Thursday, April 4, 2013

8 comments Idiocy: A Bleacher Report Specialty

There is some good stuff on Bleacher Report, blah, blah, blah. I always disclaim that. There's also shit on the site. Today's article is an example of the shit that can be found on Bleacher Report. I'm not perfect when it comes to discussing sports, but there are several types of comments that baseball and football fans can make which irritates the shit out of me. These comments usually assume that sports are like video games or come from sports fans who just come off as annoyingly simplistic. Three of these comments are:

1. "Let's draft Quarterback X in the fifth round and develop him to where he can be the starter in a few years."

On it's face, this doesn't seem like an annoying comment at all. It is the assumptions behind this comment that annoys me. It's the speaker's assumption a team can draft a player and then start "developing him" to be the starter in a few years. It's as if a lack of talent or the mental makeup to play the quarterback position can be overcome with some TLC and teaching. It just doesn't work that way all the time. It's not simple to take a fifth round pick, teach him to be a quarterback and then spit out a starting quarterback in a few years. Yes, it can happen, but this statement and the assumption of some magical "developmental technique" that can take a 5th round pick and turn him into a starter in a matter of three years annoys me.

2. "With all these linebackers we have, what about running the 3-4 defense?"

Oh sure, let's just fucking turn the entire defensive system around today. That doesn't sound like it would be difficult or take any sort of preparation or change in personnel to do. I read this comment all the time and it never fails to annoy me. There is more required to run a 3-4 defense than to have four good linebackers. This type of comment always seems to assume a team would need no other position adjustment to run a 3-4 defense than having four good linebackers on the roster. A team needs 3-4 linebackers who can rush the passer, a nose guard who can hold down the middle and keep the offensive linemen off the linebackers, and 3-4 defensive ends who can rush the passer but also hold the end. It's a different set of skills required for defensive players and the fact a team has four quality linebackers doesn't make the move easy. Throw in the defensive coordinator for a team may not have experience running a 3-4 defense and the comment becomes more annoying. More NFL teams are running hybrid defenses, but to blindly suggest a team just magically switch to a 3-4 defense in training camp as the magical key that turns the team around is stupidity.

3. "Let's send Player X down to the minor leagues and teach him to play a different position."

Baseball isn't a video game. You can't just send a player down to the minor leagues and teach him to play a new position and then call him up a year later to see him playing extremely well at that position. It's rare for a player who has played his entire career at catcher can just become a second baseman in a year's time. Well, that is unless you write for Bleacher Report, in which case teaching a 6'4" 230 pound catcher to play second base is just a piece of cake. 

Dan Uggla's struggles are no secret for Atlanta Braves fans.

Uggla has been bad over his two years with the Braves, but he improved last year in terms of getting on-base and led the National League in walks. He's been bad in Spring Training again, but he has always struck out a lot and not hit for great average. It's not like he would improve as he got older. I'm still fine with him at second base and have faith he can at least continue to get on-base at the .348 clip with more power than he showed last year. I think Braves fans just tend to get in a panic sometimes.

Hitting .227 with 55 home runs and 160 RBI in his two years with the Braves, Uggla hasn't exactly lived up to his five-year, $62-million contract.

So the solution is to bench him or trade him? What could the Braves gain from having a non-contact hitter who is a poor defender on the bench? What could they possibly get through trade that would relieve them of Uggla's salary and make the team better? Those are my three questions that have no satisfactory answers.

With power throughout the Braves' order, fans aren't going to be patient if Uggla continues to struggle. And, let's face it, can you blame them?

Since Uggla is relied on for power, wouldn't it make more sense for Braves fans to be more patient since one of the biggest things Uggla provides (power) isn't in short supply on the Braves roster? They may not rely on him to hit home runs, so they can afford to be more patient with him.

Before you think this is an article intended to bash Uggla, here are some of the good things he's done for the Braves.

It's not an article to bash Uggla, but an article to bench Uggla and replace him with a catcher. That's so different from bashing him.

In 2012, Uggla batted .262 with runners in scoring position and .308 with runners in scoring position and two outs. So he can hit in the clutch.

Clutchiness is Uggla's thing. Who needs this in the everyday batting order? The Braves don't, that's for sure.

He brings power to the second base position, which is not seen much in MLB. Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill and Rickie Weeks come to mind.

Uggla had 19 home runs last year. That's good and one of the good reasons (his shockingly improved defense last year is another) to keep him in the lineup.

He also started and ended 2012 well, batting .271 in April and .280 in September.

Uggla has it in him to do well, but he seems unable to get things right in his head during the middle parts of the season.

Not entirely true. Uggla hit .293/.369/.586 during July 2011 and .340/.405/.670 during August 2011. For his career he has struggled the most in June, but he doesn't seem to consistently struggle during the middle of the baseball season over his career. He did struggle mightily in 2012, but I don't know if his middle season struggles are a trend or not.

Then there's the strikeouts.

He ranked fourth in the National League with 168 strikeouts, striking out 96 times with the bases empty.

Is it better to strikeout with the bases empty or better to strikeout with runners on-base? Uggla struck out a lot, but he also got on-base at a .348 clip and led the National League in walks.

Simply put, Uggla either just can't get the job done anymore or his brain is getting in the way of him hitting.

I'm glad we discussed this. Now what's the solution to this problem? Players making $39 million over the next three seasons generally just don't go away and it is hard for other teams to want to take on that salary for a declining player through trade.

Including this year, Uggla still has three years and $39 million left on his contract. But can the Braves afford another three years of Uggla's subpar performances?

These are the deep questions only the writers of Bleacher Report are willing to discuss. Can the Braves afford to pay a player $13 million when he doesn't play well? Can ANY MLB team afford to pay a player $13 million for a subpar performance? Probably not.

While there is nobody in the farm system that is ready to take over at second should Uggla continue to struggle, there are other possibilities.

Because any time an expensive player isn't performing up to snuff, it makes more sense to bench that player and then spend money and prospects to go find another player who can play that position.

Should the opportunity present itself before the trade deadline,

"Before the trade deadline," meaning before July 31st? If the Braves are going to replace Dan Uggla why would they potentially wait until July 31st to do so? This makes not of sense.

guys like Ben Zobrist and Omar Infante could be had for the right price.

So the idea is to replace .220/.348/.384 with 19 home runs, 78 RBI's, 94 walks, and 168 strikeouts with Omar Infante who hit .274/.300/.419 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI's, 21 walks and 65 strikeouts last year? How would this improve the team exactly? Presumably the Braves can't trade Uggla, or they would have to eat a lot of his contract, but they are free to take on $4 million more for Infante who at best is only a moderate upgrade and a free agent after the season? So how is the team improved for 2014 with Uggla one year older and still on the roster next year? So Uggla gets benched and then the Braves have the same issue next year. I don't think Infante is a solution.

Ben Zobrist would be an upgrade, but he also costs $5.5 million in 2013, $7 million in 2014, and $7.5 million in 2015. It's not very likely Zobrist could be had for cheap either. Assuming the Braves could trade Uggla, they would still have to eat at the very, very least half of his contract (which I doubt they could even get a team to cover that much). That means they would be investing $39.5 million in their second base position over the next three years at the absolute least, while giving up prospects for Zobrist. Interestingly, that's how much they currently have invested in Dan Uggla except they don't have to trade any prospects to get him.

So Zobrist would be an upgrade (which I would admit) at the cost of prospects and money during a three year span when the Braves will need to try to re-sign, sign, or pay through arbitration Brian McCann, Kris Medlen, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons. See the issue there? Uggla stinks, but the Braves can't afford to spend more money on the second base position over the next three years and expect to keep what they consider the core of their team.

With both slated to be free agents after this year, the Braves could put a decent package together to get one of the two during the stretch run.

Again, Zobrist isn't a free agent next year. There is a team option for 2014 and 2015. To trade prospects for Zobrist and not exercise these options would be stupid in my opinion. Meanwhile Omar Infante at this point doesn't seem like an upgrade. Plus, after the Braves have benched Dan Uggla should they just turn to him to be the starter in 2014? If you bench Uggla and replace him with Omar Infante then Uggla has to be traded, right? Who plays second base in 2014 for the Braves? Don't worry, the author has a really, really stupid suggestion for 2014.

Or the Braves could send Evan Gattis down to the minors to learn how to play second base.

Worst idea ever. Non-Braves fans have no idea who Evan Gattis is. That's fine. He has an interesting back story that is irrelevant for what I am going to write here. More importantly, he is a 26 year old catcher/outfielder who stands 6'4" and weighs 230 pounds. He crushes the baseball and the Braves are desperately trying to find a way for him to make the active roster, hence the move from catcher to left field. He is not quite the defensive catcher an MLB team would look for and he probably isn't the best full-time left fielder a team would look for either. But he mashes the baseball. A move to second base over the next year is not a good idea for Evan Gattis to make. Simply put, second base is not the place for a 6'4" 230 pound ex-catcher.

While there would be a major adjustment period for Gattis,

This adjustment period potentially being "his entire Major League career." When Dan Uggla is brought in as a defensive replacement, that's never good news. The funny part is the author wants to trade for Infante or Zobrist (he never tells us what will be done with Uggla, so I assume he will very covertly be murdered in order to be removed from the Braves payroll) and then put an ex-catcher at second base. Baseball is a video game apparently.

it could be beneficial for the Braves because he's hitting .438 with two home runs and 10 RBI during spring training.

So sending a player who is hitting the cover off of the ball down to AAA to learn a new position he has never played before would be beneficial to the Braves this year? How can that be beneficial to the Braves when Gattis wouldn't even be on the active roster? I have so many questions and no answers that can satisfy my curiosity as to where this bad idea came from.

If Gattis could learn how to play second base, that would solve two problems: 

If Jason Heyward could be cloned it would solve many problems as well. If Dan Uggla could find the fountain of youth that would solve a few issues. If we could teach birds to carry the heavy weight of a human being and train them to fly to a specific destination then we could rid ourselves of air travel costs. If dogs could speak then we wouldn't have to wonder why they are randomly barking at a wall. There are so many "ifs" and so few answers.

It would provide him with the opportunity to be in the lineup

So would carrying him on the roster as a backup left fielder/catcher/pinch hitter this year. Sending Gattis down to the minors to learn a new position, how exactly does this provide Gattis a chance to be in the lineup? If Uggla is struggling this year then shouldn't the idea to be to replace Uggla this year, not a year from now? There are much easier ways to get a player's bat in the lineup than send him down to the minors for a year to learn a new position. In fact, sending Gattis down to the minors is a specific effort to take his bat out of the lineup for this year when he is tearing the cover off the ball.

and it would solve the Uggla problem all in one.

No, it wouldn't solve the Uggla problem because Uggla would still be on the roster and still cost $13 million per year. Now if you have an idea on how to trade Uggla, get value for him in a trade, get most of his contract off the books and also find a quality second basemen, then that's a great suggestion. Suggesting the Braves move a 230 pound catcher to second base is not a real suggestion and this is just embarrassing for you to even suggest. 


ZidaneValor said...

My pet peeve as a Cowboys fan is when other Cowboys fans complain about Romo (even before he signed his extension) that with Romo on the team Dallas will never lose enough games to get a Top-3 draft pick. Because Dallas's big problem is that they aren't losing enough.

These people think "if Dallas could just get a Top-3 pick, then Dallas can start rebuilding." I'm not a GM, but I'm pretty sure there's more to rebuilding an NFL team than that.

Bengoodfella said...

I hate the idea of a team losing to get a good draft pick. That's loser talk. Losers want a good draft pick. Good, smart teams can find good players in the draft and make the playoffs as well.

There is more to rebuilding than that. Since Carolina sucks I have to deal with this crap constantly. The whole "should we keep losing games to get a better draft pick" morons who don't understand a team needs to build a culture of winning as opposed to lose so you can move up 6 more draft spots.

I can't fathom why a person would complain you can't lose enough games to get a Top-3 draft pick. It's a dumb line of thought.

ivn said...

so this guy's solution to the "Dan Uggla Problem" is to pay the guy $13 million to sit on the bench? or to basically pawn him off on someone for very little return? in two years in Atlanta he's averaged a .750 OPS, 28 homers, and a WAR in like the 2.5 range. he's not particularly great and he is definitely overpaid but if you're getting that from like the sixth most important position player on the team, is it really a huge problem that has to be solved?

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, he's definitely overpaid. He gets walks, has power, and isn't as bad as you would think on defense (at least last year), so I don't see the point of putting him on the bench. If anything I'd like to see third base solved with a creative solution.

I just like the idea he wants to teach a catcher who is raking right now to play second base so they can cover the second base position NEXT YEAR. It not only keeps the $13 mil on the roster but also takes a good bat off the bench. Brilliant!

koleslaw said...

I'm a Steelers fan and my favorite part about my team is that they seem to be able to draft incredibly well. As a result, they're always good so they have lower picks and yet they make the most of them. What's stopping other teams from drafting well and filling holes in their rosters?

My high school hired a new coach my freshman year who decided to change from 4-3 to 3-4 because he had 2(!) good linebackers and a nose tackle who was built like Bubba Smith if Bubba Smith weighed 50 more pounds. They won no more than 3 games the next 5 years and he was fired.

The idea that baseball players can just magically learn to play a position they've never played before in a short period of time is laughable. Some players play the game their whole lives and *still* can't play their position well (Jeter.)

Bengoodfella said...

Koleslaw, this year's draft is a great example. It is a draft that seems to have a lot of depth. The idea a team would need to lose to get a better draft pick is just stupid.

That 3-4 v. 4-3 defense argument happens at least twice a year on Cat Scratch Reader comment sections. It's beyond ridiculous. You can't just magically change an entire defense around on the fly and expect success. Plus, teams run variations of 4-3 and 3-4 defenses all the time anyway, so there may not even need to be an "official" switch of the defense.

The idea of Evan Gattis playing second base is just so dumb, it almost deserves no comment. I always have to comment though.

JJJJShabado said...

Thanks for writing this one up. I was amazed by the simplicity of trying to acquire Ben Zobrist and having Gattis learn second base. I understand being an armchair GM can be fun, but at least have some element of plausibility.

Bengoodfella said...

JJ, no kidding. It was interesting to think of trading for Zobrist and then sending down Gattis to play second base. So at that point they would have removed his bat from the lineup for 2012 so he could be the backup next year? This is what video games have done to some people's brains.

I'm perfectly fine with Uggla being the 6th best player on the Braves. He's paid too much, but it's not like they can move him and get another team to take on his salary at this point.