Atlanta 3, Chicago 1

ESPN.com – MLB – Box Score – Braves at Cubs

Once again: take the out, stupid. Yesterday, the Braves lost partly because of not taking a sure out, but played so poorly otherwise that it maybe didn’t matter. Today, the Cubs lost more directly because of not taking a sure out.

The Braves once again were held hitless through the first three until Andruw finally broke it up with a single. But they couldn’t mount any sort of rally until the seventh. Francoeur (who had already drawn his first unintentional walk earlier in the game) had a bunt single leading off. Langerhans bunted to follow, apparently meaning to sacrifice. But Mark Prior tried to get the out at second, which is a dumb play most of the time, and ninety-five percent of the time when you’re winning and pitching a shutout and about to face the bottom of the order. He threw it into center, first and third, nobody out.

He almost got out of it. He struck out McCann, then the pinch-hitting LaRoche (who didn’t even have to worry about the double play after a wild pitch moved Langerhans to second). But Furcal hit an infield single off of Derrek Lee’s glove, and Langerhans hustled from second to get the lead. Furcal then stole second (for the second time in the game; he is five behind Otis Nixon’s Atlanta career record now) and scored on a Giles single.

Jorge Sosa had given the Braves six more strong innings, striking out three, walking two, and allowing but four hits. A two-out rally in the third produced the Cubs’ only run on a walk and a double. Blaine Boyer pitched the seventh, striking out two. Foster got the first two in the eighth. Farnsworth then came in and allowed a flare double to Lee that Andruw couldn’t quite get to but got the next man to end the inning. He went 3-0 on the first three batters of the ninth, but rallied to strike the first two out, then after walking the third struck out Barrett, pinch-hitting, to end it.

All the rest of the action is of course at night… The Braves have a day off before playing three in Milwaukee. An honest to goodness day off, since it’s a short flight and they’ll surely be there tonight. Kolb will probably be able to tell them everything to do in Milwaukee and it might take him ten minutes. Ramirez is to face — oh, no — Ben Sheets in the opener.

45 thoughts on “Atlanta 3, Chicago 1”

  1. Have to agree with you, csg. We need Sosa throwing well in September to hold of whichever team of the four that decides to charge. I was getting worried with Hampton and Thomson both in our rotation.

  2. “But Mark Prior tried to get the out at second, which is a dumb play most of the time, and ninety-five percent of the time when you’re winning and pitching a shutout and about to face the bottom of the order. He threw it into center, first and third, nobody out.”

    this occured because he had already thrown 135 pitches everyone say thanks to Dusty!

  3. Not unless he threw the pitches with his head. He apparently (according to Pete on the radio) wasn’t going to have a play anyway. It’s a dumb play.

    It’s one of the guiding rules of baseball: If you’re on the road, don’t play for the tie. Translated, it means, “If you’re behind late on the road, don’t bunt.” The corollary to that is, “If you’re ahead late at home, and the other team is going to give you an out, take it.” Of course, this shows why the bunt is a better play than it’s often given credit for being — because infielders and pitchers often screw up fielding it and commit errors.

  4. I disagree that going to second is a dumb play most of the time. Making a horrible throw while doing it is a dumb play. I’ve turned many a bad bunt into an out at second before, you just have to be smart about when you can and cannot get the runner.

  5. Sosa has definitely surpassed expectations all year long. My preference though is to have him in the bullpen for the playoffs and get either Thomson or Hampton pitching well. With Sosa in the bp, we have him, Boyer, Farnsworth, and ??? (Foster or Reitsma depending on how they pitch in September) that are solid releivers.

    If Sosa is not in the bp, I’m afraid that we won’t have the bp depth needed to win one or two of the 6-5 ballgames that we seem to get in the playoffs. Also, if Sosa starts, we will most likely need to go deeper in our bp because of his high pitch count.

    Time is running out – we need Thomson (or Hampton if he ever gets well) to step up and pitch like he did last year at this time.

  6. Some random thoughts:

    -Does it make sense to say I miss Furcal already? He is one amazing player. From the game winning hit, to stealing an insurance run, to that play where he went into the hole, looked at second, and then fired a laser to first, he was incredible today. Today’s game will probably allow him to squeeze another couple million out of the Cubs.

    -On a scale of 1 to Ricky Williams, just how stoned was Andruw out there today? Both balls he dropped were extremely catchable. I guess it’s a small victory that one didn’t hit him in the head.

    -Was there anything more certain in life than LaRoche striking out in that situation. I would have bet my house on it. I think Prior could have gotten ten strikes on him before he put one in play. Would have loved to have seen Betemit there.

    -Sosa was brilliant as usual. Now if we can just get Thomson to slam his finger in his car door or something, maybe we can still salvage this season. Free Kyle Davies!

  7. Mac,

    Excellent point about the bunt. What is often lost in the “should-we/they-bunt” conversation is the fact that the defense can screw up the play. It also has a tremendous demoralizing effect in some situations. Remember the Kolb game in Philly earlier this year?

    I remember a game back in ’99 at Turner Field where a Red Sox pitcher threw a bunt into right field and the winning run scored from first.

    A more notable example: It helped Arizona win the 2001 World Series. Rivera’s throwing error on a bunt gave the D-Backs a great chance to win, and they did.

  8. It’s not original with me; Bill James said something similar, that the people who say that the bunt is a bad play (and have the math to back it up) all assume that a “successful” sacrifice bunt is one where you advance a runner one base but give up an out. But a lot of the time the batter reaches as well on a hit, fielder’s choice/no out recorded, or error. And sometimes the runner advances more than one base because of the error. I also recall a game earlier this year where the “unsuccessful” sacrifice worked out as desired when the shortstop (I don’t remember if it was Furcal or the other team’s guy) threw the ball away trying to turn two.

  9. All true, but these events are tempered by the significant number of times the bunt is too hard and they get the lead runner, popped up bunts, and at bats that start 0-2 because the hitter can’t the the bunt down. The bunt is still a low percentage play unless you are stuck with a bad hitter who has a reasonable chance to get the bunt down. Like Macias today for example.

    Earlier this year, Jim Tracy ordered four bunts in a three game series with runners on first and second with no outs. All four times the other team got the lead runner at third. Three of the four times there was a position player at the plate. It’s not hard to imagine a meeting with DePodesta followed the series.

  10. I will chime in here with my 2 cents.

    Sosa’s start today, outdueling Mark Prior, speaks VOLUMES. Right now, we have only 2 starters we can count on and with Sosa, we have 3.

    I have been the biggest proponent of Sosa in the bullpen but since we have ONLY 2 other starters, we pretty much have to have Sosa starting right now.

    In the pen, I generally trust Boyer, Foster & Farnsworth and that’s about it. Basically, when the Playoffs roll around we have 3 starters (Hudson, Sosa, Smoltz) and we hope these guys get us to at least the 7th inning and then have these 3 pitchers finish the job. I mean, it’s a short staff but this gives us the best chance.

    There are a lot of guys we have to pray suddenly get their shit together: Hampton, Thomson, Reitsma. As for Horacio and Kolbb, I generally have little faith no matter what. The bottom line is unless Reitsma, Hampton and Thomson get their shit togetherr, we are a 6 man staff with 3 reliable starters and 3 reliable relievers.

  11. Um, 2 points. Foster should not give anyone confidence. He’s mediocre, at best. Also, there’s no way you can expect 7 innings from Sosa, especially if you shorten it to a 3-man rotation. He’s shown that 6 is his maximum while part of a 5-man rotation.

  12. Anybody have a screen name they want to share? Mike Clay and I have been chatting. I missed the game today b/c I just HAD to go to the mall (well, not really, but I did) and I didn’t even know the game was in the afternoon. So, all I can say is, Mac’s lack of confidence was fortunately proven wrong.

  13. I just got to actually see the pitches Farnsworth was throwing for the first time. That is some wicked stuff he had there. If he keeps that up I might actually get comfortable in the ninth.

  14. Good points about the bunts. Mac’s right about ‘good’ things that can happen for the offense when the defense screws it up. And NYB is also right when you consider the bad outcomes that come from an unsuccessful attempt (FC getting lead runner(s), pop out attempts, Ks or putting the batter into an unrecoverable 2 strike hole, even double plays). I’ve never seen anything that compares ‘good’ outcomes to ‘bad’ to determine the actual rate that different things happen. No doubt would give some interesting perspective…

  15. Burbank, CA

    But my Dad went to Tech and I’ve spent a lot of time in Atlanta. Lenox is my favorite mall ever. Is it weird to have a favorite mall?

  16. If you are a guy, yep. It is.

    I’m watching the Mets crush the D-Backs- AGAIN- since I live out here. Admittedly the D-Backs really, really suck and they seem to be throwing in the towel, but the Mets are SCARY right now. They are absolutely destroying the ball. Even Reyes is hitting the ball- he’s got a triple and a dinger. But Wright is awesome, Diaz looks pretty promising, this kid Jacobs (who is playing first but is listed as a catcher) is out-Francoeuring Francoeur, and Jae Seo is utterly unconscious right now. This may not be the year but they could be trouble in the future…

  17. Living in NYC, I can assure you that the Mets only tease their fans enough to give them the requisite false hope.

    Personally, I’d love it if they won the Wild Card. That way I get to see the Braves extinguish them again.

    There are few things in the world as much fun as torturing the Mets and watching their fans shrivel.

  18. Um, 2 points. Foster should not give anyone confidence. He’s mediocre, at best.

    I have plenty of confidence in a pitcher holding hitters to a BA of less than .200.

    Also, there’s no way you can expect 7 innings from Sosa, especially if you shorten it to a 3-man rotation. He’s shown that 6 is his maximum while part of a 5-man rotation.

    He’s done better than most teams #3 starter, so I’m not sure on what basis you make this claim.

  19. The Braves are now five games up on the Astros. This will only matter if the Phillies (or another team from the division) up and pass the Braves for the division lead, but, being an optimist, I prefer to look at a five game “last playoff spot” lead over a 3.5 game division lead as being the most important.

    That Pythagorian thingy shows its teeth again with the Mets. All year they’ve been “under-performing” and have been up near the Braves in expected W-L. Knowing how good a predictor that is, I was always, in the back of my mind, kind of glad the Mets were hovering around .500 instead of competing for the division lead. It’s kind of strange, however, that they would get hot after losing one of their best players.

  20. On the Pythag record, it’s interesting to see that the Braves have given up much fewer runs than predicted, 515 vs. 555-ish. I suspect nearly all of this comes from Hampton, Ramirez, and Sosa.

  21. Just glancing at the THT stats as a quick-and-dirty-I-have-to-go-to-work-in-9-minutes guide, Hampton’s FIP and ERA difference is less than, say, Hudson’s, and Hudson has more than twice as many IP. Hudson’s probably contributed more to that expected RA gap.

  22. You’re right, Huddy has also had some problems. The thing I’m curious about is X-FIP which is supposed to control for park differences. I’m not exactly sure how it is generated. The differences between FIP and X-FIP and ERA produce some differing results.

  23. You’re not sure how it’s generated? Dude, you were thanked specifically in the article about it.

    They just change the HR rate to 11% of the pitcher’s flyball rate, and (according to the glossary) adjust for park. I assume they’re just adjusting for HR rate in the park in general, and not by handedness. (So Clemens and Pettite would get the same adjustment at Minute Maid, an extremely lopsided park.)

    Personally, I’d have to see the research that led to these conclusions to believe it, and the book they cite is $24: “pitchers don’t have much control over whether batters hit line drives or not, and home runs hit off pitchers are pretty much a function of the number of flyballs allowed by the pitcher, and the ballpark.”

    I don’t buy xFIP yet. The second conclusion seems pretty extraordinary to me, and it’s the foundation for the stat.

  24. I agree with your skepticism, Joey. The data just aren’t granular enough to allow conclusions like that to be drawn with any certainty.

    I think a helpful step would be to have someone watching the games keep a count of all hard-hit balls regardless of the outcome. Line-outs to the shortstop, doubles in the gap, huge homers, etc. would all go into this box. Then, we would be able to state much more confidently whose home run rates were lower because of luck and the pitchers who just don’t give up lots of hard-hit balls.

  25. Sorry but all this stathead stuff is giving me a brain freeze. Does anyone wanna hate on someone today! jk!
    I for one like sosa no matter where you put him. Right now he is more valuable in the starting position. He is just simply our 3rd best option and we need him there. I hope we see more of boyer and farnsworth at the end of ballgames for a while.

  26. I know we’re not supposed to think too much about the postseason, but I worry about the lure of the left-handed starter. Which means either Horacio or a gimpy Hampton over Sosa.

    I don’t know how Farnsworth and Boyer can’t be the top relievers right now. I’m not ready to give up on Reitsma, but Boyer looks better. I don’t know if the label has been officially fixed yet, but it’s hard not to figure that Farnsworth is the closer right now.

  27. hey when the postseason gets here I think you go with your 3 best arms. Which starters are the best at getting people out. That should be all that matters. However, I can see the possibility that Hampton (cuz bobby loves him) gets a start over sosa even if sosa has outperformed him.

  28. Let’s hope you’re right… except that I imagine it’ll be four starters. I guess the best thing to hope for is that Hampton is either completely healthy or still out. Anything in between, and I’d be expecting him to start.

    It may be naive, but I refuse to worry about Thomson… yet, anyway.

  29. The ajc article sure sounded that way. I hate to hope for that, but like I said anything less than a 100% healthy version of Mike Hampton would make me very nervous come playoff time (assuming we make it, which I do still believe).

  30. I do think we’d probably see a 4 starter rotation depending on the playoff schedule.
    I also am not going to worry too much about thomson, his stuff was just way too good before he was hurt. I find it hard to believe that he will continue to be this poor.

  31. Of course the Braves make the playoffs. For them to not do so would require not only the Phillies catching up, but also one of the teams five or more games back. It would take an absolute collapse to miss the playoffs as at least the Wild Card.

  32. So far in relief, as a tiger, Colon in 10 innings has surrendered 5 home runs and 10 earned runs.

  33. Dude, you were thanked specifically in the article about it.
    Oops! I must have cleared my memory cache since then ;). Let’s just say I’m not convinced this is a correction that needs to be made. It seems to reward groundball pitchers a little more than I think it should, but that’s just my first intuition. I think I vaguely remember discussing this with studes now.

  34. Just saw today where the Cardinals are going to pursue Brian Giles in the offseason. So much for Marcus and Brian together, the Braves wont be able to afford him!

  35. I know Francoeur bunted on his own yesterday, but out of curiosity, is he going to be asked to bunt at some point in the future or are they going to avoid making him do that because of what happened to him last year?

  36. With the way francouer has been swinging the bat I don’t see them asking him to sacrifice someone over with johnson or mccann coming up next. However, I don’t think he’s afraid to bunt considering he did it on his own yesterday.

  37. You could use yesterday’s game as an arguement for small ball putting pressure on the defense etc. I wouldn’t but I hope it isn’t dancing in Bobby’s head.

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