Braves 6, Natspos 1

Things aren’t back to normal in this brave new world, and going to a ballgame is no exception. Scarcely 8,000 fans were on hand to watch the Braves beat the local ballclub, even though there are a ton of Braves fans in DC — we used to regularly outnumber the Nats fans back in the first few years of the stadium — but the Nats began the year by allowing 5,000 fans to watch the game, then upped it to around 10,000, so the socially distanced stadium was not full even at reduced capacity.

Plus, they had an annoying no bags rule: you couldn’t bring a bag into the stadium unless it was medically required or smaller than 5″ by 7″. Women were told to check any purses bigger than a clutch in a $12 bin store outside the stands. I’m honestly not quite sure why, other than the desire to sell more concessions.

Still, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. This was an old-school victory, a thoroughly satisfying horsewhipping. Admittedly, the satisfaction was mitigated somewhat by the dreadful state of the Nationals roster. Take a look at this lineup, and try not to burn your eyes:

SS T. Turner
RF Y. Hernandez
2B J. Harrison
1B J. Bell
LF K. Schwarber
3B S. Castro
C Y. Gomes
CF V. Robles
SP J. Ross

Juan Soto was reactivated from the DL and eventually pinch hit, but that’s one star in Trea Turner, a guy in Robles who’s basically their Christian Pache, and a bunch of past-their-prime castoffs joined by one player, right fielder Yadiel Hernandez, who I have literally never heard before. Not exactly the Gashouse Gang.

But if it weren’t for Huascar on both sides of the ball, it might’ve been a nailbiter. Dansby had a couple of hits, and Ronald Acuna added a single and an opposite-field homer, ho-hum, but Freddie and Marcell contributed another collective 0-for-9. It’s not like they look lost every time they pick up a bat; Marcell hit a ball really hard towards the end of the game. But they’re not themselves, and it isn’t April any more.

Anyway, it was Ynoa’s night. Or, as I like to call him, Ynohtani. That grand slam was not a wall-scraper. Even if he never hits another homer all year, and he ends the season still tied with Rafael Belliard in 5,872nd place, you’d have to say he’s making a strong bid for Player of the Week.

He’s still a two-pitch pitcher — Gameday suggests he threw nothing but fastballs and sliders until he threw an 0-1 changeup to Josh Bell with two men out in the fourth inning. (The changeup was a ball. He then got Bell swinging on a slider and punched him out looking on a fastball.) He threw one more changeup in the sixth (a ball) and two more in the seventh (both balls). Then, on his final batter of the evening, Gameday thinks he threw something new: a sinker. It was 92 miles an hour and was called a ball.

I think two pitches was just fine to get out this particular Washington lineup. It’s good to see that he’s still working on the change and the sinker, and I hope he can throw them for the occasional strike. Right now, batters know that it’s mostly just going to be a steady diet of upper-90s fastballs and upper-80s sliders, and as filthy as they both are, any guess hitter has a 50/50 chance of guessing right. Adding a third pitch could improve Huascar’s odds even more.

The kid’s a stud.

23 thoughts on “Braves 6, Natspos 1”

  1. JC’d from the last thread:

    67) blazon says:
    May 5, 2021 at 8:35 am
    Only two change ups all evening? That used to be my limit, too.

    Now, alas, just that number seems monumental. Beyond all reach.

    A life well spent has become totally spent. In case you didn’t know.

    68) Timo says:
    May 5, 2021 at 9:14 am
    @67 Mind you, English is not my native language sooo… what kind of changeups are you referring to? I am curious, blazon.

    69) Chief Nocahoma says:
    May 5, 2021 at 9:24 am
    I don’t think that it is a coincidence that when the Braves traded for Ynoa that his electric stuff was the top billing. IMO, the Braves need to focus more organizationally regarding pitching on raw stuff and less on pitchability. IMO, Kyle Wright’s stuff is just average to maybe slightly above average. Same with Wilson and several others. Trust in your coaching and training staffs and mold superior stuff into pitchers instead of taking inferior stuff and trying to make them Greg Maddux.

    70) Rob Copenhaver says:
    May 5, 2021 at 9:27 am
    Soroka has resumed throwing, and they’re saying he’ll be on a typical Spring Training schedule. So that’s 30-45 days, right? Assuming he returns within 45 days, what would Ynoa have to do to not deserve the 5th spot? What would Smyly have to do to keep his spot over Ynoa? They would almost have to flip-flop in performance right now.

    I don’t understand you, FIP. Ynoa has a 0.90 WHIP. He has struck out 38 in 34 innings, over a batter an inning. But his FIP (3.48) is a full run higher than his ERA (2.36). What does FIP want that he’s not giving it? FIP’s a jerk.

  2. Rob, the only thing I can see is that Ynoa has yielded a bunch of homers and has perhaps gotten slightly lucky on solo shots — he’s only given up nine earned runs, but he’s yielded five homers, more than one every seven innings.

    More evidence that his homer rate accounts for most of the difference between his ERA and FIP: his xFIP is 2.89, way lower than his FIP. One of the biggest differences between FIP and xFIP is that xFIP normalizes the home run rate, precisely to control for homer spikes like this. If you don’t think that Ynohtani is going to keep giving up 1.3 homers per nine innings, then it’s likely that his FIP will come down, given that his walk and K-rates are so stellar.

  3. @70 FIP’s issue is the home runs. I think he’s currently surrendering 1.3 HR9 and a ~20% HR/FB. Couple that with an opposing batting average of .187 (.225 BABIP) and I think it’s safe to say that luck has been on Ynoa’s side a little bit. xFIP seems to like him a bit more because it weights the home runs allowed more favorably.
    If there was a season to be a fly ball pitcher who can strike some people out, this is one. He can get by a bit better relying on fly balls to come down in the outfield.

    With the way Ynoa’s pitching, there’s not a chance in the world I would be moving him to the bullpen. Leave him in the rotation. Let him do his thing. Let him work on adding those two pitches to keep hitters honest. Hall of fame pitching careers have rested on two stellar pitches and a couple of keep’em guessing ones.

  4. Timo,

    Alex answers your question in the third to last paragraph of his recap. Ynoa threw two changeups that were balls. Everything else he threw last night was either a fastball or a slider.

  5. @2 I feel like we do this to each other pretty frequently. You got me this time by just a few minutes.

  6. @2, 3 Thanks guys!

    Ynoa’s continued success and Soroka’s return would definitely create some much-needed logjam. Smyly could easily earn his money by being what Matzek was last year: a two-inning, wipeout lefty. Matzek has not been that so far this year. Part of the reason why Smyly was signed was his versatility, and that might be exactly what’s needed if rotation help is on the way. Fingers crossed.

  7. @5, glad to see we’re thinking the same thing!

    I think I saw a postgame interview with Ynoa his last start, or maybe the one before, and I seem to recall him discussing thinking about varying fastball velocity to keep the hitters out of their comfort zone. I loved hearing that since it suggests that he’s really thoughtful about his craft, which is unsurprising given that his big brother Michael was, at the time, the most expensive international free agent ever — he signed for $4.5 million as a 16-year old in 2008, back when little brother Huascar was all of ten. 

    Michael never really put it all together. He eventually made the majors, nearly a decade after signing as a teenage prospect, and only managed a few cups of coffee all told. Amazingly, as of last night, Huascar and Michael have the exact same career innings and ERA totals. But Michael hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2017, and his career was ruined by control problems.

    Huascar has managed to combine his electric stuff, which his brother also had as a teenager, with increasingly impressive command.

    Baseball is in his blood.

  8. I don’t think that’s quite fair to Hoot. The Neyer/James guide to pitchers gives him five pitches:

    1. Rising Fastball 2. Slider 3. Sinking Fastball 4. Curve 5. Change
  9. How many pitches did Phil Niekro have? If it’s good enough, you only need one.

  10. How many true five pitch pitchers are there really?

    They say John Smoltz threw a four-seam, slider, split finger, and occasionally a curve and a change up, but he didn’t even throw a slider in the minors. That leads me to think that he made it to the majors throwing a four-seam and a split finger with a couple of extra pitches mixed in.

  11. @14 As a closer, Smoltz really only threw the four-seam, slider, and split finger. He may have abandoned it in 2002 when he was a closer and only threw a couple of change ups until he returned to being a starter. Unfortunately, pitch data only goes back to 2002.

    In a broader sense, the results are mostly going to be the same across nearly all major league pitchers. Most guys rely on one or two pitches for 80% of their throws. Justin Verlander threw fastballs for 60-70% of the time early in his career and mixed in the curve and change up. He added a slider later in his career to give him four pitches.

    I think Ynoa will be fine if he can throw the change up for an occasional strike, and hopefully he’s working on a sinker.

  12. @Rob

    I can answer the Ynoa thing. His advanced stats show a lot of regression coming. In Avg Exit Velo, Hard Hit %, and Barrel %, he’s in the bottom 3rd in the league which likely means his BABIP against, which is .225, is likely flukey. As Braves fans, we want Freddie Freeman to break his bad luck and become the player he was last year, yet want Ynoa to continue to succeed despite getting hit fairly hard. The good money bet is that Freddie comes around and Ynoa regresses.

  13. You know, I could really support a pitching staff that looks like the following:

    SP
    Soroka
    Fried
    Anderson
    Morton
    Ynoa

    MR
    Tomlin
    Smyly

    RP
    Matzek
    Minter
    Smith
    Jackson
    ? (Greene? maybe Newcomb)
    Martin

    That seems like a quality pitching staff. And, yeah, I’m all onboard with moving Smyly to middle relief.

  14. 17 Dreaming of something like that too, though I’d get rid of Jackson and keep Webb, and yes, please let’s get Greene and add some depth there.

  15. what is The Problem with Both Freddy Freman and Marcel Ozuna. Perhaps the should do what most of The ball club is doing Wait for the first pitch to see what the Opposing Pitcher’s Stuff looks like . That is what both did in 2020 Freddy Freman won 🏆 the NATIONAL League M.V.P and Ozuna was more Successful at the plate it might be a better idea to sit bot down and rest Both Freddy Freman and Marcel Ozuna . It is unfair to have Ronald Acuna to place the hitting of the ball club on his Shoulders. Let’s get it together fellows.
    Bill Edwards Editor of The Palm Coast Tribune in Boyton Beach FLORIDA. ⛱

  16. I mean Freddie for his career is hitting .413 on the first pitch (.725 Slg) and just last year during said MVP year, he hit .462 on the first pitch (.769 Slg), so not sure that is the problem.

  17. To follow up, this year Freddie is hitting .188 (.250 Slg) albeit only 16 ABs on first pitch, but shockingly, he is only hitting .120 in counts with zero strikes. He’s a combined 0-9 in 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0 counts making him 3-25 with no strikes in the count.

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