Fun game, annoying ending.
Spencer Strider went back to being Spencer Strider. 10 days previous, he struggled against the Nationals, giving up 5 ER in 4 innings. Most notably, his velocity was a little bit down and so were his strike outs. That was after he failed to get out of the 5th inning due to a high pitch count in the outing before against the Mets. I would think the team is on high alert with Strider’s inning count considering he’s going to blow past his professional innings total. But they’ll take it one day at a time and this day was plenty good: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 6 K. His lone run was giving up a home run to Kyle Schwarber in the 6th. I’m not sure what the Braves will do with Strider going forward especially with Ian Anderson struggling and Mike Soroka seemingly very far away.
Matt Olson has now homered in 7 of the last 15 games. He hasn’t had a stretch like that as a Brave. He has had some nice stretches like that for the A’s. In 2019, he had a 14 game stretch where he hit 8 home runs. In 2021, he hit 6 home runs in 10 games. We’d all love to see Olson got on a tear in the second half.
Since starting the year hitting .188 on April 27th, Dansby Swanson has hit .316/.368/.511 in 345 PAs. He’s become a fixture in the heart of our order. He’s 3rd in MLB in fWAR during this run. Hot damn.
My brother asked me at the end of June if Austin Riley would hit 35 home runs. I said no, and we put $10 on it. Hold on, hold on, there’s some defense here. One, my brother is very hyperbolic. The answer to most of his prognostication questions is no. No, Chris, the Braves are probably not going to trade for Juan Soto. Two, Austin Riley had 18 home runs at the end of June. Since then, he’s hit 10 home runs in less than a month and has a 1.371 OPS in the month of July. Swing and a miss, Rob.
And then there’s the guy no one wants to talk about: Will Smith. Will came in with a 5-run lead in the ninth, gave up a 2-run homer to JT Realmuto, walked a hitter, and Snitker was forced to bring in Kenley Jansen. For his Atlanta career, he has a 3.87 ERA, 4.92 FIP, and a 1.9 HR/9 rate. That’s not what Atlanta thought they’d be getting when they signed him as a 30-year old with a career 3.53 ERA, 3.29 FIP, and 1.0 HR/9.
But the 32-year old Will Smith is just not going to be a shutdown reliever, and he’s not going to be “worth” what he’s earned in this contract with the Braves. He’s somewhere between a reliever you give a 1-2 year deal to based on the volatility of relievers, and someone you lock up with closer money for a long time. He’s the 6th-highest paid reliever in baseball, and he’s certainly not worth that. But this is the complicated thing with relievers. The Braves value veteran leadership in the bullpen. The Braves value consistency and guys that can take the ball in the late innings every time you need him. Will Smith gives you those things, and your guess is as good as mine for its monetary value. And that guy gave us 11 shut out innings in our World Series-winning playoff run last year, and that also has monetary value. It would not surprise me if Smith once again struggles in the regular season only to put in another lights out postseason run.
There’s a lot of talk on Twitter that Will Smith will be DFA’ed. Yeahhhh, no. You don’t DFA guys pitching in high leverage. You reduce their leverage. You reduce their work load. You be more strategic with match-ups. As fans, we should take our Tums every time he comes in, and hope for the best.
But we won another game, we’re 2 games back, and all we have to do is keep winning baseball games, and there is postseason baseball once again in Atlanta. I’m never going to get tired of that.