D-Backs: 9, Braves Bats: 8, Braves Bullpen: Bad; Very, Very Bad

In news potentially related to this game, David Carpenter was DFAed today by the Yankees. With the current state of the Braves bullpen, you have to imagine the Braves would at least think about bringing him back and seeing if a reunion with Roger McDowell can get him back on track. Buster Olney tweeted that the Dodgers may take a look at him for their pen, too, and I suddenly morphed into a nightmarish fantasy world in which such a move would automatically usher the Braves into the Division Series this year, where they would face the Dodgers. With the series on the line, the baseball gods would arrange a Carpenter/Uribe rematch, and this time Carpenter would strike Uribe out on three pitches and then head to the clubhouse to await a champagne frenzy. These are the Braves we root for—you know this is going to happen.

In game-related news, Freddie Freeman really loves hitting in Phoenix, but there are really no warm-fuzzies the Braves will be taking away from this city, which is disappointing considering they were coming off of splitting a four-game set with the defending World Champs. Because this is a “rebuilding” year, though, I am determined to focus only on the positives this team provides, because the negatives were supposed to be around the whole time (and, really, the Braves traded their entire bullpen, lost one reliever they were counting on to Tommy John surgery and two others to PED suspensions, so the team not having enough arms to cover all of that is not surprising in the least).

Therefore, without further ado, I present you the list of the positives from this game in their entirety:

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185 thoughts on “D-Backs: 9, Braves Bats: 8, Braves Bullpen: Bad; Very, Very Bad”

  1. Great list,’Rissa. You didn’t miss a thing. 4-6 is better than I’d hoped for on this trip.

  2. @2

    He got returned to the Red Sox. The Cubs claimed him, but then a physical revealed a torn flexor tendon. He’s out for the year.

  3. Remember in the offseason when people said Nori Aoki was basically the same player as Nick Markakis and could be had for half the cost?

    I checked out Aoki’s numbers today and yeah, for a scant $4 million he is outperforming our Greek god on the year.

    Not that it matters much right now, but it may come 2017.

  4. @4

    I had to curtail it when thunderstorms popped up. But even a little stroll helped (I had surgery on Sunday, am recovering at home, and the bullpen is not helping my mood).

  5. @7

    Hope you get to feeling better soon.

    Having a short memory always helps. Day off tomorrow. Back home on Friday. Go, Braves!

  6. Fwiw, Aoki is outperforming a lot of players that have higher salaries. He’s outperforming Markakis and Heyward. There are a lot of folks here who were ready to hand Heyward a $150mil + contract before he was traded. At least we didn’t sign Cano!

  7. Haven’t we exhausted the fact that Aoki wasn’t going to sign with the Atlanta Braves? It’s an example of the fact that every player can’t be obtained by every organization for the contract that player ultimately signed for. It’s not fantasy baseball. Guys don’t want to live, work, and play in each city that has a major league baseball team equally. When that occurs, they may decide to sign for less to play with a certain team. It’s like a Mets fan saying they should have gotten Chipper because he re-signed with Atlanta for less than market value. Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that he fits culturally in Atlanta, and he’s from Florida.

    Sorry for the rant.

    Is Mike Remlinger available? When can Moylan come back? Can we sign a retread 5th starter and put Folty/Perez in the pen? Is Rollie Fingers still alive? Who can we find that can get an out after the 6th inning? Sheesh.

  8. And whoever posted that a writer concluded that building the bullpen is the last step in the process of rebuilding was onto something. If we were truly rebuilding, when our traded-away bullpen blew a lead, I don’t think it would bother us as much. We’d just remember we suck, and move on towards 100 losses. But since we’re unexpectedly decent, the fact we don’t have a bullpen (and potentially a bullpen away from being a good team), these losses sting more than others.

  9. Or we could be the Padres who actually traded for Melvin Upton

    Btw, he’s hitting .297/.350/.351 at AAA. 11k’s in 37 AB

    We fleeced the Pads

  10. Maybin has a 106 OPS+. Melvin had a 108 OPS+ in his last year in Tampa Bay. So, yeah. Defensively about equal. One could argue Maybin has some better “intangibles” than Melvin. He at least seems to be less of a diva.

  11. @11, Aoki took less money to play for the Goants because of geography/their competitiveness. There’s nothing I’ve seen that says he would not have played for the Braves. Surely we could’ve beaten $13 mil (Aoki’s total with incentives maxed out), but we plain and simple way overvalued his intangibles/marketability.

  12. Adam, have you seen anything that says he wouldn’t have played for the other 28 teams? There’s also nothing that says that he chose the Giants over other options. The bottom line is that he chose to play for the Giants for reasons we could not have matched (geography, culture, competitiveness). And during a rebuilding phase, why would we have blown the Giants out of the water when he wasn’t a vital piece to our success? Markakis is from Georgia, wanted to play for the Braves, and Aoki didn’t. Sometimes it’s really that simple.

  13. @16, 17-The fact is we have no idea what Aoki would have told is agent if the Braves had offered him 5 million. People have a funny of way of tossing their preferences out of the window when a million dollars is staring back at them. Let alone two or four or eight. Or we could have offered additional years. The only thing we know for certain in all of this is that we absolutely could have “blown the Giants out of the water” and still done far less to jeopardize a rebuilding than we did by signing Markakis to three additional years and more than double the dollars per annum.

  14. Aoki surely would have played for the Braves if he received a decent offer. He was hoping that he too could experience the Braves serving egg rolls at his introductory press conference. And of course, there could have been the cool trip to Mississippi.

  15. @18, Yep, you definitely don’t have to explain it to me.

    If Markakis put butts in seats, it’d maybe be a different story.

  16. Because Nick Markakis is an Atlanta Brave.

    Edit: I was just being cheeky to be cheeky. I like ol’ Neck just fine.

  17. Then I suppose the question is if Aoki could have signed so inexpensively compared to Markakis, why wasn’t he? Did the Braves not know he was available, do they not have access to B-Ref, did they think Markakis was going to hit 30 HRs? There has to be an explanation if it was going to be so easy.

  18. @22 – cheeky indeed.

    No matter what all the various WARs say, Markakis has been a better player than Aoki. I guess all of the experts around here can argue the merits of his contract.

  19. This is infuriating Bobby Cox veteran love baseball.

    I know that the Braves picked up Gomes for clubhouse stuff as much or more than his skillz. But he cannot play the game anymore and it cost us this game. His misplay of Pollock’s line drive into first a single and then a double on his double clutch to second. Putting EY in after Gomes has already turned a leadoff out into a runner in SP is shutting the barn door, etc. He shouldn’t have been in the game. He shouldn’t be on the roster. I am completely serious when I say that he is a defensive downgrade in LF from El Oso Blanco.

    He’s got an OPS of .614.

  20. I think the Braves believe their fans to be total rubes who don’t know one gold glover from another. Maybe a more charitable way of putting it is that Markakis is supposed to be more marketable and, legitimately, better for the clubhouse than Aoki.

    And at the time, I think the signing was supposed to look like a feint, as if we might hold onto Jupton and still try to contend even after trading Heyward.

    Nobody was fooled. We don’t know what the next biggest offer for Markakis’ services was either, but based on the uniform perplexity in baseball surrounding our offer, we were bidding against ourselves.

  21. @25 – I am afraid you are right. We’ve been playing over our talent level for most of the season.

  22. You know we can talk about the 2014 strikeout offense v. the 2015 in-play offense all day…

    But I don’t think that’s really the key difference.

    Last year through 54 games the Braves were the second-worst offensive team in the majors. (Despite the offense, they had a winning record because of an unbelievable two months of pitching.) Yes, they were striking out a lot, but three of our high strikeout players–Freeman, Justin Upton, Gattis–were hitting well. A fourth (Heyward) wasn’t hitting well, but wasn’t embarrassing himself either.

    Gertrude Stein interjection: Simmons was Simmons was Simmons was Simmons was Simmons.

    The last 3 lineup spots were filled by unplayable hitters. Chris Johnson was .258/.277/.338, and had grounded into 10 double plays. Mudge was .211/.288/.341 with 63 strikeouts. Dan Uggla, already on his way out the door but not all the way gone yet, was his own special blend of all-around awful, backing up his notoriously lousy glove with a .175/.252/.254 batting line.

    We didn’t have anyone on the bench really capable of replacing the bad players, nor anyone who could fill in well enough when one of the good players needed a rest.

    Not having a strikeout-heavy offense does make a difference, but it’s a small difference. Not filling a line-up with utterly miserable hitters is the difference in our 2015 runs total.

    Citing the lack of strikeouts for the difference is like saying our bullpen is bad this year because they aren’t keeping the ball on the ground enough. The problem is much more essential than that.

  23. I missed the game yesterday but did look at the box score. Was there a reason Gomes pinch hit for Cunningham who was 2 for 2 at the time? Please don’t tell me that it was because there was a left handed pitcher up because Cunningham is a switch hitter and that would be the dumbest move ever considering the pitcher was due a couple batters later and you lose a better glove in the OF.

  24. In regards to Markakis, I think it’d be a healthier discussion to point toward to his projected 3 WAR, which is a value of 22 million, double what Braves are actually paying him.

  25. @32

    That’s right. The Braves signed a good player for a reasonable amount of money. The fourth year seems a little reckless, and damn I wish he could shag flies better, but we aren’t talking about a snafu.

  26. @30 – This is going to shock you but I agree.
    Offense only:
    LF – downgrade, big downgrade.
    CF – upgrade, big upgrade
    RF – even, upgrade maybe?
    3B – upgrade
    SS – Simmons is hitting better, upgrade.
    2b – big upgrade
    1B – never a problem
    C – downgrade
    Bench – upgrade. Yup, not playing 3 awful below league average players will do wonders for your offense.

    I know this smacks of hope. I’ll get over it. But here’s hoping that Julio finds it, Alex keeps it, Shelby stays hot and Folty and both Williams’ keep it up. Cuz the bullpen flat out sucks.

  27. @32,@33–I don’t dislike Markakis as a player. Far from it. As I said a few weeks ago, after seeing him in person for two of the three games against the Jays, I think he’s probably the best singles hitter this team has had for as far back as I can remember. But just as his offensive numbers suggest, he looks to be aging rapidly in the field–he has no range at all anymore and he plays balls close to the wall like he’s trying to avoid hurting himself. Both fangraphs and bref rate him as a liability with the glove, and it is an absolute 100% certainty that those skills will continue to erode.

    A three WAR season would be great, but according to bRef he is on pace to be a sub 2 WAR player, and criticism of the deal has always been about years 3 and 4.

  28. Remember when Evan Gattis opened the season by striking 50 straight times, or something like that? He’s managed to pull his OPS all the way up above .750, and check out the last 15 games: 58AB, 5HR, 15RBI, .345AVG, .387 OBP, .741SLG. I suppose it is unrealistic to hope he keeps it up through October, and finishes up by hitting 10 homers off the Cardinals, Dodgers, Nationals, or Giants in a four game sweep.

  29. I don’t think it’s so simple as “we suck”. Our offense is average, and I don’t think anybody is playing over his head anymore (which was true when AJP was hitting .500 and Callaspo looked like 1991 Terry Pendleton).

    Our starting pitching is above average now that we’ve cast Stults and Cahill out of the rotation in favor of three better pitchers.

    Our bullpen is simply the worst it’s been since Joe Boever was our closer. We gave away 3 games on this trip that we should’ve won due to incompetent relief pitching (though a couple of those might’ve been spared with better decision-making by the Frediot)

  30. As Markakis continues to decline defensively, if he continues to have a .307/.392 BA/OBP and can hit just a little more power, perhaps the Braves can trade him to an AL team who is looking for a DH/1B. Obviously not enough power for a 1B, but teams are playing worse overall.

    @30,34

    Completely agree that removing three sub-zero players from the lineup is clearly catapulting the offense. It’s a chicken-and-egg deal, sure, but I do think that part of the reason the team is “excelling” offensively is because they’re making consistent contact. Obviously no data to back it up, but my eyes tell me (and perhaps the results of successful teams) that a team that doesn’t consistently strike out and GIDP can have more, what’s the word, cohesion than a team that strikes out, GIDP, walks and hits home runs. Once again, no data to back it up, but hitting is contagious and if the team consistently laces singles and doubles all over the field, it brings confidence to the team that they’re never out of the game.

  31. As far as I can tell, this is a semi-decent team that could pull itself into the race for the second wild card on the high end (similar to the 2009 team which wasn’t great but hung around and wasn’t eliminated until the last weekend of the season)…except for one notable caveat, and that’s obviously that we have about as bad of a middle relief corps as it is possible for a Major League team to have.

    As John pointed out, the bullpen is directly responsible for three losses on a 4-6 road trip. In addition, it was almost directly responsible for a fourth loss before the offense (and some bad Giants defense) bailed them out in a big way. This simply cannot continue. I could see us collapsing down the stretch and losing 90 or more games simply because the rest of the team basically gives up, knowing that we can’t win any game in which our middle relief pitches, no matter how big the lead.

    Fortunately, it is possible to significantly restructure the bullpen on the fly for not much money. I really hope we do, too, because while we might not need a great bullpen right now (rebuilding mode and all), there’s a difference between a not-quite-ready-for-primetime bullpen and this. A Major League team cannot operate with a bullpen this bad, even if it’s not really going for a championship this year. It threatens to single-handedly turn an enjoyable team with good clubhouse chemistry into an unwatchable team with a clubhouse mutiny on its hands.

  32. I daresay Aoki is due for serious regression either way. He’s not as good as he’s played, so arguing about whether he should have been signed instead of or in addition to Markakis is like arguing over the weather.

  33. @42, ZIPs and Steamer projections don’t anticipate any regression.

    My original thing wasn’t that Aoki’s better than Markakis. He’s basically the same, probably a little worse than Markakis — and yet so much cheaper/so little commitment. With our payroll, we won’t be able to compete if we’re paying every FA exactly how much WAR they’re worth at the start of their contract, for too many years and into their declines.

  34. @42

    “With our payroll, we won’t be able to compete if we’re paying every FA exactly how much WAR they’re worth at the start of their contract, for too many years and into their declines.”

    This ^

    Aoki is just one example of a better deal than Markakis. Who knows, even if the Braves had come with 3/30 (his agent said he wanted a 3 year deal), he might’ve still turned it down to play in SF for one year. We can’t know with any certainty.

    It’s not that we should’ve made a harder push for Aoki in particular, just that his contract is a reminder of how unnecessary a commitment we made to Cakes.
    Baseball reference says Todd Cunningham is worth the same 0.6 WAR as Nick Markakis, even though he’s played 1/3 the games. It’s just not that hard to find 1-2 WAR players, and a team with our payroll constraints has no business committing 45 million dollars to one.

  35. Well we pretty much went full-rebuild (never go full-rebuild) except for the Markakis signing. It’s a head-scratcher for sure.

  36. I really don’t see why the Markakis signing is so hard to understand. It was to fill a hole, have a marketable player, and to give the perception that they haven’t waved the white flag completely (never go full-rebuild…). His agent probably knew that Atlanta needed to sign someone with some brand recognition and leveraged it into a 4-year deal. It doesn’t mean Atlanta gave out a bad contract; they got who they needed.

    For whoever said that the Braves were bidding against themselves, I’d really be interested to see how you know that. A 30-year old outfielder with an above average arm, above average OPS, and considered to be a good clubhouse presence is going to be attractive to more than just the Braves. Whether it or not they over-paid by one year, no years, $1M, $10M, or no million is an answer only Markakis and his agent know.

    Sheesh. Put it to rest.

  37. @43 – ‘It’s just not that hard to find 1-2 WAR players’

    Really? I think you would have a hard time backing that up with fact.

    @28 – ‘And at the time, I think the signing was supposed to look like a feint, as if we might hold onto Jupton and still try to contend even after trading Heyward.’

    I posited this theory a while back. Not the conspiracy feint theory. But the part about maybe wanting a real RF to go with Justin and what his face in the OF.
    edit: If a reasonable deal for Justin couldn’t be had.

    If that is the case then their may be less consternation about the deal.

    I get it that part of the fun of a baseball blog is to bitch incessantly about front office moves but dang, Markakis has been pretty good for us this year. And by and large I think our FO has done a pretty good job, considering the hand it had when they took over. We could actually contend as early as 2016 if all continues going the way its going now.

  38. The Markakis signing is one of the last things to complain about wrt the front office’s off-season performance, in my opinion anyway. I’m much more concerned about the inability to find a perfectly cromulent bullpen.

  39. @42 – Don’t all teams pay players well into their decline years? Some of them pay a lot of money into the decline years. Hell the Nats are going to be paying Sherzer when he is sitting on the porch drinking mint julips.

  40. Just look at the comps too:

    Nelson Cruz: 4/$57M
    Torrii Hunter: 1/$10.5M
    Alex Rios: 1/$11M
    Melky: 3/$42M
    Michael Cuddyer: 2/$21M
    Hanley Ramirez: 4/$88M
    Colby Rasmus: 1/$8M

    Of course, there were other outfielders signed last offseason, but those were the main players.

    When you look at the established market, you’d see that Markakis falls in line. Good gosh, Michael Cuddyer, a 36-year butcher left fielder with 190 ABs in 2014 gets 2/$21M? The Melk Man at $14M AAV? Aoki was clearly an outlier in the market who agreed to sign for a little less than what his perceived market value is. That suggests to me there was something going on behind the scenes that would make sense if we were to know it.

  41. @46,

    I figured someone would take me to task for saying it’s not hard to find 1-2 WAR players. I’m speaking relatively. MLB-level talent is very rare, but once you start combing through the MLB-level talent, there are lots more marginally good players than there are highly productive players.

    In 2014, there were exactly 220 batters who posted 1.0 rWAR or more.

    There were lots more players (100 or so) who had 0.3-1.0 WAR who had partial seasons due to being reserves or being injured. Then there were some unknown quantity of players at AAA who could’ve turned in a 1.0+ WAR season if only they could start for opportunity to play with a big league club. Guys like Todd Cunningham and Eury Perez are examples of this sort of marginally useful player.

    So yes, there are a few hundred players who, given the opportunity, could give you a WAR.

  42. I get it that part of the fun of a baseball blog is to bitch incessantly about front office moves but dang, Markakis has been pretty good for us this year.

    You know that nobody is complaining about this year, as far as Markakis goes.

    Don’t all teams pay players well into their decline years?

    I imagine there’s a direct relationship between how many of those kinds of players a team’s paying and how many games that team is losing. Some teams are able to spend their way out of those kinds of problems, but look at the Yankees now.

  43. Also, I think nobody would be complaining if we’d signed Cakes for 2/26. It’s the idea that we’re going to have $20 mil dead money from him and CJ (another marginal player) going into the 2017 season.

    But yes, some of those deals are worse en face. Hanley has produced -0.4 WAR for his 22 mil this season

  44. @50 The fallacy of your premise is that it’s based on WAR. The real question is ‘How many right fielders that could hit with power were on the market at the time of the Markakis signing?’ ‘Meeting that criteria, how many players are out there that carry themselves as true professionals that can positively affect what at some point in time will be a young clubhouse?’
    I get WAR. It is a fine attempt at making measuring a players performance fully objective. But it isn’t the end all and be all statistic. Its just one tool that some teams use when evaluating talent. The Braves have traditionally been a scouting first team. I’m not saying that they don’t use the new advanced statistics but I believe that eye ball mark one has as much or more to do with their talent evaluation process. I’d say that they’ve been pretty darn successful with that method.

  45. You’d think that as common as a 1-2 WAR player is that we could find a god dammed middle relief pitcher that is worth a damn.

  46. One thing about relief pitching is that replacement level is very high relative to other roster spots (higher win percentage). In other words, it’s supposed to be really easy to find competent relief pitching. Or the difference between great relievers and replacement relievers is much less than with other spots.

    This fangraphs article said that replacement level for NL relieves in 2008 was FIP of 4.45. Anyone know how to find what it was for last year?

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/pitcher-win-values-explained-part-three/

  47. Speaking of bad bullpen construction, James Russell, the guy we are paying 600K not to pitch for us, currently has a 1.6 ERA and a 245 ERA+ for the Cubs in 15 appearances. That might help just a little.

  48. Speaking of Hart’s pitching moves that might not look so good down the road, Chasen Shreve seems to be good at this relief pitching thing. You’d have to think he is a prohibitive favorite to finish with more career WAR than Banuelos at this point, despite the fact that Banuelos is 8 months younger, a former top prospect, and a starting pitcher. But Shreve has a headstart with an impressive 1.1 WAR in his first 35 IP.

  49. Aardsma is a pretty obvious upgrade over some of the crap we’ve been trotting out.

  50. Another David Carpenter deserves a shot. He has a sub 1 ERA at Gwinnett. And since they want to limit ManBan’s innings, why not give him a chance?

  51. Give me your retired, your poor, your befuddled Massets yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your waiver wire. Send these, the DFA’d, batting practice tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the bullpen door.

  52. With seemingly all the mediocre-to-decent pitchers not currently on major league rosters, I’m pretty confident the Braves will make a trade within the next day. It’s nice to have an off-day to make some deals on.

  53. Mississippi RHP Jake Brigham took a no-hitter into the 9th, before a lead-off double ended it. Mississippi lead 8-0 at the time and won 8-1.

  54. Their clear goal was to trade a lot of known quantities for a lot of lottery tickets. A lot of the players we got over the offseason may never realize their upside. But given that we’re in a clear rebuilding period, I agree with the general strategy.

  55. @72 – Pure prescience. Shreve has had an outstanding 12 innings in NY. You called it.

    Sarcasm aside, yeah we could use that performance in the bullpen now, but that trade wasn’t about now. Hart and company’s strategy of gathering as many starting pitchers as possible in the hope that one or two of them would eventually stick was the right thing to do. To get something you have to give something.

  56. We can’t get Aardsma, or Hank Aaron will no longer be the #1 player in Braves history.

  57. Did y’all catch the end of the Nats game last night? David Ross picks off the runner from first to end the game, with Rendon batting and the tying run on second. The only thing that would’ve made it sweeter was if that runner had been Harper.

    Still, I was surprised the commentators didn’t raise more of a fuss – the throw clearly beat him, but it looked like the runner got his hand in and the first baseman whiffed the tag. I had to go back and check to see that the Nats had already lost their challenge when Espinosa got (wrongly) called out at second by Joe West.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate the Nationals, but if that had happened to the Braves, I’d be livid. Replay’s supposed to fix this stuff.

  58. @78, I was at the game but left in the 7th, because the rain delayed it by two hours and I didn’t want to miss the last train home. If the replay was as you described it, then my guess is that replay wouldn’t have fixed it — that sounds like a classic case where the umpires would declare that the call “stands,” because the replay wasn’t definitive enough to overturn the call on the field.

  59. Braves are now rumored to be moving toward Brady Aiken at the 14th pick. Intriguing high upside pick, but risky.

  60. I guess you cannot have enough pitching. I want some hitters, but I bet that power hitting prospects are enjoying the same inflation in value that MLB hitters are right now.

  61. That’s why I’m glad we were able to trade Heyward for so much. He’s more of a punch-and-judy hitter than a real power threat, and it would suggest that we got value based on what the power hitters like Gattis and Upton were getting.

  62. @73, 75, etc. Stockpiling lottery tickets is a great idea, of course. But you could argue that Shreve is a lottery ticket that we’d already scratched off to find a winner–10th(?) round pick out of a no-name college turned into six years of a cost-controlled and potentially dominant left-handed reliever.

    Why is another lottery ticket, Banuelos, more valuable than that? Only because a dominant starting pitcher is far more valuable than a dominant reliever. But you still have to scratch off a winning ticket, and at this point it is actually more likely that Banuelos eventually helps this team not as a starter but as a reliever, in which case again the trade didn’t necessarily make sense. Even worse, is that the real cost of trading Shreve will also need to include the additional money (not a big deal) and prospects (possibly a big deal) Hart ends up giving up this season and next just to stop the bleeding.

    I fear that Hart is going to discover that Frank Wren made it look like building a strong bullpen is way easier than it really is–and in this era of pitch counts and lower scoring the value of that bullpen is increasing. Maybe we can hire Frank as a consultant or something.

  63. @84, I think it really boils down to this: the 2015 Braves notwithstanding, any time you have a chance to trade a potential middle reliever for a potential starter, I think you pretty much have to do it. Banuelos’s floor is not much lower than Shreve’s ceiling, and he’s younger than Shreve to boot.

  64. Another thing.

    In above article, Mariners designated Justin Ruggiano for assignment. He is owed 2. 5 mill this year. He is a better right handed side of an outfield platoon than Gomes (better fielder, better hitter).

  65. @84 A reliable starter who can give you 180+ IP with a decent ERA is worth gobs of money – relievers (aside from a few elite guys) are pretty fungible, and there’s tons of luck and skill and injury-based variability year to year in every team’s bullpen.

    The bullpen is the last thing a rebuilding team should focus on – they can come together quickly, and relatively cheaply. See, e.g., the Astros. It would be foolhardy and unnecessary for the Braves to mortgage their future or compromise long-term payroll flexibility for known bullpen upgrades at this stage – we should stay the course and keep trying out guys from the minors and cheap MLB pickups and see what sticks.

    Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the Braves’ history of developing pitching, but I have faith that we’ll be back to having a good bullpen within a year.

  66. Regarding Ruggiano vs. Gomes…

    The problem with Gomes is that he was signed to hit LHP and he’s on pace for 225 at-bats against RHP, which is beyond stupid. Furthermore, every time he starts against RHP, that takes away the best RHH option to face a LHP later in the game.

    If used right, Gomes is valuable.

  67. Small sample size alert: Gomes
    v Lefties in 36 PAs
    .296/.417/.444/.861

    v Righties 75 PAs
    .167/.200/.306/.506

    Dude should never bat against a righty.

  68. @86-Banuelos is only 8 months younger than Shreve, and I don’t see how you can argue that his floor is close to Shreve’s ceiling. The guy is no longer in the same category as a Wisler,Max Fried or Folty. Apart from the obvious health concerns, his floor is a guy who may never miss enough bats or have good enough control to stick in a big league rotation or even provide value in middle relief. He has a nice ERA in a small sample at AAA but that WHIP is nothing special–just look at all the guys we’ve tried from Gwinnett this year alone that had much shinier numbers than that and couldn’t get major league batters out.

    @89-I’m pretty sure that what this team is proving is that relief pitchers are not in fact fungible. If you want to have a good bullpen you need to develop and keep the right guys and make good free agent signings. Frank Wren was demonstrably good at both. Time will tell whether Hart is capable of the same.

    Mind you, I’m not arguing that the Banuelos trade was a big mistake–the fact that we had just signed a key Yankees scout suggests it was based on much better information than I have–I’m just pointing out that Shreve’s value is not obviously less than that of an aging, former top prospect, lottery ticket.

  69. Shreve’s ceiling is as a middle reliever. Banuelos, as a healthy left-handed starting prospect, has a ceiling as a starter, and a floor as a lefty reliever.

    And a guy who’s a 24-year-old in Triple-A is not “aging.” He had been overhyped when he was younger. Not the same thing.

  70. With the activation of Terdoslavich, the Braves have moved from 5 dead weight players to 4. Well…that’s progress, I guess!

  71. I don’t think you can say Hart has failed at building the bullpen when he was actively trying to dismantle the bullpen. Wait until he tries and fails to say he failed.

  72. By the same token, I don’t think Hart would’ve been OK with having MLB’s worst bullpen either.

  73. @98–Banuelos’ floor is not a lefty reliever. It’s AAA. He wasn’t overhyped. He used be a 19-year old with 98 MPH gas and decent breaking stuff. Now he’s 24 and throws 92.

  74. Manny Banuelos
    Comp: Johan Santana
    Why It Fits: Smallish lefties, best pitch is changeup
    Why It Doesn’t: Banuelos is primarily a fastball-changeup guy like Johan was once upon a time, but his third pitch is a curveball while Santana’s was a slider. Sliders are more effective against same side hitters while curves are a bit more universal, typically used against both righties and lefties regardless of the pitcher’s handedness. Secondly, Banuelos’ changeup isn’t as good as Johan’s. It just isn’t. Santana’s changeup is one of the best ever, and it’s a stretch to use that as a basis of comparison for anyone.

    http://riveraveblues.com/2012/01/forced-comps-montero-banuelos-betances-61740/

    Johan Santana comparisons for Banuelos were so common that Mike Axisa literally had to write a blog post to rebut it. Yankees prospects are frequently overhyped: see what happened to Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and worst of all, Jesus Montero. (Famously, the Yankees wouldn’t trade Kennedy, Hughes, or Chamberlain for Johan Santana, when the Twins were shopping him. That’s why he went to the Mets.)

    The difference between Banuelos and Shreve is that Shreve never had any of those expectations to begin with. Banuelos is still pitching well in the minor leagues, at an age at which most non-phenom prospects are still in the minors. But again, none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that he is a starting pitcher, and Shreve is not. Trading a reliever for a starter is something you should do pretty much every chance you get.

  75. here’s my problem with the Shreve/Banuelos discussion both then (jan 1st) and now. They’re completely devoid of nuance.

    At the time I said I thought we’d miss Shreve, which is already true. Lots of you guys responded with maxims, e.g.: “any time you have a chance to trade a reliever for a potential starter you do it”

    Surely it’s more complicated than that. Besides which, my only point was that it wasn’t some sort of coup because Shreve had significant value to us for a potentially long time. Is that so contentious?

    The claim that shreve’s ceiling is Banuelos floor is disingenuous, as is the claim that shreve’s ceiling is a middle reliever. He’s already a major league middle reliever. His ceiling is a decent but not dominant major league closer. Banuelos floor is a career minor leaguer. It is certainly true he has a chance to be something shreve can never be, and for that reason, the trade was reasonable and fair–it makes sense. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have made it, but I don’t think its some sort of unequivocal home run and we fleeced the yanks.

  76. Game starting at 7:35: what more could be better? Ten pitch first innings don’t hurt either. Score more runs tonight than you allow, team.

  77. *Maybin barely beats the throw at second.*

    Chip: Throw WAY LATE. Never had a chance to get him.

  78. Hope we’re not watching our starting pitchers tonight turn into pumpkins.

  79. Don just tried to talk over Powell during that sac fly and throw to the plate. SMH

  80. Fairly off-topic, but does anybody have any clue why in the hell Will Smith got his suspension reduced to six games while the Orioles pitcher who got caught later that week had his suspension stay at eight games for the exact same thing?

  81. We can blow leads in the middle innings too. Throw strikes, Williams. It might not be too late.

  82. For all practical purposes, the bullpen ensures that we’re down two runs at the start of every game. So find a rally cap and hope for a comeback from a 6-4 deficit.

  83. The game is tied after 5 innings and we are into the worst bullpen in baseball. We could lose by 5 runs pretty easily

  84. Good for Charlie Morton (being decent, that is). I watched him pitch a 1 hitter against the Bulls when I lived in Durham.

  85. Seriously, DFA the entire bullpen, claim some scrap-heap guys and start over. Every last one of the guys we have sucks and I’m ready to see other guys do just as bad.

  86. That’s an argument for having as few pitching changes as possible; when you bring in someone new out of the bullpen, you have a very high chance of stepping on a landmine.

  87. I realize this doesn’t matter that much but there wasn’t really a good reason to lift cuniff for Avilan. It’s not wise to pitch your guys 2 batters at a time when you’ve got 4 innings to go and only 3 good relievers

  88. Fredi continues to pull the wrong strings… I thought playing lefty vs lefty was a little early in the 6th inning but he is obviously way smarter than we are

  89. It’s never too early to despair and say good night. Good night, y’all. Surprise me in the morning.

  90. Who cares about match ups with our crappy bullpen. We had two outs and the pitcher coming up in the next inning. Cunniff should have never been taken out so a lefty could face a lefty which failed anyways. Its burning a pitcher when we do not need to do it.

  91. Fredi has managed unusually poorly over the last few games. He’s made astonishingly bad decisions even for him. It’s like not having the league’s best bullpen has exposed him even further for being the league’s worst in-game tactician

  92. I like how we’ve gone from admitting that it doesn’t matter that much but just tossing it out there to thinking it’s an “astonishingly bad decision” in the span of 45 seconds.

  93. You can make lousy choices with bad personnel, and you can blame both Fredi and the shoddy options in the ‘pen. It’s not one or the other.

  94. @143, thanks

    @142, yes, FREDI made a horrific decision but it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway in the outcome of this particular game. His decision to pinch gomes for Cunningham probably did directly cost us that game vs SF.

    He’s terrible. Face it. Your fierce allegiance to him would be kind of cute if it weren’t so psychotic.

  95. A woman was hit with a broken bat at the Red Sox game and has life threatening injuries. Awful scene and the game was stopped while she was being treated and carried off by stretcher.

    People have been asking for netting to protect fans. This awful situation may get it done. Hope she’s ok.

  96. Has Fredi been good this week? Definitely not. He’s grasping at straws and panicking a little bit rather than going with the the common sense thing because he has no idea what in the hell to do about his fuel-depot fire of a bullpen.

    However, this week has been 95 percent the bullpen’s fault. As bad as these guys have been, you have to assume we lose all three of these games even if he leaves Martin in on Tuesday, doesn’t switch out Gomes for Cunningham or whatever it was on Wednesday, and leaves Cunniff in this game. We pull one of the three out of the fire with super-awesome decision-making at the absolute most. And that’s being pretty over-the-top optimistic about it.

  97. @146, this type of (non) thinking is typical around here. It goes something like this: because Fredi is not the majority of the reason we aren’t very good, we shouldn’t talk about how bad he is.

    You’d never apply this same (il)logic to a player. For example, “BJ Upton isn’t the reason we didnt make the playoffs, so don’t criticize him!” While it’s true that BJ didn’t cost us the playoffs by his lonesome, you’d have to be a delusional BJ fanboy to actually say we should ignore his execrable play because of that.

  98. I don’t remember Bobby Cox making in-game decisions that people on Braves Journal liked. He did pretty well anyway.

  99. I don’t recall saying we should ignore anything. However, if after every time B.J. swung through a pitch for Strike 1, you made three comments in a row about what a bum B.J. Upton is, it might begin to be a bit grating.

  100. It’s comforting to know that through it all, Cahill still sucks.

  101. So Cunniff gets 2 batters out and then gets yanked, but then Cahill gets to stay in and keep giving up BP

  102. This literally might be the worst pen we’ve ever had, at least since I was old enough to enjoy the Barves.

  103. Interesting

    @keithlaw: According to @baseball_ref, so far Yasmany Tomas has been a .331/.368/.412 replacement-level player.

  104. @158

    There is literally no chance that this isn’t the worst bullpen we’ve had since at least the 80s. There was a year in the mid-2000s where we would’ve won the division if we’d had a competent bullpen (the year we made the trade for Teixeira) and I would love to have that year’s bullpen back right now.

  105. @160

    Peanut just tweeted a stat that the ‘pen’s ERA is at 5.01; the last ATL ‘pen ERA at 5.00 or worse was in 1990.

  106. Clearly we should go into the stands and sign Michael Keaton to pitch for us this inning. Would be a hell of a lot more entertaining than whoever the hell we’re about to shove out there and he certainly couldn’t pitch any worse.

    EDIT: Oh good, it’s Masset. Definitely would rather have Keaton.

  107. I think we have a new strategy. Everybody should throw their gloves at the ball as it’s rocketing over their heads. Maybe somebody can succeed in knocking it down and giving them three bases instead of four. And there’s always the possibility that, like in that situation, the umpires will be too chicken to actually give them the three bases.

  108. The more I watch our bullpen pitch, the more I actually feel sorry for Fredi. No, he doesn’t make the best in game decisions, but I truly believe that no coach would look competent with pitching decisions with the state of our current bullpen.

  109. In 1990 Joe Boever was our closer. That bullpen was probably worse than this one.

    Boever had a palm ball as I remember that he lost his feel for that season.

  110. With an even close to passable bullpen, we’d be on a six-game winning streak right now and beginning to seriously contemplate wild-card possibilities.

  111. @157, the important thing to note is that the REASON Cahill got to stay in was expressly that Cuniff got yanked. This is exactly why the BP usage in the 6th was so brain dead. Oops I’m sorry, we’re not very good so Fredi shouldn’t be criticized!

  112. @178

    As the undisputed champion of the straw man argument, you should know.

    UPDATE: And you provide a particularly great example on cue.

  113. @151, your argument is this:

    Bobby Cox wasn’t very good at in game decisions.

    Bobby Cox is a historically great manager in spite of that.

    Fredi Gonzalez isn’t very good at in game decisions.

    Therefore, Fredi Gonzalez is a great manager.

    QED

  114. @181, also not helpful since it’s just not true. You’re not good at argumentation and you reason emotionally, often due to some emotional attachment to fredi. No biggie. No guy ever got tail bc of his arguing skills. Just embrace it.

  115. @184, right I’m probably just hopelessly ignorant, and you actually have a stunning intellect

    To be less sarcastic, clearly I know what it is but disagree about whether I’ve made one. Just show me which one is a strawman. I might agree.

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