Brooms in DC, 3-2.

Lester Dole, well after his playing days

Intro Content NSFb (Not Safe For blazon)

In a comment last Sunday, I discussed what I call “Battery Bros,” pitchers and catchers with the same last name, whether or not they were actually related. The two dominant pairs of Battery Bros were actual brothers; Mort and Walker Cooper (108 games in which Walker caught Mort) and Wes and Rick Ferrell (HOFer Rick caught Wes 106 times.) Overall, there are 54 such pairs, and most of them are unrelated, like #3 all-time: Steve and Jeff Reed. Pudge Rodriguez is a part of three different pairs, having caught in his career Rich (29 times) Wandy (15 times) and Henry (9 times). Javy Lopez caught Albie 21 times in Atlanta and Rodrigo 57 times in Baltimore. My favorite names on the list are Peaches and Spud Davis. Spud caught Peaches 14 times in 1937 and 1938. Peaches and Spud sounds like a bad appetizer at Fridays.

What took me down this path was that Alex caught Luke for the 10th time on Sunday, tying them on the Braves list with the Perez “brothers” (Odalis and Eddie) trailing only Javy and Albie. But Alex is hurt now and if William Contreras (who has a real brother playing the same position) keeps hitting we may not see Luke-Alex for a while.

But all of that is the past — way back last Sunday. (For those who aren’t keeping track, last Sunday we were horrible and heading for a 70 win season. This contrasts with today when we are pretty good and heading for an 88 win season, so it was practically an eternity.) Why do I bring this up now? It got me to thinking about what I call “Before and After Batteries.” That’s where the battery has a last name matching a first name: so if Ryan Lavarnway had caught Nolan Ryan, that would be, before and after: Nolan Ryan Lavarnway. To make this work, obviously, either the pitcher or the catcher has to have a last name that is also a first name. That makes Before and After Batteries rarer than Battery Bros. There are only 10.

Leading the list is Tommy John Romano (63 games). Romano was the only guy named John ever to have caught Tommy. (My memory had John Roseboro on the Dodgers at the same time as Tommy John. I was wrong by a couple of years.) The others:

And one other that will be obvious when you think about it, although no one associates them ever being on the same team: two contemporaneous Hall of Famers who formed a battery for two games. (Hint: there are only 19 catchers in the Hall of Fame, and only one of them has a first or last name that immediately brings to mind a HOF pitcher.)

I went down this path because: (a) I had already programmed up Battery Bros and this was a minor variation, and (b) because the Nationals today started Jon Lester, and it was just possible that there had been a catcher named Lester at some point. Alas, no. There have only been two major leaguers named Lester: Lester Oliveros pitched in 27 games for Minnesota and Detroit in 2011-14, and then there was Lester Dole.

On May 27, 1875 the 19 year old Lester Dole played in one game for New Haven Elm Citys of the National Association – an 8-5 loss to the New York Mutuals. He was 2-4 for a lifetime batting average of 0.500 – no Moonlight Graham, he. The fact that my old college town had a Major League Team (disputed, but I believe the NA should count) for one season is something I didn’t know before today. They only existed for one season and sucked (7-40) but they were in The Show.

Jon Lester is pretty old, but he was not yet born (barely, in geologic time) when Lester Dole died in 1918… and Dole was an outfielder, so he would have been an emergency catcher at best.

Fast Grannys (Not Yet, blazon, Not Yet)

Before getting to the recap I should also discuss the fact that the Braves have hit Grand Slams in 3 consecutive games. (I ordered Grand Slam breakfasts once at Denny’s for five straight days, so I can relate to this record.) So… Back to the Database.

I took the Retrosheet event records (which some day I’m going to stop saying run from 1920 through last year) and found how short a time it took for each franchise to have 4 Grand Slams. The record is 4 days, set last year by the Padres from 8/17-8/20. The Braves record is currently 10 days, set in 1997. Chipper Jones hit a Granny on July 5th and another on July 10th, followed by a pair hit on July 14th: one by Ryan Klesko and one by Tim Spehr, who the Braves had for exactly 8 games in 1997, another thing I had completely forgotten. In any case, if the Braves can hit another Grand Slam in the next week, this team will have the Atlanta record.

OK, blazon, There Was A Game. You Can Read Now.

The first three innings were devoted to Mark DeRosa blathering on while neither team could do much. DeRosa is not really that bad, but he was the Penn QB against Yale at a time when Penn was good and Yale wasn’t, so I hate him. In the 4th the Braves scored first on an Acuña single, advancing to 3rd on a SB+throwing error, an Albies walk and a ringing Ozuna double down the left field line. After two strikeouts, folk hero B (the Panda is still at A) Ehire Adrianza had the two out single scoring both runners. That’s 3, and that’s all they’d get, as the rest of the game was a graduate school course in Applied Hibernation.

Great! Time for a shutdown inning, right? From Drew Smyly? Surely you jest: in the bottom of the inning, a single and a single combined with a fielding error by Acuña (so it wasn’t all Smyly’s fault) scored an answering run.

That said, this was easily Smyly’s best outing as a Brave, though to be fair he was assisted by some excellent defense from Pache and Riley at first, who gave Freddie the day off. The following graph shows the initial smelliness of Smyly; the trend is particularly worrisome.

But adding the fifth start is the beginning of the Silencing His Critics phase:

6+ innings, 4 singles, 4 strikeouts and 4 walks. No earned runs. Trend reversed. Not bad. We have at least four possible explanations: (a) Luck (i.e. Small Sample Size); (b) Veteran catcher savvy (Jeff Mathis behind the dish making the right calls); (c) Soto-less, reasonably punchless Natinals; and (d) Smyly has turned the corner. I am merely a humble scribe; I leave this for open discussion.

Then came Luke, whose right hand is pretty cool. (The great thing about that is that it can be great or horrible, depending on context — which pretty much describes Luke’s pitching.) A hit to Robles is followed by a screaming out to the pinch-hitting Soto. A fielder’s choice on Turner and a grounder to Albies ended the Luke Jackson Experience for the day. Good enough, Luke; just good enough.

The 8th was an inning given to Edgar Santana and Grant Dayton. Innings like that are never scoreless. Santana was really shaky, giving up one and leaving two on, but Dayton bailed him out with two strikeouts, the second one credited to the ump on everyone’s scorecard.

The Fresh Prince had to earn a real save. But there was a Hitch. Zimmerman led off with a double. The pinch runner Stevenson advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice to right. A strikeout then put the game down to Smith vs. Harrison. Harrison flies out to right, a Collateral Beauty. When you Focus, you perform like Ali.

CitiField Back home tomorrow for three against the Metropolitan Cohens that we trail by a half-game. first place Phillies. Go get ’em.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

33 thoughts on “Brooms in DC, 3-2.”

  1. I’m amazed that neither Williams Perez ever pitched to a catcher Perez — that would have made triplets!

    Honestly, JonathanF, you can’t digress enough for me. Loved this. Afraid that I agree with the league on the National Association not being a major league, though. Condolences to the Elm Citys.

  2. Excellent as always, JonathanF, but I’d prefer more baseball history next time.

  3. Good stuff.

    Speaking of John Romano… I actually met him when he was the marshal at Hoboken’s Baseball Day Parade back in the early ’90s. He was actually a pretty good-hitting catcher during the low-offense ’60s.

    And Wes Ferrell was one of the game’s greatest-hitting pitchers — the Huascar Ynoa of his day.

    So, we’re supposed to climb back to .500 now, right? What a strange, streaky team this is…

  4. Superb job on the recap.

    I’m sure it’s just me, but I can’t hear/read Adrianza without hearing Vince Gill’s 90s hit “Pretty Little Adriana”.

  5. Great work Jonathan! I’m with Tfloyd. And congratulations Braves14! I’d forgotten a 41 yr old Carlton took the bump for the Pale Hose for a few games in ’86.

  6. the hour is late, a riposte is lacking….the effort attempting to read every word was excruciating – which may have been the idea I suppose…still I eventually found, and measured, 12 centimetres worth…we won I see…so both are happy…goodnight sweet prince.

  7. @All: Thanks

    Alex: Why the NA hate? I find the MLB decision to discount the National Association demarcation convenience and little else. Their two arguments were a) quality of play and b) unavailability of records. Given that teams moved wholesale from the NA to the National League, including the Braves (or Red Stockings, as they were then) it’s hard for me to see how the play could have been all that different. As to records, that’s a problem, but it’s not one in deciding whether the League was a Major League or not — it’s accounting. The NA was an indisputably professional league that had the best players playing baseball at that time; that, to me, is a Major League. Admittedly, there’s a bit of how-do-we-classify-Pluto in this discussion, but I see no reason to think that 1875 and 1876 occupy two different conceptual universes. Plus, The New Haven Elm Citys!

    To others: Yes: Steve Carlton Fisk formed a battery on 8/12/86 and 9/13/86. The 41 year old Lefty was released by the Phillies in early 1986, signed with Giants, pitched most of the summer with them, was then released and signed with the White Sox for the end of 1986, where he paired up twice with the 38 year old Fisk, though most of his starts were with Ron Karkovice, which I assume was a sort of McCarver thing with Carlton.

    That very bad (72-90) White Sox team had Carlton Fisk, Steve Carlton, Harold Baines, and Tom Seaver! That’s 4 HOFers on a 72-90 team. (They also had a bunch of would-be or once-were very good players: Ozzie Guillen, Bobby Bonilla, Bobby Thigpen, George Foster.) It’s the team that got Tony LaRussa (HOFer) fired as manager. That suggests a new research project: worst team with the best players.

  8. the tweet re Flowers return yesterday appeared an hour before a knock on the door and my wife was handed a crinkling bouquet from her daughter – every Mother’s day, hardly ever else, it resonates for her and thus me.

    Double for me when I view the printed wrapper…1-800-FLOWERS

  9. Proven Closer Will Smith is now perfect in 7 save chances. Now tops on the staff in WPA.

  10. The game was evolving rapidly in those days, making any line of demarcation somewhat arbitrary…but at least the formation of the National League ushered in much greater franchise and scheduling stability, which were other marks against the NA. But I have no personal quarrel with including the NA — I loved learning about that era and those players, and so would not like to see the erasure that excluding it would likely result in. Don’t get me started about those Union Association white-livered scalawags, though!

  11. Worst team with the best players even I could hardly argue with – instinctively curious.

    So to work, young man. Please.

  12. Did I dream this? best three back to back to back pitches that were the least anticipated…Dayton…they were perfect, they were even beautiful.

  13. I don’t think they hit grand slams in three consecutive games. May 1, 4, and 5, yes, but they didn’t hit one on May 2 against Toronto or in yesterday’s 3-2 win.

  14. @18: You’re right. So to set the Braves record they would need to hit another over the weekend.

  15. I’m starting to get some second thoughts about Freddie. He’s 31. Joey Votto’s been mostly useless (especially based on Chief’s definition of a AAAA player!) since age 34. Even helped by Coors, Todd Helton only had a 120 OPS+ once after age 34. Those are probably my two best comps for slugging first basemen that don’t have bad bodies.

    In 2019, only 4 players older than age 34 had a fWAR over 3: Nelson Cruz, Brett Gardner, Justin Turner, Yuli Gurreal. Brett Gardner is currently sub-replacement level for New York at age 37 and was not very good last year as a 36-year old. Gurreal was terrible last year but has been great this year as a 37-year old. Amongst 36-year olds in 2019, only Nelson Cruz had a fWAR above 2. Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre seem to be the clear outliers of guys who excel after their mid-30’s. Is it worth giving Freddie a 6-7 year deal when he may be DOA halfway through the deal? I fear the conclusion I’m coming to is…

  16. @21

    It’s not even just those first base comps. Even Chipper Jones, age 32 and beyond, wasn’t anywhere anything close to his 31 and prior years. Freeman is going to depreciate going forward. The only question is how much, and will he retain any of that magic the way that Chipper did? We don’t remember Chipper hitting .248 at age 32. Chip was a very consistent and often very polished hitter who would have three more spectacular seasons hitting above .320 and still had ample pop.

    I think the best point to make on the Freddie Freeman topic is this: now is clearly not the time to hand him the biggest contract. He should know this. The Braves know it. If he wants to remain a Brave for his entire career, he should be prepared to accept either a shorter contract with higher AAV or a longer contract with a lower AAV that pays him a salary that anticipates decline but offers incentives that more than make up for it should he overcome age.

    That seems fair. He’s probably not worth $30M AAV. He’s… probably not worth $25M AAV. Would I give it to him on a 2-year deal? Sure. And then afterward, we’d offer another contract at less AAV, probably.

    Point is, ball is in Freddie’s court and likely has been for more than a year. The team would love to retain him on a fair agreement.

  17. @32
    Chipper Jones was a .910 OPS player from 32 and beyond. He was a .946 OPS player from ages 21-31. Sorry…from an offensive perspective, this isn’t a factual statement. When he was on the field, he was still an elite hitter. He even averaged 505 PAs/season from 32-40.

    If one were to project that the rest of his career would be 80% of what he’s done thus far, he’d be paid to be a 3 WAR/player per year for 9 years. That would be a 9/$225MM contract. He’s not getting that. My guess would be 5/$125MM is the Braves ceiling and there are teams out there that would offer him $200MM.

  18. @24 I agree with all this. Chipper is who you hope Freddie will be.

    Someone is going to give Freddie a 6th or 7th year that Atlanta won’t. That’s where we get blown out of the water. We might be able to stay competitive on AAV through 4 or 5 years, but I doubt we match the overall sum, and he’s gone. 4 years from now, you could have a declining Freddie and a Marcell Ozuna who did his best Dan Uggla impression, and this team is going nowhere. And cheap Liberty Media is not going to spend to get out of those situations.

  19. @25
    This is the sole reason why the Braves have to get it done before he gets to free agency. It’s easier to win at an auction when you’re the only one bidding.

  20. The pitching match-ups this weekend are pretty good for Atlanta. Eflin vs. Morton. Velasquez vs. Anderson. Nola vs. Ynoa. I think we have the advantage in the first two. We could be in first place by the end of the weekend.

  21. @24
    No apologies necessary. I tend to see statistical declines and occasionally misidentify the magnitude of the drop. When one looks at pre-32 Chipper, they see the following: 8 straight seasons of 100+ RBIs, 8 straight seasons of MVP voting, 5 seasons of 30+ home runs, 7 seasons of 25+ home runs, and 7 of those seasons with 100+ runs. He was league MVP in 1999.

    Contrast that with post-31 Chipper, 4 seasons of top MVP vote (how on earth did he get MVP votes in his final season?), , 1 season of 100+ runs, 1 season of 100+ RBIs, 2 seasons of 25+ home runs, just 3 seasons of 130+ games, and 2 terrific seasons of 7+ WAR.

    And that’s the magic I referred to about Chipper. After age 32, he was still elite. At age 34 and 35, he was on pace for 35 and 38 home runs if he didn’t miss ~30 games. Part of decline is missing chunks of seasons, though.

  22. @27: Well, that proves that (a) no one reads to the end of my posts; and (b) I can’t tell May 7th from May 17th. Corrected in the last paragraph.

  23. Nate Jones was DFA’d and Carl Edwards Jr. is coming up to the bigs.

  24. from today’s papers…

    By announcing she will not be running for a second term Atlanta’s Mayor has Bottomed out. She has thus cancelled the private lunch arranged for next week with MacKenzie, damn. As of this week of course there is now a second Mackenzie coming available to fund our payroll, Melinda Gates. Volunteers, step forward please.

    Melinda Gates
    the only thing she hates
    is Bill
    always promised to upgrade her to Windows 10
    now never will.

    South Carolina is about to introduce the firing squad as an alternative to its diminishing supply of lethal drugs for executions. Seriously. Still, an obvious new outlet for our discarded pitching. 3 strikes or YOU’RE out.

  25. @22

    Perfect logic as far as I’m concerned, even a humble addendum! Thanks. Chipper is special, yes, to a degree.

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