But other than that 6-2 loss, Mrs. Lincoln, how ’bout them Braves? Thoughts on our first baseman.

Last night was, to put it charitably, an evening the memory with which I would prefer to swiftly dispense. So I will.

Instead I’d like to focus on the early returns of a different Oakland Athletic, a Georgia boy who came back home in his late 20s after a sterling run in the Bay Area, having been acquired for a reasonably hefty sum. A few months after acquiring him in the offseason, the Braves signed him to a four-year, $47 million extension, ensuring he’d remain in Atlanta long past his rental contract. A two-time All-Star who’d twice finished in the top four for the Cy Young voting, it’s fair to say that expectations were high.

They were not immediately met.

Tim Hudson’s first season went well enough, but his first start gave a good flavor of what we got: on April 7, 2005, facing the Florida Marlins, Huddy went five innings, gave up six hits, and miraculously only gave up the one run on a solo homer despite yielding four walks and getting just two strikeouts. His ERA was 1.80; his FIP was 7.22.

He kept up the tightwire act for a month. But then, on April 29, it didn’t quite work. Six innings, nine hits, six earned runs. Two starts later, he gave up 10 hits and seven earned in just 3 2/3, and two starts after that, he gave up four earned on eight hits and five (!) walks in six innings, and the term “Episode” was born, eventually to be added to the Braves Journal Glossary.

He ended the year with a 3.52 ERA but a foreboding 4.33 FIP. And then, in 2006, he sucked. He led the majors in starts with 35, and his 218 1/3 innings pitched were good for ninth in the NL, but his 4.86 ERA, 92 ERA+, 5.8 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9 were all pretty similar to the numbers that John Thomson recorded as a crappy fourth starter. Remember him?

The 2005 version of Tim Hudson was a pretty cromulent starter, a three-win guy by rWAR whose fWAR was a win and a half worse due to the FIP disparity. The 2006 version was a mediocre innings-eater (whose fWAR was a win better than his rWAR, because his FIP was pretty similar but he threw 26 more innings).

But neither guy was the “ace” we hoped we might be getting, and he appeared to be aging like he drank out of the wrong Grail.

But then, a miracle happened: he cut his walk rate and his homer rate, and pitched effectively for the next six seasons, finally earning another All-Star nod and top-four Cy Young finish in 2010, his sixth season as a Brave. He is now a deserving member of the Braves Hall of Fame, and far better remembered for the wonderful totality of his Braves career, rather than for its erratic and worrisome beginning.

Matt Olson is going to be in Atlanta a good, long while. The Braves placed a major bet on him for very good reason: he has a long, established track record of excellent play. He’s a terrific ballplayer on both sides of the ball; he’s got pretty much every tool other than foot speed.

He is clearly slumping terribly on both offense and defense, but as the fantasy writer Ron Shandler puts it, “Once you display a skill, you own it.” Matt Olson is the guy who put up the numbers on the back of his baseball card. The Braves are playing the long game. We should do the same.

106 thoughts on “But other than that 6-2 loss, Mrs. Lincoln, how ’bout them Braves? Thoughts on our first baseman.”

  1. In a piece of minutiae that probably interests only me, I have zero idea why Olson wasn’t given an error for his misplay last night. It seems the Arizona scorer possibly spends too much time adhering to scoring cliches (“You can’t assume a double play”) and not enough time actually reading the rulebook. Essentially, you can’t assume a double play on a wild throw. You absolutely can and are required to assume the double play on a muffed throw (at least when the runner would’ve been out but for the misplay).

    This is covered in Rule 9.12(d), the main text of which basically says that you can’t give a throwing error to a fielder who’s trying to complete a double or triple play unless said wild throw results in extra bases. However, behold Rule 9.12(d) Comment:
    When a fielder muffs a thrown ball that, if held, would have completed a double play or triple play, the Official Scorer shall charge an error to the fielder who drops the ball and credit an assist to the fielder who made the throw.

    So uh…yeah. I’m gonna have to guess that MLB is gonna reverse that call today and that all runs in that inning will be changed to unearned. Not that that helps us much, mind you, unless you’re a big fan of the ERAs of Strider and Dylan Lee.

    I warned you this potentially interested only me…ha!

    And no, there’s nothing in the rules that can retroactively give Ozuna an error in the first, before you ask. I’m afraid that one has to stay as is.

  2. @3 – Thanks for clearing that up. I knew Chip’s explanation about not assuming a double play was faulty, I just didn’t know how to argue it. The dude was easily out if Olson just makes a simple catch.

    I’m still a believer in Olson, but I think a day off for him to regroup offensively and defensively would be a very useful thing. Arcia at 3rd and Riley at 1st?

  3. #3

    Nick… So glad to see you do such a good job fleshing this all out for us. Outrage is the word for all this by Officialdom and the pain/harm it might do to this fine young man. Thanks.

  4. Olson will be fine and so will be the Braves this season. Both are too good to suck like this.

  5. I agree, Olson will be fine but Ozuna in left field will not. We are essentially playing 8 people defensively when he is out in left field. It is amazing that he used to play centerfield for the Marlins back in the day.

  6. Official scorers never played an inning of baseball. Pitchers constantly get credit for wins and saves they do not deserve. And at time loses.
    The game is at it’s worse.
    The major leagues is really AAAA.
    The announcers do not have a clue.
    Most whom write only know numbers
    They also never played an inning.
    Viewing this pathetic performance is depressing. I see little talent.

  7. EdK appears to be Chief on Seconal. Or maybe Bill Eadwards on his ADHD meds.

  8. @10–shades of our journalist friend Bill from last year. But as bizarre as he was, I don’t remember him being this consistently negative. As someone else said, EdK makes Chief seem like Dr. Pangloss. (And welcome back, Chief.)

    As negative as they are, there is a koan-like quality to EdK’s assertions.

  9. @3 our sidearmer Aussie commentator knew it, too.

    The lineup posted for tonight has the OF going Duvall, Harris, Acuna. Is this the first time this year we run out three CFs in the field?

  10. Now that’s the defensive OF we need. It’s crazy how Ronald being in the field rather than DH makes the OF defense top tier instead of abysmal.

    I know they have a protocol for Acuña’s recovery, but let’s hope they decide that they no longer need to make him DH. Or at least in the games that they do, someone other than Marcell plays left.

  11. Acuna’s been back a month from an extended layoff and has already had a groin injury and a quad injury. It’s hard for me to see that they’re bringing him back too slowly.

  12. Please stop considering Morton a reliable starter. It’s two months into the season. If he doesn’t have a feel for his curveball he isn’t going to find it. He reminds me of a high school pitcher. Spike one, good one, hang one.

  13. Looks like the offense is back to guessing instead of reacting to pitches, thus the multiple K’s looking already

  14. @18 something we can’t afford either. Looks like Strider may be the 5 we were looking for but Morton was supposed to be the 2

  15. I hope this version of Dansby keeps showing up in the 2nd half. I know many are critical and he frustrates me at times also, but if we lose him, which is likely, I’m not optimistic about replacing his production offensively and defensively anytime soon.

    @21 – I don’t see that as a base running blunder. He took a chance and stumbled rounding 2nd. I agree that he’s had some blunders, but I’ll take that one.

  16. @22 as far as his mistakes go this wasn’t as egregious as some, but you are already in scoring position with one out.

  17. This guy does not appear to be fooling us the second time through the order.

    @25: With one out is when you’re supposed to take chances to get to third, in theory.

  18. Acuña slipped, and the throw was pretty much perfect. With one out, it was the right move. Just didn’t work out.

  19. Yeah somebody needs to start protecting RAJ. This is enough already. Get over the bat flips…it’s todays game.

    What a bs called third strike on Dansby.

  20. I’m disgusted with the way teams are targeting Ronald. It’s absolutely uncalled for, and the league ought to do something about it. The one by Alcantara last week was unintentional. This was was on purpose.

  21. So….did Acuna hurt himself on the 3-0 swing? Not much of an effort to beat out the dp

  22. That was catchable. It seems like we literally make no plays defensively to help out our pitching staff

    Edit- until Riley makes that play

  23. Acuna still not healthy … he limps and is very careful in the OF .. takes no chances ..

  24. Guy has one good game in 40 and he is the next Lou Gehrig.
    Has Acuna been caught stealing on the bum leg?
    Who said Morton is the weak link in the starting rotation? Right or wrong at least it is based on the whole season.

  25. Chip is making up for any previous restraint on the “Let’s see if…” front tonight. He’s doing it so often that it’s making me wonder if I imagined that he wasn’t doing it as much this year.

  26. Will Smith doing Will Smith things. This is what hurts us moving Strider to the rotation

  27. Last night, it’s defense. Tonight, it’s giving away outs on the base paths. What will tomorrow bring?

  28. A bad call in a crucial spot…in our favor? Is that allowed? Won’t replay take it back?

  29. That was very well executed by Jansen. Nobody is getting a bunt down on that high fastball.

  30. As usual, bitten by the shift with a man on in a close-and-late situation. When will they learn?

  31. Chip can keep saying how great the bullpen is, but without Luke, Matzek and Strider it is essentially Minter, Stephens and Zombie Kenley Jansen

  32. I’d love for some analytics person to explain to me why it’s not worth playing for a double play.

  33. And another out given away on the basepaths. This bloody team. It has the I.Q. of a cucumber and the concentration of that squirrel-distracted dog from”Up.”

  34. Would have been nice to have not had two men thrown out at third base tonight. Would have been nice to have Duvall know where to throw the ball. Would have been nice to not have sent Olson on contact. Would have been nice to have not shifted when a double play was in order.

    This team deserved that loss.

  35. May we suppose our new rookie did not feel shouting ‘second base!’ to Duval befitted his station?

    Great game though. This might be the one for Olson, what he so earnestly sought, Will Smith back to his best while Jansen, again, look tired. Ladies on the pitch? After midnight? Really.

    Fine game -they’re a better team than we had been led to believe.

  36. I think we can safely hit the panic button now. These guys are going to be changing diapers and playing golf in October.

  37. The bullpen doesn’t have any lockdown pitchers in it right now aside from Minter and Stephens (most days). Too many guys throwing 92-93 with far too many walks. For all that, bring up some dudes that can sling it and can actually get the K if they walk a guy. Smith, Jansen, McHugh, etc. can pitch themselves into trouble but don’t have the K ability to get outs without contact.

  38. @66 like so many others. It would stink if we just dropped games 5-3 or 6-2 because we just got beat. How many of “these types” of games have we lost already when we had a lead or were tied and then blew it with some sort of foolishness? It seems like 4 or 5 that we have lost that we should have won. If you win those we are sitting at 28-22 and only 5.5 back.

  39. Segura, at the plate, broken right hand index finger, hard to watch. Raining in Philly.

  40. We had at least two runners thrown out idiotically (I still don’t think Acuna’s was a bad idea necessarily, but Ozuna’s and the Olson contact play with nobody out were both stupid), we had a guy throw to a wrong base in the 10th with immediate results (though it’s very possible he’d have scored from first anyway on that spinner into the corner), we had relief pitchers pointlessly leaking runs, and we lost a run because our replay guy didn’t call the dugout to tell them the shortstop didn’t touch second base on a forceout right before Acuna’s double. Other than that, everything went just swimmingly last night. Everyone’s trying too hard to make something happen.

  41. Not entirely fair to Rosario, but…

    Joc + Soler
    1.5 WAR, 23 HR, 54 RBI, 0.966 / 0.774 OPS, 168 / 121 WRC+

    Rosario + Duvall
    -2.0 WAR, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 0.254 / 0.526 OPS, -22 / 50 WRC+

  42. On this date in 2005, according to nationalpastime.com:
    “After the team finishes the first two months of the season with a 19-32 won-loss record, the Houston Chronicle prints an obituary for the last-place Astros. After winning the National League pennant as the wild card team, the club, which is 14 games out, will make it to the World Series.”

    If the AJC ran such an obituary, maybe history would repeat. And the Braves are only 10 back in the loss column. Piece of cake, right?

  43. Four more months to make up 10+ games? Possible, but a tall order & will need to see a slide somewhere from the front-runners.

    But there are 3 wild cards this year… if they start playing better, the post-season isn’t out of the question.

  44. @73: To clarify, the “piece of cake” quip was sarcasm. Personally, I think this team is toast (rather than cake).

  45. @76

    French toast perhaps…flavorful, sensual even at times – out of the ordinary…tastes best in the Fall.

  46. Duvall, Heredia and Harris make up a murderers row at 7-9 today. If they combine to get on base twice I think it means a win today, although I am not super confident that they can do that.

  47. Watching the Mets, Carrasco pitching.

    One factoid slaps you in the face already – one walk every 9 innings. Another world.

  48. Now he wilts…11 straight walks, worse than us. Bases loaded he reverts to his fast ball, strike outs with bases loaded…still no score. His Dad is in the the stands. Mets scored 168 runs in May.

    About an hour to our first pitch.

  49. @81 not surprised the way the last couple of innings went yesterday. He looked very apprehensive going back on that double over his head last night

  50. I’m still in a little bit of shock that we are in 2nd place in our division, 2 games ahead of the Phillies and Marlins and 5.5 games ahead of the Nats. If the Mets collapse like they did last year, we could win the division by playing .500 ball. To be fair to the Mets (something I hate to do), I think Showalter is a much better manager than anyone they’ve had in recent memory.

  51. @83 I am afraid we are going to regret losing some of these games we tossed away carelessly

  52. Showalter is a good manager, and the Kings of Queens needed an adult steady hand. Hey, sometimes when you spend a half a billion dollars you wind up with a pretty good team.

  53. Wright has already exceeded the expectations I had last year at this time for his entire career. The dude looks great.

  54. After 6 IP & 79 pitches vs. Oakland, Justin Verlander is working on a possible no-no No. 4.

    Only Ryan (7) & Koufax (4) have that many.

  55. I declare that this is the game where Atlanta turned their season around. I have no rationale for this and it will most likely have no effect, but maybe it will happen eventually.

  56. @98–You’ve convinced me. June will be a much better month than April or May were.

  57. Wright gets his walks under control, very good things will happen. At least he is not hitting a batter a game
    Riley on a hot streak
    Olson back to his normal
    Amazing how good relievers pitch with big leads
    Harris doing better than I expected
    Braves doing worse than anyone expected

  58. Braves claimed infielder and nephew of ARod, Joe Dunand, from the Marlins. What’s not to like? The dude is batting .300 with an OPS well over 1.000.

    On second thought, his stats in the minors are really bad. Some may also consider 11 major league at bats a small sample size. Homering on your first ML at bat should count for something!

    Half of our minor league position roster seems to be loaded with infield rejects from other teams.

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