Braves 5, Phils 4 (And My Remaining Regular Season Storylines)

I love these days where I get to watch baseball instead of working. I especially love them when Mike Soroka is on the bump. The Braves once again kept Soroka’s pitch count down as he left after 5 innings and 88 pitches. He has thrown less than 90 pitches in 7 of his last 14 starts. It looks like he’ll end up with about 170 innings pitched in the regular season. Whether any of this makes an impact on his performance in the postseason, I don’t know, and I don’t think I know anyone who does.

For these games, I don’t think anyone is really making strong observations about the team other than looking at mini-storylines. I’d like to share mine with you:

-Now that Ronald Acuna Jr. has hit his 40th home run, will we see a difference in his performance and approach. I know not the mind of Ronald Acuna Jr., but he was hitting .190 since mid-August coming into this game. Will having no possible interest whatsoever in reaching a certain home run total have an impact on him? We shall see.

Also, we will be able to see fairly definitively if Acuna is going to alter his game to get into the 40/40 club. You can argue that it’s impossible to know if Acuna is trying to hit home runs. Every swing is a home run swing for him; how does one know what’s in his mind? However, trying to steal a base is a conscious effort. He has attempted 7 stolen bases in the last 15 games. If he keeps the pace of one attempt every two games or so, then he will have to go 3 for 4 on attempts in the remaining 8 games of the year. Does he try to run more often to get it out of the way?

– Will some of the offense get back on track? Acuna’s 87 wRC+ in September going into today has been a disappointment. But Dansby Swanson‘s 41 wRC+ this year is in dire need of repair. McCann’s .163/.305/.204 line in 29 PAs in September is even worse. The 16.9 BB% is uniquely troubling considering the fear of fatigue with an aging catcher. Has the bat slowed down a bit, and he’s just trying to contribute any way he can? His .194/.341/.194 line in 44 August PAs hints at it as well. Out of Dansby, McCann, Ender Inciarte, Johan Camargo, Adeiny Hechavarria, Matt Joyce, and Adam Duvall, we need 2/3 of those players to be healthy and able to contribute in the playoffs.

-Do we have six solid guys we’d want to give the ball to in relief? Obviously Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and even Sean Newcomb are guys you probably have no problem with going into the postseason. From there, Jerry Blevins looks like a potential lock to be used in LOOGY situations. From there, I’d love to see at least one (obviously more would be great) of Grant Dayton, Darren O’Day, Luke Jackson, Josh Tomlin, and Jeremy Walker solidify themselves as a shutdown option in the playoffs, even if it’s situational. If they keep giving the ball to Kyle Wright, maybe even he becomes an option.

-Can Mike Foltynewicz continue to prove me wrong? I’ve been pretty critical of Folty this year, especially lately. Pitchers will often struggle with bouts of ineffectiveness. But with Folty, there are always conversations around his mental make-up, even from the beat writers, not just us fans. And when he has to leave games early due to hydration/nutrition, that just irks me. Could it be out of his hands? Absolutely, I don’t know.

Anyway, since a putrid start where he left after 4 2/3 innings having thrown 107 pitches, Folty has been pretty good: 1.52 ERA in 29.2 IP across 5 starts. The reason I say pretty good is that it’s still less than 6 IP per start. Within that stretch, he’s had outings of 5 and 4 2/3 innings pitched. But there is reason for optimism that his last two starts have included longevity to the tune of 6 and 7 inning performances. If he puts in another strong start, then I would say he should be your 4th option for the playoff rotation.

-Can something akin to what happened to the NBA players in Space Jam occur to Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Clayton Kershaw? Listen, a guy can dream, can’t he?

93 thoughts on “Braves 5, Phils 4 (And My Remaining Regular Season Storylines)”

  1. Domingo German has been placed on administrative leave by the Yankees for domestic violence. He’s been one of their best pitchers. At this point, I’d say they’re behind Minnesota and Houston for who I’d predict to get to the World Series from the AL.

    Listen, I understand that we haven’t made it out of the 1st round since the Clinton administration. But I don’t care. I’m pretty sure half of these players weren’t even alive then. My math may be spotty. If we can’t get out of the first round in 2019, then what has this all been about? Coppy died so we could all live, not so we could see the St. Louis Cardinals with a AAA bullpen and a mediocre lineup knock us out.

  2. I don’t think Luke can be left off the roster. In today’s game, you need two 6th inning guys who also pitch later innings when 7,8, or 9 have gone two days in a row. That’s Sean and Luke. Does he blow up now and again? Yes. But who doesn’t? And when he doesn’t blow up, he’s been quite reliable. I made fun of him for Grybo-ing a run last night, but he came in with the bases loaded and nobody out. One run in that circumstance is really not a full-fledged Grybo.

    Re: German. “Administrative leave” can be as short as a week. Call me paranoid, but when the Yankees are involved, MLB will do what they can to get him back in the lineup in a way they wouldn’t do for, say, Tampa Bay.

  3. Fascinating article with actual attempts at measuring the impact of the talent evaluation staff and player development staff.

    Note that the combined value for player development for the Phils and gNats are both in the bottom 4 with the Fish not far ahead. Teh shMets are just below average and the Braves make the top 8 (with room to improve in the pitching department). This is one way to explain why the hype about the division was so wrong at the beginning of the year. Phils, Mets, Nats more hype than substance.

  4. I’m hoping the Braves can make a long, energetic playoff run. On paper they look just as capable of any team in the NL to be it’s World Series representative. When I look at that Astros team though, man, they’re going to be tough for anyone to beat.

  5. When I say 6 good relievers, I’m acknowledging we’ll carry a couple relievers that we probably won’t use in high leverage situations. I definitely think Jackson gets carried, but I think he’ll be used in low leverage. In my mind, you can bank on giving each high leverage guy one day off since there will be a blowout somewhere. In high leverage I hope we throw Melancon, Greene, Martin, and Newcomb for up to full innings, and then Dayton, Blevins, and O’Day situationally based on handedness every single game.

    In the month of September, the Braves have the 3rd-highest WPA. In August, they were 12th. I think the bullpen has become a true strength for this team.

    This contrasts well with the Cardinals, who are 29th in WPA in September. Though not as egregious as the bullpen gaps, they have us beat pretty handedly in the rotation based on full season numbers. They have the edge on defensive runs saved, but we have the edge on wRC+.

    On paper, we’re the better team if we match up with the Cardinals. I know the postseason is a crapshoot, we haven’t won a playoff series in forever, yadda yadda yadda, but there are no such thing as jinxes, and I’m saying right now that our team is made up to win in the division series. We are the second-best team in the NL in full season records, and we’ve been right there with the Dodgers in the second half. This is our freaking time.

    Plus, call me crazy, but I think Snitker is a better postseason manager than Bobby. However he’s arrived at the results, he has shown a willingness to manage with a more analytical approach than Bobby or Fredi. I see him bringing Melancon in to get 4-5 outs. I see him keeping, say, Greene in for a second inning if he only throws 8 pitches. I see him pinch-hitting for the pitcher in the fifth if he likes a match-up. And I also see him having the team loose and ready to go.

    Man, I’m excited.

  6. @1

    For the record, it was the Bush administration when we won a first-round playoff series last. Granted, it was less than a year into it, but the point still stands.

  7. Rob, what a great recap. just really touched on all the key points. I truly do think that having 2 of the bottom 4 of the lineup get hot is the big one. When Dansby was lining out all over the place, that looked like a really good bet (what with Joyce and Markaikas spraying the ball around too). now, I’m on the edge a bit.

  8. @11 I must be subconsciously blocking out the year. 2001, 1901, it’s all the same to me: none of these guys were around for the bulk of the time since.

    @13 Yeah, and I should have had Austin Riley on that list too. Our lineup is deadly if it’s as deep as it was May-July.

  9. Ouch. Kimbrel coughs up a lead in the 10th after the Cubs score three in the ninth to tie and takes the loss. I’m pretty sure we got the better bargain in late season free agent pitchers with last names beginning with K.

  10. @15

    Dallas Keuchel has a sense of humor. Unlike Special 6 year K who the Sox wanted out of SAP, an event forecast exclusively in these pages some months ago, 10 to be exact, when the WS ended with Sale brought on to get the final outs. Eat it Cubbies.

  11. Cristian Yelich
    break a leg, there must be something particularly hellish
    watching your team fight to not go under
    the fact you broke it yourself, fairness torn asunder.

    @17 Alex, no more do I, I simply said at the higher levels he’s toast. Loved the old days at the Ted with lights flashing.

  12. We saw a wind last night the likes of which I cannot remember. Blowing HARD in from left field it sponged up back to back home runs from Freddie then Harper, bewildered both. An otherwise serene early fall night – our crazy weather.

  13. @16 I don’t understand the reasoning for the shade being thrown Kimbrel’s way. He played out his contract and was well within his rights to ask for whatever he wanted at that juncture. That ask is why Boston moved on. I never saw anything indicating they didn’t like the guy, or wanted to run him out on a rail. I also didn’t read too much into the Sox turning to Sale for a save. I remember a point in time LA did that with Kershaw, and it wasn’t with intent to move on from Jansen.

    I’m still a fan of his, and still wish he’d have returned to Atlanta. I think the Cubbies rushed him, and that’s why he’s struggled. I’m not at all upset that the Braves chose to pursue Keuchel instead, however. He’s been much needed.

  14. The St. Louis Cardinals have a decent 4 man rotation but I must say that they look more beatable than any potential 1st round opponent that the Braves have faced in a very long time.

  15. I think people forget the AA has said if we could have gotten both Kimbrel and Keuchel, he would have. He just wasn’t willing to go multiple years, so Kimbrel went elsewhere. He could very easily have been ours and there would be no gloating. This isn’t some strategically genius move on AA’s part—it’s dumb luck.

  16. My comment @15 was meant to connote luck, not some hidden acumen of AA or animus towards Kimbrel. And if Shane Greene had continued to look like his first two appearances, even a terrible Kimbrel would have been an improvement. As Joaquin Andujar points out, you can summarize baseball in one word: “You never know.”

  17. Yeah, but just about every negotiation starts with a big ask. He and his agent misread the market and then he got overpunished for the Qualifying Offer as owners clearly wanted to make an example of these guys. I think baseball teams were cutting off their nose to spite their face – the Phillies and Cubs are perilously close to missing the wild card and they both could certainly have used a full year of the guy. The Nats should have contended for the division and THEY could have used a full year of the guy.

    Kimbrel got battered by some broader winds in the sport, and he’s now getting killed by the funnyball that’s mutilated all 30 bullpens in baseball.

  18. then he got overpunished for the Qualifying Offer as owners clearly wanted to make an example of these guys

    I think this is the key, accurate, under-discussed point in all of this.

    Call me a homer, too, but I think things would have been a little different if Kimbrel ended up in Atlanta. It’s hard to say definitively, but I think they would have given him as much time as Keuchel, even if he was a reliever.

    But even EOF was saying that Kimbrel wouldn’t need long to be ready, but I think that was to puff up Kimbrel a little. And that clearly proved to not be the case. I cheer for him too, and I’d love for him to get the save against Washington in the Wild Card game, and then they can go ahead and get beat by Los Angeles. They would have to leapfrog Milwaukee to do that, though.

  19. @27

    We could have used a full year of Keuchel, for that matter. We’ve played so well since June that it worked out for us, but we could’ve easily been in the same boat.

  20. @27 I fully agree. The QO system is really convoluted. Most top level free agents are never going to settle for a 1 year deal, and owners and GMs know this. So they’ll slap a QO on a guy full well realizing the guy will decline. The player is then held hostage in a way. It’s a very subtle way of punishing a player for not just taking the 1 year deal because other GMs don’t want to forfeit that pick. So these guys sit and lose money until the draft has passed, and then on top of that they have to sign “lesser” deals.

    Baseball has become so much about finding “value” in a contract, to the point it takes emphasis over winning, I think. What Alex pointed out are all fine examples. Even our Braves, as great as they have played, could’ve possibly been better with a full year of Keuchel, Kimbrel or both. If Kimbrel even closes two of the games the pen blew in April or May, Roger is writing that division clinching recap he was hoping to the other night. Same could potentially be said if Keuchel is starting one of those first three games against the Phils.

  21. “Most top level free agents are never going to settle for a one year deal…” And therein lies the rub. You have to ask yourself: why not? Multiyear deals are intended to share the risk, both upside and downside risk, but the downside risk is usually (though not always) way higher than the upside risk in a QO. (It’s way easier for a $25 MM player to become unemployable than to be worth, say, $35 MM.) If the deals really shared risk, the multiyear should put some of the downside risk on the player. *That’s* the part that the market has wised up to, and it’s why a multiyear deal should be substantially less per year than the QO. The exception is for players with a high enough upside to offset the downside risk (your Harpers and Rendons.) But there are very few such players over the age of 30. In a properly aligned market, QOs ought to be accepted by good players a lot…. especially players over 30.

  22. 31. Spot on JonathanF. It’s not punishment to offer a QO and players have a choice to accept or not and to choose the yrs and dollars they ask for if they decline and then which of the offers they get they deem best for them. That’s the way it should work and it’s the way the MLBPA agreed it should work. Furthermore, the pending free agent player signed a contract to play professional baseball to begin with knowing he would be subject to a QO at the end.

  23. Just for giggles and for no apparent reason whatsoever, what is Salvador Perez’s contract status? And just how much do you think Francisco Lindor will make?

  24. Oops. Rampant senescence of gray cells. I thought Lindor was a free agent. Seems he has two years of arbitration left. $10 mil plus as arb one? That young man is going to be fine financially.

  25. And Salvy is due $14.2 mil in both 2020 and 2021, if I read his contract correctly, an unlikely event. I guess neither will wear Braves laundry anytime soon, so never mind. Sorry to disrupt discussion. Old men oft chase butterflies.

  26. So many are trying to compare the Kimbrel signing to the Keichel signing and I think it’s the wrong comparison. The question that AA had to ask is what is the impact to the team for signing the best case reliever and the best case starter? If he got the best case scenario from both, the starter will have the most impact. In AA’s case he came close to getting the best case scenario for the starter then signed 3 relievers who have come close to best case after a bad first few weeks. Kimbrel has been closer to worst case.

  27. @31 Here’s the thing with that though- if multi year arrangements are to truly be about sharing risk between player and franchise, then the first 5-6 seasons where a player has to play on rookie wages and arbitration awards are flawed. The player assumes nearly all of the risk there.

    Anthony Rendon is a prime example- to this point in his career he’s made 50.3 million dollars, while producing 27.5 WAR. That’s a rate of less than 2 million per WAR, which is a steal. Where did the Nats assume any risk in that?

    The owners benefit on both sides 80% of the time probably. I know the MLBPA did sign the deal, so it’s partially by their own hand that this has come. I just don’t think it’s great for the game that signing players has become like trading stocks, where it’s just an obsession with value.

  28. @36 I would’ve like to have seen them sign both before Opening Day had come, but your point about how AA might’ve played it is fair. The starter is likely more impactful than the RP, and I like the Keuchel signing. I still would prefer good players not to have to sit out until June though because of a QO.

  29. @37: Yes. The pre-arb and arb periods heavily favor ownership. But the minor league period (including signing bonuses) gigantically favors players, at least in aggregate, and even though they aren’t paid much at all. Those young MLB players’ salaries are supporting money losing operations at every level of the minors.

  30. Yes. Because the operations lose money… a lot of it actually. And before you say they aren’t paid minimum wage, you have to be a little careful since if you prorated the signing bonuses over the minor league period, they would be earning well above minimum wage. And if the lawsuits currently pending to pay minimum wage succeed, xpect to see signing bonuses prorated… no real new money is going to the minors.

  31. @43 I’m sorry, who controls whether or not the minor league systems exist, the players, or the teams?

    “See, we’re actually doing you a solid by running bad business and dramatically underpaying you” is some kind of backwards thinking.

  32. The teams do. And as I posted last week, the Astros are leading the move to have fewer minor league teams. But they consider the financial returns as a whole. It’s well worth it to have minor leagues that lose money since they make it up on the players who make MLB until they reach arb years at least, and probably in the arb years as well. When you are signed by a minor league team you are given a bonus and a salary and a lottery ticket to make the majors… the value of that lottery ticket is not considered salary, though, and the bonus isn’t salary either, at least for now.

  33. Right. So it’s worth it to the teams, and therefore isn’t a situation where the players are getting favor. MLB clubs wouldn’t run a minor league system if it wasn’t to their advantage.

  34. Hey, good to see Charlie. He still looks as good as Dansby….. :-) A little more devil-may-care maybe…..

    Dansby is just not swinging well at all. That last pitch was right in his wheelhouse – middle-in.

  35. As of the end of the 5th, Folty’s ERA is 4.58. Is there anyone here who thought his ERA would get down to that level before the end of the year. I would have to now agree with anyone here who thinks Folty is pitching himself into a playoff start.

  36. ACUNA!!! lololololol I’m guessing he was kinda pressing the last couple of weeks. He is spot on every pitch now. Holy cow!!

    Fun watching Ronald and Ender in the dugout. The Venezuelan mafia there.

    Also, that takes Ronald over the 100 RBI mark.

  37. Not much doubt now that Folty will be in the playoff rotation. In fact I’m guessing he’ll start game theee.

  38. Good for Mac…JD is stewed at the plate, still great defense. Acuna’s great catch on pitch #75. Folty hit hard this inning, sit him. Let him keep this memory.

  39. If Folty can reliably go 6 innings, like he did August and September last year, that would be a big bonus.

  40. Is Folty gonna get a Maddux tonight? He is absolutely dialed in. He is actually looking better in the 8th than he did early on. Folty at his dead level best.

  41. @60–that’s what Chip and Frenchy are saying.
    And I’ve got to say I’ve always thought that was one of the stupidest things about the unwritten rules. Ozzie and Freddie are still trying to get hits up 6-0. The Braves pitchers will still try to get hitters out (as well they should!). What is so disrespectful about stealing there?
    Besides, this is a six run lead, not twelve. With this year’s ball a comeback is not impossible.

  42. Last year I described Folty to a friend as a “grown-ass man” and the last 2 months, he’s back to that form.

  43. Now surely they’re going to have to let him finish it, hope so.

    That Yaz grandkid is pretty good himself. All their three hits, great bunt, much speed.

    Tfloyd @63 where are Chip and company, what station?

  44. I hope they leave Folty in to go for the no hitter (against all Giants who are not grandsons of HOFers).

  45. How about McCann turning around a 96 mph heater low and away? That makes me feel a little better.

  46. I predicted the Braves would win 86 games.
    I thought we overpaid for J. D.
    I thought Folty was finished.

  47. Happy for you, Folty. Need you.

  48. @79 – Good to have you back Chief. Very happy that you were wrong about 85 wins. I’m happy that the Braves didn’t listen to me and sign Aaron Blair to a long term contract.

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