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Sunday, March 25, 2012

BPP: Any Player/Any Era: Bobby Grich

That sound you hear are The Lemmerings marching single file straight off a cliff.

Era he might have thrived in: Grich would thrive in any era, but it’s likely his career started just a shade too early. His skills and abilities would have fit in perfectly in the early 1990s, specifically on the Atlanta Braves (heck, he’d even get to suffer through another strike-shortened season).

Why: While the Braves were gobbling up pennants and division crowns, the club’s second basemen, predominantly Mark Lemke, were providing absolutely nothing with the stick. As Lemke was busy batting .250 with a .315 OBP, Grich would post a .274/.379/.437 line with the Braves. He’d add multiple 30 HR campaigns and be an offensive stalwart along with Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff, Chipper Jones and others.

In 1997, the Braves could have put out a line-up consisting of Kenny Lofton-Grich-Jones-McGriff-Lopez-Ryan Klesko-Jeff Blauser-Michael Tucker. Those guys would have tested a pitching staff a ton, as multiple players worked counts and posted amazing walk rates.

On the Braves, there’s a solid chance Grich would challenge for MVPs: his 1979 season translated would be .293/.364/.535 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. Those numbers on a contender from a second basemen would draw considerable attention. In addition, his 1981 translated would be .315/.392/.561 with 35 HRs and 100 RBIs.

With Grich in tow, who knows how many World Series Bobby Cox and the Braves would have. At the least, Grich would have had more play-off appearances to prove his mettle and potentially build his myth.

Repoz Posted: March 25, 2012 at 08:22 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: braves, history

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   1. bjhanke Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4088781)
I have my doubts about the Braves. Grich was fine on defense from 1973-75. Then in 1976, he missed 20 games, and played a smidgen of other positions. I don't know where to find an injury list, but when Bobby came back, his defense seems to have dropped to about replacement rate or a bit higher (I find this hard to believe, but the stats do show it). When his glove went down, Earl Weaver promptly traded him away, bat or no bat. He moved on to the Angels and had only one real good defensive season there.

The Braves were managed, starting in 1978, by Bobby Cox. Cox was the closest thing to an Earl Weaver clone I have ever seen. He was all about offense down the lines and gloves up the middle, even if they could not hit (Belanger is the prime example). He considered 3b to be the key position -the one where he had to have someone who could both hit it and pick it (Brooks, Doug DeCinces). I imagine that, as soon as he hit the team in 1978, Bobby would have traded Grich for a hotter glove, just like Earl did. That might have been a wrong move, but it's what Cox would have done; either that, or make Grich a sort of supersub. Cox did leave the team for a spell, but by the 1990s, he was back in charge of Atlanta, and Bobby Grich was getting old.

Skipping the Braves, I do think that Bobby Grich could have played second base in any era, largely because the defensive demands of the position have grown over time, due to the double play and also due to 2bs finally being moved away from camping right on the 2b bag. If you can play 2b now, you probably could have played it in any previous era.

Oddly enough, when I was looking at Bobby on BB-Ref, I found out that that his lists of comparable players and his Hall of Fame ink and Monitor stats are not good. That may be why he is not in the Hall of Fame. His comps are a bunch of weaker players than Hall guys, and his stats don't save him, at least not at BB-Ref. - Brock Hanke
   2. Walt Davis Posted: March 25, 2012 at 02:02 PM (#4088842)
In a sense, he would "thrive" best today because there would be some metrics to reflect how good he was on defense. Although, interestingly, Grich is a guy whose GG line up pretty well with his Rfield. Anyway, this is probably the era in which Grich would get the most attention.

I don't quite get the lineup bit in the excerpt. The Braves trotted out the same lineup except with Lemke. Lemke's obviously a worse hitter than Grich but that's not a switch that transforms a lineup from good to great. And in that year he was supplemented by Graffanino who put up a Grich-esque 258/344/446 line in 220 PA and a good line from Lockhart too.

On Brock's point -- obviously we'll never know but Cox had two Grich-lite 2B in Boone and Giles and he traded both of them away (potentially for other reasons). On the other hand, he was constantly on the lookout for a 2B which may have been a reaction to not having a Grich.
   3. Matt Welch Posted: March 25, 2012 at 10:13 PM (#4089100)
Then in 1976, he missed 20 games, and played a smidgen of other positions.

He played two-thirds of an inning at 3B in 1976, every other defensive inning at 2B.

I don't know where to find an injury list, but when Bobby came back, his defense seems to have dropped to about replacement rate or a bit higher (I find this hard to believe, but the stats do show it).

It was 1977 when he was injured, not 1976. He also played shortstop that year, to accommodate Jerry Remy. For his first five years in Anaheim, from ages 28-32, he had a defensive WAR of 1.2, saving an estimated 12 runs more than average. Not "replacement," but average. That was the 13th-highest total for a second baseman over 1977-81. It was a far cry from his defensive record between 23 and 26, but then he has a legitimate claim of being the best defensive second baseman in history between ages 23-26.

When his glove went down, Earl Weaver promptly traded him away, bat or no bat.

Earl Weaver didn't trade him; he was a free agent.

He moved on to the Angels and had only one real good defensive season there.

He was 11th in defensive runs saved among Major League 2Bmen in 1980, 7th in 1981, and 4th in 1985.

I imagine that, as soon as he hit the team in 1978, Bobby would have traded Grich for a hotter glove, just like Earl did.

Earl didn't.

Cox did leave the team for a spell, but by the 1990s, he was back in charge of Atlanta, and Bobby Grich was getting old.

Bobby Grich retired after the 1986 season.

Oddly enough, when I was looking at Bobby on BB-Ref, I found out that that his lists of comparable players and his Hall of Fame ink and Monitor stats are not good.

There is nothing remotely odd about noticing that a guy who played from 1972-1986, in pitchers' parks, has raw stats that don't look as shiny as those who played in significantly better offensive contexts. Just because Baseball Reference coughs up Jay Bell and Bret Boone as comparable players doesn't mean that the comparison isn't asinine. Note that the only comp listed there who has an OPS+ even approaching Grich's is Hall of Famer Joe Gordon, who is actually a pretty comparable player (including phenomenal defense in his early 20s).















   4. zonk Posted: March 25, 2012 at 10:25 PM (#4089105)
I know the whole point of the series is "what if" ---

But I think it would be better to leave the whole 'Braves' part out of it...

Grich was, IIRC, a 1st round pick and as noted above -- he signed as a FA with the Angels (in what was then a fairly big contract).

I'm not exactly sure how it is the Braves of the 90s end up getting Grich, given that they generally had other payroll considerations to deal with.

As underrated and overlooked as he's been by HoF voters -- let's not pretend he was some readily available afterthought, there for the taking by any 'smart' team, during his career. He was quite highly regarded from draft through sunset.
   5. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 25, 2012 at 11:46 PM (#4089126)
Grich was, IIRC, a 1st round pick and as noted above -- he signed as a FA with the Angels (in what was then a fairly big contract).


Yes. He was in the first real class of free agents, and was one of its biggest names.
   6. Morty Causa Posted: March 25, 2012 at 11:53 PM (#4089130)
#3:

Yeah. Grich is not really similar to those guys. His total WAR, in less PAs, is more in line with Larkin, Alomar, Trammell, Whitaker, Sandberg, Cronin--players like that, and his OPS+ is better than those guys. Weaver would have loved to have kept Grich (and Reggie, too), but Baltimore wasn't ready to play the free agent game yet.
   7. bjhanke Posted: March 26, 2012 at 02:36 AM (#4089160)
I'll apologize for missing the free agency thing and that by the time Bobby Cox was back for his second stint with the Braves, Grich had retired. But the "injury" season I was looking at was 76, not 77. In 76, he played 144 games, mostly at second, those 2/3 of an inning at third, and also some DH, I don't know how much, but the DH, for a top defender, usually means some sort of injury problem. The defensive evaluations depend on word usage. I don't consider 11th, 7th and 4th to be "real good", especially when you're comparing them to earlier Grich years. In 77, he was already with California, who were trying to play him at shortstop. I am happy to believe that the reason was that they had Jerry Remy at second.

The real point I was trying, badly, to make, was what zonk put up much better: The Braves are a lousy place to "what if" Bobby Grich into. And I agree that Grich was better than the people listed as his comps, but that, too, wasn't my point. My point is that the HoF voters very possibly did not look any further than his nominal comps, and his nominal comps don't look like a Hall guy. He's also short of ink, which is also normal for a middle infielder, but can be misleading to a HoF voter. I, personally, agree that Grich was an obvious Hall second baseman. I was just trying to point out why the voters might not have thought that.

Wait. I just noticed something in Matt's post. "WAR", unless I've missed an awful lot, means "Wins Above Replacement", not "Wins Above Average." If BB-Ref, or anyone else, is using WAR to mean WAA, then their terminology misled me, and I can't apologize for that. - Brock
   8. Ron J Posted: March 26, 2012 at 05:01 AM (#4089168)
#7 Note that while it's called dWAR, the baseline used is league average. (Among the many awesome things that Sean has done at bb-ref, he's made it easy to get definition. Go to any position play page, go down to the Player Values--Batters section and hover your mouse over the dWAR header and you'll get the definition)

Basically AROM took the general outline of Pete Palmer's TPR, used the additional information now available (base running, reached on errors, and DPs in context) to improve the linear weights for offense. Then designed a much better defensive system (not too different than the one Charlie Saeger came up with that was used in the BBBA -- just used league average as the baseline). He combined those with a positional adjustment and then figured out the value of playing time in a separate adjustment (the Rrep column in the Player Values section).
   9. AROM Posted: March 26, 2012 at 09:46 AM (#4089233)
If BB-Ref, or anyone else, is using WAR to mean WAA, then their terminology misled me, and I can't apologize for that. - Brock


It doesn't make sense to speak of replacement level defense. Or offense. Replacement level only makes sense when you look at contributions as a whole. You could have a guy who is an average fielder, but a -20 runs hitter. Another guy is an average hitter, but -20 runs in the field. Both are replacement level and players like that will be found playing in AAA or sitting at the end of a major league bench.

As for Grich, he was probably an average defender at 2B up to the day he retired. He was -8 runs in 1984, but came back the next year with a +11. That could just be random variation. In his final season he was -1, which is close enough to average.
   10. DanG Posted: March 26, 2012 at 10:15 AM (#4089249)
Grich comps. WAR 56-79, OPS+ 114-136, PA 7120-9320, 25%+ career G at 2B/SS/3B/CF

Rk           Player WAR/pos OPS+   PA Rfield From   To    G
1      Arky Vaughan    75.6  136 7722     21 1932 1948 1817 H
2      Barry Larkin    68.9  116 9057     28 1986 2004 2180 H
3       Jim Edmonds    67.9  131 7980     85 1993 2010 2011
4       Bobby Grich    67.6  125 8220     81 1970 1986 2008
5       Scott Rolen    66.2  123 8188    147 1996 2011 1946
6        Joe Cronin    62.5  119 8840     28 1926 1945 2124 H
7     Ryne Sandberg    62.0  114 9282     60 1981 1997 2164 H
8    Carlos Beltran    60.8  121 7730     71 1998 2011 1768
9         Sal Bando    60.6  119 8287     37 1966 1981 2019
10         Jim Wynn    59.8  128 8011    
-27 1963 1977 1920
11        Ken Boyer    58.4  116 8272     74 1955 1969 2034 
   11. bjhanke Posted: March 26, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4089301)
AROM -

Thanks for the info. I know how to hover over a stat header and get a definition, but when I saw "dWAR", I assumed that meant defense vs. replacement because of the acronym. For me, the problem is now fixed. I will suggest, ever so slightly, that you might think up another acronym for Wins Above Average. I doubt I'll be the only guy who gets caught by that.

Yes, Dan G - That's a lot better list of effective comps for Grich. But the point I was trying to make is that HoM voters don't do that kind of thing. They go by the ones listed on BB-Ref (and have since before BB-Ref existed). Using BB-Ref mostly cuts down on the time it takes to work up a comp list. To work up another comp list based on methods the voters don't understand, is going to be a hard sell, and is probably why Grich isn't in the Hall already. Like Darrell Evans, say, he does many things very well, and the sum is greater than the parts, but there's no flagpole to hang an image on. I think a lot of the worst cases of the Hall missing someone come from that. They don't have a big flashy image to hang their opinions on. I, personally, agree with you. But I'm not in the BBWAA.

You know, that Rolen kid is embarrassing the list there with his Rfield. - Brock
   12. DL from MN Posted: March 26, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4089322)
HoM voters don't do that kind of thing.


HoM voters do that kind of thing. HoF voters don't.
   13. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: March 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM (#4089324)
Weaver would have loved to have kept Grich (and Reggie, too), but Baltimore wasn't ready to play the free agent game yet.


No doubt, but the Orioles were also expecting big(ger) things from Rich Dauer, who was a pretty highly regarded prospect.
   14. AROM Posted: March 26, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4089337)
I will suggest, ever so slightly, that you might think up another acronym for Wins Above Average.


It's out of my hands. You can always make a suggestion to Sean Forman through the feedback links on bb-ref. The way he has it split up (a decision I had nothing to do with) has batting, position adjustment, and replacement level adjustment all rolled into "OWAR", with fielding above/below average as "DWAR".

Perhaps labels like "OWAR" and DWAA" would be more accurate.
   15. jingoist Posted: March 26, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4089427)
The word I heard was Rich Dauer liked the "toot" a bit too much.
Never lived up to his promise; but then again cocaine didn't exactly help a lot of players careers.
   16. bjhanke Posted: March 26, 2012 at 07:52 PM (#4089689)
DL (#12) - Sorry. That was a typo. - Brock
   17. puck Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:19 PM (#4089701)
The word I heard was Rich Dauer liked the "toot" a bit too much.


This kind of makes it sound like Dauer enjoyed being flatulent, which I can kind of respect.

I didn't realize he was seen as a disappointment, he seemed like a consistent, cromulent player.
   18. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:43 PM (#4089715)
I didn't realize he was seen as a disappointment, he seemed like a consistent, cromulent player.


Sure, but he was a USC star who was drafted in the first round not once but twice and tore up the minor leagues. IIRC, he led the IL in batting average in his full season in AAA. With that kind of pedigree, his MLB career was sorta meh.
   19. Ron J Posted: March 26, 2012 at 09:35 PM (#4089759)
#18 While I agree with the conclusion, he didn't really tear up the minors. Davey Johnson's a better comp (I'm actually more impressed with Johnson's minor league career than Dauer's) and was nothing close to Grich -- who really did tear up the minors. The real reservation is that he simply wasn't very good in his second shot at AA (and he ended up there because he outright failed in his first shot at AAA)

Dauer's minor league career suggests something in the range of a 105-110 OPS+ in his prime. I know the Orioles would have settled since he never came close to that.

I think he was overrated somewhat simply because of the past strength of the Oriole minor league system.
   20. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: March 26, 2012 at 10:25 PM (#4089809)
he didn't really tear up the minors


Fair enough, especially regarding the year he split between AAA and AA. He did hit for high averages in the other two years, and there was some talk of him as a future challenger for AL batting titles.
   21. Ron J Posted: March 27, 2012 at 04:37 AM (#4089906)
#20 Trust me. I was an Oriole fan as far back as then and I know Dauer was a major disappointment. And it wasn't insane to hope for a good batting average, a few doubles and some walks.

I know he was compared to Grich -- which was nuts. (Not that I knew that at the time. Though I knew Grich had been a minor league player of the year and Dauer didn't have that on his resume, I had no idea of their actual minor league records. Nor did I know that minor league records meant anything.)

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