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introducing_tom_gieryn_our_new_writer | July | 2009 Articles

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Introducing Tom Gieryn, Our New Writer

on .

For our second introduction in as many days, allow me to present the other winner of the writing contest, Tom Gieryn. I'll let him take it away from here!

Greetings, Chop-n-Change denizens...my name is Tom Gieryn, and I'll be the other new guy joining the estimable C-n-C blogging team. Many of you know me as "Tom" from the comments, and I look forward to bringing the same objective perspective to the front page.

One of the things we're going to try to start over here (now that we're fully staffed) is a nightly recap of the day in BraveWorld. We'll always start our evening tour in the lovely city of Atlanta, but we'll also make stops across the Southeast, in beautiful destinations like Pearl, Mississippi and Danville, Virginia to visit the various Braves minor-league affiliates and see what they've been up to. 

First things first: the big club. Every night, we'll of course give you the score, but as you expect from C-n-C, we don't stop at the easy stuff. We're also going to try to glean some game-by-game insight by looking at FanGraphs' excellent win probability data.

(To get us started, a little primer on Win Probability Added; if you've seen this drill before, skip down below. WPA is a metric that measures each player's direct impact on the team's chances to win a given game. Based on years of play-by-play data, we have matrices that show the probability that a given team will go on to win a given game depending on the situation -- which is defined by the inning, the number of outs, the score, and how many runners are on which bases.

In the simplest example, in the top of the first with no outs, no runners and a 0-0 score, each team has a 50% chance to win. If the leadoff guy hits a home run, we go look back at all the games where that situation has come up (top 1, 1-0 score, no outs, no runners), and see how often the team leading 1-0 actually went on to win the game: that gives us a probability that either team will wind up victorious. And baseball is a zero-sum game -- i.e., as good as that homer is for the team that hit it, it's equally bad for the other team.

So, we attribute the change in probability to the hitter and the pitcher. If the team's chance to win goes from 50% to 60% because of the leadoff homer, then the hitter gets a +0.10 and the pitcher gets a -0.10. This is going to give major credit for hitting or pitching in clutch situations; a pitcher who throws nine shutout innings to win 1-0 is going to have a far higher WPA than a pitcher who tosses a shutout but gets tons of run support. As a result, WPA is not--repeat, NOT--a metric to evaluate future performance, since obviously those two hypothetical shutouts require equal talent from the pitcher. But if you're trying to look back at which shutout was more valuable, obviously the "clutch" shutout is.)

So, with that out of the way, here's what info we'll bring you after every game:

MVP: This will be the player with the highest WPA total for the game. Whose contributions did the most to help the Braves win? Even in a loss, we'll look at whose fault it wasn't.

LVP: This player had the lowest WPA total for the game. For a win, we won in spite of this guy; for a loss, he's to blame the most.

MIP: This stands for Most Important Play. This is the single play with the highest change in win probability. This play was the one that did the most to help one team or the other put the game away, and there will be some surprises sometimes. In a 1-0 game, you'd think the single run would be the biggest factor, but sometimes you'll find that the MIP was a time when the losing team, say, grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out.

UotG: I really need a better acronym for this (suggestions welcome). This is "Unit of the Game," for lack of a better term. For this, I split the team into offense, starting pitcher, and bullpen. I total up the WPA for each of those groups, and name the unit who contributed most to the result (in a win, who was best; in a loss, who was worst). This way we'll be able to look at trends across many games, and identify strengths and problem spots.

Then we'll go around the minors, and I'll give a tidbit or two from each minor-league team that played on any given night. I see no reason to give scores, as what I'm most concerned about is the commentary: who played well or didn't? 

So, without further ado...

Around BraveWorld June 30th:

Braves 5, Phillies 4 (10 inn.)

This one was a roller coaster, folks. Braves took a 3-2 lead into the eighth after a solid six innings from Derek Lowe, but the Phils got back-to-back solo shots from John Mayberry Jr. and Pedro Feliz to put the Phillies up 4-3.

MVP: Martin Prado. The guy had a WPA of .668 for this game. In every game, the winning team has a +0.5, and the losers get a -0.5, so a 0.668 figure means that Prado not only did enough to win the game by himself, but his contributions were enough to also erase the negative contributions of some of his teammates.

Prado went 4-for-5 and drove in four of the Braves' five runs: a third-inning RBI single to tie the game at one, a fifth-inning solo homer to tie the game at two, an eighth-inning, two-out RBI double to tie the game at four after the Phillies had taken the lead in the top of the inning, and the walk-off RBI single off the indomitable Chan Ho Park in the tenth. That's about as impressive of a performance as you'll ever see -- the Braves kept trying to give the game away, but Prado just wouldn't let them do it. Even as big of a KJ fan as I am, we need to find a way to get this guy's stick into the lineup more often.

LVP: Mike Gonzalez. Took a 3-2 lead into the eighth and gave up a pair of home runs to put the Phillies ahead. (With his WPA of -0.427, he nearly lost this game single-handedly. He owes his teammates a drink for covering his back.)

MIP: Prado's RBI double with two outs in the eighth, tying the game at four. Remember what I said about surprises? The MIP is not the walk-off hit, because that came with no outs in a situation where the Braves didn't have to get a hit right then. But in the eighth, with two outs and down a run, the Braves had their backs against the wall, and Martin delivered.

UotG: Offense. For all the grief our offense has taken lately, they came to play tonight. Pitchers kept giving the Phillies runs, but the offense kept getting them right back. 

Minor Leagues

Gwinnett: Jordan Schafer went 2-for-5 with a homer and stole a base. I'd love to see Jordan shred the International League, though I hope the Braves give him the whole rest of the season to make up the development time he lost to his hGH suspension last year. Clint Sammons also homered, and Reid Gorecki added in a pinch-hit grand slam.

Todd Redmond did more of the same: no walks and 8 K's in six innings, but two homers allowed. I think his flyball tendencies will lead to lethal homer-itis should he ever reach the majors. Stephen Marek (remember him from the Teixeira deal?) gave up two runs in an inning in his International League debut (not that he really deserved a promotion after sucking at Mississippi), and Luis Valdez continued his solid work with a scoreless inning and 2 K's.

Mississippi: The hitters had a very tough go of it tonight, which has been the story of the year for Mississippi. Formerly promising guys like Travis Jones, Brandon Hicks, and Eric Campbell are all really struggling.

Deunte Heath was demoted back to Double-A from Gwinnett, and gave up five runs in two innings in his start, but the bullpen did some solid work behind him. Breakout performer Jeff Lyman (who's thrived since moving to the 'pen) went three innings with three K's, giving up one run, and Cory Gearrin struck out two in a perfect eighth inning.

Myrtle Beach: Cody Johnson continues his breakout performance with a 2-for-4 night, and Jesus Sucre, the recently-promoted catcher who represented Rome in the Sally League All-Star game added a double and a homer in four at-bats. He's really been a pleasant surprise this season, hitting .325/.352/.432 for Rome.

Richard Sullivan pitched a solid six innings, giving up two runs...he's nothing spectacular but he seems to get the job done. Rudy Darrow (the guy we got for Josh Anderson) finally returned from injury, only to allow five walks and three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Rome: Three late draftees from 2008 had multiple hits: 24th round pick Shayne Moody, 26th round pick Calvin Culver, and 30th round pick Chris Shehan. None of them have numbers that will blow you away, but they are all talented enough to bear worth watching.

Randall Delgado has the stuff to be a Latin American phenom, and he's been promoted aggressively, as he's pitching in the Sally League at age 19, but he continues to give up runs in bunches, allowing seven in 4 2/3 innings to raise his ERA to 5.66. He did strike out six though.

Danville: Three guys down here are hitting over .400, and all of them have gotten at least one hit in every game Danville has played: center fielder L.V. Ware, South African first baseman Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg (a 16th round draft choice this year with the greatest name since Saltalamacchia), and last year's sixth-round draft choice, left fielder Adam Milligan.

Righty Cory Rasmus (brother of the Cardinals' Colby) has always had a rep for some of the best stuff in our system, but he's never been able to get healthy. He tossed four innings of one-hit ball, giving up two walks and striking out five.

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