Braves 5, Newer Boston Team 3

A blind squirrel just found a nut. Our two best players are Jhoulys Chacin and Nick Markakis, our shortstop is “one of the worst players in the majors” per Ken Rosenthal, our catcher can catch neither pitches nor popups, our team batting average is .224, and our team ERA is 5.07. But we won one!

The defense was awful again, but Jhoulys Chacin was dealing again. He gave up a run in the first after an error by Freddie, pitched around a passed ball by A.J. Pierzynski in the second, and pitched around a dropped foul pop-up by Pierzysnki in the 4th. He took 91 pitches to get through five plus innings — pretty effective innings, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks, with four strikeouts — so this was another Johnny Wholestaff night from the pen. Fredi used five relievers to get through the game, and they only allowed one more run, shutting the door admirably.

It was only the ninth game out of 22 played in which we held the opposition to fewer than four runs. And through those 22 games, we already have four relievers with double-digit appearances; three more have pitched in nine games. Basically, just about every reliever on the team is on a nearly every-other-day cadence.

There were also good things from the offense. Nick Markakis went 4-5 with a double and three RBI. Leadoff has been kind of a cursed spot for us for many years. Markakis may be the best we’ve had in a long, long time. Freddie Freeman went 3-4 and raised his average 28 points, to .247; Mallex Smith went 3-4 with two doubles and raised his average 52 points, to .188.

Bring on the Cubbies!

99 thoughts on “Braves 5, Newer Boston Team 3”

  1. Dustin Pedroia
    all round performance to laud but annoy ya
    question we must face
    how come at 33 he shows a better range than Jace?

  2. My personal streak of only watching games which we win came to an end last Tuesday but I was also able to watch last night. So in my viewing world the Braves are winning at a .833 clip which is nice. This is the world I choose to pay attention to. Apparently the season will only be about 45 games long with lots of off days in between games.

  3. Hung over
    Liquor? I love ‘er
    But I do regret
    The morning after getting my whistle wet

  4. in boston because verizon is on strike and went to what may be my only braves game of the year. fenway is cool if you ever get the chance to go.

    we won and didnt look half bad. i was pleased. chacin is a baller…. AJ = DFA,
    if we’re gonna suck; let some kids play. we may have a gem catcher we dont know about.

    i’ll cling to anything positive at this point. Always nice to hear braves fans cheer in boston. good to return the favor to that front running, bandwagon tool shed fan base. felt good to be obnoxious. lord knows the red sox take that nonsense with them everywhere.

  5. Alternatively….

    Hung Over
    Liquor? I loathe ‘er
    How I regret
    Having got my whistle far too wet

  6. …is there a Doctor in our house – preferably a Sports one? Can someone explain to me how the declining skills of the aging athlete are apparently compartmentalized to an astonishing degree?

    The eyes for example. Apparently there’s a double standard in play for some. That gentle lobbed pop up descending gracefully, slowly into a hugely spreadeagled glove which provides for a large margin of error with the second hand in situ to seal tight any miscalculation.

    But you still dropped it? And now i find out you’re 40 this Christmas? Ah, well, that explains it then, it’s over. How did you make them put up with you for so long? Your defense was pretty bad last year, this year it’s perfectly terrible.

    But then there’s your bat. You were our best hitter last year, hit .300, MVP, so it’s going to be sad to watch you scratch and poke with the bat this year until they put you down.

    But then, in the same hour, you smashed those two line drives right on the nose off perfectly decent fast balls. That would seem to call on three abilities…strength, hand/eye coordination and the eyesight themselves which has to be, surely, operating at a high level to do that. And yet you dropped the pop up. And about another dozen pitches popped in and out of your glove.

    What is happening here? Someone please explain the contradiction.

    And then there’s Jace. Last night completely outplayed, out hustled as a second baseman, PHYSICALLY. Dustin made him look bad throughout the game, primarily in the all important area of range. But there were others – turning, twisting, recovering balance and still have lots on the throw.

    Jace is 25, Dustin 33. How can the older make the younger look as though their ages have been reversed?

    Over a life of watching all kinds of sports you get used to noting the decline that sets in with age. The speed of that drop off will vary with the individual but whatever that might be it is, generally, when it comes, across the board.

    Are the skills required to play baseball at the highest level so manifold, so compartmentalized, so specialized that if you are still pretty good at one you can drop the others as they desert you and they still want to have you around?

  7. I can’t even cure a hangover, much less explain such a complicated phenomenon as aging, least of all its effects on multi-faceted motor skills, but I doubt AJP is significantly worse than last year. The majority of the difference is likely variance. Why a catcher can’t catch? It’s more likely to be psychological or behavioral. He probably focuses a lot more during his few at bats than on the repetitive thumping in his glove.

    Jace vs Pedroia? Look, I’m at least 25 years younger than Ozzie smith but he surely can play SS way better than I can right now. Jace just isn’t that good a player. I had hopes for him to be mediocre.

  8. An interesting series of questions, blazon.

    This is TOTALLY out there and is a wild ass speculaton, but I was also wondering about what seems to be such a stark drop off for Pierzinski in “catching the damn ball.” I had also noticed that although his hitting is down, the basic mechanics and things didn’t seem to have a melt down. Even though A. J. was never a great defensive catcher, he is now showing more like “we can’t take this at catcher.” Not THAT unusual generally, but I have never seen anybody where so much of the breakdown seems to be squeezing the ball in the mitt. A lot of bullpen catchers are 60 and 70 (Bobby Dews).

    I don’t think it is vision with Pierzinski. Consider: motor neuron problems like CTE. In the most typical case, problems start first at the most distant extremities (not always).

    On the more general question of how age related decline may not affect one attribute and can that sustain a player and the answer is yes, sometimes. When Babe Ruth played his last years with the Braves, he was still a devastating offensive player. If they had the DH, he could have been effective for several more years.

  9. Aybar might have CTE–consequences of taco eating. He’s a guy whose age seems to have caught up with him. One thing I can say from experience is that it requires more effort to stay in good physical condition as years go by. What was easy for him to maintain at 27 is probably more difficult at 32 or whatever.

    Goodness:

  10. @9, I think it’s worth remembering that catchers usually age faster than other players. A lot of catchers are pretty much done by 36 or 37. Pierzynski has held on longer than most, but it’s not that surprising that he’s looking like an old man these days. As players get older they can use their instincts to cheat and make up for slower reaction times, but once the tools fall below a certain point, there’s just no covering up for it.

  11. @12

    Very sad. A buddy of mine played with him at Avon Park High School. Said he was one of the nicest guys he’s played well. This communicates to me why free agency is such a dangerous thing. There’s such a tremendous spike in guaranteed dollars for a player that we don’t know what they do to get to that point. Obviously I think of Dan Uggla in this case as well. This situation validates even more so the benefit of having more young, cost-controlled players that you even know what to do with, and makes me resent Rosenthal’s article very much.

  12. @12…

    Rob…the upcoming draft for example…list the four players you’re considering for the third pick…you’ve got the in depth scouting reports in front of you…now go and pay some well touted shrink or w.h.y. 50 grand each to psych them…aggressively…those that won’t submit to that strike them off the list..what percentage of your total outlay on your eventual pic would 200 grand be? Every so often you’ll save your ass.

    Oliveria, Manziel and on and on…tens of millions speculated on character with only perfunctory access.

  13. @14, the “experience” angle would say that perhaps you’ve learned when to expect a fastball, based on the count, or you’ve seen him get other lefties out a certain way, or have noticed a pattern in the way he’s starting hitters off, or even perhaps you can read a pitcher himself, by seeing he’s shaken off his catcher, you might infer “0-2 count, he got Freddie swinging on a slider. Catcher probably wants to do the same, but he probably doesn’t want to ‘speed up my bat.’ He’s shaking to get back to fastball.” That last, I’ve heard Chipper talk about. Any of these would permit you to cheat on the fastball, where a less experienced player may defend against the breaking ball, and react to fastball.

    This idea is why “peaks” are 26-28. A 21 year old mat be more athletic, but hasn’t got the mental advantages. In a 28 year old, you’ve developed mentally without losing much athleticism yet.

  14. For on the “fire Fredi bandwagon”, he’s already accomplished a couple of franchise milestones this season with the potential for more.
    The 17th loss tied him with Fred Tenney at 402. Tenney only took 4 seasons 1905-07 and 1911 to rack up that many with some of the worst Boston teams ever. Over those 4 seasons, the Beaneaters, Doves and Rustlers, went 202-402. (Changing the team name didn’t help either). Assuming he lasts long enough, Fredi is only 89 losses from catching Casey Stengel (for the math impaired a (56-106 record in 2016). Stengel is 5th on the Braves manager list for losses.
    Fredi has already passed Billy Southworth and if he lasts 3/4 of the season will pass both Casey Stengel and John Morrill.
    Stengel managed to Braves from 1938-1943 as the Braves won 43% of the time.
    John Morrill managed in the dark ages, 1882 – 1888, winning a pennant in 1883.
    If Fredi lasts the entire season, he will tie Harry Wright with 6 complete seasons as Braves manager. Wright was Boston’s first NL manager from 1876-1881. (we’re ignoring his years as manager during the NL’s predecessor the National Association.) Wright’s 6 seasons put him 5th in franchise longevity.

  15. There’s no way Fredi is making lineup decisions that go against what the front office wants. It’s time to start blaming the right people…

    RE: old-age skill deterioration – baseball requires world-class hand-eye coordination. Vision is very important, and as you approach your 40s it can go south quickly.

  16. @12, If I was in the business of managing a payroll of a hundred million (or hundreds of millions) built around just a few dozen personnel, you can bet I’d be investing in that kind of analysis. A cracked noggin or a crappy character can keep a guy off the field just as much as a bad ACL, and you’ll still likely have to pay him.

    @18, This is the danger of trying to “win” with a bunch of losers. There’s no saving this season. Mallex should be up to play, and if he still needs to learn some stuff (which it seems like he does), he should be in the minors playing everyday.

  17. Fredi was interviewed Weds before the game and said “if you hit you’re gonna play.” Once again, I despised the idea of the “hot hand” when it was Constanza playing over Heyward, but when you don’t have an All-star talent, it makes sense to play the guy who just had a 3-hit game. Especially the first of his career! “Congrats kid, now learn your place in the pecking order and put your butt on the pine!” The fact that Mallex is a rookie needing a confidence boost makes it all the worse. And we have a 30-year-old catcher with plus defense who might actually have a future with the team, and he got benched after a 4-4 for a guy 10 years older who can’t do the most basic task entrusted to a catcher: catch.

  18. Well, if you want to talk about discretionary positions, WHY DO WE NOT HAVE A VIDEO REPLAY GUY ANYMORE?!?! The articles have said that Horacio left to pitch in Mexico, and we didn’t replace him. How much could have possible made? $75K?

  19. I’ve said this before, but Fredi’s style is all about putting talented youngsters in their place. He needs to be sent far far away from my team before the rest of the prospects come up.

  20. @24, To be fair, I think the market for labor willing to watch Braves games has skyrocketed well past $75k.

  21. Re: Mallex…the strange thing is how he’s somehow become the poster child for Braves marketing and social media. He’s got his own commercial, he’s the focus of half the shots they put up on Instagram… Way too presumptuous, if you ask me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s not one of the Braves blue chip prospects, is he?

    But the contrast between that and his performance on the field AND his riding the pine is striking to me. Indicative of an organization not at all on the same page.

  22. And by all accounts, Mallex Smith has a fantastic attitude and doesn’t need to be put in his place. Nor did Heyward. I’m not entirely sure that’s what Fredi is doing–I halfway think he’s just stupid, but these guys are not disciplinary or “play-the-game-the-right-way” issues

    @27, it’s a couple of things. Mallex is just a really marketable, likable guy, and while he’s not a blue chip prospect, he is the ONLY position prospect who is up right now. Dansby would be a better poster boy, but Mallex is the only option besides Freddie Freeman to get people excited.

  23. @24 – the Braves replay coordinator is a guy named Rob Smith. What articles say Horacio wasn’t replaced?

    Regarding Mallex, the teams played 19 games since he was called up, Mallex has played in 16 of them. In terms of ABs, he’s 7th on the club, and we played 3 games before he arrived. Let’s not lose our minds.

  24. Rob Smith absorbed Horacio’s responsibilities, according to the article at the time. Instead of hiring someone to replace Horacio, they just had Rob Smith take over.

  25. In defense of Mallex, since starting 1-15, he has a .242/.324/.394 line. Obviously a lot of that is aided by his day yesterday. That’s not terrible for a CF that’s been on the job for less than a month. If we didn’t need to put Garcia in LF to hide his glove, I’d say let Mallex play LF in a rebuilding year.

  26. Got a rare day off from work so I’m watching the day game at home. Daniel Castro was out by 20 feet on what appeared to be a straight steal but actually snuck around the tag. Was probably safe but too close to be reversed.

  27. Blair has a fine changeup. @35 John, Castro is slow. He should not be running around like that.

  28. Blair had some yips in the first inning and walked a couple guys. Left quite a few pitches up. He got Rizzo to ground out and Soler to whiff on a lovely sinker to get out of it unscathed, though.

  29. I wonder where the Braves rank in the league in OBP and in caught stealings. I don’t think we’re worst in either, but I bet we have the highest percentage of our guys who do reach base turn around and get thrown out stealing.

  30. Don’t you have to stay aggressive on the basepaths and force them to make a play? It sure seemed to work in little league. But seriously, Mallex may one day be one of the best base stealers in MLB, but right now he’s 2/6.

  31. When you can only hit singles you have to try and steal a few bases. Maybe a hit and run could be useful. Not sure if Fredi knows how and when to try it

  32. suddenly Freddie Freeman is looking like an above average player again. That was a monster

  33. Yeah, really I’ve got no problem with Mallex learning on the job. I’d only be sending Castro, Aybar and Stubbs in strategically necessary positions, like down one with two outs in the 8th.

  34. After watching Castro attempt a steal, I would think the only strategic reason to send him would be that your strategy is to end the inning to leadoff with the same batter the next inning.

  35. Not even Willie Mays was Willie Mays his first 50 or so times up. They stuck with him, early returns nothwithstanding.

    Mallex IS NOT Willie Mays, but he’s not hurting this team. Let him play.

  36. Can we call this washed up second tour of Francouer “Frenchtoast” or is that already a thing?

  37. Besides, Lester might be the worst pitcher in history at making the throw to first. Half of our betters should be bunting..

  38. 85 pitches, 1 ER over six innings and pulled for a Mendoza-line hitter.

  39. Freddie G is a idiot … you got to hit Kelly Johnson there instead of Peterson .. he is an idiot I tell you

  40. Buckner worst umpire in baseball .. no doubt .. time for Bonafacio to come up .. FG is an terrible in game mgr – he gets left with NO RH’s to pinch hit .. he is awful .. FIRE FEDDIE please !!!!!!!!!!! Hope they loosse next 20 games .. maybe he gets fired .. he is awful !

  41. Sigh. Good show, Aaron Blair. He’s looking better than Shelby right now.

    @64, saving right handers to PH against Lester instead of starting them…meh, nevermind.

  42. Don and (god I almost said Pete) Jim were saying on radio in the 1st inning that they spoke to scouts who at the time of the trade would have taken Blair over Miller this year.

  43. Got 2 lefties in pen to face Rizzo but NO .. FG lets our RP walk the 1st batter Rizzo … oh well is he ever gonna learn how to manage ?? NO .. fire FG

  44. There are times when you watch this team where you wonder if the mandate is to lose on-purpose. This is one of those times.

  45. I miss having La Stella on the Braves. He was always fun to watch bat. He has, also, shown that he can play multiple positions at least passingly. What did we get for him exactly? Was Vizcaino acquired in the trade that sent him to the Cubs?

  46. sure coulda used a lefty to face Heyward and Zobrist … we got 2 on bench …. but FG sits on hands .. fire FG

  47. Now he brings in OFlaherty .. LOL .. I think FG has got this backwards .. Lefty pitcher throw to LH hitters ….

  48. Ok Tad. You know most of us want FG gone. I don’t think there are any supporters left here.

  49. This is the only Major League roster O’Flaherty could possibly crack.

  50. @80 yes he is … they had 2 LH’s before him too . but too late damage already done … … oh well good game pitched by Blair .. maybe we will get some hitters to go along with the young pitching we supposed to have …..

  51. I wonder what the odds were when we were tied after 7. The Cubs have to win 80% of the time in that scenario at home.

    @76, yes we got Vizzy. I hated the trade at the time because I thought La stella would get on base enough to be a valuable player. Vizzy has been a pleasant surprise, though.

    PS: the Cubs have players on their bench who come in and hit grand slams. Oy

  52. With a pinch hitter, a switch hitter, a lefty, a switch hitter, and another lefty coming up, RH Jim Johnson was an.. interesting choice to start the inning in the first place…

  53. I think it’s interesting that we haven’t seen Grilli through these two games with high bullpen usage. I hope he isn’t done and just merely not fully recovered from the injury.

  54. Ya know, it sucks so much to lose, but these times just make me appreciative of the run we had. We expected to win, and sadly, we now expect to lose. I’m pretty convinced that we have 3 pretty dang good starting pitchers (and another, Chacin, who is not bad either), and the future is looking up. I’d love to see one of Folty/Jenkins/Sims log some pretty good innings at the major league level this year, and trade some of these high minors guys and existing major league position players for some bats. Hope for the best with the current young relievers, sign some real veteran relievers (not reclamation projects), and let’s build this thing back up. This sucks, sucks, sucks, but at least we aren’t piecing the roster together with duct tape and chewing gum and expecting a World Series contender like in years past.

  55. @35, 43, 48–At the time, Powell and Sutton speculated that “someone [Freddie] may have missed a sign [the hit and run].

    @92–For the good of the Braves or so that Tad pipes down for a minute?

  56. Wow Heyward is slugging .271. I guess the Barve doesn’t wash off easy.

    Doubt we’ll get tomorrow’s game in, so we’ll close April out with only 18 losses. May features series against the Mets, Royals, Pirates, Giants. In the middle there’s a 9 game stretch with the Phillies, Brewers, and Marlins.

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