When Raisel Iglesias entered in the 9th inning on May 10th against the Red Sox with the Braves trailing 3-2 he was not effective. Brandon Gaudin noted, as so many announcers do, that closers often perform poorly in non-save situations. The reason usually advanced is some sort of psychological factor. It deserves to be mentioned that there is another possible hypothesis: closers are (for the most part) only used in non-save situations when they are deemed to “need work.” Maybe pitchers who are more rusty perform poorly. Unfortunately, Raisel’s next game was no bueno as well… mas no bueno.
There are several ways to get at this, and I’ve started a little study. In Part I, I quantify how much more poorly closers actually do in non-save situations. This is a real thing, even though there are exceptions. For example, in 2006 Braves closer Bob Wickman was much better in non-save situations than save situations, though of course he was only with the Braves a little over two months that season, so sample size issues may help explain it. Although the differential is not as large, it will surprise few of us who lived through the Will Smith Experience in 2021 that his performance was better in non-save situations than in save situations, even including his outstanding postseason.
Anyway, the study isn’t quite done yet, and it’s too long to use as the intro to a game recap, but I wanted to let people expect it soon on an off-day. (Thursday if it’s completed by then.) There will be graphs and maybe even some rudimentary statistical analysis.
A Whole Nother Country
So we leave an actual other country and move to the place which has pretended to be A Whole Other Country to market itself since at least the 90s. My wife is from Dallas, her mother is buried there (Happy Mother’s Day, Ruth) and I bonded in Arlington with my at-the-time son-in-law-to-be 25 years ago when we attended a game at the old Ballpark in Arlington when Otis Nixon came to the plate for the Twins and I said: “Otis. My man.” There’s nothing like an Animal House reference to cement an intergenerational friendship.
I’m no tfloyd, so I won’t steal his methodology of Texas-themed music references, but I did learn a few things tonight while thinking about a tfloyd homage: Jerry Jeff Walker was born in Oneonta, NY, David Alan Coe was born in Akron, OH, and Kinky Friedman was born in Chicago. Bowling for Soup is in fact from Wichita Falls, though. And my life would be immeasurably poorer without Delbert McClinton. (Willie and Waylon speak for themselves.) I guess Hank Hill had it right, as he so often did unless Boomhauer corrected him.
The Braves faced Cody Bradford making his MLB debut. Cody is the 24th major leaguer named “Cody” and the 9th major leaguer with the surname “Bradford.” While all the Codys were born after I graduated from high school, it’s been fairly long since there was a Bradford and there was only one born since I was in high school. So Cody combines the new and the old.
We faced Cody Bradford because Jacob deGrom is on the shelf. The Mets would probably breathe a sigh of relief about this were they not currently shackled with $90 million this year invested in two pitchers who could be deGrom’s father. His first batter faced was Ronald Acuna, Jr., who welcomed him to The Show with a walk. Olson rapped into a double play, and Riley flew to center, continuing the Braves recent tendency to fail to score despite getting people on base.
The next two innings were considerably better, with two run homers from both Pillar and Acuna. They tacked on 2 more in the 5th and things were looking pretty good. Cody was gone, but the offense was not. Orlando Arcia hit a whole nother 2 run homer in the 6th, with Austin Riley adding one in the 7th. We could have used some of these runs up in the Frozen North. In the 9th, they faced catcher Sandy Leon and Marcell Ozuna hit the Braves fifth two run homer, tying the record for two-run homers in a game by one team.
The Braves pitched Charlie Morton whose major league debut was 15 years ago. When Charlie was drafted, Cody Bradford was 4 years old. This was Charlie’s 331st MLB pitching appearance, tying him with Chris Sale for 58th place on the active list. (Cody is tied with 86 other players in 968th place. He is six pitching appearances behind Sandy Leon.) He went 6 2/3, threw 108 pitches and left with a 10-0 lead. Not even AJ Minter could lose that lead.
Statistical Anomaly of the Night
There are 11 other teams that have hit 5 two-run homers in a game, most recently by Oakland in Houston in a 21-7 game in 2019. Interestingly, both Matt Olson and Sean Murphy had 2 homers in that game and Marcus Semien had one as well. None of them hit a homer tonight. This game is tied for the fewest runs by a team that hit 5 two-run homers.
OK. I think I’ve righted the ship. I turn it back over to the rest of you.
That’s a much better performance than we used to muster against Commando Cody Ross!
Well, ya know, Arcia is just on that 8.1 WAR 162-game pace that we all expected he’d be on. You just can’t help but feel great about the lineup when the SS you were worried about is turning in an All-Star season, when healthy.
Ozuna is on an even crazier 162-game pace based on his May performance: a 96 homer pace.
Interesting tidbit about Ozuna:
Home: .114/.220/.250 – .470 OPS
Away: .218/.318/.582 – .899 OPS
I think the boo birds may be getting to him a little bit. Maybe with more strong road performance, the boo birds lessen at home and his home splits start looking closer to his road splits. Small sample size, of course, but when it’s so easy to form a hypothesis as to why, that’s interesting.
Worst case, maybe this convinces another team to trade for him to get him away from the boo birds.
JonathanF is our Stopper! It’s reassuring, in the throes of a losing streak, to know that your Ace is taking his turn.
I look forward to the results of your new study. It’s reminiscent of 1980’s era Bill James: take a piece of received baseball “wisdom” and see if the evidence bears it out. Just like with those Bill James studies I probably won’t understand all the graphs and statistics, but I will trust your interpretation of the data (while reserving my right to quarrel about the reasons for whatever the data may show).
I meant to add that everyone should be glad that my turn to recap doesn’t roll around on this trip to Texas. I would not have been able to resist using my tired schtick of music references. Most of my favorite singer/songwriters are Texans (including non-native Texans Jerry Jeff and Kinky–you can add to that list Ray Benson, frontman of Asleep at the Wheel–born and raised in Philadelphia).
For me, the list would have to include Kinky’s buddy Billy Joe Shaver, Gibby Haynes, and David Yow. Though there’s also a really cool Austin band called Xetas that I’ve been really into, too.
Oh, and Doug Sahm. “She’s About a Mover” is one of the greatest rock and roll songs ever written.
I’m not exaggerating when I say there are over 50 Texas songwriters that I really like. I’m a Georgian, but I spent 15 years of my life in West Texas–way out in Lubbock. The music culture out there–especially for songwriting–is pretty phenomenal.
And let’s not forget Townes Van Zandt…
Or Guy Clark
And Jimmie Dale Gilmore, who is from Lubbock.
Thanks JonathanF. Insightful as usual.
Particularly thanks for reversing the luck.
Okay, Meat – good luck out there.