How Do the Braves Treat Their Pitchers? Part Two, Game Thread, May 26 (by Sansho1)

Some real talent began arriving in 2009, however, and reliable (if largely unspectacular) rotations and deep, hard-throwing bullpens have been more or less the order of the day ever since. McDowell’s job security has seemed only to grow with each passing year. Here’s an annual chart of Braves pitching performance in the McDowell tenure:

YearERA
20064.60
20074.11
20084.46
20093.57
20103.56
20113.48
20123.42
20133.38

A lower team ERA every year since 2008 is difficult to argue with. Pretty good trend, right? Well, maybe. Here’s the chart with league averages and the Braves’ league rank:

YearERA(NL)Rank
20064.604.4910
20074.114.433
20084.464.2912
20093.574.193
20103.564.023
20113.483.814
20123.423.944
20133.383.765

OK, so providing some context renders the team’s performance a little less impressive. After the quantum leap in results in 2009, the team ERA has declined 5.6%, but in an overall environment in which the league ERA has declined 11.4%. This context is reflected in the gradual slippage in league rank.

Well, so what, you could argue. Our pitchers continue to perform significantly above average, and if we’re in a tightly bunched pack atop the league ranking, the difference between, say second and fifth could just be an exercise in hair-splitting.

One last chart, this time with Fangraphs’ pitching WAR added:

YearERA(NL)RankWARRank
20064.604.49109.414
20074.114.43311.110
20084.464.2912911
20093.574.19321.22
20103.564.02319.22
20113.483.81418.63
20123.423.94416.76
20133.383.7653.58

Now that’s a little more disturbing. In general, a pitching staff’s line-drive rate will correlate with its batting average on balls in play. The Braves, meanwhile, rank 10th in the NL with a 20.5 LD% but 3rd in BABIP at .277.

A lot of this disparity is due to the presence of a rangy (if error-prone) outfield and the stellar Andrelton Simmons (seriously, if you extrapolate his performance in his first 90-some games at shortstop to a full season, it would rank as one of the absolute best SS defensive seasons of all time. Andrelton is up there with Belanger and Ozzie, and you need to know that…it’s an honor to watch him in the field). But some of it is also luck — no NL team in the last ten years has combined a 20+% LD rate with a sub-.280 BABIP, so something’s gotta give.

If you buy the premise that the team’s pitching performance is in decline, then the question becomes why. Of course, there’s no simple answer, because any pitching staff’s dynamics are in permanent flux — players are acquired and jettisoned, some guys develop, others get old. Some find an effective new pitch, others lose command of their old reliable pitches. But in the Braves’ case, over the past six years they find themselves dealing with one variable more often than any other major league team — our guys keep tearing their elbow ligaments.

To be continued….

102 thoughts on “How Do the Braves Treat Their Pitchers? Part Two, Game Thread, May 26 (by Sansho1)”

  1. If braves need another reliever for 20 games in 20 days they can add Walden but need to send someone down or put someone on DL. I hate to deal Laird or Reed Johnson, but….?

  2. @1 Reed Johnson seems the odd man out to me. Don’t see what his purpose is with Gattis being a 3rd catcher/5th OF/right-handed bat off the bench.

    @2 Holy smokes. I didn’t figure out what happened until like the 3rd time they showed it.

  3. Some great sleight of hand there. In the ump’s defense, on those plays they look at the base and listen for the ball hitting the glove, I believe. They got him good!

  4. I don’t really blame the 1B umpire there, for the reason Sansho mentioned. How none of the other umpires helped him out, though, I have no idea. Also, that’s the type of play that instant replay would immediately fix.

  5. @5, that’s the thing – you KNOW the 2nd base and home (and probably 3rd base) umps all saw what happened and didn’t say a word.

  6. @3 The batter was out due to infield fly rule, out call at 2B was wrong since there was no force play.

  7. Thanks Stu. Any time you can work in a “however” in the first clause of the first sentence of a post, you pretty much have to do it.

  8. So I’m assuming we keep Varvaro in unless we take a lead in the top of the ninth.

  9. With Bupton at the plate it’s hard to argue that it’s not the best chance of him scoring the run, except that I’d have wagered he’d miss the bunt.

  10. Schafer seemed to be clueless on that one… and he’s STANDING next to the 3rd base coach. Could BJ have done that on his own???

  11. The resumed game is on Fox Sports South (for those of you with Comcast in Atlanta – channel 884). The channel guide says I am watching “Fight Sports: Knockouts!”

    Also – Kimbrel is looking pretty awful right now – just about no control over his pitches.

  12. I’ve got it on mlb.tv.

    The broadcast is under Fox’s national banner, but what actual channel you can find it on, I don’t know. They’ve got the Met’s play by play man, with Keith Hernandez and Joe Simpson in the booth with him.

  13. When will managers learn that giving outs to a closer is a bad idea? Thanks for the bunt pop up

  14. Love those bunts. Thanks for the out.

    BTW, here’s a good example of why the whole concept of a “closer” is just stupid. Varvaro rolled through the 9th. Conditions are awful out there…why bring in someone else when the guy that’s already warm look pretty good. Plus you have two runs to play with. Kimbrel should not be pitching right now.

  15. 33 — Compounded by the fact that the Braves have a short bullpen and there’s no chance Varvaro pitches in the second game.

  16. @38, exactly. We burned two pitchers when the situation called for just one. Let’s hope Minor goes deep into the game tonight.

  17. Lets just hope we shell Dillon Gee for 7 runs in the first 3 innings, and then the bullpen decisions are irrelevant.

  18. If anyone homers to left tonight they should be inducted into the hall of fame immediately.

  19. Look, dammit. It’s baseball. Anthony Varvaro pitched last night, came back out with no rest and gave you a solid inning in the ninth, and then the team took the lead in the 10th. You bring in your closer. You shut down the win, because it’s baseball and you may be up 12 or down 15 this time next game. You take the win in your sights and figure out the next one when it comes along.

  20. I’d rather Kimbrel pitch last night in a higher leverage situation. We’ll be fine with 4 other relievers available…I’m just worried about Kimbrel falling apart due to overuse. We’re a good team…gonna be a lot of “save” situations. If he pitches all of them I’m afraid his arm might fly off.

  21. Lineup

    A Simmons SS
    J Heyward CF
    J Upton RF
    F Freeman 1B
    E Gattis LF
    B McCann C
    D Uggla 2B
    C Johnson 3B
    M Minor P

  22. Around the league, the Yankees, after tying up the game in the top of the ninth, makes the third out by Gardner getting caught trying to steal second with Cano batting.

    That’s just tremendous amounts of stupid. 1) Making the out on the bases with your best hitter at the plate. 2) You think Maddon wouldn’t just walk Cano if you do succeed, to get to a righty-righty matchup against Vernon Wells?

  23. That’s quite a lineup. Too bad it’s 50 degrees with the wind blowing in 20-40 mph. Gattis might be fun to watch out there. Hopefully he won’t get hurt!

  24. I don’t know just how much of an impact this might have, but keep in mind that Kimbrel’s accustomed to sitting around for most of the game and then coming in at the end. It doesn’t seem surprising to me that he’d be a little off when he had to come in soon after the game “started.”

  25. We may look back on this as the most unlikely Brave homerun since Rick Camp. I mean…Minor?!?!?

  26. Since they are playing in a windtunnel of hot-dog wrappers and napkins and other random debris, what’s the ruling if some of that trash intersects with a pitched ball? No pitch? Play on?

  27. Fox announcers talking about those who criticized the Braves for taking Minor with their #7 pick in 2009.

    So, for fun, here’s the thread in which the Braves drafted Minor:

    I’m tired game thread: June 9, Pirates at Braves

    I like this from Baseball Prospectus:

    Kevin Goldstein (3:48:21 PM PT): The Braves take Minor. It’s indefensible. You don’t want to take a high school kid, that’s cool. You think he’s better than Alex White, who I’m not even that high on, and you’re nuts.

  28. 84-Happy to discover I didn’t embarrass myself too badly in that thread. Stu’s evaluation was pretty damn good in retrospect (a #3 starter shading towards a #2).

    Speaking of first round draft picks, Alex Wood had another fantastic start tonight, 7 IP, 1 run, 7Ks, 4 hits, 2 BBs. Only knock damage was a solo shot by none other than Nick Ahmed. The first homer Wood has allowed all season. Through the seventh Salcedo is 2 for 4 with 2 doubles. He’s a legit prospect again.

  29. Reed doesn’t have a place on this team if we carry the additional pitcher. Well, either he or Juan need to go.

  30. “Here comes Ike Davis” doesn’t exactly put the fear of God in anyone these days.

    Edit: This Carpenter character doesn’t look that bad on the mound. Good win.

  31. While I absolutely would have taken Matzek instead of Minor, let the record show it was the Kody Johnson pick with which I was most dissatisfied.

  32. Looks like Mike Minor has more wins and innings pitched than #1 2009 draft pick Stephen Strasburg, though the latter has better stats (until this year)

  33. Minor actually pitched one-hit ball. His stat line includes two Prados, a fly ball misplayed by Gattis and another “hit” that was a ground ball directly at Uggla that he gloved and then dropped. How the latter could be scored a hit is a complete mystery.

  34. The scorer was quite generous, Chris Johnson got a hit on a ball to second that was perhaps an even more obvious error.

  35. So, we’ve reached 30 wins in 48 games. The last time we reached 30 wins this quickly was 2003, when we did it in 43 games (and finished with 101 wins).

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