Who acted poorly: Glavine, or the Braves?

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As a longtime Braves fan, I was beyond angry when I heard that they had released Tom Glavine yesterday.
As a 14 year-old boy, I watched Glavine’s first start back in 1987, was
with him and the Braves through some dark, early years, rejoiced when
things unexpectedly turned around in 1991, cheered like crazy during
Game Six of the 1995 World Series, and continued to pull for him as his
career transformed from merely great to Hall of Fame worthy. Even if I
didn’t particularly enjoy his move to the Mets, I understood. Even
though I knew he wasn’t the same pitcher he used to be upon his return
to Atlanta last year, I rejoiced. Glavine doesn’t know it, but he and I
have a lot of history together, and history makes up for a lot.

So, yes, I was angry when I heard the news yesterday. Earlier this
spring I wanted Glavine to retire because it sounded like he truly
couldn’t pitch anymore, but his rehab starts sounded like they were
going well. Indeed, he pitched six scoreless innings on Tuesday night.
In light of this, and in light of all Glavine has meant to the
franchise over the past 22 years, I thought the Braves were obligated
to at least give him a chance to pitch. But they didn’t. Which was bad
enough, but it was compounded by what seemed like humiliation in light
of Glavine’s statements the evening before
that he stood ready to pitch. As it seemed motivated by money (Glavine
stood to claim $1 million for making the team) it struck me like a
particularly classless and penny wise-pound foolish way to let a future
Hall of Famer’s career end in Atlanta.

After having had a night to sleep on it, I’m still miffed over it all,
though not quite as miffed as I was yesterday. I will not dispute for a
second that the Braves are better off from a baseball perspective
having Tommy Hanson pitching than Tom Glavine. I will also fully grant
the following, offered by Braves’ GM Frank Wren:

“In low-A ball, the pitching line is not a relevant factor in whether the ‘stuff’ could get major-league hitters out”

I’m no scout and outside of the discussion of his radar readings, I’ve
heard nothing about the specific quality of his rehab starts. Maybe
he’d get shelled if he pitched for Atlanta. I don’t know.

But I do know that the only situation which could have existed to
make this something other than a callous move on the Braves’ part would
the following: Glavine is told that he’s not cutting by Braves
management and is about to be released, and then nonetheless seeks out
a reporter to make that “I’m ready” comment. In such a situation, it’s
Glavine, not the Braves forcing the issue out the way it was forced,
putting the Braves in a no-win situation. Did he do that, or did the
Braves play their cards close to the vest, encouraging him along in
rehab, allowing him to declare himself ready, and then and only then
tell him, no, you’re going to be released?

For those of us who are coming at this with some emotional baggage
as it relates to a team legend — as opposed to thinking about it in
merely analytical terms — that is the most important question.

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”

Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.

This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.

The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.

This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.