Blue Jays Drop Braves 6-5 And Highlight Some Bigger Issues In Doing So

Normally I would start this out with a brief little intro and maybe a quip. I would move on to breaking down the positives and negatives of the game, talk about a former Brave who did something cool in another game, find a famous quote that summarizes the game and finally look ahead to tomorrow. 

But that was a particularly brutal loss. The Braves had a four-run lead and a golden opportunity to blow it open with Freddie Freeman at the plate and the bases loaded in the sixth. It also occurred exactly one month after Opening Day, so now is as good a time as any to take some stock in the big picture. Gather around, it’s time or a fan meeting. 

The Braves are now 12-15 exactly ⅙ into the season. Obviously that’s not a death knell with 135 games to go, but it’s far from ideal. The run differential is -11, and that matches up with the eye test. They entered play Saturday 28th in baseball in team ERA, and that ticked up again tonight with five more earned runs allowed. 

In short, it’s been pretty bad. In fact, you could argue they’re fortunate to only be three games under .500 at this point. 

It’s one thing when circumstances out of your control lead to problems. Major injuries to key players, bad umpiring, a freakish bounce of the ball, whatever. 

It’s an entirely separate issue when you built something a certain way and the design flaws become obvious. 

No, it doesn’t mean it will be true the entire season. No, it doesn’t mean you’re writing off the entire season by admitting it. And yes, there’s a lot of baseball left in front of the 2021 Braves. It’s fine to acknowledge all of those facts while also admitting to the other side of the coin. 

This baseball team went into the season with major (intentional) design flaws in its construction, and now you’re seeing that manifest after a month. Tonight’s 6-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays felt like a lot of problems all coming to a head at once. 

Alex Anthopolous and his staff chose to go into the season with a short bench. That was an intentional plan to load up on bullpen arms. Tonight the Braves ran out of position players in the eighth inning of a tie game because of that decision to play short on position players. 

The front office made a conscience. decision to go into the season with an unbalanced bullpen. You can debate the merits of re-signing Mark Melancon, Shane Green or Darren O’Day until the cows come home, but they made the decision to both pass on those players and not replace them. This is how you end up with Edgar Santana and Luke Jackson as the first two right-handed relievers out of the bullpen in a tight game and Nate Jones pitching in extra innings with the outcome hanging in the balance. 

They decided replacing Tyler Flowers as the backup catcher wasn’t a priority, and that it was better to have Alex Jackson as the back-up over William Contreras. Again, you can argue it either way. But that’s point A, and point B is a player hitting under .050 coming up to bat twice late in a tie game. 

Everyone knew this lineup lacked a lot of depth, and that the offense was prone to cold stretches. Swanson, Albies and d’Arnaud all vastly outperformed their career averages last season, and the front office went into the year expecting that to continue. Well the regression monster is here, and here you are with one run over the final eight innings against Tommy Milone and a parade of relievers. 

The injuries to the starting rotation don’t even count as an excuse tonight; Charlie Morton was on the mound, and while mostly effective, he struggled to put away hitters in two-strike counts all night. He issued a walk to Alejandro Kirk from an 0-2 count that came around to score, and the walk he surrendered from an 0-2 count to Teoscar Hernandez also turned into a run. 

Speaking of the rotation, they made signing Drew Smyly a big priority early in the off-season. Smyly has an 8.05 ERA and a -0.8 WAR after a month. 

Put the whole thing together and you have a team with high end talent, but some very serious structural flaws. Some of it can be fixed by BABIP luck evening out or more health in the starting rotation, but definitely not all of it. 

Max Fried getting healthy won’t fix the unbalanced load that is the bullpen. Chris Martin returning from his injury doesn’t do anything about the lack of position player depth. Dansby Swanson getting a few more line drives to find grass doesn’t change the fact that Smyly has been well below even a  replacement level pitcher. Nothing covers up the fact that your back-up (and possibly starting depending on d’Arnaud’s injury) catcher has a wrC+ of -9.

109% league average isn’t a coincidence, and neither is the big picture here.

All of this might be a funny blip to look back on at the end of a 90-win division title season, or it might be a precursor to a 90-loss year. It’s far too early to tell. But one way or another, the Braves made this bed themselves. Whether the dreams end up being good, bad or nightmares, they’re going to have to lie in it. 

This is a 12-15 baseball team, and not by accident. 

69 thoughts on “Blue Jays Drop Braves 6-5 And Highlight Some Bigger Issues In Doing So”

  1. Kranitz is bad and needs to go.

    The org needs to evaluate whether Chipper’s involvement is a net positive or negative and encourage him to tune up for hunting season if not.

    It’s time to either release or trade some of these SPs that aren’t any good and to replace them with another crop to see what they have. I’m ready to see Tucker Davidson and Muller over Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright.

    I’m not waivering on this, but I’m not signing a 30+ Unathletic 1B with diminishing power and old players skills no matter how much of a fan favorite he is.

    The AAAA train for some of these pitchers needs to either stay on the track or derail.

    Liberty Media blows yard goats.

  2. Also: Smyly is a bust and Morton is done. He wasn’t good last year and he’s 38 years old. Old players fall off cliffs.

    And no one hurt me, I have eyes and a brain.

  3. One quibble – are you sure you meant to say that Albies was one of those who vastly outperformed their career averages last season? Maybe Ozuna instead?

  4. Bad news

  5. I’m not going to complain about the lineup when it’s scoring 5 runs per game. Although Freddie is in a bad way. For all the fun of the Rizzo incident, he hasn’t had a hit since and Alan is absolutely right about walking Acuna to face Freddie. It was calculated, a taunt, and correct at this time. And that is also when I knew the game was over and lost.

    As far as position player depth goes, that is also a direct line back to the bullpen. Quantity will never beat quality.

    I am beginning to agree with Chief more about this team. I said yesterday that we could count on about 3/5 starts being decent and I think Morton is making that into 2.5/5 starts. Anderson and Ynoa are our only reliable starters. When one of those two fails, we have a losing streak. When anyone else pitches well, we have a winning streak.

    This bullpen is back to early 2018, when no one could throw strikes and we had the Sam Freeman experience along with any number of others. We had some egregious bullpen losses in 2018 like last night. Ripping a really good bullpen apart over the winter was a horrible plan. Probably could have had all of Melancon ($2M), Greene (?), O’Day ($2.5M), and Duvall ($5M) and for the price of Smyly.

    I’m not ready to give up on Wright yet, but Wilson may end up being like Newk – a better bullpen option. Lord knows we need a RH bullpen option. Seems to me that Luke Jackson is a canary in a coalmine. He’s about the same mediocre-ness every year and he looks great when the bullpen is awful and looks terrible when the bullpen is great. I’d sure rather see Luke than Santana or Jones.

  6. Straight to the 60-day IL with d’Arnaud is not good, obviously. Seems like “thumb sprain” means torn ligaments/tendons in the thumb, in this case.

  7. I’ve been saying that Kranitz needs to go since last year. Pitchers come to Atlanta and immediately regress. Young pitchers never develop. Under McDowell Atlanta would turn failed pitchers into relief stars (EOF, Venters, etc.). If not for Tomlin, Minter might have regressed too.

    Liberty Media cutting the budget destroyed the bullpen and the bench. So far they have been lucky with their scrap heap bench guys……but the Braves do have good hitting coaches. They needed a backup catcher and had no money to sign one….now what? Hope Contreras is ready? The bullpen is crap, no matter how many of them there are.

    I knew this team wouldn’t be as good as expected because of the crappy bullpen and no depth, but even I didn’t think they would be this bad. LM should have pushed in all the chips and gone for it this year ….like the Padres. Instead they were cheap. Will they even re-sign Freddie?

  8. When Luke threw his first pitch to Alex last night, the Jackson boys tied for second in Braves history as Battery Bros: games in which a pitcher and catcher have the same surname. It was their 10th game together. Today’s trivia questions:
    (1) What battery did they tie?
    (2) Who’s still ahead of them?
    (3) For extra credit: one of players in the two batteries ahead of them is in the top 5 all time of Battery Bros with another player on another team. What is that battery?
    (4) For extra-extra credit: who are the franchise Battery Bros?

  9. @ #10

    I agree that the hitting coaches are doing a good job. The Braves hit to the opposite field too much for that not to be so.

  10. Sober analysis that needed to be said, Alan.

    I’ll point out again that six years ago the org began a rebuild that was maniacally focused on amassing pitching prospects. All this time later and they have the 28th ERA in baseball to show for it.

    This team should be smack in the middle of its prime contention window, and yet the only multi-year commitment they’ve made to a premium pitcher has been Will Smith.

    At some point you’ve gotta pay to play.

  11. @11–Im guessing Odalis Perez must have had several games in which he threw to Eddie.

  12. Some of y’all need to stick to football because you’re not cut out for the 162-game season. I’ll just say that.

    Listen, if you’re short a Soroka and Fried, you ain’t doing anything. No exceptions. So I don’t care what our record is right now. If Fried and Soroka both make 20+ starts, we’ll probably win the division. Charlie Morton has a 3.66 FIP. If you’re asking me if he’s pitched closer to a 3.66 FIP or a 5.06 ERA, I’m going with the former. Give the ball every day to one of Soroka, Fried, Anderson, Morton, and Ynoa, and you’ll win the division by 5-6 games. Until then, these aren’t your Braves. Bizarro Barves, more like it.

    We STILL have half of our lineup with an OPS+ of 60 or below.

    Seriously, some of y’all need to chill.

  13. @11–Im guessing Odalis Perez must have had several games in which he threw to Eddie. And Albie Lopez to Javy.
    My first thought was the Braves must have had a pitcher named Williams in the early 1970’s to throw to Earl but I’m not remembering one.

  14. It probably won’t take d’Arnaud 60 days to get healthy, so they chose the 60-day over the 10-day in order to select Mathis. But who are they protecting on the 40-man that’s apparently so valuable that they wouldn’t just have 4 catchers on the 40-man? Odd stuff. Let’s say d’Arnaud is ready in a month. Who are you protecting to trade 30 days of your starting catcher to keep? Sorry, Jesse Biddle, but this is where we part ways.

  15. @11–I’m pretty sure without looking it up that d’Arnaud, Pocoroba, and Didier won’t be on the list.

  16. You’re preaching the Earl Weaver/Bobby Cox gospel, Rob, and I appreciate it. This team may finish far back, but predictions of doom at this stage mainly serve the psychological needs of the doomsayer.
    My psychological tendency in these matters runs in the opposite direction. Of course the team has disappointed so far, but there is also a decent chance this team turns it around and finishes on top. It’s not irrational to see that.
    I’ve followed lots of Braves teams over the decades that really were doomed by May 1. I prefer this.

  17. You got both of them, Tfloyd. Nice work.

    Odalis threw to Eddie 10 times, as Luke to Alex (and counting…)

    Javy caught Albie 21 times, so it is far from impossible that by the end of the season Luke and Alex could have the Atlanta record.

    But in Baltimore, Javy caught Rodrigo Lopez 57 times, fifth on the Battery Bro alltime chart.

  18. @16 I agree with you that this will be a completely different team with Soroka and Fried healthy and would solve the problem of having 2.5/5 of a rotation. I’m not altogether sure that Morton is on the 3.66 side of 5.06, although he did get Grybo’d last night. Without the Grybo, Braves probably win.

    But we should have learned a lesson from last year. A shaky starting staff can be covered by a strong bullpen and big offense. But the weakened starting staff combined with the worst bullpen since early 2018 is not going to get anything good done. 28th in the majors is not just an early season slump. Getting Martin back and signing Greene would go a long way to solving this team’s problems.

    But signing Smyly over Melancon, O’Day, Greene, and Duvall was a killer move for the team. This cannot be denied. The team is not as good no matter who is on the injured list.

  19. The Braves will be fine. The offence will come around and at least the starting pitching will get healthy and better. We’re one game back. Yes, it’s been pretty ugly so far. It actually has been for all NL East teams. Go Braves.

  20. 18 — I think it’s more likely that D’Arnaud is going to be out a long time. Otherwise, they would have DFA’ed Sobotka, who nobody cares about.

    Edit: Sobotka is no longer on the 40 man. But as you said, they would have DFA’ed Biddle or another reliever nobody cares about.

  21. @1, @10
    Count me in on the Kranitz hate train, remember when Gausman became Gascan in ATL then left and became pretty great?

    Seitzer gets a pass (for now) because he has a good track record.

    @24 Sobotka (and Weigel) got traded a while ago for Arcia

  22. I hate this for d’Arnaud. It’s not so great for the team either.
    On the bright side, this could be the beginning of the Contreras era (surely he’ll be getting most of the starts over Mathis). I’ve been pretty high on on him for a while; his ceiling is quite high. With his lack of high minors experience, though, his floor could be below the basement. He’ll have to learn to hit big league pitching on the job.

  23. @18, 24

    Yeah, I think we have to assume that it will, in fact, take d’Arnaud 60 days to make it back…if he even makes it back at all this season. He could’ve torn every ligament in his thumb and it could still be accurately (though maybe not precisely) called a “sprained thumb.” If it were actually what we generally think of as a sprained thumb and not something catastrophic, it would indeed be a weird move…but I think it’s more toward the latter, unfortunately.

  24. Contreras!

    I have to agree that it’s not apparent what Kranitz brings to the table.

  25. And DOB basically confirms my thinking in a tweet that I didn’t see until after my post @27: “While the general ‘sprain’ term was used for the initial diagnosis…it’s a potentially major injury that will cause him to miss at least a big portion of the season.”

    EDIT: Or what Braves14 said.

  26. @34

    “Blowing” a 1-0 second-inning lead is clearly another example of why this team suuuuuuuuucks.

  27. @11, the real Battery Bros were Mort & Walker Cooper, brothers who pitched and caught, respectively, for the Cardinals in the early 1940s and the Giants for one year. They were together long enough that they might hold the record for games played as batterymates with the same last name, related or not.

  28. @35

    I think they sent him back to Atlanta to see their hand specialist and get a better idea of the full extent of the structural damage. My guess is they’ll get specific when they have that report back, but until then they’re going with the highly general “sprained” (kind of like when they know a football player has torn his ACL but they call it a “sprained knee” until they get the MRI back).

  29. Mort and Walker Cooper indeed hold the record, at 108 games. But there is another pair only two games behind them.

  30. Rick Kranitz is like one of these NFL coordinators/head coaches who ambles from job to job and keeps getting work despite it being clear that the perceived degree of success is based entirely on the talent at his disposal, and not any value that he adds to maximize his players to bring them up a level — e.g. from fringe to lower-mid-tier, mid-tier to good, good to blue-chip. He’s more Dirk Koetter than Kyle Shanahan.

  31. I don’t necessarily disagree with the Kranitz Must Go folks, at least in terms of it possibly being time to get somebody else in here just to mix it up if nothing else. That’s likely not gonna happen until the offseason, though, or if it does, you’d be looking at an interim for the rest of the year. So that’s not really a fully fixable problem until the beginning of spring training in 2022.

  32. Welp. Here we go again.

    @39 I’d just move Swanson down and Riley up. Swanson has been effective in the 8th slot before when he struggles like this (7th slot with pitchers batting).

  33. Freddie is in a 2019 NLDS-level funk…without the obvious reason for it that that had.

  34. Acuña getting screwed on a line drive with 99% hit probability

    Ozuna making us pay for getting him on the cheap. Reminds me of Melvin Upton.

    And Freeman suckssssssss. What is it now , Lasik or bad wrist?

  35. Ozzie Albies is a complete imbecile. If you’re going to insist on casually assuming you’re out without any evidence to support that point, how about you turn outside the baseline instead of inside just in case you’re wrong?

    Also, LOL at Glavine for trying to argue that play shouldn’t have been an error for the bad throw that allowed Albies to reach, however tentatively.

  36. @51 he was looking at the first base coach like “why didn’t you say anything?”

    This team is in need of an exorcism; about the only thing that is missing is Acuña getting seriously hurt.

  37. If Brian Snitker is one to ever kick over a table in the clubhouse after a game to get everyone’s attention and remind them that they are, in fact, being paid to do something other than merely show up every day, today would be an excellent candidate.

  38. Not surprising, but Chip doesn’t have the first clue what the DH rules actually are. You can absolutely pinch-hit for your DH and have that guy become the new DH.

  39. @54, or pinch-run, I’m pretty sure. At least I thought that was part of the thinking behind pinch-running for Panda with Adrianza yesterday – Adrianza would become the DH, and if someone got injured, he could play the field and we would lose the DH but at least wouldn’t have to put a pitcher in the field.

  40. I’ve been trying to be upbeat, but this team is driving me crazy. Watching them right now is misery.

  41. @55

    Correct. You can directly sub for the DH (which practically means you can pinch-hit or pinch-run for him) and the new guy automatically becomes the DH.

    You can’t take somebody already in the field and move them to DH, take the DH and move them into the field, or double switch to change the DH’s spot in the order without losing the DH, but straight-up swaps are fine.

  42. Newcomb caught suckitis again along with his Covid phantom DL.

    Braves lead mlb in HR, but have a bottom 3 record, lol.

  43. Contreras needs to work some on his pitch-blocking, it appears.

    I’m still glad we seem to be giving him the starting job in d’Arnaud’s absence, don’t get me wrong…

  44. @26

    re Contreras…

    ’tis said he’ll hit the pitching…

    but won’t catch it.

  45. I must claim the ‘taunt’ post. Number 32, previous thread.

    Not the estimable Alan who is far too polite to use it.

    It’s a special word is it not, has its own bite. Not pretty. Nor, right now, is he.

    Today was worse if anything. Looked out of it the whole game.

    On reflection, the ‘Z’ word then came to mind. And, on reflection, could equally have been applied to yesterday also. But I won’t.

    I never thought I would feel this about Freddie. But I do.

  46. Suggestion.

    They’ve just started allowing flights to France again now.

    A week on the Cote D’Azur, en famille, he speaks Canadian French for pete’s sake.

    Charlie would love the girls on the beach.

  47. Brian Snitiker best in the Business excellent Motivational. He is better Tham than Bobby Cox could even aspire to Just Look at His Managerial Record. (NOT) the Braves Arnent an Honorable Mention to The Team of 1990’s to year 2003. Freddie Freman. And Marcel Ozuna Arnent shades of what They used to be. FREENAN AND Ozuna Should be Ashamed of their selves. HOW can they both have the Gal to accept the Money they received this year and say They earned the money. Both hitting abilities are Equivalent to class B or instructional league. Place Ronald Acuna as the new Team captain . He is earning his Stripes 👋 . What Has Freddy Freman done . As a matter of Fact Message to the Braves 1 st to worst. The pitching staff isn’t near. Performance of the 1992 – 2003. When was the last time they had Achieved. 100 wins? They should be named The Atlanta Mugwamps. At the present rate. They are Headed for 75 Wins at best . That is Streatching it??? In Sumation Atlanta Braves let’s Get it together or Suffer the Conciquences of your Actions. Be accountable for Your Actions . It is like everything else You Reap what you Sew. The output should match the Input .
    Bill Edwards Editor of the Palm Coast Tribune.

  48. Best article I’ve read explaining the present state of the Braves. No BS like we constantly receive from Braves PR department that team will be fine once injured players return. The real problem stems from how team was built on false expectations and improper spending of revenues. AA failed to strengthen key areas like BP, bench and retaining important peices from last year’s team. He constantly blames it on limited revenues from Liberty . lf true, its shameful that the Braves window for winning championships will be closed by our greedy corporate ownership. Our fans deserve more!

  49. Excellent summarization of a now 12 – 16 team, who can’t pitch or score.
    Looks like the same folks who have balled up the broadcast teams are running the team. I’m hoping when the hot weather hits and sticks, the bats will at least get going. The pitching? They, with few exceptions, pitch like three good innings as a starter is acceptable.
    To borrow an old baseball phrase, “They’re horsesh*t out there!”

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