Bag It, Bill

28 05 2008

UPDATE: Some might find it a bit unfair to go after last night’s hero, but I had the whole post written before last night’s game.  I stick by my opinions in this column.

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I commented on Jim’s post yesterday about Bill Hall and his fury over being benched/ platooned in favor of Russell Branyon, but I thought that maybe I would weigh in with a full post on the subject. If you read my comment then some of this will be a repeat.

I stole my post title from a Sports Illustrated cover story from a number of years ago when Michael Jordan tried playing baseball for the Chicago White Sox. SI obviously thought that Jordan should stick to being one of the greatest basketball players ever and give up on a futile effort to becoming a two-sport star. The former Chicago Bull and later Washington Wizards guard took offense and never spoke to SI again. Hopefully, Billy will spare me some wrath.

Either way… bag it, Bill. Now, I certainly don’t believe that Hall needs to hang up his cleats, but anyone who has struggled like he has over the last two seasons has no right to complain that the Milwaukee Brewers, who by-the-way are trying to compete for a division title for the first time in 26 years, benched him in favor of a Major League veteran who was mashing the ball at AAA Nashville.

Jim ran the numbers yesterday, but they bear repeating: a .158 batting average against right-handed pitching and adding a .222 on base percentage against those same righties don’t improve Hall’s case at all. I saw a comment on another blog a few days ago when Russell Branyan was called up and it made a lot of sense. The commentator asked (and I’m paraphrasing here), “How can Hall be a major league player when he can’t hit right-handed pitchers? How many righties did he see in high school, college, and so-far in the majors? How come he hasn’t gotten this down yet? If you can’t hit righties, which make up like 90-95% of pitchers in the Majors… you’re toast.”

I checked and a MLB player will face a right-handed pitcher for nearly 70-80% of his at-bats so the commentator was close. Either way not being able to hit a righty (whether he faces one or one thousand of them) is bad news for Hall.

Enter Mr. Branyan. His numbers (0-5 against the Nationals Monday notwithstanding) in Nashville were phenomenal. He was batting .359 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 45 games for Nashville. He had 12 doubles, a .453 on-base percentage and a .693 slugging percentage. You don’t need me to say it, but I will anyways… those are good numbers. Better yet, Branyan is a left-handed bat and in a Brewers line-up flooded with righties this is a welcome addition.

I’m sympathetic to Bill Hall’s situation, but only up to a point. Having a break-out season in 2006 got Hall the big contract. Since then he was shuttled to center field where even as he improved throughout the season in the field his bat was lackluster and even though he was promised this was his last move Hall found himself back in the infield at third for the 2008 season. He has been a team player making the moves without too much complaining, but for as much money as he is getting paid I’ll sell hot dogs if it got me inside Miller Park.

Now Hall is supposed to share the third base duties with Branyan. As the J-S’s Tom Hardicourt reported, Hall is none-too-pleased. Yost was quoted as saying Hall is “very, very upset.” Without sounding harsh…. too bad Bill.

I think I’m on the same page (literally and figuratively) as Jim’s comments . I, too, have been a big fan of Halls and didn’t feel the organization was being all that respectful to him when they bounced him around over the last couple of year. If you want to be an everyday Major Leaguer there are couple of things that you need to do:

Step 1: Play where ever the coach tells you to. Don’t like it? He can find someone else to fill your spot.

Step 2: Play that position well. Hall, after starting the season solidly at the hot corner, has struggled a bit. Two errors in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against the Nationals almost cost us the game and Hall has 11 on the season now.

Step 3: Hit. Batting .409 against south-paws is great. Batting .158 against righties is not. Hall needs to produce more consistently against all pitchers.

Using the super-scientific method outlined above I have determined that Bill Hall is not any everyday Major Leaguer… at least not right now.

Will Branyan turn out to be our guy at third base? Well, ten years in professional baseball is a good sign that they guy knows how to stick around, so for Yost, Melvin, and company it certainly is worth a shot.  With a young man like Matt Gamel also developing down the minors leagues (his hitting is great, his defense is something to be worked on) Hall is going to need to keep looking over his shoulder beyond this year.

As for Hall, he can be upset all he wants and make thinly veiled threats (“We’ll see what happens the next couple of days,” he said.) all he wants, but unless he starts producing (beyond one game’s worth of heroics) he only has himself to blame.

By: Dan Wiersema

P.S. Hall getting that fantastic flair last night and his (apparently) own-go at the third base steal were both team player and hero’s acts.  He is to be commended for that, but ultimately Hall has to produce is a variety of situations in order to remain relevant for the Brewers’ organization.

I, of course, will be rooting for him to return to 2006 form, but I’m a Brewers’ fan first and a Bill Hall fan second so when push comes to shove I know where I stand.

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18 responses

28 05 2008
bernie carbo

Agreed that Bull Hall would be better of bagging it or at least hitting it as in showing he us he is worthy of a full time third base job.

But, I think we are focusing on the consequences rather than the causes of our inability to hit righties. Melvin and Yost completely overlooked our right heavy lineup. They were presented the dilemma countless times in the offseason and always came up with what seemed at the time, a reasonable explanation.

The Brewers are caught with their paints down now…..both offensively and pitching….In fairness to Melvin, there was no way of knowing Gallardo and Capuano would be injured…no way of knowing Parra and Villanueva would struggle the way they have as starters….Parra seems to have turned onto a good road…..and the bullpen, in all fairness, hasn’t been too bad with the exception of Gagne..

I do wonder if we could have signed Linebrink and Cordero rather than Mota, Torres, Riske, Gagne……We all wish we would have…WOulda coulda shoulda…

Considering we lost the two superior talents of Linebrink and Cordero, I guess we took the next best thing and signed the veterans and the risks..

There is really no excuse for being so ill-prepared to face righty pitchers…no excuse at all and Melvin is to be blamed….

28 05 2008
Dan Wiersema

Bernie-

Agreed. I was pretty troubled from the get go about the number of righties we were trotting out there this season. But I gave the benefit of the doubt to the players and the coaches that they knew what they were doing. Either way we have been let down a bit on the righty front. These guys (obviously I gave Hall a lot of crap today, but there are others that deserve just as much) need to produce at a much higher level. So much talent… so little clutch hitting. Yeah Hall was “clutch” last night, but the game could have been over innings ago if we wouldn’t have left so many RISP. Heroics are nice, but comfortable leaders are pretty nice, too.

28 05 2008
Aaron

Funny thing is, i wrote damn near the same post last night, but was a bit more crass after hearing Bill’s post game comments about how he hasn’t played with that much emotion in some time. The move is right on all levels of the game. The interesting thing is Gamel is working very well at the AA-Huntsville with Don Money and hasn’t made an error in a couple of weeks. He too has 11 errors on the season, but has 21 more attempts than Hall, which is promising.

Do me a favor though… please please please tell me why BARISP as a viable stat. Here’s why I don’t think it is. Ask yourself one question: If a guy can hit .300 with RISP, why can’t he hit .300 the whole season? Guys who have a good approach at the plate, that is are disciplined and are willing to hit the pitch they are given, will essentially have the same average with and without runners in scoring position. If you just have a bunch of guys who have a good BARISP and a terrible BA, you’re not looking at a championship team. If you disagree, I would love to hear it because I have yet to hear a really solid argument regarding ‘clutch’ and it’s potential existence.

28 05 2008
bernie carbo

Aaron….you raise a question that up till know has no answer….As you say, either a guy can hit or he can’t hit. It makes no difference whether runners are on base…..So, how do we explain Manny Ramirez’s insane production with the bases loaded versus Corey Hart’s not so insane production? Yes, Corey Hart….despite all the hype about him hitting well with RISP.

What do we consider runners in scoring position? Is a runner on first base considered scoring position? Or does the runner have to be at least on second?

I believe that there is a psychological element to hitting with runners in scoring position. The same way there is a psychological element that helps closers finish games as opposed to pitching in a mop up situation. There is maybe an increased focus…..or a failure to sink the 8 ball.

But then again….maybe all good hitters would eventually hit good with RISP if given a large sample of opportunity…

28 05 2008
Adam

For a runner to be in scoring position, they must be at least on second base.

I disagree that it is a meaningless stat.

Would you rather have a guy who hits .400 with the bases empty and no outs but hits .250 with runners in scoring position or a guy who hits .250 with the bases empty and .400 with runners in scoring position. I want a guy who will turn it up when the game is on the line. I don’t want my players to have the same chance when the going gets tough, I want them to increase their production.

I’ll take the guy who can drive in runs everyday of the week. Brewers fans have been complaining all season about an inability to drive in guys who get on base. Where does that come from, low averages with RISP. The point of guys being in scoring position is that a base hit should score them, if you have a low average, you aren’t going to score.

Next time you complain about the Brewers leaving 13 guys on base, keep in mind that if we bumped our average with RISP, that number could go down by four wtih just two or three extra hits. Thats four extra runs.

Don’t tell me that a couple of these games wouldn’t be different with an extra three or four runs. With the number of one or two run games the Brewers play, this could be the different between the bottom of the NL Central, and the top. We wouldn’t be needing Parra, Bush, and Villanueva to pitch gems every night and instead we could let them develop and focus on maintaining merely solid outings.

That is why BARISP is important.

28 05 2008
Dan Wiersema

All extremely valid points. Either way you slice it hitting brings more hitting. If I guy has a great BA then he gets in base for others to increase their BARISP. If he is the guy with the high BARISP then he needs to have other players get their BAs up to bat them in. In a perfect world I would love for a batter to have the same BA as BARSIP (as long as their both high), but apparently that isn’t the case.

BARISP is a very nice stat to have around because it does show how teams do in the “clutch,” but BA and OBP is just nice because you can’t have RISP, and therefore runs, without the first too.

Main point… the Brewers are struggling to get on base AND bring them home. 13 come from behind wins is a nice stat only when you ignore the number of games where we DIDN’T comeback at all (which are WAY more common).

28 05 2008
Dan Wiersema

PS… great discussion gentlemen. This is the stuff that we want here at BrewersNation. Your questions and comments are ALWAYS welcome. I think I speak for both Jim and I when I say thanks for making this a nice little Brewers Community.

28 05 2008
Aaron

This site has definitely progressed as one of the better ones out there and I give you guys your due. I’d love to hear from you guys over at my blog with regard to some of my more opinionated posts. Nevertheless, Dan brings up a great point that is being overlooked a bit.

This point is directly in response to Adam’s comment. If you have a bunch of guys hitting .250 without RISP with say a .320 OBP, how many opportunities are you really going to have throughout the game with RISP? Basically it breaks down that you’ll probably get 7-9 PAs with RISP, tops. In the end, the best you can do is about 3-4 runs a game, which will not cut it with this type of pitching staff.

As for Manny Ramirez hitting with bases loaded, he has a career .332 average. With nobody on, .297. The important thing for me though is sample size. Ramirez has over 4000 PAs with nobody on and only 254 with the bases loaded. That’s not even half of a season of ABs. You’re telling me he wouldn’t revert back to .300 if you gave him 350 more PA? The telling stat for me is the fact that his OBPs are nearly identical .384/.386.

Corey Hart has a .158 average with the bases loaded. Guess how many PAs. Try 23. It’s not a valid stat for him by any means especially right now. With RISP, Corey is a .311 hitter 291 PA. Without, .280 on 639 PA. That thirty point differential seems like the standard, but you can’t revert to the mean if your sample size is that low. The more PAs you get with RISP, the more you should land right on top of your normal BA. If you don’t, you should at the very least work on the mind set the whole time since you could be an HOFer batting .300. The only argument against this is really David Ortiz who bats .360 with the bases loaded and about .300 everywhere else.

28 05 2008
Jim Breen

Hey guys,

First off, I would like to echo Dan’s point about this discussion. This is what the site is designed to do. Aaron, shoot me an email with your blog’s address.

BARISP is a good stat, and I agree with Bernie that it is a bit psychological. How many times have you seen Bill Hall or Ryan Braun strike out with runners in scoring position because they are trying to be the hero and hit a home run? The hitters that perform best in clutch situations are the ones who try not to do too much. In some cases, that can result in a higher BA than when nobody is on base. Some people focus a little more.

I do agree with Aaron though about the sample sizes being quite small. Corey Hart is the best clutch hitter on the team because he knows he just needs to get the bat on the ball when there are runners on base. Not very often does he overswing with runners in scoring position. He does sometimes, obviously, but not nearly as much as Bill Hall or the like.

28 05 2008
Aaron

In the end, I guess we should concede to the fact that every team needs a conglomeration of all of these different types of players. Superstars will hit for BARISP and without RISP. Role players will either get on base to set the table or get mentally locked in when they see RBI opportunities. I don’t doubt the mental side of the game. i just think clutch is too tough to define and pro players should be able to approach every AB the same.

28 05 2008
Dan Wiersema

I usually call “clutch” hitting all these comeback wins and frankly I’d take the rest of the season without a “clutch” hit if we would string more “quality” wins together. Like the 7-2 pasting we took out on the Pirates last week. I was pretty damn pleased that I didn’t have to crap my pants that night when Gagne gave up two runs. I just said “oh well… tonight we played a complete game and needed no heroics or heart attacks at the end of the game.” More complete and quality games eliminates the need for my very specific definition of “clutch.”

P.S. Aaron.. love the Brew Crew Pub… swap spots on the blog rolls?

28 05 2008
Aaron

You got it sir.

28 05 2008
Jim Breen

Gotcha on there my man.

28 05 2008
bernie carbo

It seems like everybody agrees we need to get on base more….I think Aaron pointed out on his blog that Cameron is walking a liitle more than he usually does, but is he the right guy to be batting second?

Also, the Brewers as a team strike out far too much. In some situations, a strikeout is welcome as to avoid a double play…..but I have the impression that pitchers are beginning to like to face the Brewers because they can throw more balls than strikes.

I don’t know what goes on during the Brewers hitting sessions….but there seems like some room for improvement….

As Aaron pointed out….a high scoring team is a team that creates more opportunities…..and opportunities come from being selective at the plate….more walks…higher ob%…..more runners…..more oppportunities….

Today’s conversation and participation is bringing up alot of interesting points…One more and then I hope someone else will offer some feedback….Did Doug Melvin really believe that a bench of pinch hitters featuring Counsell, Gwynn, and Dillon would serve as late inning production?

28 05 2008
Aaron

Geez… don’t get me started on Craig Counsell, who has had about 2-3 above average seasons in his long tenure, yet we signed him to a multi-year deal right in front Jeff Cirillo’s face. Joe Dillon has really been a high point on this team for me. He’s not hitting the crap out of the ball or anything, but his .286/.394 BA/OBP makes me want to try and get him in the line up more often. Gabe Kapler has been just as good as far as hitting goes, not so much walking.

Ultimately I think the Brewers have just given up on Gwynn without actually giving him a legitimate shot to stick around. I think it’s more so because LaPorta is waiting in the wings and Yost has no desire to ever bench Hart and Braun who are the two best hitters on the team right now. Gwynn will better showcase his talents in the minors to increase his value. Melvin probably expected Gwynn to get his walks and be scrappy… the same as Craig Counsell. But I suspect they expect quite a bit more out of Joe Dillon who is supposed to be their bench guy with some pop. Everything he hits is usually right on the screws and has struck out very few times considering his role is to come off the bench cold. It doesn’t hurt that he’s super versatile. It makes him really valuable, though we really haven’t used that versatility this year.

28 05 2008
Aaron

Oh and as for the thing about Cameron batting second… I’m okay with it as long as they keep Rickie aggressive on the paths. His tendency to strike out is of epic nature, but his ability to work the count gives Rickie more opportunities to get a look at the pitcher’s move and find a good pitch to take off.

28 05 2008
Jim Breen

Anybody else wishing the Brewers had signed Kenny Lofton this off-season?

28 05 2008
Kyle

Lofton-I called for him all offseason, and I know this may ruin my credibility, but I think we should have expressed interest in Bonds, signed him to a one year deal, with incentives for appearing in a certain amount of games, and have Hart in center… our lineup would be ridiculous, Hart, Weeks, Braun, Fielder, Bonds, Hardy, Hall, Kendall

I am quite sure Bonds can still play and hit the ball, not just power, but for average, much better than Cameron can. Maybe it would hurt our defense, but this article brings up some good points… maybe he is an AL player now.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&page=rumblings/080403

Good discussion on BARISP, but from what I have read, it is not a proven and reliable statistic, which can be depended on. If a batter hits .310 w RISP one year, he is not likely to hit .310 next year if his career batting average is .270. It is a random event. It is not like you can “choose” to sign players who have high BARISP, because it is luck and just because they do it in 2007, doesn’t mean they will do it in 2008, and it can’t be proven otherwise.

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