So in an interesting turn of events at the end of last week, Frank Wren gave Larry Parrish his walking papers. Wren did so a matter of hours after Fredi Gonzalez had stated that every member of the coaching staff would be back in 2012. Politically speaking, this is a significant development because Wren is having to step in to make a change that Gonzalez should have made, but didn’t. Already low after he presided over an epic September collapse, Gonzalez’s reputation went down further with Braves fans when he acted as if no changes needed to be made to the coaching mix. Wren clearly agreed, stepping in personally to get rid of Parrish. Not only will Wren be thinking “why did Gonzalez not figure this out on his own?,” but the fact that he made the change himself shows that Gonzalez’s position isn’t exactly set in stone for the long-term.
Why did Parrish need to go? Can I interest you in some fancy numbers to illustrate that the Braves offense underachieved this year? Baseball Prospectus relies on True Average as one of their go-to stats. True Average accounts for both propensity to get on-base and the propensity to get extra-base hits. The best way to think of it is BP’s way to come up with one number that represents offensive production as opposed to looking at a slash line. Before the season, BP’s projection system generates an expected True Average number for every major leaguer, which is based on the player’s history of performance, his physical characteristics, his age, and just about anything else that might be relevant. Those projections give us a baseline against which to evaluate the Braves’ performances at the plate in 2011.
Here are the projected and actual True Averages for the seven regulars who started and ended the season in Atlanta:
|Player||Projected TAv||Actual TAv||Difference|
Notice a trend there on the right-side of the table? Every Braves regular with the exception of Freddie Freeman performed below expectations. In other words, a collection of players with the combined characteristics of the Braves’ regulars should have produced at a given level, but in reality, they collectively performed well below that level. If that’s not a coaching failure, then what else can it be? (Random statistical noise, perhaps?)
Despite the depressing ending to the 2011 season, I’m feeling fairly optimistic about the Braves’ chances in 2012. One major reason for this optimism is that the Braves were in playoff position for almost the entire season despite a millstone around their necks offensively. Whether Parrish was that millstone is the big question.