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Looking at Jeff Gordon’s grades... again

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I didn’t want to do this.

Wild Card Round - St Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres - Game Three Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Oh, I see Jeff Gordon posted his grades again. I don’t think I’ll write about that this year. It’s the same post every year. He says something dumb, I point it out, repeat cycle. It cannot possibly continue for forever. Let’s see what my friend says about it.

“Jeff Gordon is doing his report cards and is actually saying ‘his WAR dropped from XX in 2019 to XX in 2020’”

eye twitches

No, NO Gabe resist. Don’t fall for it, don’t even look at the article. I won’t do this again, I won’t.

Cut to: Sunday evening

What to write, what to write. There is that Jeff Gordon article. NO! NOT AGAIN. Can’t do that again. But... it wouldn’t hurt to look. Let’s just take a peak. I’m not going to read what he wrote. Let’s just look at the grades. A for Wainwright, okay. A for Kim, so far so good. C- for Poncedeleon, that’s a little harsh, but he didn’t have a great year so okay. C- for Flaherty.

Wait. C- for Flaherty. Hmm. I think I might have to get an explanation for this one. Might have to take a shot to prepare for this, or my brain might explode. Just one shot will do. Hmm that went down easy, maybe another one.

Last year he was one of the top pitching performers in baseball. This year he was not. Flaherty followed his breakout campaign (11-8, 2.75 ERA) with mediocrity (4-3, 4.91 ERA). He walked 16 batters in his last 30 1/3 innings. Flaherty recorded more than 15 outs just once in eight starts after the COVID shutdown. An ugly 18-3 loss to Milwaukee ruined his ERA; he allowed nine runs while retiring nine batters. But Flaherty pitched well in his only postseason start, allowing just one run and striking out eight in six innings.

Oh. Well that wasn’t that bad. I mean he did reach 15 outs in four of those nine starts, and it’s a little disingenuous to blame him for it since the Cards clearly treated him with kid gloves.

16 walks in his last 30.1 IP isn’t great, but wait. That’s weirdly specific. Let me check up on that one. Hmm, can’t be his last 30.1 regular season innings. His last 16 walks came in 33.2 IP and if you lessen the innings, you lose some walks. His last 16 walks including the playoffs come in 32.2 IP. Okay. That means his starting point is with one out in the 3rd inning of the Cleveland Indians game, which is when he walked the first of the 16 batters. Did 16 walks in his last 32.2 IP sound that much worse that you had to convolute the numbers like that?

Okay let’s move on. Johan Oviedo, D+. Wait isn’t there like a curve here for someone thrust into action they are clearly not ready for? Flaherty did not pitch like a C- pitcher, but if you take into account what he’s capable and only use ERA, well it’s justifiable.

Whatever, onto relief pitchers. Austin Gomber, A. He had 15 walks in 29 innings, curious he didn’t mention that here. But what the hell, getting mad at him for only using ERA, that’s a waste of time. Tyler Webb, A, relative to expectations sure whatever.

Boring, boring, boring, Seth Elledge B-. Well that’s curious. Cause Elledge was very bad this year. He had a worse FIP than Oviedo, who got a D+. I know, I know he doesn’t use FIP, but it’s not like 8 walks in 11.2 IP and a 4.63 ERA are exactly great by traditionalists either. I think he’s probably a good reliever going forward, but let’s not kid ourselves that Elledge was anything but bad this year.

Ryan Helsley, C+. I know these ratings tend to be inconsistent with each other, but this just seems random! Helsley was awful! I’m inclined to blame COVID (and have in the past), but... there’s just about nothing good in his stats. Nabil Crismatt C, Ricardo Sanchez D, WAIT WHAT?

After 167 minor league games, he finally got his chance on the big (albeit empty) stage due to the pandemic. He posted a 3.24 ERA in six outings. He struck out eight batters in 8 1/3 innings, but he allowed two homers. Crismatt finished off six games, five of them losses, and impressed the field staff with his eagerness to learn. He kept himself in the mix for a depth role next season.

YOU SIR HAVE STAINED THE NAME OF ONE NABIL CRISMATT AND YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR CRIMES. HOW DARE YOU? Okay, okay, I have to look at offense and here’s the gem I was waiting for.

It wasn’t easy batting third for a team lacking competent cleanup hitting. But Goldschmidt remained efficient, posting a slash line of .304/.417/.466 with an OPS of .883. That was a big improvement from 2019 (.260/.346/.476 and .821) though he hit just six homers in 191 at bats. His WAR dipped from 2.4 in 2019 to 1.7 in 2020, a far cry from his 6.2 and 6.4 in 2017-18 in Arizona. His OPS fell to .774 in September, then he delivered a double and two homers in 13 playoff at bats. His glove work at first helped the entire infield grade out well defensively.

I don’t want to overlook his dumb first statement to get to the obvious, but the difficulty of hitting has literally nothing to do with who is surrounding you. Maybe pitchers throw you less strikes, and Goldschmidt should be commended for taking those pitches to have his second highest BB rate, but the rest of the lineup does not affect the important stats. You know what I’m just going to let the WAR part speak for itself. There is nothing I could say.

Wong’s OPS slid from .784 to .675 as he suffered a power outage for most of the campaign. His WAR dropped from 5.2 to 1.2 and his defensive metrics dipped slightly.

JEFF, BUDDY, WAR IS A COUNTING STAT. I’ll speak your language: Paul Goldschmidt had 21 RBIs, a far cry from his 97 last year. See how absurd that statement is? That’s the equivalent of what you’re doing here. You’re ignoring that less games were played. Seriously, I feel like you should know this!

(Edman) fell from 3.9 WAR to 0.8 and didn’t do anything in the postseason (3-for-14) to change his 2020 narrative.

Oh my god. Do you have an editor? How did someone continue to let you do this? Are you going to keep referencing WAR declines.

He improved markedly as a clutch hitter this season. DeJong hit .343 with RISP and .333 with RISP and two outs – a big improvement over .193 and .182 respectively in 2019. But the grind of the condensed schedule got to him. DeJong faded in September, posting a .212/.302/.263 slash line with a feeble .564 OPS. Overall he lost 95 points off his slugging percentage and 91 points off of his OPS from the season before. His Wins Above Replacement slipped from 5.2 to 0.2. He also regressed with some fielding metrics.

There’s that old friend RISP. Surprised you didn’t give him a better grade solely because of it actually. At least this time, his WAR this year is actually low even given the sample size. Although fWAR had him at 0.6 fWAR, which is a lot more respectable.

Brad Miller, C-. Wait, I have to hear this one.

For a while he added some middle-of-the-order heft. He hit .281 with a .924 OPS in August, then he faded in September while batting .200 with a .722 OPS. Miller hit .232 overall, .244 with RISP, and 4-for-16 with RISP and two outs. His .807 OPS was down from .894 the year before for Cleveland and Philadelphia. Miller struggled with his limited exposure at third base, making five errors in 23 chances. He should be a fan of the DH rule in the NL.

Well this is absurd. He makes a good point with his defense of course, but anybody expecting Miller, including Brad Miller himself, to even come close to his 2019 numbers was smoking something good. I honestly didn’t even know Miller had a bad average. Which reminds me that I haven’t seen Harrison Bader yet and I’m already filled with rage at his upcoming grade.

The good news is that he hit well against left-handed pitchers (.360) and posted career highs in on-base (.336) and slugging (.443) percentage. Bader’s OPS jumped from .680 to .779 as he finished with a power surge. His hair was spectacular as always. But he struck out 40 times in 106 at bats overall, went 4-for-22 with runners in scoring position, and even suffered some slippage with his fielding metrics. Bader finished his campaign by going 1-for-9 in the playoffs and leaving a giant question mark in center field.

I can’t think of anything Bader could do at this point that would sway people. If the 113 wRC+ of Bader is a C-, then what the hell can he do? His increase in strikeouts came with a power surge so who really cares? Oh and by the way those numbers with RISP? Came with 6 walks. He had a .357 OBP with RISP. He had a .705 OPS with RISP. Really drives home the absurdly small sample size when six walks and a homer can do that much.

The Cardinals need more, especially for (Fowler’s) annual $16.5 million salary.

Ah, it annoys me that he takes salary into account for these grades. I mean I get it. But like, come on. He did the same with Carpenter’s D, but curiously ignores Yadi’s $20 million salary for his A. I’m just asking for consistency here. “The Cardinals need more, especially for Molina’s annual $20 million salary” is easily a thing you could say about Molina.

He made strides tracking fly balls in left field. His plate discipline improved slightly as he reduced his strikeout rate and improved his walk rate. But this season was a lost opportunity to establish himself. O’Neill posted a .173/.261/.360 slash line with .621 OPS, down from .262/.311/.411 and .723 OPS the year before. He hit just .176 with RISP and .143 with RISP two outs. All of that made him a pine-time player in the postseason.

I’m not going to argue with the D-, because well that would be a fool’s errand. But his plate discipline improved A LOT. Like boy are you underselling it here. It’s a small sample, but players just don’t see the type of plate discipline improvements he made. In comparison to last year, he walked five more times and struck out 10 less times in just six more plate appearances.

Wait where am I? I appear to be at my house and at my computer, looking at a draft of my post for VEB. This is weird. How did I get here? I wonder what the post is about.

Oh god. Oh no. I’ve done it again. I wasn’t going to do it this year. When did I have time to do this? OH MY GOD WHERE DID THE LAST FEW HOURS OF MY LIFE GO? I need to look around for clues.

Oh there’s an empty liquor bottle. Was that empty before? Wait no, I took it out earlier. And... I opened the bottle. Oh god. Body why have you betrayed me? You get me drunk and then write on my behalf without my knowledge. And you made sure I was blacked out long enough to where I couldn’t possibly come up with another idea and write it and research it in time. So you’ve forced me to post this. This is my personal hell.

This is my last one. I promise. No, no really it is. Why are you guys laughing at me?