Reds 4, Braves 1

Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds — May 21, 2012 — ESPN.

Okay, so now I hate Mike Minor. It’s a shame, because, as Stu pointed out, I loved him a month ago. But seriously, it’s not me. It’s him.

If you go to the Braves Journal Glossary at the top of the page, you will see a page consisting in a number of old inside jokes from this blog, which has not been updated in quite some time. One of the terms defined on this page is “Episode”:

Episode: When Tim Hudson suddenly loses the ability to get anyone out, to the degree that it is surprising he has full control of his limbs and his bowels, he is having an Episode. Usually in the sixth or seventh inning. (Added January 20, 2007.)

That was after Hudson’s extremely shaky 2006 season, when he had a 4.86 ERA and looked like Derek Lowe before Derek Lowe. Since then, of course, he has been pretty much awesome. But the term describes Minor to a T — except that his Episodes occur any time after the third inning. (From innings 1-3, opposing batters have a .675 OPS against him. From innings 4-6, opposing batters have a 1.075 OPS against him.)

He will have innings where he looks completely in control. And then he will have an inning where he completely, utterly, loses all command of his fastball, missing the strike zone completely and then compensating by grooving a pitch right down the middle.

Today, Minor reached a new low by giving up back-to-back-to-back homers to pitcher Mike Leake, leadoff hitter Zack Cozart, and #2 hitter Drew Stubbs, who also homered in the first inning. Those four homers accounted for all four of the Reds’ runs. But lest you think that Minor was reasonably solid except for four mistake pitches, he also walked four guys in six innings. If you can’t command your fastball, you can’t pitch in the majors; it’s really that simple. He needs to be in Gwinnett, rediscovering his mechanics, his confidence, and the catcher’s mitt.

That said, Minor’s teammates hardly acquitted themselves any better, managing a pathetic two hits against Leake, a guy who came into the game 0-6 with a 6.21 ERA. Other than a mammoth Juan Francisco solo shot in the second, the Braves offense did their best collective Jack Wilson impression.

Sounds like some team had a case of the Mondays.

128 thoughts on “Reds 4, Braves 1”

  1. #223 from previous thread: But can’t we talk about the value of that at bat leading off the 6th inning, down 4-1? Do we really turn that into an out just so our pitcher can have a “teaching moment”?

  2. I wondered if it might have been in response to Minor’s reaction to Francisco’s error (which I didn’t see, but which sounded like a no-no). Like it was Fredi saying, “OK, big shot, stay out there and win the game for us, then.” Which would appeal to me on one level — just not the level that appreciates sound strategy.

  3. I was at the game, prolonging my own personal streak of Braves futility. Minor was visibly disgusted at the error, but only momentarily. I think Francisco managed to field one ball cleanly, and that’s including what I saw of batting practice. Even his home run swing looked like an accident.

    I don’t know how anyone could say that Minor pitched well throughout the game. 113 pitches, 66 strikes. He needs to be in AAA.

  4. @3

    I really like Great America Park.

    I thought Minor pitched better than his last few starts. This appears to be a head thing now.

    Can we send him to Smoltz’s shrink?

  5. The Braves had scouts watching Youk yesterday. Do you think he’d be happy playing 1-2 times per week? I think not…

  6. He didn’t pitch well, but he did have two strong innings after the home runs. So maybe that’s something to build on. He clearly has lost a lot of confidence and, after those home runs, he was afraid to throw strikes. But this was a bad place for him to pitch.

    But four runs should not have been insurmountable except that this was Monday and the Braves don’t play on Mondays.

  7. Just checking in… Hi. I’m slowly improving, trying to get a few things done. I find that I feel fine as long as I remain motionless.

    I think Minor must be hurt. Pitchers don’t just lose it like this.

  8. Minor looks like a taller, smarter, whinier, more frat-tacular version of Chuck James right now.

    Chuck and Mike had/have good ‘stuff’, they just couldn’t/can’t locate it. Minor is either off the corners or down the middle, so was Chucky.

    I really wish I had not just compared a no. 7 draft pick to Chuck James.

  9. Someone forgot to tell Minor that he was in a hitters ballpark. Of course we made Mike Leake look like Tom Seaver last night.
    I like that the Braves are attempting to let Prado concentrate on one position but watching Juan Francisco play the field is painful.

  10. Hi Mac, take care and get more rest, and don’t watch any Braves game in Monday.

    I personally think Minor’s problem is all mental. The kid just needs to grow up…fast…

  11. @4: Speaking of Smoltz, he’s promoting his memoir right now. One of his big themes in the book is he wasn’t afraid to fail and that’s what made him successful. Like you, I remember a guy whose fear of failure was so great that he overanalyzed every bad pitch, to the point of having Jack Llewellyn sit behind home plate during starts. I only hope that Minor turns it around as Smoltz obviously did, but they do seem to share the personality trait of interpreting events in a different way than most (as we’ve seen in Minor’s post-game interviews).

  12. That reminds me, if you finished in the top three in the bracket, send me your address so I can get you your book. Email it to bravesjournal at gmail dot com.

  13. I find that I feel fine as long as I remain motionless.

    Makes sense to me. Be well, Mac.

  14. @12, I would think cognitive dissonance would be a requirement for success in just about any athletic field.

  15. @1-

    You’re kidding, right? If sacrificing one out helps Minor become a good pitcher (or really just help him be consistent), of course you do it! The value he would have if he was the pitcher from his first three starts is huge.

    And to be honest, none of the pitches that went out looked that bad. Nothing down the middle like he’s been doing. Well, except for the one to the pitcher. That was a meatball.

  16. Minor’s line looks a lot better if you take out that eppisode in the 4th inning.

    He retired the last six batters he faced.

    It wasn’t a great start, but looking back on it, I would give him one more to see if he is getting it figured out. I think his next start is on Saturday

  17. #18 – Isnt that the way all of his starts have been? A bunch of really good innings, followed up with one awful one.

    It seems Minor is at his best when he’s getting that fastball “in” to righties and can leverage that changeup away. That fastball is being left up and over the middle. I dont think he’s trusting that changeup right now and may be slowing his arm down to throw it.

  18. You’re kidding, right? If sacrificing one out helps Minor become a good pitcher (or really just help him be consistent), of course you do it! The value he would have if he was the pitcher from his first three starts is huge.

    You would tank the game by turning it into a psychological therapy session for a guy whose pitch count was already high and ineffective? And that had no guarantee of working, and likely even getting worse?

    No, I wasn’t kidding: You pinch hit for the pitcher leading off in the 6th down 4-1.

  19. Time to move Gattis up to Gwinnett

    Mis. – .274/.348/.581 62AB’s 4HR 6BB 8K
    Lyn. – .385/.468/.821 78AB’s 9HR 10BB 12K

  20. His reaction to the error was abysmal, frankly. He sulked, threw 20 extra pitches for no reason, and wound up having to throw a fastball for a strike with the bases loaded and Joey Votto at the plate to get out of the inning. Thank God he located it. Frankly, it was worse than the four-HR inning, for me.

    That having been said, he did seem to find something late, and I agree that I’d give him one more start because of it.

  21. @26
    Almost all of those numbers were put up in his first 10 games at MS. He’s been struggling since and might be hurt (he’s missed the last 2 games).

  22. At the point in the sixth inning where Minor batted, the probability of the Braves winning was probably pretty low. And, in any event, sacrificing one out is not the same as tanking the game. You have to manage for the long run; if this was August or September, you don’t let him bat. I have no problem with letting him hit although I was surprised he did. I had more problem with Fredi leaving him out there to take a pounding after he had given up three homers in a row, although he managed to get through it.

    I don’t think anyone knows enough about Minor to say that the problem is mental or not. As Mac said, maybe he is hurt. Maybe he simply has a mechanical problem. On MLB Network they were saying that one of the pitchers who had given up 6+ runs in 5 straight starts was . . . Bob Gibson. Not exactly a head case.

  23. IMO, the only reasons to give Minor another start are:
    -The Braves won’t switch Medlen/Livan to starting, and Jurrjens and Teheran aren’t ready to step up
    -I’m sure all this rationalizing is helping the self-esteem of Braves fans everywhere. After all, to paraphrase from above, my track record with women looks a lot better if you take away all the rejection.

  24. Have we gotten to the point where its a bad idea to take your family/kids to professional sporting events? We had the issue last year with the Giants fan almost getting beat to death. Yesterday we had another beating at Dodger stadium over a fender bender in the parking lot. Last night 8 people were shot after OKC beat the Lakers. Unreal.

  25. If the Braves give Minor another start or two he’s going to face Washington twice in a row. The Braves could choose to skip his turn in the rotation since the off day is May 31st when he’s scheduled to pitch. Or he’ll face Wash in their ball park on June 1st.

  26. @35 Each of those incidents also involved the assault of a pregnant woman. I honestly have no idea what to make of that, except that I will be scanning all future crowds for concealed weapons and fetuses, and giving both a wide berth.

    @31 Sorry, but it’s an anti-competitive move to send the pitcher up to hit in that situation. How many times have we made up a three-or-more run deficit already this season? And we have FOUR relief pitchers who can soak up multiple innings.

  27. Minor’s line looks a lot better if you take out that eppisode in the 4th inning.

    Everyone’s line looks better of you magically remove the crappy parts.

  28. Apropos of what Mac said a few days ago — that the Braves never score just 3 or 4 runs — here’s a breakdown of our runs scored per game.

    The Braves have played 43 games and have scored a total of 217 runs, an average of 5.0 per game.

    0, 1, or 2 runs: 14 times
    3, 4, 5, or 6 runs: 14 times
    7 or more runs: 15 times

    Or, alternately:

    0, 1, 2, or 3 runs: 18 times
    4, 5, or 6 runs: 11 times
    7 or more runs: 14 times

  29. Yeah, last night Chip was going on about how high Stubbs’ batting average would be if you took out the 47 strikeouts.

  30. @45,

    Even for Chip that doesn’t make sense.

    @37,

    I don’t think it’s giving up the ghost to have Minor hit leading off the sixth. If there were runners on base, that’s different and I’m sure he would not have hit.

  31. How high would would McCann’s average be if you took out all of the outs he made.

    1.000

  32. Minor would be a lot better if you took away the 12HR’s he’s given up in his last 6 starts.

  33. The Braves plethora of starting pitching has vanished way too fast, huh? Minor can’t get out major leaguers, Jurrjens can’t get out minor leaguers, and Vizcaino can’t lift his damned arm above his shoulder. Gah.

  34. They do however have a very underrated Kris Medlen sitting in the bullpen pitching an inning every couple of days.

  35. I agree csg. If Minor strugles his next time out, they should bring Medlen to the rotation.

    Moylan should be close to ready and if not, Gerrin could come up.

  36. What do people think about DOB’s column comparing the struggles of the the Braves’ young pitchers to Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz in their early years?

  37. It’s clearly something the team is pushing. I saw a graphic yesterday on the broadcast that compared Minor’s first 32 starts with Glavine’s first 32, or however many. DOB basically took the thesis from the team and expanded on it. I wish he’d challenged it… but, you know, blah blah blah.

    Obviously, the vast majority of pitchers who have an ERA over 5.00 at the beginning of their careers do not turn into Tom Glavine. So I’m unconvinced.

  38. #54 – Well, he’s talking to the group who wants Constanza playing over Heyward. He’s got to put those things out there to control that group.

    Obviously, the vast majority of pitchers who have an ERA over 5.00 at the beginning of their careers do not turn into Tom Glavine. So I’m unconvinced.

    Exactly.

  39. For those interested, check out the first six seasons of Sandy Koufax. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/koufasa01.shtml He, not Glavine, is the archetype of the player who came into his own fairly suddenly after some pretty indifferent play, but was kept around because of the promise (136 ERA+) of his early 12 game call-up (at age 19). When four years into career you’re leading the league in wild pitches it bespeaks a patience that few of us have today, but which the era of the reserve clause allows.

  40. I don’t have a problem w/ DOB’s article. Glavine did struggle, so has Minor.

    No one should get the idea that he will turn into Glavine though. That is a once in a lifetime tallent and isn’t fair to Minor.

  41. Mac @ 41,

    Welcome back. It is kind of strange to welcome someone back to his own house.

    I think Gattis hit a ball so hard it stretched the ligaments in his hand.

  42. But, in fairness to DOB, the point was not that these young pitchers were going to be as good as Glavine but that a lot of young pitchers go through growing pains and end up being good and that you need to have patience. It makes sense; the problem is how do you tell if the growing pains are a reflection of the talent level? The Braves had had a lot of highly-touted pitchers in recent years that turned out not to be much.

  43. Right — the fundamentally important question is, how do you determine the underlying talent level, and how do you determine what the best course of action is to help the player reach it? Some players need to work out the kinks at the highest level of competition; some need to fix their problems in the minor leagues, away from the spotlight and the pressure. Some players who experience early success in the majors are simply never able to turn their talent into results, like Kyle Davies. And, of course, some players who scuffle early turn into Tom Glavine.

    What DOB didn’t do was provide any guidance for how you tell them apart. Of course, it’s hard to tell and no one may know. But that’s the fundamental question, as you say. Without attempting to answer that question, the comparison is meaningless.

  44. Minor is two or three years older than the others, including Delgado, and is now in his third season at AAA or higher. Not to say he can’t pull out of his current funk, just that the situations aren’t perfectly analogous.

  45. @22-
    John, you’re the one who brought up the whole psychological stuff. You asked if it was worth it to let Minor hit for a “teaching moment”. If whatever you call a “teaching moment” is something that could help Minor turn it around, then I think its an obvious call, especially since its mid-May. A Mike Minor that can consistently pitch like he does when he’s going well is a major asset to the Braves.

    Now, I’m not sure if there’s any value psychologically or otherwise to having him out there one more inning (although he certainly performed well). But if there is, I don’t have any problem with doing it.

  46. #64: I didn’t utter the words “teaching moment”. Fredi did. All I wanted to do was try to win a game where we were down 3 and only had 12 outs left. Fredi chose to spend one of those outs for some ambiguous notion that we ought to keep an ineffective pitcher in deep into his pitch count.

  47. While most pitchers who struggle early don’t turn into HOF caliber starters – as most pitchers in general don’t turn into HOF caliber starters – it’s worth noting that no one was writing “have patience, even Tom Glavine struggled early” articles in relation to Kyle Davies or Chuck James.

  48. Minor was a high draft pick (higher than he probably should have been, but still), has shown real talent in the majors, and projects well.

    The list of great pitchers who struggled early is pretty long: Glavine, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Mark Mulder, just off the top of my head.

    As a Braves fan, I’m willing to place my hopes that Minor will be with the latter group. I’ll take five years of Mark Mulder out of Mike Minor, the good and the bad.

  49. I actually defended Chuck James long after it was rational or appropriate. The good thing is that Minor, unlike James, appears to have more than two pitches. But like James, he appears to have no ability to get through the batting order the second and third time around.

    But Chuck James is not a prospect bust. He’s an injury bust. His career was ruined by a shoulder injury which is something that happens. He was actually pretty good for us. From 2005-2007, he pitched in 57 games (48 starts), and went 22-14 with a 4.00 ERA, good for a 110 ERA+ — after all, that was the tail end of the ‘Roid Era.

    A couple years ago, I bought an autographed Chuck James hat at a silent auction at Turner Field. It cost $5.00, which is something like $15 less than a regular baseball cap costs at the stadium store.

    Ah well. I’m not really worried about Minor per se; I think he’ll have a reasonably good major league career. Hell, Bruce Chen has had a 14-year career. I just hate Minor right now.

  50. Lineup. Still no Chipper:

    Bourn cf
    Prado lf
    Freeman 1B
    Uggla 2B
    Heyward rf
    Francisco 3b
    Ross c
    Pastornicky ss
    Beachy p

  51. I know I’ve got appearances to keep up here and all, and Fredi-praise hurts my image, but I like the way Fredi reacted to Juan Francisco’s homer and super-slow trot yesterday, as per DOB:

    “I spoke to the young man about that the following inning and told him that we try not to do that here,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t like it here. The Braves have been known for a classy organization and I don’t encourage anyone to do that. Somebody could get hurt [by a retaliation pitch], one of his teammates or even himself. And hopefully he got the message.”

    “I should lead him off today just in case,” Gonzalez said, smiling. “No, I don’t think [it’ll carry over]. They know him. I don’t think the kid did it maliciously. He said, ‘That’s just the way I do things.’ I said, you’ve got 10 home runs in the big leagues, what do you mean that’s the way you do things?”

  52. Does Pastornicky wear a fanny pack? That’s the only thing that can possibly explain the way he approached that groundball.

  53. All of the runs in this series have been home runs.

    I can’t watch this anymore, I’m having enough issues with depression to suffer through this.

  54. #71: For one brief, shining moment, Fredi said something that was instructive, funny, and profound. That last line is indeed a classic.

  55. Honestly, we’ve been having a lot of runners thrown out stretching of late.

  56. I know, AAR, but his incompetence really seems to come in clumps, and we’re right in the middle of one.

  57. Welcome to games at Great American Smallpark.

    I feel bad, I was the one after his last start pointing out Beachy’s crazy low home run rate. I knew it would catch up to him, but not all at once.

    Oh well, the fences don’t change every half inning. If they can hit home runs, so can the Braves. This guy spells “Mat” with one T. Let’s punish him for it.

  58. The third-base coach has nothing to do with that play. That was some combination of Pendleton and Freeman himself.

  59. If someone had told me that our offense would be shut down by a couple doofuses whose name start with L and with WHIPs over 1.5, I’d have not been surprised.

  60. Rather amazing that the Reds have a player who has no business being on their team, and he’s named Constanzo.

  61. You know your ballpark is ridiculous when Michael Bourn hits 2 homeruns there. In the same game.

  62. We have to keep Bourn….but we will end up with Cunningham because that’s the way Braves do things.

  63. So we didn’t see Chapman last night. We will definitely see him tonight right? Good night everyone.

  64. I know it’s just a joke, but this is NOT the game Wren should call Boras after. Bourn will never have another game like this, ever.

  65. This move right here is why Medlen would be more valuable in the rotation. Fredi doesnt know that Medlen can get out lefties…

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