What Miserable Braves Playoff Loss are YOU? #4: The Ambush, September 23 Game Thread (by W.C.G.)

Ed. note: This is the second in a series of posts by W.C.G. that is predicated on something Mac used to say: “I’ve mentioned before that I have a low opinion of hope, which normally plays you false.” Or, as W.C.G. noted in his introductory post: “Braves fandom has mostly been a series of pleasant, sometimes even inspiring, regular seasons spoiled by some giant turd of a playoff series. As the data set is fairly rich at this point, I have attempted to organize the turds into five different subcategories, which I have named and ranked. The series will begin with the least aggravating type of Miserable Braves Playoff Loss and work its way up to the most aggravating. I’ve also set odds for the likelihood of the 2013 Braves to join each category.”


#4: The Ambush

An Ambush is no fun but it’s kind of numbing too; take the ‘98 Braves, who won 106 games, clowned an overmatched Cubs team in the NLDS, and then just totally ceased to hit for three games to begin the LCS against the Padres. Three games, three total runs, three losses. They actually won Games 4 and 5 in that NLCS, which was the first time in LCS history a team down 3-0 had forced a Game 6, which was a slightly redeeming fact for six years until the ‘04 Red Sox actually finished that drill. In Game 6 they got shut out again.

Or take the 2000 Braves, who began their playoff run with the Cardinals getting six first-inning runs off Greg Maddux. The Rick Ankiel meltdown that game never cost the Cards the lead, and wound up being retrospectively notable only because it kicked off a chain of events that led to him becoming Atlanta’s starting center fielder in the prior-post-mentioned 2010 NLDS. Unlike ‘98, 2000 was an ambush on Braves starting pitching; Maddux, Millwood, and Glavine combined to give up ten first-inning runs.

2001 was a late-developing Ambush, in which the Braves and Diamondbacks split a pair in Arizona before the series came back to Atlanta and the Braves got skunked three times in a row. Of course, that postseason the D-backs basically used Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling as a two-man rotation, so it’s understandable under the circumstances.

Chance of the 2013 Braves doing this: 25%. This is a feast-or-famine offense, so any protracted emergence of “famine” mode will trigger this outcome.

81 thoughts on “What Miserable Braves Playoff Loss are YOU? #4: The Ambush, September 23 Game Thread (by W.C.G.)”

  1. JC’d from last thread…

    Paul Maholm was traded for because he was needed in the rotation after Beachy went down and Hanson and Jurrjens were ineffective and/or injured. That’s a completely different scenario. With 5 above-average starters ready to go in ’14 and numerous pitchers to fill the 5th spot should someone go down, what’s the point in signing a surplus starter, especially if that starter costs 6m+? There isn’t one. Use that money to start locking up some young talent.

    Now, if Beachy goes into the offseason with questions, I’ll change my stance.

  2. Five above average starters? Really?

    Mike Minor. Okay.
    Kris Medlen. Yep.
    Julio Teheran? Great breakout season. I’ll lean toward yes here.
    Brandon Beachy? The guy that hasn’t been able to pitch since TJ surgery?
    Alex Wood? A guy with exactly 75.2 innings pitched above AA?

    You have three established starters ready to go for 2014. Minor, Medlen and Teheran. You have one guy who is scuffling coming back from major arm surgery (Beachy) and one kid who had some success as a fill in late this year, but who has been shifted back to the pen for the playoffs (Wood.)

    You are totally fan-boying this thing, man.

  3. Sam’s comments from the previous thread
    “I realize Paul Maholm types aren’t sexy or terribly entertaining, but they’re fundamentally necessary to building a division winning ball club.”

    Definitely agree with that point. This year’s Nationals team was a pretty good example of that. Zimmerman went 19-8. Their other “sexy” starters went 7-9, 11-7, 9-14, and 2-7. Granted, the “sexiest” of them all, was 7-9 with a 3.02 ERA, but turning the game over to an overworked bullpen when he rarely made it to the 7th didn’t help the team a lot.

  4. Paul Maholm might be our left-handed Edwin Jackson, but I’m fine with him as long as our season doesn’t depend on his success in one game.

  5. Their other “sexy” starters went 7-9, 11-7, 9-14, and 2-7. Granted, the “sexiest” of them all, was 7-9 with a 3.02 ERA, but turning the game over to an overworked bullpen when he rarely made it to the 7th didn’t help the team a lot.

    And honestly, a fan base that endured 2011 shouldn’t need to be reminded of the value of having someone in the back end of the rotation that can eat innings.

    EDIT/UPDATE: Noted, the value of these types of guys, of guys like Maholm, are seen over the course of seasons. They give you better chances of winning the division over 162 games. They are not the guys you want starting a must win playoff game.

  6. @2
    The NL league average ERA for starters this year is 3.89. Minor, Medlen, Teheran, and Wood all pitched well-above (or below) that line. If Beachy’s elbow is healthy, he is also a pitcher that can surpass the league average. I’m not sure what I’m fanboying other than disagreeing with Sam, which normally comes with chastisement from Sam.

    As for the Nationals…they had 4 guys to average 30 games started, with 3 pitching exceptionally well. Those 4 guys averaged about 6 innings/start. Tanner Roark stepped in and has been filling in nicely as their 5th starter after Detweiler crapped the bed. Their team ERA is below league average and hasn’t been their problem. Saying their problem has been their starters longevity is unresearched. Strasburg went 6 or more innings in 21 of his 29 starts including 10 through 7 innings and 3 through 8+ innings.

    Paul Maholm was a necessity during the 2012 season due to injury and poor performance, but even then wasn’t a target in the offseason, but a target at the trade deadline after better pitchers were crossed off this wish list.

  7. The point is, pitchers get injured. Basically all of them do. What’s more, the attrition rate for pitching prospects is simply massive. Our two top pitching prospects, J.R. Graham and Sean Gilmartin, were both injured in 2013. It is a virtual certainty that one or more of the top five starters in our depth chart will be injured at some point in 2014.

    We need to account for that.

  8. Accounting for that and creating a logjam by signing a player for 6 million plus are different beasts.

    Also, Paul Maholm has only pitched 146 innings this year, not near an innings eater or a workhorse. Strasburg has pitched more and is being called out for not pitching deep. Odd…

  9. Alex, thanks for posting these while I’m on the road. Before we can begin 2014 rosterbating in earnest, we have to figure out the precise mode in which our hearts will be broken this fall!

  10. 2 up on St. Louis (loss column) w/ 7 left. If we go 4-3, St. Louis would have to win them all to catch us for HFA and the Dodgers would be out of luck.

  11. I guess my main point is (and I’ll let it rest after this)…

    I don’t agree with spending money on surplus pitching, especially if developing pitching is the strength of the organization. As of now, there are 5 starting pitchers and numerous worthy candidates to fill the spots should one go down.

    On the contrary, the Braves farm is utterly vacant of hitters, but there are great young hitters at the major league level. Locking Freeman, Heyward, and Simmons up should be a priority for this ball club, much more than signing a 6th starter with part of that money. Throwing someone out there from the minors that can pitch, give or take a half a run, at a 4.50 ERA clip for 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 of a season (which is what Maholm gave us) is much easier to do than it is to find players that can produce like Simmons, Freeman, and Heyward.

  12. ’98 was also unfortunately notable for the team yakking it up once again to noted vehicular murderer Jim Leyritz in October.

    Though Michael Tucker taking Kevin Brown yard when SD was just about ready to pop the bottles was nice, for a couple of days. (That Game 5 also featured an PH AB by John Rocker of all people and a save for Maddux.)

  13. I’m not sure why more people on here don’t like our chances. If we get home field, I think we are the team to beat in the NL.

  14. Red Sox go 69-93 in ’12 and average 37K in attendance per game. Now they have the best record in baseball and average 34K. What gives?

  15. @14, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there’s some skepticism/apprehension/preemptive-emotional-defense-mechanisms kicking in with a lot of our fanbase, mostly because our team-to-beat always gets beat.

    I think this season is yet another chance to win the crapshoot, which is awesome and all I can really ask for, but I don’t like not having a lights-out starter and I don’t like it that our offense depends on one guy who is coming back from a beanball.

    I have a weird good feeling about this one though. Like someone is gonna go all Mark Lemke and carry us through – Uggla or BJ or a little of both maybe.

  16. Ryan, I think we disagree on how easy it is to fill a pitching hole. I’m still permanently scarred by 2008. Just to jog your memory:

    Jair Jurrjens313.68
    Jorge Campillo253.91
    Tim Hudson223.17
    Jo-Jo Reyes*225.81
    Charlie Morton156.15
    Mike Hampton*134.85
    Tom Glavine*135.54
    Chuck James*79.10
    John Smoltz52.57
    James Parr54.84
    Jeff Bennett43.70

    EDIT: per baseball-reference convention, pitchers with an asterisk* are left-handed.

  17. #15
    Usually, the way it works is that when you win you don’t really draw that well until the next year when you get an upsurge in season-ticket commitments.

    Works the other way, too. When the team has a down year, season-ticket commitments aren’t there either.

    My friends in Boston tell me that coming into this season, Sawx fans very much had a “show-me” attitude about this team. Last year’s team was not particularly liked by the Sawx Nation and, somewhat worse for the franchise, the front office & ownership were viewed as suspect as well. (“They care more about TV, partnerships & money than putting a winning team on the field,” yadda yadda…)

    But, love or hate the Sawx, they’ve had a remarkable year and, as most of us know, New England can’t really quit them for long.

  18. 2008 was the year I recall everyone was saying to make a spring training trade, because “we have so much pitching depth.” DOB wrote a ton of articles on the amazing pitching depth too.

    Then Smoltz goes down, Hudson goes down, and people like Reyes and Carlyle and Campillo are getting multiple starts.

    Never believe the lie of “we have too much pitching.”

  19. I wouldn’t be penciling in Beachy at this point. You have to assume something’s really wrong with him in particular.

  20. @14 – I got JC’d the other day, but I was commenting at that time that the 5 NL playoff teams were all within 3 games of each other.

    I would consider us the NL favorite if we got home field, but I think given how even all the teams are, that the odds are for us, or anyone, are less than 50 – 50.

  21. @9 – The point is not to say that Maholm is a better pitcher than Strasberg – he definitely is not. The point is that back of the rotation starters like Maholm don’t get many headlines, but if you don’t have them, you are in trouble – either because of injuries to starters or starters flaming out. With Wood pitching and Beachy coming back, it looked like we may look to trade Maholm, but I’m glad we didn’t. I won’t be sad if Maholm walks next year, but he was a needed piece both early in the year and late in the year (especially early since Wood wasn’t ready).

    I agree that Strasberg wasn’t the major reason for the Nats not living up to the hype, but he definitely didn’t live up to his “Cy Young favorite” billing. I was trying to make more of a comment about the entire rotation of “front line starters” that the Nationals have than about Strasberg specifically. Many things led to their demise, but SP depth should be included in that. To me it is just further proof that you have to have organizational depth at starting pitching.

  22. Anyone notice the runs allowed stat for each team?

    The Braves are by far the lowest: at 526.

    The next lowest in all of baseball are the Pirates (564). Then the Reds (566), Dodgers (569), Royals (576) and Cardinals (590). No other teams in the 500s after that.

    The Braves don’t have big names, they just have good pitchers.

  23. Oh, I think the Braves a priori chances of getting to the WS are about 25%. Probably a bit less, actually. The Dodgers just have better pitchers, and the Reds probably have the best hitter in the NL if they make the playoffs. Though I guess Jayson Werth has something to say about it if the Nats manage to sneak in. And I just never know about the Cardinals.

    The best weapon the Braves have is their bullpen. It’s just a question of whether the offense will decide to show up and how their young starters will perform.

  24. Glavine- 42 and very mediocre the year prior
    Smoltz- 41
    Hampton- hadn’t played in 2+ years

    As I recall, Hampton was supposed to be ready early in the season but, to no one’s surprise, was still injured. Even Jurrjens was a question as he hadn’t had Major League success at that point. Charlie Morton wasn’t even a good pitching in the minors until ’08.

    A Beachy, Minor, Medlen, Teheran, Wood rotation, all under the age of 28, with other young, live arms waiting in the wings, isn’t even a comparison to the senior citizens we were running out there in ’08. Sure, there was pitching depth, but the quality of the SP wasn’t present in the first place. The 2 years aren’t comparable.

  25. @23
    They had organizational depth at starting pitching.

    Yeah…you might be right, Adam.

    And Jo-jo sported a 6+ERA the year prior.

  26. @14, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there’s some skepticism/apprehension/preemptive-emotional-defense-mechanisms kicking in with a lot of our fanbase, mostly because our team-to-beat always gets beat.

    To take this a step further, 29 of 30 teams get beat annually – most would gladly accept the Braves average level of success in exchange for theirs. Since 1993, there have only been 10 WS champions.

  27. So this happened at some point.

    The Rangers presented a trade proposal to Atlanta of Matt Garza, Joe Nathan and David Murphy for Justin Upton at the trade deadline, which the Braves rejected, sources confirm.

    We should have accepted and sent them BJ instead. Just a miscommunication issue.

  28. Garza and Murphy are free agents at season’s end. What an awful proposal. The Rangers must think Schuerholz is still the General Manager, and want another sweet deal like they got in 2007.

  29. @mlbbowman: As expected Fredi said Wood’s move to the pen makes Freddy Garcia a definite candidate to start Game 4 of the NLDS. #Braves

  30. Or there’s 2007:

    Tim Hudson343.33
    John Smoltz323.11
    Chuck James*304.24
    Buddy Carlyle205.21
    Kyle Davies175.76
    Jo-Jo Reyes*106.22
    Lance Cormier97.09
    Mark Redman*511.63
    Anthony Lerew37.71
    Jeff Bennett23.46

    If Freddy Garcia gets a postseason start, then we have bigger problems than Freddy Garcia getting a postseason start.

  31. If Wood isn’t going to start in the playoffs, tell me why Garcia shouldn’t start ahead of Maholm.

  32. @mlbbowman: Freddy Garcia a definite candidate to start Game 4 of the NLDS. #Braves

    And now the reason why the media and experts are downplaying the Braves’ postseason chances despite having the NL’s best record becomes clear.

  33. I had forgotten about the 2001 series against Arizona. During an off-night during that series I ran into Luis Gonzalez and Damien Miller at the ESPN Zone in Buckhead. It was a slow weekday night and there was barely anyone there, so I was able to chat with them for a while. It seemed really odd to me that these guys would choose to go to a cheesy place like ESPN Zone.

  34. During an off-night during that series I ran into Luis Gonzalez and Damien Miller at the ESPN Zone in Buckhead. It was a slow weekday night and there was barely anyone there, so I was able to chat with them for a while. It seemed really odd to me that these guys would choose to go to a cheesy place like ESPN Zone.

    Never overestimate the professional athlete’s taste in the finer things of life. They’re not paid for their exquisite palette and deeply stocked wine cellar. They’re paid to hit balls with little bats.

    Jocks date cheerleaders with big boobs. They go to strip clubs every time they can. They hunt and fish and drive big ol’ trucks. They think ESPN Zone is a nice meal out. “High class” athletes play golf. There’s a reason R.A. Dickey is the exception, not the rule.

  35. If we pitch Garcia down two games to one then I’m going to find a new team to root for.

    If we pitch Garcia down two games to one we all will most likely either root for a new team or come back in a week when the pain subsides and start Full Fledged Rosterbation in earnest.

  36. If Wood isn’t going to start in the playoffs, tell me why Garcia shouldn’t start ahead of Maholm.

    I mean, I don’t want either of them starting a game in the playoffs, obviously. I’m not sure that Garcia’s a worse candidate than Maholm. But I would want them both on a strict limit, like 80 pitches, and yanked in favor of Wood at the very very first sign of trouble.

  37. I’m not breaking any news here, but I think I’d prefer to see Wood (and maybe Maholm) face, say, Joey Votto & Jay Bruce 2/3 times in a big game than Garcia.

    But, who knows how things’ll work out?

    Maybe Wood will be the LH bullpen guy who gets some huge outs like David Price did for Tampa in the ’08 ALCS or Dontrelle Willis did for the Marlins in the ’03 WS.

  38. @43 – That’s my thinking too. Here’s what I will not mind, prior to it possibly happening:

    If we are up 2-1, I don’t mind running Maholm or Garcia out there instead of turning Mike Minor around on short rest.

    If that happens, I see no reason to complain if Garcia (pitched well of late) gets the call over Maholm (has not.)

    If we are down 1-2, I would go with Minor on short rest and “all hands” in the pen (obviously).

    If Garcia or Maholm do start any playoff game the leash, it should be similar in stature to Marcus Giles.

  39. Pitching our 4th, or 5th, or 6th starter in a must-win game 4 (against the other team’s #1 even) is the kind of dumb shit the Braves do in the postseason. I won’t be able to take it. I probably can’t just pick up and root for someone else, so maybe I’ll just start watching cricket or something.

  40. “It seemed really odd to me that these guys would choose to go to a cheesy place like ESPN Zone.”

    Chase Field is the baseball version of the ESPN Zone, so I guess they felt at home.

  41. It seemed really odd to me that these guys would choose to go to a cheesy place like ESPN Zone.

    So why did you choose to be at the “cheesy place”?

  42. They were probably staying at the Swiss Hotel or something close by. Maybe they just walked over for a few beers. I wouldn’t judge them too harshly for that. Atlanta as a whole doesn’t have many high-brow destinations.

  43. #49 Ha! Good point. I guess what I was trying to say was that ESPN Zone was designed to give fans the experience of being at a ballgame when they were actually at a restaurant. Why would guys who spend 7 months of the year in a baseball clubhouse choose to spend their off day there? Why go to the imitation of something when they experience the real thing every day? Plus, I would think they’d want to get away from it all for a little bit. When I was a high school teacher the last thing I’d want to do on my weekend was hang out with teenagers (or to complete the analogy, fake teenagers, if such a thing existed.) Plus, it was dead in there. It wasn’t like they were going to pick up any women in there.

  44. Fox showing those highlights of the Braves’ walk-off wins this season is enough to make me believe in this team. What fun we’ve had this season watching these guys.

    Most surprising to me was that BJ had three of those walk-off hits. I would not have guessed that with the season he’s had.

  45. 54- Uggla did walk in front of him on June 1 against Washington and on August 31 versus Miami, and I can’t find the third walk-off, even though there aren’t many places to look. (His home run against the Cubs in April tied the game; it was Justin’s that won it.)

    By the way, BJ has an RBI in only 19 of the 121 games he’s played this year, and two or more in only five.

  46. I vaguely remember reading something Bill James wrote about bunting many years ago, and it was basically something to the effect that you need to do something stupid every now and again to keep the other guys on their toes.

  47. Swinging like a team that missed today’s BP to sleep off last night’s celebration.

  48. If we face the Reds in the NLDS it should be Maholm if they go with 4 starters. Choo, Votto, and Bruce struggle against LHPs.

  49. And I’m sure much to the chagrin of the visitors clubhouse manager at Wrigley Field, they host a champagne celebration for the second night in a row.

  50. Harper really helped the Nationals with their season on the line when he led off that ninth-inning rally, with his beautiful first-pitch weak groundout.

  51. I was running through all the starters the braves used this year, and I came up with 10.

    Hudson, Minor, Medlen, Maholm, Teheran, Wood, Beachy, Hale, Loe, and Garcia.

    Did I miss any? I think that shows that you can never be too rich, too beautiful, or have too much starting pitching.

  52. @78
    Loe and Garcia were scrap pickups, easily obtained at any point in the season. Hale was in the Braves’ farm system and can be used at any point in the season, as can any of the players listed in my initial post. I still don’t see the point of signing a middle of the road starter for 6-8 million per year…unless it’s Hudson, which I’d be happy to see him back, merely to see him retire a Brave.

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