Sep 11, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: 7
 
nsacpi

I think this is a good point. The point the article is trying to make would have been stronger if the ex-post and ex-ante cases for signing Dunn over Anderson were the same. But they were not.

Sep 11, 2009 20:38 PM
rating: 5
 
jballen4eva

As the Phillies flirt with their impersonation of the 2007 Mets, it would have been nice to have a monster like Dunn rather than Ibanez, regardless of the latter's excellent first half. Really, is Dunn anything but another Howard (well, a cheaper, more patient Howard, who is also better against lefty pitching)?

Sep 11, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: 1
 
ScottyB

Well, Howard does have a career OPS of 959 and OPS+ of 141 compared to Dunn's 907 and 132.

Both good players with obvious reasons to compare them, but 99 out of 100 would take Howard over Dunn

Sep 11, 2009 12:07 PM
rating: 0
 
Lou Doench

As the worlds biggest Adam Dunn fan, I was saddened to see him settle for that crummy deal with the Nats. If you wanna talk about Dunn contrasts, the Reds essentially replaced Adam Dunn with Wily Tavares and a collection of used bandages. Now we're the worst hitting team in baseball.

Sep 11, 2009 10:57 AM
rating: 1
 
chuckmotl

Very interesting article and I agree with the central premise-- the Braves should have tried to get Dunn. However, Joe assumes several things in the article, some of which may not be true. For example, Joe assumes that the Braves could have signed Dunn for the same deal that Washington signed Dunn for (2 years/$20 million total). While this may be true, its just as possible that the Braves' interest in Dunn could have led to additional bidding (a "bidding war" so to speak). At the very least, Washington may have decided to raise its offer (in terms of years or dollars per year) to get Dunn, who otherwise appeared to have relatively few suitors in the off-season. Accordingly, its likely that the Braves would have had to pay more than Washington ended up paying to lock up Dunn.

Sep 11, 2009 11:01 AM
rating: 5
 
Richie

The only fair way to judge the decision itself is to go off of expected WARP, rather than what Anderson and Dunn wound up doing. That might make a decision to sign Dunn look pretty awful, financially.

Given the economy last off-season, I'm not going to haul off on a team signing/trading-and-paying-for only Lowe+Vazquez, rather than Lowe+Vazquez+Dunn.

Sep 11, 2009 11:16 AM
rating: 4
 
nsacpi

Right, you have to look at the difference ex-ante. As Yogi Berra might have put it hindsight is 20-20.

Sep 11, 2009 20:40 PM
rating: 1
 
gtgator

The problem I have with these types of articles is that the Braves' personnel moves were not simply "Anderson for Dunn" in a vacuum.

First, the premise that it was "only" $5.5MM more ignores the elephant in the room - the economy. There simply is no evidence that, at the time these moves were made, the Braves COULD afford the extra payroll. Every move they've made has not increased payroll. Even trading for McLouth was offset by not activating Glavine - who would have commanded a $1.5MM bonus his first day on the roster. Church makes less than Francoeur and the difference between Kotchman and LaRoche was paid by the Red Sox. I have always had an issue with Yankees fans evaluating the payroll decisions on other teams simply because there is no context for Yankees fans - of course they can easily afford the extra $5.5MM. Their team has no budget. But reality is that most teams operate at a budget and most teams can't easily blow past that budget "just because". And, as the attendance in Atlanta showed this summer, even when the Braves were still "in" the WC race, the fans did not come out meaning any extra salary would not have assuredly been offset by added revenue.

Second, because of the budget, what cost the team Dunn (whom many Braves' fans did want) was acquiring all 3 of Lowe ($15MM), Vazquez ($11.5MM) and Kawakami ($7.7MM). All winter talk was made of 2 SP and a power-hitting LF. Offense was the major weak issue for this team all winter but they wanted to focus on SP, which was also a weakness. Had they just gotten 2 of the 3, then the money would have been there for Dunn. But, for whatever reason, they signed all 3. And that left them budget shopping for a LF. That is why there was no talk of even Abreu - just Griffey and then Anderson. Again, moves like Anderson for Dunn do not happen in a vacuum. The 3rd SP "cost" them Dunn - not being "cheap".

Third, let's presume they only sign 2 of the 3 SP so that they can afford Dunn (and stay on budget) - where is the analysis that shows where the team would be in the WC race if they take away the worst of the SP and replace with someone like Glavine, Jo-Jo Reyes or even Medlen (at least until Hudson was ready to return)?

Whether it was the right way to spend the $40-45MM they spent this winner, the 3 SP were a reason this team stayed in the race, a feat not many fans expected to even be possible as the off-season began. Replacing one of them to enable them to sign Dunn does not result in a situation in which they would be in any better shape. But, of course, that type of analysis isn't as fun to write.

However, if one wished to focus on a team being cheap, here's one analysis to consider - how much did the Braves lose keeping Hanson at AAA to avoid Super 2 while running a mish-mash of garbage out there from mid-April (when a 5th SP was needed) to June 7?

Finally, as to the other OF moves, they likely would have occurred with Dunn in lieu of Anderson. McLouth was obtained since Schafer a) stunk up the joint because b) he hurt his wrist. Dunn can't play LF - he clearly could not play CF. Francoeur and Church both needed new teams. The one move that may not have happened was LaRoche.

Sep 11, 2009 11:25 AM
rating: 3
 
gtgator

Let me fix one error - replacing one of the SP to enable them to sign Dunn does not "automatically" result in a situation in which they would be in any better shape.

Also, as to their post-season chances and their offense, one also has to look at the player whose picture graces this article - if Chipper were even close his weighted mean WARP (2.2 vs 6.3), the Braves playoff picture sans Dunn would be looking much better even with Anderson in LF.

Again, one move in a vacuum does not define the reason this team has struggled to score runs all season and trying to boil down the Braves' failures to a single move seems simplistic to me. Based on the entirety of moves they made, I just can't see how the Braves' owners have been "cheap". They may not have made the "right" moves (using the always wonderful "hindsight is 20/20" standard) - but they did spend plenty of money when most teams did not.

Sep 11, 2009 11:48 AM
rating: 3
 
antoine6

I also found something odd. Joe's premise seems to be that even if the economy was a real concern and the Braves didn't have much money to play with, it would've been a financially beneficial move because signing Dunn would have resulted in increased revenue due to a playoff appearance.

But this seems odd because he then goes on to say that even Dunn's 90th-percentile performance this year (inherently more value than the Braves should have expected to receive in February, even had they valued his skills correctly) would have only gotten them within a couple games of a playoff spot. Had Dunn produced his expected mean value, the Braves would probably be 3-4 out of the wild card spot, more in the division, and so only a couple better than they are right now. It seems unlikely that there would be a big marginal revenue boost in September games, given Atlanta's shoddy attendance history even when successful.

As a Phillies fan, I'm thankful the Braves didn't sign Dunn, because they'd be more of a threat with him than they are now. But I don't think it's entirely fair to fault them for not investing more money, in this economy, into a decision which, at the time, was a real longshot to make a significant marginal impact.

Sep 11, 2009 12:38 PM
rating: 3
 
gtgator

Exactly. This was a team on Opening Day with two good hitters for their position (Chipper and McCann), two slightly above average hitters (Escobar and K. Johnson), a rookie CF with half a year at AA and two below average hitters (Kotchman and Francoeur). Dunn alone would not have made this a good offense - even if everything else went as expected.

Instead, they needed a rebound from Francoeur, continued improvement from their MI, a solid season from Schafer and no significant drops. Instead, Chipper nose-dived, Schafer got hurt/stank, Francoeur was his putrid 2008 and KJ had a bad season. The trades for McLouth and Church and Prado's emergence simply helped avoid a complete disaster.

So even if they had invested in Dunn AND he performed better than most expected, at best they would still be on the outside looking in as of today.

Sep 11, 2009 13:06 PM
rating: 2
 
harpago17

One other error to fix. While Church is making less than Francoeur, the Braves sent cash to Mets in that deal to cover the difference in salaries, equtating to no payroll gain for either team. The rest of your points appear to be right on though.

Sep 11, 2009 13:47 PM
rating: 1
 
Dr. Dave

Other than the last paragraph ("just don't give a damn"), I pretty much agree, and it's nice to see this pointed out. I do think you underestimate the resilience of the "Pitching is 107% of baseball" crowd, though -- they can point to that Braves/Astros series as an indication of how the Astros won precisely because their pitching stepped up.

As an aside, can we please get some copy-editing, at least for the first few paragraphs? I can understand mangled sentences in paragraph 19 slipping through, but not the lead sentence.

Sep 11, 2009 11:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Nice article, as usual, Joe.

I realize it's out of the realm of this exercise, and I don't think many people expected their 1B situation to have been quite this bad... but it is also of some interest to note the circumstances at Texas. Had they signed Dunn to play 1B, or even DH, this move would have had similarly changed the wildcard race in the AL. A quick glance shows approximately 60 VORP improvement for Dunn over the Texan 1Bs (though Dunn's value would change at 1B, as you note).

Sep 11, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Nah. The Rangers started the year with Blalock, Davis, Cruz, Hamilton, Murphy, Byrd and maybe Saltalamacchia in their 1B/LF/DH mix. The last thing they needed was a corner guy.

Sep 11, 2009 14:04 PM
 
BurrRutledge

Yes, exactly what I thought I said. I'll restate:

The Texas circumstance is different than Atlanta's because it is not something that could reasonably have been predicted in the pre-season. However, in retrospect, having Dunn's performance on their side of the ledger would have made a huge difference in the standings. They could be leading their division and/or the wildcard. Let's just call it a "what if..." observation.

The Atlanta situation, however, was more predictable.

Sep 11, 2009 14:50 PM
rating: -2
 
jdseal

You say the result was predictable in February, but there was no way to know at that time that Dunn would perform around his 90th percentile.

Sep 11, 2009 12:21 PM
rating: 2
 
Hoff

Well, half the point is that the braves are dumb for not singing him, the other half is that everyone else is dumb for not signing him because he's a great player at an unbelievable price. I guess the third point is that the MLB should try and avoid braves like owners. But let's face it, if the braves had made this move, the nationals would either suck way more than they do or would be broker than they are. And look stupid.

Sep 11, 2009 13:01 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

It was predictable that Dunn would be a lot better than Anderson, and at 29, would be a better bet to realize whatever upside existed. I'd put the error bars around a preseason Dunn prediction fairly narrow and leaning to the high side, while Anderson had no chance to be good and a decent chance to fall apart--or worse, do exactly as expected.

Sep 11, 2009 14:06 PM
 
gtgator

But why ignore other's comments about the expectations of Dunn vs. Anderson BEFORE the season and discussion of hindsight in this analysis. Yes, Dunn was expected to be better. But two wins better - not four. And if the Braves could/should have predicted this 4 win gap, I agree if one wants to roast them.

But, to roast them on a 2 win differential when they are down 8.5 games in the WC race without accounting for the other moves that would have been needed to enable them to take those two wins in LF? That does not make sense to me. Heck, even if they "should" have predicted the 4 win gap - they would still be 4.5 games out of the WC with 20-21 games to play. I wouldn't be buying my playoff tickets in that scenario either.

Sep 11, 2009 14:26 PM
rating: 2
 
tlpc78

Focusing on the 8.5 games in the WC race makes you (and a number of other commenters on here) guilty of hindsight as well. If the Braves thought they'd be that far out of the playoffs before the season, of course it makes sense not to sign Dunn. However, it would have therefore made sense not to sign Lowe/Anderson/Kawakami as well, take the one-year bath in the standings, save a LOT of money short-term and invest in the draft/international signings.

Sep 12, 2009 10:11 AM
rating: 1
 
jballen4eva

ScottyB - Fair points about Howard's and Dunn's career OPS+, but Howard's best season was in 2006, he's not drawing walks like he used to, and he can't hit lefties any more at all. Until recently, Howard has been slightly more valuable, but I have a bad feeling about Howard's play going into his 30's.

Sep 11, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Fair points. However, I'm not too thrilled with how Dunn will age either.

Sep 11, 2009 13:01 PM
rating: 0
 
mglick0718

I still don't understand why the focus of this article isn't the Giants, who have worse LF's than Anderson and therefore for whom Dunn represents a difference of more than 5 wins, and for whom those 5-6 wins would likely have them in the wild-card lead (at least until Colorado keeps its September 07 impersonation going another few weeks). I also assume they could afford Dunn's contract at least as easily as Atlanta, if that indeed was a deciding factor for the Braves.

Sep 11, 2009 13:00 PM
rating: 6
 
Lopecci

I agree with Joe. The Braves were definitely missing a big bat this year. They gambled on Francouer and he failed them again. One other point I wanted to throw out there, is the batting caoch. I loved Pendleton as a Brave, and maybe this has nothing to do with him, but the Braves bats have been well below mediocre the past few years, maybe they should have dumped him and brought in a better batting coach? He obviously isn't getting through to the majority of these hitters. Anyway, just my two cents. Good piece Joe !!!

Sep 11, 2009 13:08 PM
rating: -1
 
harpago17

While I agree in hindsight that the decision to go Anderson over Dunn cost the Braves, I'm not sure if that could have been said prior to the season. Obviously, Dunn was the more talented player, and hopefully Braves management realized that. However, they were given a number and told "Keep payroll below $X." Based on the events of the previous years, it was completely understandable why they chose to spend the lion's share of that money on completely rebuilding the starting rotation. And if they had spent some of the money on Dunn instead of pitching? Well, it's hard to say what would have happened, because we don't know which pitcher they would have been without. Dunn over Kawakami? Probably in the postseason. Dunn over Lowe? Unsure, although Dunn certainly seems to be the better bet. Dunn over Vazquez? Braves are in 4th place instead of 3rd in the East. In retrospect it's very easy to say, "The Braves would have EASILY made back Dunn's salary in postseason ticket sales!" And I don't disagree with that at all. However, when evaluating the team at the beginning of the season, I don't think it was a given that the extra $8 million spent on Dunn would have guaranteed a postseason berth, or that not spending it would have taken away that opportunity.

Sep 11, 2009 13:24 PM
rating: 1
 
harpago17

However, I would say the Braves offseason plans should be:

A) Resign Adam LaRoche
B) Turn one of Vazquez, Kawakami, or Lowe into a left fielder (through trade, not practice). Lowe is the one I'd most like to move, and also the least likely to actually be moved. In concert with this move, try and sign Tim Hudson to a 2-year contract at a lower annual salary than his 2010 option.
C) Find 4 bullpen arms (free agents, trades, or minors), and convince Cox that he is allowed to use more than just the closer and 2 set-up men in games. One of the biggest reasons the Braves have fallen apart lately has been Cox's overuse of Soriano, Gonzalez, Moylan, and O'Flaherty over the first half of the season. While the Braves rotation has provided innings, the back-end of the Braves bullpen has been extremely overworked because Cox hasn't trusted the front-end of the bullpen in games where the Braves had a lead of 4+ runs.

Sep 11, 2009 13:32 PM
rating: -1
 
gtgator

A) I think they sign a 1B on a 1-2 year contract. I think he'll hit RH - but LaRoche would not be bad.

B) I agree a SP will be traded IF they come to an agreement with Hudson on an extension. Not sure the market on Lowe or Kawakami, though. Also not sure it will be a LF (or OF) if they believe Schafer, McLouth, Diaz and Church can handle the OF for a few months until Heyward is ready. Could see the SP traded for a 1B or possibly a closer.

C) I agree on the pen. Moylan, Medlen and O' Flaherty should be back. MGonz and Soriano are type-A and I could see offering arb to either/both (although I think the safer play is to let them pitch elsewhere due to injury risk due to overuse this season). Regardless, find a closer and possibly another set-up to go with the above 3.

Sep 11, 2009 14:33 PM
rating: 0
 
ofMontreal

Something not really being discussed is the lingering effect of the smear by TOR gm. Even though Dunn played well in AZ, there was the enough amplification that even Buster Olney threw his name behind it. That no one would offer Dunn 10m per is a bit odd, but markets work that way. An insulting offer can be worse than none. I've been concerned about this since the spring, being a Cubs fan. Offering all the loot to Bradley instead of Dunn was a bonehead move. Bradley is appreciably better defensively(?), if not, why do it.

Regardless, it seemed pretty clear all winter that ATL wasn't about to buy a hitter and Anderson was a bone to the crowd. They were crossing their fingers PHI would implode and they could take their chances with the Mets.

Sep 11, 2009 15:10 PM
rating: 2
 
juiced

The same thing can be said bout the Giants. Had they spent 15 million for a right side of the infield of Dunn and Hudson they would likely have a slim lead in the wildcard right now.

Sep 11, 2009 15:35 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

I think Ricciardi's comments had a huge effect. Hilarious when you consider J.P. was a lousy player and an even bigger joke as a GM.

Sep 11, 2009 22:32 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Keep in mind that the Braves could've gone for Abreu as well, who would've been less expensive than Dunn and still projected to perform better than Anderson.

Sep 12, 2009 02:22 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

I see a major problem with this analysis. Joe states, "This is the best offensive year of Dunn's career to date, thanks to slight improvements in strikeout rate and batting average on balls in play . . .".

First, Dunn's strikeout rate is right about his career average - slightly higher, in fact, and a little higher than what it was last year (using data from FanGraphs).

Second and more importantly, I think Baseball Prospectus needs to put all their best statistical minds together and study the significance of BA/BiP - then educate all of us - including all their writers. My understanding is that when a nine year vet suddenly improves from a carerr BABIP under .290 to .344 (FanGraphs), he is having one heck of a lucky year. He hasn't really improved and is likely to go back to hitting his norms next year - or the rest of that season.

BABIP is too important to ignore, but let's understand it. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought studies have shown a player is more apt to hit his career BABIP - especially if it is near .300 depending on his speed and line drive rates, then to continue hitting a BABIP far from that norm. In other words, BABIP is not a skill like a walk rate or home run rate which a player can develop.

Sep 12, 2009 08:18 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

You're overly parsing, which I guess is becoming the thing to do in the comments section.

Dunn has improved his BABIP relative to 2008. If you want to read "improved" as "reached a higher level of native skill," you're welcome to do so. It's fairly clear the word, in context, means "is hitting for a a higher BABIP." BABIP reflects skill for hitters, related to, as you note, speed and line-drive rate.

The strikeout-rate comment is wrong whether you use K/PA or K/AB, which I'll attribute to a math or transcription error. (I didn't use Fangraphs, just did it manually.) He's striking out slightly more this year. Mistake on my part.

Sep 12, 2009 13:44 PM
 
RayDiPerna

"While Anderson was hitting, professionally, for a 237 OPS"

:-) Don't ever change, Joe.

Sep 12, 2009 16:14 PM
rating: 0
 
Cory Schwartz

For what it's worth, Joe was touting Dunn as a fit for the Braves even before the season started:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8535

So I read this article as a bit of in-a-bubble "I told you so," rather than any kind of second-guessing

Sep 15, 2009 12:53 PM
rating: 1
 
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