Atlanta 8, Philadelphia 4

ESPN.com – MLB – MLB RECAP

The Braves scored five runs in the first, with Julio Franco’s grand slam responsible for most of them, and held on from there. Chris Reitsma gave up three runs late to make it interesting for awhile, but it was still a pretty comfortable win. The Marlins lost to the Mets, and the Braves and Mets are now only a half game behind Philadelphia.

Johnny Estrada drove in the first run of the game and later hit a two-run homer for insurance; both he and Rafael Furcal had three hits. Franco’s return to the lineup obviously helped the team, though oddly Mike Hessman came in for defense late. That’s kind of like… well, having Mike Hessman pinch-hit.

John Thomson had an odd game, struggling with his control (three walks, 93 pitches, 57 strikes) and giving up six hits while striking out only three, but got three double plays turned behind him and allowed only one run on a solo homer. Reitsma wasn’t so lucky, allowing five hits, including a two-run homer. Smoltz, pitching just because he needed the work, finished it off strong. (Nine pitches, nine strikes.)

17 thoughts on “Atlanta 8, Philadelphia 4”

  1. I just can’t believe how good Estrada has been so far – his inability to block pitches in the dirt aside. According to BPro he’s the second most productive catcher in the NL this year behind Piazza. If you would have predicted that before the season, people would have looked at you like your crazy, like you said that Ken Harvey and Tino Martinez would be the best to firstbasemen in the AL or something.

    What’s that?

  2. So smoltz has finished 16 out of 53 games for the Braves so far. He needs to finish 57 for his option to vest for next year. As much as I want to see Smoltz meet that goal and finish his career in a Braves uniform (hopefully not soon) I’m worried about what that $12 million dollar contract year will do to an already limited payroll. Besides, $12 mil seems a little pricey for a closer in today’s market. If Smoltz doesn’t earn (or is not given enough opportunities to earn) that option year, do the Braves get to negotiate another contract with him or is it like when a player is not offered arbitration and the team is not allowed to offer him a contract until next May (too late obviously).

  3. How can Estrada be second to Piazza? He’s got him beat in every offensive category.

    Estrada: .358/.420/.547 25R, 37RBI
    Piazza: .305/.399/.524 19R, 22RBI

    And Mike has 28 more at-bats than Johnny.

  4. Not only is Estrada right up there or even outhitting Piazza, there’s one other huge difference between the two – Piazza has almost half his innings this season at first base, not catcher.

  5. Piazza will probably start the All-Star Game, but Estrada should make it. He might be the only Brave who does. Smoltz isn’t getting any saves, Horacio’s hurt, and Giles (the one Brave who’s definitely the best at his position) is really hurt. If Furcal or Andruw get hot and get their averages up into the .280 range they’ll have shots, but right now it’s Estrada and maybe Drew.

    Hm. Estrada and Drew. Funny how that works. No doubt tomorrow McCarver will give us 50,000 words on how much the Braves miss Lopez and Sheffield.

  6. How can Estrada be second to Piazza? He’s got him beat in every offensive category.

    The answer, as it usually is, is park factors. Doesn’t matter now anyway because after Estrada’s outburst last night combined with Piazza’s 0-3, Johnny has actually edged ahead of Piazza. Plus, he has the advantage – as Colin said – of being a full time catcher. Now Johnny is second (to Posada) in all of baseball behind the plate. Well ahead of our old (highly paid) friend Javy Lopez.

  7. I would have thought park factors would actually favor Estrada. Do they use park factors from the previous year when calculating that stuff? Last year Turner Field was considered to be more of a pitcher’s park than Shea Stadium, according to B-Ref.

  8. Can’t say I’m sure how they come up with the park factors they use for the daily statistical reports. Right now they are reporting Turner at +2.3% (essentially neutral) and Shea at -6.8% (mild pitcher’s park). That’s what is closing the gap between Piazza and Estrada, and that’s probably fair because Shea has tended to be more of a pitchers park over the years.

    Aside: They are listing Texas at +29.5%, best hitters park in baseball. That 4.85 ERA Thomson put up there last year actually looks pretty damn good.

  9. Schuerholz looks pretty smart now, doesn’t he? Whether it was luck or knowledge, the Millwood trade looks prescient. Millwood is an adequate 2 or 3 starter, certainly not an ace and has been basically mediocre for the last couple of years. The trade not only saved Millwood’s salary but allowed the Braves to jettison Lopez’s salary. Essentially, the deal saved the Braves $18-20 million and has really had little negative effect on the field. I’ve had my criticisms of JS in the past, but so far this was a great trade.

  10. The Johnny Estrada for President train has left the station. Shall we revisit (or in some cases for the first time) the horror of December 2002?

    Link

  11. There’s talk in the Atlanta papers about moving Chipper to first base to eliminate some of the running that would aggravate his hamstring, but I, for one, think the move would be a mistake. It probably wouldn’t be as disastrous as the Kaminiti experiment a few years ago, but I think that Chipper should move back to third, if he moves anywhere. Comments?

  12. I don’t expect anyone to apologize for what their thoughts were after that trade. I was pissed as hell when I heard it too. But look at it now; it couldn’t have worked out better. People wanted Nick Johnson for Millwood. Look at what he’s done since then, compared to Estrada. Schuerholz couldn’t have possibly known that Estrada would blow up like this, and Millwood would be so mediocre. He got more lucky than anything.

  13. No one said anything about apologizing. As I said before I was as outraged as anyone about that trade. No one could have predicted how this has turned out. Not to mention the 5-0 record we have against Millwood to boot. I just think it’s interesting to look back on how we felt at the time and kind of laugh at ourselves for losing sight of everyone else in baseball seems to be aware of — that Schuerholz is one of best there is and we are lucky to have him. You may not agree, but it’s hard to argue with 12 straight dvision titles. I take that back. It’s impossible to argue with. Just ask any of the fans of about 28 other teams that haven’t even come close to doing what this one has done under JS.

  14. People wanted Nick Johnson for Millwood. Look at what he’s done since then, compared to Estrada

    At bats 345 to 195
    Runs 65 to 27
    Hits 99 to 68
    2B 23 to 18
    3B 0 to 0
    HR 14 to 4
    RBI 48 to 39
    BB 76 to 14
    BA .289 to .349
    SLG .475 to .502
    *OBA .416 to .392

    date of birth 9/19/78 6/27/76

    (OBA is approximated as H+BB/AB+BB as I ignored HBP and sacrifices)

    Has Estrada been far better than expected? Yep. Far, far, far better. Gotta give him credit.

    But better than Johnson? I don’t think so.

    They have roughly equal OPS but Nick the Stick’s has been in 100% more plate appearances. Yes, one is a catcher and the other a 1B, which certainly narrows the gap. But on the other hand, Estrada is more than 2 years older. Replace Robert Fick with Nick Johnson last year, and the Braves defeat the Cubs — at least. And while Johnson has been out with injury, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that his season from 6/1 forward is better than Estrada’s.

  15. Wow. Let’s break that one down:

    They have roughly equal OPS but Nick the Stick’s has been in 100% more plate appearances.

    Estrada was stuck in AAA because he had the misfortune of being in an organization that was getting an all time great season from the catcher position and this counts against him? He was a AAA All-Star last year, there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t have been productive if given the chance last year.

    Yes, one is a catcher and the other a 1B, which certainly narrows the gap.

    Understate things much? If two guys have the same OPS and one plays catcher and the other 1B, there is a rather large difference in their value.

    Replace Robert Fick with Nick Johnson last year, and the Braves defeat the Cubs — at least.

    Let’s try it. Braves firstbasemen hit .211/.318/.263 in the postseason. Johnson hit .214/.301/.321 and all the talk was how he couldn’t catch up with a good fastball. There is no basis for thinking he would have changed the team’s fortunes against Wood and Prior.

    I’ll bet dollars to donuts that his season from 6/1 forward is better than Estrada’s.

    You should have prefaced this with “barring injury”, otherwise it’s a sucker bet. Johnson will be back at his home away from home – the DL – by August. The guy has a ton a promise but just has never and probably will never stay healthy enough to be worth the trouble.

  16. To be fair, there’s really not enough grounds for comparison. The Braves had Javy Lopez last season and Estrada only got to spend a couple of weeks filling in. If Estrada was the regular catcher last season then I’m absolutely certain that his hits, doubles and RBI numbers at least far outdistance Nick Johnson in the same timespan. I also think the number of at-bats works against NJ since it shows he’s averaged fewer RBI per at-bat than Estrada. Walks and HR clearly favor NJ, but that’s really it. Not that I wouldn’t have rather had Nick Johnson at first base for the Braves rather than Robert Fick, like you said. Also, Nick Johnson has barely contributed this season due to injuries.

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