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Sunday Mail: On Brandon Browner's NFL roots, Jake Peavy expectations, and more

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  March 16, 2014 11:03 AM

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Brandon Browner, ex-Bronco? Well, that escalates the arms race between the two would-be AFC superpowers just a slight bit more, doesn't it?

Browner made his NFL name in Seattle, but he actually was a brief Bronco.

Signed as an undrafted free-agent out of Oregon State in 2005, Browner broke his arm in preseason and never played a regular-season game for Denver.

He went to the Canadian League and dominated there, making three All-Star teams before signing with the Seahawks in '11 and finding a home with many like-minded, receiver-punishing individuals in their ferocious secondary.

Don't know about you guys, but I'm almost as excited to see him play for the Patriots in 2014 as I am Darrelle Revis.

It's been a long time since the Patriots had a true hitter, and no, Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather do not count. There were too many late arrivals, too many detours, their plans for destruction too often turning into embarrassing self-destruction.

Can the season kick off, say, five Sundays from now, with Browner serving his four-game suspension in the interim? Seems reasonable to me.

Anyway, on to ...

THE MAILBOX

Is that stench Jake Peavy's infected finger, or the career decline that will lead to his Memorial Day DFA?
-- Ray Stantz

peavyjakefinn316.JPGDon't really comprehend the anti-Peavy sentiment. I know he had a high-profile hiccup in the ALCS, but his ability to give the Red Sox league-average pitching pretty much every time he took the mound (101 ERA+ with Boston) was crucial in Clay Buchholz's absence late last summer. And he did deliver some big performances -- the complete-game three-hitter against the Dodgers in late August, not to mention five innings of one-run ball in the ALDS clincher.

Providing he doesn't Mordecai Brown himself with any more fishing knife mishaps, I'm looking forward to watching him this season, and not just because he'll be arguing with himself when he's not arguing with A.J. Pierzynski. At 33 (in May), he's a pitcher in transition to some degree. He doesn't throw his killer slider much anymore (6.8 percent of the time last year, as compared to 23.2 percent in 2007), and his velocity last year was down 1.8 miles per hour from his peak average of 92.5, also in '07. It's fair to say his Cy Young Award from that '07 season is never getting a companion. But he's still good. He gave up less than a hit per inning last year, had a K/BB ratio better than his career average, and held opposing batters to a .236 average. I'm glad he's here.


Uh-oh. I may have used too many statistics in that answer ...

"Data collectors versus the ol' eye-test faithful" is not an accurate comment. The ol' eye-test folks, me included have plenty of data plus what we see and feel. For hitters we have batting averages (AB/hits), 2B, 3B, total hits (and you can figure out singles), HR's, & RBIs. For pitchers we have W-L, ERA, SO, BB, WHIP. For fielders we have fielding percents. Do we really need to know what route from point A to point B a fielder took? All we need to know if he caught the ball or not. If he didn't catch the ball then it will show up in his fielding percent. Do we really need to know how much Buchholz's curve broke? All we need to know if it was a strike or not and if it got hit or not. Analytics are killing the game. Just as salary cap discussions and player demands are killing the game. Baseball is a game to sit back and enjoy. There is more than enough information available to us "ol' eye-test faithful. How successful was Bill James "heat thermometer"? All these analytics will come and go, they are just a trend a very boring, tedious trend. It has always been and will always be a more accurate statement that there is "paralysis by analysis". Sit back, have a hot dog and a beer and enjoy the game.
-- Drew D.


I'll have the beer, pass on the hot dog, thanks. Listen, we all watch and enjoy baseball differently. The various ways to savor it, and I don't think I need to suggest that it's possible to be both nostalgic and open-minded. But to suggest analytics -- which have played a major role in the Red Sox' three World Series titles in 10 years -- are killing the game is ignorant, whether it's willful or not. Don't you want to know as much as possible to draw your conclusions and make you judgments about your favorite team? It's exciting that the new MLBAM initiatives to measure player movement will confirm information we only suspected before. I'd love to know, say, what the differences in range are between Jose Iglesias and Stephen Drew and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. I want more than some of the rudimentary and flawed stats you cite. (I won't get started on wins and RBIs.) You can love baseball -- love the beer and the hot dog (OK, not that part) and the sunny Sunday at Fenway with your son or daughter or best buddy -- and still have some curiosity about what's happening. And if you don't -- well, the information is easy enough to ignore. One more thing: Measuring Bill James -- an engaging writer beyond his game-changing sabermetric brilliance -- by that silly NESN heat thermometer is like judging Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman by "Little Fockers." There's a little more to the résumé than that, you know?

Manny Ramirez wants back in MLB, again. What say you?
-- Oil Can

Well, I do miss him. But those days are gone. It's hard to tell when Manny really started slowing down; he couldn't catch up to the above-average heat in '07, but we know what he did in '08 after the trade. Hasn't been able to hit for a while -- the power has been gone since his brief time with the Rays -- and we don't know what he was using when he put up massive numbers for so many years. We do know he failed enough drug tests to probably cost himself any hope of getting into Cooperstown; there's an element reporters, I think, who are glad to have the excuse not to vote for him. And he gave it to them. Man, I liked it better when we bought the narrative that he'd never use steroids because he was terrified of needles.

It's obvious he's having a hard time saying goodbye to baseball, which is no surprise, even as baseball makes it clear it is saying goodbye to him. It is a little sad, and I think a lot of us saw it coming. Few players have been as much fun to watch, at least for me. I know he could be exasperating, but I'll never understand Red Sox fans who didn't enjoy the Manny Experience for the vast majority of his 7 1/2 years here. I mean, there were people who yelped about this because he disrespected the game or whatever.

Gimme a break. It's baseball. It's supposed to be fun. Manny was fun. (And analytics like him too!)

With the way Pierce has played lately, the idea of him coming back to the Celtics as a 6th man next year suddenly seems a little more exciting beyond the sentimental element. Do you think rejoining the C's is a possibility?
-- Tommy O.

Absolutely. He wants to finish his career as a Celtic, and it should be for something more substantial than one of those one-day contracts, which are always a nice gesture if sometimes faux-sentimental. He's playing really well right now -- 13.5 ppg in March on 48.5 percent shooting, and he had five 3s and a vintage 29 points when they beat the Heat last week. That's suddenly an interesting team, and a large part of that is because of his poise and experience in big moments. Maybe he has more than a couple years left. Related to Pierce, I was watching him play lately, and it dawned on me that he has more in common with Larry Bird than we probably ever acknowledged. Give him an inch, give him the inkling of an angle, and he'll kill you.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

And they called and I said that I want what I said and then I call out again.

Or something like that. Awesome song.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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