The Best May Bullpen in Baseball, So Far. Braves 5-Padres 1

Last week was my 45th high school reunion, which I didn’t attend.  But I know I have readers from that class, because one friend of mine forwards my missives to another.  (Hi, Dennis.)  The 1974 team had Hank’s 715th, of course, but was not otherwise a particularly memorable team, an 88-74 team that fired their Hall of Fame manager, Eddie Mathews, at the All-Star break.  Worse for the team, but good for us, they drew under 1,000,000 fans, next-to-last in the National League.  Worse, this figure hides the fact that there were a number of really well-attended games leaving a bunch of other games under 10,000 fans.  A late May series against the Phillies drew under 20,000 total, despite matchups like Steve Carlton against Carl Morton won by the Braves with a pinch hit by Vic Correll off Carlton in the bottom of the 11th before 7,816.

This was good for us because the Braves announced a policy which would be unthinkable today in a lot of ways: they let you bring beer to the stadium as long as it was in a plastic receptacle.  You’d rinse out a half-gallon milk jug, fill it with beer, pack it in ice and go to the game.  I have no great lesson here except that things were different back then.  Baseball wants to appeal to younger folk now and my advice: think outside the box.  The things that bind me to the Braves won’t work anymore, or even be legal for the most part, but empty seats are a powerful motivator.

Tonight’s baseball game combined an excellent Fried, timely late hitting for a change, and solid baseball for a 5-1 win over the Padres  Fried gave up a homer to Machado but was otherwise perfect until wriggling out of a jam in the fifth ending on a Wil Myers double play.  Fried is pitching so well, and so economically, that there is always a question whether or not to let him bat in a close game late.  Snit pulled him in the 7th here, and was rewarded with a three run inning on an aggressive dash home from Culberson and a two-run homer from Dansby .  But is it enough?  Webb came in and promptly loaded the bases on a single and two walks.  (Fried walked none.)  Tomlin got Reyes on a fielder’s choice force at home and then, facing Machado, got a critical strikeout.  That left Renfroe, who took a called third strike.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is clutch relief pitching.  It can be done. A four run lead in the 9th is a Major Minter Margin.  (I coined the Minter Margin last week, I think, and it is the current equivalent of Reitsma Room, or would be, if we were certain Minter was going to be the closer.)  An uneventful 9th followed, but if the lead had been 1, who knows?

Back to .500. Undefeated in May. Day game tomorrow.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

73 thoughts on “The Best May Bullpen in Baseball, So Far. Braves 5-Padres 1”

  1. Mike Soroka and Max Fried’s production, collectively extrapolated to 30 starts, is a 4.8 bWAR pitcher. #TINSTAAP

  2. Yes…fine job Jonathan F…and I believe an outright record for posting so quickly after a game. Were you typing as you watched -phone/laptop/PC? Bar/home?

    Just trying to capture a little bit of your ambience.

  3. Great recap. Thanks. 88 wins is nothing to sneeze at even if it didn’t get you close to the playoffs at the time. I didn’t think any of the 70s teams was over .500 (at least they weren’t when I listened to CBS radio).

  4. Soroka and Fried and pray for rain.

    OK, so it’s not alliterative and it doesn’t rhyme but it seems appropriate.

  5. Someone needs to put a stop to Camargo’s ugly left handed swing which continues to look out of sync and devoid of power. But he sure can play third.

  6. Thanks.
    @3: That’s what I do… Research, muse and write while watching, going back and editing paragraphs when they turn out to be premature. Usually at home, Bourbon at my side.

    @5: The good news was we could bring beer. The bad news is that 1974 beer was. not. good. Really. Any of it. The best beer in town, IMO, was at Lum’s, a now forgotten chain of restaurants. Their beer wasn’t any good either, but they served it at about 32.6 degrees, which makes up for a lot of flaws on a hot day.

    They sell Sweetwater at the Park now, right? No milk jug necessary. I also like Founders All Day, Ransack the Universe and Ninja vs. Unicorn. Beer is so good now that you can afford to go with hipster names and still get good stuff.

  7. Good recap, JonathanF. I want to say that we took our milk jugs to The Outpost, a package store in the vicinity of The Bluebird truck stop. Good times!

  8. It’s good to know that RAJ with Ozzies help reads this blog. The bat at address was noticeably more vertical tonight. Check it out tomorrow afternoon over 4 at bats.

  9. Josh Tomlin
    the walls of Troy they came down a’tumblin’
    nothing could quench his mighty spear’s thrusts
    save Helen who said ‘I thought you were just one of those busts.’

  10. Great job, JonathanF. I was high school class of ‘73, so I was in college in 1974. My crowd took great advantage of the beer in your own jug policy. The beer was lousy but we didn’t know better. You could buy cheap seats at the gate and then move down to the good seats. I know I attended more than one game when the attendance was fewer than a thousand.

    1974 was easily the Braves best season of the 1970’s; they didn’t approach 88 wins in any other season that decade. They were never in contention that year, though, because the Dodgers won 102. The really unusual thing is that the strength of the team was its pitching. Buzz Capra led the league in ERA and I think Knucksie was third. But other than Ralph Garr, everyone had an off year offensively.

    Sorry to go on so long about things before most of you were born. Blame JonathanF; he keeps keep bringing up history and I can’t resist adding on.

  11. So back to the present day. I was at tonight’s game. I’ve gotta say I really enjoy this year’s team. We got a great deal on stubhub on dugout level seats, so we could see the players up close. Ozzie, Dansby, Johan, and RAJ always seem to be having fun. Ozzie never stops talking. Even better than their attitude is their production. Albies and Swanson are turning into a dynamite keystone combo.

    I know there’s been a lot of TINSTAAPP talk on here lately. Kid pitchers will break your heart, but Fried and Soroka are for real.

    Tomlin was fantastic, but we’ve still got serious bullpen issues.

  12. I officially kick off the Craig Kimbrel Countdown.

    K – 32 Days and counting.

  13. 1974. Having dodged the war by forsaking college days by enlisting in the world’s finest navy, I re-entered life by buying a Yamaha 750 and driving it from Fort Meade, Maryland down to Key West and back to Bartow, Florida, where I exchanged that boy for about 100 yards of road. I eventually regrew skin, but I put that noble steed down. I still say, “Ouch,” when I see a motor scooter.

    Thanks for road burn memories, JonathanF.

  14. I see little reason to venture out of town for beer. Tropicalia is still on the top 10 list of IPAs in the country. Steady Hand’s Flower Business is also high quality.

  15. The 78 Athens-Atlanta corridor has been a cultural combination entity for decades. At least since the B-52s and REM. I consider Creature Comforts local, in much the same way I consider Burnt Hickory local, even though they’re technically in Kennesaw.

  16. The top 10 list of IPAs… is that similar to ranking the arms in the Braves’ bullpen?

  17. The way IPA rankings tend to work is, first you go find people with taste, and then you ask them what they think about things, and they tell you. So it’s probably out of your area of experience, DS.

  18. At the beginning of the year, there were no expectations that Donaldson would play 162, and we all pretty much figured that playing 162 would be bad anyway. So I’m glad he’s getting time off after appearing in all but 1 game before this stretch. I would think they’d IL him if he was really hurt. But glad he has the rest and Camargo has the PAs.

  19. Funny. I would have thought one needed to have no taste at all in order to enjoy the best IPAs.

  20. Any time Donaldson sits for more than one game is going to be treated the same as any time Julio gives up a homer. It will always be the canary in the coal mine of imminent doom for a certain segment of fans. Just because they want to be “right” about him being an “injury risk.”

  21. @22 Creature Comforts got some great product placement in the latest Avengers film. The moment when I saw the God of Thunder wielding a can of Tropicalia during Endgame gave me almost the same sense of excitement as I had later on in the movie when [SPOILER REDACTED]. Now that’s excitement!

    TBH, I don’t know if Sweetwater is actually available at the Park Soon to be Called Something Other Than Suntrust since they have that cozy relationship with Terrapin now.

    BTW, Any Scofflaw Basement fans around here besides me?

  22. “Canary in the coal mine of imminent doom” is fantastic. That’s really some of your best work.

  23. When I was at UNC in the 80’s, I helped get bringing beer into ACC baseball games banned.

    (Ok, I helped inspire Clemson’s coach into getting bringing beer into ACC baseball games banned.)

  24. Both teams really wanna get on their planes. This might be a 2 hour game if they continue like this.

  25. Folty, Soroka, and Fried are starting to look like an excellent top half of the rotation. If we can get Gausman and Teheran going, that’s an impressive staff (note: this was written before Folty’s problems this inning, but it’s still valid).

  26. Folty will never be more than a 3rd or 4th starter long term on a playoff caliber roster. IMO.

  27. Folty had an episode. From what I could tell, it didn’t look like he was getting hit hard. I know a bunt and a sack bunt started the carnage. Anyone who is watching have a different perspective?

  28. @38 It was a combination of things for sure. I didn’t think Folty got upset, and it certainly looked as if his slider didn’t help him any in terms of where he located it. But then the defense didn’t help matters at all whether it was Acuna taking a wrong first step on a fly ball that became a hit, or a bouncer back up the middle that glanced off of Folty’s glove and became an errant throw into CF… another ball that hit off Camargo’s glove and rolled into foul territory…

    I prefer to think that even the Big Three had innings like this one, but they never seemed to falter in their ability to induce some quick easy outs after things got hairy. Instead, Folty had to be lifted because the entire team clunked that inning.

  29. @38 A typical Folty meltdown after his error and Acuna not catching the pop single. I thought we were past these types of meltdowns, but I guess with Folty’s late start to the season, we’re not. Maybe they should’ve brought in Dayton a couple of batters sooner.

  30. I can’t figure out why we’re being schooled by a lefty reliever turned starter.

  31. Welp. Carle is not the answer, not even in garbage time. Braves got a man on 2nd with 2 out = 0 runs. Padres get a man on 2nd with 2 out = 3 runs …… SO FAR.

    Oops, 5 runs now….

  32. Didn’t look like he was upset as in the past. DS is spot on with his comment @40.
    RAJ sure does not look great in CF today.
    Folty will be fine. Just one of those innings and games.
    Let’s get back to winning in Florida.

  33. What are y’all complaining about? Through six Braves pitchers have not walked anyone!

  34. Acuna is not a good fielder and may never be. Unnatural reactions/jumps/angles.

  35. @49 he does make you hold your breath at times, although not Lonnie Smith or Matt Kemp levels

  36. @39
    Especially considering he was the #1 on a playoff team just last year…

  37. So Dansby spent time with Chipper. I recommend we pay Andruw handsomely to work with Acuna in CF. ;-)

  38. #49


    In your opinion, why has Acuna had the ball pop out of his web so often lately? It looks like he’s wearing his glove with two in the pinky (TIP), so he should have good extension and control (closing the glove thumb to pinky). What gives?

  39. I like Scofflaw’s lineup well enough, though if I’m drinking hyper locally I’ll walk over to Steady Hand instead. (Saves having to cross Marietta at the cemetery.) I have pushed Basement down below Tropicalia, Flower Business, and the rebranded Atlanta Brewing Company’s (formerly Redbrick) Hartsfield.

  40. @53. I was odd as a CF/OF in that I did not like to use a large glove in the OF for just the reasons you mention. I always felt like I had less control on the squeeze and wanted the sensation of feeling the ball closer to my hand.

    Having said that, guys love their gloves and are reluctant to change. IMO the bigger issue with him is his instincts and feel for the position.

    He needs a ton of balls hit to him in the offseason. OF instincts are largely innate but you can improve it to a point.

  41. Ronald Acuna has played CF every every stop of his career up until he was called up to Atlanta. The problem isn’t too few reps.

  42. Luke Jackson continues to prove to be our best reliever. If anyone has ever silenced his critics, Luke has done that so far. Even if he bombs the rest of the year, I didn’t think he was good enough to have this many successful outings.

  43. Paul Byrd portrays as a goofy guy but underlying that is a very smart guy.

  44. Culbertson is probably better than a couple of our actual pitchers.

  45. I like Paul Byrd.

    I think Acuna in CF can be fine, but you ought to have two very competent OF’ers around him for those moments when he misjudges the ball off the bat.

  46. Culberson just painted the inside corner with a 79mph slider for a K. Amazing. He’s probably better than Carle and Biddle.

  47. Culberson better get his pitching act together. We are going to need him for the 18th inning during the 5th game of World Series.

  48. It looks like Culberson will have to wait a little longer for his first win. His ERA is in great shape, but his peripherals are a little concerning.

  49. I was *at* this atrocity. Left after 5 and started drinking more seriously. Nothing good to say about this squad today, so I’ll just savor the day off instead.

  50. I would say that it’s legit to worry about Folty at this point. He can’t pitch effectively at Julio Teheran velocity levels. Extended time off, and/or surgery is very likely this season. Calibrate your expectations accordingly.

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