We just want to say three words to the Braves: "service time" and "extensions."
When it comes to building baseball teams, it’s generally good to be young, but bad to be the youngest. A young team tends to have fewer players who’ll get hurt or head downhill, which bodes well, all else being equal. But fielding an especially high percentage of young players is often a sign that a team plans to throw in the towel short term, making do with league minimum instead of ponying up for performance.
This is more true on offense than it is on the mound, because pitchers tend to arrive in the majors roughly as good as they’re going to get. Of the 10 clubs projected to have the youngest pitching staffs this season, six made the playoffs in 2013, and seven were winning teams. Of the 10 clubs projected to have the youngest batters, only two are coming off playoff appearances. Which is why it stood out, as I researched the potentially historically old Yankees, that the Atlanta Braves bucked that trend. Here are the teams with the five lowest projected average team batting ages for 2014, based on our depth charts:
These players excelled from July through the end of the regular season, but does that mean great things are in store in 2014?
It’s relatively easy to tell when a player has a full-on breakout. Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt both had easily the strongest seasons of their respective careers in 2013—it doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure that out. However, every pre-season, there is always be a lot of talk about how a player had a “breakout second half,” leading to talk that they will be able to build off that experience in the following season. At face value, that makes sense. But at face value, we’re also clearly dealing with sample size issues. For every Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, who hinted at their offensive explosions towards the end of the prior season, there are many more who never capitalize on said promise.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to be looking at hitters with a .900+ OPS during the second half of the previous season in at least 100 plate appearances. But before we dig into the 2013 members of this group, we’re going to take it one step further and look back at the last couple of seasons to see exactly how this control group fared.
Mariano Rivera bids farewell to New York, the Rangers and Indians win wild ones, and Jason Heyward has a big day.
The Thursday Takeaway
Moments after the Rays defeated the Yankees 4-0, last night, Mariano Rivera went out to the mound. He knelt down, gathered a handful of dirt, and, with that keepsake in hand, bid farewell to the ballpark in which he made 629 career appearances, 53 of them in the playoffs.
The Cardinals play the Braves in Atlanta for a spot in the Division Series
The last time the Cardinals met the Braves in the postseason, in 2000, St. Louis swept a three-game series by outscoring Atlanta 24-10. Only six players from that series remain active and two, Rafael Furcal and Chipper Jones, will attend this one. Fresher on the minds of both squads and their fans is what happened last year, when the Cardinals made a late-season surge and stole away the Braves’ postseason ticket on the season’s final night. Consider this Atlanta’s opportunity for revenge.
Bill revisits a question raised on this site earlier in the season, and asks whether Heyward's excellent two months give us a more definitive answer.
There needs to be a catchy two-word phrase, along the lines of “gambler’s fallacy” or “winner’s curse,” for the understandable but generally ill-advised thought pattern that gets applied to guys like Jason Heyward. The rule underlying the fallacy is something like: the more hype a prospect receives upon his debut, the more overlooked and underrated he will become as soon as (inevitably) it turns out that he can’t immediately become Willie Mays or Albert Pujols.
It’s an exceptionally clunkily-worded rule, which is why we need the title phrase.
Jason Heyward gets an earful from Yankees fans in right field after an Alex Rodriguez homer.
Interesting things happen when home runs are hit to the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. In Game 4 of the 2010 ALCS, Robinson Cano hit a home run there, just beyond the reach of Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz. That home run made the score 1-0, Yankees. The Rangers went on to win the game 10-3, so the home run itself was meaningless. (Well, it might have had meaning for Cano). But the aftermath of the home run made animated GIF history:
A brutal eight-game losing streak has taken the Atlanta Braves from first to worst in the NL East.
The Weekend Takeaway
It’s not all that hard to go from first to last in nine days this early in the season. To do so as resoundingly as the Braves have, though, takes a special kind of awfulness.
At the end of play on May 20, Fredi Gonzalez’s team was 26-16 and enjoyed a 1 ½-game lead in the National League East. At the close of shop last night, the Braves had slipped to 26-24 and sat in a last-place tie with the Phillies, four games behind the first-place Nationals.