Braves 5, Cubs 1 (by mavery)

Note from Alex: due to a miscommunication on my part, two different recaps were written for this game, the first by Smitty and the second by mavery. I’m publishing the second one now.

Things didn’t start off well for Tim Hudson, who was leaving pitches up and getting hit pretty hard, but he limited the damage to a single run and settled down nicely after that.

Getting the start for Chicago was Jeff Samardzija who of all MLB pitchers has the name worth the most in scrabble. He started out looking like a triple word score. His fastball was consistently 95-97, and his off-speed pitches were working, getting silly swings from most every Braves hitter on both slider and splitter. The one exception was BJ Upton, batting leadoff, who rifled the first pitch he saw up the middle. After that, the next 7 Braves hitters struck out, and Smamardizja was rolling. He finished with 13 strikeouts on the day, most of them swinging.

While this was going on, Huddy was cruising. Despite the rough start, he was actually pitching more efficiently than Smartzigima and had a few strikeouts of his own. He kept Chicago scoreless until he left with 2 down in the seventh.

By this time, he had a lead. In the bottom of the 6th, Smizmar began to struggle. After two quick outs, Ramiro Pena, subbing for Andrelton Simmons (out with an acute case of “he hurt something sliding headfirst the other day please stop doing that braves wtf”) yanked an off-speed pitch into the right field corner. Weirdly, this seemed to get into Slamalamadingdong’s head and he walked Hudson on five pitches. Two wild pitches later, BJ had also walked and Pena had scored. With the two previous ABs in mind, Jayson Heyward struck out by swinging at three pitches out of the zone.

But the main act was still to come. After a strikeout by Justin Upton to start the bottom of the 6th, Evan Gattis walked but was erased on a fielder’s choice hit into by Dan Uggla. Then, Chris Johnson was HBP and Juando SwingMissian rifled a single up the middle, plating 2. Sxommurkizdqva gave way to Michael Bowden, but Hudson lined a single over second base to put the Braves up 4-1. BJ grounded out but the damage was done.

In the 7th, Huddy gave way to Luis Avilan who also pitched the 8th, allowing two baserunners but no runs. Uggla added a solo HR in the 8th, and Jordan Walden struck out the side in the 9th to wrap it up.

Three things I learned during this game:
1) BJ’s going to be fine, but Heyward’s clearly struggling with something right now
2) The Braves can win when Justin Upton doesn’t homer
3) Joe Simpson wants batters to walk or be HBP when the defense is employing shifts because that sticks it to the stat guys.
(I think. His motives actually weren’t clear.)

160 thoughts on “Braves 5, Cubs 1 (by mavery)”

  1. Fun Fact #1: as of this moment, the Astros have a better run differential on the season (-13) than the Yankees (-16), Phillies (-15), Brewers (-16) and Padres (-18).

    Fun Fact #2: Despite giving up only 10 runs in their first 5 games, the Pirates have won just 1, because their offense has only scored 6 runs. By contrast, the Reds, Mets and Rockies have all scored 30+ already this season.

  2. Simpson’s swipe at sabermetrics was only slightly less ludicrous than Chip’s methodology for finding guys who had good career batting averages against the Braves by thinking about guys who had big hits against the Braves… that’s definitely the way to approach the issue. As I understand Simpson’s “thought,” it’s that you shouldn’t employ a shift because it might not work. There is actually a subtle point here, which we economists call the “Lucas critique,” which is that strategies that look good might well look good until people start to use them, but the fact that people might walk or be hit by pitches even though you put on a shift is, to put it mildly, somewhat lower than “thought.”

  3. It’s not like shifted defenses are just created out of the blue. Opposing managers and coaching staffs pour over actual historical records of actual at bats by actual players, and they identify trends. “Oh look, Brian McCann goes the other way against LHP less frequently than he steals bases. Huh.”

    So they say “well, if he never hits the ball there, then fine, we’ll play him where he hits the ball. And then the batter can either adjust to the new defense or not. If he does, then the defensive scouts have a new thing to work into their model and schemes.

    This isn’t even sabermetrics, really. It’s scouting and application of batting tendencies to defensive alignment. Joe Simpson is an idiot.

    For the record, shifting on McCann is really smart. All he can do to beat the shift is bunt to 3B. He can’t drive the ball with power to the opposite field on demand. Shifting against Heyward is a good idea. Shifting against Freeman is not.

  4. Oh, and Coop. I’m good. Got another five days of no heavy lifting/running while some incision points heal up, but otherwise, I’m doing pretty good. Thanks for asking.

  5. If the shift catches on for say, more than half of the hitters league-wide, I wonder whether MLB will just make it illegal. Bunting against the shift hasn’t really caught on, and even though it should theoretically keep teams honest, I don’t see an increase (however temporary) in superstars bunting as an outcome MLB would necessarily desire.

  6. Speaking of stats, today was the first game at turner field in a year. I didn’t get a chance to make it last year unfortunately.

    I don’t know when they changed it but the amount of useless information on the large scoreboard is a bit crazy. It now includes things DOB, MLB Time of Service and other useless trivia. Also, and maybe i wasn’t paying much attention, or it’s too early in the year, but it did not have current season stats such as ABs, hits, hr etc. IT does have career stats. It also routinely put up very situational stats such as RISP w/ 2 outs which I don’t see as very valuable at all. I guess i would of like to see better stats like OBP/OPS or even the current pitcher stats, but considering it’s the braves and their outlook on sabermetrics I guess I shouldn’t get started.

    As for the previous discussion about attendance, there was a HUGE HUGE HUGE lineup for day of tickets outside. I’m sure last nights game and the extremely nice weather drove quite a bit of traffic.

  7. The infield shift is only effective at reducing the number of singles. A power hitter isn’t going to lose doubles, triples or HRs due to shifting, simply because those types of hits aren’t usually ground balls that can be fielded by a shifted infielder.

    So, if a player wants to keep up his BA, he might slap singles against the shift, occasionally. McCann is never going to bunt every at bat. He’s just putting the idea in the defense’s minds. He’s going to swing away for power.

  8. @10 Sam
    Spot on!

    Mickey bunted against the shift, sometimes just for his own amusement.
    Ted growled and refused to acknowledge it.

    A shift is an opinion about a batter made physical.
    You know what they say about opinions.

  9. Yeah, I doubt that baseball would do anything like declaring a particular defense illegal. But remember, the game evolves, even if slowly. If every dead-pull hitter has to hit against a Ted Williams shift, then eventually all-fields hitters will be preferred over dead-pull hitters in the amateur draft, and dead-pull hitters will be devalued. These things work themselves out.

  10. Not quite, Sam. A hitter can easily lose extra base hits by hitting away from the shift. Deterring enough extra-base hits can make sense even if singles rise. Thus, the shift gives the hitter the choice of either reducing singles, or increasing singles at the cost of XBH. But having enough confidence to confidently estimate the relevant differences in XBH vs. singles is really hard based on historical data. That’s the Lucas critique I alluded to above. And, as Kevin Lee notes, the difference can be a matter of psychology as well as optimal strategy.

  11. Great season so far, and great recaps. Incidentally, you probably need to create a “Recaps 2013” category. These are filed under “Recaps 2012.”

  12. @15

    In a relatted way, I think Heyward is trying to beat the shift and it has hurt him.

  13. An interesting graph: HR per game vs. Strikeouts per game over time:
    And the Braves are doing everything they can to move the world towards the Northeast corner. Currently, they are well off this chart at 1.83 and 10.5.

  14. @17- By not putting the ball in play?

    I suppose that limits their data from his hit charts, but at the same time it seems counter-productive….

  15. @20

    It seemed to me he was trying to drive the ball the other way, but was missing it totally.

  16. 16—I created the category when I recapped last Wednesday’s games, so other recappers should be able to use it.

  17. Who would’ve ever thought that we’d be 5-1 with Heyward batting .100, BJ Upton, go O for his first 4 games, and our star SS on the shelf for 2 of the first 6? It might be a team game, but this season has been a one-man show thus far.

  18. @26, Our boy K’d 4 times yesterday. Pena and Huddy were the heroes of that game.

  19. Maybe Pena just needed to knock off some rust. He looked atrocious in his first several ABs until his heroics began. His defense has been solid too.

  20. Pena’s done just fine, I’d say.

    I still don’t like that they gave him Prado’s number, though.. Couldn’t you just retire it for a single season?

  21. 29

    Over the years I’ve noticed that the Braves like to recycle numbers for some reason. Gattis has Bourn’s 24

  22. Apropos of nothing, Jonah Keri’s latest piece mentions the decision of the Padres to draft Donovan Tate over Mike Minor (among others) as an example of their piss-poor management. As someone who remembers that draft quite clearly, Minor was regarded as a “signability” guy while Tate was an ultra-toolsy athlete, you know, the type the scouts all say has huge upside. SD took a guy near his consensus spot while the Braves took a local guy because they weren’t willing to go above slot. So I guess my two points are that it’s hard to really ding the Padres for that one (Donovan just never figured out how to make contact with a baseball with any sort of consistency) and that I tend to give the Braves’ FO the benefit of the doubt in matters of drafting and player development.

  23. 32- If I recall, there were plenty of people even at the time who thought Donovan Tate was an unnecessarily risky pick. At the time, I would have taken Wheeler. But you are right, nobody liked the Braves taking Minor seventh (myself included–I liked a couple dozen guys more, none of whom were named Mike Trout, however) and if the Padres had taken him third there would have been much rending of garments. I’d like to have the real scoop on how the drafting Minor decision was made. No doubt the Braves look brilliant in hindsight.

  24. I remember having Tate in mind as a possible guy the Braves might take. I was bummed when the Padres took him at 3. (I think the consensus was that he’d go closer to 5th).

  25. Nice article Alex; of course the chart I linked to was home runs, not runs, but the general northeastward trajectory almost has to be a change in batting strategy. It’s very difficult to conjure a causal model in which strikeouts and home runs rise together otherwise. The only other theory would be one in which pitchers, in going for strikeouts, not coincidentally throw more hangers. That’s possible, but just doesn’t comport with my baseball watching eye.

    To me, the most striking thing about the chart, if you buy the genral northeastwardly trajectory to be a function of batter effort, is how little the so-called steroid era seemed to do. Yes, home run rates went up, but strikeout rates went up as well in a move that looks like many other historic baseball moves. The exception,s, of course, are the dead ball transition and the retrograde 1974-1982 era.

  26. Of course, it’s possible the Braves made the right pick for the wrong reason.

  27. I was looking at team strikeout rates every year that they’re available, going back into the 1910’s, and I was struck by just how straight the rise was. (They were a bit higher than normal in the mid- to late-’60s, the raised-mound era, and went down a bit afterwards, but still.)

    One of the commenters linked to a Bill James quote about that, and I’ll just republish it here:

    “Strikeouts, over time, always increase, for this reason. Strikeout pitchers are more effective than pitchers who don’t get strikeouts, therefore teams are always looking for pitchers who can get more strikeouts, and also looking to deploy those pitchers they have in such a way that they will get the most strikeouts. This effect would be offset by the tendency of teams to look for hitters who don’t strike out, if hitters who did not strike out were also better hitters. However, hitters who strike out are generally not less effective than hitters who do not strike out; hitters who strike out are generally just as effective as or more effective than hitters who don’t strike out. Thus, there is no pressure to find hitters who don’t strike out. This asymmetry pushes strikeout totals higher over time.”
    http://www.billjamesonline.com/_i__the_strikeout_push_effect/

  28. That Minor “became a better pitcher” almost overnight makes me think the Braves made that draft pick for the right reasons.

    Personally, I would have taken Matzek (and I’m a Vandy guy). I am glad we got Minor.

  29. Well, if there is one thing we have learned in the last 22+ years, the Braves aren’t stupid.

  30. @40: I believe that effect, but it doesn’t diminish the correlation — why is it that hitters who strike out more are just as effective? It must be, ceteris paribus, that they slug more, since strikeouts aren’t good, and BABIPs are all about the same.

  31. Batters that swing hard tend to miss more. Uggla gets more walks and strikes out more because he takes more pitches. Pitchers avoid his hitting zone.
    Location, location, location is Kraken’s secret now. He gives up few walks and gets the third strike on pitches outside the zone very often now.

  32. I would close my eyes and swing as hard as I could. I can’t see a 97 mph pitch and I could get lucky.

  33. Fangraphs had some notes about Teheran’s start on Saturday: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/julio-teheran-scouting-report/

    On Saturday he threw 17 first pitch strikes and put eight Cubs in an 0-2 hole.

    Teheran’s breaking ball continues to be a concern. The pitch still resembles a slider and its quality is poor. Against the Cubs, Teheran recorded one swing and miss on the 23 breaking balls he threw.

    His use of this breaking ball was, at best, strange. Generally, sliders have a large platoon split and shouldn’t be used frequently against opposite handed batters. However, Teheran featured his breaker against lefties, throwing eight of them compared to just four changeups. Not only is his changeup a better offering than his breaking ball, but changeups do not have a platoon split for most pitchers.

    That last note is more on Gattis/whoever is calling the pitches more than it is on Teheran.

  34. BABIP is strongly correlated to LD%. I do not think it is basically the same across hitters. I believe you find more uniformity in BABIP across different pitchers.

  35. Gattis starting again and batting cleanup. Simmons back in the lineup, batting 8th. Once Medlen has a chat with Fredi, Laird might only be catching one in five. In Laird’s (and Teheran’s) defense, I think the problem Saturday was that Teheran’s sinker was crap. In ST he was throwing it a lot, using it to get lots of weakly hit outs and also to set up strikeouts with both his regular fastball and the offspeed stuff.

  36. I still don’t like that they gave him Prado’s number, though.. Couldn’t you just retire it for a single season?

    Chris Johnson (2013)
    Matt Diaz (2006-2012)
    Brandon Hicks (2011)
    Johnny Estrada (2003-2005)
    Julio Franco (2002)
    Bernard Gilkey (2001)
    Bobby Bonilla (2000)
    Greg Colbrunn (1997-1998)

    Until Dave Justice’s 23 is properly respected, Martin Prado can fuck right off.

  37. Sam Hutcheson: Holding Grudges Since 1997, or,
    Sam Hutcheson: Holding Grudges Longer Than Halle Berry

  38. Tonight’s game is the MLB.TV free game for those of you who do not get the Braves in your region.

  39. 54- Oh, come on. I think we all have held grudges at least that long against certain people. Must I name names?

  40. Against Eric Gregg? Sure. Sam Holbrook? No problem. But against whoever makes uniform decisions? (Cox? Schuerholz? The equipment manager?)

  41. @42,

    The Braves aren’t stupid but they aren’t perfect either. They have made their share of mistakes. Everyone thought Marte would be the next great third baseman. And let’s not even talk about Francouer. Maybe they knew Minor would be better than anyone thought, but, alternatively, maybe they took him because he would be cheaper and they got lucky. Who knows?

  42. Re: Frenchy- Okay, Blanton and Cain went right after him, but he had a better career than everyone else after him in the first round and was better than a fair few in front of him. Not (entirely) his fault he was overhyped in part due to massive first appearance in the big leagues. I would argue that Frenchy was a success as a draft pick.

  43. I’ll be at the game tonight. Here’s hoping our bats show up an that the roof is open!

  44. Sam @53- You know what? I remember Bernard Gilkey having a bit part in Men In Black, but not his ABs for the ’01 Braves. (Though it’s probably wise to forget *every* non-Chipper hitter for that particular squad.)

  45. I may be an outlier here but i always got the feeling that the blogosphere and press had a higher opinion of Marte than the Braves did.

  46. #64
    Rob,
    I know that South Florida is Heat-crazy these days, so I’m guessing that few Marlins fans are up in arms about yesterday’s loss at Citi Field. But that was quite a bone-headed defeat.

    I only caught the bottom of the 9th, but here’s what happened with the Marlins up 3-2 with 1 out & 1 Met on first: Single to left & LF Juan Pierre (a man with no arm) throws late to the wrong base (3rd), so the hitter takes second. Even if Pierre lollipops it to 2nd base, a game-ending DP remains in order.

    To make a bad situation worse, with runners on 2nd & 3rd with one out, the Marlins manager decides to bring the infield in and the Mets’ PH promptly slaps one past the 3B for a game-winning 2-run hit.

    We can only hope for similar hijinks tonight. Have fun.

  47. @66, Marte was a top rated prospect by the scout community, and with good reason. He was a 21 year old 3B who hit with power and patience at every level, including Myrtle Beach.

    BA Ranking:
    Pre-2003: Rated #40 Prospect
    Pre-2004: Rated #11 Prospect
    Pre-2005: Rated #9 Prospect
    Pre-2006: Rated #14 Prospect

    Marte’s OPS in 4 full minor league seasons: 831/840/910/878

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=marte-001and

  48. The Marlins pregame ceremony is awesome. I get to see the Assistant Athletic Trainers, Strength and Conditioning coaches, and Video Coordinators all take the field to the non-applause of a few thousand in the stands. And to a beat you can dance to!

  49. @70

    Lol, it really is awesome.

    Edit: Seriously, no one is applauding… It’s either that, or the music is louder that 8,000 fans.

  50. The Reds just scored 9 runs (and still batting with 2 outs) in the top of the ninth against St. Louis. It was a 4-4 game going into that.

  51. 72- Have they posted the reward for destroying that thing beyond the outfield fence yet?

  52. Typical Bucknor call, yes. Gattis just narrowly missed clobbering a couple of those pitches. This guy has thrown a lot of meat fastballs already, gonna need to start making him pay.

  53. I’m liking this Maholm guy, shame that if he keeps this up we won’t be resigning him.

    Also disappointed that the hyped 3 horsemen of AAA (Vizcaino, Delgado and Teheran) might all turn out to be busts.

  54. At this point neither Vizcaino nor Teheran can be described as anything close to busts.

  55. All you need to know about the delay in the start of tonight’s game is that Don Sutton eventually began discussing the End Times.

  56. Getting a player home from third with less than two outs, what’s this newfangled thing?

    Edit: Halladay is at 92 pitches through 4 innings. You really have to start wondering if he’ll get back to any kind of form.

  57. The Marlins just ran an ad for Opening Day tix during the Opening Day game. #lolmarlins

  58. @87-I meant more as busts for the braves, I remember the days when people said we had 3 starters set until 2017 or so.

    The returns for viz and delgado seem to be good, I just meant disappointing that they’ll never pitch for us.

    And Teheran….well, I hope he isn’t a bust, for all our sakes.

  59. Oh my, I hadn’t seen this picture of ” rel=”nofollow”>Beachy and Kimbrel in their Miami digs.

  60. I like FatJuan. Would love to see what he could do with 500 ABs in a season. Not sure if that will be possible with us or not.

  61. Justin Upton failed to homer in the two games so far this year I’ve missed, but has homered in all the rest…

  62. Halladay knocked out of the game in the 5th by the mutts, Durbin in to ‘relieve’.

  63. Two-man show tonight: Justin and Maholm.

    If anybody is watching the Marlins home crew on Fox Sports South, did anyone see the nearly naked go-go dancers entertaining in the stadium? Yowza.

  64. #115: I’m no prude but that booty shaking stuff is nothing I’d want my children to see.

  65. 116- You’ve got a point, but fortunately this is in Miami, so nobody will see it.

  66. I think all of JUPTON’s homers have been solo, except maybe one. Too bad Heyward and BJ are in such a funk.

  67. #116

    The Marlins broadcasters pointed out that Mike Redmond, the Marlins’ manager, moved their bullpen from beside The Clevelander bar, where the shakin’ is going on, to across the field where he can keep an eye on his relievers. The visitors’ bullpen is now next to The Clevelander.

  68. He’s got really nice hands at third, too. And he’s fat and swings really hard at everything. I’m glad he’s on my team.

  69. Reed is quickly getting on my nerves…he seems to have caught the Hinske from last year

  70. You know it’s true and well-established and widely-accepted, but you forget just how bad CB Bucknor is at his job until you watch him for a whole game.

  71. @140 very much agreed. I just checked, Reed is only under contract for this year. With any luck, Terdoslavich or someone else will take Johnson’s spot on the team.

  72. scarier that it should have been, but I’ll take 6-1 with half the lineup under .150

  73. 6-1 now.

    I’d like to be more excited, but we really have had a cupcake schedule so far. I think we’ll have a better idea about this team this weekend.

  74. Heyward and Simmons have got three days to get it together. Especially Jason. The guy hitting in the two-hole can’t go 0 for 17.

  75. Wren should market J Upton’s case to every major leaguers telling them what the city of Atlanta can do to a person’s career.

  76. Gattis now has a catcher ERA of 1.00 (second only to A.J. Ellis), without an error or passed ball, and has only been stolen on once (in two chances). So far he’s getting it done behind the plate. I expect he’ll start settling in with the bat too.

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