Over the past three Wednesdays, Iâ€™ve taken advantage of this platform to remind everyone that itâ€™s a long season, that we shouldnâ€™t draw conclusions based on anything that happens in April, and that we need to avoid moods that are too high or low.
I feel the need to do so again. The Braves defeated the Cubs 10-0 for their third straight win (second consecutive shutout) and, lo and behold, they are in first place in the NL East. Iâ€™m sure many of you are making your reservations for the World Series in October. Remember, itâ€™s still April. Five months of baseball ahead, and anything can happen.
I apologize for the snark. Of course no one assumes that the last 3 games proves the Braves will win the World Series, any more than several bad games earlier prove they will finish out of the playoffs.
But things are looking up! Although we shouldnâ€™t get too high or low, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with being excited about how they are playing the last couple of days.
I hope many of you were able to watch tonightâ€™s game. It must have been a great tonic for those of you still hungover from last Sundayâ€™s disaster against the Diamondbacks. I was not so fortunate–I wasnâ€™t able to watch. I had a work event that kept me away until the bottom of the 7th. In fact, I turned on the game just in time to see Freddie Freeman strike out against Anthony Rizzo. Fortunately, by that time Freeman already had four hits on the night including a homer, and the Braves had scored ten runs on 18 hits, including dingers by Ozuna, Riley, Freeman, Albies, and Ynoa(!). Four hits each by Freeman and Riley, and three by Ozzie.
Speaking of Huascar, another stellar outing from the Hobo. He went 5 and a third, striking out 9. Not only that, he went 2 for 3 including the aforementioned home run, for his second consecutive two hit game. Move over, Ohtani.
Beyond that, not having watched the game, I donâ€™t really have a recap of the action. I do recommend perusing the boxscore. As I said, it will help wipe last Sunday from your memory.
(Hereâ€™s an especially odd thing about the game: the two real pitchers for the Cubs gave up all ten runs. Three position players pitched two shutout innings.)
* * *
Time for an admission: itâ€™s not entirely true that what happens in April has little impact on the rest of the season. On this date in 1988, the Orioles lost their 21st consecutive game, falling 16 games out of first. Itâ€™s fair to say that the Oâ€™s were out of it.
But the NL East this year is wide open. I still like the Braves. The hitters (especially Riley and Albies) are coming around, and Morton, Anderson, and now Ynoa are solid on the mound. Fried comes back next week.
Hammers go for the sweep tomorrow. Bryse Wilson will start on three days rest; hard to be worse than his last outing.
Thanks for carrying us to first, tfloyd. Go Braves.
Now.500 & in 1st place… OK, we hit the reset button… letâ€™s hope our next 24-game chunk is better
David Ross may not have a great team, but he is the envy of all other managers in at least one sense — imagine having a 12-man bullpen!
In Phil Collins we trust
We also trust not to have to go to that particular well too often, or it will be dry by season’s end
It’s possible that I may have been wrong on Riley as to his credit he’s improved. Good for him.
tfloyd’s comments on the Braves would probably also be well applied to Riley. I’m on record as believing he will hit, but he’s awfully streaky.
I’m not even sure how much he will contribute this year, but I’m mostly intrigued to think about how he might move up the aging curve.
Thanks, tfloyd, for another beautiful recap.
So far it looks like Riley is just quite the streaky hitter. When he’s on, he’s on and fun to watch. Long may that streak continue. With Ozzie looking so much better as well, (in Chip’s words) let’s see… if we can get Ozuna going.
Must have been such a fun game to watch last night. Enjoyed FF5’s interview after the game. We’re lucky to have him not just because he’s one of the best players. Re-sign Freddie.
The Cubbie position players came out throwing 60 mile-an-hour “fastballs” and it was clear the Braves weren’t quite as locked in as they had been earlier in the game. Both clubhouses were pretty much agreed that the game was over. I’m not saying they were trying to get out â€”Â I’m sure Freddie didn’t want to strike out against a first baseman â€”Â but I don’t think their focus was there to the same extent.
You’ve already put ten on the board, so there’s no point in showing the other team up.
I always wonder whether batting against a position player messes up hitters’ timing and focus. Would be interesting to see how hitters do in the game after a blowout that features position players pitching. Might be difficult to adjust for the fact that the blowouts presumably have a higher % of bad starters, so pitchers in the next games would be slightly better than average. If someone (Jonathan?) could figure out how to study it, the same method might also help figure out if there’s an advantage to pitching after a knuckleballer or a submariner or some other extreme pitcher.
Chief declared Austin Riley dead on arrival when he was hitting ..182/.275/.182. Since then, Riley has gotten 11 hits. So all it took for Chief to completely flip his analysis of Riley from being not a major leaguer to at least being a major leaguer was 11 whole hits. So after 532 big league at bats, Chief made his decision. But after 11 at bats went Riley’s way, the script has been flipped.
The Braves are now 5th in MLB in hitting fWAR. On April 22nd, they were 11th. In less than a week, they climbed 6 spots. This team has a ton of talent, and if you gave up on them 6 days ago…. you cray.
Let’s hope we can get a full season of Austin Riley as a starter, because right now is pretty hard to judge. He’s started to hit, which is nice. He’s begun a nice tear fueled at least in part by a .347 BABIP — baseball is happening. I’d like to get a better sense for where his BABIP will be on average, and I’d also like to hope that we won’t see months long cold snaps.
Of course, if we can get .800 OPS Austin Riley, we’ll take him in whatever form at this point.
@10 – I was wondering a bit last night if Rizzo goofing around with the Braves at the end would have any carry over effect on the Braves getting refocused tonight. It might be an interesting tactic. I suspect it would have little effect with professionals, though.
@10: That’s an interesting idea, JamesD84. I don’t have the time to try it out now. I don’t think the few at-bats against position players would make very much difference at all — after all, they actually practice against BP-quality stuff thrown by 50-somethings. But I’ve often wondered about the Niekro-Wakefield effect: does facing a good knuckleballer mess a team up for a day or two? The existence of standard rotations makes that really hard to measure: if almost all the Niekro starts are followed by Pat Jarvis starts, how do you know of it’s a Niekro hangover or not? There are a couple of ways I’ve thought to study it, but nothing that strikes me as likely enough to yield a conclusion to make me put in the work to try it.
One other thing: I posted the other day the list of all players with seasonal WHIPS above 2 and ERAs below 2. They are mostly (I think) positional players who pitched an inning or two during the season. I do think you get huge variance when positional players pitch, at least partly because the opposing players are at extremes of relaxation and psychological avoidance of embarrassment when they face them.
@15 – A way to look for a knuckleballer effect that would reduce the standard-rotations problem would be to look at how the team’s relievers did when relieving Niekro as opposed to when relieving other pitchers. One could look at each Niekro start in a season and wind up with a composite of 7 innings of post-Niekro Eddie Solomon, 5 of post-Niekro Adrian Devine, 6 of Gene Garber, etc. It might be better to look at a knuckleballer who didn’t routinely complete games, though, as games that Niekro didn’t complete might disproportionately be games in which the other team was hitting unusually well for other reasons.
In case you didn’t know, the subtitles of Ynoa’s HR last night: “Fly Ball! Daddy dad had!”. Apparently, subtitles don’t speak Chip.
Heredia is fantastic defensively. There is absolutely no reason to carry Ender over Heredia in any scenario where Pache is the starter. I do also think that Pache had already earned his way onto Gwinnett’s roster, but Heredia’s performance and Ender’s dead cat bounce makes it all the more easy to put Pache in AAA for the next couple months.
I think you want Pache to understand that he can earn his way back to the Show with his bat, but Heredia has clearly earned the job. Same message you give to any rookie â€”Â nothing’s given to you, but if you earn your spot, it’s yours. Same message that the team is sending to Huascar Ynoa: there are other pitchers who are fighting for a rotation spot. But you earned it. It’s not about whose turn it is, it’s about who’s executing.
(At the end of the day, this is the exact message that the team sent when Jose Constanza became the right field starter during one of Jason Heyward’s extended funks. And I think Heredia’s more likely to have a career resembling that of Constanza than he is to turn into someone like Tommy Pham, a late bloomer who became a legit star.)
Ultimately, Riley has had some good swings. I still think that he hasn’t definitively answered questions about whether he can handle upper-90s cheese â€”Â most of his hits, as far as I can see, are coming off hangers and low-90s fastballs â€”Â but he can make a fair living in this league as a decent defender who’s a mistake hitter with passable strike zone recognition. If he can OPS .750 and play above-average defense, he can have a Joe Randa career and cash a decade’s worth of big league checks. I don’t see him turning into Troy Glaus, but he could definitely be Dean Palmer.
I’ve been one of his bigger detractors on here and I’d be ecstatic to eat crow. But I think Rob’s right â€”Â a good week ain’t enough to answer any questions worth asking.
I didn’t say that Riley has become Barry Bonds, just that he seems to have improved somewhat.
You once thought that Mallex Smith would be in the HOF with his #1 comp, Tim Raines, Sr., so forgive us if we don’t nominate you for a SABR award.
@21, thank goodness. But I’m not going to rest easy until he’s healthy and pain-free in the major leagues. I want to believe that the Maple Maddux isn’t Medlen 2.0 but for the sake of my heart I have to just treat every accomplishment from here on out as found money.
@22, he had a better career than Tim Raines, Jr.!
As to Riley, I credit his improved plate discipline and pitch recognition over the past month. Knowing what you can hit and what you canâ€™t is a huge skill, and it puts you in a position to hit the mistakes that pitchers will invariably make. If you keep waving at the low and outside breaking ball, itâ€™s a lot harder to get into those counts where the pitcherâ€™s got to come to you.
It will be interesting to see if his newfound discipline is itself sustainable.
Ryan…your Noah tweet….clever…funny…never thought I’d say it…kudos.
Now work on Rob’s SOH
Chief…your volte face on Riley almost had me in tears…it must have taken a huge effort on your part to do this…only to have the foot in both camps guys come at you again! Shame on them, they cannot but compromise their published opinions to allow for either exit depending on how things go…your unalloyed purity when you feel compelled to do this exposes you in ways they will not bear. And BTW you didn’t speak up re my poetic masterpieces yesterday, why not, i was counting on you, one vote at least. Beware – sauce for the goose etc!
we could not think more highly
of Austin Riley
were flames to emerge from his bat
some would make a mockery of even that!
He’s good! But, maybe he isn’t…
Stand up and be counted!
but when you, again, have weakly dismounted
expect no adulation.
It will behoove us purists
to regard you, quite simply, as baseball tourists
forever seeking the exact clinical causation.
Since when is Troy Glaus any sort of “high bar”? I think most probably remember him for his 2000 season, but .250/.350/.500 is who I think of when I think Troy Glaus. Austin Riley may not reach that, but he certainly could attain Troy Glaus Lite status with a bit less solid contact and a career feasting on mistake pitches.
He will always have power in spades.
Chief, I’ve owned my Mallex love so much that it’s become a running joke. If you took the time to list every prospect you’ve been wrong about, it would probably break our server.
For those wondering like I was, I sought out the highlights and the thing he actually said was: “High fly ball! Did he…?!?! DID HE…?!?!” (The answer to the somewhat insistent question was yes.)
By the way, as it wasn’t a high fly ball at all, this reminds me of my latest minor Chip annoyance to add onto the pile. Any ball that is hit with enough height to get over the infielders’ heads seems to be a “fly ball” or a “high fly ball” or “in the air” in Chipland, even if it’s clearly a line drive. This seems to be a fairly recent occurrence, too, though it’s possible that it was happening before and I didn’t notice it as much for whatever reason. I’d blame it on him having to call games off a monitor but he does it during home games, too. I’d blame it on the fact that the press box at Truist Park is about a mile high but a) he does it when calling games off a monitor, too; and b) this is like the fifth year (no, I’m lazily not going to look up how many years we’ve been at Bank That Abandons Atlanta to Become the 20,000th Bank Located in Charlotte Park, but it’s around five) and I don’t recall him doing it before with any regularity.
This is very odd. Is it the ball?
@20 The game has obviously changed, but Heredia strikes me as someone much more capable of having extended success than Constanza. Constanza was an empty BA with no walks, no power, couldn’t steal bases, and probably no better on defense than Heredia. Heredia, for his career, has better walk rate and power numbers than Constanza. I think you’re right — he won’t be a starting CF for any contender — but I think Heredia has a little better shot at beating Ender for the 4th outfielder spot and therefore better Pache insurance than Ender.
@33, pretty much agree. My broader point is I think there are good strategic reasons to let a guy win a spot even if he isn’t a future starter.
Lord bless the Mets. Jacob DeGrom is the Johan Santana of his generation, and they’re going to let him lose every game 1-0.
Phils lose and, hey, for the moment we’re all alone at the top — the only club in the division playing .500 ball.
A joke I heard today from a Mets fan: Jacob deGrom’s HoF speech will be the shortest in history b/c he has no one to thank. (ba-dump…)
Last night… after our game got out of hand, was listening to the end of the Mets/Sawx on the train home. The Mets were going down so fast that I was curious if they’d make 3 9th-inning outs before I walked from the train to my door, usually a 4- or 5-minute trek.
They did. Dom Smith whiffed as I was pulling out my door key. The Mets were in a real hurry to lose last night.
#33 and #34
The radio guys were praising Heredia’s plate discipline, calling him “Hawk Eye” Heredia.
I mean, Troy Glaus’s career would be a huge win for Riley.
So I’m beginning to think that the new Money ball is finding non distinct players that the Mets gave up on. Heredia and d’Arnaud are great examples for the Braves. Steven Matz may be coming back down to earth in Toronto after his last start. but he was lights out in his 1st 4 games after posting an era of almost 10 for the Mets in 2020.