If you donâ€™t count the 1871 Philadelphia Athletics of the National Association or the 1889 Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association, only 4 teams in MLB history have won an MLB pennant with an adjusted ERA+ for starters under 97. Two of them, the 1913 and 1914 Philadelphia Athletics, are well before my time, and beyond the fact that the 1914 team lost to the Miracle Braves, I have nothing to say about them either.
But two modern teams had bad starting pitching and won pennants: Harveyâ€™s Wallbangers in 1982 and the 2012 San Francisco Giants. The 1982 Brewers lost the World Series while the Giants won. So how bad can your starting pitching be and still win a World Series?
The Giants started Matt Cain (126 ERA+ in 32 starts) who was great, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong (both 105 ERA+ in a combined 63 starts) who were above average, and bad years from Barry Zito (85 ERA+ in 32 starts) and Tim Lincecum (68 ERA+ in 33 starts). The remaining two starts went to Eric Hacker and Yusmeiro Petit. So think about it for a minute: the worst starting pitcher staff to ever win the World Series had three above-average pitchers on it. When they got to the World Series, Lincecum didnâ€™t start a game â€“ the other 4 started one each in a 4 game sweep over the Tigers.
Harveyâ€™s Wallbangers were (obviously) known for their offense: other than Pete Vuckovich (114 ERA+ in 30 starts) none of their main starters were above league-average: Mike Caldwell (97 ERA+ in 34 starts), Bob McClure (90 ERA+ in 26 starts), Moose Haas (85 ERA+ in 27 starts), Randy Lerch (77 ERA+ in 20 starts), Doc Medich (76 ERA+ in 10 starts.) But they made a move at the deadline and acquired the 37 year old Don Sutton from Houston. He started 7 games in September (116 ERA+) and 2 games in the World Series. So while their regular season starting pitching was not good, the staff improved substantially in September, with two well-above average pitchers and Randy Lerch and Doc Medich only in relief.
OK. So where are the Braves in this? Hold on to your hat: Braves starters have an average ERA+ of 106, the same as Braves relievers! How is that possible?Well, when you start with Max Fried (246 ERA+ in 9 starts) and Ian Anderson (206 ERA+ in 3 starts) and Mike Soroka (126 ERA+ in 3 starts, sob!!) and Josh Tomlin (130 ERA+ in 4 starts and 8 other appearances) you can take a lot of crappy performances into the averaging. Robbie Erlinâ€™s 58 and Touki Toussaintâ€™s 62 and Kyle Wrightâ€™s 61 and Sean Newcombâ€™s 44 and Tommy Miloneâ€™s 34 and Foltyâ€™s 33 and Chris Rusinâ€™s 66 and Ynoaâ€™s 73 are, itâ€™s true, horrible. But none of those guys is going to start a playoff game as anything other than a bullpen game.
The case for the Braves is the case that Fried is healthy and can win two playoff games in any series, that Anderson is no fluke and can win or two, and that Braves bats can summon the ghost of Harvey Kuenn and bludgeon some team to death in a Tomlin start or Ynoa bullpen game. Would the case be much, much stronger if we’d made a move like the Brewers did? Yes.
Can they do it? In a crapshoot, anything is possible. The Brewers lost in 7, and could have won in Game 6 if Sutton had pitched better. On such things do crapshoots dependâ€¦.
A little Freddie Freeman Love
Braves Twitter has been trolling the Padres fans all day, countering the Pads lovefest with Fernando Tatis Jr. with the Braves lovefest of Freddie Freeman. Here’s a glimpse of part of the battle.
Tonight’s Braves Lineup
If Nick Markakis is out of his slump, this is a top 3 lineup in the Majors and it’s been a long time since the Braves have been able to say that.
Fredward is amazing. But he’s not a shortstop. Tatis is obviously one of the best players in baseball and he’s very possibly already nudged Mookie Betts from the silver medal position at the top of the non-Trout list. (Acuna could get there, but he isn’t there yet, and it’s because being an average corner guy just is not as good as holding your own up the middle.)
Those late ’70s – early ’80s Brewers teams took over from the Rice/Lynn/Yaz Red Sox as my number one non-Braves rooting interest. Just immense offensive talent playing at a sustained collective peak, and that barely includes Yount and Molitor, who weren’t yet consistently their HOF selves, and Larry Hisle, who wrecked his shoulder after one great year with them. Cooper, Oglivie, Money, Simmons, Thomas, Lezcano…what a fun team that was.
Ben Oglivie just seems like an incredibly neat guy.
ugh, I can’t take these early innings from these crappy pitchers
Is it time to bring in Charlie Culberson yet?
Repeat of last night? Jeez…
When I think of clubs getting into the post-season with just 2 good starters, I’m always reminded of the triumph of the 1987 Twins. It was an 85-win team with some pop (Hrbek, Puckett, Gaetti, Brunansky) that rode the backs of Frank Viola & Bert Blyleven to a title. Their rotation colleagues were Les Straker, Mike Smithson and an ineffective Joe Niekro, who was nearing the end of his career. Viola & Blyleven essentially dragged that team to the finish line.
Yeah, I loved those Brewers teams. First AL game I ever saw was Milwaukee @ Toronto (with Danny Ainge at 3B, IIRC) in the old Exhibition Stadium. The Brew Crew got HRs from Thomas, Oglivie and Yount, who hit an oppo 3-run job in the 9th for the win. (Some things you remember, right?) Such a cool club.
Also, FWIW, that ’82 Brewers team may have won the WS vs. St. Louis if they had Rollie Fingers available – the Brew Crew really could’ve used him in a variety of spots during the Series. The HoF fireman (who also won both the 1981 AL Cy Young & MVP) went down with a late-season injury & was on the shelf for the post-season.
The team’s closer role was assumed by a guy named Pete Ladd. Though he filled in admirably, I’ll always remember him for a classic quote. After getting Rod Carew for the last out of the ALCS vs. the Angels, Ladd was asked how he got thru the big moment.
His answer: “I dunno, but if there was a restroom out there, I would’ve used it.”
BTW, I love Ozzie batting 9th.
This starting staff’s suckage is incredible.
Can we be more of a cliche when it comes to starting pitching? We’re getting shelled virtually every start to the surprise of no one. That falls at the feet of two people – your pitching coach and your GM. I’m not sure you can blame that on Snit.
Snit’s not 100% blameless, but this pitching staff is pretty much completely on Anthopoulos. He choked at the deadline and this is the honestly fairly predictable result.
Tomlin had an ERA and FIP below 4 coming into today, so he doesn’t really deserve to be put in the same category as Milone and Erlin.
Not saying he’s a guy I would want starting a playoff game, but he is probably going to.
Give me Tatis by far.
@10. Well he’ll start one, at least.
Tatis over Trout?
Why is Riley still batting in front of Duvall?
No over Freeman.
PS. The hottest of takes… Trout isn’t a winner. He’s never made his team a whit better. Ever. He’s a stat compiler.
Uh, no. His owner has never made his team a whit better. Trout has just been the best player in baseball for a decade, and underpaid the whole time. If you want to know why the Angels suck, blame terrible acquisitions like C.J. Wilson, not Trout.
You’re making an argument like someone who complains that Honus Wagner only won one World Series.
Conversely… it would be interesting to see who the worst hitting team to win a title was.
Didn’t see the Acuña injury. Did it look bad?
That was somewhat hyperbolic, but he doesn’t seem to have any IT factor, though.
Think Jordan the way he elevated other players.
I cannot fathom a GOAT ever not winning a playoff game. It doesn’t compute.
Having said all of this, the Angels should have traded him long ago.
@18 he couldn’t put any weight on his left foot as he left the field.
There are six tools in baseball. The sixth is the ability to not get hurt, year after year, game after game, inning after inning.
There are players, historically, that lacked only this tool. Most famously, Mantle.
I suspect, Acuna is going to be that guy. He is constantly knicked up.
@17: Lowest regular season team OPS+ to win World Series
1969 Mets 84
1906 White Sox 87
1965 Dodgers 89
1959 Dodgers 89
1988 Dodgers 90
1916 Red Sox 90
1995 Braves 91
and at the top…
2017 Cheaters 123
1927 Yankees 127
Here’s another team with mediocre at best starting pitching but all time great offense: the Big Red Machine of 1975 and 1976. The great 76 team that won 102 games and swept the Yankees in the series had a team ERA+ of an even 100.
Jordan had better ownership and only 4 other players to elevate for the most. Elevating 8 other starting position players and an entire pitching staff is a little more difficult. Hank Aaron only won one World Series didn’t he? Did he not have the IT factor?
Trout hasn’t won a playoff GAME.
Won’t budge. Compiler.
Guys, you know Trout sucks because he doesn’t shut out the other team from the mound every game. He also doesn’t get on base in front of himself to knock himself in. Trash.
X-rays on Acuna’s ankle were negative. Day-to-day, assumedly with a bone bruise of the ankle.
In defense of Chip:
It is hard to follow in the footsteps of family. Harry and Skip are big shadows.
Chip never had the luxury of a calling play-by-play on losing teams. It makes the turnaround that much more special. – He followed Boog, who was and is great.
Also, this may be the most outrageously laughable of all Chief’s hot takes…so, well done in that regard. The idea that a baseball player can “lift his team” like a quarterback of an NFL team or the star player of an NBA team (though even those narratives are highly overrated in and of themselves) is patently absurd. Trout clearly needs to work on his cheerleading skills for the eight-ninths of the Angels’ ABs that don’t involve him and for his pitchers.
Somebody get Chief a spot on one of the mind-numbing sports debate shows on daytime sports cable TV. He would fit right in with take’s like that.
Nice try, but Chip did the 1993-1995 Mariners. The 1995 Mariners were OK, but the 94 Mariners weren’t.
I thought the 2004 White Sox were pretty legendarily hitless. Surprised they’re not on that list.
Now, I actually do kinda agree that health is a tool – some guys are a lot more durable than others. Obviously, some of the ones that aren’t, like Chipper, are plenty good baseball players.
But you’re crying wolf about a guy fouling a ball off himself and being day to day. That happens to just about every hitter in the majors.
Jason Heyward was fragile when he was with the Braves. Acuna has had some dings, but has never struck me as fragile.
If Trout were a real leader he would convince the pitchers to toss more shutouts.
I always thought Carlos Gomez was a 6 tool player, the 6th tool being himself.
Talk about a guy who couldn’t stay healthy. Total heel, but what a player he was for a few years.
I have never liked Will smith and I like him less with every appearance.
@22–I wouldn’t have guessed the 95 Braves would have made that list. Interesting that the Indians that year, who I remember as one of the best offenses ever, had an OPS+ of 116.
Great news about Acuña being ok.
This team. Damn.
Man, I sure could use some free baseball.
Give me a finish baby!
I have seen enough of Markakis to last a lifetime. Let’s talk about the professional strikeout looking he just took
Good to know that we’re not the only team who sucks at bunting.
Jim Powell on radio pumped us up promising a professional at-bat from Markakis. It’s such a tired characterization. Maybe it’s true, but I’ve heard enough about his “professionalism” to last a lifetime.
Gotta love this bullpen
Bad: We just bunted the man over to third for Ender.
Good: The pitcher waffled it and the Nats didn’t get an out from it.
Ender Inciarte is the absolute worst at baseball.
I really don’t want to dislike a baseball player for being bad, but man do I not want to see many more Ender at-bats.
God, we’re just so bad at this! It’s just absurd at this point.
I guess it makes sense that we’d be really bad at the extra-inning rule, since it entirely consists of needing to get guys in from third with less than two outs.
Why go to extras if you don’t want to win?
Runner on third with one out – couldn’t score
Runner on third with zero outs – couldn’t score
They don’t deserve to win.
Choke job… absolutely embarrassing. Ender doesn’t belong on a major league team any more than any of us.
garbage situational hitting. Sad thing is I don’t even think we score there if Acuna is in the game instead of inning-ender.
This team is so strange. Down 5-0, no problem. Trailing by 3 with two outs in the ninth, no worries. Runner on third with less than two outs, no chance.
There has been exactly one good at-bat in the entirety of our two extra-inning times at the plate. Riley led off the 10th by hitting a deep fly ball to right and advancing Dansby to third. That’s it.
Chip acts like bunting is easy. There’s a reason why it’s a lost art, Chip.
Martin channeling Willie Mays out there.
I mean, it should be pretty easy. Relatively speaking, anyway. I’m not saying I could get one down against a guy throwing 97, but the vast majority of them should be able to…I agree with Chip on this, at least to the extent that it shouldn’t be this hard.
The point of being a manager is not asking players to do something they don’t know how to do, no matter how nice it would be if they could.
Narrator: Bunting is not easy.
Chris Martin….if only he hadn’t gotten injured in the playoffs, I’m sure we at least advance to the next round….Cards devil magic was just too strong.
We’re now getting to the part of the bullpen where we might wanna score 2 runs. The next inning’s gonna be either Minter, O’Day or Jackson. Minter’s been good, but not so good that I feel comfortable he wouldn’t let the caddy runner score from second with nobody out.
And it’s apparently gonna be Grant Dayton, for some reason. So I take it back, we might wanna score 4.
And here comes another professional at-bat.
The Braves have left 20 on base. Came we make it 23?
Of course we can!
I hate everything. But I really hate seeing Markakis and Ender in the lineup.
Useless ball player. Stop forcing markakis and ender into the lineup
At this point in his career, Ender can’t hit water falling out of a boat. I understand that he can’t bunt either, but I’d still like to reserve the right to be mad at him.
I know there’s no profanity here, but darn if Neck and Ender make me come close to an expletive filled tirade.
Why’d they bother with the 9th inning rally if they weren’t going to score with a free runner on second at the start of every inning?
Eject Neck into the sun
Zero chance we get to the 13th. It must be a record to not score the runner from second in three straight innings
I second all the Kake and Ender hate. So frustrating…..
“Professional” hitters generally don’t start a month by going 2-for-34.
All help is greatly appreciated, Harrison! Man, apparently bad at-bats are contagious across teams.
that final pitch was way too good for an 0-2 count.
The one turner hit was also too good on that same count.
Dayton was throwing too many strikes. I guess that’s a good problem to have in our situation.
Pache and a random drawing of Braves journal regulars couldn’t be worse that Cakes and Ender. Leaving players like that on the roster is bad enough but continually having them get at bats with the game on the line is inexcusable
Well…if the Marlins can get three more outs on the Phillies with a 3-run lead, we only lost a half-game on the day in that debacle.
And they did. Lead is 2.5 over Philly and three over the Fish.
Did anyone in the Braves’ hierarchy notice that we scored 29 runs the day Nick was not in the lineup?
The only thing worse than having both Nick and Ender in the lineup at the same time is having them hit back-to-back.
I would like someone to stop focusing on all the negatives and mention just how fantastic Ozzie’s bunt was. He took a high FB and put it straight down on the ground in a favorable place (rather than trying to have a launch angle on the bunt). Guys like Taylor and Ender should be particularly able to bunt considering they include speed as part of their game.
Until Ozzie stole second in the 11th, I was hoping that Ender would just hit into a DP so Markakis could score. Also, I was disappointed that D’Arnaud did not even try to let one of those inside pitches hit him with the bases loaded. That’s another art that seems to be lost – the art of taking a HBP so the team can score. Both of the inside pitches were close enough to get hit without too much faking.
Jacob Webb looked particularly sharp. Can we now avoid any more appearances by Chad Sobotka? Martin was also really good.
I find it hard to believe that trying Matzek in a starting pitcher slot would not be a good thing.
We just cannot score runs in extra innings. It’s becoming a big problem.