Hey Braves Journal friends. We have been hard at work loading up some good writers for the offseason and beyond. It’s our focus to stay true to the Braves Journal model by focusing more on building quality writing while maintaining the feel of what Mac established, which is a bar-like atmosphere where people can gather together, hang out, and maybe chat about some baseball.
It’s with great pride that I introduce one of the new writers, Gunner Brown. Gunner has been observing Braves Journal this past month to see if it’s a fit for his writing style. Not only has he found the atmosphere warm, but he’s also felt that he’d be a perfect fit into the Braves Journal family.
Without further ado, here’s Gunner.
Believe it or not, the Braves management is doing everything right heading into October. We all wouldâ€™ve loved to see AcuÃ±a get his 40/40 season or for Freddie Freeman to be in the middle of the order every day raking, but having them as close to 100% as possible for postseason play is the imperative. Those two are both so Ã¼ber talented that I think there will not be much of a hangover from missing a few games over the course of two weeks. Traditionally a 10 day IL stint isnâ€™t enough to need rehab games anyway, so I canâ€™t imagine it will be too difficult for either of them to come back and be productive.
The really nice thing for the team is that they are able to get the guys who are healthy (or about to be healthy, a la the enigma that is Ender Inciarte) at-bats to get going. This is the advantage of clinching with two weeks to go; the score really doesnâ€™t matter to anyone in the dugout. The stats in the box score are what we should all be keeping an eye on. The dismantling of the Royals last night was a prime example of what the team is looking for.
Ozzie Albies, with his 2 walks and 2 RBIâ€™s has officially entered one of his stretches where he just dominates pitchers and turns them into fools for throwing him anything close to the plate. For someone who probably doesnâ€™t inspire fear into hurlers based on his size alone, his bat is doing the talking. Ozzieâ€™s last 16 ABâ€™s: 8 hits, 4 runs, 2 BBâ€™s and only 1 K. If the Bravos get that guy for the second season, their lineup is going to be nasty.
Speaking of nasty, we all know what Josh Donaldson is. Anyone with his swag and mullet-thing on their noggin is bringing something a little dirty to the table. But lately his numbers have been the only thing that have been dirty. Before last night, Josh had only had one hit in the last week, and was hitting just .232 in September. But last nightâ€™s 3 double outburst shows that Josh might be turning the corner. It shouldnâ€™t be entirely surprising. JD hadnâ€™t been striking out a bunch, but just wasnâ€™t getting the ball to fall. Here is a stat I bet most of us didnâ€™t know: Of players this season who have more than 100 batted balls in play, JD is now 6th (!) in average exit velocity. Obviously he has hit the ball hard all season, but it is nice to see him hit gaps and not gloves like he did against the Royals.
Perhaps the biggest lightning rod and potential decision for the postseason will be Dansby Swanson. For someone who looked great during his stretch in the two hole earlier, it is still a legitimate question over whether he starts at SS over Hechavarria. The end of the sentence wouldâ€™ve seemed insane a few months ago, but here we are. Before last night I would have assumed that the team was leaning toward starting Hech, maybe something like 4-1 odds. The signs of concern were there. When Snit batted Dansby in the leadoff hole, I took that to mean that the team was saying we are going to give you every opportunity to figure it out, but right now you arenâ€™t going to help us much. The numbers back that up. Dansbyâ€™s last 30 days: .188 average, .316 OBP, .238 SLG (ouch). That isâ€¦not going to cut it on a playoff team.
More so than anyone else on the team, these last 3 games will be important to Dansby. He is off to a good start, and more than even the box score from last night, it was the way he hit the ball last night that gave you some hope. Three line drives up the middle, two for base hits and one for a lineout to CF. Also went the other way for a single. I am not ready to say he secured a job of Adeiny, but I think he has a chance now. If Dansby continues to hit over the final weekend in New York, I think the team will give him the benefit of the doubt and start him in the playoffs. But I do think that they will give Hech some at bats just in case Dansby doesnâ€™t look good again. I would imagine we will see at least one game this weekend where Ozzie sits and Adeiny plays 2B.
Not to be outdone, the bullpen showed that â€œgetting rightâ€ isnâ€™t just for batters. I think at this point the trade trio (law firm?) of Melancon, Martin, and Greene are all postseason ready. In the last week, those three have combined for 7.2 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 10 Kâ€™s, and 6 hits. If ever there was an end of game scenario to feel good about, it would be those three right now.
The Luke Jackson/Darren Oâ€™Day debate for a postseason roster spot that has been going around the internet the last few days is an interesting and meaningful one. I personally would feel better using either one of them than Julio Teheran in a playoff moment, but I am not sure if the team brass will be able to get away from having a right hander that can go for more than an inning or two. Last night, Darren came in and needed 12 pitches to strike out the only two hitters he faced. Luke Jackson, not to be outdone, followed him by using 18 pitches to strike out all four batters he faced. That is peak bullpen effectiveness. If it truly is down to just one of those two, how they pitch this weekend will probably be the tiebreaker.
As the boys beat up on the Mets over the weekend, the score is really not all that imperative. They are lining everything up and are using this last weekend to assess everything they need to look at. For a sport that is based on finding the largest sample size possible, we have entered the stretch of time where small samples matter more than they probably should. Keep an eye on Dansby Swanson and some of the bullpen arms. Hope for Ender Inciarte to get a few at-bats and look decent, Austin Riley and Adam Duvall to hit some bombs, and for everyone to stay healthy. Freddie Freeman should be back and feeling good, making all of us breathe a little. Maybe we see some signs of positive regression for our catching unit, and all of our starters look crisp and confident.
If you canâ€™t help yourself and want desperately to care about a final score, your eyes should be turned to the Cardinals-Cubs and Brewers-Rockies tilts. Either one of the beer cities of St. Louis or Milwaukee will be coming to Suntrust Park to play a playoff game one week from today. Their scores matter, and you can get some advance scouting in.
Welcome aboard, Gunner.
I think there’s a small chance that Julio gets left off and both Luke and O’Day make it now. No offense to Julio, but he’s not really needed and both O’Day and Luke’s skillsets are beneficial for the playoffs. If it were a do or die situation, and opposing team has bases loaded with 0 out, Luke, with that big K-rate, would be the best gamble.
Nice post. I mentioned in the Tuesday recap that I didn’t think a hard hit single from Dansby was enough to say he was “back” but the performance last night was much better and I hope more indicative. He still doesn’t look particularly sharp on defense, but I hope that works itself out, too.
The reliever competition has indeed gotten very interesting. TC thinks we will only take 10 pitchers. Most everyone here has been talking about 11. A few think 12. If you only take 10, then you have to really think about not taking Teheran. The long man can then be Fried. But I’m not sure we have 15 bats worth taking. What happens for the last 2-3 roster spots will be very interesting.
The strategy that Snit plans on using with SPs is the key here. We have had a lot of guys who have been very effective over 4-5 innings or twice through the order. If he is going to have a quick hook then he’ll need more relievers. I would actually support a quick hook, especially if it’s fairly easy to tell when a guy starts struggling. Take him out before he gives up a bunch of runs and the game gets out of hand. A guy like Darren O’Day is a perfect rally-killer (and, yes, as I say this I know he is occasionally HR-prone). Having that extra guy that you would normally use in the 6th/7th inning to put out a fire or potential fire in the 4th/5th could be a real boon.
@2: I think you underestimate the need for a long guy in the playoffs. There are plenty of times when the starter gives up 4 in the first two innings and you have to pull him and plan for the bats to engineer a comeback. We have two choices for long man: Julio and Tomlin. I like Tomlin, but I’d rather pitch Julio in that situation.
I agree, Roger. I’d prefer the quick hook, but I believe AA and Snit have a better grasp than I; so I will trust them, regardless of results.
Dansby’s been better for (count ’em) two games. I hope decision makers require more success before ceding him playing time.
I’ve considered that and agree that it’s a long shot that they’d go without Julio.
Let’s not forget that since his return, Dansby’s swing was jerk-heavy and his hits last night, and even his 1 out, was hard hit and either to CF or right side of 2nd base. This isn’t a mere observation of a small streak but a resurrected pattern that made him successful.
If he was 4-5 & it was all hits to the left side, I’d be less impressed.
@4 I’m not so sure I’d roster Julio over Tomlin. “Good” Julio is far and away a better pitcher than “good” Tomlin, sure. When you look at the flip side, aren’t “bad” Julio’s outings more catastrophic than “bad” Tomlin’s are though? I might be guilty of being a prisoner of the moment, given Tuesday’s debacle, but I think it’s a fair question to ask. I favor the safety of Tomlin’s predictability, even if the ceiling is lower.
Hi all. Thanks Ryan for the warm welcome and kind words. Happy to be able to talk Braves baseball and greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk to everyone.
As far as the looming decisions go, I do think the team will keep Julio, simply on the off chance the starter implodes or gets hurt early. There’s also the possibility of an extra innings game where Julio might go 4 innings or something. But there’s also this little nugget; he has actually been pretty good against some of the Cards. Goldschmidt has been pretty much owned by Teheran.
And I fully recognize the small Dansby sample size of two games, but we also can’t ignore the large sample size of not-very-goodness that Adeiny has over his career. If I am Snit, I am desperately hoping Dansby rakes this weekend and makes my job easier.
Good to have you here, Gunner. Welcome!
Watching a pitcher right now who won’t be bothering us later this week. Wheeler with 11 K’s against the Marlins in the 7th is not our problem. Since somebody else said the other day de Grom won’t feature either we seem to have removed two of their best. McNeil out too. Still on for 100 then.
Is anyone prepared to say we will sell out our post season games?
@11 In a weird way I wish they weren’t missing the Mets best pitchers because I’d like to see how Dansby and some other guys hit against them going into the playoffs, where it’ll be those caliber of guys.
Well, we apparently sold out the first two within a couple hours…so I’d say yes.
I’ve been watching Julio and Tomlin for a long time, and Tomlin’s only in the pen because he used to be a starter — a starter who put together a 4.65 ERA (90 ERA+) for the first eight years of his career.
I feel pretty confident that if you put Julio in the pen and told him to stop pacing himself, his fastball would tick up from 88 to 92 more than once a game.
Julio, more than almost any other pitcher I can think of, is an extreme non-max-effort pitcher. That’s the single explanation for why pitchers hit him better than just about any other pitcher — he’s taking the at-bat off and saving his bullets.
And it’s awfully hard for me to knock the strategy, considering that he’s made 30 starts and tossed 170 innings each of the last seven years, 2013-2019. He is, for what it’s worth, one of only three pitchers in baseball to reach those marks in each of those years. The other two are Mike Leake and Jon Lester.
The guys who’ve done it in 6 of the last 7 years? Verlander, Scherzer, Samardzija, Quintana.
In 5 of the last 7 years? Porcello, Greinke, Shields, Lynn, Hamels, Bumgarner, and Gio Gonzalez.
(All numbers via baseball-reference, of course.)
It is hard as hell to stay healthy enough to make 30 starts a year every year. The way he does it is what pitchers used to do, a thousand years ago, back when you were expected to throw a complete game every time out: throw the ball with medium effort, pitch to contact, and hope your defense could take care of the rest, unless you really had to “reach back for something extra.”
Teheran is a very good athlete, as evidenced by his seven career appearances as a pinch-hitter and I believe four appearances as a pinch runner. He also has always had one of the best right-handed pickoff moves in baseball, and he has a career DRS (defensive runs saved above average) of +31. From all of that I conclude that he has a very high baseball IQ.
Basically what I’m saying is, I think that Julio could figure out how to be a 1-3 inning reliever — just throw more high-effort pitches earlier in the game without worrying about trying to go six innings.
I completely agree. His longevity/health is what makes him such a valuable regular season starter. He is going to be out there every fifth day, no question, and he is going to have stretches of good baseball where he is a mid rotation starter. I also think if you told him “we need 3 innings of shutdown baseball” he would probably be okay. I will be disappointed if Snit goes to him in a super high leverage spot however. As a career starter, he has virtually no preparation for that sort of role. If they need a few innings for some reason, bring him out. But if they need to kill a rally or get the 2-3-4 hitters to seal a win, I would go with just about any of our other relievers first. I think (hope) you’re only using him if there’s no real alternative. Which is basically the argument for not taking him at all. He is a niche pitcher, which may go entirely unneeded in a 5 game set.
Yeah but the same is true for Tomlin. He isn’t a shutdown high leverage guy either.
good news then, the old days were embarrassing.
Two well argued assessments of JT as we approach decision time. The conclusions different but it was fun watching you both get there. Like Alex i’m a Teheran guy in the crunch. I had not placed enough emphasis perhaps on his husbandry, saving his best for later in a regular season start. He’s done some remarkable things for us this year, my only addition to the conversation would be if it’s not there get him out quickly. But his overall talents and big game experience preclude leaving him out of the squad. He can bunt too!
And we owe him, in a real sense – ‘true and faithful servant.’
The Angelic Joe Adele
has been creaming it up in the AFL
yet another high visibility talent
for the team that never wins anything, so gallant.
Interesting article at 538 about teams that develop home grown pitching vs those who don’t.
Position players: locks (10)
That is 15 bats right there. I believe we will go with 14 with the last spot between Ender and Billy depending on Ender’s play this weekend.
That leaves 11 pitchers: starters (3)
Relievers: locks (4)
Possible: (would require a 9-man pen OR someone being left out. I’m guessing Fried’s final start will be of the 2-3 inning, “throw as hard as you can” variety as a tryout for the pen. If it goes poorly I can see him being left off. If Ender can’t go, I can see dropping him and Riley, taking Hamilton and getting the extra pitcher.)
@20 Good article but the chart is not consistent with the conclusion Sawchick is trying to draw. Only two of the top ten in the chart are in the playoffs. Granted that some of those orgs had their success closer to 2012 as opposed to 2019. But even that means that they didn’t create “dynasties” by growing their own pitching. Houston is middling in the chart and picked up their best pitching in trades or FA. Dodgers are middling. Yankees are near the bottom defies the idea that they draft so well.
It’s a nice narrative and certainly supports the Braves’ strategy of focusing on growing pitching internally. I’m not sure the statistics cited support the narrative. And what do you count as “home grown”? Drafting only? Trading for a pitcher before he hits the majors? Houston trading for Verlander and Cole has to be at least if not more effective than the Braves trading for Fried and Newk.
Ultimately, I think a better conclusion would be that combining strategies, successfully, without excluding others is the most effective means of developing and sustaining a dynasty. The 90’s Braves grew Glavine, traded for Smoltz, and signed Maddux as a FA. This year’s team grew Soroka, traded for Folty and Fried, and signed Keuchel. The Cards have developed extremely well, but even they get their top pieces in multiple ways – grew Flaherty and Dakota, traded for Wainwright, and signed Mikolas as a FA.
I’m not sure I trust either lefty in the pen. Wonder if there is talk about starting Julio and putting Fried in the pen.
The chart tells a very simplistic story. First, it’s a super-arbitrary endpoint. And second, it gives teams credit for identifying and targeting major league-caliber talent in the draft, regardless of whether that talent reached its potential with their club. After all, the Pirates drafted Gerrit Cole, even though it is almost certain that he never would have reached his full potential if he’d stayed in Pittsburgh rather than going to Houston.
But still… the story is actually useful. As you say, the key to assembling a strong team and remaining competitive for years at a time is to have a strong player development pipeline, which can provide both lineup regulars and trade chips. The Cubs have had some notable problems with their position player development — Bryant and Baez and Contreras have both been wonderful, but they’ve seen career-stalling regression and underperformance from almost everyone else, from the domestic abuser Addison Russell to Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., and even Arismendy Alcantara.
But that track record is miles better from how their pitching has fared. They have drafted pitchers, but their pitchers have not developed. That’s partly the fault of the scouts, partly the fault of the development staff, and partly the fault of the baseball operations staff in charge of hiring and firing everyone in the organization. But it’s been a pretty holistic failure, and a chart like that helps to illustrate the exact epicenter of the suck.
@20 I also don’t think it’s accurate to say the Cubs model of drafting position players, and then signing FA pitching is flawed. Position players seem to be far easier to both project and develop. When you can bring guys like Bryant and Baez up through your system, you’re doing something right. And of course you’re always going to see a certain degree of flameout in prospects because development is so dependant on a large number of variables. The Cubs biggest failure has been their inability to identify quality FA pitching, or to pay it according to talent. I really, really like Darvish; but he’s not an ace or a high end #2, which is what I think they thought they were buying. And Chatwood? Yikes! What were they thinking?
Even the Braves, for all the focus they put on pitching during this rebuild, have largely been fueled by the success of their young position players. I believe some of the Braves’ young guns will be quality pitchers in time, with highly successful careers. I’d wager a Coke that Acuna, Albies, Pache and Waters end up playing bigger roles in a dynasty though, if it comes to pass.
Signing Darvish isn’t the problem. And it isn’t true that they never drafted pitchers. The problem is that in recent years, the pitchers they’ve drafted have never succeeded.
In 2012, they took two pitchers as supplemental picks at the end of the first round, and they took a pitcher with each of their picks from the 2nd through 6th rounds. Those first rounders have both turned into near-washout relievers with a combined 5.26 ERA in 142 combined major league innings. None of the others has made the majors.
(Also taken in the supplemental round in 2012 were Lance McCullers Jr., Matt Olson, and Jesse Winker. The Braves took Alex Wood in the middle of the second round.)
In the 2013 draft, Chicago’s second-round pick, 41st overall, was a pitcher, Rob Zastryzny. He twirled 34 2/3 innings from 2016-2018, 4.41 ERA. He was taken three picks before Trevor Williams, who had a great year for the Pirates last year, and two picks after Corey Knebel.
Their fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-round picks that year were all pitchers. None has made the majors.
In 2014, the Cubs’ second-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks were all pitchers. None has made the majors. The sixth-round pick was Dylan Cease, and he was a major piece of the Quintana trade, so that’s a success.
In 2015, they drafted pitchers in the 3rd round as well as each of the 5th through 9th rounds. Only one player from that draft has made the majors, first rounder Ian Happ, and his career appears to have stalled.
Et cetera. They’ve taken a bunch of pitchers in the high rounds of the draft. Those pitchers have nearly uniformly failed. Some of them are still young enough to figure something out and carve out a pretty good niche as a middle reliever, the way Luke Jackson did. But it’s an extraordinarily striking record.
The Angel Joe Adele
has been creaming it up in the AFL
yet another high visibility talent
for the team that never wins anything, so gallant.
I can’t believe Fried of all people is being airily dismissed to a likely spot on the bullpen bench. Really? How many games has he won?
If we’re gonna use a three-man rotation, I get it…although I think I’d throw Fried against the Dodgers, if we get to that.
If we’re gonna use a four-man rotation, throwing Teheran instead of Fried in order to use Fried as a LOOGY is insane to me.
@26 Thanks for breaking that down.
Hard for me to see them not using a 4-man rotation. You only get one day off, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s between games 2 and 3. So for game 4, you’d be bringing Keuchel back with a day less rest than he’s accustomed to. Why do that?
My apologies for reposting the Joe Adele post. I sent it first before i went shopping. When i returned i sent it again, having forgotten what I had done earlier. My only excuse is my shopping included two bottles of Gordons Gin, without which the brain functions normally.
31-Actually the NL plays Th-F OFF Su-M OFF Wed.
Your point is still correct though. Game 1 starter going in game 4 would be short rest. Though Game 2 starter going in game 5 would be normal rest.
So I’m not imagining the Braves failures on Tuesdays…… LOL
Inciarte is out, you may update your postseason rosters accordingly.
Starting playoff OF now?
@34 Maybe the answer to more rest for the regulars just would’ve been to forfeit every Tuesday? Lol
None of those players we’ve lost, individually, hurt all that much compared to the players replacing them. But losing them all hurts. I’d feel much, much better about our collective chances of getting past the first round, and especially the NLCS, if we had Culberson, Camargo, and Ender. I’m disappointed that we just can’t get Ender healthy (same with Camargo, I guess).
@36 Do you think that groin will be healed enough for Acuna to play CF?
My guess is Acuña will play even if it’s not and pray he doesn’t hurt it worse.
I was actually worried that Ender would get a spot based on a *theory* that he was ready with no real practice to back up the theory. If he’s ready for the WS he can take Hamilton’s spot. There is no way Ender should knock anyone but Hamilton off the Braves roster.
Dansby seems to be trying to quiet the naysayers
Dansby is getting well. Hopefully, the XBH will start coming back soon.
I think with Inciarte out they will go with 12 pitchers.
@44 I think you’re pretty close, if not exact. The only other position player possibility is Riley and he’s 50% chance at best.
The only other pitching possibilities are Dayton, Tomlin, Wright.
I see only one roster spot in potential jeopardy and that’s Jackson (maybe, Teheran but I don’t really think so). I suppose you might consider Dayton replacing Blevins but I also think that’s unlikely.
I honestly think what you listed is most likely.
Chip just called Nick Markakis one of the best signings in the history of the franchise. My dad, who is a casual fan and doesn’t follow that closely, rolled his eyes and told Chip to shut up.
I was going to brag a little about being right about Inciarte, as much as I hate being right. I had a feeling he wouldn’t be ready if it took him this long. However, I thought his replacement would be Riley. At this point I have to agree that it will be an extra pitcher.
Riley just hasn’t hit.
Nick Markakis certainly is one of the signings in the history of the franchise.
Chip Caray’s commentary is much like the block of stone that Michaelangelo was able to glimpse and see a statue of David within. Maybe there’s something valuable in there, but it’d take a genius to find it.
In the meantime, mute.
@46 Cheers to your Dad.
This is the guy we’re pitching in Game 1?
Keuchel is very close to Bad Julio territory.
Hard to compare a meaningless game in Flushing versus Game 1 of the NLDS. I’m not sure if we should read anything into DK.
Nick Markakis is a better signing than Bruce Sutter, Kenshin Kawakami, Albie Lopez, Omar Moreno, BJ Upton and Garret Anderson put together. So there!
I just looked at the glossary and ACHE was entered in May 2009. Wow, I’m feeling old.
Mac hated ACHE. I’d almost forgotten about Uncle Garrett’s Sleepytime Jamboree.
@52 We have to. This is looking to be his 3rd mediocre start in a row.
I guess Hamilton is not 100% any more either.
Austin Riley will be in CF before we know it.
I am so sick of seeing these guys swing 3-0. Nothing good EVER happens.
To sleep, to play the Mets;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that Mode of Hibernation what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this regular season
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so thin a bench;
For who would bear the strains and sprains of time,
The replay ump’s wrong, the proud blogger’s contumely,
The pangs of hanging sliders, the called third strike’s delay,
The insolence of Ron Manfred and the spurns
That patient merit of the Liberty suits takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a wooden bat? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under an Atlanta August,
But that the dread of something after September,
The undiscover’d postseason victory from whose bourn
No 21st century Braves team returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
@60 Concur. Bravo.
@43: Roger, Roger, Roger. Do behave.
I may be wrong. It has happened, rarely.
HA! I laugh in the face of silenced!
P. S. Alex, you rule.
I will be silenced only after demonstrated adequacy over other than your too small sample size. Show me a season, even half, that the golden child can catch, throw and hit the ball.
Then and only then, just maybe, I will say the Entitled One suffices. Three games? A week? Blind hog. Prove your worth, Swanson. I will admit I was wrong, but …
I shall not be silenced!