How Do the Braves Treat Their Pitchers? Part One, Game Thread, May 24 (by sansho1)

Note from Alex: apropos of our discussion of all the Tommy John surgeries lately, sansho1, JonathanF, and I started looking at some of the data and the recent history of the Braves’ staffs. We’ll publish a few pieces looking at how the Braves have handled their pitchers and how it compares to other clubs. Here’s part one. It’s also today’s game thread against IWOTM.

Roger McDowell was hired as Braves pitching coach on October 29, 2005, replacing the legendary Leo Mazzone, who had accepted a similar position with the Orioles. The Braves had just won what turned out to be the last of their 14 straight division titles, but ominous cracks in the foundation were clearly showing, particularly on the pitching staff.

The ’05 rotation was headed by stalwarts John Smoltz and Tim Hudson (in his initial Braves campaign), but behind them were the perpetually injured Mike Hampton, the sporadically baffling Horacio Ramirez, the putatively tantalizing prospect Kyle Davies, and also John Thomson. This was also the year that Dank Lob and Chris F%*#ing Reitsma took turns coughing up the closer role.

Injuries and ineffectiveness combined to force the team to employ 26 different pitchers. Honestly, if it weren’t for an out-of-the-blue season by Jorge Sosa along with late-season acquisition Kyle Farnsworth taking charge of ninth innings, the team would likely have missed the postseason altogether.

So the situation McDowell inherited was a far cry from the glory days of the previous decade. And in his first season, things…didn’t go well. Almost every holdover from ’05 pitched worse in ’06, and a few (chiefly Davies and Reitsma) flatlined completely. Jorge Sosa was so terrible that Mac decreed that his name from thenceforth would be Kim Jong-Il. The team ERA ballooned from 3.98 (6th in the NL) to 4.60 (10th). The future looked bleak, fans were despondent, and Mac resorted to filmmaking (thus proving beyond a doubt that from great pain comes great art). Former Richmond pitching coach Guy Hansen, who’d made at least one list as a candidate to replace Mazzone in the first place, was brought back in his former role, and the heat was at least a little bit on McDowell already.

But the staff managed a turnaround in 2007, posting a 4.11 ERA that was good for 3rd in the league. The pitching the following year was an unmitigated disaster, but most observers put the primary blame for that miserable 2008 assemblage of has-beens and never-weres on the front office. Still, if you’d posted a poll after ’08 asking to grade McDowell’s job performance, I believe the results would have settled around a C-. That is not, however, where his grade would stay.

To be continued…

173 thoughts on “How Do the Braves Treat Their Pitchers? Part One, Game Thread, May 24 (by sansho1)”

  1. This is gonna be good. I have bias towards McDowell and vaguely remember his somewhat tumultous early years. Thanks for posting this, and I can’t wait to read more.

    Off topic, but the John Stamos Greek yogurt commercials drive me insane. They show Stamos showing up on the doorstep of a friend’s house for a party and he brings…wait for it…Greek yogurt!!!

  2. Excellent topic. I have been thinking that roger has been doing well in handling the pitchers, but I also believe somehow he has something to do with the high tommy John rate in recent years. I was also thinking we never had so many tommy John cases back in the day of Leo. at the same time, i was also thinking if we were just blessed with the big three. Looking forward to reading more.

  3. Relievers pitching 4 times a week has to have something to do with it. Starters get 4 days of rest. Relievers get ridden into the ground (maybe because they seem to be easier to replace?). My favorite Leo-ism is the “dry-humping” of a reliever – when you warm him up, sit him down, warm him up, and he never gets in the game.

  4. Not to derail the pitching usage conversation, but there’s a good Q&A with Braves prospect Joey Terdoslavich over on Fangraphs that’s worth reading.

  5. Please derail away! We’re not sure where the topic is going yet, so it’ll probably be a while.

    I didn’t know Joey Terds was related to Mike Greenwell. I was a Greenwell fan, though he turned out to be fairly unlikeable.

  6. What year did Roger have Jurrjens, Morton, Chuck James, Davies, and Campillo to deal with? That will inflate anyone’s team ERA. It seems like we have had a lot of injuries (TJ) under McDowell, but look at what he’s done with some of the bullpen arms. He’s gotten good seasons from guys like Durbin. Overall, I think he’s done a good job for Atlanta.

    Leo didn’t look too good when he didn’t have Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux.

  7. Is the so called “100 pitch count” being placed on starters part of the problem. Most managers are pulling their starters around this point and then using 4-5 relievers every night to finish the game. I’d like to see some of the relievers going multiple innings instead of coming in for one batter. It would also speed up the game.

  8. I mentioned the mispronunciation of Cairo, GA, in the movie 42 and was informed that locals there indeed pronounce it like the city in Egypt. I’ve spent half my life in Georgia and haven’t heard of such a thing, but I also haven’t ever actually been to Cairo to find out myself.

    Anyone got any first-hand info on this?

  9. @10 – No way – Cairo, Georgia is pronounced KA-ro by every native Georgian I’ve ever met, including some from Cairo.

  10. This topic has been thoroughly beat to a pulp over the years. I don’t have time to do the research, so does anyone know if Atlanta is particularly plagued with more TJ surgeries the past few years than the average MLB team? I feel like this team does but figure the numbers very well dispel the notion. Also, it’s not just relievers falling victim. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy have both gone under the knife, and I think deep down in our wittle hearts we all fear for Mike Minor. It seems inevitable, but, #@$% it, it shouldn’t be! It just shouldn’t.

    I’d like to think we are no more susceptible to TJ surgeries. It’s often believed that pitchers are just throwing harder and the overall quality of stuff out there is better than it used to be (breaking stuff has more break, fastballs have more movement and higher velocity, etc).

  11. Just my 2 cents, but it seems to me that pitchers who throw higher stress-type pitches will be more likely to have elbow problems leading to Tommy John surgery. So it goes to reason that teams (like the Braves) who tend to emphasize sinkerball-type pitchers would be likely to have somewhat more Tommy John pitchers.

  12. so does anyone know if Atlanta is particularly plagued with more TJ surgeries the past few years than the average MLB team?

    We do know, and the answer will be revealed in the coming days!

    (Teaser: the answer is yes)

  13. @14, we have done some research and will post it soon. Short answer: Atlanta is towards the top. Long answer: it’s hard to know what’s going on under the hood. But we can make some guesses. This series will continue.

  14. So, checking the pitching probables for this weekend – Hefner/Gee/Marcum are 2-15, 6.00 ERA. That’s….not good.

  15. Espn mobile…BJ Upton

    Through Tuesday, Upton had played 41 games this season, and in every one of his big league seasons he has endured a 41-game span of excessively high and low batting averages. In 2012, he had a 41-game span in which he batted .195, and another during which he batted .320. In 2011, his 41-game extremes were .167 and .301. In 2010, they were .203 and .283; in 2009, .190 and .305; and in 2008, .213 and .323.

  16. I seem to have missed the jump to the new thread… Spike, if you’re around, there’s a whole Hey Wake bedroom for sale in my town for $400,if you’re collecting

  17. Versailles, OH, pronounced Vur sales.
    Russia, OH, pronounced Ru shee.
    Swear to God.

    Thanks for the link Alex. Great stuff.

  18. Correct, that is a hell of a deal, especially in FL. It also happens to be the exact three pieces I just bought (mr & mrs and mirror, highboy, and stand) for a good bit more than that in Encore. Retail on the nightstand is $400. The other two are easy 800- 1000 each, and another 3 for the mirror. I am booked all weekend, but if it’s still around Monday, I might have to take a road trip.

  19. The glossary is incomplete as far as some of the old-school stuff goes. My alltime favorite nickname – The Vortex of Suck – is not even there.

  20. @9 I agree with you that it makes more sense to use a reliever for multiple innings. It should reduce the chance that one of the relievers put in will simply be having an off day.

  21. Yeah its a great deal. I’d be gobbling it up for resale if I weren’t already overextended.

    Anyway, if it was something you just had to have, I figured I could pick it up and store it til you can take a trip. It’s about 10 min from my house.

  22. This post mentions Jorge Sosa. I think I am the only one who likes Jorge Sosa. In 2005, it looked like his fastball vibrated. I think after 2005 the motion on his pitches would start too early and batters could track them.

  23. Norfolk, VA
    Norfolk Academy cheer give clue how to say it like a local.
    We don’t smoke
    We don’t cheer

  24. I think there is a relationship between the stress/intensity of pitching and chance of injury. It has been intense last several years.

  25. looks like we’re heading for rainoutsville. I think there’s a strategy to save up games against the Mets until the division race starts to tighten up.

  26. Medlen’s doing a fine job of getting strike three. Hopefully, this will augur better things to come, tonight and in future starts.

  27. How long can they continue to humiliate that fat guy in the upper deck.

    Annnnd another fat joke from Joe Simpson.

  28. Did he say, “Joe Sampson” on purpose? And Brian’s second hit was the best one I’ve seen all year. He’s really working that shift.

  29. How many times has Medlen given up a hit this year and Simpson said it was on a hanger? Is Medlen really hanging that many pitches?

  30. What’s with all the curve balls? Geez

    Yes he’s leaving all of his off speed pitches up in the zone.

  31. Medlen’s off, Justin’s misplaying balls and the offense is in full-on hibernation mode. Sigh.

  32. I don’t think you can get by with an 88mph fastball unless you’re pretty much painting the black. That’s a tough way to have to win.

  33. “Can Freddie Freeman and the Braves get things started in Toronto?”

    The Fox Sports South Girls are so cheesy and lame. Is the network really so desperate as to need some eye candy to get middle-aged chumps to tune in to the Braves?

  34. Three earned runs in six innings against the LolMets really illustrates the limits of the “quality start.”

  35. Juan sucks and I’m tired of having him on the team.

    But he’s in the Best Shape of his Life.™

  36. Joe Mauer just got a hit to break up Anibal Sanchez’s no-hit bid with one out in the 9th at Comerica.

  37. That’s the second bad throw by Andrelton tonight, must be something in the air.

    Lucky bounce though.

  38. Rally Twins: Kevin Gryboski Cory Gearrin and Ray King Luis Avilán, often used in tandem in 2003 2013 to great effect by the opposition. Generally, King Avilán would come in to face a couple of lefties, and walk them. Gryboski Gearrin would come in to get the double play and only get the “double” part right.

  39. That swing by Byrd to end the last inning might have caused a Bravesjournal meltdown had he been a Brave.

  40. I have an idea: let’s not ever use Evan Gattis to pinch hit for a lefty facing a tough lefthanded pitcher.

  41. Rhodes was a better hitter overall (340/ 410/ 695), but not as a pinch-hitter (341/ 383/ 545, 2 HR, 13 RBI in 47 PA).

    That hit did knock Gattis’ pinch-hitting SLG down by 190 points to a mere 2.143.

  42. Wren needs to find an available, reliable set-up man, because I don’t think this Varvaro/Avilán/Gearrin thing is going to work.

  43. What would it look like if BJ were being paid by another team to sabotage the Braves? Would be more subtle, right?

  44. Why isn’t Kimbrel in this game? Why are they still playing in this downpour? This is a joke.

  45. Varvaro might be many things. But an MLB pitcher is apparently not among them.

  46. Seriously: second time in three games the Braves blew a hold in the eighth inning. These replacements for O’Flaherty aren’t going to cut it.

  47. McCann should probably have blocked that, but that was a tough play, the ball didn’t bounce at all on the wet dirt.

  48. Now they bring the tarp out? What the fuck is that?

    Blown save on Brian McCann.

  49. How many runs would the Mets have had to score for them to call it before the inning ended, I wonder? You’d think they could have sailed home with a 5 run lead, at least.

  50. 138-He knew the dirt was wet and he didn’t get down to block it. He tried to pick it.

  51. This game can’t be blamed on Varvaro as there’s no reason baseball should be being played in those conditions.

  52. And now they delay the game. Wasn’t obvious enough they should have done that fifteen minutes ago.

  53. I’m with Bethany. These bags of hammers called umpires waited until the Mets tie the game, and NOW they stop play.

  54. Bigger B.S. than when the umpires let that one World Series game a few years ago be played in the rain forever until one team tied it, because Selig didn’t want the embarrassment of having the World Series be decided on a rain-shortened win.

  55. Forget the umps. Rain or not these guys are paid to play baseball. Varvarro can’t sniff the strike zone, BJ Upton is back handing balls in the OF, and Brian can’t get his body down to block a pitch with the tying run on 3rd. They’ve looked like crap all night

  56. Umps are inexcusable. But upton and McCann’s laziness was also.

    Also, in college, I actually enjoyed pitching in a light rain/mist/drizzle if the baseballs were dry. Felt like it heightened my senses. But pissing down like it is tonight is miserable and once your uni is soaked, the extra weight of it would get in my head and mess with my mechanics….not to mention the mound turns to crap. Can’t believe they let them play in that.

  57. I don’t really want to blame Vavarro for his control there, but the Upton and BMac errors were ridiculous.

  58. It looked like the rain pretty much killed Varvaro’s breaking pitch. Tough to succeed with one non-otherworldly pitch.

  59. I love McCann as much as anyone else but great and defense should not be in the same sentence when talking about him. Average is the word the comes to mind.

  60. I don’t even blame McCann. 50% of those pitches were in the dirt. Varvaro couldn’t grip the ball at all. It’s inexcusable that they didn’t delay it until after the 8th.

  61. When was our last suspended game? The last one I can remember was 1995…but there has to have been one since then…

  62. Since the game is apparently a tie…anyone else notice Edward Salcedo is quietly putting together a pretty decent year at AA so far?

    .289/.356/.459 with 21% K and 9% BB in 178 PA’s

    Still 9 errors in 108 chances at 3B, but I had just about written the guy off. Not exactly dominating, but more than holding his own and is still only 21.

    Obviously predicting stardom is a long shot now, but would a Corey Koskie type comp be completely unrealistic?

  63. Hadn’t the Braves JUST taken the lead in the top half of that inning? They half to finish the bottom half of the inning in which the lead changed, then they could call the game, rather than suspend it.

    If not for the wild pitch, they game would be a win, not a to-be-continued. That’s what the umps were holding out for.

  64. I was at Citi Field last night and it was really cold and pouring for most of the night. My hat goes off to these guys except BJ who is getting about 15 million big ones!!. All in all the game should have been suspended from the 8th… Varvaro couldn’t even grip the ball. Was nice seeing the tomahawk in Queens though keep it going through the weekend my fellow Braves fans.

  65. Adding to el oso Blanco’s legend:

    “Evan Gattis is the only bench player in the Majors that is a must start in fantasy leagues”.

  66. The imps should have suspended the game after the second batter in the bottom of the eighth. You can’t play in monsoon conditions. With that said, I bet you money to odds that the imps gave the Braves an option to halt it with the tying run on third. They had a meeting on the mound right before Ankiel stepped in. Entire infield and blue on the mound. That conversation went something like:

    “We can call it and play it out tomorrow, or you guys can try to end it here. Get this out you win the game.”

    “We’ll play to win now.”

  67. #114 – that’s awesome. “El oso blanco doesn’t turn on a shower, he stares at it until it cries.”

  68. @171, if that’s what happened, whoever made that decision for the braves should be shot. Why the heck would you want to “try and win now” when the physical conditions are putting you at a disadvantage?

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