Hibernation Mode, Braves Scheduling Division

Katy Feeney’s Wall in Purgatory

No Recap Today

On the theory that someone actually likes my occasional missives (coop is just being polite, Alex R. has to uphold Eli pride, and tfloyd is lost with me in a nostalgic psychological sinkhole) Ryan has asked me to say something in lieu of a recap, since the schedulemaker (for years it was Katy Feeney, daughter of Chub) gave the Braves two days off in a row.  Every year baseball would produce an article describing how fiendishly difficult it was to make a schedule; all the constraints had to fit together in some fiendishly perverse way that meant that for some reason there was just no alternative to the Braves playing in Wrigley in April rather than Turner Field.  All these articles contained some brief quote from Katy Feeney, who I grew to think of as fiendishly protective of her dark arts, which she would describe in ways that seemed to make it closer to necromancy than optimization.  I always pictured one of those Cop Show Whiteboards with strings connecting names and timelines written in different color Sharpies.  Well, now she’s retired and then gone to that Great Scheduling Matrix in the Sky, figuring out how to give Ty Cobb an off-day in August, and I guess I owe her an apology:  she never scheduled two straight off days outside the All Star Game.  I guess computers are overrated.

Whither Mediocrity?

I feel like I got all of the mileage possible out of the theme of mediocrity this season.  So the Braves wised up and stopped being mediocre.  They finally got their 8-out-of-10, something every other team in history did in a full season, and even got the non-ubiquitous 9-out-of-10 and even rarer, 9 in a row, just rudely terminated by the Evil Empire.  The worst record they could possibly have in August is 16-10, and that seems really doubtful.  Dreams of the mediocre-est team ever have died.

But all my discussions of mediocrity were written in service of the underlying truth that, as the SEC (the US governmental one, not the Southern idée fixe) would make the Braves say if they were giving investment advice: “Past returns are no guarantee of future results.”  I’ve been attempting all season to give some content to that formulaic statement, and August is exactly what I said could happen.  While one might point to the additions of Soler, Pederson, Duvall and Rodriguez, and the returns of Ynoa and d’Arnaud as the causes of the change, but you can’t do that without also taking account of the loss of Acuña.  If you had been told before seeing the results that the Braves would add what they added and subtract RAJ, I think it would be hard to confidently say: “Oh, yeah, definitely a net improvement.”  There has been a net improvement, and a dramatic one, but an inevitable one? I don’t think so. It’s definitely still possible that we’re a mediocre team that hit a hot streak. But teams like that can win the World Series. So there’s that.

Some of this is probably reversion to the mean as well. Our pitiful Pythagorean difference has shrunk somewhat. We’re still 4 games shy of our expected record, though. To the extent that that is luck, we ought to be expected to improve the record somewhat.

On October 19, 1987 the stock market dropped 20 percent with no discernible reason, not that people have stopped trying to figure out what happened even to this day.  But Ace Greenberg, Chairman of the not-yet-defunct Bear Stearns, gave the best explanation of what happened: “Stocks fluctuate.  Next question.”

Teams fluctuate.  Next question?   

Updated Bradley-Terry Rankings

One factor, of course, in the Braves rise is the quality of the recent opposition.  Washington, Miami and Baltimore are just not fearsome opponents, and St. Louis is (dare I say it?) mediocre.  When last I wrote two weeks ago, the Hammers had a Balanced Schedule Winning Percentage of 0.495.  While their actual winning percentage has gone from 0.518 to 0.540, their Balanced Schedule Percentage has risen more modestly, to 0.509.  Still, the BSP has risen, so they are definitely playing better.  Just as I was the Pollyanna of Braves Journal scribes for 4 1/2 months, my curmudgeonly nature requires me to slide Cassandra-ward.  We are not yet obvious world-beaters.  We’re a modestly above-average team who got hot.  Teams fluctuate.


I am very pleased to report that Chip has said nothing stupid on a Braves telecast for two straight days.

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.

77 thoughts on “Hibernation Mode, Braves Scheduling Division”

  1. I am in the middle of a 5 hour business review call

    This has made my day so much better, thank you

  2. Seems like the two Yankee games was proof of this article. Well written.

    I also think some of the mistakes in the Yankee games came from overconfidence due to the winning streak with a bunch of new players. Hopefully, the result is getting back to doing things right and still winning more.

  3. JonathanF, my love of your posts has nothing to do with our mutually beloved alma mater!

    But just to make sure I’m reading this right: are you saying that none of this has to do with momentum? What about the momentum???

  4. @3: To quote Chip: “It’s the age-old expression” (I honestly have no idea what Chip means by ‘age-old’) “momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher.”

    But honestly, I can make a case for momentum, in the sense that winning relaxes people and relaxed teams play better, and losing makes people either stressed or despondent, neither of which does anything to improve performance.

    The problem, however, is that there is no evidence for momentum. In this way momentum exactly parallels the “hot hand phenomenon,” which, although there is recent scholarship suggesting that there is some effect (contradicting a long literature that says there is none), said scholarship pales before the popular conception in the magnitude of the effect. It suggests a nice offseason exercise though… [writes down idea in Google Keep]

  5. Jonathan, I am not just being polite. You are seriously strange, and I love the paths you lead me down. Today’s non-recap was a delightful romp. You Yalies write good.

  6. Thanks for a great non-recap. Entertaining as usual.
    From what i understand, the schedule oddity was not the result of Katy Feeney’s ghost or an evil computer. The series was originally penciled in for Tuesday and Wednesday, with off days for the Braves on Monday and Thursday. The Yankees, who have a game on the West Coast tonight, requested that it be rescheduled for Monday and Tuesday, so they could have a travel day on Wednesday. The Braves obliged.

  7. Thanks, Doug! I’m especially grateful I can entirely blame this on the Yankees.

  8. @6, along those lines, what I heard (can’t remember where) was that the Yankees wanted Wednesday’s game to take place in the afternoon, presumably for the same travel reason you cite, but that the Braves didn’t want to do that, I assume because of attendance.

  9. Considering the outcomes, I would’ve preferred Tue/Wed games vs. NYY. But I’m sure having a mini-all-star break ain’t so bad for everyone, especially the pitching staff.

    And speaking of weird scheduling… very odd that both of our western trips are post-Aug 30. In 2 separate trips, we play 16 games (incl. the suspended game in SD) at LAD, Col, SF, Az & SD.

  10. As they say in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” I say it’s the Ghost of Katy Feeney, and to hell with your “evidence” and “West coast road trips.”

  11. Well, not playing the last two nights seems to have been a good strategy, since the Phillies & Mets both went 0-2. Maybe we should take the rest of the week off. The Phillies scored 5 in the 9th to lose 8-7.

  12. It would surprise me a little bit, given the state of our OF defense, if we didn’t see Pache at some point in September, possibly after AAA season ends.

  13. The schedule is so bizarre. 2 off days followed by 3 games at home vs the Giants then fly all the way across the country to play the Dodgers with no time off. Also, most teams spend their last month playing in the division, not flying back and forth across the country. At least they have a cushion.

  14. Giants SP Logan Webb… twelve consecutive starts giving up 2ER or less. Looks like he is due tomorrow.
    And our old buddy Gausman today. What an amazing season he has had. Will be a great series. Go Braves.

  15. The Phillies, behind all game, came up in the bottom of the 9th last night down 5, scored 4.

    How sweet, how very sweet.

  16. If the Braves play .500 ball the rest of the way out, the Phils would have to go 23-12 to catch them. Not impossible, but not likely. I’m more concerned, given ATL’s tougher schedule, about them going .500 (and the 90 wins thing seems something of a pipe dream to me). Then again, if there’s one thing this team has proven it can do consistently, it’s play .500.

  17. @15, with an odd number of teams in each division, if all teams are playing on the same day, at least one team in each division has to be playing an out-of-division opponent. The same goes for 15-team leagues, which is how the last game at Turner Field had the Braves beating Detroit.

    @17, it was even sweeter – they were down 6 in the 9th and scored 5, the last 4 with 2 out. I wonder if Harper feels he’s jinxed – he leaves the Nationals for a team that’s shelling out lots of $ for free agents and the Nationals immediately win the World Series, while the free-spending team does nothing despite its largesse.

  18. @13 Agreed. I think it’s possible some nights that we have mass substitutions at all 3 outfield spots where Pederson moves to a corner, Pache checks in at CF, and Heredia checks in at the corners. This is one of my low key enjoyments of good roster management when you can plug in multiple defensive replacements and/or shuffling of current defenders in the late innings. If we were ran by the Cubs’ FO or something, I could see Dansby moving to 3B and an even slicker defensive SS taking over SS or something in the late innings.

  19. @19

    Your corrective input of scale appreciated. I was clearly getting carried away by the whole thing, couldn’t believe it, too delicious. Harper I saw came alive while Kruk had openly given up the fight during the top of the innings and, commenting on the fans streaming out of the exits, consoled his partner with how little traffic they would have to contend with on some bridge outside the park getting home. Tonight and tomorrow he implied.

    Salamis and Thermopylae it may not have been. But it will do.

  20. @13,20

    The Triple-A season does not end until the first weekend in October this year, just like the MLB season. They extended it an extra month after postponing the start until May. Doesn’t mean we won’t call several people up obviously, but there’s no point at which it’ll be “might as well call them up since they’ll be sitting around anyway.”

  21. The NL East in a nutshell: It’s Friday, the Braves haven’t won all week, and they’ve gained ground on the Phillies and the Mets.

  22. As the VHS cover in Blockbuster taught me, a lot can go down between Thursday and Saturday!

  23. Almonte just had no spot. He performed admirably as a PH against RHP, but now that Braves have Rosario and Joc that’ll likely have semi-platoons, as well as Ehire who hits well from LH side, there are literally 0 ABs for him.

  24. “Man, Kevin Gausman vs. Max Fried is a tough match-up for us” is not a sentence I ever expected to utter.

  25. Abraham Almonte, whose career was going absolutely nowhere, did about as well as he possibly could to secure himself another opportunity in the major leagues. I’m really happy for him. His 174 strong PAs has probably made him a half million dollars once it’s all said and done. Good for him.

  26. @myself

    To expound on this, Abraham Almonte just became Charlie Culberson of 2020 and Charlie never got used.

  27. I happened to look up Charlie yesterday… He’s had a Culberson season in Texas. He’s played every position but catcher and centerfield, played in just more than half of their games, is OPSing just shy of .700 and has pitched a scoreless inning.

  28. @35 I can’t imagine we’d feel the need to give him a roster spot over an additional catcher, reliever, centerfielder, etc.

  29. @37
    Meh, a HBP on a guy who made no effort to move his elbow and a HR on a pop up with 4% hit possibility.

    I’m more ticked off about suspending the game in the middle of Dansbys AB. An extra minute of rain would have destroyed the field? Who was the idiot who gave the ok to start this game?

  30. Well, that sucked. Good job, Travis.

    With the force play on, I don’t think we’re in “take the out, stupid” territory with that. Just, like, actually throw the ball at Riley instead of some guy in Row 2.

  31. Isn’t it generally agreed now that shifting against right handed batters is a net negative?

  32. That’s twice this week we’ve been burned for using a completely braindead shift, and the ball went basically through the exact same slot on both instances.

  33. Chip and his insistence on quoting fielding % as the main metric of defensive value drives me nuts.

  34. I take back at least two things bad I’ve said about Chip this year after his lemon pepper wings comment. Round of applause for that one.

  35. I meant to say we need to score 1 or 2 runs by the 7th. That’s my story now and I’m sticking to it

  36. I don’t think Kasey Kalich is the next Adam Wainwright, and I don’t know how we stole Jorge Soler away. I’m into it though.

  37. “Great job by Will to bear down after the home run and get the next 3 guys. We got the W and that’s all that matters. He’s a gamer.” -Snit, probably

    Heck of a play by Joc! Whew!

  38. Pederson saved Smith’s rear parts……that man is an ok middle reliever. I have no idea why Snit insists on using him as a closer. Losing this game would have been really bad momentum wise.

    Mets lost again.

  39. @62

    I honestly don’t think it was that ugly. He threw a strike to Flores rather than walk him, which is fine. He then didn’t allow another baserunner. Admittedly we’d have had to endure some heartburn had Pederson not made that catch, but as it stands, this wasn’t even in his top five shakiest saves.

  40. @65 Better than “he sure gives up a lot of home runs. We have no confidence in him. If he keeps this up we’re going to let someone else close.”

    @67 You’re right. It wasn’t that ugly. It just wasn’t pretty.

  41. Will is allowing 3.65 HR/9 this month and 2.12 HR/9 for the season. This fills me with something less than confidence.

  42. Phillies/Arizona in extras.
    Phillies come back to win in 11. Segura.

    Ozzie to hit sixth, Joc lead off. A week should do it. Your welcome.

  43. @70 Agree. He is not a closer on a good team. A great defensive play and a bad call by the ump saved him today. He’s not even safe to face the 6-7-8 hitters.

    Aaaand the stinkin’ Phillies walk it off.

  44. My single greatest fear with Will Smith is him giving up a huge homer in the postseason, which of course he did last year. And as much as I’d love to replace him with someone else, it was also Chris Martin who gave up an even bigger home run in the postseason. And those two home runs given up by Martin and Smith ended up being two of the biggest reasons we lost that series.

    There’s a month left in the season, and it’s entirely possible Matzek continues to dominate and he becomes The Guy in the bullpen, wherever that means he’d actually be used. I would think that Matzek will be used when the game is truly on the line, not just necessarily in the 9th. Remember, we were all pretty much in agreement with how well Snit managed the bullpen in the playoffs last year. The boys just let us down.

  45. @74 I tend to agree, but anytime Will Smith pitches the game suddenly becomes “on the line”.

  46. @75 You’d have to think the Giants fans had an extra little amount of confidence going into the 9th with Smith pitching. They know he’s not infallible.

    The problem is, though, Will Smith is only two years removed from leading relievers in WPA. That was a big reason why Atlanta got him and paid him accordingly, and we applauded the rationale at the time. To be at this point where there’s a healthy amount of anxiety every time he comes into the game is disappointing but hopefully something that can be fixed before the playoffs.

    Man, what a wild season.

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