Hammers 9, Snakes 2

In the words of Ian Anderson (the other one), “And the train it won’t stop going; No way to slow down.” The Braves have put the Hammer down and are rolling again.  Wednesday night in the desert, the Braves defeated the Snakes 9-2 for their fourth straight victory.  The lead remains 3 over the Phils, and the magic number is nine with twelve games remaining.

For my money, the best thing about the game was the performance of Ian Anderson (the pitcher).  After surrendering a run on a walk and a double in the first, and allowing a single in the second, he proceeded to retire every batter he faced the rest of the way through seven innings.  His line was 7 IP, 2 hits, 8 Ks, and 1 BB.  If he has regained that kind of form, you’ve got to like the Braves rotation of Fried, Morton, and Anderson against anyone in the playoffs.

The hitters were just as impressive.  Albies, Riley, Freeman, and Duvall all left the yard.  In a bizarre turn of events, though, Duvall’s shot in the first only counts as a single.  With runners on first and third, Adam hit a drive to center that the fielder leaped for; the ball bounced out of his glove and into the stands.  Home run, right?  No, because the umps did not make a call on the field, Riley feared the ball was caught and scrambled back to first.  As he did so, Duvall was trotting to second.  When they passed each other, by Rule Duvall was out.  His hit counts as a single. 

As many of our commenters noted, this one is on the men in Blue.  It’s their job to make a call, so that the runners know what to do.  They failed.  On the bright side, it could have been worse.  Since one of the umps was Sam Holbrooke, we should count ourselves fortunate that it wasn’t called an infield fly.  (No, I’m not over it.)

By the way, Duvall hit a liner off the wall in left later in the game.  Because it was hit so hard, he was thrown out at second, so all he had was another single to show for it.  I’m pretty sure nearly 800 feet is the longest combined distance for two singles in major league history.  Oh, and the umps blew this one also.  Duvall clearly beat the throw, but of course the replay officials refused to overturn the call.

Ozzie’s two run shot in the third gave him 30 homers and 100 rbi’s on the season.  Those are nice round numbers that have prompted a lot of searching the record books.  Suffice it to say that this kid is special and we are fortunate to see him play.  Riley’s and Freeman’s homers were the thirty-first for each.  Both are now locked in at the plate.  Feel free to debate in the comments which of them is the league MVP. 

It may seem like a small thing, but Soler reached twice on bases on balls.  He really seems to have embraced his role of getting on base in front of Freddie.

If I wanted to put a damper on this evening, I could point out that the Diamondbacks are fielding a AAA team right now, so perhaps this modest win streak is not what it appears.  But I won’t do that.  It’s a pennant race in the last two weeks of the season, so I’m going to enjoy every win.

 *   *   *

Often when it’s my turn to recap, I comment upon something significant that happened on this date in Braves history. Sometimes I reflect upon a former Brave whose birthday falls on the date.   

I noticed in Baseball Almanac that September 22 is the birthday of Wally Backman, the Mets infielder of the 1980’s. The scrappy second sacker didn’t hit for power, but his excellent on base skills at the top of the lineup contributed to the success of the mid to late 80’s Mets teams managed by Dave Johnson (that’s a tenuous Braves connection, but that’s not the point of this story).  From 1984 through 1988, those Mets averaged almost 98 wins per season, and Backman was a regular starter, albeit often in a platoon role.

My memories of Backman don’t relate primarily to the Braves.  Our guys were pretty miserable from 1984-1988, and the Mets were in the other division.  I did follow those Mets teams, mainly because I was a fan of Davey Johnson, who I believe is a highly underrated manager. He had learned a lot from Earl Weaver, whom I had learned to appreciate through Bill James, who himself came to prominence during this same period.

In 1993, at the tail end of his career, he signed a minor league deal with the Braves, but he was cut in Spring Training.  Anyway, what prompts me to think of Backman isn’t about the Braves; it’s more of a family connection. In 2007, when our son was in college, he came home for the summer.  He got a job with the Macon Music, the local team in the independent South Coast League.  His primary job was writing up game recaps for the website, and every now and then he did the radio broadcast.

It was a fun job.  As a newly formed independent league, there weren’t future major leaguers on the roster, but the manager was ex-Padres slugger Phil Plantier and the pitching coach (and part-time reliever) was former big league reliever Bryce Florie.  Cecil Fielder was a roving hitting instructor for the league.  My son talked with these guys, and he got a kick out of their stories of the big leagues.

Our son’s most memorable night in the radio booth involved Wally Backman.  After his playing career, Backman was a successful minor league manager in several leagues.  Based on those successes, in November 2004 he was named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He never served in that role, though, because the team fired him four days later after the New York Times ran a story about legal issues in his past that he had not disclosed to the Diamondbacks during his interview. If you want to know all of the sordid details, see Wally Backman – Society for American Baseball Research (sabr.org)

Trying to work his way back to the show, Backman became the manager of the South Georgia Peanuts in the South Coast League in 2007.  Backman was a great interview subject for a young reporter.  He was blunt and colorful.  For example, he was known more for his offense than defense in his playing days, but he spent a good deal of time insisting to my son that he was a better fielder than Tommy Herr.

Anyway, my son was in the radio booth for a game between the Music and the Peanuts.  It was a wild game, and at one point he said, “all this game is missing is a benches clearing brawl.” At that point Backman had already been ejected for arguing balls and strikes; when he was ejected, he had littered the field with 22 bats.  After the ejection, he was having a beer with the team’s GM in the area behind the visitors’ dugout. Then the Peanuts pitcher beaned a Music player because he had stolen a base while up 5 the previous inning, and sure enough the benches cleared. At that point Backman consulted with his bench coach, yanked his team from the field, and forfeited the game.  He did all of this while still holding his beer.

Despite all this, Backman was always a successful manager in terms of wins and losses.  He was the Mets AAA manager for several years in the last decade, and was a finalist for the job when they hired Terry Collins.  As a Braves fan, I was a little disappointed.  They may not have won any more games if they had hired him, but they would have been even more Mets-like.

  *   *   *

The Braves complete this four game set in Phoenix with an afternoon game.  Charlie Morton faces Madison Bumgarner.  I think the Braves are due for a few hits against Bumgarner.  Let’s keep it rolling.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

82 thoughts on “Hammers 9, Snakes 2”

  1. tfloyd…excuse the JC please, always hard to judge the timing of an early post!
    Your recaps and the stories within always resonate. I too was and am a Wally Backman fan, the sort who told it like he saw it and, inevitably, fell on his face. But refused then to go into hiding, not an easy thing to do.

    I too have a Davy Johnson story. Sometime between the 40 home runs and his first managerial job he came to my real estate office in Central Florida asking for a job! Sounds great eh but there was no attempt to hide the reality which was having obtained his real estate license he needed to place it with a Broker to be legal. I understood the reasoning.

    So I extracted a quid pro quo. Remember, the timing of this was not far removed from Ted Turner so I jumped in and said sure if when you become manager of the Braves you let me stay in the dugout for one game. He said it might be difficult to set up but he agreed to try.

    And so we went ‘into business’ together and I started losing some sleep. Would something actually come of all this? Yes it would but it’s lengthy and not a little hilarious so later.

    tfloyd, thanks for letting me visit.

  2. Tfloyd, if your boy is anything like his dad, his game recaps must have been a pleasure to read.

    Davey Johnson had some fine years managing here in Washington, too. He embodied the type that some used to call Casey Stengel, “push-button manager” – let the guys play the game and don’t try to overengineer stuff or jump into the middle of it with look-how-smart-I-am tactics. Considering how many managers can actually cost their teams runs by doing that sort of nonsense, just letting the guys go can actually be a pretty good strategy, as long as the players are up to snuff. A players’ manager, certainly.

    Blazon, that’s quite a tease! Would you be willing to tell us the rest?

  3. Of course. But I want time to relish it, stirring the pot in my own mind, nothing like it has happened to me, before or since. Anti climactic to some degree, inevitably but that afternoon I showed up at Shea and asked to be directed to the Players Entrance as a guest of Davey Johnson – and what happened thereafter -lives on.

  4. Thanks for the excellent write up. I think calling the D’backs a AAA team at this point may be a little generous. However, that doesn’t take away from the Braves’ winning streak IMO. These are the type of games you have to win if you are going to win the pennant – ask the Phillies about that.

    Interesting turn of events for our suspended game tomorrow. When it was played on July 21 we were 5 games behind the Mets and 2 games below 500. The Padres were 5.5 games behind the Giants and 14 games above 500. We are now 10 games over 500 and 8 games up on the Mets compared to the Padres being 1 game over 500 and 22.5 games out, including losing 8 of their last 10. To say we have momentum and San Diego doesn’t is a huge understatement.

  5. Can someone explain something with WPA for me? Let’s say you’re an emerging reliever, and you’re pitching lights out in low leverage situations. Because of where you’re being used, you’ll inherently not produce a lot of WPA, correct?

  6. Triple post

    If you were using innings pitched over the last 3 weeks to try to glean how the team might use their relievers going forward and in the playoffs, it might surprise you how relievers rank by innings pitched this month:

    Rich Rod

    They’re handing Webb and Jackson the ball a lot, and they’ve combined to give up one whole run in 18.1 IP this month. Webb, as you might guess, has led the way in WPA during that time, followed by Matzek and Jackson. Our closer is 6th this month in WPA, but that’s no surprise. Rich Rod sucks.

  7. So in the suspended game, action picks up in the bottom of the 5th (I presume we are still the home team for this game), and it’s still a 7-inning game? Is the full roster available or are players who were replaced earlier in the original game unavailable?

  8. 12 – It’s really odd, players who were replaced can’t come back in, but there will need to be substitutions all over as some players in the lineup are no longer with the team, but anyone who hasn’t subbed out and is on the current roster is eligible.

  9. Double Post –
    So for ATL – Jesse Chavez is the current pitcher and Tomlin and Bryse Wilson are the only pitchers who have been used. The lineup is:

    Vogt (will have to sub)
    Chavez (Adrianza and Almonte have already PH)

    I imagine you will see d’Arnaud, Rosario, Duvall and Soler hitting 6-9 in some order, but that would only leave Contreras on the bench.

  10. On WFAN Radio, there was a long fan-fueled campaign to get Wally Backman hired by the Mets. It went on for a couple years. Essentially, they wanted their own Billy Martin, but they got Terry Collins, who didn’t do a bad job, but on the excitement meter he was only one level above Art Howe.

    My Fave Dave Johnson Memory: When I turned 10, I had a birthday party at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium. The Braves played the Pirates (aka “The Lumber Company”), and we were initially disappointed to find out that Mike Lum was batting cleanup instead of Henry Aaron.

    However, in that game, Davey Johnson clanked a grand-slam off the LF foul pole (off Dock Ellis). It was one of his 43 blasts that year. The Braves won 8-6 — they were in a lotta 8-6 type games that year. We drove home to Columbus very happy.

  11. @10: Yes. Low leverage situations, by definition, don’t change your probability of winning very much if successful. If you are unsuccessful and way behind, or successful and way ahead, your WPA won’t change much.

  12. @Rob

    This is normally my lane, but I’ll be honest, I have never found value in WPA and just stay away from it.

  13. 19 – The exact same thing happened to Bellinger on April 1 of this year. It’s easy to blame the umps, but when the OF puts a glove on the ball, it may be near impossible to tell if it was a catch or no catch. All are correct that the rule should be changed though.

  14. I have come to respect the Orioles and, is my wont, grown a little fond of them. For our visit there some weeks ago I was surprised by the fight they put up despite their appalling record. Every game we won was close, they put it to us some of the time. They also consorted on the field in a pleasant, amiable manner. Ozzie and Freddie made some new friends.

    As to their fight in Philly this week they were magnificent. Outmatched if not overwhelmed in some obvious departments they fought each game to the last out and, preciously for us, avoided the sweep.

    One other reason to like them. In the booth, Jim Palmer. Contrast is not quite the word for it. To be fair he has no involvement in play-by-play, was strictly in the old fashioned color role, commenting. With his own lifetime numbers he automatically commands respect and up front he got that from me. Didn’t take long though to be seduced by the voice and its reasoning. Mellifluous, slow, gnarly even it spoke to a lifetime spent in the game, most of it in the top branches. His understanding of what was going on in the field and the ways he found to transmit them opened entirely new vistas for me inasmuch as I watch the game differently now to some real extent, there is a new dimension.

  15. I think there are 3 things I’m interested in as the regular season winds up and we’re in a good spot in the division:

    -Get these dadgum position players some rest.
    -Establish a clear 4th starter and what the losers do in the playoffs. It’s probably Ynoa, so what do Touki and Smyly do, if anything, in the playoffs?
    -Similarly, what is the trusted pecking order in the bullpen? I don’t care what it is; if Jacob Webb is dealing, give him the ball in Game 7 of the Series. Just be able to find out what it is.

    Home stretch.

  16. @1

    I responded to this on the other side, but we couldn’t face the Cardinals until the NLCS, and to get there they’ll have to clear out both the Dodgers and Giants in some order. So as I said over there, I’ll probably regret saying this, but…I’d be pretty OK with playing them in the NLCS.


    I’d replace Vogt with d’Arnaud but leave everybody else in, including Chavez, at least initially. That would maximize our options. Might be at least a smidgen of the reason they brought Arcia back the other day. You take Heredia and Arcia out, you have basically zero bench left, as you said.

  17. @20, @21: tl;dr: Chance has value too.

    I think WPA has some value in measuring the value of performance after the fact, because part of what it measures is overall hitting results and part is how those results are distributed between situations of differing leverage. The latter is presumably because of luck and not a repeatable skill, but in the relatively small sample size of a season, it can make a real difference in the value of a player’s performance. (This ties into MVP-versus-best-player discussions.)

    Just looking at various measures of hitting in high-leverage situations doesn’t seem as useful, because there are so many different categories (runners on, RISP, late innings, late innings RISP, close games, etc.) and such small sample sizes that most players look good in some such situations and poor in others. WPA combines all opportunities and weights them according to the almost-exact amount of leverage rather than putting them in a few categories that can group somewhat different situations. Sort of continuous rather than discrete, if that makes sense.

    WPA seems more useful in looking at full-time position players and starters rather than platoon players and relievers, because when the latter are used has a great impact on how much WP they have the opportunity to A. Similarly, it’s more valuable for comparing players on the same team, as players on unusually good or bad teams have less opportunity to A WP. And even starters on the same team don’t get the exact same opportunity to add win probability just because of differences in who is on base when they bat.

    An exaggerated example that I think shows why WPA has some value is BRef’s cWPA measure when used for postseason games only, which tries to measure the cumulative value of a player’s postseason contributions towards winning championships. I think pretty much everyone agrees that in a short postseason series, a few key hits in high-leverage situations can be more valuable than more hits in blowouts, and cWPA seems like it measures this value well.

  18. @20, I think your WPA critique could be extended to all reliever stats, though — they pitch so few innings, plus they get injured so frequently, that it’s both difficult to gauge their true talent and nearly impossible to predict who will actually be effective in three years’ time!

    In general, I think the most important thing to keep in mind for any stat is always, “What question are you trying to answer?”

    If you’re trying to figure out who helped his team win the most, you’re going to want WPA. That may not always be the question you’re trying to answer, of course, so you want to look at other stuff too.

    Almost all of the misuses of stats basically stem from not starting from an initial question which serves as a frame to guide which stats to use. For instance: Baltimore closer Mychal Givens has an OPS against of .709, which seems not great. But he has an ERA of 2.61, which seems great. Is he having a great year? Unless you start with a question, just running down the bb-ref page is likelier to reinforce existing preconceptions than to challenge them.


  19. WPA would be useful if there were an award in baseball equivalent to Man of the Match in soccer, where everybody was breathlessly trying to figure out who was the player of the game for no particular reason.

    Also, in the event that you do get one of those games where the starter leaves with the lead but doesn’t go five innings and the team never gives up the lead, WPA seems like as good a thing to look at to decide who the winning pitcher should be as anything else, if you’re into that sort of thing (which nobody on this board is, I’m aware). However, there’s no way any official scorers are actually looking at WPA when deciding this.

  20. Following up on this after my editing time elapsed (hence the double post), would winning/losing pitcher be a more useful stat if it just went to the pitcher for the winning team that had the highest WPA and the pitcher for the losing team that had the lowest WPA regardless of anything else?

  21. @30, I’d like to see it. I assume there’s some common situation in which it would give an “undeserving” pitcher the win or the loss, but I can’t think what it would be. My first guess is that it would shift a few decisions from starters to relievers, though with four-inning starts becoming more common, maybe it might shift some in the other direction too.

    Talking Chop has a predict-the-highest-WPA contest each game, and they break the results down into pitchers and position players, so they might have the information available.

  22. I think there is a YouTube series following Backman as a manager that very season. One of the videos is when he threw all those bats on the field. As you might expect, the videos are NSFW.

  23. As odd as it is, I’m pretty much back to basics when it comes to statistics, but not basic statistics, if you understand me. I find so much value in K/BB rates but also have spent a lot of time studying command artists. I am also absolutely in love with statcast and think they’re doing it right.

  24. Oh, absolutely. I think that going at it from a pure scouting point of view — as you and David Lee do, and Keith Law often does — is incredibly valuable. Obviously, baseball analytics more or less went into arrested development once the teams hired everyone at Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs to go build proprietary stuff, so most advanced stat discussions are ultimately fairly rudimentary in their ability to add analytic value. The market already knows everything you can read on baseball reference; the market is really moving in reaction to data that the teams know but us schlubs can’t access.

    But I suck at scouting, so I scout the stat line!

  25. Also, I know many want to do away with the win but most of the people that play the game are completely against it and I can understand their position. There are a lot of things that fans should have input on, but removing a “Win” for a pitcher isn’t one.

    Redefining would mean a shift towards valuing small performances over pitching several innings and I’d argue that without pitchers that cover innings, small performances wouldn’t hold as much weight. I’d truly hate to see a pitcher go 5 innings, give up 3 runs, and leave with a lead, then some reliever comes in 1 inning, strikes out the side, and gets the win because of WPA. Innings matter.

    And while I won’t get into drama too much, there are 4 guys that I trust their MILB opinions: David Lee, Andy Harris, Matt Chrietzberg, and gvedek. For me, the rest just regurgitate and rearrange words of others. And there are some that are downright insufferable.

  26. “I’d truly hate to see a pitcher go 5 innings, give up 3 runs, and leave with a lead, then some reliever comes in 1 inning, strikes out the side, and gets the win because of WPA. Innings matter.”

    Wait a sec… Right now if that same pitcher goes 5 innings and gives up 3 runs and his team has only scored 2… he’s going to get a loss! What’s up with that? Indeed… he’ll get that loss if he pitches 7 innings and gives up 1 if his team doesn’t score. And who did more to help a team win: the guy who pitched 5 innings and left ahead 4-3, or the guy who came in ahead by 1 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and nobody out and got out of it?

    But I’m not proposing WPA replace wins… My only proposal is to get rid of wins altogether. The lack of an offensive game winner doesn’t seem to bother anybody (and they dumped the one stat they tried to use for it: GWRBI, the only stat I think they ever dumped) What’s the perceived need to declare any pitcher “the winning pitcher?”

  27. A lot of the people I really liked have basically left the biz: Mike Newman, John Sickels, Martin Gandy… and, well, just about everyone who used to be at Fangraphs, really. Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen are still writing about prospects and I like what they do, though I’ve fallen off in keeping up with it.

    Yeah, there can be a bunch of drama in baseball Twitter. I’m not into it at all. I once was sort of in the online baseball writing world, and I’m retired, and I think it’s gotten shoutier.

  28. Sickels had a really bad concussion, and it took him a long time to recover. Eventually, he retired to write novels.

  29. Sickels is also a very curmudgeonly figure on Twitter so of course I love him. He’s not afraid to share his political opinions, so to speak…

    Always enjoyed his content.

  30. “So, Charlie’s only blemish is a couple of walks.”

    A) Arizona also got an infield hit in the first inning, you ambulatory cactus.

    B) Three “blemishes” in seven plate appearances to start the game is nothing to write home about.

    Maybe I’m just at the point where everything Chip says annoys me, but this man is dumber than a bag of tack hammers.

  31. Crap! If we’re lucky, Freeman will have to go back to third on this. If not, they’ll call it an out (which they shouldn’t).

  32. No Rosario .. really … I know MadBum is a lefty but Rosario can hit lefties … Heredia left 2 men on …. gotta play your best 8 from here on out …

  33. Said it before, I’ll say it again: If it’s in your park, your team should pay the price for fan stupidity.

    EDIT: Holy crap, some actual common sense from umpires after replay. I was NOT expecting that.

  34. Well, we caught a huge break on that. They’re saying that there was zero chance they’d have thrown Freddie out at the plate, therefore he can score. I think I’ve only seen umpires let a runner score from first on an interference/ground-rule double one other time.


  35. I love the Braves, but I don’t see how the guy with the .900 OPS gets the MVP over the guy with the 1.050 OPS and I’m getting tired of hearing about it over and over from Chip.

    Baseball Reference gives Riley a 5.4 WAR and Harper a 5.3 WAR so… maybe Riley actually is a good fielder? Or do 3B’s get an automatic boost over RF’s just because they’re 3Bs?

  36. Yes, Bravey. There was fan interference way back in the weird corner where the bullpen meets the stands in left with the LF in the area and making an ineffective leap to catch it. But a) he wouldn’t have caught it and b) Freeman was already rounding third when it happened. So they called a fan-interference double but showed a surprising amount of common sense for this umpiring crew (given last night) and allowed Freeman to score.

  37. @57 Nick ..thats a surprise … figured would go against us and make Freddie goback to 3rd .. would have giver Riley a another RBI or they would have walked Riley ..

  38. @58

    That’s a good point. Chip should be very aggrieved that they robbed MVP Riley of an RBI! This is an outrage, I tells ya!

    By the way, I honestly wonder if they’d have sent Freeman back to third if the LF had thrown his hands up in the air and stopped doing anything. He proceeded to pick up the ball and throw it in, though, illustrating how impossible it would’ve been to throw Freddie out.

  39. @36 I don’t care much for assigning a win to 1 player on the team, but I am semi-ok with the starter getting a win. Relievers should not get a win. Smith blows a save but gets a win because the offense bailed him out? Nah.

    Did you all hear that David Lee is no longer going to be writing about the Braves prospects? He has a new job. I’m guessing he will be working for a team, hopefully the Braves.

    I missed the end of the game last night. I had to be at the hospital at 4:30am for eye surgery today. Everything is super blurry now.

  40. @56, for what it’s worth, FanGraphs gives Harper 6.4 WAR and Riley 3.8, which is quite different from BRef’s 5.3 & 5.4. My instinct/guess is that averaging the two would get the difference between Harper & Riley about right. I don’t think Riley has contributed more WAR than Harper, but I don’t think Harper has been 70% farther above replacement than Riley either, especially since Riley has played 19 more games.

  41. Man, these Cardinals are one hot team at the right time.

    They were down 5-0 early, but now they’re about to wrap up their 12th consecutive win with a 4-game sweep in Milwaukee.

    Wish they still has the Phils on their schedule.

  42. So this is what happens when you roll snake eyes in closer roulette!

    (yes I’m aware I’m mixing metaphors)

  43. So much for the “Webb is dealing” thing. Might want to hold off on the playoff tickets for a minute

  44. Chip and Glavine were doing their usual song of praise for Riley in the top of the inning. They were commenting on how remarkable that he is hitting .300 while also hitting with power. And they are right! It’s quite an accomplishment to do both.

    But Chip goes on to emphasize that these high strikeout times are the reason so few hitters hit .300, and isn’t it great that Riley doesn’t strike out much. Truth is, Riley strikes out a lot; he’s 7th in the league in strikeouts, virtually tied with Dansby. Even so, he’s still an excellent hitter.

  45. Duvall came up a little lame running the bases and Rosario replaced him. Hopefully talking Duvall out was just precautionary.

  46. Not pulling Morton at over 90 pitches before the 7th was the biggest mistake.
    This kind of thing (TTO) has happened all year and cost them quite a few games.

    Offense was dead for the most part as well.

  47. Ray’s win that game. Cash very happy with six innings from Morton. Webb gets to start a clean inning. Result most likely different. The Braves manager can not manage a circle jerk.
    Go Pirates.

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