San Diego 6, Braves 4

I am commanded by the King to be brief, and since I am the King’s obedient subject, brief I will be.

This was sort of like a whole lot of other games that we’ve seen lately, so I won’t spend too long on the particulars. Julio Teheran was mostly excellent. He had a very good slider and a pretty good fastball — he occasionally missed up, and notably plunked Matt Kemp, but when he missed he missed out of the strike zone. He didn’t give up a single home run, which for him counts as serious progress.

Then he went out in the 8th inning and promptly gave up two singles and a walk before Fredi went out and got him. The next part took forever to watch and was excruciatingly painful. So here’s what happened:

Dana Eveland, a lefty, came in. Justin Upton, a righty, came in to pinch hit. Christian Bethancourt completely whiffed on an inside pitch — it looked like Eveland missed his spot, but it was a passed ball and a run scored. Eveland proceded to walk Upton, loading the bases again. Fredi yanked him.
Nick Masset, a righty, came in. He struck out the only man he faced. Fredi yanked him.
Luis Avilan, a lefty, came in. He walked in a run. Fredi yanked him.
David Aardsma, a righty, came in. He struck out the first man he faced. Then, as the next batter was taking a swing, Bethancourt reached his glove too far forward and the batter’s bat hit his glove — catcher’s interference, automatic base, everyone advances, a run scores, tie ballgame. Aardsma got the next guy out. That was the end of the 8th.
• At the beginning of the 9th, Fredi put in Grilli, who threw a clean frame.

Now, I am going to criticize some of the decisions that Fredi made, but before I do, I am going to speak generally to everyone on this board. Stop the personal attacks. I do not want to ban anyone: Mac was incredibly sparing with the banhammer, and I have no desire to use it more frequently than he did. But the threads are filling with personal attacks and it is exhausting for all of us. Stop.

In the 8th inning, Fredi used five pitchers to pitch to five batters, and altogether they allowed three runs. Two of the runs were partly attributable to poor defense by Bethancourt, and one was technically unearned, so while Teheran was charged with all four runs he still gets credit for a quality start. But the Braves entered the inning up 4-1, and they ended the inning with a tie game and with almost no one left in the bullpen. It was, to say the least, both an inefficient and an ineffective use of resources.

Obviously, the bullpen is wretched. But why pull Masset after he struck out the only batter he faced? Why pull Aardsma after he retired the only two batters he faced? (He didn’t actually retire the second one, who reached base via an error. But neither of them reached safely.)

And, most importantly: with a 4-1 lead in the 8th inning, with no one out and the bases loaded, especially considering that we have the worst bullpen in the league, why did Fredi use his worst five relievers before turning to Jason Grilli?

100 thoughts on “San Diego 6, Braves 4”

  1. Alex,

    Thank you …

    Sig (a lurker who lives and dies with the team and who loves this site)

  2. Great job Alex. Your questions about Fredi’s use of the bullpen are well placed. That said, some feel my similar questions are misplaced, and while I don’t wish the banhammer upon myself, others do. So to continue my question from the previous thread, if there is a substantial cohort (not even a majority) who wish I would no longer post here, I’ll comply. Just make it plain, either through a poll or a showing in the main thread and I’ll be gone–no banhammer needed. just speak out. This is a great forum, and the last thing I want to do is ruin that for the mass of participants here.

    Best, all.

  3. Another lurker here, agree with you, alex on the bullpen mismanagement.

    and please, no more personal attacks, it is just a game. Different opinions should be tolerated.

  4. Time for Bethancourt to be sent down. He is actually worse than worthless. It would be better to play with 8 guys.

  5. JohnWDB,

    I fall firmly in the Mac Don’t ban until absolutely necessary camp. So, I say keep posting. But, I have to suggest that you took what the bodyguard comment waaaay too seriously, and then Would. Not. Drop. It. (Not that others weren’t also Not. Dropping. It. Either.)

    Anyway, this site is one of the most reasonable spots around, and I think we, as posters, usually show respect for the person behind the screen name. If a little good natured joshing feels to you like a personal slur (even if you consider it in poor taste), and you can’t let it go, then I have to ask why do you keep coming back? But, if you can handle the occasion joke in poor taste, and let it roll off your back, then I for one welcome you. (And anyone else who loves The Laundry, thinks Hank Aaron is the bestest player still alive, and believes that Melky Cabrera is the Devil).

    Now that I have exhausted my monthly ration of Capital Letters (and Parentheses), let’s head to New York and win some against IWOTM.

  6. For all that is holy, let us not revisit who said what to whom and who was properly aggrieved and who was not. That way lies madness.

    Just stop. Don’t say stuff to people from the safety of your couch that would get you popped in the nose in person. Don’t use obscenities.

    Agree to disagree occasionally with others who also love the Braves.

  7. And, Grilli threw 8-9 pitches maybe in his inning? He could have handled 2-3 more batters.

  8. So, what do people think? To what extent will HartCop go to rebuild this bullpen?

    And at what point does Fredi’s management cross over into performance art?

  9. I may come across at times as a Fredi apologist, but I’m not. My point is that most of his decisions can reasonably be defended and his game management skills are not my biggest concern. My biggest concern is the way he controls the team. I continue to have some concerns with that.

    That being said, Fredi’s use of the bullpen was indefensible. I know he has very little to work with, but 5 pitchers in one inning? I think we would have had to throw the game to save bullpen arms if the game went much longer. Terrible management!

  10. @5

    I think he should be sent down too, but to get more playing time.

    I am not sure who we would get to take his spot.

  11. @13, We’ve got a dead-ringer for Gerald Laird who already wears a Braves uniform. Surely he can’t be of less use behind the plate than behind the railing.

  12. Betty will be better. Let’s not cast the die just yet. I too would like to see him play much, much more. Just like pitchers need time to adjust at the big league level, same holds true for position players. Especially catchers.

    This team is what it is and Fredi is at a disadvantage for sure. However, Fredi does not present a unique differentiator to this team that I can tell. He’s completely dispensable. That’s one thing if we’re talking about the manager of your neighborhood kickball team – – but when we are talking about the skipper of one of 31 MLB teams, I’d like to think we could do better.

  13. @2 I don’t care if you continue to post here or not, but I am sick of seeing all of the personal attacks that have sprung up over the past couple of weeks and echo all who are calling for them to stop. The tone is wearisome. The AJC blogs exists for all of those who enjoy and would like to participate in “debates” of that nature. I know Mac at various times said if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, or in front of your mother, then don’t say it here, either.

    This is a sports blog, so disagreements and debates are going to happen–frankly, it’d be pretty boring without them. Ad hominem attacks, however, only serve to weaken your own argument, and generally make people who agree with your viewpoint want to side against you. This team gives us plenty of things to fuss about; there is no need to start in on each other, too.

  14. God bless America, the United States Marine Corps, the Atlanta Braves, Braves Journal and all our little pea-picking hearts. Beat the Mets, not each other.

    Oh, and God bless Pogo Possum too.

  15. @15

    I hope he can be better. I have really never understood the fanfare the organization has for him. His bat has never been all that good. We heard how he was a defensive wiz, but he looks pretty bad behind the plate. His arm is great, but lots of guys have great arms.

    It seemed like the club though he was ready this winter and made moves to confirm that. Then they only play him sparingly?

    So I in closing, I don’t understand the hype and then I don’t understand the way they are using him. It makes little sense.

  16. I agree, Smitty. I’d send him down and let him catch 75% of the games until he gets his defense back or up or whatever. Go get some washed up good glove vet to back up AJ.

    You CAN be a MLB catcher with no bat (god bless Eggs) but your defense has to be flawless. His isn’t even MLB average. Catcher’s interference? Sweet Lord.

  17. Has Koyie Hill hung up his spikes yet?

    Give Bethancourt a chance to work things out. It’s hard to be consistent if you play every fourth or fifth day.

  18. Taking my 5 yr old son to his first game in enemy territory (CitiField) tonight.

    He’ll probably only last until about the 7th inning, at which point I’ll be more than happy to miss seeing our dumpster fire bullpen and beat traffic back to Suffolk county.

  19. Have fun, DWonder. My daughter did a game at Citizens Bank before she was one. Actually, I think she was the only thing keeping the crazies away from us.

  20. I felt that we gave away a useful player when we traded Brayan Pena, but never did I imagine we’d be pining for him to be our starting catcher.

  21. Or at least ride the pine should an actual competent major league catcher suddenly appear on the scene.

  22. I wonder how drug testing/suspensions work. Did Atlanta know that O’Dowd was about to get suspended and they signed Lavarnaway as a result? I wonder if there’s a private release of the results and appeal process, giving the team time to make an adjustment.

    Bethancourt is only 23. His bat will inevitably get better, and if we didn’t trade Gattis, he’d probably still be in AAA. If AJP was hitting better, he’d also not be getting as exposed as he is. The arm is there, the framing and blocking ability is there, but it certainly appears that there are mental lapses in judgment and focus issues. The passed balls and mistakes are not a reflection of skills but of focus and maturity. If he could spend the year at AAA, he could play less games and get bigger and stronger, and also work on refining his game and hopefully developing the maturity to not make the mental mistakes that have cost us.

    Could Lavarnway/AJP give us a RH/LH platoon that could produce a .250/.320/.380 line with adequate defense and get Bethancourt consistency, less stressful environment, and better coaching in AAA? Then he can come up next year get another crack at it. Sounds like a rebuilding approach to me!

  23. Another catcher note: go back and look at David Ross’ stats when he was in Atlanta. Boy, were we spoiled! He also immediately lost 100 OPS points when he left ATL, so we’re not the ones torpedoing everyone’s careers. Just some.

  24. Think fast–who has the higher WAR, Evan Gattis or Christian Bethancourt?

    It’s Bethancourt by a hair, if you like BR, or Gattis by a hair, if you like fangraphs. Both have been better than AJP this season.

    For all his lapses, Bethancourt still grades out well on defense. The lapses may well be due to being 23 years old or having long layoffs between starts. Those can be improved upon with experience…or Adderall. Either way, he’s going to be useful catcher after he takes a few lumps, and I’d prefer to get the lumps out of the way this season.

  25. I do think Adderall would be a legit solution to his issues. The talent’s there, but the focus is not.

  26. @34, but look at that dreamy Brayan Pena’s numbers…I’m pining, I’m piiiiining…

  27. Huh. Today’s the 45th anniversary of Dock Ellis’ infamous no-no.

    Has anyone seen “No No: A Dockumentary”? Recommended?

  28. Here is MLB employee Mark Bowman detailing a list of bullpen management mistakes made by Fredi Gonzalez within the last two weeks.

    He even gets snarky: “Cunniff retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth and then handed the ball to Avilan because well you know despite what the stats say, you have to create lefty-on-lefty matchups.”

    This is a shot across Fredi’s bow.

  29. @39

    I’m thinking that if we see another couple more questionable late game bullpen calls, it’ll be time for the Vote of Confidence article from the FO.

  30. @39, managing a dumpster fire bullpen is orders of magnitude more difficult than managing a bullpen with 4 elite relievers. Moves that used to cause minor gripes were smoothed over by Oventbrel; now, they are magnified.

    I just can’t shut up about Mallex Smith. He had two more multi-hit games the last 2 days and now he’s all .350/.427/.426 with 19/24 SB. Hitting .414 in June

    Rio Ruiz is hitting .357 in June after an abysmal first 2 months of AA.

  31. @39

    Yeah, that’s probably not a great sign for Fredi there. Doesn’t seem like much, but it’s way farther than Bowman generally dares to go.

  32. @43

    Agreed that it is definitely not a good sign for Fredi.

    Once again, I don’t necessarily think Fredi is a very good manager, but it’s kinda hard to criticize a decision-maker by using Blackjack as the analogy. Saying that his bullpen decisions are like deciding on hitting or staying on 15 or 16 is all but saying that the decisions can go either way. I’ve never thought someone who had a good run on Blackjack to be an elite strategist.

    I think Fredi played the lefty, righty match-ups to an extreme yesterday, and that clearly bit him. I would have probably left Masset in to face the lefty, but if Avilan gets an out there, then he looks like a genius. Then you go to Aardsma, finish the inning, and the Braves still have the lead. Fredi’s over-active trigger finger exacerbated the issue of the pitchers and catcher not being able to get he job done. You put it all together and it leads to a cluster of ineptitude, but I don’t think Fredi bears ultimate responsibility there.

  33. I’d pick one nit with Bowman’s analysis. Avilan has had reverse splits this season, probably due to sample size. He has been a little tougher on lefties than righties for his career (.569 OPS vs .611), and either is better than he’d expect Cunniff to fare.

    The more important point with Avilan is that when you only have 2 or 3 good relievers, you can’t afford to use one of them as a LOOGY. Besides which, Avilan isn’t a LOOGY–he can get out righties, too.

    @44, having Eveland face Justin Upton with the bases loaded cannot possibly be the best Fredi could come up with

  34. @42

    Listening to you rave about Mallex Smith is something I think we can all approve of!

  35. I just saw that Gomes is starting tonight against Colon. Sigh.

    Maybe Gomes has good career stats against Colon. Maybe KJ can’t hit him. Otherwise it makes no sense.

  36. Mallex won’t keep that up at the ML level, but if he can develop some power and be .320/.400/.420 with a high SB rate and great defense, then he’s a borderline All-Star.

  37. He would also continue a trend of M-names in center:

    Michael borne

  38. Will Mallex be moving to triple AAA at any point this season with possible MLB next year, or is he at least two years from being in the Majors?

  39. Imagine this lineup in 2016:

    2B Peraza
    CF Mallex
    LF Maybin
    1B Freeman
    RF Markakis
    3B Jace
    SS Simmons
    C Whatever

    There’s not much power, but it might lead the league in OBP and steals to go with top shelf defense.

  40. @54, if he keeps it up for a few more weeks, I’d wager he’ll see AAA next month. Nobody really blocking him there…

    And then he should have a shot at a roster spot next spring, barring a turrble showing at AAA

    Rio Ruiz, on the other hand, needs to finish strong to not repeat AA. He’s only 21 though, so that’s ok

  41. @55, that looks like a last place lineup to me. Let’s hope we have first place pitching.

  42. @54, I think it depends entirely on how the team wants to handle him (and on how healthy Maybin remains). As long as Maybin reamins on the field, the team has every reason to take it easy with Mallex. If he keeps hitting .350 at Double-A, there will be a real incentive to give him a late-season taste of Triple-A over the summer. But once a guy’s in Double-A, he’s fair game for a situational callup to the big leagues. It’s worth remembering that Maybin is owed $8 million next year, and he has a $9 million club option for 2017, which gives the Braves some flexibility.

  43. @55
    see that as a team that is a tough out.
    Lots of speed, contact and defense with deep starting pitching.
    I like that.
    Reminds me of the 80’s Cardinals.

  44. Has anyone seen anything to suggest that Mallex Smith projects to be even a league average defensive centerfielder? All the scouting reports I’ve read give him at best a 45 arm and 50-55 fielding despite all of the raw speed.

    Fangraphs doesn’t like Maybin’s defense much this year (he’s looked pretty damn good to me), but he’s put up 17+ career dWAR and it’s hard to imagine Smith being much of an upgrade on defense.

  45. @37 – yes, I thought “No-No” was quite good. I’d never actually seen footage of the actual no-hitter game before, so that in itself was neat, but the film did a really good job of placing him in a broader social context… having come along well after his career, I had no idea what a cultural lightning rod he’d been. There are great stories, too, like Muhammad Ali visiting the Pirates’ clubhouse after a game and Dock dancing around & trying to spar with him a little bit–and then with just a flick of the Champ’s wrist, getting laid out.

  46. Of all my virtues, patience is the least; and is trying it mightily. I’ve seen three — count ’em — pitches so far. My TV is not so large that I cannot throw it.

  47. Lagares, now that I can see, looks good in center.

    Maybe I should go back to not being able to watch.

  48. @60, I haven’t, but Mallex in LF is a viable option, too. I mean, compared to Gomes. I guess we’ll see though. I seem to remember Jace Peterson being a middling fielding prospect but he’s been better than advertised.

  49. Bowman has said that neither Peterson nor Peraza will play 3rd. Neither have the arm or the bat for the position.

  50. Does a 3B need a stronger arm than a SS? I always thought SS needed the strongest arm bc they range to their right so far and have to throw back

    And peraza is supposed to be a legit SS

    Also, can either be worse than Chris Johnson?

  51. @65

    If neither is going to play third, then barring a Peraza to CF move, you’d think one of them is going on the trading block then.

  52. 67 — Yeah, they have been talking about how they aren’t planning to move Peterson off 2nd. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Peraza traded this offseason. He’s blocked at CF too, and Mallex Smith is on the depth chart there too.

  53. From number one prospect in the system to trade fodder: maybe he could fetch a similar third base prospect or a real more-than-a-rental relief pitcher.

  54. makes for interesting possibilities. I think the long term answer at third has to be Ruiz or D. Peterson, but I wouldn’t mind seeing one of Peraza/Jace man the position for a season.

  55. They both seem like super-versatile utility players to me. I think they will be a positive to any team, but they aren’t going to push us into the playoffs alone. If we field an all defense/mighty-mite team we better have a ton of good pitching.

  56. I’ll probably soon regret this, but Chip hasn’t irritated me once so far tonight. My Braves, on the other hand, are being shut out by a guy as old and fat as I am.

  57. @74, had no idea. Well, his bat plays anywhere.

    This game is not going so great, but if recent history is an indicator, we will charge out to a 2 run lead and then blow it with faulty relief pitching.

  58. I used to play golf, still have a couple of bags full of sticks. It got to the point where frustration outweighed enjoyment, so I put up the clubs. Now when I get the urge to play, I grab a hammer and pound my bare big toe. It’s as much fun and a heck of a lot quicker.

    I’m starting to feel the same way about the Braves, but some addictions are not as easy to end.

  59. Fartolo’s bat would play at a few positions for us

    @coop, thought you were gonna say “watching the Braves is like pounding your toe with a hammer. The only reason to do it is it feels good to stop”

  60. Juan more biscuit, Juan, and it would have been gone.
    AJP for the nonproductive out.

  61. JJ Hoover pitched 2 scoreless innings in relief to get the win for the Reds, and he is now 5-0. We traded him for A Fat Juan, but it was that bunk ditch weed and it didn’t even get us high.

  62. That run resulted from that throw to second. Alex has no one to blame for that, not even Fredi.

  63. We haven’t lost by this method lately. Pen was not the culprit. Arab Fail-with-Bases-Loaded was.

  64. Markakis had 9 LOB tonight

    MLB record is 12, shared by 4 people, most recently David Ortiz in 2009.

  65. Markakis could be the least valuable .300 hitter (with min ABs) in the Majors.

    Sheesh Neck!

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