Braves 6, Snakes 1, Magic Number 10

Boring in the best way. If you threw these two teams into OOTB a hundred times, it would probably spit out something like this game quite a few times. (I went to bed after the fifth — the old grey mare ain’t what she used to be — so take the rest of this with a grain of salt.)

Riley hit a two-run bomb in the first, Albies hit a two-run bomb in the third, Soler went oppo in the fifth, and Snitker used most of his best relievers in a bullpen game to keep the boot on the throat — Chavez opened, Smyly was quite good in the bulk role, and then Webb, Matzek, Jackson, and Minter slammed the door.

We’ve complained enough on here about Snit’s unwillingness or inability to keep his powder dry in the bullpen, but I can’t really complain here. Santana, Newcomb, Rodriguez, and Martin had all pitched the previous evening, so Webb was the only guy who went twice in a row and Smith is the main guy who didn’t go either night. (There’s also Toussaint, but a discussion of him is probably outside the scope of the post.)

It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations, but Smyly had one of his best appearances in a Braves uniform, pitching 3 1/3 innings from the third through the fifth, and giving up just four singles and a lone manufactured run, along with four strikeouts and no walks. (Smyly made 23 starts this year and gave up a home run in 15 of them. He’s made four relief appearances since losing his spot, and given up no home runs in any of them. Just saying.)

Dansby probably isn’t going to set that record by hitting 30 homers, as he’s been stuck on 26 since the first of the month. But he singled in each of his last two at-bats, giving him his first multihit game in two weeks, and we can hope that gets him off the schneid. He struck out in his two previous at-bats, and took a particularly awkward and frustrated swing in the fourth before busting out a few innings later. He’s a streaky player, and we need him on the upswing.

The Phillies pulled a victory out of their butts in the last at-bat against the Orioles, so the magic number only decreased by one. It’s down to ten, with two weeks to go, and two more games left in the series against these Diamondbacks. Keep it up, Hammers.

28 thoughts on “Braves 6, Snakes 1, Magic Number 10”

  1. Also, I know that lineup construction doesn’t matter that much, but I like Soler a lot more at leadoff than Albies. (His career OBP is 5 points higher at .330 to .325, but his career walk rate is roughly 50% higher — he walks in 10.8% of PA, compared to Albies’ 7.4% rate. What that means is, while Albies’s career OBP is just 52 points higher than his average, Soler’s is 95 points higher.

    Jorge’s not ideal for a leadoff guy — my druthers would be a guy with an OBP over .360 — but Albies is a better #5 hitter than #1 hitter. Bumping him down for a guy with a higher OBP is a win-win every day of the week.

    By the way, this is another case of Snitker thinking outside the box and making a decision that an old-school stick in the mud wouldn’t make — as was the Chavez opener / Smyly bulk strategy. Both worked. I give him credit for doing that.

  2. Good point Alex.

    Also: Tom Glavine just didn’t get the Chavez opener . And hey, he’s just a HOFer.

    But they never mentioned that, IMO, it helps Smyly get used to coming out of the pen, vs outright starting. I think there’s value there for the month ahead.

  3. Jesse Chavez sucked his first time around in a Braves uniform. Taking me a while to get used to him actually being pretty great. He’s probably been the most important midyear pitching acquisition.

    This is the same guy about whom Mac wrote this, 11 years ago:

    Proof that the Braves think even less of spring training stats than I do, as even I take notice when a guy puts up a 14 ERA (15 RA) and walks six versus four strikeouts in nine innings of exhibition work. Admittedly, there weren’t a lot of attractive options left for the last righthanded spot in the pen, but the Braves’ line was that they liked Chavez a lot when they traded for him and that he was being judged on his prior performance and their scouting and not what he did in the peculiar circumstances of spring training. In theory, I understand and approve of this. In reality, I have to wonder what they see in Chavez, as there’s nothing in his major league stats or in what I’ve actually seen him do on the mound, and little in his minor league stats, to make me think he’s any good. Ultimately, it looks like the Braves are letting the radar gun make their call here. Chavez does indeed throw hard, but has been unable to translate that to strikeouts against major leaguers, presumably due to a lack of movement or a quality breaking pitch. I compared him to Kevin Gryboski in an earlier post. He isn’t like Gryboski in that he doesn’t appear to be a ground-ball pitcher — his home-run rates are pretty high, and he’s only gotten two GIDP in his major league career — but he is like Gryboski in that he’s a guy who throws hard but hasn’t turned that into results.

    Chavez was a 42nd round pick of the Rangers out of (I believe) junior college in 2002, and moved steadily up their system despite never really pitching well. His biggest problem was poor control, though after moving to the bullpen full-time he showed a knack for getting strikeouts. He was traded to the Pirates for Kip Wells late in the 2006 season — he made only one appearance for them in AAA — and apparently the Pirates corrected something. At any rate, his walks went down dramatically after joining the Pittsburgh organization, though his ERAs were still only mediocre, in the high threes. He was called up to the big club late in 2008 and pitched very poorly, a 6.08 ERA on 20 hits and nine walks in fifteen innings. In 2009, he was a bullpen workhorse, pitching 71 times mostly in short middle relief (15 of 19 on holds, but no saves) with an only mediocre ERA of 4.01. The Braves got him for Rafael Soriano; again, I’d rather have gotten the draft pick.

  4. About Chip’s Riley MVP talk, did any of you guys notice how uncomfortable Glavine was talking with him about it last night? Chip was pretty much like “So Tom, why does Austin make such a great MVP candidate.” Glavine’s answer was something like, “He’s had a great year and will get some votes, but Harper has really put up some amazing numbers”. They then discussed how you didn’t have to be on a first place team to get the MVP, especially if you were on a contender. Glavine really seemed to not want to be in the conversation or the same room.

  5. On the topic of team MVP, Freddie Freeman, and Austin Riley: No, I really don’t think it’s so clear cut. Give the kid a nod because he’s right there on par with Freddie. There’s not much to complain about in Riley. bWAR likes him much better than Freddie. fWAR obviously sees things differently. I like them both. In a season that saw the team lose Acuna and Ozuna, Austin Riley finding his legs at the big level was absolutely critical to the team’s success.

    I kinda wonder what Riley will do next season. I try not to get too high on players coming off of break out seasons, but Riley has tremendous power. He’s slugging really well so far, but he has just tremendous power.

  6. @5 Really don’t get why anyone with half a brain would be uncomfortable having that discussion. I mean how difficult is it to talk about a few good things about Riley, and then make a segway over to some more obvious MVP candidates. “Yeah, Chip, Riley has been absolutely critical to Atlanta’s success this season, especially after some huge losses in the lineup. His breakout season has even surpassed what many of us expected which would have been more like .240/.320/.480, but here he is enjoying a tremendous season. It’s been a great year for some other guys, too, though. How about Bryce Harper? His OPS is up there, I mean 1.050. The kind of tear he is on down the stretch he might even flirt with 1.100, Chip. I think you might have to give that guy the nod, what do you think?”

  7. @6: OK. But even if you call Austin-Freddie a wash (and I don’t… the numbers are very similar, but there’s a whopping difference in WPA which, though mostly luck, is the sort of things MVP awards are supposed to cover, particularly in the way Chip thinks about it. In addition… if Freddie weren’t at first base, Austin would have about 5 more throwing errors) that would make a case for talking the two of them up equally. But of course telling people that Freddie Freeman, the incumbent MVP, is possibly deserving of another wouldn’t possibly fly because it’s so obvious that Harper and Tatis are having better years than Freddie.

  8. Luke Jackson was purged last night, successfully. His awful command, normally a bull point, kept some of us up well into the night. Leaving the mound he was close to hysterical laughter, he knew. Nice to have a 5 run lead for moments like this.

  9. Jim Powell with a nice Bob Uecker story here.

    Looking at Luke’s appearance, I’m glad I slept through it. It looks like Jake McCarthy — in his 15th major league game — did us an enormous favor. With Jackson at 26 pitches, half strikes and half balls, and following back-to-back walks, including a walk to Calhoun on a 3-1 count that loaded the bases, McCarthy went up there and swung through a first-pitch curveball and then flied out on an 0-1 slider.

    Again — the rookie swung at a first-pitch curveball after the pitcher just walked two guys in a row by missing with his slider.

    (That 0-0 curveball was right at the bottom of the zone. On the black, quite a good pitch, really — it was a strike when it crossed the plate, but umps don’t always give that pitch to a guy with shaky control. It’s also a perfect illustration of the kind of pitcher’s pitch that you absolutely don’t want to swing at because you’re not going to do much with it.)

    His manager probably ought to have fined him for not spitting on that pitch. If he hadn’t gone up there hacking like Jeff Francoeur on a double frappuccino, that inning could’ve been disastrous.

    As it was, it wound up being a pretty typical Luke Jackson appearance. That’s why I’ve never really wanted him back in the closer’s seat.

  10. I am — once again, sadly — late to the party on an important discussion.

    That Yahoo! article is pretty appalling. Really embarrassing for the organization. Really pathetic to read. And I can’t help but wonder if everyone knew that, and this article was written to publicly shame Freddie and Snit in a very subtle way. This would give AA ammunition to, if it even works like this in MLB, pull Freddie and Snit into the office and say, “Guys, this is embarrassing. This shit stops right now. Snit’s the manager. Freddie, stop undermining the culture Snit is trying to create with your Cal Ripken crusade. This isn’t about who’s the toughest or who benches the most or whatever; we’re trying to win a World Series.”

    I can’t be the only person reading that article wondering who is the field manager of the baseball team.

  11. Again, the fact that they decided to give Dansby a day off and gave Dansby a day off points to it being Snitker who’s making these decisions. Hanging Dansby’s sweatshirt up is something of a dick move, but it’s not tyrannical overthrow of the manager’s authority. And it seems Snitker largely agrees with Freddie’s take on playing everyday, anyway.

    As the de facto team captain, Freddie has a large say in the clubhouse culture of the team. That’s what is going on here and it’s what’s going on in every Major League club that isn’t currently fielding a Triple-A roster (so it may not be going on in Baltimore, Arizona and Pittsburgh). He’s not usurping Snitker’s authority.

  12. That boy can write.

    I believe the boy who coined the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations” was President George W. Bush. Maybe there’s something “Alex” isn’t telling us.

    RE: the MVP debate, my take is that the award should be assigned on a completely subjective basis. The farther away you get from WAR or whatever quantitative metric you prefer, the better. The player that best fits the mold of “putting the team on his back” in a vague narrative sense should win it. (IMO, that’s Bryce Harper.) That narrative shouldn’t have to withstand scrutiny. It should just feel right. And it’s better if sometimes the team of said MVP fails to make the playoffs (and especially if it is Bryce Harper this year). It’s more romantic that way. Let the MVP award be the playplace for people who are into that stuff.

    Also, just let blazon decide who the MVP should be.

  13. Shea Langeliers
    has once again reduced us close to tears
    a fabulous put out at second
    then 0 for 4, likely as we had reckoned.

    Why can’t our catching prospects do two things at once? Contreras can do neither and should be traded. Shea on the other hand can do both, handsomely. But not in the same month, phase of the moon, whatever. We need to break the bind.

    Solution? New surroundings, play off baseball? He knows how to hit, he’s grown world weary down there. On our bench, lovely.

  14. Dylan Lee deeeefinitely looks like a lefty who might have figured something out late in his career. Pretty wild that Miami stashed him in AAA and never gave him an opportunity. He’s more than earned one, it appears.

  15. Love the news about Dylan Lee. Him and Trevor Kelley have both put up impressive years out of the bullpen at Gwinnett, although Lee’s numbers are slightly better over a few more innings pitched. The .77 WHIP is especially impressive. Let’s hope he sticks around for the playoffs.

  16. I can’t believe I’m gonna say this next sentence. I agree with the Fun Police. League MVP should be a subjective selection maybe based more on who people feel is carrying their team into a post-season race. if Harper won MVP and the Phillies missed the playoffs, it would still feel like the right pick. I would say the same for Tatis. I could say the same about Freddie even though he is obviously one notch below the other two because Freeman is the heart of this lineup whether he is hitting second or third. The offense pivots around him pretty much.

  17. Probably Haiti. I’m guessing it has been an extraordinarily difficult time on the island lately since the earthquake, and apparently his father has been in poor health for a while. I wonder if Toussaint has had trouble avoiding distraction with all of that going on.

  18. Glad to see Arcia back up. Maybe that’ll make it easier for Snit to rest one of the infielders in a blowout.

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