Astros 6, Braves Whatever (By Kyle B.)

My father once told me, “Son, don’t waste anyone’s time by recapping blowout loses to the Astros.” I’ll still give this my best shot. Due to work commitments, I was going to have to mail in this recap anyway. It’s fitting, of course, that our Braves mailed in a truly dreadful performance against the Astros on getaway day.

Looking for a series sweep against the lowly Astros at Minute Maid Park, the Braves sent Mike Minor to the mound against Jarred Cosart. The Braves drove in a run in the top of the first on a Tommy La Stella sacrifice fly, and then took the rest of the game off.
Minor allowed five earned runs over six innings, and his record dropped to 2-5 on the year with a 4.50 ERA. Justin Upton stayed hot, with two hits including a double which accounted for the Braves only extra-base hit. La Stella stayed cold, going hitless and dropping his average to .271.

Alex recently wrote that most of our losses are laughers. This was no exception to the rule. Get your rest. Four games in the next three days in Philly, and it’s time for some payback. Teheran v. Kendrick tomorrow night, with six games separating every team in the NL East.

90 thoughts on “Astros 6, Braves Whatever (By Kyle B.)”

  1. From AAR in the previous thread:

    ‘Kevin Quackenbush. Who?’

    Yeah, I have no idea who that is. But what is it about baseball that draws so many players with fantastic names?

  2. I’m officially concerned about Mike Minor. He’s thoroughly hittable right now.

  3. @2. I think Minor will have a strong finish. He didn’t start he season right physically and he has been playing catch up since. I think the all star break will do him good,

  4. Hope so, but at the moment he’s trending the wrong way for someone who should be getting stronger as he goes. Maybe a rest will do him good.

  5. From previous thread,

    Alex’s and Edward’s arguments convinced me I was wrong about the Braves’ drafting-at least about Jason Heyward (and maybe Keith Law.)

    But they sure need help now.

    As for being competitive, I don’t think the Nats are going to blow them away. For as much talent as the Nats may have, watching them every night makes me think the team collectively is much less than the sum of its parts. (Of course, I also have to listen to the biggest homer announcers in the history of the business. Geez, what did they teach Bob Carpenter in announcer’s school? It sure wasn’t journalism.) I think the Nats are prone to self-destruction. For example, in recent days, Denard Span has made two of the most boneheaded plays on the bases I’ve ever seen. Strasburg folds whenever things go wrong. They are thinking they will get this big lift when Harper comes back, but I’m not convinced. I’m not impressed with Matt Williams at all. His emphasis on hyper-aggression got Ryan Zimmerman thrown out at the plate last night by 10 feet. Physically, Adam LaRoche is playing way over his head and I think is likely to regress; Ryan Zimmerman throws like me even from left field, Jason Werth has become a singles hitter; Wilson Ramos, the catcher is good but gets hurt if you blow on him too hard. The pitching staff is certainly better than the Braves but, as I said, Strasburg is not the guy I would choose to win a game I had to win and Gio Gonzalez has been hurt and has his own issues at times.

    The point is, I guess the Nats could go on a run and put the Braves away but I sort of doubt that they will. The real issue is whether the Braves have enough to take advantage of the Nats’ dysfunction and they may not.

  6. With the parity that is rampant now across MLB, contending is going on a couple of runs, playing somewhere near .500 ball the rest of the time and hope you are hot at playoff time. I think that the Braves can manage that.

  7. When is the last time we’ve won a weekday day game? Our performance in day games (even on Sunday lately) has been atrocious. At least the last several times I’ve taken an interest we’ve been blown out.

  8. I agree with @6. I think this is a weak division. I don’t think we’ll win it by 10 games like we did last year — we may not win it at all — but even if we stay as mediocre as we have for the last couple of months, we still have a pretty good shot at a Wild Card.

  9. I think it’s unlikely that a Wild Card comes from the NL East this year. Division winner or bust.

  10. 10: It’s looking a lot like bust. The Nationals don’t have to be a juggernaut when their closest competition has one of the worst lineups in baseball and two good starting pitchers.

    Fangraphs thinks the Braves have less than a 20% chance to win the division. Maybe you can quibble a bit, but it’s hard to see how you get to a point where the Braves are actually competitive. They should be looking to move guys who won’t be around after next year. If they think they can extend Heyward, that’s wonderful, but in the more likely event that they can’t extend him, they should trade him this year.

  11. @5

    Totally agree about Matt Williams. Feed him coal during a pennant race and I guarantee you’ll end up with diamonds….

  12. One of the Braves or Nats is going to go on a 20-10 run and that plus .500 the rest of the way might be enough to win the division. Both lineups kinda suck so that’s a wash. Our defense is better, their pitching is better. It might come down to who remains healthiest.

  13. Dave Cameron gives a few good reasons why a team like ours probably shouldn’t sell: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/why-im-not-a-fan-of-losing-on-purpose/

    Some excerpts:
    There’s too much variation in baseball for teams to simply accept their most recent record as evidence of their short term future. There’s too many things that simply can’t be projected — and too much uncertainty around the things we do know — for more than one or two teams per year to simply punt the entire season and lose on purpose.

    There’s a real price to be paid for being awful. The casual fan wants to know that his team at least has a fighting chance to put on a good show, or else he’ll simply substitute into some other kind of entertainment until the product improves. In terms of selling tickets, there is a demonstrable difference between 55 wins, 65 wins, and 75 wins. And the more tickets you sell, the more revenue the team generates, the more money the baseball operations department has to spend on the roster.

    We can improve our offense via trade, if Wren/Fredi are willing to get creative. What we have to offer should be able to net us a platoon-able piece that can also help our bench.

  14. I think it’s a very reasonable position to try to maximize the return you get for Heyward if you know there’s no chance in hell of signing him long-term. We’re not privy to any of that info so all you can do is guess.

  15. 16: That’s addressing a pretty different set of circumstances. Blowing up a team before any games have been played is a bad idea because, as Cameron says, you don’t know how things will shake out. Look at the Brewers! Blowing up a team when half the games are played and you have a pretty good idea of what team you’ve got and what team your competition has got is making a decision with a good amount of information. The information we have so far on the Braves is that they are not a good team. They are much more likely to fall out of the playoff hunt than they are to vault into a comfortable lead.

    Moreover, we’re not actually talking about “blowing up” the Braves’ roster at all. We’re talking about trading two guys on short time who will very likely not be part of the next Braves championship run. So Cameron’s discussion of the attendance penalty for putting an atrocious team on the field isn’t relevant; trading Heyward and Justin away would probably drop the Braves from about a .505 team to about a .480 team.

  16. @19, big guys that can shoot seem like a great fit for what we’re doing. Wonder if that means Mike Scott won’t be around next season?

  17. @18 The Braves aren’t a good team, but they are good enough. Big difference.

    ‘They are much more likely to fall out of the playoff hunt than they are to vault into a comfortable lead.’

    You don’t have any tangible information that proves the team will fall out of contention. They don’t have to vault to a comfortable lead, all they have to do is be in the lead at the end of the season.

    Trading Heyward and especially Justin away now is nonsense. You are simply not going to get players of equal ability back that are ready to play right now. We are not the Marlins, Padres, Astros et al. The team’s leadership should be and is playing to win right now.

  18. @21

    I think we are a good team, just not great.

    With a couple of moves we could be a very good team.

  19. @22 – I think we are a good team if a couple of guys just step it up to league average.

  20. @21: “Trading Heyward and especially Justin away now is nonsense. You are simply not going to get players of equal ability back that are ready to play right now.”

    Good thing that’s not the point, then! You want to get back players who are ready to play in 2016, when the Braves are more likely to contend.

    “You don’t have any tangible information that proves the team will fall out of contention.”

    Projections are tangible. Season-to-date performance (extremely mediocre) is tangible. I think it’s more accurate to say that you have no tangible reason to suspect that Braves players are likely to improve, even to league average.

  21. I don’t think trading Heyward or Justin is a good idea at all.

    Unless we can get Kershaw and cash.

  22. Even though the current roster is fairly young, I think of most of them as more or less finished products, Simmons being the only exception. So I’m not sure how the present crew minus JUpton and Heyward plus any number of prospects projects to be better in 2016 than now. Who do you see with significant upside, Anon21?

  23. @24 – How do you know that the return you get for Heyward/Upton will be ‘ready to play in 2016’? How do you quantify that? What makes you think that the team will be more ready in 2016 than it is now?

    Seriously, what happens in 2016 that makes it a better year for the team to play for a championship than now?

    Well our current record is 2 games over .500 1 game out of first in our division. I wouldn’t define that as great season-to-date performance but it sure is good enough to contend.

    I didn’t say that I had any reason to suspect that our poor performers were going to improve. I suspect that they won’t. But in the current environment they may not have to for the team to contend.

    What I said is that IF any of the poor performers started hitting league average the team might become good as opposed to good enough.

    edit: Anon21, Sansho1 asked the question better than I did.
    caveat: We are good enough only because of the league wide parity (some would say mediocrity) that is the current status.

  24. It’s not that we’d be better in 2016 than now – nobody can say that for sure. The “sure” thing is that those two guys won’t be on the team. If that premise turns out to be false then this line of discussion is moot. If it’s true then maybe you want to get some pieces for them before they leave?

    If we win say 81 games this year and 79 next year, and then those guys walk…well, maybe we should’ve taken some steps in 2014 to try to mitigate that. You have to weigh that outcome against the chance of us making the playoffs this year and next with those guys on the team.

    I think we still have a decent chance to win the division so I wouldn’t do anything. Fast-forward two months and if we’re 12 games back I might look to move both of them.

  25. See, I think that the team’s window is RIGHT NOW and 2015 while we have JUpton and Heyward.

    If the team craps the bed for the rest of the year and falls out of contention then during the off season management should try to find better supporting cast.

  26. Why are we talking about trading our two best hitters, that are under team controll for the next two years when we are one game out? Trading those guys would be a terrible move, unless we got a huge return on it, which we wouldn’t.

    Our focus this winter should be finding someone to take BJ and locking up Heyward and possibly Justin.

    JJ Putz anyone? Arizona cut him lose.

  27. 26: It’s a combination of two factors: first, in 2016 the Nationals lose Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister. Second, Heyward and Upton will very probably be elsewhere. I am comfortable saying that the Braves can’t compete for a championship this year, based on the fact that they have failed to keep pace with a Nationals team with serious injury problems. I don’t see what the team can realistically do to improve in 2015, because they haven’t got enough money to play in the free agent pool and don’t have impact prospects waiting in the wings. Thus, Heyward and Upton are no longer a useful part of the team, because the time when they will contribute is a time when the players around them are inadequate to make a postseason run. Thus, the front office should turn them into players who will be a useful part of the next contending Braves team. 2016 is the optimistic case for when that will be, because they’ll have freed up a little money, will be facing a weaker Washington club, and will have had some time for prospects such as Sims, Graham, and Peraza to develop. But you’re right that there’s nothing magic about 2016–it’s just that there’s something distinctly unmagic about the two years leading up to it.

  28. @32 – Well thought out argument. Where we disagree is that you are about a 25 on a a 10 point pessimism scale, and I think that as weak as the league and particularly our division is we are contenders.

    You do realize we are ONE game out of first place?

  29. I see what your getting at, but I can’t sign on. I believed Jupton, Heyward, Simmons, Freeman, Gattis, Teheran, Minor and Kimbrel (and Beachy and Medlen…) to be an enviable core of young veterans before this season started, and I remain convinced of it. Now, virtually everyone else who’s played for us this year with the exception of a few young power arms can get out of my life tomorrow and I wouldn’t miss them, but to me that just means surrounding the current core with more effective role players. Bring to me the Infantes and Remlingers of yesteryear and lets take another crack at this next season.

    (I do agree with you about 2014…I’m not seeing it, either.)

  30. I certainly lean more pessimistic like Anon21, but I would agree that it’s gonna take some work to make this team a serious contender in 2016. I say serious because the word “contender” can mean many things.

    Is a team that is structured to win about 84 games a contender? A little luck here and there and your true talent 84-win team wins 89 actual games and sneaks in as the 2nd wild card. If having a decent chance at just making the playoffs means you are a contender then go for it.

    Or is a contender a top-tier team that, even in a year with some bad breaks and an injury, is still going to win 90+ games? A team that would really contend for a title and not just a swift playoff exit.

    The Braves rosters of the last decade have been good enough to qualify as the former pretty much every year. Each April you had to count them as in the mix to make the playoffs, but their ceilings were lower than most. Those Braves teams had holes. (And the Cardinals and Giants hogged all the playoff karma that makes OK teams awesome in October.)

    The current Braves team would for sure be considered “in the hunt” next April, but to really be a championship contender with good odds to play past the 1st week in October this team needs 2 starting pitchers and a batting order sans either BJ or Johnson.

  31. Blowing up a team when half the games are played and you have a pretty good idea of what team you’ve got and what team your competition has got is making a decision with a good amount of information. The information we have so far on the Braves is that they are not a good team.

    You’re way too pessimistic. Part of Cameron’s point is that projections don’t pan out — particularly over the course of a smaller sample, like the half-season that is left to play — because they don’t account for random variation from so many sources.

    The year of the big collapse, with a month or so left to play, we had, what, a 95% chance of making the playoffs? I get that these are the exceptions. I’m also looking at what’s on the field and am not enthused. I’ve also seen enough crazy things happen to be OK with waiting at least a few more months before trading away a core player or two, given that we are very nearly tied for first place right now.

    Moreover, we’re not actually talking about “blowing up” the Braves’ roster at all. We’re talking about trading two guys on short time who will very likely not be part of the next Braves championship run. So Cameron’s discussion of the attendance penalty for putting an atrocious team on the field isn’t relevant; trading Heyward and Justin away would probably drop the Braves from about a .505 team to about a .480 team.

    What are you proposing for next season’s outfield that’s not going to trigger the payroll death spiral? That we spend Heyward/Upton’s combined salaries on short-term free agents like…Nelson Cruz? Torii Hunter? Or MELKY?

    I don’t know that waiting the rest of the season is going to dramatically impact what we could receive in a trade for Heyward. The team that acquires him is still likely not going to want to give us much in return unless they can extend him, whether we deal him now or a little later.

    Can we just give Wren a chance to find some platoon pieces?

  32. Got back from Omaha last night (we drove) – just chiming in to say that while I will still be pulling for the Braves to dominate the Nats, win the division, and sweep through the World Series, my baseball season has already been completely fulfilled by seeing – in person – Vanderbilt win the College World Series. I don’t know that I can accurately put into words how big that is for those kids, the university, Tim Corbin, and all the VU teams of the past (all sports, not just baseball).

    I can’t speak for Stu, but I think I’m on such a high right now that if the Braves were to lose every game from here on out, I would only be mildly disappointed.

    National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores! Still looks a little weird. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

    OK, carry on.

  33. I am tired of seeing people saying silly things like we should trade Jason Heyward (one of the more undervalued players in the league) or Evan Gattis (who is making almost nothing and has over 4 years of team control left) while we are one game out of first. It’s beginning to feel like I’m reading the AJC blog.

  34. 35: Yeah, Wren could certainly surprise us, or prospects could surprise us, and put us in a much better position this time next year. If Wren has concrete plans for how he can improve next year, it would be a bad idea to trade two of our best players away. I just hope he’s looking at all this with clear eyes. For example, third base would be an easy place to upgrade for 2015 but I’m not sure Wren will acknowledge the need for an upgrade. GMs are loath to simply toss aside a player they’ve committed to, even if the commitment is relatively small and even if it’s clearly not working out.

    At the same time, there is an opportunity cost to waiting until the offseason, contra 37. Contenders pay more for impact players during the season, when they can see the prize in front of them. I agree that the team that trades for Heyward and/or Upton would want to be sure it could extend them, but those things can be worked out as a condition of consummating the trade if the player is amenable.

  35. Would you guys trade a year and a half of Heyward for a year and a half of some stud pitcher? Jon Lester or something like that?

  36. The other factor is Wren’s job security, which might not necessarily be a sure thing if we struggle next year (and don’t pull ourselves out of our current malaise this year). This team was put together with the point of contending for the World Series in 2013-2015. If we don’t make more out of these three seasons, does Wren get to preside over a new reclamation? Or does a new GM have a chance to his feet wet prior to the move to Cobb? If Wren believes he’s on the hot seat, his mandate is to win now.

  37. Sansho,

    I don’t believe Wren’s job security is based on contending for the World Series. I think it’s based on being “competitive,” ie, that the team has a chance to make the playoffs and maybe go to the World Series. I think as long as the team can win 85-90 games and compete and attendence doesn’t tank, Wren is safe. I don’t think Liberty Media really cares if the Braves win the World Series and I assume JS would not dump him unless the team really goes in the tank. This isn’t a team with an aging owner hungering for a championship.

    I think Wren will not panic because the he doesn’t need to. He isn’t working for George Steinbrenner. The Braves are having a bad year and a lot of things have gone wrong but it’s hard for me to see them not at least being competitive for the playoffs over the next few years. Now, that’s not a very high standard but the point is I don’t think there is that much pressure on him to win the World Series. If the team collapses, that’s obviously a different story.

    I believe he (and JS) will follow the same path they have been following: build around young pitching and defense, maybe tweak the offense some, and build an 85-win team that, if things go right, can do better. Maybe that changes after they move to the new stadium but not now.

    Look at last year; I don’t think that team was demonstrably better on paper (other than having Medlen) than this years, but it won 96 games. From the organization’s perspective, the system works even though it might not work this year.

  38. 38—Amen. Truly don’t care at all about this Braves season anymore. (Was already not caring much, even before the VandyBoys’ postseason run started.) That could change down the stretch, but probably not. Unless maybe the Derek Mason Era doesn’t start off as well as I’m expecting it to . . . .

    I was able to make it up for our first two games in Omaha, and it was a blast. (Hitched a ride on a private jet and watched the games from a suite down the first-base line . . . not bad.) Omaha was definitely a bucket-list thing for me.

    Awesome that you got to experience the ‘ship! Cloud nine.

  39. I think Jason Heyward is worth more to the Braves than he would net us in a trade anyway. He seems to be undervalued.

  40. Tonight’s lineup:

    BUpton
    Simmons
    Freeman
    Gattis
    Heyward
    JUpton
    Johnson
    Uggla
    Teheran

  41. Our most expensive lineup (except for Laird making more than Gattis), and yet it looks like a Sunday lineup….

  42. This might be the Fredi-est lineup possible. I mean, you know, you feel like, right here, that BJ can make stuff happen at the leadoff spot, and then, you know, right behind him you got Simba that can put the bat on the ball, then our big boys after that. Then, you know, at the bottom you think that Uggs loves to hit in this park and had a good game last time we were here…

    We’ll probably win 11-2.

  43. If LaStella works out and if we either replace or upgrade BJ, I think our hitting situation is decent. The Braves have relied on great pitching over the years and I think that’s what will keep us successful in the years ahead. We’re now relying on Harang and Santana, which is not ideal, but combined they are league average. If Minor works out his problems and Wood continues to shine along with Teheran, we will be a .500 plus team.

    Considering we’ve lost Beachy and Medlen for the year, I think organizationally we are in pretty good shape. No reason to blow things up, just hope we don’t suffer any more season ending injuries. How many other teams could lose 60% of their planned starting pitching and still be only one game out? Throw in Minor who has been injured and underperformed so far, that leaves only Teheran living up to preseason expectations.

  44. Gattis out with a right rhomboid spasm. Not sure what that is exactly, but you definitely don’t want it to spasm.

  45. Double plays are really helping

    While this team seems lackluster at the moment to me too, trading Upton/Heyward seems like a pretty low percentage play. The loss will be immediate and certain, in the field and in the seats, and any payoff far in the future, if then.

  46. I don’t know; I like Tom Hart but I don’t need to hear 6 anecdotes per half inning. I’m sure he’s probably wired but he needs to slow down and let things marinate a little bit.

  47. On the heels of Lucas Sims and Alex Wilson pitching a combined no hitter for the Lynchburg Hillcats last night, Cody Scarpetta pitched 7 no-hit innings tonight and Benino Pruneda just contributed another as that game goes into the 9th inning. That’s a cool story from the farm system.

  48. And Pruneda with another hitless inning! Back-to-back no hitters for the Lynchburg team. Lynchburg also had 12 hits tonight and scored 5 runs, so you know that team is feeling pretty good right now.

  49. Only Chip Caray could say the words “He’s gonna get there” as the centerfielder tracks a deep fly and make the first two words sounds like “It’s gone”.

  50. @80 I just started to post that exact same sentiment but see you beat me to it. The ninth inning was so much more relaxing when the automatic Kimbrel was around.

  51. Kimbrel has had problems with walking the leadoff man. It has cost him–most recently with McOut

  52. I did not get run out of here. I do, occasionally, work sometimes, so I have not had a chance to post.

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