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SnakePit Round Table: Congrats to Atlanta!

The NotLosAngelesDodgers are your 2021 World Series champions!

MLB: NOV 05 Atlanta Braves World Series Championship Parade and Celebration Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Braves are 2021 World Series champions. How do you feel?

James: Ambivalent. The 2021 season was still very much a joke, just not the joke 2020 was. Also, The Diamondbacks were simply so bad in 2021 that I found it difficult to become more than mildly intrigued by anything baseball. My biggest takeaway is that the Dodgers did not repeat, so all is well.

Jack: They deserved it. Forget their regular season win total. They overcame a lot, and over the final 3 months (including October) were the best team in baseball. Kudos. I wasn’t rooting for them, (except for NLCS of course) but I wasn’t emotionally invested against them either.

Makakilo: In the World Series, I was cheering for the underdog Braves! They beat the Astros, so I feel elated!

DBacksEurope: It’s not that I am personally happier than I was before it, but in one other round table before the playoffs began I wrote that I hoped the Braves would win. In a previous life, in the mid 90s, I was somewhat of a Braves fan, but then I lost interest in baseball until much later and decided to support a much more interesting team called the Diamondbacks.

Steven: Great. The long season is over and the Dodgers didn’t win. Nice of them to win without Acuna, arguably the best player in the MLB right now.

What lessons can the D-backs learn from them?

James: Strike when the iron is hot and develop stars from within. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, they do not have the sort of frm the Braves did which led to their current state.

Jack: Don’t try to outsmart everybody. Balance good draft, develop, trade and sign acumen with fundamentals and strong player development.

Makakilo: Two lessons:

Homers matter. In the playoffs, the Braves won the battle of the homers. Data from Baseball Reference, details follow:

  • World Series: 11 homers(cWPA +59.7%) vs 2 homers(cWPA +4.7%).
  • NLCS: 8 homers(cWPA +19.7%) vs 9 homers(cWPA +15.8%).
  • NLDS: 4 homers(cWPA +8.3%) vs 2 homers(cWPA +5.2%).

Scoring at least 3 runs per game matters. In the playoffs, the Braves scored at least 3 runs in 12 of their 16 games. They scored exactly 3 runs in four games - the Braves won those four games.

DBacksEurope: I think the Braves have shown that the 2017 Diamondbacks could have just as “easily” won the World Series. That year our FO made terrible decisions during the playoff run. The Braves made better decisions and it is a very balanced lineup with a good starter and reliever corps but no outstanding star. It is nice to know that you don’t really need superstars to win. Their payroll was above average but not top 10 highest so there you go. How do you get there? Well, that is what Jack explained.

Steven: Invest heavily in cheap, foreign prospects and hit lots of homers. The Braves core is built around homegrown talent, with just enough pitching to make a difference.

From 1973-2000, a team repeated as World Series champions seven times. It hasn’t happened since. Why is it so hard?

James: Free agency and the changing financial landscape of the game. Star draftees are no longer holding teams hostage in the draft, muscling their way to teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and other big spenders. Teams are now imposing a salary cap on themselves, staying under severe penalties for exceeding the competitive balance tax. This leads to stars being traded sooner and to higher turnover of quality talent. On top of that, the Dodgers have been trying to make a run at the Atlanta Braves 1990s record of futility in excellence, winning all sorts of division titles and even some pennants, while failing to actually perform in the World Series.

Jack: In addition to what James said, the addition of the Wild Card and expanded playoffs has made it more difficult to repeat as well. That wasn’t immediately evident in the late 90’s due to the evil empire having accumulated so much talent just before and after the strike.

Makakilo: There is competitive balance between the top teams. Perhaps teams are quick to see and make adjustments when another team implements something that provides an advantage.

DBacksEurope: Baseball is a game of endurance and I think that is what makes it hard to repeat. Keep your core healthy but you can’t always manage that or manage it in the right way so, some other team might be fitter than you and have an advantage over you that way.

Steven: The talent is as abundant as ever, combined with free agency, injuries and organizational agendas, it’s just not easy to have all the pieces fall together. There’s plenty of skill involved, but luck plays a big role in success from season to season.

Calhoun and Clippard had their options declined. How will Arizona replace them in 2022?

James: Internally. The team still has six left-handed hitting outfielders it can turn to to replace Calhoun. As for Clippard, the team has even more candidates to give a shot at pitching out of the bullpen, none of them with free agent contracts and all but one of them retaining minor league options.

Jack: Calhoun for sure internally. Although the team may spend some of their precious few dollars on a right handed hitting, defense first veteran outfielder. It’s not impossible to think they could try to bring Clippard back on a cheaper deal than what his option would have been. Otherwise, I absolutely expect Hazen to do what he always does….dumpster dive the reliever market. Give me one reason he WON’T do that.

Makakilo: Ideally, Calhoun will be replaced with a right-handed batting outfielder with fielding skills at least league average. Internal candidates include right-handed-batters Stone Garrett and Stuart Fairchild. Both are 25 years old. Why not let them compete for the position in spring training? Although Alek Thomas is the most talented outfield candidate, he hits left-handed, and he is best suited for center field, which is a position of tremendous need for the Diamondbacks.

Clippard could be replaced by Stefan Crichton or Noe Ramirez. Stefan Crichton could close because in 2021 he earned 4 saves. My intuition is that Noe Ramirez would be the better closer because in 2021 he had great success in the eighth inning setup role.

DBacksEurope: Like the others have said some internal options will replace Calhoun and most probably one of the Rule 5 eligible outfielders like Cooper Hummel. Relievers will be up and down all season. I am positive Hazen will sign a couple of relievers on the FA market he will DFA during the season or who will end up on the IL. Any reliever who starts the season on the IL and ends up with a handful of saves with shaky performances will have replaced Clippard: shouldn’t be that hard for Hazen to find one like that.

Steven: It won’t be hard in Kole’s case, as he was dreadful when he played and injured the other 2/3rds of the time. Clippard got extremely lucky with the peripherals he produced on the season to have a 3.20 ERA. The time for youngsters to prove they belong is now.

Where would you rank Buster Posey rank all-time among catchers?

James: Borderline top-10. Depending on how he is evaluated and who he is being matched up against, I could see him landing anywhere from 7-12. He doesn’t rank as highly as Pudge, but I would probably put him above Gary Carter.

Jack: As I outlined in the comments section from Snakebytes headlining his retirement, I see him as top 2-3 over the last 20 years. I made a case for why I think he is the BEST catcher of the last 20 years. But the question is all time, and that’s a lot tougher because catchers don’t catch as many games as they used to and so much else about the game has changed.

ALL TIME, since 1900, min. 3000 PA and min. 45% of games played at C

  • 11th all time in WAA (27.1)
  • 15th all time in WAR (44.9)
  • T- 4th all time in OPS+ (129) among catchers all time with minimum 3000 PA

Check it out for yourself

Add to that all the narrative you could possibly want:

  • ROY - Check
  • MVP - Check
  • 7 X All star - Check
  • 1 X Gold Glove - Check
  • 3 X World Series Champion - Check
  • 4 X Silver Slugger - Check
  • 1 X Batting Title - Check

Top 15 statistically at worst, possibly top 10, and all the hardware a HOF candidate could ever need. And yet, some people will try to tell you he wasn’t a hall of famer because they are hung up on counting stat milestones and can’t get past that.

Makakilo: Many articles had different views of what makes a catcher greatest all-time. I saw him ranked 8th, and also 15th.

Let’s look at FanGraphs and Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement (WAR):

  • Career WARf = 57.6 (ranking 8th all-time for catchers) (Leaders search)
  • Career WARbr=44.9 (ranking 14th all-time for catchers) (Stathead search, min 50% games at catcher, all leagues, all seasons)

Why are the two WARs different? Matt Synder wrote that the WARf includes pitch framing while the WARbr does not. Buster Posey was a great pitch framer - Baseball Savant’s leaderboard ranked his framing as #1 in 2015 (the earliest season available), and top-10 in 4 seasons (2015, 2016, 2019, and 2021). That data was confirmed when Neil Paine/Nathaniel Rakich wrote that Buster Posey ranked 7th in career pitch framing value.

Where would I rank him? 8th all-time best catcher!

DBacksEurope: My all time knowledge of catchers is very limited so he is definitely a top 10 and a HOF in my opinion lmao

What was something hugely popular that suddenly fell off the face of the earth?

James: Cabbage Patch Kids (adults lining up around the block to get the newest “crop”) and relatedly, Garbage Pail Kids (kids lining up to get the newest cards). I could probably name off several more, but those popped to mind right away.

Late edit: Jack, the milk drinkers in this household buy whole milk only. DBE, head over to the parks on Mill Avenue during just about any weekend and you will still find dozens, sometimes a little over a hundred people still playing Pokemon GO. It isn’t the mega-trend it once was, but it is still eminently popular around here.

Jack: Whole Milk. Does anyone buy whole milk anymore ? 2%, Low fat, Fat Free, Lactose Free, Soy Milk, etc etc. But who actually buys WHOLE Milk these days ?

Makakilo: Travelers checks. There are many alternatives that are more readily accepted.

DBacksEurope: I buy whole milk, Jack! A couple of years ago you had this Pokemon Go thing where people captured Pokemon on the streets and apparently it caused some traffic accidents. It looked like all of a sudden everyone was playing it. Except for me. Soon after you didn’t hear anything about that anymore. Can someone tell me what happened? Probably just a hype like many others.

I am waiting for the Beard to stop being popular. I’ve been wearing one for 20 years now and (I’ll admit the first few years it was some poor strands of hair) I was heavily disappointed when a couple of years back all of a sudden everyone except for women and kids started to appear with beards. I’m seeing beards disappear so I hope that soon I’ll be special again.