AAâ€™s failure to acquire another stating pitcher before Mondayâ€™s trade deadline had dominated the comments around these parts. The prospect of heading into the playoffs with the current rotation has generated much wailing and gnashing of teeth; I know Iâ€™ve done my share of gnashing and wailing.
But hey, there have been two starting pitching performances since the trade deadline, and they have both been excellent.Â True, they happened to be by the only two starters who seem even marginally serviceable, but at least we do now have two starters to get excited about.Â Ian Anderson followed up his magnificent major league debut last week against the Yankees with a very solid six innings against the Red Sox, leading the Braves to a 10-3 victory.
So, you could say, â€œAnderson and Fried, what more do you need?â€ The problem comes in the gap between this game and the next time Max Fried takes the hill. As my Daddy used to say, â€œThe starting rotation path runs straight through Fried and Anderson, but then it meanders, son.â€ Max and Ian and pray for oblivion. The New Yorker and the Angeleno and pray for a tornado. Speaking of Los Angeles, how about Aqualung and Varsity Fried and pray for a mudslide.
The Braves really need to find another effective starting pitcher or two, both to have a decent shot in the playoffs and to prevent me from coming up with more bad rhymes.
Back to the game: The final score would indicate that this was a laugher all the way, but through five innings the score was tied 2-2. Former Brave Ryan Weber started for the Bosox. Seeâ€”itâ€™s possible to have a worse rotation than the Braves. Before yesterday I had not realized he was still in the big leagues. In fact, I had given Ryan Weber no thought at all in in several yearsâ€”I suspect thatâ€™s suppressed memories of the trauma that was the second half of 2014 and 2015.
Anyway, Weber has been just about the worst starter in baseball so far this year. And after three batters in the top of the first, the Braves led 2-0 on a walk by Freeman and a two run blast over the Green Monster by Ozuna. Dâ€™Arnaud followed with single and Riley hit a 415 foot double to right center, but both were left stranded. Still, you figured many more runs by the Braves were to follow. Turns out, though, that Weber pitched another three and a third innings, giving up only one more hit.
Meanwhile, Jethro Tull, while not quite as sharp as last week, still looked very good. The Bosox managed two runs in the third on three singles and a wild pitch but that was to be the only scoring they managed off Anderson. Finally, in the top of the sixth, the Braves broke through to score two on RBI singles by Riley and Inciarte. Rileyâ€™s was hit very hard; Enderâ€™s was notâ€”he hit a high chopper off the plate that he just managed to beat out, scoring Travis from third.
Anderson came out to pitch the sixth, having already thrown 78 pitches. He got through the sixth unscathed, completing his nightâ€™s work with 96 pitches, leaving up 4-2 (and in line for the WIN! as Chip excitedly told us). Andersonâ€™s line: 6IP, 6 hits, 2 runs, 8 Ks, and 1 walk. Youâ€™ll take that every day of the week and twice on Saturday (thatâ€™s our next doubleheader against the Nats). So far, Ian has struck out 14 and walked only 3. In his first start, he relied primarily upon excellent fastball command and a terrific changeup. Iâ€™d been hearing about his great curveball for years, and last night he showcased it a lot more, especially as the game wore on. Anderson got 19 swinging strikes on the night (most by any Braves pitcher on the season), and all but two of them were on the changeup and the curveball. I know the sample size is ridiculously small, but so far Anderson looks like the real deal.
After Anderson left the game, the Braves bats exploded, headlined by two more monstrous dingers by Ozuna, who finished with three homers and six ribbies. The Mime silenced his critics, as he was the first NL player to hit three home runs in a game in Fenway. (Actually he hasnâ€™t really had critics; heâ€™s been a wonderful addition. I just wanted to use that line.)
In the end, the Braves finished with 14 hits and 10 runs, with multiple hits by Swanson, Ozuna, dâ€™arnaud, Riley, and Enciarte(!). And Freeman extended his hit streak to 15 games, reaching base 3 times. Beyond the obvious performance by Ozuna, perhaps the most promising thing about the offense is that Riley continued his tear. He is looking much more like the guy who came up last June. He is avoiding the sliders outside in the dirt, and crushing the fastballs over the plate.
Thatâ€™s 28 runs scored in the last 3 games. As Chip said in the pregame: â€œThe Braves bats have come to life in the last two games. And coincidentally the Braves won them both.â€ Iâ€™m starting to think itâ€™s not a coincidence.
* * *
Tuesday nightâ€™s game marked the tenth anniversary of Freddie Freemanâ€™s first big league game. Bryce Harper said something Sunday night about how underrated Freddie is. Itâ€™s hard for me to judge that, living in Braves country. But I do wonder if even Braves fans appreciate how well he stacks up against other franchise greats. In his career to date, Freeman has generated 35.6 offensive WAR (BRef version). With only 3 or 4 additional solid seasons (and remember he only turns 31 this month), he could have the second most offensive WAR of any Atlanta Brave. Chipper had 88.3, so that is likely out of reach. But Andruw had 39.8 (defensive accounts for a large percentage of his total WAR), and Murph had 48.7 as an Atlanta Brave. By the way, in case you kids ever wonder what was the big deal about Henry Aaron, the Hammer had a total of 132.5 offensive WAR in his career. Mr. Aaron was already older than Freddie is now when the Braves came to Atlanta, and he still had a total of 49.9 over the next nine years in Atlanta. Freddie is not likely to have a decade like that, but he is now hitting as well as he ever has; he could end up with HOF-worthy numbers. Of course, Murph and Andruw pretty much fell off a cliff when they reached their early thirties. Still, I like Freddieâ€™s chances of several more excellent seasons.
* * *
This is the first series win by the Braves at Fenway Park since 2002, when Mike Remlinger won two games in relief. But the Bravesâ€™ history in Fenway is not all dismal. I imagine you realize that the Braves, who are the oldest continuous franchise in major league history, have won only three World Series since 1900. They won the first of those three in 1914, playing in the almost new Fenway Park. The Boston Braves were building a new stadium, so they rented Fenway from the Red Sox for the 1914 miracle season, and they finished their World Series sweep that year with two wins in Fenway Park.
* * *
Well, Ian Anderson has started two major league games, and I recapped both of them. I realize that correlation is not causation, but Iâ€™m willing to take responsibility. Weâ€™ll see how he does with another recapper in his next start. RustySâ€”no pressure, I have confidence in you.
Tonight the Braves go for the sweep behind Robbie Erlin. The Bosox counter with someone named Mike Kirkham, who has a career ERA of 10.98 in 14 games. How the mighty have fallen!
Everything in perspective, history and all…you must have enjoyed writing it as much as we will all enjoy reading it…thank you for delivering it so promptly…
Who said this, late last night, ruminating on our new kid pitcher, after a detailed, lengthy hi-tech analysis of his pitches?
‘Nobody has to care about this, but he’s a fascinating pitcher and I am fascinated.’
Omar Reborn at TC…that last line, read first, proved irresistible. To cut and paste a long piece here, with acknowledgment, or not? Guidance please.
Bravo, tflodyd. Entertaining, very funny and informative. Thank you! Tough not to get excited about Anderson. Scoring all those runs without RAJ and Ozzie…
Thank you for the enjoyable read, tfloyd. Your use of the written word continues to delight.
Take it to them, Hammers.
Beautiful work tfloyd. Worthy of a great all around game by the home nine. This team can score with the best of them. What a wonder we could be with Acuna and Ozzie healthy. And we have a great bullpen. If Anderson can continue to provide quality starts and just one more starter can develop to consistently give quality starts then I really like our chances to at least win the first round and then another. The Dodgers look like a juggernaut though. But stranger things have happened in baseball.
@Cliff from 2 stories ago re: Folty’s return:
I can’t cite my sources, but one in particular has been at a couple of Folty’s throwing sessions. They confirm what we’re all hearing (that Folty has regained velocity) but this person has said that the expectations at the sessions are that Folty will be back by next week.
Regarding Newk, I’ve just heard a couple of murmurings that he is about to get another shot at starting.
Regarding Hamels, I’ve not heard anything suggesting they’re not going to push him out to the mound soon. AA just went on record a day ago that Hamels will face live batting this week. I expect he will be hear the week after next.
For the record, I don’t buy into all the BS following a disappointing trade deadline. However, the Braves best 5 rotation should include Folty, Newk, and Hamels at this point. Either they can pitch or they can’t, at this point, and if they can it makes us a helluva lot stronger going into the playoffs!
@6 I agree. I would much rather throw Folty, Newk and Wright than Milone, Tomlin and Erlin. There is zero upside with the last three I mentioned and it isn’t like they have been good either. The upside with the first three is much higher and the downside really isn’t much worse than what we are getting
I think the rotation for the next 5 games should be:
I wouldn’t mind seeing, Wright, Touki or Wilson getting a shot either.
There is really no reason to run Erlin or Tomlin out there. Every game is too important in a short season and Atl is running out of time to see what they have in those guys for this year.
Of course I could see Folty getting a shot in there and Hamels getting healthy would help, but Newk needs to transition to a full time reliever, he was successful there and quite valuable.
Right now for a 3 game series against Stl, Phi or Mia, we would go Fried, Anderson ??? for a decisive game 3. It would help to know who that ??? will be and I think it would be nice to at least try someone with some upside while we can.
I’d be happier never to watch Milone start another game with an “A” on his cap — I’d rather watch a Wright/Touki bullpen game.
Our sources are alive and well and growing! Mirabile dictu! shush, don’t say a thing…
Thank you tfloyd. Excellent work. I also remember some of your father’s sayings. I used to get to enjoy listening to him in Athens almost 40 years ago. I am sad to remember that it has almost been that long.
tfloyd, your talent for informing your audience without explaining to it always engages me, and I never fail to learn something new. Well done once again — especially enjoyable in service of a win over the Red Sox, whose fans can now settle into the overarching and haughty “we used to run things” ethos of the city itself.
We just gave up two minor leaguers (or I guess that could wind up just turning into cash, as PTBNL sometimes does) to get Milone here. I’m afraid he’s gonna get another couple chances, at least.
Outside of that, you can certainly throw Folty and Newk in there again and see if magic happens this time. Their upsides remain well above those of Erlin and Tomlin. I’m just not at all optimistic that it’s gonna be any different this time around.
Also, if you get sick of Erlin, Tomlin and Milone, we’ve still got Jhoulys Chacin kicking around down at the alternate site to throw a start to. I know everyone’s really excited by that possibility!
Thanks, tfloyd. Excellent work. I am listening to this series on the BoSox radio network, since I am deemed to be in a blackout zone here in the Berkshires. (Rob C. Don’t forget you’re recapping tonight!) It’s been a while since I listened to a radio broadcast from experienced announcers who know their club is going nowhere but nonetheless have to sound enthusiastic about the product they’re putting out there. Sean McDonough is trying really hard, but the weariness in his play-by-play is palpable. Joe Castiglione is the designated “remembering better days guy.” May they have another night of frustration tonight…
Do the Red Sox broadcasts still plug Shaw’s constantly? I lived in Northampton for a couple years and we always listened to Red Sox Baseball at work, or as we called it “Shaw’s Talk”.
Joe Castigleone: and Posada skies this one to left. And that’ll be a can of corn for Jason Bay. Annnnd speaking of canned goods, come down to your friendly neighborhood Shaw’s where all Del Monte canned items are buy one get one free. That’s right folks, all Del Monte canned items are buy one, get one free at your Shaw’s friendly neighborhood markets.
Still beats Susan Waldman and John “I don’t know who fangraph is” Sterling.
@13 – I don’t see any mention of Chacin on either the 40 man or Non-roster lists. Wasn’t he given his full release?
Maybe he has been in the interim, but at the time he was DFA’d, this came from the Braves official Twitter feed:
These Sawx are sad sacks, for sure.
But as long as Boston has a team alive — the Celtics certainly are, but the Bruins just got eliminated — its sports fans will continue to point to its 20 years of successes in the 4 major sports. They just can’t help themselves. (Go Raptors… please, not another Celtics/Lakers final.)
That said, I like beating the Sawx anytime, anywhere. For me (a UGA grad), it’s kinda like beating Tennessee or Auburn in football. Even if they’re having a “down year,” it remains quietly satisfying.
And, FWIW, our last 3 games are at home vs. the Sawx. By then, I hope we’re just playing for tournament seeding & we can rest up Max/Ian.
Heck of a recap! Good stuff.
Dadgum – Dodgers have a run differential of +93 – – and lead all of the Bigs by a wide margin.
Thanks to all for the kind words. And Cliff, that is so cool that you remember my father. Of course I made this particular saying up; he passed away a few years before Fried and Anderson joined the Braves. But if my father were living I’m certain he’d come up with a better saying than I credited to him. He had a talent for story telling that I only inherited a tiny piece of.
If we are unwilling to give up Pache in a trade, we should trot him out there to play over Inciarte.
23 – I completely agree Smitty. If you don’t want to just cut Ender, then he can do just fine the in the Hech/Charlie role and let Pache play semi regularly.
What they said.
As of now, Ender’s starting in CF, batting 9th.
But I definitely wanna see that kid show off his arm some more.
I wonder if the short and otherwise unusual schedules and playoffs this year will lead to some gamesmanship on the season’s final weekend. I can imagine a situation in which two teams from different leagues are playing, each two games ahead for its league’s last wild card spot with two games to go, and there being speculation that the teams are tacitly agreeing to split their last two games so that each qualifies. Nothing explicit, or the teams would be punished, but something like one team planning to start its ace in the first game and the other starting its ace in the second game. I suppose this could happen any year, but it seems much more likely this year because the shorter season and greater number of playoff teams (meaning that .500 teams, which are more common, will be in the hunt) make it much more likely that several teams will be close together as the season ends and have an opportunity for this sort of gamesmanship.
I also wonder whether perceived upsets will be more likely in the playoffs this year. One reason would be because a 60-game season gives less evidence than a 162-game one does about which team should be favored. Also, I think we have less evidence than usual about which teams are better because MLB is in effect split into Eastern, Central, and Western leagues whose teams don’t play each other. Yes, the Dodgers look dominant, but might part of the reason for their record be that their schedule is weaker? We can’t be sure. (Of course it’s as likely that their schedule might be stronger, in which case there’s even more of a gap between LA and the rest of the league.)
Sorry for the lack of advanced stats, but it’s pretty telling that our 3 starting pitchers for this series have at least 3 points ERA separating us from Boston’s starters.
Game 1 – 5.61 and 1.60
Game 2 – 5.79 and 2.25
Game 3 – 9.00 and 6.00 (Hopefully this will be an even bigger gap after tonight’s game)