BRAVES WILL NOT LOSE 100 (by coop)

The final week of the Braves 2015 season will be spent at home. Fans are ready for the season to end. The Braves are ready for the season to end. Both Braves fans and players know the season ended long before the last out in the 162nd game will be recorded, so I have only one question about 2015:

WHY HASN’T Freddie Freeman BEEN SHUT DOWN FOR THE YEAR?

There were bright spots in 2015– not many, but some. With faith in the direction we’re headed, hope that THE PLAN succeeds, and belief that the Johns know what they’re doing, I humbly submit that next year’s team will be better. Here’s why.

  1. Pen

    The bullpen will be better. Jason Grilli’s injury will turn out to be a blessing because it allowed Arodys Vizcaino to pitch high leverage innings. Viz was not the Kraken, but he was competent. Whether he is cast as the closer or primary set up reliever, the experience will be beneficial. The rest of next year’s pen spent a large portion of the season on the disabled list. These pitchers may struggle initially. When the parts combine, the whole will be one of the team’s strengths.

  2. Rotation

    Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran will be better. Shelby will win more than five games in 2016, and Julio will be the second half version we saw this year. The kids will battle for the last two slots in the rotation, and the Braves will obtain a top of the rotation starter, more likely through trade than by signing a free agent. Our rotation won’t be as top heavy as the 2015 Dodgers or as ballyhooed as the 2015 Mets, but our new number one will deepen the staff and make everyone better. Chris Sale would be nice. So would David Price or Zack Greinke.

    Acts 2:17: “Young men have visions. Old men dream dreams.” I dream.

  3. Lineup

    Both defense and offense will improve. Freddie Freeman will heal during the offseason. Perhaps Adonis Garcia will be an everyday leftfielder and Hector Olivera remember how to catch the ball at third. Olivera could end in left. If Adonis can’t cut it, I’d rather see Nick Markakis moved there than Hector. Neck’s no longer a gold glove right fielder, but his range may improve through his continued rehab; and — bold prediction — he will be a better hitter in 2016 with more power. If Neck plays left, Hector could play second, with Jace Peterson or Daniel Castro becoming a latter day Martin Prado and the Braves finding a real third baseman. You gotta believe.

    If Nick moves to left, we could bring Jason Heyward back. I don’t think he’s a $20 million a year player, but I’m in the minority on Braves Journal. I wouldn’t give him that, but I would give him $15-18 million annually for six to eight years.

    Failing a JayHey reunion, there are options through trade or free agency. I’d prefer a left-handed bat over a 31 year old Alex Gordon, but I’d take either Gordon or JayHey and smile.

    Given my druthers, I’d druther have Heyward.

    We have to get a catcher. Christian Bethancourt is young and might show improvement in the spring, if he lasts that long. If he’s still here come spring and doesn’t convert his vaunted potential into production, he’s gone.

    A.J. Pierzynski produced better than I thought possible in 2015. To expect him to duplicate this year is, to quote Sam and others, wish casting. At best, AJP’s a solid backup and a steady bat off the bench. Maybe Matt Wieters gives us a hometown discount. He’s not Buster Posey (still out), but anybody, including Smitty’s barber, would be better than this year’s Betty. We will have at least one new catcher in 2016, and he will provide better defense and at least as much offense as last year’s backstops not named AJP.

  4. Management

    Fredi Gonzalez is on a short leash. Big John says we won’t suffer through another season like this one. Big John is blame adverse, and the leader of a series of consecutive second half collapses is a good scapegoat. At the least Schuerholz’ statement put Fredi on notice.

I spent the afternoon chopping this fire wood. I’m eager to light the stove. Please indulge an old dreamer. What must we do to challenge the Mutts and Folders in 2016?

The Braves played an utterly meaningless game against the Nats tonight. We won, but it didn’t matter. Matt Wisler stifled the Natspos, even with chokemeister Papelbon on leave without pay, through five. Meanwhile, our Braves were less than usually futile at the plate. Tanner Roark matched Wisler pitch for pitch until AJP mightily smote a two out home run in the fourth to give the Bravos a one-zip lead. A.J. had hits in his first two at bats and constituted the bulk of the Braves attack. (Guilty pleasure: I like A. J. Pierzynski. I hope he comes back, just not as the starter.)

Alas, Trea Turner hit his first big league home run leading off the Nats sixth. Game’s tied at one, but Matt rebounded to fan MVP-elect Bryce Harper and hopefully has-been Jason Werth before inducing an inning ending groundout. Through six, Matt limited the anointed champions to one run on four hits, and Fredi let him hit for himself to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Fredi’s our manager, and managers manage. That’s what they do.

Wisler walked Ian Desmond leading off the seventh. Despite the “I told you so” on the tip of my tongue, Matt escaped. Huh! When did Fredi get smart? Now get the kid a run, Braves.

Woo-hoo! AJP one more time again! Who is this guy? Home run A.J! Braves lead 2-1.

Matty’s still in to start the eighth. Fredi’s a lunatic again. Uh-oh, here we go again: runner on first, no outs. Only now does the team idiot go to the pen. Will Fredi’s lunacy cost Wisler a hard earned win? Bet on it: Edwin Jackson’s in to blow, er, protect Matt’s lead.

Can of corn to center for the first out. So far, so good, but …

Jackson walks Rendon. Harper’s up with runners on first and second. Miracles happen: Brycie grounds into a double play. Take that, MVP. I’m sorry I doubted you, Edwin.

A little insurance wouldn’t hurt, but AJP’s not due this inning. Alas, nothing doing.

Top of the ninth: if we win, we can’t lose 100; but there’s three more outs to get. Arodys Vizcaino gets another of those pressure innings.

Jason Werth singles to left. Clint Robinson’s up. Single to left. Nats go station to station. Ian Desmond sacrifices into a 2-5-3 double play. Lol Natspos.

Den Dekker stands between Arodys and the save. Strike out. Braves win.

Wisler was great; AJP better.

Wait ’til next year!

55 thoughts on “BRAVES WILL NOT LOSE 100 (by coop)”

  1. Thank you very much, coop. A fun read. I want to feel just as optimistic. It will get better next year. It will get better next year.

  2. Thanks, blazon. Not quite iambic pentameter, but heartfelt.

    How about a riff on The Goodly Fere to celebrate the win? You’re the Braves Journal poet laureate, and I know you’re up to it.

    Yeats would do nicely too.

  3. Thanks coop.

    I honestly have never liked JS much, and this interview doesn’t make the feeling better or worse. I believe Mac was never a big fan of JS either….or am I wrong?

  4. Yes, the Schuerholz article was a whole lot of smoke blowing, but it was also encouraging that the Braves will be spending in 2016, a year where there’s a ton of impact free agents. I’d still take Shark, Gordon, and AJ.

  5. @10
    FIP is 0.7 points below
    HR/9 is up (pitches in hitters park)
    K/9 are down, yet velo is same (mechanical adjustment?)

    He has simply been destroyed for stretches, but has also been brilliant for stretches. I’d take a gamble on him.

  6. Can’t we just do our usual thing and fleece the DBacks? They seem to want to make their outfield worse.

    If the price is right, I’d like to see if David Peralta is a fluke. Or Ender Inciarte. Whichever.

  7. Mac’s relationship with Schuerholz was complex — he did a lot of good things but had a lot of blind spots, including the inexcusable drafting of his own son in the 8th round (!!!), which was an overdraft by about 10 or 20 rounds. It was one of the more egregious examples of hurting yourself through nepotism that you’ll ever see: there are a lot of real athletes available in the 8th round.

    JS is a really smart guy, but he has a few ironclad beliefs: he doesn’t think he should have to pay full price, and he doesn’t particularly think that you should question his judgment.

  8. If Samardzija can be had for a song, I’d be very happy to take a flier. He’s been overrated most of his career — in retrospect, he probably wasn’t worth Addison Russell, and in all, he’s a 30-year-old right-hander who’s been in the league for eight years and who has had precisely two league-average years as a starter. His career ERA+ is 96.

    That said, if the bloom is all the way off the rose, there’s actually a reasonable amount to like. He still has the huge fastball, and he still has a relatively young arm for his age, as he only has 991 career innings pitched. (By comparison, through C.C. Sabathia’s age 30 season, he had 2364 innings pitched.) So the fastball is likely to age a lot more gracefully.

    I’m just not sure how the market for him will develop. If he can be had for Derek Lowe money — 4 years, $60 million — I’d take him.

  9. The problem with Samardzija is that the reasonable amount that there is to like is more than outweighed by the fact that the guy is a total moron. Hence the career ERA+ of 96.

  10. I’m totally fine with signing a veteran #4 starter to pitch behind Miller/Teheran/Wisler in 2016, but I don’t want to obligate over 10% of our 2017 payroll to that same pitcher. I just can’t abide paying $15 million for Shark when we have such a limited payroll and such a dearth of star talent. There are lots of fringy vets who can be had on 1-year deals–guys like Harang, Wandy, AJP, KJ. There is no need to pay huge dollars for a below-average player when you’re a mid-market team.

  11. @15
    I was thinking about 15MM per year as well, but was wondering if he’ll want a 1 year contract to rebuild his value. If so, I wonder if he’ll get offered a QO,and if so, will he take it?

    There is a reason Samardzija is/was overrated, and it’s for the same reason many think Jason Heyward is overrated. The tools are there it’s just about making them show up.

  12. @17 – Exactly. Being a mid-market team, we can afford a Cahill type catastrophe but, we can’t afford a bigger gamble, at least not at this stage of our development curve.

  13. A lot more of those guys turn out like Stults than Harang. I think Samardzija is a good buy-low candidate, as long as he can be bought low. After his 2014, he was looking like he was in line for some Homer Bailey-style stupid money. That’s definitely off the table now. Depending on how far his value has tumbled, he might be an interesting guy to go after. But the Braves need to stop pretending that they’re poor. They just took a couple of hundred million dollars of the taxpayers’ money and they’re in one of the biggest media markets in the country (as the Braves radio network is only too happy to remind me every time I listen on the MLB app).

  14. @6..

    coop..the trouble with being half educated, an affliction i’m convinced bears on most of us, is the gaps. Huge gaps. In my case Pound, not a line. I had to google Goodly Fere to know he wrote it.

    And Yeats even, just a few, but goodness they resonate still. Look at our current crop of presidential wannabees (both sides, Alex!)- you couldn’t write anything better, more like them, more relevant, almost a hundred years later..we all know these lines

    ‘ The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.’

    and front office shenanigans…

    ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;’

    yes indeed they do.

    ‘Surely some revelation is at hand;’

    unfortunately not.

    to finish with a heads up…there is a plan afoot to challenge allcomers to a Chaucer parody…why him? Shelby of course. The Millers Tale. In ye olde worlde english. Go to it, cheers.

  15. Just ended a conference call for season ticket holders with John Hart. A couple of quotes for you to enjoy?

    “They finally found what was wrong with his shoulder” – about Mike Minor
    “We are going to be competitive next year”
    “We are going to jump the bullpen hard”
    “We’re going to play hard in the free agent market and probably less so on the trade market”
    “It’s probably not going to be that sure bet, big money bat” – about left field
    “We might look at a platoon in left field”
    “Do we give him the bulk of the playing time?” – about Betty as catcher
    “I think Shae is a guy we will be able to count on May 1”
    “In April he will be on an innings limit… 100-120 regardless of where he is playing” – about Max Fried
    “We don’t have those close to ready mid-order bats. What we do have is a close to ready lead-off hitter” – about hitters in the pipeline and Mallex Smith.
    “I think Ozzie is a perfect #2 hitter… again, not a power hitter”
    “As far as a power bat … Austin Riley … also Dustin Peterson”
    “Not as loaded with bats in the upper levels but we have some in the lower levels we like”
    “We are more likely to go after bats in the FA market than pitchers”

  16. @25

    alex…thought i could slip it past you, bi lateral you know…my god, you’re already miles in the lead in the Chaucer stakes judging by that. I need some special software methinks.

    @24..

    Hap…most illuminating, great job, thank you…pray tell, do you have a prodigious memory or did you somehow record the call? Is this a Snowden type situation?

  17. @19, People think Jason Heyward is overrated because they don’t agree that his skills are nearly as valuable as WAR suggests. Which is a legitimate (if in my view mistaken) position. He’s a 6 win player in 2015. He was a 6 win player in 2014. Folks will say that’s wrong, that he’s really something like a 4 win player or a 3 win player–but he’s a legitimately good baseball player in anyone’s eyes. Nobody has to guess whether he’s going to put it together to be a worthwhile investment.

    Samardzija, on the other hand, is actually an unproven player. He might be great! But his track record doesn’t show it, and I think anything at a free agent price for longer than 1 year for a guy like that is not something our team can afford.

  18. Edward hasn’t Heyward played a ton of CF lately? That’s where he needs to be full-time imho. His value there is off-the-charts. He’ll get whatever money he wants.

  19. 9 games there in 2015 (7 starts), and the early returns say he’s done well defensively–although without nearly as much evidence as his years of excellence in right, it’s dicey to call him a good center fielder at this point.

    I get the sense that he’s not trying to be a center fielder, though? The Cardinals have had a lot of outfield injuries this year but John Jay, Peter Bourjos, Randall Grichuk, and Tommy Pham have all started at least 20 more times in center than Heyward, despite Heyward’s having played in 151 games so far. Meaning that the spot was probably there for him if they wanted it. So it might be a moot point. Matheny might be keeping him in right for his arm though, which is the best of the bunch on that team.

    But if he’s a center fielder now, goodbye wallet.

  20. “We are more likely to go after bats in the FA market than pitchers”

    NO! No, no, no, no, no! Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

  21. Blazon,
    I typed the quotes as he was saying them then when the call ended I hit “submit”. It was a little hard to decide whether the quote was worthy while trying to remember it fully and also keep listening to whatever was being said next. I did the best I could with it.

  22. Stu,
    John Hart seemed to be indicating FA=long (6+ years) contract and he felt doing that with a bat made more sense than with a pitcher. His point seemed to be a lot can go wrong with a pitcher over 6+ years and maybe it is less likely with a bat. I’m not defending his position, just clarifying the nature of the quote.

  23. I thought we were supposed to be able to turn some of the magic pitching beans we got in return for Upton Heyward etc. into middle of the order bats? Pitching may be the universal currency, but it seems like ours isn’t trading at par.

  24. It depends on age, I think. Most of the FA bats are 30. It seems like a lot went wrong with Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Jason Werth, and Robinson Cano, who were signed to their current deals around that age.

    Jason Heyward is a much better bet to be good in 6 years, which is exactly why I think if we’re going to sign someone, it should be him, even if he costs more than the older guys. If we sign Gordon, there’s a high chance we’ll be crippled by his contract by 2018.

    EDIT: Cano has actually caught fire after the AS break and has put up a respectable 3.3 WAR season. It’s still a significant decline in year 2 of the deal, though. We’ll see how he progresses

  25. David Price is other-worldly, and I can feel the Commodore tug, but I think the money is probably better put towards some FA hitters. They don’t need to be big deals, but 4 year deals for guys on the wrong side of 30 might not be a terrible deal for this team. It’s the 7 year deals for the same guys that give the idea a bad name.

    And Hart can say all he wants, but he probably has no idea how the offseason will go. If someone calls about Foltyniewicz, Wisler, Perez, Albies, or even down the line players like Fried or Allard, you can guarantee they’re going to become trade players. And let’s be honest, there’s probably a total of 3 people I wouldn’t trade, and Andrelton is not even on that list.

  26. We can try to sign the LF equivalent of Markakis, but the team is still going to suck horribly in 2016. There’s no quick fix.

  27. It is one hell of a story. It would be hard to fail more miserably than Matt Williams failed this year. But as bledsoe keeps reminding us, the story that doesn’t get written is about Mike Rizzo: the guy who upgraded areas he was strongest (the rotation with Scherzer; the bullpen with Papelbon), and paid little mind to the areas where he was weakest: the coaching staff, the manager, and the training staff, who continually sent injured players out onto the field.

  28. The linked piece actually does a pretty good job of pointing that out. Both Rizzo and the Lerners along with Williams get plenty of blame for the situation.

  29. They come in for some blame, yes — but the thrust of the story is about Williams losing the clubhouse, and the people who aren’t in the clubhouse are not in the story as much. Overall, Svrluga’s stories have been tremendous. But the vast majority of stories that get written about the Nats blame Williams and no higher.

  30. Eric O’Flaherty
    he wanted to pitch every Saterty
    warmed up on Friday
    his motion so neat and meticulous, tiday.

  31. That WAPO story is good reading but the main thing I took away from it is that the players in that clubhouse are the whiniest bunch of babies I’ve read about in a long time. Those guys are bitching because Rizzo spent a bunch of money signing the best free agent available and flipped Tyler fucking Clippard for the guy who turned out to be the second best hitter on the team? And it’s supposed to be Rizzo’s fault that Storen is a head case?

    Rizzo put together a team with the highest total projected WAR in either league and then the guys in the clubhouse went out and shat the bed night after night. Couldn’t happen to a better bunch of losers.

  32. Exactly. If there is such a thing as un-clutch, Storen is it. I wonder how bad Werth has to play for it to occur to him that he doesn’t belong in a starting lineup.

  33. All clubhouses are full of whiners. My brother, who was a baseball writer in his day, like to say “ballplayers are the jocks you went to high school with, without the benefit of a college education.” Most folks thought the Nats needed a quality set up man or two. The general manager went out and got another closer, one who was apparently less than well-liked by the roster.. It’s his and the managers job to communicate why and get the players onboard with the program. All of the personalities involved were well known to all of the management. If they couldn’t sell this acquisition to the team and it caused strife in the locker room, that’s sort of on them. Also I don’t think the issue was Werth not starting, it was his not being notified that he wasn’t going to start iand finding out by reading the lineup card rather than the manager doing him the courtesy of letting him know. Bobby Cox had a locker room full of similar personalities I’m sure, and yet managed to avoid this sort of thing. Surely that’s not just a coincidence.

  34. @50, I don’t disagree, I’m just marveling at what a different world it is. What’s striking is not Matt Williams’ incompetence, which is well-documented by now, but rather what he (and, yes, every manager) has to deal with.

    It’s funny to think about what would happen to me if I behaved like Jayson Werth did if I felt slighted by my boss.

    Whatever the consensus is, Storen gets worse in high-leverage situations, so it makes sense to shift him into a different role. It should make sense to a team ostensibly trying to win without anyone having to explain it to them.

    I do agree that it’s on management to communicate the vision and the plan, and management is far more replaceable than the on-the-field talent, whatever its flaws, so this is how it is.

  35. Is that the second time John Hart has talked about scoring “points” instead of runs on Live TV?

    And now he says we “traded for” markakis. Who is this guy?

  36. The Srvluga series is great reading. It makes me realize that a lot of stuff that goes on in clubhouses everywhere isn’t supposed to see the light of day, and for good reason.

    @51, I disagree about Storen. When he was demoted Storen was 29-31 in saves with a 1.64 ERA. No NL closer finished the season with an lower ERA, unless you count the Philly guy that replaced Papelbon. Only a couple of guys finished with a better save pct than Storen’s when he was canned. That Fangraphs conclusion about Storen and high leverage situations is statistical garbage.

    Basically Storen was never forgiven for two playoff games he didn’t close out, in particular the 2014 Giants NLDS. Rizzo’s obsession with hanging the loss of this series is deranged. Werth went 1-17 with O RBI in that series. Desmond went 3-18 with 0 rbi, Ramos went 2-17 with 0 RBI. And Storen lost the series?

    But Rizzo didn’t go out and get a better LF, or SS, or catcher. How did they perform in 2015? Werth .712, Desmond .681, Ramos .621. In fact, in one of the chapters of this Srvluga series, Rizzo talks about how happy he is that he gets to have Desmond at SS every day. This is when Desmond is essentially the worst SS in baseball, making killing errors and misplays on a daily basis (going to again lead the league with at least 27 official errors — he’s got at least 40-45 easy) and completely lost at the plate (at the deadline he was sporting a .628 OPS). So this is basically Rizzo’s irrationally assigning blame based on whether he likes the guy or not. The Papelbon trade, especially because of the chokeout, is going to be talked about for years as one of the worst trades in memory.

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