Braves 2, Padres 3

Truth be told, I didn’t watch a single pitch of this game. Because, California. School night. So I don’t really have anything to add to what you can gather from the various game summaries around the web. Tim Hudson gave up single runs in the first three innings and someone named Andrew Cashner shut down the offense for eight innings. That was about it, really. Both Braves runs were driven in by Freddie Freeman, but the second of those came via a rally killing double play in the sixth that effectively gutted the last scoring opportunity the Braves would have. (Homeruns don’t kill rallies; GIDPs kill rallies, even if they drive in a run from third.)

That’s really all I have for you. From the box score and San Diego slanted write-ups, it might have been one of those nights you just tip your hat to a guy who has his A-game going, but I know how much you guys hate that sort of thing. Nonetheless, if the Braves had a converted reliever who was 4-1 at home and consistently lowering his mid-3s ERA with every start we’d talk about his skill rather than the batters’ failures. Oh well. Such are the vagaries of fandom.

Paul Maholm attempts to right the ship this afternoon, take at least one in San Diego and bring us home with a 3-4 road trip, rather than 2-5. Edison Valquez and his 6-something ERA go for the Pads so the offense really should be able to get something going there. Game time is 3:40 PM, Eastern. This is our last tilt west of Kansas City for the rest of the year, so going forward we should be able to actually watch the games and make it to work the next day.

Consider this your game thread as well…

79 thoughts on “Braves 2, Padres 3”

  1. I did watch the game (still yawning) and you’ll get no cap-tipping here. The Braves really hit the ball pretty well, I thought, but there were liners at guys and fly balls to the wall. And letting Hudson bat in the 7th was just stupid…. part of the macho code instead of the let’s maximize our chances to win the ball game code. That aside, it was a pretty routine sort of loss — the Braves were never out of it, although Freeman and McCann looked completely overmatched by the sidewinding LOOGY that started the ninth. Last standing Uggla partisan that I am, I don’t pinch-hit Gattis with two outs in the ninth. I would have let his lumber tie up the game in the seventh, though.

  2. Not only will Dan Uggla not post an .800 OPS from here on out, he won’t even break .700. He had a nice week, thanks mainly to a random cluster of hanging curveballs, but in the longer term the decline can’t be reversed. He will be lucky if he is still on a major league roster when his contract runs out.

    If the camera guys would stop showing Fredi sitting on his hands with that bovine expression his crap managing would be easier to suffer.

  3. So when Fredi makes moves, he’s over managing, but when he doesn’t, he’s a cow. Interesting.

  4. Unfortunately I watched last night too. The JUpton that Arizona sent packing has been on display for over a month. I think he might be a worse defender in LF than Gattis, and he’s not hitting. Not the best combo there. Heyward looks better, Freeman is still locked-in. Everyone else is meh. Simmons swings at pretty much everything – kid has some Frenchy in him for sure.

    Hudson deserved better. Still, he should have never batted in the 7th.

  5. *Sigh* You could be right, of course, but I guess I need to fix the numbers at the time I made the prediction in stone so that we can tell. For the record

    PA: 236 AB: 197 H: 38 TB: 83 BB+HBP:38

    Current Incremental OPS: 393

  6. They were saying on either the TV or radio the other night that Andrelton will spend like 4 hours in the cage working when he’s slumping. It seems like hitting at the MLB level has an odd feedback loop: if you’re hitting well, you swing at everything, but you have the same response if you fall off a bit, because you want to “fix” it. I’m sure Walker has spoken at length to Andrelton about the importance of getting on base, so it’s up to him to decide what kind of player he wants to be.

  7. The best thing that could happen to Andrelton Simmons is for BJ Upton’s resurgence to stick and have them flip places in the order.

  8. I agree that JUp’s been massively frustrating to watch over the last month – after starting out with a 1.136 OPS in April, he’s “hit” at a roughly .600 OPS clip since, bringing his seasonal OPS to .842 (just above his career line of .833). The only really significant difference between this year and past years is that JUp’s contact rate on pitches in the strike zone has dropped drastically (from 86% in 2011-12 to 75% in ’13), leading to a huge spike in his strikeout rate. BJ (down from 81% career to 73% this year) is suffering from the same problem. On the other hand, JHey’s contact rate is actually up this year – he just hasn’t been doing anything with the pitches he gets (until recently).

    To my mind, it seems like JUp’s way too talented to struggle like this for much longer (but then again, I thought this current slump wouldn’t last as long as it has). If and when he gets his swing straightened out – whatever is wrong that is causing him to swing late and under everything – that’ll help the offense tremendously.

    On a separate note: the radical swings from sunny optimism to black pessimism regarding the Braves’ prospects on the basis of just a few losses (one-run losses on the road, no less) is kind of funny. Calm down, folks. The Braves are going to be fine.

  9. I don’t like Petco Park. The Braves would have won that game if it were in Atlanta. I remember specifically BJ’s shot to the warning track, and I know there was another one that was caught at the wall. Both of those hits would have been out in other parks. In Cincy’s T-Ball field, they’d have been 20 rows deep.

    Whatever. We don’t play in San Diego often. We don’t play San Diego often, period. Cashner was locating his pitches very well, but the Braves did indeed hit a lot of balls hard. Whatever. Let’s get back to the east coast.

  10. Just a thought on the contact rate:

    If I’m not mistaken, it seems almost all of our regulars have increased their strikeout rates this year. Uggla, BJ, and Justin are all on pace for career highs, and the rest of the regular’s (except for Heyward) have increased their rate.

    So for the hard-line sabermetricians (I’m more soft-line), where emotion is dumb, stats are king, and the Excel spreadsheet has taken the place of the human eyes as the status symbol of choice (a little Dave Ramsey there…), how do you explain that? It seems the whiff-happy culture of this team causes repeated behavior across the team.

    How do you fix that?

  11. Not only will Dan Uggla not post an .800 OPS from here on out, he won’t even break .700.

    Since 1 May (36 g), Uggla has an OPS of 807. In the first 24 it was .621. I don’t know why you would weight the first part as predictive of his future performance this season.

  12. the radical swings from sunny optimism to black pessimism regarding the Braves’ prospects

    Prospects? This board swings like a goddamn Amsterdam rave anytime the big club doesn’t win by a dozen and get a shutout to boot. I’ve never seen so much upset in the middle of what has been a spectacular season to be an Atlanta fan.

  13. It worked for Rick Vaughn.

    But seriously. I think Sam was on to something earlier. Fredi bunts, Fredi hits-and-runs, Fredi double-switches, and he’s over-managing. Fredi does nothing, and he’s a deer-in-the-headlights.

    Uggla, BJ, and Justin all played in different cities last year, and then they all get in the same room. Over night, all of a sudden, the Braves become the Fightin’ Dave Kingmans.

    How do you fix it?

  14. Cashner is really good. The game to get them was the Marquis game. Well, and today’s.

  15. OPS last two weeks:

    Heyward .953
    Freeman .932
    BJ .869
    Uggla .855
    Gattis .823

    Pena .697
    McCann .674
    Johnson .620
    Simmons .619
    Jupton .525
    Schafer .500 (has barely played though)

  16. Rob – Of the returning Braves regulars, Heyward and Freeman’s contact and K rates are at or below their career levels (for what it’s worth, Andrelton has cut his strikeout rate from his 2012 levels too). Only Uggla and the Uptons have increased their K rate in 2013, and I think you need to separate Uggla from this discussion, as his whiff rate appears to be the natural and likely inevitable result of age-related decline.

    It appears to me that the Uptons are the only two regulars whose strikeout rates may plausibly have been affected by team hitting philosophy, or some such other attributed cause – and frankly, I can’t explain the crappy contact rates the Uptons have put up so far this season. Can we pay to have the Uptons’ dad travel with the team and fix their swings?

  17. Agreed with both spike @ 15 and Adam @17. Needed a better performance from Teheran and the pen in game 1. Cashner’s pitched well in San Diego. It happens. Other teams try to win too.

    In other news, the Braves are 13 games over .500 and hold a 7 game lead in the division. Not bad for such a terrible, terrible team.

  18. @20, BJ seemed to be on a steady decline for the past several seasons – which I guess is why we signed him for big money long-term?! I’m not that surprised that he’s sucked. I hold a lot of hope that Justin will enjoy his peak production years while a Brave. He’s certainly in a funk right now though – late and under everything, and taking called 3rd strikes like a champ.

  19. I think there’s a theory for everything Fredi does, and in no case is it a ridiculous theory. I don’t think he overmanages, and I think his day-to-day management of the team shows a lot of the Bobby Cox influence, and that’s all to the good.

    But Bobby Cox wasn’t much of a game-time manager either. Such things, as I argued a couple of weeks ago, probably won’t cost you more than a game or two a year anyway. Think about it this way, a bunt often lowers your WPA, but rarely by even one percent. So even if you bunted 100 times too often in a year, it probably costs you less than a game. And a lot of the switches aren’t really intended to improve the chances of winning that game — it’s to get everybody feeling like they’re contributing by putting them in the game.

    So even his decision to hit with Hudson yesterday has a theory underlying it. I just don’t think it improved the Braves chances to win that particular game. I’m not sure Fredi does either, if his aim was more long-term with regards to Hudson.

  20. @24 – Well said. Thank you. Sometimes you let BJ Upton bat, even if he’s in a funk to end all funks, because you want BJ Upton confident enough to get out of that funk and be useful over the next 4.5 years.

  21. @24, I think in a one-game playoff, or in a short series, all we can ask from the manager is to play perfect-odds poker. When Fredi doesn’t do this I feel it’s fair to complain. Letting the pitcher hit late while trailing, and then pulling him the very next inning (which Fredi has already done multiple times this year), is not playing perfect-odds. I feel like we won’t be winning the battle of wits with the other team that often, because we’re unarmed.

    Here’s all I want from Fredi:

    Don’t steal or hit and run.
    Don’t bunt.
    Don’t let pitchers bat late while trailing.
    Don’t forget that Gattis is on the team.

  22. @26

    I think there is a time and place to bunt and steal. You can over do it, but sometimes you have to be agressive too.

  23. Don’t steal or hit and run.
    Don’t bunt.
    Don’t let pitchers bat late while trailing.
    Don’t forget that Gattis is on the team.

    There are times when steals and hit and runs are valid tactics.
    There are times when bunts are valid tactics.
    There are times when you should let a starter bat late, while trailing.
    No one has ever forgotten Evan Gattis is there. Ever.

  24. the hanging slider soon departs
    for disparate and foreign parts
    we thought we’d made that clear
    and yet it would appear
    you practice it between your starts.


    a fine exists or soon will be
    if you indulge a called strike three
    with runners there on base
    it’s termed a sheer disgrace
    with Uggla/Upton pay thy fee.

  25. @26: But we didn’t hire a manager to play perfect strategy. If that’s all we wanted out of a manager, I suggest that we’d interview them a lot differently. We want a manager to do about 50 things well, and game-time strategy is but one of them. And it may not even be the most important one. And perfect-odds poker is an interesting example, because it assumes a set of inferences about the cards of the other players (by analogy skills of your own baseball players) that are easily second-guessable but may not be wrong. “I made that guy to be holding 2 Kings” is based on the same sort of evidence that watching Simmons in the batting cage and thinking “Hmmm…. in a critical situation I might have him bunt today.” It’s extra information that the pure odds-calculator won’t tell you anything about. It could be wrong, of course, but that’s a very different question from whether or not it is sensible or rational.

  26. @30, I think software could easily provide the perfect-odds tactical suggestions. Fredi can still be “good in the clubhouse” and provide lots of gutty/gritty/intangibles that everyone seems to love about him.

    I’ll concede that over a long season sometimes you have to do non-optimal things in order to stroke the players very fragile egos ;-)

    In the postseason he needs to be perfect though. Cox wasn’t. Fredi is cut from the same cloth. I worry.

  27. @31: Maybe (though I doubt it, and I do probabilistic modeling for a living) but you miss an important element here. When the manager does X because the computer told him to, and it works, he is treated as a pawn of the program. That treatment may have psychological overtones all over (“Why should I listen to the advice of a guy who doesn’t even call the shots during a game?”). And of course, if the strategy fails, you don’t want a manager who will (inevitably) say: “Don’t blame me… the friggin’ computer told me to steal on the third pitch. The other guys’ computer called the pitchout.”

  28. 28- There are indeed times when the hit and run is a viable, indeed valuable, tactic. This team doesn’t provide them, though, being a team of mostly average-to-slow runners and batters who swing hard in case they hit something. The two stolen bases- for the whole team– in May should have been a hint.

    Similarly, this is a team that has an abundance of good hitters and a strong bullpen. If the pitcher is the tying or go-ahead run in the 7th, he should be given a hearty handshake and a seat on the bench.

    There’s a fair amount of Cox in Fredi and more all the time, with all the boons and banes that entails.

  29. @30 – The best poker players do just play pure odds though, right? You can assume that anyone with a real tell or character tendency would’ve been weeded out way earlier in the tournament, so all you can do is play the card and pot odds optimally and you know should win in the long term. The only second guessing you can do is of your own math. Guessing on hunches isn’t rewarded. Not that I’d advocate that for a baseball manager (though I think Fredi could stand a little more of it occasionally) since cards, unlike players, have no delicate psyches to coddle.

  30. I don’t worry about Fredi in the postseason. I worry about Strasburg getting 18 k’s, but the game is 2-1 Nationals because, despite BJ’s best efforts, he collided with a mistake for a solo home run. In the 9th, they get a runner on third with one out, but Popeye strikes out for the Golden Sombrero instead of lifting a medium fly ball to left.

    And somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away, Joe Simpson laughs. Braves Journal is busy blaming the sac bunt that didn’t score a run in the third, Sam Holbrook, and the ghost of Eric Gregg.

  31. Sorry to over-generalize…to be clear here’s how I’d manage this team. It’s not rocket surgery. I think pretty much anyone could manage a good tactical baseball game.

    When the Braves should bunt:
    – less that two outs, pitcher up
    – tie game, last inning

    When the Braves should steal:
    – never, but if we insist, then only with Uptons or Heyward or Schafer. Simmons should not be allowed to even think about it.

    When the Braves should hit and run:
    – 3-2 count, two outs
    – occasionally with McCann or Freeman at the plate

  32. @35, but it’s only 2-1 because Gearrin pitched to LaRoche and then batted for himself in the 7th.

  33. You know, Bobby Cox didn’t fail in the playoffs. Bobby Cox had a magnificent record in the playoffs. He simply got caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of an extended playoff system (beginning in 1993) and Joe Torre’s perfectly configured Yankees bullpen.

    If Fredi Gonzalez manages playoff series as well as Bobby Cox did they’ll run into a World Series title or two for him.

  34. And the idea that in game tactics should be formulaic based on a spreadsheet readout of probabilities is absurd. Sometimes a guy with a 5+ ERA is throwing lights out that day.

  35. 36: When the Braves should allow Tim Hudson to bat for himself in the seventh inning while trailing by one, with Walden, Wood, and Kimbrel all available: never.

  36. @36 When the Braves should hit and run:
    – 3-2 count, two outs

    Just to be clear, that’s not really a hit and run. Though I’m assuming that’s kind of the point.

  37. @39, so in-game tactics should mostly be based on…hunches? Kinda like “I have a really strong hunch that Charlie Liebrandt can get Kirby Puckett out right here”…

  38. Billy Beane liked probability and odds in the regular season. What does he say about his stuff and the playoffs?

    The Braves are going to be awesome in the regular season. They’ll probably win 95+ because of their deep rotation, deepish bullpen, and the home run hitters. We probably have the best 25 man roster in baseball, regardless of how they’re tactically used.

    But we don’t play 25 man rosters in the postseason. They play with 18-20 in most of the playoffs. My fear is the Braves will run into the modern-day equivalent of Clemens/Petite/El Duque and Stanton/Wetteland/Nelson/Rivera. Look back at those series. Those guys pitched a huge majority of those innings. Rivera and Nelson/Wetteland appeared in almost every game of the seasons they were with New York.

  39. @34, it’s more complicated than that, because you can draw inferences not from tells (which I grant will be weeded out) but from higher-order inferences like negative inferences from what people must not have because of what they didn’t do. Every player needs to inject some randomness in their play to avoid this, but it is really difficult to do optimally. If you were correct, computer entries would do well in poker tournaments. They don’t. One program, Polaris, has done OK in a few trials against humans, but if it were just about calculating pot odds, computers would rule poker.

  40. @42 – one bad decision with a bad result does not change the fact that Bobby Cox’s post-season record is actually quite good.

  41. 12-Why make your window May 1st? Well, because Uggla had a seven game hitting streak to start the month during which he raised his OPS by 168 points. But move the window to just count the most recent month’s stats, and even including the most recent hot streak in LA he has an OPS of what, exactly?

    I know Uggla is likelier to have a sub .700 OPS because I can graph his OPS by game over the past three seasons and discover that the best fit line predicts an OPS from here on out of about .715, or about 30 points lower than a peak on June 10 and about 35 points higher than a trough on June 6.

    So what is likelier, that Uggla outperform by 85 points a projection based on a few year’s worth of data or that he underperforms it by just 15 points?

  42. @46

    I agree 10000%.

    It’s not Bobby’s fault Lonnie Smith lost the ball in the roof.

    It’s not his fault that Mark Wholers decided to throw slow pitch softball to Jim Leyritz, when he couldn’t touch the heat.

    That would account for three total rings right there.

    Also, The Blue Jays and the 99 Yankees were just better teams. Not Bobby’s fault.

  43. @47: Because both are within the margin of error of the regression line? In any case, JCM, we shall see. We’ve both put our stakes in the ground. You, 50 points lower than this year’s historic performance — me, 50 point higher.

  44. @46, isn’t his postseason record below .500? Quite good seems a bit strong. In his defense I think we mostly lost to better teams.

  45. 1985: 0-1
    1991: 1-1
    1992: 1-1
    1993: 1-1
    1995: 3-0
    1996: 2-1
    1997: 1-1
    1998: 1-1
    1999: 2-1
    2000: 0-1
    2001: 1-1
    2002: 0-1
    2003: 0-1
    2004: 0-1
    2005: 0-1
    TOTS: 13-14 (counting the Blue Jays loss in the ALCS in 1985)

    Now, the question is how many should he have won in that time frame.

  46. But lest it be said that I never criticize Fredi: Andrelton Simmons needs to be dropped to #8 in the order. Let Heyward or JUpton leadoff.

  47. I did see a little of the game last night, one episode that transpired without comment was Hudson storming around in the dugout the inning after Jupton short armed that double off the chaulk. Then he glared out to LF in the following inning on a ball to the gap. Was this veteran leadership? the beginnings of trouble? or nothing?

  48. @42:

    I wonder what exactly your formulaic approach is based upon.

    Does it take into account a team’s risk-seeking/avoidance, or do you just fiat that risk-neutrality is optimal for all teams in all situations?

    And how well do you think your strategy would work in terms of game theory if the other side knew you always played it that way? For example, if “never steal” is the maxim, you’d expect opposing teams no longer to hold runners. And that takes away opportunities for base hits to the right side. Pitchers better from the wind up might no longer pitch from the stretch. They might also change pitch selection, throwing breaking pitches in situations that, fearing a steal, they would be better of throwing fastballs.

    What is the cost-benefit then of a strategy “never steal” once the other side figures out your proclivities? How many runs does “never steal” gain you, in light of the above?

  49. @56 Actual lineup for today’s game: Simmons 6, Heyward 9, JUpton 7, Freeman 3, Gattis 2, BUpton 8, Uggla 4, CJohnson 5, Maholm 1.

    Side note on Simmons: he’s got an amazing to make contact with pitches (4.9% swinging strike rate, nearly Prado territory) but until he starts taking more walks and/or stops hitting so many infield flies, he’s not productive enough to bat at the top of the lineup.

  50. @57, I was wondering the same. I couldn’t decide if that reaction was just the disbelief and frustration of seeing a ball like that (which was in the air for an eternity) drop right on the line and him cursing his own luck, or if it was more about JUpton being lazy and totally non-gritty.

    JUpton sometimes looks like he’s loafing out there. He may not be. He may just suck. But the vibe he gives off is that he’s not going all out after catchable balls. My guess is that Hudson was catching some of that vibe.

  51. I suspect that Justin Upton is just not a particularly good defender any more. He was good when he broke in, but as he put on bulk with age, he’s lost range.

  52. The radio guys seemed to think it was foremost some really bad luck, but that Justin probably could have got it. They also noted Hudson’s reaction. Justin does looks slow out there and he doesn’t seem to throw himself around, which is probably where the “lack of grit” thing comes in. I think our caveman brains just want to see a guy dive headfirst for a ball and “leave it all on the field” and Justin doesn’t seem to play that way.

  53. Yeah, Bryce Harper and his bursitis at the age of 19 throws it all out and leaves it all on the field. I’ll take a guy who knows where the walls are.

  54. I’m fine with him not being very good at defense. I’ve said many times that I don’t think LF defense matters. I worry a little about the lack-of-hustle vibe that he gives off. I don’t want him running into walls. But I also don’t want him lolly-gagging. Hudson was pissed last night. Maybe time for some veteran leadership tough/love. Or maybe Chipper can tweet about it.

  55. 63, Or maybe time to think that that given the tremendous amount of effort by all accounts that BJ puts in on his hitting makes it very doubtful that he’s a lollygagger, and more likely it’s just a misperception on the part of the viewer trying to force events into a meme.

  56. I have heard that BJ and Justin don’t hustle. I haven’t really seen that. I think they bark at the umps on close pitches sometimes, but I like their effort.

  57. They always said Andruw Jones didn’t “hustle.” Because he made it look so easy. JUpton has lost a step defensively since he came up. He’s a mediocre defender in LF (and straight up terrible in right.) He’s out there for his bat.

  58. @60/61: That’s funny, because I know at least five or six times I’ve cursed at the screen when Justin inexplicably dove for a ball he had no real chance to catch, and thus instead of blocking it with his body and holding the batter to a single, he turned it into a two- or even three-base hit. In fact, when I think of Justin’s D, that’s the main image that pops into my head.

    Am I alone in this? Or crazy? (Or both?)

  59. @70 More likely that I’m the one who’s crazy ;) But I have felt like screaming something like “Justin just lay out for that!” on multiple occasions as well. I’ve just settled into the idea that he’s not a good defender, and I’m ok with that. Most of the time.

  60. @67, we’re talking about Justin (not BJ) but you have a valid point. Still, the meme didn’t materialize from a vacuum. His whole history with Arizona is enough to show that he can be somewhat “frustrating”.

    The bottom line, as expressed in @69, is that his bat should (and will) more than make up for anything he does in the field. When he’s not hitting then everything is magnified, since that’s really his only job.

  61. Looks like we’ll be tipping our caps to Edinson Volquez. Our offense is offensive.

  62. We’ve still got a few AB’s left but I think the white flag is already up. 20 games in 20 days, long road trip, limping into the finish line. Just like the last long road trip. Things will hopefully pick up from here.

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