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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Miller: The Meaning of Russell Branyan

Russell Branyan might very well be the official mascot of the Baseball Prospectus era. I used to list Russell Branyan on my Friendster profile, under “Who You’d Like To Meet.” In the silly Us vs. Them paradigm that made 2002-2006 so much fun, Branyan was the perfect player for Us. He was always unwanted, his skills were underappreciated, he was stupid strong, and he most likely played for each of our favorite teams at some point.

The Yankees are Branyan’s 17th stop. That’s two more stops than Matt Stairs made, and one more than Terry Mulholland made. This is sort of staggering when you consider that Branyan is only 35; Stairs was famously nomadic (I once asked an agent whether he’d ever had a player tell him to just sign with whomever offered the most money, no matter where it was. His response: “Yeah, Matt Stairs.”) and played until he was 43 years old, and still Branyan already has him beat. Fifteen of Branyan’s stops have come just in the past eight years…

Branyan has played with a great many players—675 of them, one out of every six players who has appeared in the majors since his debut in 1998… in his 14-year career, Russell Branyan has earned about as much as, or slightly less than, Juan Pierre made in 2011… He led the 2011 Mariners in home runs, despite playing just 57 games. He also missed time when he was injured on a pizza parlor chair...

So what is the meaning of Russell Branyan? It’s probably something like this: We’ve all mellowed in the stats vs. scouts thing. There’s really no stats vs. scouts thing left, actually. Scouts are great and stats are great. It turns out that a lot of things that we were screaming about were right, and a lot of things we were screaming about weren’t quite as right as we were screaming that they were. Similarly, Russell Branyan was, clearly, a useful major leaguer who made some teams better and generally gave his teams no reason to regret carrying him… He was good. He wasn’t all that good. Russell Branyan’s career is the compromise we finally all agreed on.

The District Attorney Posted: March 24, 2012 at 12:15 AM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, arizona, braves, brewers, cardinals, indians, mariners, padres, phillies, rays, reds, russell branyan, yankees

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   1. Cooper Teenoh Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4088188)
Okay, I'm going to give this a try:

This is what a Jim Caple article would look like if you wrote it in your mother's basement.
   2. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: March 24, 2012 at 01:29 PM (#4088267)
I love Branyan's slash line with the Phils: .222/.222/.889.
   3. booond Posted: March 24, 2012 at 07:45 PM (#4088510)
Not sure what the "record" is for this but Branyan has 31 GIDPs in 3300+ PAs. In a short and unscientific study - looking up fast players from memory - I couldn't find another player who was doubled up less. He isn't fast but with his combination of strikeouts and fly balls, he avoided the twin killing like almost no other player.
   4. Ron J Posted: March 24, 2012 at 10:57 PM (#4088600)
#3 I remember Bill James mentioned Darren Daulton's ability to avoid the DP. 35 in 4340 PAs.

The Deer is kind of impressive in that right-handed power hitters are always going to be the prime DP candidates (even if they run pretty well). 38 in 4513.

And with the DP in order it's Daulton 4.0%, Branyan 4.6%, Deer 4.7%

All 3 were tougher to double up than Ichiro (5.1%)

Deer's is particularly impressive in that right-handed power hitters are prime DP candidates even if they run reasonably well. Aaron's at 10.7%, Mays is 9.3%.

Rice is at 15.2%
   5. Misirlou is too lofty, and grabs up all the light Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:34 PM (#4088612)
Not sure what the "record" is for this but Branyan has 31 GIDPs in 3300+ PAs. In a short and unscientific study - looking up fast players from memory - I couldn't find another player who was doubled up less. He isn't fast but with his combination of strikeouts and fly balls, he avoided the twin killing like almost no other player.


Don Buford, 34 in 5347 PA.
   6. McCoy Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:57 PM (#4088624)
Played for a third of the teams in the league and yet the Cubs never once kicked the tires on him. Despite the fact that their benches were usually horrible and they had a fragile third baseman as their starter. Just stupidity on their part.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:02 AM (#4088627)
Ichiro had 27 gidp at 4444 plate appearances. Wily Tavers is at 17 with 2600+ plate appearances.
   8. Shock Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:12 AM (#4088633)
Well, the thing is you expect speedy guys to be up there.

Branyan has stolen 16 bases in his career. Here is a list of fewest GIDP by a player with 3000 PA and with 20 SB or fewer:


1. RUSSELL BRANYAN: 31 in 3336 PA, 16 SB
2. PETE WARD: 39 in 3,3431 PA, 20 SB
3. CHARLIE MAXWELL: 45 in 3,588, 18 SB
4. KEVIN ELSTER: 45 in 3,079, 14 SB
5. EDDIE TAUBENSEE: 50 in 3,098, 10 SB

edit: Guess who holds the record for fewest GIDP with 2000 PA and fewer than 30 steals?
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 12:52 AM (#4088649)
I did expect speedy guys to be up there, but the original post did mention speedy guys, and subsequent posts mentioned Ichiro specifically. (I had originally planned to post a small table which also had guys like Vince Coleman on the list but pulled the whole thing away until the Ichiro comments popped up.)

I was hoping to find an Edmonds like player, (had a nice stretch, but not as good as Branyans) a true starter, if not an all star level player who doesn't have significant speed, probably batted with a lot of men on base, and still hit few double plays, but even in his best stretch, Edmonds had 46 gidp in 3770 pa.
   10. Sweatpants Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:01 AM (#4088652)
I'd guess that it has more to do with their being leadoff guys than with their being speedy guys. The speed helps, of course.
   11. Shock Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:14 AM (#4088656)
It sort of does make sense though, if you're an all-or-nothing guy like Branyan or Rob Deer. You don't make contact all that often, and when you do, it sure ain't gonna be no cheapshit double play ball!!

There are some pitchers up there too..Tom Glavine only hit into 14 double plays in a career that gave him 1,645 PA. Maddux hit into 15 in 1,812. I guess you kinda figure pitchers are easy to double up on, but they strike out so damn much that not really.

BTW the leader in fewest GDP and lowest GDP/PA for 2500+ PA is Kaz Matsui (14 in 2,555)

The worst is Ron Coomer (132 in 3,238)

Another random fact is that Butlers bookend this leaderboard. Brett Butler had 62 GIDP in a career of over 9,000 PA. Billy Butler already has 99 in 2,861 PA
   12. Dan Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:19 AM (#4088659)
Pitchers don't hit into double plays because if there's a man on first and fewer than 2 outs, they are bunting. They only get a chance to GIDP with the bases loaded.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:19 AM (#4088660)
You assume pitchers sacrifice with a man on first base.

Edit: or what Dan said.
   14. Shock Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:33 AM (#4088665)
right, duh.
   15. Dan Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:40 AM (#4088670)
I guess they also bunt into double plays sometimes if they bunt it right at a charging third baseman or the pitcher.
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 01:43 AM (#4088674)
I meant to look up Brett Butler, he's almost always my go to guy for anything relating to speed and looking for a surprising answer.
   17. Ron J Posted: March 25, 2012 at 04:39 AM (#4088690)
#10 That's why I looked for PAs with the DP in order.

Butler's DP rate looks somewhat less remarkable once you take that into consideration. It's spot on 5%. Obviously very good.

As with Ichiro he's got practically everything working in his favor (fast, left-handed, didn't hit the ball hard, often bunted with runners on) and Deer was still less likely to ground into a DP than either of them.
   18. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 10:32 AM (#4088740)
It sort of does make sense though, if you're an all-or-nothing guy like Branyan or Rob Deer.

Branyan's TTO average is .505, which, so far as I can tell, is the record for anyone with that many PAs. (for comparison, Rob Deer's is .491). Jack Cust is currently sitting at .530 in far fewer PAs.
   19. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 25, 2012 at 11:14 AM (#4088759)
Branyan's TTO average is .505, which, so far as I can tell, is the record for anyone with that many PAs. (for comparison, Rob Deer's is .491). Jack Cust is currently sitting at .530 in far fewer PAs.


Where's Reynolds?

The downside to never grounding into double plays is those types of players often don't reach on errors either. Branyan's only got 12 ROE in his career, so his ratio is fairly consistent with other players, just at much lower levels of each.

Buford's 2:1 ratio of ROE:GDP is great. Ichiro was ahead of that ratio until last year, but now he's a little less than 2:1.

By the way, CFB, where are you getting Ichiro's totals for GDP?

Deer is almost 1:1 (not surprising, as is usually the case with GDPs, righties reach on errors far more frequently than southpaws).
   20. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 11:24 AM (#4088765)
Where's Reynolds?

He's at .501 in a tad less than 3000 PAs. His K% is 33.1 and Branyan's is 32.9--neither really walk that much, so their TTO is really based on only two of the three--same with Deer (as opposed to Jack Cust who actually really DOES do all three)
   21. gehrig97 Posted: March 25, 2012 at 06:05 PM (#4088989)
Apropos of nothing, I believe Branyan has two "significant firsts" at new Yankees Stadium: First to clear the center field restaurant, and first (and perhaps only) player to reach the fourth deck (grandstand) in right. Pretty amazing, considering he was a visiting player. Just freakish power.
   22. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 06:46 PM (#4089016)
first (and perhaps only) player to reach the fourth deck (grandstand) in right.
Someone on the A's--I don't remember who--did it last year. It was a considerable less impressive shot than Branyan's, basically a high-arching rainbow that dropped into the upper deck, but it has been done.
   23. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: March 25, 2012 at 06:49 PM (#4089018)
Here we go, it was Brandon Allen. And the clip.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: March 25, 2012 at 09:59 PM (#4089097)
By the way, CFB, where are you getting Ichiro's totals for GDP?


I was posting his first six years. I always dislike people posting rate stats when one player has twice or three times the playing time.
   25. Shock Posted: March 25, 2012 at 10:25 PM (#4089104)
Josh Phelps hit one of the most mammoth shots I've ever seen off Jamie Moyer in (I think) 2004. ####, I wish he could have hit anything other than crappy fastballs from junk-balling lefties.

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