Braves 5, Giants 3

That was worth staying up for. I consumed way too much baseball last night. I watched the first four innings of the high-A affiliate being drubbed by the Yankees’ affiliate (10-1 after I left), then came home to watch these guys.

Sean Newcomb has had a terrific start to his career. After a minor league career that was heavy on both strike outs and walks, he’s pitched like a different pitcher since arriving in Atlanta. In 18 1/3 innings, he has 13 strike outs and 7 walks (1 intentional). Walks are still a problem (and his lower strike out rate), but his 1.04 WHIP in those innings and 1.96 ERA will do just fine. More importantly, he looks very polished. He works quickly, confidently, and smoothly. He doesn’t seem to get rattled on the mound, and if you had to give it an eye test, he just looks like a major league starting pitcher. I would assume his leash is going to allow him to pitch the entire season in Atlanta, even if he encounters a lot of struggles. His line for tonight: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K. I think we have a graduated prospect.

I’m not sure, though, that we have a closer. After Arodys Vizcaino allowed a run following a cheap triple by Denard Span, Jim Johnson blew his fifth save in 18 chances by giving up a home run to Hunter “.658 OPS” Pence. Jim Johnson would be a fine setup man, but I don’t think a playoff team is giving him the ball in the 9th regularly. But encouraging notes are that Sam Freeman and Luke Jackson both pitched well in relief. Jackson and Freeman both have upper 90’s fastballs, and we’re a long ways away from pitching Cody Martin or Edwin Jackson in these spots.

Did you know, though, that the Braves are third in all MLB in OPS in close and late situations? Yeah, these guys rake to a team .842 OPS when it counts. This team finds a way to stay in just about every game that a starting pitcher doesn’t ruin before it starts. Good on these guys.

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98 thoughts on “Braves 5, Giants 3”

  1. Excellent recap. Thank you. I woke up to the game in extra innings. Matt Kemp – what a surprisingly nice pickup.

  2. It’s funny how people don’t really have an issue with Kemp’s weight, which is not much better than it was last year, when he’s got a .914 OPS.

  3. @ 83 previous thread

    Chase Carey
    already a name of which to be wary
    a Chip off the D’Arnaud block
    we should anticipate BS around the bloody clock.

  4. #2

    Yeah, I thought he looked like he’d picked up recently. He’s making the plays, getting the hits. Whatever works.

  5. Sean Newcomb has had a terrific start to his career. After a minor league career that was heavy on both strike outs and walks, he’s pitched like a different pitcher since arriving in Atlanta. In 18 1/3 innings, he has 13 strike outs and 7 walks (1 intentional). Walks are still a problem (and his lower strike out rate), but his 1.04 WHIP in those innings and 1.96 ERA will do just fine. More importantly, he looks very polished. He works quickly, confidently, and smoothly. He doesn’t seem to get rattled on the mound, and if you had to give it an eye test, he just looks like a major league starting pitcher. I would assume his leash is going to allow him to pitch the entire season in Atlanta, even if he encounters a lot of struggles. His line for tonight: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K. I think we have a graduated prospect.

    Just for fun, someone should post this whole paragraph in the comments section of a more analytically-minded baseball website, so we can watch people get triggered.

  6. Rob,

    Good recap. I left with a 3 – 2 lead and found out about the blown save / walkoff victory this morning. The past few years, once the save was blown, you would have been certain a loss was coming.

    Positively surprised with Newcombe. The scouting reports made it sound like he wobbled 10 inches here and there on every pitch, but it looks like mostly precision to me. More like a 2 to 3 inch problem on fastballs. The curve is mostly the “pretty good action / spectacular action” problem. Occasionally, his curve looks like Steve Avery’s. Wow.

  7. Rob Cope – thanks for the recap! I do feel compelled to point out that while Sean Newcomb may pass the “eye test”, his underlying peripherals (K/BB, flyball rate, etc.) point to a 4+ ERA. If he can’t cut down on walks and/or increase his strikeouts, more of those flyballs are going to start going over the wall and he’ll get start exhibiting those Episodes that marked his minor league tenure.

    Also, the ball absolutely *flies* out of STP – I’m convinced none of the flyballs hit by Flowers, Pence or Kemp would have been out of the park at Turner. Jim Johnson has actually been pitching quite well this year (career high 10 k/9 ip!) and is definitely a ‘good enough’ closer for the Braves this season. JJ isn’t flashy or intimidating, but by and large he gets the job done. He should make a good setup guy for some other team in a deadline deal, I think.

    PS – The “eye test” is definitely prone to confirmation bias. If a pitcher is getting good results, he looks good on the mound and if he’s getting pounded then he doesn’t (see, e.g., Folty).

  8. @7. I played outfield all my life and good enough for probably D3 in college. I watched 2-3 innings of that game vs. the Yankees at STP and could tell by the way the OFers reacted on fly balls that this park is Coors Lite.

    It is a MASSIVE hitters park. We’ll need GB/FB and K/9 pitchers galore over history, here.

  9. @7

    He is consistently keeping the ball down, which to your point, is what is necessary at STP. If he can keep the ball in the park, then I think he can survive his walks right now. After all, his FIP sits at 3.57. His xFIP is 4.33, but once again, if he pitches low in the zone, he can beat their HR average.

    The “eye test” is his pace, his body language, consistency of his mechanics, hitting his spots, and avoiding episodes. While Folty’s velocity and overall numbers communicate a solid pitcher, I’d argue that Folty has lost control both emotionally and with his pitches to actually have more “issues” based on that “eye test”. You don’t have to watch Folty long before you realize that he’s got some makeup issues that need to be worked through. He almost… proves the point.

  10. @5

    I just don’t think you can evaluate a guy who’s coming from 5K attendance nights at AAA to pitching in the most competitive environment on the planet simply based on his K/BB ratio. I think that’s precisely why the average, normal, and smarter-than-AJC-commenter chooses to avoid the overly-analytical sites. I don’t need an Excel lesson.

    And to be fair, I’d been critical of calling him up specifically because he was still walking the stadium at Gwinnett. But his BB/9 is 3.44 in the SSS, so if he qualified, he’d be surrounded in the stat sheets by 1 and a half WAR pitchers to this point who are on pace for 3+ WAR seasons. And with his high-ceiling talent (and, ya know, only having 3 starts), I’d definitely be willing to give him a pass.

  11. I would argue the best he has looked for us was the first two innings he ever pitched on his debut. The curve was precisely located, snappy, and was getting called strike threes – they did not know what to do with it. The fastball had plenty and was down.

    The first 4 innings last night, by those standards, he was just ok. The curve soft, location imperfect. But then something clicked and off he went. His composure,as stated, never left him. We are lucky to have him.

  12. Good job, Rob. Thanks. Scary: I agree with everything Rob Cope wrote in the recap and his subsequent comments. I must be senile.

    Blazon: nice. Chase Carey is also scary.

  13. I kind of wonder what kind of calls he was getting in the minors. It seems like when he misses in the majors, it is close.

  14. @Rob Cope… you understand how FIP/xFIP works generally, but choose to ignore it with respect to Newcomb because the resulting numbers disagree with the opinion you’re arrived at? That’s your right to do so, but let’s not pretend that’s some kind of enlightened way to approach things. Newcomb does look like a good athlete and I think he’s got quite a high ceiling as a pitcher, but his MLB pitching TO DATE has benefited from some substantial good fortune. Past FIP/xFIP is not some kind of guarantee of future ERA, just a calculation of a ‘should have been’ ERA based on past performance.

    Let me put it in simple terms for you: The Braves play at a launchpad – Coors Light is a good moniker (thanks Chief) – and the team pitching staff has allowed a HR/FB of 14.1%. Sean Newcomb’s HR/FB is at 6.7%. Sean Newcomb has some control over how many flyballs he allows, but almost zero control over what percentage of those flyballs go for HRs. It’s a near lock that a higher percentage of Newcomb’s flyballs will go for HRs, thus pushing up his ERA. That’s before we even get to Newk’s extremely low (.212) BABIP. Long story short, Newk’s been pretty lucky and you should not expect him to keep a sub-3 ERA unless he can improve his K/BB substantially.

  15. Past FIP/xFIP is not some kind of guarantee of future ERA, just a calculation of a ‘should have been’ ERA based on past performance.

    What does that even mean? I’m not necessarily trying to be snarky because I think this is a worthwhile debate. But you’re trying to limit variables to glean into the future. But how is that working for you? We don’t have a single starter whose ERA is within a half run of its FIP. RA Dickey has one exactly one season this decade in which his FIP was within a half run of his ERA. And he’s consistently out-performed his FIP in every season since 2005. Hey, cool, thanks for the numbers. What is one supposed to do with that? You can try to limit variables in baseball, in your job, in your life, but you can’t. So why would I be a sanctimonious egghead and take a dump on Newcomb simply because a stat that attempts to correlate and predict (and fails to do so) doesn’t like him? My gosh, man, we’ve watched starts from Joel De La Cruz, Trevor Cahill, the Bills, and Ryan Weber. Why can’t we chew the meat, spit the bones, and acknowledge that Sean Newcomb has exceeded expectations?

    And the HR starts are equally irrelevant. He gets way more late run on his fastball (and a lot of bite on his curveball) compared to the staff. You don’t think that could cause half of would-be HRs to get missed at the last moment? Are we really comparing his performance to a staff’s numbers that has been largely influenced by Teheran, Colon, and Dickey’s ability to keep a baseball in any major league park? What good does that do? I’m going to choose to parse that out.

  16. High K/9 and low BABIP-against means you have nasty stuff and are better than most of your peers. Everything that deviates from the middle of the Bell-curve isn’t just “luck”.

  17. Plus, in the pen, we’ve also majored on plus velocity at the expense of movement. Whether it’s at PNC, Citizen’s, Citi Field, or STP, our guys have been selected with the acknowledgement that they’ll give up gophers. That does me no good.

  18. The problem is that so many high C’s on the DISC scale want to overthink this stuff because you’ve got morons like the guys in the scouting room in Moneyball that want to underthink it. If Newcomb doesn’t replicate his career BB/9 of 5, he’s going to be a good pitcher. If he doesn’t, he won’t. Pretty simple.

  19. @15, that’s an excellent observation. He’s got a big sweeping curve, and shitty umps are gonna miss on it. Flowers framing + MLB umps might work in his favor.

  20. @17 “The Braves play at a launchpad”

    So, you understand how park factors work generally, but choose to ignore it with respect to STP because the resulting numbers disagree with the opinion you’re arrived at?

    What gives?

  21. @18 “How is that [FIP/xFIP] working for you?” Quite well, actually. Over a large enough sample, the vast majority of pitchers’ ERA results converge towards their FIP/xFIP. The system doesn’t work great for knuckleball pitchers, but covers the vast majority of traditional pitchers. At its core, FIP/xFIP and similar measures are an attempt to isolate the pitchers’ contribution to the game, stripping out things beyond the pitchers’ control like luck and defense.

    As to your question – what does “Past FIP/xFIP is not some kind of guarantee of future ERA, just a calculation of a ‘should have been’ ERA based on past performance” even mean? It means FIP/xFIP takes a pitcher’s inputs – strikeouts, walks, HBP, and flyball rate – and spits out a value for those inputs. It’s a predictive tool to the extent you predict that the pitcher will continue to produce strikeouts, walks, HBP, and flyball rate in a similar fashion going forward. FIP/xFIP aren’t perfect – systems that incorporate actual batted-ball data are better – but they’re useful.

    As a practice pointer, you can’t both say this conversation is a “worthwhile debate” and then turn around and describe the mention of FIP/xFIP as the product of “a sanctimonious egghead [taking] a dump on Newcomb”. That is both logically inconsistent and insulting.

    With respect to “HR starts”: very few pitchers have shown a track record of consistently low HR/FB% – that requires generating more weak contact than other pitchers, which is a rare skill. The league average HR/FB rate is about 10% (probably higher now with the juiced baseball they’re using), and I wouldn’t expect Newcomb to stay so substantially below the average for long.

    @19 There are some relievers who have low BABIP and HR/FB rates, very few starters do over their careers.

    @23 In what way am I ignoring the HR effects of Coors Lite? I’m saying it’s aberrant for Newk to have a really low HR/FB rate.

  22. @23 Coors Lite hasn’t been around long enough to generate reliable park factor numbers yet. Anecdotally, it looks like a launch pad – I’m pretty sure we are all in general agreement that it doesn’t *look* to suppress HRs, right?

    At any rate, STP’s exact park factor is immaterial to my general points (Newcomb thus far has benefited from a very low BABIP and HR/FB).

  23. I mean, the stats so far don’t seem to support the “Coors Lite” idea. But if we are ignoring the data when it doesn’t match how we feel …

  24. WFF has shorter porches, and the ball jumps. It plays as a better HR park than Turner, at the very least. Whether it’s “Coors Light” or not is not yet established. In addition, the wall in the short RCF porch is 14 feet tall, which also increases doubles and potentially triples. Finally, the field design at SunTrust has just under 5000 fewer square feet of foul territory along the lines. So, in addition to being friendlier to power when the ball is put in play, it’s also friendlier to hitters by eliminating a certain percentage of pop outs foul.

  25. @27 Again, not ignoring the data – the park factor data for STP is not ready. It takes at least a year to get reliable park factor data, and 2-3 years is preferable. For instance, Baseball-Reference uses a 3 year average.

    BTW, haven’t we had substantially the same “FIP/xFIP is crazy!” conversation regarding Teheran before, perhaps on multiple occasions?

  26. It’s not ever a discussion that leads anywhere. FIP/xFIP (and really a lot of other advanced metrics) are often talked about in contexts that assume mean-reversion. Really good players are above the means, and can stay there for a while. It’s not crazy to think that Newcomb might be a really good pitcher that outperforms the large-sample-size means.

    These measure are predictive only in the sense that mean-reversion is usually a good bet. Usually, but not always.

  27. We don’t have evidence to support the idea that STP is super homer friendly. I think the burden of proof is on that claim.

  28. That is both logically inconsistent and insulting.

    I do apologize for being insulting. It wasn’t a response to you directly, but simply the portion of the fanbase that will shred a pitcher or hitter’s performance because of inconsistencies in WHIP, BABIP, ISO, etc.

    Quite well, actually. Over a large enough sample, the vast majority of pitchers’ ERA results converge towards their FIP/xFIP. From Game, Blauser

    Really good players are above the means, and can stay there for a while. It’s not crazy to think that Newcomb might be a really good pitcher that outperforms the large-sample-size mean. From krussell

    This is kind of the point. With a large collection of data, they’ve designed FIP’s calculation to effectively reduce the variables and have FIP resemble ERA. Mission accomplished. However, within that large collection of data, there are players who will out-perform their FIP, under-perform their FIP, and those that match even across entire careers. You can give examples of each type of player, and it’s fundamentally impossible for players to fall into one bucket of data to where you can draw any conclusions about not only one player’s entire career, but especially one player’s collection of three starts. And to krussell’s point, it completely disregards the fact that some pitches are above average. Hitters will pound their groundballs into the ground, they’ll pop their fly balls up, and they’ll hit looping liners with 80 MPH exit velocity vs. p-rods at 100+. Some pitchers are Aaron Blair. Some pitches are Clayton Kershaw.

  29. I don’t have batted ball info, but I can see that Newcomb has pitched about 350 innings in professional baseball, and allowed only 14 HR, for an average of 0.4 per 9. So far as a big leaguer, he’s at 0.5 per 9. And it doesn’t seem to be the result of outclassing opponents at the low levels, as in rookie and single A ball, he allowed 1.3 HR per 9.

    Sure, he’ll probably give up more homeruns, and runs in general, as a big leaguer than as a minor league, but it’s not impossible for me to believe he’s good at preventing homeruns.

  30. @30 I am happy to admit that there are players who can consistently beat FIP/xFIP to some degree, and from what I’ve read on SABR-y websites like Fangraphs, the eggheads are busy trying to study what those players are doing differently. For instance, Julio Teheran coaxes a *lot* of pop-ups, which allows him to keep his ERA below what you might expect for a dude with such an average strikeout rate.

    I brought up FIP/xFIP with respect to Newcomb because it usually is a good bet, and consequently it’s prudent to assume FIP/xFIP is a decent estimator for a given player unless you’ve got a concrete reason to say otherwise. Rob Cope citing the “eye test” for a dude with 18 1/3 career innings falls a bit short on plausible basis to call Newk an exception.

    EDIT: I think I jumped on Rob Cope a bit because he has a tendency to get (to my mind) over-excited about the young talent in the Braves’ system, and I felt it important to bring at least a little reality (or a different perspective, at least) to the table about Newcomb. I am not against dreaming on prospects per se, but on the other hand we should be able to have a conversation about what’s reasonable to expect every now and then.

  31. I don’t think any reasonable person would say “FIP/xFIP is crazy!”. It’s helpful, absolutely. When Dickey had an ERA in the mid-3s but his FIP was in the high-5s, sure, you could draw some conclusions there. It doesn’t answer the question of “why”, but it certainly makes sense that Teheran is currently a “one year on, one year off” pitcher and what his FIP/xFIP is telling you. But I can’t possibly conclude that Newcomb has been anything other than a welcomed addition to the team regardless of what his FIP is. And I also don’t think anyone is arguing he will be a 1.96 ERA pitcher, and his FIP absolutely guides that discussion.

  32. Rob Cope citing the “eye test” for a dude with 18 1/3 career innings falls a bit short on plausible basis to call Newk an exception.

    Do you acknowledge that factors that aren’t calculated into FIP, xFIP, WAR, HR/9, etc. have an impact on pitcher performance? For instance, can a reasonable person conclude that when Folty gets pissed off that a call doesn’t go his way, and subsequently struggles in that inning, that those two things are connected? That’s all I’m saying here. Height is helpful, and he’s tall. Velocity is helpful, and he has a lot of it. He works quickly, which fielders say is helpful. His curveball is consistently being thrown for strikes. He avoids bunching his walks, however repeatable that may be. And this all matches the scouting reports, minus his control issues. What… more are you looking for here? What am I missing?

  33. I think all Blaus is doing is saying “slow our roll” here. Just like Dansby, there will be adjustments to make. Once the scouting dossier on Newcomb gets completed, once he’s seen lineups for the 3rd and 4th time, etc…we need to get past that stage before we get *too* excited.

    But, it’s ok to be a little excited. I wouldn’t want to hit off him.

  34. @37 I agree completely .. the hitters will adjust to Newcomb and then Newcomb will have to adjust .. but his stuff is good and he has been very good with control .. he may have to end being even better with both sides of plate or knocking guys off plate with 98 heater every now and then … but its gonna be a chess match from here on out.

  35. Still cant believe the talk of Freeman at 3B .. saw some raw footage of him taking grounders … I dont see it .. long throws … the diving to left and right from playing in and the charging the slow rollers and throwing off balance I think will be too challenging for 6’5 230 pound guy .. I wish it would work but dont see it … more likely that he play RF or Adams play RF .. since we will not resign Markakis

  36. @38 I will play… I say Newk. I like his stuff and he seems to be more in control on the mound. Folty may be more “electric” but it is tough to get past the meltdowns

  37. Tad,

    Markakis has another year. Matt Adams control also ends at end of next year.

    I see a problem in this Freeman experiment. Your best and most important player comes to you and says he wants to try another position. If you are thinking “maybe, but I don’t see this working,” then you should have a joint player / management press conference and say “we appreciate FF doing this. We think it might work. But, we believe it may not work, as well. the final decision on this will be with field management in consultation with scouting staff.” So far this seems to be “I’m Freddie and I am going to make this happen.”

  38. @38, easily Newk because of his makeup, being a lefty, and having a better secondary pitch early in his career. If he can manage an average change, he could be a doozy.

  39. I think the Braves should go to a 4 man OF. Its about as crazy of an idea as Freeman to 3rd. End of the day, I bet we trade Adams to the Yanks.

  40. csg at 46,

    Adams to Yankees or Indians makes lots of sense on both sides.

    Best deal is (a) Adams, (b) pick a catching prospect, (c) Jaime, and (d) major league reliever (Krol, maybe Johnson) for (1) Mejia, plus (2) one more good high minors prospect.

  41. Latest Klawchat, dismissive of Newcomb(walks-they will recur, 1% chance of career matching Langston), Kyle Wright has a higher ceiling than Newk, Matt Adams(Freakin’ Adams), Camargo(Nope),’17 Draft Class strategy(approve),Adams again(Platoon player, should probably trade),Peraza(moved him off short too early),Bryce Wilson (I saw him, he can start),

    Hmmm…overall…your reaction, what would you say? RAIN DELAY MATERIAL!

  42. @42 ..cliff .. thanks for pointing that out .. I thought NM was done after this year .. oh well could be worse .. we could be paying Hayward 25 mil.a year for almost 0 production .. I think Adams get shipped with a promising pitcher to a team that has a real good prospect at 3B or Catcher .. we need a stud on teturn

  43. point zero zero zero zero one

    Chief…can i put a few quid on this with you ?

    Do not go around downtown bars shouting these odds please.

    If you do claim diminished responsibility. Cheers.

  44. It’s absurd our multi billion dollar owners cannot spend a few hundred to pay someone to put together some past Braves games highlights to kill off these hackneyed Smoltz/Glavine/Maddox golf tapes once and for all.

  45. Latest on Freddie’s move, from previous thread.

    Charlie Freeman
    aka the little lefty daemon
    has made it known
    in the K1 draft every position will be his to own.

  46. @54, lol…preach it. I just can’t get enough of that game 7 world series loss against theTwins. I think I’ve seen that episode about 20 times this year already. Maybe they should just show the 2nd half of the last Superbowl in a loop as well.

  47. MORE RAIN DELAY MATERIAL

    Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Matthew 6:25

    Consider the Phillies in the field, how they throw; they toil not, neither do they win; and I say unto you that even Papelbon, so often gory, was not displayed like one of these. blazon 8:147

  48. Garcia solves that lead with an episode in the 2nd inning. I have a hard time liking this guy

  49. Too bad Adams didn’t hit a ground ball through the hole like Dansby. He could have gotten the Indescribably Good Play award.

  50. Garcia can’t throw a strike tonight. That’s the perfect time to PH for him. 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Watch him not make it through the 5th

  51. Chip and Joe.

    Listening to the Dodgers announcers tonight during commercial breaks(Kill that guy who screams about living forever)with Scully gone they are awful…dreary, monotone.

    We do not have that problem.

  52. I was driving this evening during the first three innings and I’ve got to say I find Jim and Don pretty enjoyable. Don in particular was interesting in his analysis of why Garcia was leaving the ball up and getting hammered.
    They did get a little snarky about this new fangled notion of “pitch counts.” I also got home at the end of the third so I didn’t have to wonder what was going on in the middle innings (Don’s play by play time).

  53. This team really is hitting well. Adams and Suzuki back to back hits with two strikes–both driving in runs. Does make you wonder about the influence of the hitting coach.

  54. congrats to lane adams, he had hit a few long foul balls that were near homers, glad to see him finally get one. I like his mix of speed and power for a bench bat, even with his strikeout totals.

  55. ‘Eight run fifth’ surely rivals ‘cellar door’ for most beautiful phrase in the language.

  56. @86

    So does Johnson, apparently.

    Not helped by craptacular defense. Now two errors will surely follow.

  57. Wonderful, ridiculous game.

    Santana – Error of the Year. Exactly what I would have done if I had been playing second.

  58. O Danny Boy
    the gripes, the gripes are calling
    the swipes unmade, you need a place to hide
    the ball is gone and n’er a base is falling
    it’s you, it’s you, you simply must decide.

    But come ye back when Wash’s school reopens
    and when the Park is hushed, you need not go
    and we’ll be there so many of us hope’n
    Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy your glove we know.

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