Braves 2, Fish Inept—That Really Did Just Happen

Win, win, win. It gets boring after awhile.

Shelby Miller made his Braves debut and pitched 5 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4. His Marlins counterpart, Tom Koehler, matched him pitch for pitch and held the Braves to 3 hits and 3 walks over the first 6 innings. He, too, recorded 4 strikeouts.

Then the 7th inning happened. AJ Pierzynski did not get the memo that bunts, speed, and manufacturing runs is the BravesWayTM, and he killed a rally with no outs in the 7th inning with a dreaded long ball. He was hit in the back in his next at-bat, but he just glared at the pitcher and walked to 1st. I guess when you’re about the sweep a team in the opening series in their ballpark, you can afford to settle for a simple glare, even if you are AJ Pierzynski.

I hope someone notified the authorities, because Giancarlo Stanton absolutely ROBBED Freddie Freeman of a double in the 4th inning and doubled Nick Markakis, who had walked, off of 1st. Markakis would probably have come around and scored, so Stanton may have also robbed Shelby Miller of the win. In the bottom of the inning, Jace Peterson paid the Marlins back with some great defense, getting the third out of the inning with a nifty diving play. Actually, if you’re a fan of great defense, this game was made for you. Christian Yelich robbed Jace Peterson in the 3rd inning, and Marcell Ozuna got the Marlins out of the 9th inning by snagging a sinking liner that replay confirmed was caught.

Even though I don’t know who any of these pitchers in the bullpen are, I have sure enjoyed watching them dominate the hapless Fish. Brandon Cunniff pitched 1.2 perfect innings to pick up his first career win, Luis Avilan (who would have thought he’d be the lone bullpen holdover?) got an out and has looked pretty good in his first two appearances, and Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli were dominant enough in the final two innings that you can’t help but wonder if we could have been treated to O’Ventbrel 2.0 this season had things worked out a little differently (victory must go to my head; four straight wins and I might have the Braves winning the World Series this year).

Grilli threw 14 pitches—”13 strikes—in a perfect 9th to pick up his second save of the season. That was not a sentence I was expecting to type after the third game of the season. The Braves held the Marlins to 3 total runs in a three game sweep. That is also not a sentence I was expecting to type…probably ever this season.

Game oddities of note:
Shelby Miller drew a four-pitch walk in his first plate appearance, because why would you pitch to him?
Nick Markakis did not get an RBI tonight.
Jeff Francoeur hit a home run this year before any Braves player did. Now we see the real reason the Braves traded him.

The Braves head back to Atlanta for their home opener, when they take on the Mets on Friday at 7:35. That means we get two whole days to savor this sweep. It is so much nicer to be a Braves fan now than it was three days ago…

76 thoughts on “Braves 2, Fish Inept—That Really Did Just Happen”

  1. Apparently the Braves traded Victor Reyes for the 75th pick in the draft. This is crazy how many high picks the Braves have, and it’s just jaw-dropping to see the top 20 list too.

  2. Dear Edward,

    Shelby Miller looked pretty good tonight in terms of stuff, but he was a little erratic. He got into a couple of jams, the first of which was the dumb luck of infield singles, but he managed to pitch out of them. He could’ve been torched–there was a mistake pitch that Morse inexplicably took down the pipe with the bases loaded. A couple of white hot smashes found gloves, too. But that’s baseball, I guess. The fastball was lively–has a little run to it, and he got some swings and misses on it up in the zone. Is that the 4-seamer? I can never tell. The sinker was working a little bit, though I would’ve liked to see him go to it more. He seems to prefer it to lefties, and he got a couple of guys to pound it into the turf. Breaking ball looked ok, but he missed with it a few times when he tried to back door it.

  3. Even if we’re 0-3 at this point, I love the talent and draft picks that the Braves have accumulated over the last 6 months.

    3-0 is an unexpected first week surprise – – we’ll see how sustainable it is.

  4. Name one team that went 162-0 without playing ABC baseball. See, you can’t. I rest my case.

  5. Froze my ass off at Yankee Stadium tonight, but hit my MLB app just in time for the AJP homer & watched the Grilli 9th.

    Get it while it’s hot, guys, and while we’re at it, let’s beat up on the Mets.

  6. Maybe bigger than the sheer number of picks, is the amount of bonus pool money those numerous picks allow us to spend in the draft, as a whole.

    Astros $17,289,200
    Rockies $13,989,800
    D’backs $12,816,100
    Braves $10,684,100
    Rangers $9,099,900
    Yankees $7,885,000
    … (21 other teams) …
    Nats $4,102,700
    Padres $3,671,200
    Mets $3,587,800

    Having the 14th pick in the draft, yet having the 4th largest pool, reflects the ridiculous number of picks we have. But it also presents quite a bit of flexibility to pick some tough to sign kids and then go back to our standard bargain hunting in later rounds.

    (For those unaware, the bonus pool works like this: every pick you possess is given a “slot value,” and the sum of your slot values is your total bonus pool amount. More overall picks, or picks higher in the draft, give you more total money to spend on the whole draft. You are free to go over or come in under slot on individual picks, but your bonus pool amount is the maximum amount you can spend IN WHOLE on the draft, without facing sanctions. So if you want to, you can blow your whole wad on your first pick, drafting a talented kid who has threatened to go back to school, but then with the rest of your picks, you would have to come in under, in order to meet your budget. Or, you can over-draft some kids early, and go for a hard to sign kid in the 4th or 5th, but still have 1st round money to offer him.)

  7. @3 When I was watching Shelby Miller pitch, the old Bull Durham line “million dollar arm, five cent head” kept coming to mind – but I don’t think that’s exactly fair. Shelby ‘Mustang Sally’ Miller has excellent stuff – nice, live fastball especially – but he has trouble keeping his mechanics consistent. It’s frustrating to watch him dominate a couple hitters and then lose it all the sudden… it’s tempting to chalk that up to immaturity or lack of concentration, but I think I’m hard on ol’ Sally because he is clearly a fantastic athlete and I feel like he could do better.

    Also, Miller has an annoying face – ” rel=”nofollow”>a lot of resemblance to Jordan Schafer, IMO.

  8. Throwing five shutout innings is a nice start for Miller, and he handled Stanton, Yelich and Morse well. Not everyone can be as handsome as AAG.

  9. The youngest players on Class A rosters (MiLB.com)

    Braves LHP Ricardo Sanchez, Rome – Atlanta acquired Sanchez from the Angels for third baseman Kyle Kubitza this offseason and will push the Venezuelan to the full-season level right off the bat. Sanchez is the youngest player in the full-season Minor Leagues right now, as he doesn’t turn 18 until April 11. Sanchez has a promising fastball-curveball combination and struck out 43 in 38 2/3 Rookie-level Arizona League innings last year.

    Braves SS Ozhaino Albies, Rome – Albies proved too good for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014, hitting .381 in 19 games before getting a bump to Class A Short-Season Danville. He batted .356/.429/.452 in 38 games with the D-Braves, setting himself up to jump to full-season ball in 2015. Albies has drawn Jimmy Rollins comparisons from the Braves as a 5-foot-9 switch-hitter who can play shortstop.

    Braves OF Braxton Davidson, Rome – The eldest of Rome’s teenage trio, Davidson will turn 19 in June. Selected 32nd overall in the 2014 Draft, the 6-foot-2 outfielder had one of the most promising high school bats in last year’s Draft class. He posted mixed results in the GCL with a .243/.400/.324 slash line in 37 games, but could be a plus hitter with plus power if things click.

    I have a tentative plan to get to a few weekends in Rome this season…

  10. Three’s no crowd when it’s Peck, Hepburn, and Hutcheson.

    @3, 10 – Thanks, fellas.

  11. 9—Haven’t read the rules again in at least a year, but a couple of points to add:

    1) I think that total pool money figure is just for the first 10 rounds.

    2) For any guys drafted in the first ten rounds whom you don’t sign, you lose that slotted amount from your pool. So, there’s a real art to drafting a bunch of kids (HSers with no intention of going to school or college seniors with no leverage) in those first ten rounds whom you know you can sign, but sign for under the slot amount, giving you more money to throw at the two or three over-slot guys you take.

  12. There’s a sort of fallacy at the heart of that piece. There’s a difference between producing homegrown talent and drafting well — a difference of about 5 years.

    Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman both came up when Wren was GM, but were both drafted by Schuerholz. Likewise, Teheran: signed during the Schuerholz administration, debuted in the Wren administration. The late-period Schuerholz drafts and international signings left Wren with a farm that was very productive, but Wren didn’t do nearly as good a job filling it with future major league talent. Other than Wood, Simmons, and Gattis, Wren did not add nearly as much impact talent during his seven years at the helm.

  13. Yeah, Rosenthal’s article certainly makes some bad arguments and logical stretches in his attempt to make an argument against the necessity for the Braves’ rebuild. A couple of major things stuck out to me:

    1) Major strawman argument
    “the Braves justified their front-office overhaul and subsequent gutting of their major-league roster in part because they believed their system was not good enough.”

    Partially true, but very misleading. The Hart administration has traded away a lot of MLB talent because they determined that the major league roster was not sufficient to have a decent shot at winning, and there wasn’t enough talent on the farm to make up for the many deficiencies the 2015 Braves were facing. The fact that they weren’t going to be able to keep JHey and JUp after 2015 anyway also weighed in favor of going the rebuild route.

    2) Stupidity
    “Frankly, even the idea that the system had fallen into disarray is in the eye of the beholder. Baseball America ranked the Braves’ system 29th this season, but MLB.com’s Jim Callis rated it the third-most productive of the past five years.”

    Ummm, Ken, the way it works is that the Braves drafted and developed pretty well from, say, ’10 – ’12, and were able to promote a lot of MLB-quality talent, as noted by Jim Callis. *However*, that talent pipeline had largely dried up by 2015, leaving it pretty barren per Baseball America. The high and low farm rankings may both be true, and are not at all in conflict with each other once you consider the circumstances.

    3) Failure to Comprehend Objective
    Rosenthal states that the trades for Banuelos and Vizcaino aren’t looking good so far (but then he backpedals by saying it’s too early to tell much).

    The thing is, there’s a clear underlying strategy here for the Braves – in these smaller deals they are trading away players who generally fall under the category of fungible MLB assets or lower-ceiling players who are reasonably close to MLB readiness (Carpenter, Shreve, LaStella, Hale, Schlosser) in exchange for riskier, higher-ceiling players (Banuelos, Vizcaino, Briceno, Sanchez) who aren’t likely to contribute (if at all) for several seasons.

    4) Really Dude?
    “If the Braves had kept Hale, who began the season on the DL with a strained left oblique, they might not have needed to trade for right-hander Trevor Cahill, a move that will cost them $5.5 million but also helped land them the No. 75 pick in the draft”

    OK, seriously? Hale is not very good, and now hurt to boot. There’s very little chance that he becomes a quality MLB starter, and if he reaches his ceiling of ‘back end starter’ then it’s no great loss for the Braves, who are gambling on acquiring a ton of ace-quality arms in the hopes that enough will pan out to fill the rotation. If the Braves’ plan works out, there wouldn’t be room for Hale in the rotation anyway by 2017.

    Cahill is a calculated gamble – he has been quite good in the past, and the Braves’ scouts noticed that his stuff appeared to be much improved this Spring Training over recent years. He’s cheap for the Braves this year with two team option years to boot, so he may become a very valuable trade chip.

  14. Yeah. It’s not a bad frame for a column — the Braves have rapidly and radically overhauled their organization in both the majors and minors, so were their premises correct? The problem is just that the criticisms that he makes don’t really land.

    We’ve been over the case against the Braves’ offseason strategy, but it basically boils down to this:
    1) From 2007 to 2014, Frank Wren presided over (I think) the winningest team in baseball. It’s hard to do your job better than that.
    2) If the Braves had kept the roster intact, they would have had a decent chance at a wild card in 2015, and as we all know, the playoffs are a crapshoot.
    3) Rebuilds are extraordinarily tricky. Most prospects don’t pan out, and in the meantime, you’re losing a lot of revenue from all of the fans who stay away from your terrible team. This can lead to a spiral, in which the team feels that it has less flexibility to spend on expensive international free agents and tries to nickel-and-dime the draft.
    4) The Braves are owned by very very wealthy people who could have afforded to pony up for Jason Heyward and Justin Upton and who could have afforded to keep paying Craig Kimbrel.

    Obviously, we’ve been over all of the responses to each of those points, but those are I think the valid criticisms of the strategy; the draft criticism doesn’t stick, because the best players promoted during Wren’s tenure were added before his tenure and do nothing to burnish his drafting legacy. And you can’t pretend the farm at the end of 2014 wasn’t threadbare. Particularly after Graham’s injury and Sims’s struggles, the farm was in miserable shape. Quibble with everything else, but that much was clear.

  15. So if this team is miraculously in contention come late July, real contention not five games back for the second wild card, do you think they’d ‘buy’ a slugger?

  16. While we’re soaking in the glow of 3-0, it’s worth noting that even if/when the offense falls flat, it could be worse. It could be the Twins. Minny is the second team with a DH to be shut out in their two opening games (1977 expansion Mariners.) The Twins have not advanced a runner past 2B so far this year.

  17. Yes Dan, i think they will make a move in the mid to late season if they are in serious contention, they actually have the pieces to do so now.

  18. @22, According to Cot’s we’re sitting at $97 million right now. Tough to imagine the Braves taking on anything that adds very much to that total. But hell, no harm in contending before we cross that bridge.

  19. @22 We scored 2 runs in 2/3 games, it’s highly unrealistic to expect that will lead to 2 wins the majority of the time. I would not worry about this scenario. Johnson and Grilli at least look like they’ll fetch something at the trade deadline so there’s that.

  20. It hasn’t been so uncommon in recent years to see non contenders or fringey contenders actually upgrade their current major league rosters around the deadline.

  21. I think Hart and co are being very smart about the rebuild. I’ve quibbled with some of the trades, but more so because I thought the return wasn’t adequate, and that’s probably just homerism. Some of those quibbles, I’ve changed my mind on with reflection, such as the Cahill trade. All of this is very systematic and thoughtful, down to the acquisition of draft picks and international bonus pools. It may not work out, but I can’t say they weren’t careful and thoughtful about the strategy.

  22. As I’ve discussed with a couple of buddies, the acquisition of these extra draft picks and Hart’s recent comment that the Braves expect a “home run draft” this year have me quite excited to see what happens. Sounds like they’ve got a pretty specific plan.

  23. Dan @ 22,

    My take is that if they could get a good outfield bat that was lefthanded and overpaid with money coming back (think Ethier with a bounce back), they might do that. Let’s them play the lefty in place of Gomes.

    Could also see a righthander that can handle right field. I know everybody would stroke, but if Charlie Manuel helps Jeffy a little, he could sit Markakis 2 times a week to a good help.

  24. Geez…Harvey is a monster. Just put a clown suit on Harper. Stuff-wise, there really isn’t that much difference between he and Strasburg, but I view them as on completely different levels. Maybe it’s the demeanor; Harvey seems like he’s coming after you, and Strasburg like he’ll cry if you call him a mean name. Anyone else feel the same?

    If the rotation schedules play out, we’ll miss Harvey both Mets series in April, and we don’t play them again until June…so there’s that.

  25. I’ve come around on the technical merits of what Hart and co. have done over the off season (Markakis aside), but I think that it’s woefully ill-considered in the PR department. You can’t trade away three or four of your best and most likeable players and expect the general public to care about the team in the short term, and you risk alienating a generation in the long term. I’m a grownass man and almost quit the team over Heyward – I can imagine that a lot of less diehard kids will actually quit the team over Gattis and Kimbrel. They really really need to win in ’17 or the low quality/low attendance spiral will drag us into Pirates/Royals territory, and winning is far from guaranteed. Better farm systems than this one have turned into not all that much at the major league level. I’m hopeful and I’m on board, but I wish someone would acknowledge that fans were largely disregarded during the process, and a gamble is being taken that could result in decades of suck if it fails.

  26. 1. Will the Braves suffer a major, long-term loss of fans because of this off-season’s strategy? There are some easily identifiable metrics to judge this, like attendance and TV ratings. What would the test be? 15% decline in either category? Since you’re describing decades of fan loss, perhaps we need to see sustained evidence of a drop in attendance and ratings. So, attendance drops 15% sustained over the next 10 years . . . that’s not a bet I would make.

    2. Markakis . . . look, a huge part of his acquisition is an attempt to provide a stable team leader during this rebuild. One of his jobs is to make sure the team culture is on track as the new talent moves in. The people who don’t understand this aspect of his signing are the people who continue to be confused by it.

  27. Michael Cuddyer just lined a single over the head of a leaping Dan Uggla to score the first run on the game against Strasburg.

    Uggla and the Nationals deserve each other; they really do.

  28. An unexpected side effect of having low expectation for my team is that I take less pleasure in seeing the Mets bat around on Strasburg than I would have otherwise. Still quite pleasurable, however.

  29. @38

    It’s not a bet I would make because attendance was never exactly sky-high to begin with. They’ll get enough of an uptick from the new stadium, as well, where attendance probably won’t be an issue, or at least any more of an issue.

    I do agree with Pete though on the apparent lack of thought that if you do this and it fails, you could be really screwed. I feel like not enough thought is given to that among front-office execs in general, because they just figure that they’re smart and they won’t fall into the traps that have caused previous teams to go into a 10-year rebuild, but I’m sure the teams that had it happen to them didn’t think that it would. I’m not predicting that that will happen to us and if there’s competent ownership and management, they can keep it from happening….but it’s not like it’s not a possibility. We know we don’t have competent/involved ownership. Plans go bad sometimes. I don’t have confidence that if this one starts doing that, we’ll be able to pull out of it. And it will have happened because we just decided to blow up our team somewhat arbitrarily, given the fact that we were just re-signing everybody and settling in with the previous plan as recently as last offseason.

    But, I’m obviously pleasantly surprised that we’re 3-0 and just completely dismantled the apparently hapless Marlins in the opening series.

  30. In this division alone: Hamels, Harvey, Teheran, Scherzer, Zimmermann, and Fernandez are all better pitchers than Strasburg. DeGrom and Wood and Fister might also be. Strasburg is a good pitcher, but he’s no ace.

  31. @38

    I actually like the Markakis signing. I may be in the minority, but you need guys like him and Gomes on a team like this.

    This is clearly Freddy Freeman’s team now. He has to be the leader. But these two guys will take some of the load off of him and will actually teach him to be a better clubhouse leader.

    Really, last year’s team was void of a leader. Maybe it was Uggla until he was let go and no one stepped in. If you look back at the Braves all the way back to the 80’s you can point out the team leaders:
    Murphy, TP/Bream, Justice, Maddux/Glavine, Smoltz/Chipper, McCann/Hudson

  32. Strasburg is probably one of the 20 best pitchers in baseball. He basically falls into that narrow range between “#1 starter” and “ace.” He’s one of those classic examples of a really good player who is loathed by his fans because he isn’t better.

  33. Jurrjens, Hanson, Medlen, and Beachy could all be above average starters right now had their career trajectories not been cliff shaped. They weren’t just prospects–they all showed that they could be above average or even star pitchers at the MLB level. And then their arms imploded or they forgot how to pitch at 26 (Jair). We will maybe have to throw Minor in with that group. That’s a lot to deal with and keep contending. Sure Wren signed some bad players to atrocious contracts and didn’t draft well, but man alive, that’s a lot of bad luck with piching.

  34. Well, if that’s the case Kuroda, Fister, Iwakuma, Quintana, Anibal Sanchez, Weaver, Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Lohse, and Shields (above him)–not to mention Buerhle, Latos, Cobb, Peavy, Tillman, Colon, and Porcello (below him) are all roughly as good as Strasburg. Which seems just about right. Maybe that’s your definition of #1, but those guys aren’t aces. They’re just plain good pitchers, and none of them get the sort of adulation that Strasburg gets.

  35. @ 53 – It does recoup some of the value that is sunk cost of his salary.

    Also, if you’re looking for an indictment of Frank Wren, it’s a pretty damning one.

  36. Nothing against Markakis, but I wish we would’ve signed Prado to the Veteran Leadership position. Pretty much the same contract, positional flexibility, and getting to root for him would take away some of the sting of the off-season trades.

  37. Both Johnson and Grilli’s velos are trending upwards thus far, vs last year.

    The same way that I don’t think anybody out there actually argues, “If you can’t measure or quantify it, then it must not have an impact on the game,” I don’t think anybody out there disputes that there’s some value to clubhouse leadership, etc.

    The question for me is, is Markakis’ clubhouse leadership worth three years and $39.3 mil? That’s the difference between his contract and Nori Aoki’s.

  38. Yeah, Prado’s still on that four-year extension he signed right after he was traded to Arizona. He’s been dealt twice since then, so I’m wondering if he’s having second thoughts.

  39. I thought the Yanks could’ve used a versatile guy Prado this year, instead of giving so many ABs to Stephen Drew.

    But with a ticking-time-bomb rotation that includes Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia (and Nova, eventually), one assumes that getting Nathan Eovaldi afforded them some innings insurance.

    Still, so far, this looks like a pretty uninspiring club. And if Didi Gregorius keeps up his basepath follies—he’s making Daniel Murphy look like Ty Cobb—he’s going to have a pretty rough go of it this year.

  40. Weird, for some reason I thought he’d signed as a free agent. My bad. Still, I miss Prado.

  41. @58

    I don’t know what happened between Sefolosha and the police that caused his ankle to get broken. I’ve seen the video and still don’t know. Even if we assume it’s all their fault and he was just standing there minding his own business (which is not a great assumption), at the very least one has to wonder what possesses people to want to arrive in New York at what had to be 2 a.m. at the earliest (game in Atlanta had gotten finished at around 9:45 p.m. that night) with a game the next night and decide that the thing to do is go out to the club.

  42. @65 Here in NYC we depend on clueless looking-for-trouble 2 AM tourists. Entire slices of the workforce depend on them.

  43. So I watched opening day at a sports bar with no sound and then watched it today with my old man. Joe Simpson was really sippin’ on some haterade in regard to Andrelton’s performance. I know how Joe feels about hitting, but the level of contempt shining through was a little off putting.

  44. From 2007 to 2014, Frank Wren presided over (I think) the winningest team in baseball. It’s hard to do your job better than that.

    Somehow, I doubt the Johns will be able to make the same claim.

  45. If Wren had not been fired, I doubt he would have been able to either, going forward. Which is kind of the point.

  46. Because Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were going to be free agents, at the same time that he needed two quality starting pitchers, and there wasn’t enough money to pay for quality replacements for all 4, because he gave it all to BJ Upton, and there weren’t prospects enough to replace all 4, either through promotion or as trade chips, because he traded them sll for Justin Upton, and didn’t draft particularly well.

    We could have watched Jason and Justin for 1 more year, but that still wouldn’t have solved the pitching problem, for that year or the future. And that’s after that same roster WITH two roughly league average pitchers at the back end, played lousy baseball for the final 135 games. Then in 2016 there’d be no Justin or Jason, AND no pitching.

    Are we really still doing this?

  47. I’m not sure Dan and Tanto were around the first time. Tanto’s never even heard of the Bizarro Braves! Who are also 3-0, I’ve decided.

  48. @71: It looks like it needed to be blown up. Hanging onto fan favorites when more cost effective, similar options are available is certainly a method, but Hart obviously disagrees. I think we are going to be surprised that the team will survive without Heyward, JUpton, Gattis, and Kimbrel (the big 4). One may quibble with my use of the word “similar,” but I’m willing to forego some homers and a few MPH for where the team is now.

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