Team without a country 2, Team without enough hits 1

So sure… there’s a pandemic, baseball is attempting a shambolic 60 game season, Albies and Adams are on the IL and Mike Soroka has a torn Achilles tendon,  but why not look on the bright side?  And there’s always a bright side – the Braves enter the game 8-4 which, if they keep it up or even falter a bit in the next 48, will be plenty good enough to enter the Pandemic Crapshoot.  This season already has the shakiest performance by a starting pitcher in baseball history that yielded no runsSo, as Midge Maisel says, “Tits up!” When the remains of civilization are dug up by the Insect Invaders from Planet Gsksdfjskdf in the year 36,456, nobody is going to remember that 2020 was a bastardized season.  The WS Trophy will look identical as they pore over it with their proboscides (and be honest: how many of you knew that was the plural form of proboscis?) and the name Atlanta Braves will shine just as brightly as any other.

The Braves entered tonight’s second game against the Buffarontonians with the enigmatic Sean Newcomb on the hill.  Newcomb has now started 55 games and relieved in 52.  His ERA as a starter is over a run higher.  His WHIP is 1.448 as a starter, 1.167 as a reliever.  As a starter, the opponents are OPSing .729; as a reliever .658.

Now of course he’s thrown 5 times more innings as a starter, so sample sizes matter here.  But it’s not like he starts well and tires, which would then make you think he has to be a reliever.  His 1st, 2nd and 3rd inning stats look pretty much like his 4th 5th and 6th inning stats.  (If you squint a little, he seems to have bad 3rd innings.)  By the way, all these split numbers come from the invaluable BRef Split page.  Anyway, there’s a famous philosophical problem called Newcomb’s Paradox, which confounds causality, strategy and the nature of free willSean is the baseball version.

So would you rather have a middle-of-the-road starting pitcher or a pretty good left-handed reliever?  In most years, the answer is probably the latter, but this year there’s absolutely no question.  We just need Newcomb to give us innings, even better if he pitches like the relief pitcher, not the starter. Maybe they can use the same amnesia machine that made Chris Martin get a save while he thought he was pitching the 8th to convince Sean that he’s the long relief guy in a game that’s a couple of innings in already.

Culberson got his first start of the year, replacing Albies.  Austin Riley subbed a right-handed bat for Freddie Freeman at first.  I have no problem at all giving Freddie a day off.  I think all the Iron Man stuff is way overrated.  In addition, Freddie’s lifetime OPS against lefthanded pitchers is 100 points lower than Riley’s.  But if I had to pick a lefthander whose skillset bodes badly for Austin, it’s the junk-throwing Hyun-jin Ryu.  Not optimistic. (I wrote this before his two weak K’s against Ryu proved me right.)

After a quiet first, Newcomb got in 2nd inning trouble which yielded a run on a sac fly.  I don’t think Acuña made his best effort on the throw home – he looked a little surprised that the not-exactly-swift Vlad Jr. was willing to test the arm.  Other than that, though, Newcomb pitched well, assisted by a great play from Camargo in the 4th.  But he gave up another run in the top of the 5th (Ender didn’t quite make the play that could have saved the run) and he was done. 4 2/3 innings and two runs yielded is probably good enough if Newcomb can do that the rest of the season – a middle-of-the-road performance for a middle-of-the-rotation starter.  The one thing Sean doesn’t need is people telling him he has to be a #2.  He needs to be Sean Newcomb which is probably good enough.

Tomlin, Greene, Martin and Minter pitched hitless ball.  That’s why the starter doesn’t have to be that good. The relievers have pitched more innings than the starters so far, and it’s been, as the accountants say, accretive to our results.

Hyun-jin Ryu had a great first half last season (including a 4 hit complete game shutout against the Braves) and a bad second half (including a loss to the Braves.)  He certainly looked like May 2019 Ryu against the Braves tonight, yielding one hit (and that one kinda questionable) through 5 at which point he mercifully departed.  His replacement, Thomas Hatch, yielded a homer to Duvall which cut the lead in half.

An uneventful 8th (unless you count the initial appearance of Nick Markakis, or what is probably the only appearance of Scott Schebler before the roster cuts tomorrow) led to Anthony Bass going for the save.  Dansby bounced out.  Marcell walked.  d’Arnaud singled.  But Duvall then rapped into a DP to end it.

So if last December I told you the Braves would be playing .615 ball in early August I think you’d have accepted it.  So accept it.  Rubber game tomorrow night.

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.

24 thoughts on “Team without a country 2, Team without enough hits 1”

  1. Great recap.

    Newk looked better. He ain’t ever going to be Tom Glavine. He ain’t even going to be Steve Avery. And whatever he might become, he won’t become it overnight. Progress is what you’re looking for and this counts.

    He was an Ender drop in CF away from finishing the 5th with 89 pitches and getting a shot at the 6th in “first sign of trouble” mode. I’ll take it.

  2. Very nice recap JonathanF.
    Regarding the last thread discussion on Braves 3B defense and best infield arms in particular. Simmons and Furcal rate as the best arms I can recall in 50+ yrs of Braves memories. Hard to pick who’s on top but maybe a slight nod to Simmons. Camargo is not far behind. I remember Boyer playing but didn’t see enough games then to judge his arm but I sure remember lots of love given to his defense on the hundreds of games I listened to on my tiny transistor radio. I was classmates with Clete’s son for 2-3 years at then Warren Elementary School on Chamblee-Tucker Rd.
    There’s another Braves 3b arm that stands out in my recollection. He didn’t play much but for a couple of years in the early aughts Wes Helms was given a chance to earn playing time. Came up as a 3b and got in a few there but of course Chipper so he played more OF and 1b. He only had a couple of above average tools, power and arm strength. He didn’t get to show it off much but he had a very strong arm. I remember a play that has always stood out when he was actually playing OF; I think LF and I think it was 2002. He chased a hard hit ball that made it to the wall and from there made a tremendous bullet of a throw to Furcal who was out on the OF grass. In the blink of an eye Raffy relayed an absolute rocket on line to home and nailed a runner trying to score from 1st. Took both incredible throws to save that run. Wish it could be found on some highlights video. Helms was traded for Ray King that off-season and went on to play in the bigs for 12+ yrs in all. Now he’s the AAA manager for the White Sox organization.
    It would take a lot of work to compile but I wonder how many guys that played for Bobby went on to manage in the minors or majors

  3. Beautiful recap, JonathanF, thank you. No shame in losing against Ryu. Though coming into the season, I expected the Braves to absolutely rake against LHP. Certainly hasn’t been the case so far.
    Go get ’em tomorrow!

  4. Ender is under contract through 2021 with an option for 2022. If and when the Braves decide to give Pache the job, Ender doesn’t seem like the type that would take the news well. That’s judging by his penchant of blocking anyone on Twitter who says anything negative about him (without even tagging him!). He would become a disgruntled and expensive 4th outfielder.

  5. Jonathan F…Old age amongst many other rewards leaves one a daily reflective. In my case a lifetime of words and a growing understanding of how precious they are…the pleasure they give…in their use, in their appearance even.

    So i avoided those professions where words came second to numbers…good Lord, how could they put up with that. Thus writings by economists are a contradiction in terms, undoubtedly.
    And then…

    One word you used last night blew me away. I had no memory of seeing it before but i instantly knew what it meant, the Romans you know or so i guessed. But that wasn’t the point. It was beautiful, saying it out loud was an indulgence it seemed,


    Now, what can i help you with? Some economic concepts you have struggled with over the years perhaps that need my skills for you to plunder its true import. Don’t be shy. And thank you again for another fine summation. It hurts to say this but I must. British you know…Manners you know. Cheers.

  6. Great word, shambolic. Thanks for the recap.

    “Breathes there a fan with soul so dead who never to himself has said, ‘Where is my ace, my fellow starter?'”

    Newk did okay. We could have used a bat or seven. Their wunderkind today. Give him heck, boys.

  7. Autocorrect sucks. Let me make my own mistakes.

    Bellcow. Not fellow. I’m done now. See you at game time.

    Accretive is a good word too.

  8. I’ve never been a fan of Inciarte and I’m ready to see him go either by trade or a flat out release. However, I’ve seen people post that he’s lost his defensive skill set and he no longer has value in his defense. I’ve seen him make 1 really good catch and some pretty bad plays. However, it just seems to me that he wasn’t fully prepared to start the season and the 1st 2 weeks of the season are a very small sample size. Given more playing time (if his offense allows), I think he’ll break out of his slump defensively.
    Am I missing something? Has he done something that suggests a rapid decline is imminent this year? Obviously he will decline eventually, but I’m not ready to write off his defense just yet.

  9. @4, I’m not on Twitter, but I can see why an athlete would prefer to avoid seeing criticism from fans. I’m sure he knows he’s not hitting well and has missed some plays in the field that he might have made, but he may feel it doesn’t help him keep a positive, relaxed mindset to see lots of people emphasizing it.

  10. 9 — His defensive numbers were down last season as well and rather average. He is a year older now and a step slower. He hasn’t been an average hitter in 3 years.

  11. I gotta be honest. I’m still pretty bummed about Soroka. I know it’s been discussed at length, and I’m late to the party, but I’m very sad. He was probably the most important player to our season. Someone needs to step up if they want to earn World Series MVP.

    Our bullpen is nasty. Wow. We now have AJ Minter in high leverage (even though we were behind, it was still an important inning).

    I also agree with jjschiller that I just simply want to see incremental progress with Newk.

    Also agree that Ender is pretty much a 4th outfielder at this point. Where I don’t agree is whether Pache is ready to take over CF full time. So really, I don’t know what to make of our OF. The Camargo/Riley/Duvall/Ozuna/Markakis quagmire between the 3B/LF/DH spots just makes it really difficult to decide if you try to shift Acuna over to CF. In some ways, Ender is kind of like a Mark Lemke-type: he probably doesn’t deserve a 162-game starting role, but you like him, you know what you have with him, and he brings Veteran Presents. Of course, that’s why Markakis is around, so how many of these guys do you need?

  12. Thanks, all.
    blazon: you make me laugh. I always thought of “accretive” as one of those ridiculously unnecessary words accountants use, and here you find it the highlight of my writing. But if you want to help me with something, solve the real Newcomb’s Paradox — no math needed, I think, if you do it right…

  13. Outstanding as always, JonathanF. I spent about five minutes trying to solve Newcomb’s Paradox (the philosophical version) but I gave up. I’m afraid the baseball version may be even more difficult.

  14. Newk is very frustrating, but I agree with several of you that he could be close to turning the corner to becoming a very serviceble starter. They certainly need him to do so. With this bullpen and expanded rosters, regularly getting five decent innings from him would be helpful.

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