Braves 7, Marlins 5

Suffice to say that I am surprised that the Braves have scored 17 runs in the last three games. Before tonight, they were averaging 3.3 runs a game in September. Then they exploded for four runs in the first. With Hudson on the mound, it looked like it would be a cakewalk. It almost wasn’t, thanks to a classic Episode and the fine work of CB Bucknor, but all’s well that ends well: the Braves won their fourth in a row, and with the Nationals enjoying an off day, the lead in the NL East is down to 5 games.

Interestingly, Andrelton Simmons batted second, and Fredi could have found confirmation for any conclusion he might want to draw. On the one hand, the Braves scored seven runs, their highest total since September 8; on the other hand, Bourn and Simmons went a combined 1-9 with four strikeouts at the top of the lineup. The Braves had 11 hits but only two guys had multihit games: Martin Prado, who had four singles, and Dan Uggla, who had an infield single and a three-run homer. Anyway, it was 4-0 after the first and 6-0 after four innings.

But the Marlins, being pure evil, mounted a comeback. They pushed across four runs in the fourth inning against Hudson, stringing together three singles and two triples. (The last triple was by Gorkys Hernandez, whom the Braves traded in the deal that brought Nate McLouth to Atlanta. Weird.) Fredi yanked Hudson after the fifth; by that point, Huddy had thrown just 81 pitches, but he had allowed 10 hits and all four runs, and it was probably the right call. Avilan-Gearrin-O’Flaherty-Kimbrel allowed just one run the rest of the way, a Carlos Lee RBI single off Gearrin, and the Braves tacked on a helpful insurance run in the 8th when Heyward singled, advanced on a passed ball, and scored on Prado’s fourth hit of the night. Get ’em on, get ’em to make a miscue, get ’em in.

Pretty good night of baseball. Kris Medlen is very obviously our ace and every other starter very obviously is not.

200 thoughts on “Braves 7, Marlins 5”

  1. Unless we pull even closer to the Nats in the next couple of days, I’d like to see Fredi pull the starting pitcher after five or so innings regardless of how well he’s pitching. Maybe get Teheran and Delgado a little work.

    So, pretty much all season the Braves have had the best starting pitcher in the NL, and his name is Krisbendon Beasheetlen. Starting with Beachy’s numbers before he got hurt, continuing with Sheets’ first five starts (okay, there’s a bit of a gap in there), then morphing into Medlen’s last six weeks, you have a pitcher who is 16-6 with a 1.49 ERA and 0.945 WHIP.

  2. If Gange could win the Cy Young in 2003, why can’t Kimbrel this year? Gagne had better competition that year too. Admittedly he did break the single-season saves record (55), but that stat is stupid, and doing so didn’t win Rodríguez the award in 2008.

    Kimbrel’s pitching is something special this year, and it’s a weak crop of starting candidates. Gonzalez and Dickey’s current ERAs would be the highest of any NL winner since Webb in 2006.

  3. @2 If the Braves somehow win the division I think it gets more people to seriously look at him for the award.

    Simmons looks pretty rotten at the plate since returning from his injury.

  4. One of my favorite folk artists, Louise Mosrie, wrote a song about the Baker Hotel. Does anyone know more info about it or a good book that has photographs? A child in my class has chosen to do some research about the hotel. He’s going to do a “Prezi” and put Louise’s music in the background but he’s having a hard time finding picture of the hotel during its boom.

  5. On Sunday the announcers were talking about how close together the Tommy John surgeries were for Strasburg and Medlen. I’m very glad that we didn’t start Medlen from the beginning of the year and shut him down at the same time they shut down Strasburg. Chalk another one up for Fredi doing a good job of bullpen/pitching management this year.

  6. Kimbrel should win it and probably has a decent chance.

    I think a lot of the “Closers (TM) can’t win it!” folks will split their votes between Dickey and Gio.

    After last night, Kris Medlen should be the starter in the playoff game.

    If we keep hitting and our pitchin continues to dominate, look out.

    However, that one game play in scares me to death.

  7. Chalk another one up for Fredi doing a good job of bullpen/pitching management this year.

    Is Gonzalez a genius, or was it just dumb luck? He seemed to really believe his earlier “Medlen is more valuable to us out of the bullpen” line.

  8. I’m not going to carp on the idea of Kimbrel starting the play-in game. It’s not like it’s actually going to happen. But I did want to respond to something Nick said in a previous thread.

    If he and Medlen/Hudson were robots and therefore were unlikely to be affected by such a massive toppling of their normal routines, maybe you’re right. But they’re not, so that throws that out the window right there.

    This type of argument is going to go down in history as another poor apology for mindless baseball traditionalism. It’s as bad as “The coach isn’t already doing it, therefore it must be wrong.” After all, who here is really treating the players like robots? The person who assumes they’ll automatically malfunction if removed from their current roles? Or the person who thinks that if a coach sits down with players well in advance of a potential change in roles, runs through the options, and explains what he thinks is right, then it’s possible that player will use reason and be bought into the plan?

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that baseball players aren’t necessarily idiots. If we’re capable as fans of breaking our traditional thinking — say, understanding why Fredi would want to bring Kimbrel into a tie game on the road in the late innings — then there’s no reason baseball players can’t do the same. Sure, it might take having a long talk. But we’re really not talking about something different than the way Fredi used Kimbrel in the tie game in the 9th recently.

    If you thought that was the right decision, it follows that you’d want Kimbrel around to be the first pitcher asked to maintain the absolute most important tie of our season, until the Braves can take the lead or until he can’t pitch effectively anymore, at which point the next best pitcher by matchup or overall can be counted on to get more outs. The other team we play likely won’t have the same luxury of setting up their pitching staff. It’s foolish not to take advantage.

  9. @9 If the ESPN announcers are to be believed, Fredi wanted Medlen starting earlier in the season, and Wren wanted them to wait because of the pitch count concerns.

  10. I, for one, find it much more likely that a good far-sighted player decision (such as reserving most of Medlen’s innings for the second half of the season) came from Wren than Fredi.

  11. Sounds probable to me, Bethany. I think that’s pretty much the line between the manager and general manager’s duties. The manager wants what’s best for the team today (win this game), while the general manager wants what’s best for the club in the season long haul (get to the postseason).

    This oversimplified analysis is what made Bobby special. He may not have been the greatest in-game manager, but he kept the ultimate goal in mind.

    Sadly, in the postseason BC was not the best short series manager, but nobody was better at getting his team to the playoffs.

    Thanks for the recap, A. Alex. Good job as always.

  12. The late innings of a close game are higher leverage than the first inning or two of any game. If we get there and don’t have Kimbrel to shut down the middle of the order, woe betides the skipper who went that far against the grain.

    Anyway, since we have an option to start who has been lights out in that role, making a more unorthodox choice is unnecessary.

  13. @9 – I don’t think Fredi’s a genius, but his bullpen mgmt has been good this year. Some of it may be dumb luck, but the fact is that he’s been able to use O’Flaherty, Kimbrel, and Venters (more because of ineffectiveness) when needed, but hasn’t overused them. It definitely helps that Avilan, Gearrin, and to a lesser extent, Moylan, have been extremely useful.

    Durbin and Martinez have the most number of innings pitched in our bullpen. Since our bullpen has been really good this year, having those two guys as the most active pitchers is pretty amazing.

  14. He called Hudson safe, Carlos Lee was off the bag, then the home plate ump over ruled him and called Hudson out. I believe the very next play Bourn was safe and Bucknor called him out.

    Fredi didnt make the decision on Medlen. At the start of the year, Wren told us that the Braves believed Medlen was more valuable out of the pen. If Beachy hadnt of been injured, he probably would still be pitching in the 6th and 7th innings.

  15. Expanding on my previous point:

    In Medlen’s last 70.2 innings, he’s given up runs in only 7 of them (all single runs).

    In Kimbrel’s 56.1 innings this season, he’s given up runs in 7 of them (all single runs).

    The chance you’re taking in not starting Kimbrel (and therefore running the risk of not getting him into the game) is counteracted by the fact that the Braves’ own batting order may determine when the starter gets pulled, rather than it being a matter solely of how well the starter is pitching.

    Say you start Kimbrel and he gets the first four or five outs, then you bring in Medlen. If it’s a close game and we have a chance to push a run across in, say, the sixth inning, you’re going to pinch-hit for Medlen, right? Then you’ve burned both of them when it was only necessary to burn one of them.

  16. I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of starting Kimbrel but I do agree with Adam’s point that baseball has this mindless idea that players (especially relievers) have to have a specific routine or their heads will explode. It’s really just an excuse for managers to not have to actually think about how they use the bullpen: “I can’t do anything different; they have to have a routine.” It wasn’t always this way; “closers” used to come in with runners on base in the the 7th and pitch the rest of the way. But it’s easier for managers to do it this way.

    Re: Hudson vs. Medlen. Medlen is certainly the better pitcher right now. Hudson has been pretty inconsistent all year and I don’t particularly trust him in a one-game situation. Nevertheless, I am certain that Fredi will start Hudson if he has a choice. If he does have the cajones to start Medlen, I will be impressed. But I can sort of understand how it would be difficult to go with a guy who wasn’t even in the rotation at the beginning of the year over the guy who has been the ostensible ace of the team.

  17. Kimbrel’s save last night (#37 for the season) gives him 84 for his career and moves him into 4th place on the Atl. Braves all-time saves list. Discussing starting him sounds like a fantasy baseball discussion!

  18. I dunno, I can think of recent examples of managers deploying their rosters differently once the playoffs begin. Having no prior history to go on, I have no idea if Fredi will do anything differently, but I’m willing to wait and find out.

  19. There is no chance that Kimbrel starts the one game playoff. The Braves have the benefit of lining up the best starter in baseball over the past two months to start that game. Medlen can match up with any starter right now. Its up to the offense to put some runs on the board. You let Medlen do what he does best and let Kimbrel finish it with what he does best. That isnt a broken formula that needs fixing right now.

  20. #19 – I highly doubt Fredi would start anyone over Medlen. Braves cant afford to lose that game and Hudson has been awful in September. Its pretty alarming that Huddy has given up 32 hits in 23 innings while only striking out 9 this month.

  21. Fangraphs update…

    OF defensive ratings (Major Leagues)
    LF- Martin Prado- #1
    CF- Michael Bourn- #1
    RF- Jason Heyward-#1

  22. Not that Boras will pay any attention to his second half, but has Bourn’s return to Earth lessened his price?

    Even at .278, I want him leading off in Atlanta for the next four or five years.

  23. #1
    After last night’s win, I was having similar thoughts. Let’s give our catchers some rest, too, & make sure Chipper’s battery is as close to 100% (as it can get) going into The All-Important Single Contest.

    Of course, I realize that last year’s experience might have Braves brass/mgt feeling a bit differently.

    Re: Falcons/Broncs
    If there was ever a MNF game I was glad to have watched on DVR, last’s night’s was it. The officiating was a prime-time disaster.

    The calls were bad. The calls were late. Some even appeared to be made up along the way. The new refs couldn’t even spot the ball correctly.

    I had the thing on DVR, but I’ve never fast-forwarded thru so much non-action. I couldn’t imagine watching that game in real time. Must’ve been torture. (Peyton threw some real wobblers; thanks to the inept refs, I’d imagine his performance remains a bit under the radar.)

  24. Was at the Falcons game last night.

    If you look up “cluster”, they’ll show you a YouTube of those officials.

    Which is not to say that the NFL officials have proved their point. (See: Hochuli, Ed – cost the San Diego Chargers a playoff berth with serial ineptitude)

    It’s apparently impossible to find even good officiating in any sport. CB Bucknor is just the latest example of this.

    If it takes a lockout to get guys like Eric Gregg fired, I’m all in.

  25. I’m still not sold on Medlen for the one-gamer. (But I am sober now, so my analysis may make a little more sense.) If the goal is to make it to the next round, then absolutely — use him. if the goal is to win the World Series, though, it’s not as clear cut. The question is: would you rather risk losing the WC game to get a chance to use Medlen twice against the Nationals (or Reds) or will you be satisfied using him once. You can do the math and it’s not crystal clear. The Reds are going to start Cueto and the Nationals are going to start Gonzalez. If you lose both of the games those guys pitch in a 3 out of 5, you aren’t going anywhere. That’s the deal with the new system: you are almost required to take a chance in the WC game to restore your probabilities for the World Series overall. Now there may be psychological (and even financial) issues from being bumped early rather than late, but I only care about the Prize and not how far we get towards the prize.

  26. You ain’t going to get to the “prize” at all if you lose that one-game playoff. If you start Medlen and win, you have a shot at winning the World Series. If you start Hudson, while the other team starts their best starter, and Hudson gives up his usual two runs in the first inning, well…

  27. #31 – Fredi may have a lot of job pressure riding on that play-in game. Interesting note, over the past 3 years Hudson, Minor, and Maholm have terrible numbers vs STL.

  28. I would put large amounts of money that at least Bourn wins a gold glove, and I cannot see who would win over Heyward. My guess: McCutchen (who is, so obviously, not an elite defensive CF), Bourn, and Heyward.

  29. Gio Gonzalez could blow out his elbow. Tyler Clippard could blow a game. Danny Espinosa could strike out with the bases loaded. Ian Desmond could get thrown out at third before a big run crosses the plate.

    But you have to be the other team on the field when it happens, for that to matter.

    Win every elimination game, and then worry about the non-elimination games as they come.

  30. Jayson Stark ‏@jaysonst
    Trivia time! Ryan Braun now in 40-HR, 20-SB Club. Only 3 other active players who are NOT Yankees have ever had a 40-20 season. Name them!

    Anyone like to guess? He’s posted the answer, but take a guess.

  31. @35, Amen. Saving our best pitcher for a matchup that might not happen would be tough to swallow.

    @36, …Andruw?

  32. My first thought was Andruw, but 1) he’s a Yankee now and 2) I don’t think he was still stealing 20 bases by the time he was hitting 40 HRs, though could be wrong on that.

  33. So does Braun’s season prove he was telling the truth or that PED’s (at least the ones Braun was accused of taking) have so little impact that this was much ado about nothing?

  34. In the history of the best-of-five Division Series, the Braves have played in 12; we won the first five, and have lost the last seven. Our overall NLDS record is 23-23.

    Right now, the schedule is as follows:

    Friday, October 5 (wild card)
    Saturday, October 6 (off)
    Sunday, October 7 (NLDS Game 1)
    Monday, October 8 (NLDS Game 2)
    Tuesday, October 9 (off)
    Wednesday, October 10 (NLDS Game 3)
    Thursday, October 11 (NLDS Game 4 if necessary)
    Friday, October 12 (NLDS Game 5 if necessary)

    So basically Medlen could pitch the play-in game and game 3, or we could throw someone else on the play-in game and try to use Medlen in game 1 and again in game 4, assuming the Braves go to a four-man rotation. At present, as I’ve said, our rotation is Hudson-Maholm-Medlen-Hanson-Minor, but I doubt that the Braves would choose Hanson over Minor in the playoff rotation.

    Ultimately, then, the Braves have to answer two questions. First: who is their best starter other than Medlen, and second, how much worse is he than Medlen? Depending on the day and the lefty-righty matchup, the answer to that question is either Hudson or Minor. And Minor has been extremely strong over the last two and a half months, but both he and Hudson are very prone to Episodes — which are nearly fatal in a one-game playoff but merely horrifyingly costly in a best-of-five series.

    Ultimately, I’d rather assign Medlen to pitch the must-win play-in game, even though I know that means that he’ll only start once in the NLDS. On the other hand, if the Braves pitch Hudson and Minor in games 1 and 2 of the NLDS, a Hudson-Minor-Medlen rotation would still be pretty strong. Paul Maholm would still have to pitch game 4, but Hudson could come back for Game 5. Last night notwithstanding, he’s still a pretty good pitcher, and we’re not going to get anywhere in the playoffs with a one-man rotation, so we’ll sort of need to trust him anyway.

  35. @44

    Yeah, I agree. If you go to a game five you can start Hudson and will have Medlen ready to throw 2-3 innings if need be.

    If it goes five, there is a chance you would have the NLCS set up like this:

    Medlen, Minor, Hudson, and Maholm. Hudson would start a game 7 (I know, we are looking too far down the road here.)

  36. Josh Hamilton, can’t believe I blanked on his first name, and my idiocy is forever immortalized on teh interwebz due to the death of the Edit button.

  37. Buster Olney wrote today about what some were debating:

    Apparently, the Wild-Card game allows for a 25 man roster that is independent of the 40 man roster from game 162 AND independent of the Division Series roster that a team must set the next day.

    So, you for that game, you can choose to carry only 1 starting pitcher, and expand your bullpen and bench by 4 total slots.

    Leaves plenty of space for some matchup relievers. If start Hudson or Minor and he gets into trouble, you can go all-hands-on-deck in the 4th inning if you really wanted to.

    Conversely, if started Medlen, and we somehow opened a 5-0 lead, you could conceivably pull him with 40 pitches thrown and try to get him back earlier than planned.

    Not very likely, sure. But infinitely more plausible than Kimbrel starting the game.

  38. I should have said that Medlen could pitch Game 1 and either Games 4 or 5 of the NLDS, but if they went with a four-man rotation (and ensured he got four days of rest), they they’d want him to pitch games 1 and 5. I probably wouldn’t want him to go on three days’ rest.

  39. Start Medlen in the WC game. If he pitches Game 3 of the next round, so be it. If things work out, he’d very likely get 2 starts in each of the next 2 rounds.

    FWIW, when he was managing in the Bronx, Joe Torre always preferred to take the starter that he “most trusted” in Game 3s. Granted, it’s not exactly analogous & a lot of his staff seemed interchangeable (Cone, Pettitte, El Duque, Wells and later Clemens), but he always said that he viewed Game 3 as the biggest one in any series.

    Well, there are bad calls with legit refs, which certainly happen. But then there’s the notion of a professionally managed game, which is obviously taken for granted.

    When you don’t get that, (let’s face it) you have some bad TV. And when you have bad TV, people find other things to do. And if you’re the NFL (or its sponsors/partners), that can’t happen.

    These refs couldn’t figure out who recovered a fumble & then they didn’t exactly manage the ensuing fight. It went on & on. The NFL cannot have this measure of chaos week in and week out. That game ran nearly a half-hour longer than usual–the network programers aren’t going to like that.

  40. @51

    I would think you would carry two starters and expand your bench by one (either a pinch runner like Constanza or a thrid catcher) and your pen by two for matchups.

    You never know if your starter gets hurt early, you don’t want a bullpen game.

  41. First, no one has actually run numbers but I’m telling you it’s close and depends on a lot of things we don’t know right now. Suppose, for example, you’re playing a team who just used up all of their good pitchers just getting into the WC game and then endured a two game playoff just to meet the Braves. So you have the, say, Dodgers starting Joe Blanton. Still want to start Medlen?

    The fact that a one game playoff is a crapshoot cuts both ways. It means that it is less risky to cut corners in that game because you might win anyway and you don’t to “waste” Medlen on a game you were going to win anyway, do you?

    csg makes a fair point, and from Fredi’s perspective, he may be perfectly happy getting through the WC alone. He isn’t me, though. This is less about what he will do (on which I’m quite sure I have no influence) vs. what he should do if his goal is only to win the WS.

    The only thing I’m really saying is that anyone who thinks it’s optimal in all circumstances to go with your best guy in a one game shootout just before two more series is wrong. It’s probably the right thing to do a lot of the time, but it can’t be right all the time.

  42. I agree with @35. It wouldn’t matter to me what pitcher the opposing team started. It’s an elimination game, so put your best nine out there.

  43. #58
    He was. Ford started Games 3 & 6, and threw 2 shutouts.

    Starting Art Ditmar in his place didn’t help either–he got knocked out in the 1st inning of Game 1.

    Of course, that was one of the weirdest World Series ever. The Yanks outscored Pittsburgh by a million runs & lost.

  44. First I think that idea about Torre had to do with a 7-game series where you could use a guy in games 3 and 7 on normal rest, so not exactly a selling point to having Medlen available for game 3 in a best of 5. I could honestly go either way but for a game you have to win, I’d lean towards Medlen and worry about the next round when we get there.

    ububba touched on what I think is the biggest drawback of these replacement refs. They really have let the fighting on a dead ball get out of hand and have lost control of a couple of games. I was watching the WAS/STL game where Morgan cost Wash the chance at a tying FG with a dumb penalty for throwing the football at the defender after the play. Problem is there had been extracurricular activity on each of the previous 7 or 8 plays and each time it kept escalating. There should have been numerous offsetting penalties for Unsportsmanlike Conduct (not to mention Morgan got slapped in the face just before the boneheaded move) if not ejections. It’s a travesty we are subjected to this level of ineptitude at the highest level of sports.

  45. @59: Suppose I could prove to you that it decreased your chance of winning the World Series even as it increased your chance of winning the elimination game. Would you still feel that way?

  46. @63 Just don’t see that happening. Anything to move the odds of winning one game, which probably isn’t going to start much better than a coin flip, is going to have a much bigger impact on the overall percentages than something (like having a better pitch go twice in a series) to change a single game in a longer series, particularly when it’s the last game. There’s no guarantee the series will even last long enough for it to make a difference, for instance, whereas the one-game playoff is guaranteed to matter, and every percentage point you can add to winning it will increase your chance to win it all.

    Without a deeper look at the numbers, I just can’t imagine a way to estimate that there’s any better way to play it than putting your best into the one game.

  47. #62
    I pitch Medlen, too. But FWIW, Torre believed Game 3 was the key to any series, not just Best-of-7s.

    Now he never had a 1968 Bob Gibson or 1978 Ron Guidry or a 1988 Orel Hershiser on his staffs, but he always said he wanted his “most trusted” starter there.

    Why? No matter the situation, in his view, that game tilted the series.

  48. It basically depends on how much better your #1 is than your #2, relative to the specific team matchups you’ll face in the play-in game versus the NLDS. If there’s a really small dropoff between your #1 (against team 1) and your #2 (against team 1), it might make sense to put the #2 in the play-in game and let the #1 pitch two games in the NLDS, and capitalize by doubling that difference, since you feel like your win probability of the must-win game will not be greatly affected by the change.

    But if there’s a larger dropoff between the #1 and the #2, then you pretty much have to go with the guy who gives you the greatest chance of winning.

  49. Does the play in game allow you to still have the expanded bench or do you have to cut it back to the 25 man roster?

  50. csg it’s a 25-man roster but it is completely independent of the roster you use for future playoff rounds.

  51. Loved Marlins Park last night. Thanks for the tip on Taste of Miami. I always love a good Cuban sandwich.

    Funny, I sat in the seat right behind Fredi Gonzalez’s Dad last night. Chatted with him a little bit. I certainly didn’t say anything rude about Fredi during the game and told to tell his son how much we appreciate the way he’s handling the pitching staff this year.

  52. @73, I’m going to try to go Wednesday and see Chipper’s tribute if you’re still in Miami, Parish.

  53. Last year had many more one run and extra inning games than this year. Venters may be off some this year, but rest of pen is doing better.

  54. Rob – I am sitting in the FLL airport right now to head back. I will drop you a line next time I am down though.

    FYI – looked like the Mets and Jays were scouting Bourn last night, among others.

  55. Tonight’s lineup at MIA (7:10, SPSO/680AM/BRN): Bourn 8 Prado 6 Heyward 9 Jones 5 Freeman 3 Uggla 4 McCann 2 Constanza 7 Maholm 1

    Marlins lineup: Hernandez CF, Solano 2B, Reyes SS, Lee 1B, Ruggiano LF, Kearns RF, Buck C, Velazquez 3B, Eovaldi P

  56. @72 It is cool!
    If things go just right, expect this from the Onion:

    “Yankees sign Roger Clemens to one day contact.”
    “Rocket expected to start one-game play-in duel.”

    “I’m up for it,’ said the future Hall Of Famer. “just tell me who to drill.”

  57. And now, without further ado, here’s Round 4 of my self-indulgent baseball stadium travelogue:

    I’ve been doing a stop-and-go tour of the baseball stadiums since 2010 with my dad, his friend and one of my good buddies from high school. Over the course of our first three trips we hit RFK Stadium, both NY stadiums, Fenway, PNC, Citizens Bank, Camden Yard, Chase Field, and Dodger Stadium. Round 4 was fast and furious but lots of fun.

    I try to visit my childhood home in Northern California 2-3 times a year so I essentially based my entire trip last month around the Braves, who had that exciting four-game series in San Francisco.

    AT&T is one of the best stadiums in the country and I forgot just how beautiful it is during the day. Giants fans have become exponentially more obnoxious since my last game there, but it’s always fun to be in a park surrounded by people who are invested in the game. Thankfully I went to the Saturday game where the good guys came out on top 7-3 and we were only in trouble once or twice. My little sister wore her John Rocker shirt (don’t ask me why) so she got a lot of ribbing from the San Francisco faithful. I made my buddy wear my Braves Sunday jersey and someone gave him guff for wearing the Sunday jersey on a Saturday (he could’ve cared less). I wore my Chipper jersey and had the following conversation with the drunk behind me.

    DRUNK: Chipper Joooones….Chipper Jooooones….SUCKS.
    ME: Come on, man, he’s not even playing.
    DRUNK: (sad) I know…he’s the whole reason I came today.

    Minor pitched beautifully and Jason Heyward hit a missile over the tall right field wall. Throw in some garlic fries and Anchor Steam and it was a pretty great day.

    I flew back home to Miami a few days later, hung out for three days and then flew up to Atlanta for the second leg of our trip. My dad and I spent a few days with family and then met up with his friend (but not my buddy this trip) for a game at Turner Field.

    Of course I went to that awful Rockies-Braves game where we lost 6-0. Of course I did. There was a 70% chance of rain that night so almost no one showed up, including the Braves. The weather turned out to be beautiful but I would’ve preferred a rainout. I’ll always love Turner Field because my team plays there, but my dad’s friend wasn’t too impressed. It is pretty standard I guess. Chipper had some good ABs, but that’s probably the only nice thing I can say about that game.

    The next morning we flew to Tampa. And uh…

    Tropicana Field feels like a haunted circus tent. The corridors are eerily dark thanks to the dark blue paint and the dome looks off-center and distorted. The toilets didn’t work, the faucets didn’t work, the ketchup dispensers didn’t work, and the paper towel dispensers were empty in the second inning. There’s something unmistakably off about the whole place.

    The turf in the outfield looks even worse in person. And did you guys know that the warning track is also made out of carpet? It’s just a different color. It seems to defeat the purpose of having a warning track, but maybe the “grounds crew” didn’t want to vacuum dirt out of the outfield all day.

    It was a Yankees-Rays game so I expected a bigger turnout but it was less than half full. We sat next to friendly but bitter season ticket holders who proceeded to tell us about how they hated Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, Chicago fans, Bobby Cox, Andruw Jones, and that creepy looking kid from “The Middle” (okay, I added the last one, but he is creepy). I’d probably be grumpy too if I had to live in Tampa, so I gave them a pass. The Dark Side won the game and we began our five-hour drive to Miami to catch an afternoon game the next day.

    Marlins Stadium was a great way to end the trip. I had been to a few games before but it was exciting to show two new fans around. It was a Marlins-Brewers game at 12:15 on a Thurdsay so it was pretty empty. I had never seen a day game there though and the natural light from the big windows in left field really gave the park a different vibe.

    Even when there’s a decent sized crowd, the park feels spacious and open. Taste of Miami is a food court in left field that offers a lot of great South American options and it overlooks the city. Highly recommended. The neon green which looked so ugly on TV actually looks really cool in person.

    The Marlins pounded the Brewers, which I was happy to see (now that they’re totally out of contention that is). I think that was only the third game we’ve seen where the home team won.

    We hit Chicago, St. Louis, and Texas next season so I’m really excited.

    I’ll save some cyber ink for the rest of the group. I hope some of you enjoyed the read.

  58. Fredi’s putting Prado at short just to get Constanza’s bat in the 8th spot? Man, unless Simmons is hurt, that lineup is dumb. Even then it makes more sense to give Janish a start.

  59. Well, Constanza is a down grade defensively over Prado in LF and Prado is definitely a downgrade over Simmons at SS. We are playing for the one game playoff not the division.

  60. #79
    Thanks, Rob. Going to the games is what I live for, as well.

    Synchronicity Dept.
    I flipped on WFAN a little while after that post & heard a conversation with Bobby Richardson, who discussed how crazy it was for Stengel to “not start the Chairman of the Board” three times. Weird.

  61. Thanks RobBroad… I haven’t been to any of those parks, and it was entertaining. But I actually like the creepy kid in The Middle (drops head and whispers “creepy kid.”)

  62. @63

    Given that the impact of this first win-or-go-home game on the team’s eventual chances of winning the WS is equal to that of each successive entire series of five and then seven games, and that the effect of your choice in the play-in game (provided you win it, of course) would dissipate the farther you get from it, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Here’s my back-of-the-envelope thoughts. All other things being equal (for the sake of statistical expediency), we’d be entering the play-in game with a 6.25% chance of winning it all (0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5). Now let’s say that each position in the rotation gives you an extra 3% chance of winning a particular game. So a #1 would have a 53% chance of beating a #2, a 56% chance of beating a #3, and so on.

    The other team in the play-in game, due to circumstances, has to start their #4 starter. You could start your #3 starter and take a razor’s edge 3% extra, with the bonus that you’d be on equal footing rotation-wise with your next opponent (because of off-days, the play-in game starter could go in Game 3 of the NLDS on regular rest). Your theoretical odds of winning the WS in Scenario #1 now look like this:

    .53 x .5 x .5 x .5 = .06625

    But what if you started your #1 in the play-in? Your chance of winning that game is now 59%. And the likely effect in the following series for Scenario #2 would be as follows:

    Braves rotation slot by game: 2, 3, 1, 4, 2
    Opponent rotation slot by game: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1

    Here is the likelihood of winning each such game, Braves’ number first (with a very rough cumulative tally in parentheses):

    47 – 53 (-6%)
    47 – 53 (up to -12%)
    56 – 44 (back to even)
    50 – 50 (still even)
    47 – 53 (-6%)

    I’m well aware of the shortcomings of this estimation, and if you can plug these numbers (if you accept them as theoretically valid) into a real statistical model that would reveal the true outcome I would be grateful. Anyway, by my counting this method yields a 47% chance the Braves would win this series.

    At this point, the vagaries of series lengths and any other unforeseen factors prevent us IMO from saying anything of any predictive value about the NLCS or WS rotations, so I’m treating those still as 50-50 propositions. So here’s what we’re left with in Scenario #2:

    .59 x .47 x .5 x .5 = .069325

    vs. .06625 in Scenario #1, an advantage of about 3% for Scenario #2.

  63. That slur is going to cost Yunel $92,000. Such a huge talent thats going to waste. He’s a clubhouse nightmare.

  64. I was thinking today how interesting a tie for the division title could be.

    In that case you play Thursday against Wash and I assume use your best starter to avoid the play-in game. But say you lose and move on to the play-in game, you’ve already burned your best starter and are going with a #2 in a win or go home scenario. Even if you win there you’ve got your #3 pitching game one of the LDS and the bullpen could already be overused a bit. Of course there are other interesting 3-way tie scenarios for the wildcard which could really make things fun.

  65. Considering that Maholm is a groundball pitcher, I think I’d rather have Janish out there than Constanza. Seems like Fredi has really soured on Janish.

  66. @85 Sansho – excellent work, I have been working through the same sort of decision math myself. In reality, the relative outlook for each Braves starter is pretty fluid right now, and it’s hard to know how we’ll grade each of them relative to each other by the time the playoffs roll around. In a perfect world, Medlen, Hudson and Minor would all be in top form so that we don’t have to make a choice between winning the play-in game and winning the NLDS.

    A real take-away from the numbers here is that the changed playoff rules will likely make it more than twice as difficult for the Braves to win this year versus the old wild card rules, due to the fact that 1) the WC play-in game reduces the Braves’ chances of winning by ~50%; 2) the new WC rules state that the WC winner plays the team with the best record in the league, even if they’re in the same division (old rules would have you playing the winningest team from outside your division if the top win % team was in the WC’s division).

  67. With Simmons sore, starting Prado at SS makes more sense, but I wonder if it also doesn’t mean that Constanza is likely to make the postseason roster over Janish. To me it’s a tough call. With a slim lead in the late innings I’d like to have the option of putting Prado at 3B and Janish at 2B with Johnson in LF. If anything we should keep Constanza over Hinske.

  68. I can’t see leaving both Janish and Pastornicky off the postseason roster, especially with Simmons recent injury troubles, the Braves are going to want a backup who can field the position (not that Prado can’t but we all remember Conrad’s defense from 2010),

  69. @85: Actually, in your situation you have underestimated the advantage of starting your good starter. Using your numbers, you have to calculate, for the unbalanced lineups, the probabilities of 1 3-0 loss, a 3-1 loss and a 3-2 loss and add them up to get the probability of loss. After some fairly simple calculations, you find that the probability of winning the second round in the unbalanced case is 48.87 percent, which is higher than your assumption of 47 percent, and is easily overcompensated for by the heightened probability of winning the first round. So that favors using your #1 even more. I’ll try and post a counterexample later tonight, but I might not have time.

  70. Anyone going to Braves-Marlins on Wednesday? All of my friends are either busy and/or hate baseball. I have no problem going stag, but it’s always nice to chat with Braves Journalers in person.

  71. Via Bowman, here’s how this year and last compare through this point:

    Sept. 2011: 6-10 record, .254 batting average, .691 OPS, 13 HRs, 3.6 runs per game, 4.38ERA

    Sept. 2012: 11-5 record, .239 BA, .656 OPS, 11 HRs, 3.5 runs per game, 2.79 ERA

  72. @97 – in other words, the Braves’ offense is even worse this September than last, but thanks to otherworldly pitching we’ve gone from a .8 run per game deficit to a .7 run per game advantage.

  73. Nice write-up, Rob. Tropicana Field definitely sucks, but it knows it sucks and prices the experience accordingly. It’s nice getting a few people in the car, stopping off at a drive-thru on the way, and walking in with free parking and outside food. $5 pretty much gets you 20 rows back from the field, so it’s a cheap event for a great product on the field. They do some fun marketing, and obviously the Rays have been a very good team, but the stadium and location sucks. If only they could get a real stadium…

    I want to go to the Marlins Stadium, but that home run display would probably drive me crazy. The rest of the stadium looks beautiful, though.

    What’s your most anticipated stadium to visit next? Wrigley, I’d imagine?

  74. @94

    OK thanks. I don’t have the stat knowledge anymore to do the precise calculations, just a vague sense of the game theory involved.

  75. I’ve long suspected that Yunel’s elevator didn’t go all the way to the top, but who the hell do y’all think he was trying to insult, the home plate ump, the catcher, the pitcher, just the pfans in general?

  76. @99, There’s talk of the Rays looking into a new stadium but they would have to buy out their current contract with Tropicana Field. With such low attendance, I don’t know how they’ll manage it.

    But yeah, the seats were very cheap (even with the Yankees in town) and the team is great. They seemed to have some good fans too so it’s a shame the franchise isn’t more successful.

    I think the next trip will be Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, Royals but everything’s so spread out in the center of the country.

  77. From the thread AAR linked to-

    That’s just the kind of team we have this year. The usual suspects aren’t getting us (see also: Rockies). There are new nemeses, to be sure (nats), but the team is rolling. And through injuries and everything. -Troy

    I laugh so that I do not cry.

  78. I don’t think we’re in any position to say any opponent cannot hit, AAR. We’re taking not hitting to new depths.

  79. The Marlins announcers may be my least favorite. I don’t know of I’d call them the worst, but I hate listening to them more than any other duo.

  80. I have discovered that it is much easier to watch this if you have the sound off and are listening to Herb Albert and the Tijuana brass!

  81. I still don’t trust Durbin, but I guess he can make the WC game roster as a seventh or eighth reliever in case the game goes 17 innings or something.

  82. Durbin is so, so far from our biggest problem. I don’t trust Michael Bourn as a hitter right now. I don’t trust Hanson as a pitcher. Freeman’s turning into a new Kelly Johnson, an incredibly streaky guy who’s capable of carrying the team and just as capable of completely disappearing, except he’s a first baseman instead of a second baseman. Heyward’s great but he isn’t Ryan Braun yet. Chipper’s old and slumping.

    Speaking of which, hey, Jason!

  83. I love that the OAK-DET game has been held up for at least 10 minutes over a phantom fan interference call.

  84. Just got home. Have only seen the 9th. Seems like a pretty good offensive team to me. What have you guys been doing all night?

  85. Michael Bourn is a singles hitter who strikes out all the time. He steals bases at a good clip, has terrific defense, and walks at a league-average rate, but he doesn’t have a lot of power and he strikes out a ton.

    Hoo boy. Prado to shortstop and Hinske to left field. Uh oh.

  86. Never have been a Gearrin fan and probably never will be, due to what seems like a lack of command at key times

  87. @197: Normally I’d agree with that, but in this case I would have made Reyes beat me deep to avoid exactly what happened.

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