Braves 4, Nats 2

On August 31st, I said that the Braves would not win 100 games. At that point, they were 82-54, and they would need to go 18-8 to get to 100. Since then, the Braves have gone 5-0, and my prediction looks pretty bunk. We shall see. They would need to go just 13-8 from here on out to reach 100 wins. It looks good.

So does Max Fried. As of last night, the man sits at 3.1 fWAR in 29 games, 27 of them starts. He’s looking at a 4+ fWAR season if he began the season in the rotation. He sits at 16 wins now with an outside shot at winning 20. In 209 career IP, he now has a 3.70 ERA, 225 strike outs in those 209 innings, and Tony Wolfe with Fangraphs says that he has raised his ceiling. Agreed.

As has Ronald Acuna. He now sits at 36 37 (thanks Dusty) home runs and 34 stolen bases. As I said, we have 21 games left, so he needs a stolen base every 3-4 games, so we’ll be down to the wire on that.

There was so much negativity in the offseason. After November 23rd of last year, the Braves pretty much did nothing. Every free agent went off the board to other teams, JT Realmuto went to Philly, and there was much frustration. But we just beat the perennial Offseason Champions in the Nats, and even if the Nats win the next 3, they’ll still be 5 games back with then 18 games left. But Brian Snitker is not Fredi Gonzalez, and I don’t see this team coughing up this lead.

127 thoughts on “Braves 4, Nats 2”

  1. Haha, I wish we could fix the way hyperlinks show in posts because there was indeed a hyperlink on that!

  2. Thank you Mr. Copenhaver. You have put much work into continuing Braves Journal.

    Let’s see if the almost “Alright, alright, alright” lineup can lead us to another W without curls tonight.

  3. Thanks to Dusty from the end of the previous thread.
    NYY 70-34
    Atl 69-34
    Hou 68-35
    LAD 67-35
    Oak 64-36
    Was 63-39
    Min 64-41
    So since May 9, comprising almost 2/3rd of a season, only the Yankees have a better record than us, and that by only half a game. We have more ML quality talent to mix back into the roster with injury returns and callups.
    Rob, you do great work and I thank you. I’ve really enjoyed you bringing back Alex R, Ryan C, and some of the other content depth to this site which was already the best in the land. Don’t let those who complain about the extra content discourage you from what you have done. We need more of what you have brought and less of them.

  4. I am happy to have been completely wrong not only about the offseason, but for criticizing the FO’s failure to sign Kimbrel in June. Turns out AA knows more about baseball than I do.

  5. @12 I think AA would tell you he would have signed Kimbrel if he would have taken a one year deal, so in this case I give more credit to the baseball gods than to AA.

  6. I was one of the people who was super annoyed with the offseason — the team had clear areas of improvement and the team basically punted. I was extremely satisfied with the way that AA addressed the team’s needs midseason.

    But that doesn’t retroactively change the way I felt. We had a tough first month precisely due to the holes in the team that we knew about all offseason. Getting Keuchel and improving the pen at the deadline were great — but those were holes that we had had for six months. Even if he wanted to see what would shake out with the starting rotation, the bullpen, in particular, was something that could have been addressed at any time. He bided his time, and our shaky pen blew a bunch of games in the meantime.

    Fortunately, the Mets, Nats, and Phillies all vastly underperformed expectations, so we didn’t face nearly as much division competition as we might have expected. But I don’t think AA deserves credit for their screwups.

  7. Thank you, bravemarine.

    Hap, I don’t want to be hypercritical about the hyperlinks, but I’m not seeing a difference on my device. I know these have been a thorn in our side since the theme change.

  8. I’m going to turn this into a post, but it relates to the poll and many responses. Chief and I have been talking about this off-board since him and I are secretly BFLs. And I wanted to see what the facts were since I got into a spirited debate with a certain writer yesterday on the Twitter machine.

    For me, it’s about whether or not the team is spending relative to its revenue, and that has guided every single opinion I’ve had about this offseason. Are they heeping a windfall from revenue and franchise appreciation and not re-investing it into the club, or are they keeping in line with other franchises in the relationship between payroll and revenue? Graphic attached, in 2017, the Braves’ percentage of team revenue allocated to payroll was pretty middle of the pack. I’m unable to locate 2018 percentage rankings, but I can say that their revenue as reported by several websites was around $344M, and their payroll was $130M, which is around 37%. That would have put them in the bottom tier if 2017 percentage rankings held similar.

    This year’s numbers aren’t done yet, of course, but if you took their 2018 revenue ranking (9th in MLB), you can compare that to their current payroll being 14th. Is that good enough? Is your revenue being 9th in baseball and your payroll being 14th good enough? 11 teams had a revenue ranking higher than their payroll ranking, so I simply don’t know what to make of it.

    So when it comes the offseason, I just don’t care when they spent the money, only that they spent it. With that said, the difference currently between being the 14th ranked payroll and 9th is $23M, which is about what, say, Patrick Corbin is making. We’ll see him tonight. I’d rather him be in the other dugout. But is there this resentment towards ownership that we’re not 9th in payroll? Not yet because I don’t know what I should expect. I’ll do more research. But I’m happy with the offseason because ours lasted until July 31st in my eyes. With that said, I would like to see them get flush with their revenue and payroll rankings starting next year as that’s what all the win-now teams are doing, but that may be wishful thinking.

  9. Alex, some questions:

    -According to Fangraphs, the Nats, Phillies, and Mets really didn’t improve their teams the way the talking heads and splash moves suggested. If I’m not mistaken, the Mets didn’t even improve their team by one WAR. Does AA get credit for seeing through the hype and realizing that a Nationals team minus one Bryce Harper and plus one Patrick Corbin is no better?
    -Is a non-linear path to winning a problem? They were bad in April and May, hopefully no surprise to the front office. But does the 109-win pace from May whatever on, which coincided with the acquisitions of Keuchel, the relievers, the aging position players, etc. give AA “credit” that offsets the slow start?

  10. BFL?

    If you whippersnappers don’t quit writing in code, I swear I’m going to start posting only in cursive. So there, take that.

  11. There are some real benefits to adding mid-season, as frustrating as it can be.

    1) Allows you to take on higher salary players when only paying for part of year (Keuchel is a good example as annually his market was about $21 million and we get him for $13)

    2) Again in Keuchel’s case, waiting until June allowed the Braves to keep a draft pick, which enabled them to swing for the fences on day 3 in the draft.

    3) Health – Both for the players added (you may have more certainty if that player is in good health having seen him half a year) and the health of your own players may dictate which moves you should make.

    4) Kind of goes along with the last part of 3 but the ability to assess needs and where you are in the standings has plenty of value.

    5) The shot in the arm that it clearly gave this team to know the front office has their back and was willing to provide reinforcements.

    There are counters to these arguments but I will let someone else make those.

  12. Projecting Out the NL East (Position Players)

    I did attempt reasonably successfully to project the NL East’s player talent, and I actually wasn’t that far off in the vast majority of my projections. In fact, I even undersold some of Atlanta’s players, and oversold some of our division’s players. I don’t think it was that difficult for AA to see what a non-analyst like me could see: they were hyped.

    I think the problem too is that both of my teams have “lost” their respective offseasons (what the hell does that even mean?). The Braves clearly Lost The Offseason with their approach, and my Florida Gator football squad apparently Lost The Offseason because they… lost transfers and a couple guys got kicked off the team or transferred or some crap. So when guys like Craigy or the MLB Network guys or the ESPN U guys are making these sweeping observations before the information can even be collected (in his case financial data but in other cases it’s actual games being played) and use that to play up to a national audience, I have a problem with that.

  13. @18 Haha, sorry coop. “Bestfriends For Life”. I’m being tongue-in-cheek, of course, based on our tenuous relationship.

  14. Rob, what device are you using? The changes were subtle… slight darkening of the underlines and slight change to the font color. Maybe your device is somehow caching the css?

  15. @24 And maybe Duvall in LF. That would be an incredibly RHH lineup against Corbin.

    Step on the throat. If we win tonight, we’re looking at a 9 game lead. Their best case at that point would be leaving town with a 7 game deficit.

  16. What’s nice about this series is the pitching matchups are almost how you would draw them up.

    Soroka/Scherzer #1s
    Fried/Stras #2s
    Keuchel/Corbin #3s
    Teheran/Ross #4or5s

    If you had Sanchez in place of Ross it’s be perfect.

  17. Hap, it was indeed my cookies or cache. I deleted everything, and I now see the hyperlinks much better. Thanks. Not sure if others will find it worth it to do that, or if it was even necessary, but that would be the solution I needed.

  18. @14 I can totally relate with how you feel, but I’ve come around. I don’t believe that one can rationally give credit for moves made mid-season and not also give credit for the screw ups of our division rivals. Teams who attempted to address their needs before the season all seemed to screw up, basically. We seemingly avoided screwing up in a way that prevented us from improving at mid-season.

    Of course, the cost of waiting was our worst month of the season, too. I also wouldn’t recommend punting in the off-season going forward, but there will be times when it just makes more sense–I give credit to AA for knowing when this is the case (he’s 2 for 2 so far).

    We could have made the big off-season deals and would have come out worse for it. Instead, we let our rivals go off that cliff head first.

  19. Donny and Rob,

    I’m willing to concede that refusing to spend $300 million on Harper or Machado may have been the right move. And obviously, the Mets had a rookie GM who made one of the most boneheaded moves of the offseason with the Cano trade.

    But signing Corbin sure looks like the right move. In fact, by far the single biggest mistake the Nats made was failing to improve their bullpen. So their biggest mistake was exactly the same as what I’m faulting AA for.

  20. I like Corbin, but he is definitely still a risk on that contract. He will need to pitch like a $25M pitcher every season until he’s 35. If the question was as such: would you rather pay $25M for Patrick Corbin or $30M for a perennial top 3 Cy candidate, which would you rather?

    I’d rather pay $35M and have someone I know is going to be among the very best provided he can tape his arm back on and fling a baseball… those types are near impossible to come by, but we’ve got money and need to leap when he’s there.

  21. Who is the perennial top 3 Cy candidate you have in mind? The closest you could possibly come to that is Stephen Strasburg when he opts out, and even he isn’t perennial top 3. But how much would you pay Stras?

    I think a better question is — how much are you willing to pay to aging veteran role players like Darren O’Day, Tyler Flowers, Nick Markakis, Matt Joyce, Peter Bourjos, Ryan Flaherty, Jose Bautista, Lucas Duda, Brandon McCarthy, and Rex Brothers? Some of them will be worth the couple million you pay them. Many of them won’t. You might be more likely to get more value for your $20 million if you give it to a single person than if you spread it around a bunch of people who barely deserve a roster spot.

  22. @33 Yes. The reward is higher with a $20M player but the risk is also higher. If your $20M guy flames out with a hammy, a hamate, or a TJS then you’ve lost the equivalent of 2.5 WAR’s worth of money. If you can get 1.0 WAR out of a Matt Joyce then you have found gold. FG has Markakis at 0.1 WAR now, mainly because of his defense – he’s sunk cost even though he makes our offense better. He’s worth about $1M being paid $6M. Yet you’ve only lost $5M not $20M. On the flip side, any prospect or even a non-prospect that produces more then 0.05 WAR (i.e. greater than 0) is found money. It’s so easy to find these kinds of guys, that’s why the baseball world is turning against veteran FAs and filling holes with as many kids as possible. The teams that can’t produce their Acuna’s, Correa’s, Judge’s, Bryant’s, Bellinger’s, etc… are stuck in a never ending rebuilding cycle until they strike it rich.

    The GNats are actually better this year without Harper than they were with him. They are running right with us something like 6 games ahead of last year’s pace. They picked up Corbin, yes, but he was not what made them better. They got Soto last year and it’s Robles’ emergence this year that has them on the move. With Soto and Robles, Harper was expendable.

    Almost all free agents now fall into the category of “aging veteran role players”. Looking at your list above, I’d have to say this year’s crop of Braves aging veteran role players is better than last years. Lots of reasons for that but what my eyes tell me now is that mixing prospect call-ups with the right set of aging veteran role players around a core of established stars is the most efficient way to build a winning team. Efficiency is what Moneyball is about nowadays not just winning cheaply. It comes back to the old 80/20 rule. If you have to spend 80% of your money to bring in the last 20% of wins to get to a WS then you are not succeeding.

    The fact that prospects are so highly desired because of their efficient production and that veteran fee agents have been highly discounted is why AA has not been willing to commit to a consolidation trade to bring in established quality for a combo of prospective quality. He is getting better and better at playing roster games so he doesn’t have to lose much prospective quality.

  23. @14: “Fortunately, the Mets, Nats, and Phillies all vastly underperformed expectations

    They’re all over .500. The NL East is the only division in MLB where 80% of its teams are above .500 right now.

  24. I think a better question is — how much are you willing to pay to aging veteran role players like Darren O’Day, Tyler Flowers, Nick Markakis, Matt Joyce, Peter Bourjos, Ryan Flaherty, Jose Bautista, Lucas Duda, Brandon McCarthy, and Rex Brothers? Some of them will be worth the couple million you pay them. Many of them won’t. You might be more likely to get more value for your $20 million if you give it to a single person than if you spread it around a bunch of people who barely deserve a roster spot.

    This. I have wondered this many times, and add Duvall to that list as well. I’ve wondered if it’s worth it to spread the money out to all of these high risk role players instead of getting one truly good player.

    One fair critique from an unfair critic was not signing Brantley over Markakis. And had you not committed money to O’Day, Markakis, and Duvall, you could have signed Brantley and had a couple bucks left over. Who would you rather have? Now, that’s easy hindsight because Brantley is basically the only free agent OF signed last offseason who has delivered surplus value for his contract, and it’s much more likely we could have gotten the suboptimal performance that McCutcheon, Pollock, Gonzalez, and even Bryce Harper have provided.

  25. @35 I haven’t really felt like fighting this point, but I agree with your assessment. I mean, what is this, college football? Are we talking about strength of schedule? Regardless, we’re on pace to win, now, 100 games against major league baseball teams. We didn’t play any FCS schools, high school teams, AAA squads, or European rugby teams. And to boot, and to your point Dan, our division is actually quite good.

  26. The Phillies, Nats, and Mets were all supposed to be a lot better than a .500 team. I never believed the Mets would be, because they’re still the Mets, but many projection systems had them at a higher projected win total than the Braves.

  27. Braves were an impossible team to predict because of so many unproven talents and the additions of McCann and Donaldson, both coming off injury-riddled years. We’ve see near best case for Acuña, Albies, Freddie, Donaldson, Soroka, Fried, Luke J, Riley, Joyce, and Teheran. That’ll carry a team…and it has.

  28. I side with Roger. The advantage of being a big spending team is less what you can afford directly, than it is the ability to throw money at your mistakes. The fear with a low-risk portfolio of players, of course, is that you end up with a bunch of 75-85 win teams. That’s where you need both luck and good GMing. Or you can be the Mets.

  29. Reminder: I’ll be at the game tomorrow. If you will be too and want a Braves Journal tee for $20, send me an email!

    cothrjr at hotmail

  30. Well, if you said during spring training:

    • Foltynewicz would be pretty bad
    • Gausman would be so terrible he’d get released
    • Newcomb would be bad as a starter and get relegated to a bullpen role
    • Vizcaíno would go down for the season in April
    • Closer-in-waiting Minter would be bad
    • Luke Jackson would be the team’s best reliever at the All-Star break because the bullpen in general is so awful
    • Inciarte would get injured and do little of note

    Would you think this team would be running away with the NL East?

  31. @43, yeah that’s quite an amazing list. Personally I predicted low-80’s win total because I didn’t trust the Donaldson signing. Couldn’t have been more wrong. In the context of the 20M-to-one-guy vs spread-it-out discussion above, I’d say this was a fairly risky bet that paid off handsomely.

    Out of that list, Folty and Gausman being mostly bad seems impossible to overcome. And yet here we are. I see Inciarte being out as addition-by-subtraction, but I irrationally hate on him like y’all hate on Folty.

  32. @43, I think it was completely reasonable to expect a good offense – catcher and right field seemed pretty iffy but the infield and one or two of the outfield spots looked all set, with the expectation that there would be 1.5 good players between Camargo, Inciarte, and Swanson. Injuries are inevitable, and Riley was looking like a good option waiting in the wings.

    The real issue was the clear hole in corner outfield and the apparent hole at catcher – McCann’s resurgence has been wonderful but it’s been offset by the marked degree to which Flowers has sucked. All that was known during the offseason.

    The real issue was the pen. Vizcaino is always injured; counting on him was silly. End of the day, the real choice was between adding players before April and adding players before August. The former costs more (expected value in) money, and the latter costs more (expected value in) wins.

    AA took the cheap option, and it worked out great. But I don’t think I was retrospectively wrong to be pissed about it at the time.

  33. As a fan, I think it’s fair to ask an ownership group to to reinvest the money we, as fans, put into the team.

    It’s unfair, no matter their financial standing, to ask them to eat significant losses. It is fortunate to have an owner willing to do so in order to win, however.

    On the flip side, owning a baseball team shouldn’t be done for profit. I have a huge issue with that because that’s an ownership group profiting off the backs of players and fans alike, and some times the hard work of front offices and coaches.

  34. I voted somewhat happy in the poll.

    I liked what Anthopolous did by bringing in the “Bringer of Rain”, McCann, and to a lesser extent re-signing Nick. The caveat with Nick’s return of course being we were sold on the idea it was done with other moves in mind.

    They never came last offseason.

    Now of course they did sign Dallas, and made some trades. They won, and it all worked out. What if Dallas had chosen a different destination though? Or the Tigers or Giants favored other trade packages? When you wait to operate in season, you lose fallback plans. I mean had they signed Kimbrel for only money, it’s entirely possible the division is all but locked up.

    Anthopolous deserves kudos for the job he did, however. He’s going to have to face the brunt of the fallout if he uses that strategy moving forward though and it fails to pan out.

  35. Chip continues to express surprise whenever he encounters someone (like Donaldson or Soto) who both walks a lot and hits a lot of home runs. He seems to believe that home run hitters are free swingers without good strike zone judgment. I wonder if he’s heard of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, or Barry Bonds.

  36. The Nationals have squandered almost as many chances as the Braves. Dallas and Julio walk that wire.

  37. Strange inning. Wash NEVER should’ve sent Flowers. That was a dumb decision.

    Hamilton getting picked was bang bang. I thought he was safe.

  38. Bethany I got to tell you that you are nothing if not consistent and loyal and I love it. May JD bring the rain like Noah and live 900+ yrs for doing it

  39. Washington is a good team. We knew they would not go quietly. We have the lead and four outs to get.

    Five then. Four now.

  40. OK, I take it back. Luke is not 100% sure for the playoff roster. It’s hard to believe that someone can be so good sometimes and so bad at others. That’s not like Bad Julio; it’s like a different human being on the mound.

    Thanks goodness for Newk to put out that fire.

  41. Jackson’s respective first and second half of the 2019 season is very reminiscent to me of Ken Ray in 2006: Reliever that came out of nowhere to be a bad bullpen’s best pitcher in the first half, then fell apart in the second half.

    At this point I’d rather see O’Day in a close game than Jackson.

  42. @106 That’s an astute comparison. In 2006, with a below league average bullpen, Ken Ray had a 2.66 ERA in the first half only to have a 7.33 ERA in the second half.

  43. Luke has been largely bad for 3.5 months as he now has a 4.92 ERA dating back to 5/18. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it today, he seems like the Carle and Winkler of 2019 as he held it together when the bullpen was collapsing all around him. But now? Snitker has got to stop using him in high leverage situations.

  44. @113 Might be one of Snitker’s worst characteristics. He seems to be obsessive about following a routine until it absolutely blows up. Seems to almost be phobic about change.

  45. It’s got to feel great for Shane to get a save and shake off any lingering nastiness from when he first joined the club. He’s looked like a stud after that first week.

  46. So whoever said that the first two games would be the hardest. How are we doing so far?

    Woohoo!! Win tomorrow and we can just forfeit to Scherzer.

  47. Except the horribly predictable Luke experience, we did fine!!! Come on Snit, you got a little greedy trying to save Greene. But it’s all good at the end. 9 games up!!!

    Now come on Giants!!!

  48. Greene was dominant.

    Jackson has been hit or miss. He was very solid in August. Not sure if I’m ready to bury him yet. He has given up runs in his last 3 appearances, though.

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