This Series Is Sort of Important Game Thread

The Braves will be coming to my city to face their division rivals, the Washington Nationals. This series has everything: playoff implications (three games in the standings against the best other team in the division), an outfielder who was bio-engineered to be the greatest villain in baseball, and a scrappy Braves team with a lot to prove.

Can B.J. Upton get his second hit of the season? Is David Hale smart enough to be a major league starter? Will I get to gloat over all of the people at the office?

One thing is clear. The Braves should take this advice to heart:

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171 thoughts on “This Series Is Sort of Important Game Thread”

  1. I see you, subtle intra-Ivy League dig. I think this is a feud that y’all need to settle with a boat race.

  2. We play them 6 times in our first 10 games. I’ll take 3-3 right now and let’s be on our way.

  3. Accidentally cross-posted this in the previous thread.

    I hate to say the “BJ” word around here–actually, I love saying it.

    Today in response to a question asked by someone else, Bill James elaborated on why he believes it’s currently impossible to get at the root of pitcher injuries through a study:

    “Well. . . I’ve tried to explain this before, but we’re trying to do something that I just don’t believe it is possible to do. There would be hundreds of elements to the equation that predicts injuries. You’d have to take workloads into account in about 40 different ways. ..how many innings did he throw, but it’s not the innings, it’s the pitches, and it’s not the total pitches, it’s the number of pitches in a game, and it’s not the total number of pitches in a game, it’s the number of high-stress pitches in a game. 1950 is different from 1970 is different from 1990. Starting is different from relief. Pitches at age 22 are different from pitches at age 25 are different from pitches at 28. A slider is different from a curveball is different from a fastball. A sidearm delivery is different from an overhand delivery; an overhand fastball is different from an overhand curve. Good mechanics are different from bad mechanics. Throwing a 100-MPH fastball is different from throwing a 90-MPH fastball. “Mechanics”, which I stated as one factor, is really 20; there’s a follow-through, and timing, and arm slot. Pitching in Fenway Park is different from pitching in Seattle; pitching in hot weather is different from pitching in cold weather. Pitching on a regular work schedule is different from pitching on an irregular schedule. A pitcher with an injury history is different than a pitcher with a good health record. xxxxxxxx If you have three or four different factors that are interacting to cause an effect, you can separate the factors and back the causes out of the effects; it’s treacherous, difficult and unreliable, but it can be done. If you have six or seven variables, it’s generally impossible. If you have hundreds of variables. . .forget it. It can’t be done. Ever. This is not to say that you can’t occasionally see something, and be entirely right about it. But there’s just no way to generalize reliably about cause and effect within the data that we have.”

  4. Looks like they mixed their rotation around so that we’d get Zimmermann. They moved Tanner Roark up to the 3-slot to pitch yesterday’s Mutts game.

    Shows what a chip on the shoulder they’ve got about last year.

  5. Well maybe, Edward, but it’s your home opener as well and you might well monkey with your rotation when you expect a big crowd. Plus, given the lack of constraints early in the season, wouldn’t you always try to let your good pitchers face better teams? All I’m saying is that the same rotation probably would have been set up if the Natinals second opponent were, say, the Cardinals.

  6. There’s no such thing as a “gut punch” in the 4th game of the season. It’s just another game and good pitchers lose sometimes to lesser pitchers.

    As for memories, does that mean that the Braves will be doomed in the playoffs because of having years of failure?

  7. 7: Actually, Zimmermann supposedly had the flu yesterday and couldn’t go. I guess it’s possible that they deliberately switched things up and then lied to cover it up, but if so, I don’t know why—it’s not going to affect the Braves’ batting order, it won’t be the first time they’ve seen Zimmermann, and anyway, teams swap their rotation order all the time without making up illnesses to cover it. So I think it probably was a real flu.

  8. Bowman and DOB have Simmons in the line up. However, ESPN is telling me that Simmons isn’t starting for my fantasy team.

  9. @6

    I read that this morning as well, and I agree with him as far as he goes with it. But the question being posed there is whether there can be a set of best predictors and/or practices that could bring down the general rate of injury, not whether an organization’s specific regimen or strategy could be shown to result in an unnecessarily high incidence of injury. The debate here has been whether the Braves have recognized their rate of pitcher injuries has been higher than that of any other team, and whether they should an organizational review of the matter.

  10. 13: ” The debate here has been whether the Braves have recognized their rate of pitcher injuries has been higher than that of any other team”

    Recognized implies that this is true. Is it? I’m not really interested in one bad month; if you over-extrapolate from a recent, memorable event, you generally reach bad conclusions. I’d like to see a longitudinal perspective.

  11. @9 – Whether it’s the 4th or 154th game of the season, they count just the same. And these games against the Nationals count double toward winning the division. I think their team is better suited to beat the dregs of the league, so it’s very important for the Braves to beat them head-to-head.

    I know, I know they’re not “Dooooomed” if they lose tonight, but it sure would be nice to take the series.

  12. @8&10

    Ah, the flu!

    I wish Gonzalez would tinker with the rotation for a big series. (I don’t remember his ever having done it–could be wrong.) That’s my biggest gripe with his managing: not turning to the big-time players in big-time situations when their roles should be stretched for a win.

    Well, my biggest gripe was the way he played around with Heyward in the second half of 2012, but he seems to have come around on ol’ Jason.

  13. 15: Thanks, I hadn’t seen that. When you’re talking about a difference between ~28 on the high end and ~7 on the low end over a period of two decades, I would imagine it’s difficult to know if you’re looking at a real difference that’s actually caused by something controllable or just an observed difference. Still, it’s worth the Braves taking a look at, even if the ultimate conclusion is “We’ve just been unlucky, and no one knows how to prevent these kinds of injuries.”

  14. @14

    I’ve done that here. I wrote about it last summer and updated it this spring. The number of TJ surgeries among our major league pitchers since the year after McDowell took over, at my last reckoning, was three standard deviations above the mean. No conclusions are drawn.

  15. @6 – “I hate to say the “BJ” word around here–actually, I love saying it.” What does this mean?

  16. It means that when you and Rob (and others?) were justifiably upset about my dismissive, pissy language, some folks also took the time to make a weird stand against my citing of sources to back an opinion.

    That sentence was my middle finger to the anti-citation, anti-research, anti-inquiry stance.

  17. Jayson Werth seems a little lonely there in the 3-spot.

    Can you imagine how much better this line-up could be if it were some combo of harper, desmond, werth, and zimmerman to start the game?

    Well, good to see our strike-out kings have brought their a-game today.

  18. So, David Hale is sitting at about 91 miles per hour. When we drafted him, I remember he was supposed to throw in the mid-90s and many thought he profiled as a reliever. I wonder if the Braves have changed his delivery, told him to throw less hard in order to save his stamina, or if he’s just lost velocity.

  19. @25, yeah. I like Anthony Rendon — I drafted him on my fantasy team so I have to like him — but batting him second and Harper sixth is crazy. Batting LaRoche ahead of Zimmerman AND Harper is crazier. Batting Desmond seventh is crazierer.

  20. We are gonna strikeout 40+ times in this series…I think I’m just gonna have to learn to deal with it.

  21. #23,
    It’s almost like you forgot that Bill James is probably 10,000th on the list of things frequently abbreviated with the letters “BJ”, behind our center fielder and, um, other things.

  22. 26: I don’t think any starter throws with the same amount of effort as he does when he knows he’s going to face 3-5 batters. I doubt anyone has to tell him he can’t go max effort every pitch if he wants to make it through 5 innings.

  23. Ufff. Gameday has Justin whiffing on 93 mph fastballs down the middle.

    That’s kind of unfortunate.

  24. Don’t look now, but Good Upton is 1-13 with 6 K’s, and Bad Upton is 1-14 with 7 K’s.

  25. So there’s a weird narrative about the Nationals that it was injuries that prevented them from winning the division last year–were their injuries more significant than ours?

  26. When injuries happen to the Nationals, it’s borderline tragic, because then a brilliantly constructed team cannot perform to its potential.

    When injuries happen to the Braves, “them’s the breaks.”

    So I’ve been told by national baseball media.

  27. Any injury to Bryce Harper is by definition “more significant” because he’s better than all our players combined.

  28. Injuries definitely didn’t help them. But in my opinion, what really sunk them was the poor way that they handled those injuries. I think that the team exacerbated Harper’s injury problems by not taking him off the field when he was first concussed. They let him play hurt for a month — obviously, he wanted to, but he’s a bullheaded 20-year-old and it’s the team’s responsibility to take that choice out of his hands. And they couldn’t figure out that Espinosa was playing with a broken bone for a month.

    Jordan Zimmermann went down for a year with Tommy John surgery, too. The difference is, he’s healthy now and ours isn’t.

  29. Is it wrong that I was hoping they’d send laRoche on J. Upton’s badly misplayed liner?

  30. @50

    It’s not wrong, and something vaguely similar happened last night when Abraham Almonte went for the diving catch in CF for the Mariners last night instead of playing it on the hop. The ball rolls to the wall, setting up a play at the plate that prevented an inside-the-park home run. Sometimes a misplay works out.

  31. The mlb.com gameday says he was struck out on the 4th pitch anyway. Down the middle, called a ball. Eyeballs agree?

  32. What in the name of JEHOVAH did Upton think the upside of that play was? Did he think there was a chance that Desmond was going to triple on a ball to left field? Leave the ball and hope the ump calls it a double, or play the ball, and hold him to a double.

    Just stupid. We have too many stupid players on one team.

  33. Ball hit into LF corner & it seemed to get stuck under the OF padding. Justin put his hands up, as if to appeal to the umps to call it a ground-rule 2B.

    The hitter never stopped running & he ran around the bases, while Justin waited to get a call. By the time he picked up the ball & threw it in, the guy was rounding third.

    It may end up just being a 2B, but Justin really looked bad there.

    EDIT: OK, it’s a ground-rule 2B, but hopefully that’s a lesson learned.

  34. Despite the eventual ruling, someone’s going to make a screen capture of Justin holding his arms up when the ball can be seen plain as day. I expect it’ll be on Deadspin within the hour.

  35. If you watch the replay, the ball rolls ever so slightly under the padding. I don’t know the rule, but it wasn’t “lodged”.

  36. lolNationals

    I hope that play ends up being the difference in the game, because Nationals fans’ butthurt is the best kind of butthurt.

  37. Carlos Tosca is the MVP so far today. I assume he’s the one tipping us off to the pitch outs.

    Well, and good on Gattis for executing.

    Edit: WOW. How in the world did Matt Williams think it was a good idea to take Zimmermann out of the game?!

  38. Hale got back to 90 on that last fastball to McLouth, but there’s not much left in that arm today. Doing yeoman’s work to this point, though.

  39. Yes… the ball wasn’t really lodged, but I suspect that from his angle Justin couldn’t see it. That said, the absolute worst trying to fish it out could be is a triple, and they could have still asked for the replay anyway. Justin: if you want to umpire, join a different union.

  40. Lot’s of screaming liners hit down both lines. I wouldn’t run him back out there in the 6th. But hey gotta give him his due. He did better than I thought was possible.

  41. Rule 6.09 (f) Any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases;

    “Sticks in a fence.” Doesn’t clarify that it has to be irretrievable. Only that it become stuck. That ball was stuck. A ball hit that hard doesn’t hit the wall and just stop, unless it’s stuck.

    That said… You’re the left fielder and no one is out. Make him stop at 2nd, and he’ll stop at 2nd. Play the ball.

  42. The whole Braves starting staff has done better than anyone could have imagined thus far. Get Minor and Santana in there, and they’ll be fine.

  43. Weird. I’d never confuse that one with a singalong, like “Sweet Caroline.” The chorus is so falsetto.

    When I hear that song, I think of MTV-era poofy hair, shoulder pads & British guys wearing New Romantic makeup.

    Way to go, Jason.

  44. A big double from Justin would..well, okay, Freddie’s on first, so maybe keep the inning going, Justin, or show some real pop.

  45. Justin has put up several of these long AB’s already this year. He’s in the ball park. It’s only a matter of time.

  46. So You Can Strike Out Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper: Okay, That’s Actually Pretty Impressive.

  47. I really appreciate the back-to-back-to-back strikeouts, but how about we don’t do the whole two guys on base thing first, Carpenter?

  48. From where I’m sitting, his fastball has a LOT of movement in it. Chip Caray called that last one a slider, and yeah, Chip is an idiot, but that looked like a slider to me. But it was a 96 mph four-seamer. Had a hump in it.

  49. Don’t like the single to Rendon, obviously, but you don’t let Jason Werth beat you there. He’s their best hitter by far.

  50. I just don’t understand why they’ve spread this lineup out so much. It feels like they’re making it easy on us. If they did something like Desmond-Harper-Werth-Zimmerman-LaRoche-Span-Lobaton-pitcher, it would feel a hell of a lot harder to get past.

  51. @150 – At least so far this season, it has. I don’t remember previous seasons how it’s labeled his breaking ball.

  52. Come GET SOME gNATS.

    It’s early, but any win now is a win you don’t have to get come Sept.

    Great win, boys!!!!

  53. Kimbrel might be the best 1 inning pitcher in the history of the game. There is no one that has done what he has done over a multi-year period.

  54. Nice!!!

    Kimbrel’s gonna be totally unhittable until the hitters get tuned up. Any time he’s needed a strike so far, he’s been able to blow a 97 mph fastball down the middle right by the hitter. Until they can catch up to that and at least foul it off, they might as well forfeit the ninth inning.

  55. Alex, @147, I think you’re overrating Harper. Especially early this year. He got kicked in the head on Opening Day (force play at 2B) and hasn’t looked right since.

  56. @160

    Nice! Someone other than me is on the “rag on Marc for admitting to liking the Nats” train!

  57. @163, that’s fair. I heard about the head thing, of course, but I wasn’t watching today and haven’t seen how he hasn’t looked right. That’s really worrisome if he’s having yet another season of being plagued by chronic head injuries.

    I wish they’d give him a few more days off to get his head right. But they wouldn’t do it last year, so I suppose they won’t do it this year.

  58. AAR at 166,

    Boras might need to step in. There is no excuse in this age for anybody who has had a concussion to do heavy activity for 7 days. And once they have had one, EVERY head injury is very serious.

    As they say, Lou Gehrig didn’t have Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). He actually had repeated head traumas (and his iron man thing probably helped make it much worse).

    DESPITE THE FACT HE PLAYS FOR THE NATS, I would hate to see Harper have those problems.

  59. #159
    If you’re talking the greatest closer performance in the history of baseball for his first 230 IP, yeah. But there was this other guy who recently retired…

    I mean, if Kimbrel can pitch 19 seasons to an ERA+ of 205 and toss over 200 post-season innings to a 0.70 ERA, then I’ll grant you the point. He’s only about 1,000 regular-season innings behind him.

  60. Hey, I acknowledge liking the Nats when they aren’t playing the Braves but I make no bones about who I root for when they play. But, geez, this is baseball and it’s game number four! But you know it wasn’t that long ago that the Braves were losing all these games to the Nats.

    I don’t understand why no one mentioned BJ’s role in the winning rally. By striking out instead of getting the bunt down, BJ kept the bat in Freddy’s hands. That might have been the most important (negative) at bat of the game. Can you be the game MVP for striking out?

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