In Appreciation of Matt Joyce

Written by Kirk H.

Matthew Joyce has a bat

Not a big bat!

But he’ll hit a few homers

And he walks to a decent degree   

Matthew Joyce has a glove

Not a great glove!

But he can play the corners

Without too many errors you see

From the baseball cap on the top of old Matt

To the heel of his gameday shoe

He’s an adequate fill in when the injuries come

And choices are so few

For those of you who did not waste your childhood watching 60’s TV, you can find the tune here:

If you’re like me (and my sympathies if that’s the case), Matt Joyce never entered your baseball consciousness until this March, when Atlanta acquired him from San Francisco for the spare change they found under the couch cushions in the front office lounge (largely because in spring training it looked like Adam Duvall still believed that the object of swinging a bat was to cause a breeze).  My (fairly lame) excuse is that Joyce spent almost all of his career kicking around the American League with several teams that I don’t pay a lot of attention to. His best season as a regular was with Tampa Bay in 2011, where he had a strong first half that got him an all-star nod.  He was also pretty good in a part-time role for Pittsburgh in 2016. He was with the A’s in 2018, but mostly on the shelf with back issues, and was essentially unplayable when he wasn’t injured. So entering this season past his “sell by” date at age 34, and having been jettisoned by both the Indians and Giants in the span of a few weeks, it’s fair to say that expectations were low. In fact, according to AAR:

Signing stiffs like Matt Joyce and Josh Tomlin for no money is what you’re supposed to do in March. If they ever play a meaningful inning for the team, we have bigger problems.

*Of note, AAR has already publicly apologized for all of his Anthopoulos criticisms here.

Sounded like a reasonable assessment to me. Since Duvall continued to flail, Matt made the big club primarily as a pinch hitter with the occasional spot start. Lo and behold, in a year where virtually every move AA made worked, Joyce performed adequately in his limited role. He hit a pinch hit homer on opening day, and through mid-August was slashing .243/.355/.398. Not world beating numbers to be sure, but not embarrassing either. Meanwhile, Ender went down due to general suckitude and injuries, Camargo was disappointing, Neck had the misfortune of hitting the IR due to an HBP, and the sheen wore off on Austin Riley. So the Braves used the “break glass in case of emergency” option and put Joyce into the starting lineup on a regular basis. And like just about everything else, it has worked. Joyce has since added 50 points to his offense across the board and is currently slashing .292/.405/.451. These represent career highs in AVG and OBP, and just 10 points off his career high OPS in 2016.

Can Joyce keep it up through the post-season? Who knows, but with Ronald gimpy (which raises the grotesque possibility of way more Billy Hamilton than anyone wants to see), he just may be key to the Braves playoff fortunes. Heal Ronald, heal!

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

30 thoughts on “In Appreciation of Matt Joyce”

  1. As excited as I’ve been to get here, I fear they’ll be bounced fairly quickly in the first round. Too many injuries, and they just seem lethargic for some reason. I hope like hell I’m wrong.

  2. They looked lethargic for the last week because they were just playing out the string and trying to avoid injury. The lineup on Thursday won’t look anything like the ones we ran out there for the last week. We may well get bounced – hope not but the Cards are not pushovers – but if we do it won’t have anything to do with the last week of what were, for all intents and purposes, extended spring training games.

  3. In keeping with the theme of the post, here’s the infamous clip of Ed Ames (one of the co-stars of Daniel Boone) showing Johnny Carson how to throw a tomahawk.

  4. I saw Ed Ames do whip tricks at the Albany Municipal Auditorium (Easter Seals telethon?) in about 1964. I don’t remember the tomahawk throw.

  5. The last week were just spring training games, the Braves were pulling starters after two at-bats and losing games with people like “Grant Dayton” on the mound. It’s not indicative of anything come Thursday.

  6. This is a team full of fighters. These guys never wanted a day off during the regular season, at least not while the division was still on the line. Every one of them, provided he’s not on the DL, will show up to play in October. They will show up ready to press onward. These are not men prone to lethargy. They will give it everything they can muster.

    I do worry about Freddie’s elbow and Acuna’s hip, though. Injuries at the wrong time to the wrong guys–that’s all it is. But things were rarely ever perfect for the 90’s Braves who rarely came up short in finding ways to win.

    And that’s all that’s important about this team is finding ways to win, especially when it matters most.

  7. I’ve got a post going up tomorrow breaking down the Cardinals, and I just don’t know if I’m too worked up over our chances to get it done. While neither are we, the Cardinals are not an elite team. I’m sure Freddie’s elbow and Acuna’s hip and everyone else’s ailments will be non-issues by Thursday.

  8. @10 One of the things I noted as I was looking over the Cardinals is that the pitchers we beat up on while winning the season series 4-2 were notably Wacha, Waino, and Hicks. None of these guys are likely to pitch many innings in the playoffs (Wacha and Hicks are both completely out).

    The Cardinals’ offense is not great which is good for our pitching but our offense will have to be at peak performance to score any runs. And I wouldn’t count on Freddie for anything – maybe a high OBP with walks. I just hope that HBP by Matz “Musgrove’d” Donaldson – pissed him off enough that he starts ripping the ball all over.

  9. I will never forgive the Rain Gods for washing out an almost certain victory in Game 1 of the ’82 series with the Cardinals. Win Game 1 and maybe the Braves would’ve swept that series. No amount of payback is enough. But I’ll take some good luck this year.

  10. I can’t believe Sam ‘225-foot infield fly’ Holbrook will be an umpire in this series. MLB is out of touch.

  11. Well, between Holbrook and the inevitability of the schedule being annoying, this has been a day sure to get Braves Twitter loudly complaining.

    The Holbrook thing is what it is…either it was intentional on MLB’s part or they’re absolutely brain dead.

    The schedule is at least somewhat of a debacle every year, and I wonder if it would be better if games were played at the same time rather than lining them up to all have national windows. I know it’s all about TV, but isn’t it possible that it would be better TV if they did this, as well? What are the ratings gonna be like for the AL wild card vs. Houston game at 2 p.m. on Friday, for instance?

  12. @17

    Hilariously, both of those near-riots were at Braves-Cardinals games.

    I remember the McGwire ejection, too, for what it’s worth, and there wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about the call or the ejection, it was just that he was chasing the single-season home run record and Holbrook ejected him in the first inning, so in the minds of Cardinals fans at the time, he might as well have unilaterally declared the game to be one inning long and thereby over.

  13. Washington will be 68 in April. The trends in MLB are hiring younger managers. Also, we’re assuming he wants to manage again.

  14. I was at the Holbrook infield fly game. The call was terrible and he deserves all the criticism he has gotten and all the boos he will receive during this series.
    What I hate almost as much as the call itself are those who claim the call was correct. I’m a pretty tolerant guy and I try to see both sides of contested issues. But anyone who claims that call was correct is simply wrong, full stop. Unfortunately we will see a lot of relitigation of that issue over the next few days.

  15. @24

    Any play where an infielder has to run to where an outfielder usually stands is by definition NOT in the infield.

  16. @24, co-signed. Terrible calls happen, and that particular one, while at an inopportune time, probably did not cost us the game. The doubling-down defense of it by MLB was disgusting though. I recall listening to one of their mouthpieces the next day claim that, “well technically you could have an infield fly on the warning track.” My thought was “well technically you clearly don’t know the rule because that is completely wrong!” It wasn’t even that they incorrectly called it an infield fly, but they *waited* to call it until the SS missed it, which is absolutely contrary to the letter and the purpose of the rule.

    I’m not over it. That was also the moment that I was done with Joe Simpson.

  17. I just watched that call again to refresh my memory on how egregious it was. Besides the fact that it makes no sense that the left field ump should be calling an infield fly (even though this is permitted), the timing of the call is unbelievable. The rules states “When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners.” Check out this video at around the 1:20 mark.

    He doesn’t signal out until the shortstop backs off from the play and the ball is about to hit the ground.

  18. @26, I don’t see it the way you say in your last sentence. Based on the slow-motion replay in the YouTube video, it looks to me like Holbrook had started to raise his hand before it became clear that the SS wasn’t going to easily catch the ball. His hand wasn’t in the air, but it was close to his hip and rising, showing that he had already started the call that it was an infield fly. That doesn’t make the call right, but it’s not that he waited until after the SS missed the ball.

    With the detailed information we have now on batted balls, I wonder if anyone keeps track of the depth of infield flies and if so, what has been the deepest infield fly in recent years.

    Is Freeman the only current Brave who was at that game? Teheran only pitched in two games that year, so I doubt he was on the post-season roster. Was Snit a coach then?

  19. I stand by my observation. If you are going to call this, the “ordinary effort” should be readily apparent way before this call was made.

    According to a blurb on Wikipedia (don’t know if this accurate): The ball landed 225 feet (69 m) from home plate. Between 2009 and 2012, there were six infield-fly rulings on balls that weren’t caught, and the longest was measured at 178 feet (54 m), 47 feet (14 m) less than the ball Simmons hit.

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