Does draft pick position really matter in baseball?

Here’s a possibly useful chart that may answer whether it matters in baseball whether a team gets the first pick in the draft, or falls to a later pick.  Our initial thought may be that it matters more in other sports, but it still clearly matters in baseball.  These numbers are muddled a bit by the fact that some teams purposely draft a player with less potential who demands a lower signing bonus early in the draft.  Even with that in mind, it does seem that the first pick is significantly better than later picks.

The blue line is the average career WAR (from baseball-reference.com) of players drafted in that round, going back to 1990.  The red line is the number of players drafted before 2009 (6 years ago) who have a WAR of less than 0.1.  So the red line is the number of players drafted in that round who never contributed significantly at the major league level.

WARofDraftPicks

What we see is that player quality drops off significantly after the first rounds, and your chance of drafting a bust rises dramatically after round 4.  That being said, I think there’s a kind of downward spiral that may happen if a team loses too much.  Chemistry and culture probably make a big difference, and so the Braves may be better off winning as much as they can the last few weeks of the season, grabbing a pick between 2 and 4, and trying to build that culture into something that wins in 2017 when they move into their new stadium.  What do you think?

What did the in-season moves do to the Braves’ pitching staff?

Here’s the list of all of the Braves pitchers who had a positive WAR this season up to now, according to baseball-reference.com:

Shelby Miller (4.1)

Alex Wood* (2.4)

Jim Johnson* (1.5)

Julio Teheran (1.0)

Arodys Vizcaino (0.8)

Jason Grilli* (0.6)

Luis Avilan* (0.6)

Jason Frasor* (0.3)

Michael Kohn* (0.2)

Ryan Weber (0.1)

Peter Moylan (0.1)

You may have guessed where I’m going.  The players with an asterisk are no longer on the major league roster.  Wood, Johnson and Avilan were traded to the Dodgers.  Grilli is out for the year with an injury, Frasor was released, and Kohn was sent back to AAA.  Every other pitcher you may have seen this year for the Braves has a negative WAR.  That means that if you replaced that player with an average major leaguer the results would have been better.  The Braves have continued to pitch players like Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler because they need major league time to be able to grow into quality major leaguers.  The future looks bright!…. okay, the future is at least coming quickly.

 

The Mathematics of Losing Streaks

As of today’s game, the Braves have lost 12 games in a row.  They are now 54-83, for a winning percentage of 39.4%.  The chances of losing 12 games in a row when you have a 39.4% chance of winning (I know, it was higher at the beginning of the streak but bear with me) is 0.606 or 60.6% (their losing chance) to the 12th power.  The result is 0.0025 or 0.25%.  That means if the Braves played 12 consecutive games at this success level, they would only lose 12 in a row once in every 400 attempts at 12 games in a row.  We wouldn’t expect it to happen very often, and it hasn’t.  The last time they lost 12 in a row was 1977, when they went on to lose 17 in a row.  To be included on this list of longest losing streaks in major league history they’ll need to get to 18 games.  At their current win%, the chances of them losing another 6 in a row could be estimated at 5% (0.606 to the 6th power).  Given the way the season is going, I’m not sure I would take a 20-1 bet against the Braves to get to 18.

By the way, the franchise record is 19 games lost in a row set by the 1906 Boston Bean-eaters (as the Braves we known at the time).  Around the turn of the century, all of the best players from their 1890s dynasty team had been raided by the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) of the rival American League which could pay their players more.  The 1907 team took 7 years to win the World Series with the Miracle Braces of 1914, and the 1977 Braves took another 5 years to get to relevance.  Let’s hope this rebuilding project is quicker!

John’s Coppolella’s Strategy for the Turnaround

Two big points from the John Coppolella, the Assistant General Manager interviewed during this weekend’s Nationals series.

  1. The Braves minor league system has gone from 29th in the majors (out of 31 teams) to Keith Law of ESPN ranking them 2nd this summer after the draft.
  2. The (the Braves) are not looking to a 5-7 year rebuild a la the Astros and the Cubs, but two down years followed by success.  Getting rid of the contracts they had to provide flexibility going into the 2017 seems like the way to go.

In the meantime, to be honest, I’m only watching the Braves games on the At Bat app that they win.  Which means I’ve been watching a whole lot.  A watch a few live, but the pitching has been fairly depressing the last month or so.  They have traded their two best bullpen arms (Avilan and Johnson) and a middle-of-the-rotation starter (Alex Wood), along with a bunch of their veteran hitters.  The team can’t score enough, and they simply have no good options for relied in close games.  Arodys Vizcaino is not quite there, but may end up finding success in limited middle relief situations.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be providing some more analysis of their prospects and the possibilities for the future.

Hope is still alive, but at this point… wait ’till next year.  (or maybe 2017)