Cubs 5, Braves 1

These are the times that try men’s souls. Coming out of the All-Star break we knew this was going to be a tough stretch. The Cubs aren’t last year’s Cubs, but they are still a solid team. Facing them before heading out to LA for a four-game set can make you or break you. So far, the Braves haven’t risen to the occasion.

Sean Newcomb got the ball against a struggling John Lackey, who after the game addressed rumors about losing his rotation spot with, “That ain’t going to happen.” His pitching against the Braves showed he meant what he said. The two had to wait nearly three hours to take the mound, after the only rain in the state of Georgia last night formed over SunTrust Park and camped out there for awhile. This is becoming a common occurrence in Atlanta this year. DOB summed up the Braves 2017 experience well on Twitter last night:

The grounds crew pulled the tarp off the field three times in anticipation of the game starting, only to have to replace it again when more rain struck. Judging from the results of the game, the Braves should have tried to take a page from the Nationals play book and delay the game infinitely, in hopes they would never have to play it.

Newcomb has, admittedly, drawn some tough opponents after his torrid start. He was on top of the world, then had to face the Astros, Nationals, and the Cubs back-to-back-to-back. That is not the easiest of assignments, but, if you want to pitch in the majors, you have to be prepared to face major league teams. As his level of competition has risen, so has Newcomb’s old nemesis—walks. He gave up 2 walks against Houston in 3.1 innings, 4 walks to Washington in 4 innings, and 3 against the Cubs in 5.1 innings. It’s hard to find success in the majors when you put baserunners freely on base, but it becomes even more difficult when you start combining that with the long ball. The combination proved to be Newcomb’s undoing against the Cubs.

Nick Markakis accounted for the Braves lone run with a home run in the 2nd inning. Newcomb made sure the lead lasted exactly one pitch into the top of the 3rd, when he gave up a home run to tie the game. If he had buckled down then and there, the inning could have easily been salvaged. Instead, he walked back-to-back men after striking the pitcher out, and then allowed another long ball to give the Cubs a three-run lead. That’s not a winning combination. Newcomb left with the bases loaded and one out in the 6th. One of his runners came in to score after he left the game, but the bullpen held the Cubs there. The problem was the Cubs bullpen held the Braves’ bats in check, and the team never mounted any sort of serious threat to try to regain the lead.

A short night heading into a day game before a flight to the west coast to kick off an 11-game road trip will make for some tired ballplayers during a tough stretch. This could get ugly. The Braves and Cubs will close out their series at noon today, less than 11 hours after their last game ended.

It’s hard to make the claim that any game is a must-win for a team who wasn’t expected to do anything this year and is already playing well over their heads, but today’s game is as close to a must-win as you can get. The Braves really do not want to head into LA having just been swept, when their next four games are against a team who is on a 30-4 tear right now. Yes, you read that right. That was not a typo. And the Braves have to play four against them. If they lose to the Cubs today, they are in real danger of being mired in a 0-7 stretch when they head into Arizona next week. Even though the Braves just swept them in Atlanta, the Diamondbacks have the 4th best record in the majors, and are not exactly the team you want to face at home to get you out of a long losing streak.

Ergo, Cubs delenda est hodie.

And, as always, Natspos delenda est. And the Dodgers too, for good measure.

81 thoughts on “Cubs 5, Braves 1”

  1. Good recap and I agree. Newcomb was given the benefit over his first 4 starts with the Mets, Marlins, Giants, and Padres. Then the league found him. Astros, Nats, Cubs, and soon to be Dodgers. Talk about a tough stretch.

  2. Viz activated and Lane Adams optioned. Amazing this team can build such a great farm system but cant figure out how to keep the best 25 players activated.

  3. The problem is that a lot of the best 25 players in the org aren’t old enough buy beer yet.

  4. RE: “rushing” from the last thread…promote them to the next level if they are having success. Eventually they will be challenged. Whether that speedbump happens in AAA or the majors, doesn’t matter. It will probably happen, and they have to work through it.

    Swanson wasn’t promoted for all the right reasons. I think we would all agree on that. Sitting him on the bench is beyond stupid though. He needs to be playing somewhere.

  5. This was the best recap of the year to date, well conceived and logically presented. ‘Rissa sets the bar high. Well done and thank you.

  6. Really excellent, ‘Rissa. Thank you.

    You all have me thinking a lot about Albies and Acuna, and what kinds of players they can become. Based on everything I’ve read, and particularly on what jjschiller has written recently, I’m a big believer in Albies. You can do a lot in this league if you square up on pitches consistentely: Altuve squares everything up; Trout squares everything up. Who squares everything up without being very successful?

    Acuna is a bit dicier for me–he hits the ball hard, everybody says. Well, Bryce Harper knocks the daylights out of baseballs, and Giancarlo Stanton. Freddie does it, although it’s a little less obvious since he hits the ball with so much top-spin. But do we have a short memory on this blog? Someone said that Acuna hits the ball harder than anyone in recent memory–I have watched Evan Gattis take batting practice and I have trouble believing it. Everyone used to talk about how hard Jason Heyward hit the ball when he was younger–it’s the reason Bobby Cox pushed for him to start the season in the majors in 2010. But Gattis has never been a complete hitter, ferocious as he is, and Heyward lost his pop somewhere along the line, even when he was hitting well. Well, all those guys are major leaguers–truly successful major leaguers despite their flaws.

    Right now, though, I think Albies is the one whose skill-set more reliably points to ‘star’. Am I out of my mind about that? Hitting the ball hard is wonderful, but it’s something pitchers can work around–but hitting everything well…not to mention being 19 years old, which means the kid can still put on a lot of strength…is unstoppable.

  7. @7 out of your mind, no. Do I think he will be a star? No. Do I think he’ll be a positive WAR player, probably.

    I will say this. The list of MLB players with Albies’ frame/body type, etc. that have been very successful, IMO is pretty short.

    He looks very *odd*.

  8. I’m with Edward on Albies. (That’s sounding almost like a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf reference, but entirely accidental.). Anyway, the kid really does square it up very well by all accounts. Of course there is no guarantee he will make it (there never is with any prospect), but he is not the kind of little fast guy whose bat will get knocked out of his hands. He has had a good slugging percentage at every level. He may not be Altuve or Joe Morgan but there is every reason to believe he will be better than Juan Pierre.

  9. I’m back to sell.

    I’ll take the wishy washy criticism. This team isn’t very good. It’s pointless. But they damn well better spend some FA money this offseason. As in a #1 SP, a 3B, another 3.0 WAR SP.

  10. I just looked at the list of FA next year.
    We better have some pitchers develop because there aint much to sign.

  11. @15 Of course he is. He isn’t stupid and knows his current tenure with the big club is tenuous at best and could be determined by any particular at bat during a game. Just one more thing that I find troubling…

  12. From the last thread: I agree that Dansby was rushed, wasn’t what you’d call an unstoppable force in AA and skipped AAA straight to the majors.

    Albies may be 20 years old, but he’s had two tries at AAA, with a demotion of his own, and now appears to have conquered it. Came off the DL on June 13 and has since batted .343/.381/.533.

    My personal plan for Acuna would be to let him play out the string in Gwinnett, but when September comes and the AAA season is over and there’s no playing time to miss out on, you can call him up and let him ride planes and experience the clubhouse and all that. Or don’t, and jerk around his service clock. But if he doesn’t struggle, I’d like to see him up after the Super 2 “deadline” next year.

    But to answer Sam’s question, I think the same people who want to “rush” Albies and Acuna look at Dansby struggle and also think Dansby should be playing in the games, not riding the pine.

    The fact of the matter is, they engaged in this rebuild for the purpose of establishing a long competitive window, that patching the previous roster would never permit. That means developing players. That, to my mind, means sending Newcomb out for the 6th like they did last night, and subsequently giving him a chance to clean up the mess he made for himself in that inning, which they also did (let him face Jon Jay after he’d loaded the bases on 3 singles with no outs.)

    That, in my mind, should also include letting your wunderkind shortstop hit .166 for a month and learn to adjust to the league’s adjustment to him.

    If we think we’ve got a chance next year, and the year after, and the year after that, and we think those chances are better than the chance we have now (and I do) then the sooner we sort wheat from chaff, the sooner the keeper players learn about the league and the way the league competes, the better.

    Trade Adams, trade Phillips, and let Camargo, Swanson and Albies all play. Bring up Ruiz, too. Let these guys learn and stick, or establish value for future trades, or burn out. Because we don’t learn anything about them watching them hit 28 year old quad-A pitchers in Gwinnett.

    We’re just treading water with a less talented roster than the one we blew up.

  13. Diversionary Quiz.

    Who was the Cubs player- not in today’s starting line up- who told the Cubs to stuff it last season when they sent him down to Iowa for the umpteenth time? He refused to report there, went home for 2 weeks, and had a great line – ‘I didn’t come here to play in Iowa’. They apparently put up with it and called him back up.

  14. Agree with every word from jj there. You have to be patient and let kids work through the rough patches. If every call-up is a 2 week audition, and failure means demotion, then we’ll never build a team that’s worth a damn.

    The short leash with Wisler and Blair (and maybe Swanson?) makes it seem like we have a front office that has to win right now. It’s a weird thing for a team that most picked to win ~75 games at best.

    Meanwhile, Markakis will never ever be benched even if he reaches -5.0 WAR.

  15. I’d love to see Kemp moved in the offseason, because that contract is a bigger albatross than Markakis’s, but one of those two needs to be moved. Start 2018 with Dustin Peterson at a corner, and let him keep the spot warm for Acuna until mid-may, early-june. If D-Petey hits, keep them both up.

  16. We’re just treading water with a less talented roster than the one we blew up.

    The short leash with Wisler and Blair (and maybe Swanson?) makes it seem like we have a front office that has to win right now. It’s a weird thing for a team that most picked to win ~75 games at best.4

    I think we’re in a unique time right now. It’s mid-July, two weeks before the deadline, we’re teetering around .500, there are probably dozens of trade proposals floating around with probably 16-18 players on the 25-man roster. And they’re also trying to decide what to do with guys rehabbing, out of options, and deserving of a call-up. You call someone up, you might have to release someone. That someone’s probably in a trade proposal. I don’t think it’s as simple as “let the kids play” or “this roster sucks”.

    There’s also the idea, and it’s probably fading with this Cubs sweep, that we should play the hot hands to make sure we know if we’re a contender or not against elite teams. And if that means Dansby can’t play for 3 out of 6 games, then so be it. Who cares? Let’s see if we can stay in the race, and then those trade proposals could move around a little bit. I don’t think you can say “Bench Camargo, play Dansby 162 because… rebuild”.

  17. @25, there is considerable pressure to fill those seats in…that new field, let’s say. Even with this unexpected success attendance is still 12th and school starts back 1 August. A swoon could crater that number for this year and put a dent in season tickets for next.

  18. @23, I believe that was our old friend Tommy LaStella, wasn’t it?

    @tfloyd, I raise a glass of ‘burgun’ to you

  19. Of the two, Albies has most obviously earned the promotion. He’s struggled at AAA, and then adjusted to the better league. That’s a good sign. Unfortunately he also plays the positions up the middle that we have a glut of on the ML roster. It being the case that we’re not likely going to win with him any more than we do without him, I see no reason to not have him finish seasoning at AAA and go into ST next year with 2B being his to lose.

    Acuna has played what, 3 games at AAA? There is no reason to even think about promoting him.

  20. I feel like a “let the kids play” season would increase attendance, mostly because I think we’d win more games. I’ve resigned to the fact that I won’t get to really see that.

  21. Acuna will probably get a Sept call up. There’s no downside there. Next year they’ll play super 2 games with him.

  22. I’ll simply point out that the last two super prospects that the Braves bounced more or less straight from AA to the bigs were Jason Heyward and Dansby Swanson. I would not be super happy if Acuna turned into more Heyward than Andruw. There’s value in minor league experience, especially for super young players.

  23. @32

    Except (to use an example) Nick Markakis knows how to adjust and Ronald Acuna does not. He’ll learn that in Triple-A. A team full of rushed prospects might be decent for a month, but then they’d be a disaster for the rest of the season. It’s much more difficult to take your lumps and learn when you’re constantly getting harangued about how crappily you’re playing.

    The problem, more generally, with sending Swanson down to Triple-A now is that it might not work like that. He’s not a bloody cyborg. No one knows how he’ll react to the massive failure that is an established major league player being sent down to the minors for two months. And it would have to be the rest of the Triple-A season probably to make it even slightly worthwhile to do.

    This is why having players skip Triple-A in the first place is ridiculously stupid. If we’d just sent him there in the first place, he’d have been happy he was at Triple-A and it would’ve been all a part of his development. It was just as needed then as it is now. But no, we wanted to sell a handful of extra tickets at the end of a season where we weren’t selling any tickets anyway. And now, sending him to Triple-A is an utter disaster. Who knows how he handles it and what happens to him if we do it? Does he just sit around and mope? Does anything improve?

    This is another chapter in the “Baseball Players Are Not Cyborgs” argument. You can say “Well, call all the prospects up and then if it doesn’t work and they need it, just send them to Triple-A! It’s no problem!” Except that’s utter BS! Things don’t work like that. Sending an established major leaguer to Triple-A is always a very big problem and will likely never not be a very big problem.

  24. Patience, the whole organization needs patience but they are not behaving that way. 2019 is the year we should see true improvement, 2018 is another nothing season. Maybe Albies and Blair and Wisler get their last shots. Besides that just let’em develop,

  25. Throwing Albies in with Blair and Wisler as “getting their last shots” is a bridge too far the other way. Albies hasn’t been given a shot yet at all. He’s actually done what he’s supposed to do; advance levels, if he struggles, adjust to it. He’s ready to get a shot, but he’s not already on the “one last chance” grouping like Blair or Wisler.

  26. There’s plenty of great players that were “rushed” and still lit up MLB. When’s that book on Carlos Correa coming out, you know, the one that exploits all his weaknesses that he has because he hit the majors at age 20?

    Occam’s Razor says that Swanson probably just isn’t that good. If he is, he’ll figure it out. I don’t see how it matters whether you are doing the figuring-it-out part in AAA or the majors. On a bad team there shouldn’t be that much pressure. But our bad team has created pressure due to the stadium/externals, which is not ideal.

    I’m more concerned about the fact that our prospects don’t appear to be game-changers. Rushed or not, if they suck, we’re doomed.

  27. Albies has earned his shot. We should trade Phillips if possible and bring him up to see what it looks like. If he’s overwhelmed then we need another short term filler at 2B this offseason again. Acuna should not see the majors until next June.

  28. @39 outside of Acuna I don’t think ANY of our prospects are game changers and have said so from Day 1.

  29. Better career at the conclusion, Jeff Blauser or Dansby Swanson? What say ye?

    I’ll go with Blauser.

  30. @42

    What odds am I getting? If they’re long on Dansby, I’ll take him. If it’s anywhere close to even, I’m taking Blauser.

    Also, the problem is that next year can’t be a nothing year. If next year is a nothing year, then attendance craters in 2019 and we’re completely screwed.

  31. At what point do we get out from under the bad TV contract (or are we already out?)? Maybe if that ends soon enough it can cover the bad attendance somewhat.

  32. @44 Sorry, it’s gonna be another decade before that awful deal is concluded. It expires in 2027.

  33. The situation got ameliorated somewhat when Peachtree TV dropped their smaller package of 45 or so games and the Braves were able to sell them to Fox Sports South/Southeast at an increased rate relative to the other 110 or so. But the problem still exists in some form until 2027. The bit about it is toward the bottom of this longer article.

    Let us pray to God that the live sports TV bubble doesn’t collapse before then. It seems kind of likely that it will, to be honest.

  34. @47 there’s a fair bit of anecdotal evidence that the sports bubble “has” burst.

    @45, “comfortably” ahead of a 13 year SS with a lifetime 102 OPS+ puts you in some pretty good company. Hope it happens here.

  35. I’d be happy enough getting Jeff Blauser’s offense out of Dansby With The Good Hair.

  36. “Patience, the whole organization needs patience….”

    Absolutely right! Don’t panic, don’t rush. The Farm is the key for us. Don’t rush to judgement on struggling young players (Swanson, Newcomb and others)… Or we’ll likely do something “Olivera stupid”–which I’m very worried will happen as deadline nears.

  37. Patience is needed, but you also have to be willing to switch course if the prospects that you are patiently waiting on never pan out. How long do you wait before bailing? That’s the toughest part in this whole game. I think you have to wait at least a couple of full seasons at AAA and above, before you start to throw in the towel.

    This org would’ve demoted Glavine for sure. Maybe Smoltz too. It’s definitely a ton easier to be patient when there’s zero expectations, zero fan interest, and no pressure from ownership.

  38. 11 games before the deadline. 4 w Dodgers, 3 w Ariz, and 4 with Phillies. I’ll predict we go 5-6 and are 5 games below .500. We surely won’t be buyers are that point. Just depends on how the FO wants to look at moving the vets

  39. True or false:

    Do you think GMs go into a trade thinking, ‘I want to trade the prospects that aren’t as good as __________ thinks they are for players that we think are better than ________ think they are?’

    IMO, the art of trading is to somehow know that Jose Peraza isn’t worth a hoot, when everyone(or at least one team) else in baseball thinks he is.

    IMO, the Braves should have traded Wisler for a piece when there was still some general consensus that he had some value.

    Essentially that’s what the Dodgers did to us with Olivera. They had figured out that he wasn’t worth a crap and found a team that thought he was.

    FWIW, when the Diamondbacks were THAT ready to quickly trade a 1/1, I was very very very skeptical of Swanson, long term. Red flags galore were going off for me. Having said that, we still snaked them because Inciarte is better than Shelby Miller will ever be, but still.

  40. If you traded every prospect you ever drafted for proven MLB talent, every year, year after year…I bet you’d do better than almost all the other GMs.

  41. As many have said today, patience is the key word with a rebuilding team. It is too early to decide that Swanson won’t pan out. He may not, but we don’t know that yet. There is a decent chance that he turns out to be better than Blauser, which is awfully good. In fact, even Matt Wisler may yet turn out to be a quality major league pitcher. (Not sure I’m willing to concede that possibility as to Blair).

    And we’ll need a lot of patience over the next couple of years. The 10 or 12 top prospects we have who are still under 21 will all struggle and need to make adjustments to one degree or another. Baseball is difficult, and most good major leaguers struggle early on, especially pitchers. The most difficult aspect of this is to know when to give up on a prospect.

  42. Wisler is finally pitching well relative to his level since he established himself as a top prospect in AA when he was 20. He’s allowed 3 runs or less in 8 of his last 9 starts for the Gwinnett Buttons. It’s amazing what can happen to a legitimate prospect if a team will leave you alone and let you develop.

    Blair has just not had an extended run of success anywhere since coming to this organization. He had a 2.92 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 120/50 K/BB in 160.1 IP between AA and AAA for Arizona, and we ruined him. Ruined him good. He’s had an ERA of about 5 1/2 in the 227.2 IP he’s had to wear any sort of Braves uniform. And he’s 25. Maybe he’s a change of scenery trade guy with another former prospect.

  43. @58 I have a theory that the farm system as a whole is mainly only useful for what you can trade it for. Being that you have 250 players in the system and 2-3 will be MLB regulars, etc. That’s a tremendously low percentage.

    Unless my prospect is Kershaw, with a 2.43 miLB ERA(IMO miLB ERAs are deflated because of chitty umpires and poor defense/team chemistry) with a 11.4 K/9 ratio

    or a Vladimir Guerrero with a .356 miLB BA over 1100 ABs, I am trading them for proven MLB players 9 out of 10 times.

    If you wait on a ‘farm’ to produce 9 MLB positive WAR player and 5 SPs, you’ll be waiting about 20-30 years. I get that these are GROSS oversimplifications.

    I just see prospects as trading chips except at the largest outliers. I’d probably even trade Acuna for a MLB SP with a track record ERA in the low 3s or high 2s.

  44. @62 Rob, you’re definitely right and I shouldn’t have really used names as my theories are really big picture and in specific cases won’t fit, etc.

  45. @64

    Nah, that wasn’t necessarily in reference to your comment about him. I had been thinking about whether or not Wisler is as terrible as he has been in Atlanta. I think he’s legitimately gotten a raw deal.

  46. I’d expect Medlen to get that call. I really don’t understand why we rushed back Sean Rodriguez. There is no spot for him. Why not let him rehab for the entire year and have him ready to go 2018 ST?

  47. @61–chief, thanks for the link to the Neyer article, which does tend to prove that there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect. OTOH, it is interesting the “failures” that Neyer cites (as of the date he writes which is some time early in the last decade) include Roy Halliday, who turned out to be the best starting pitcher in baseball for a few years. The failures also include Dotel, Gagne, and Grilli, each of whom ultimately had a good deal of success as relievers. The point again is patience; some pitchers take a long time to develop.
    As for the Braves, I think Coppy knows that TNSTAAPP. He’s banking on the odds that out of 10 top pitching prospects, 2 or 3 could be really good major leaguers. Three top flight starting pitchers can make a franchise very successful.

  48. Diamondbacks – J.D. Martinez has been removed from tonight’s #Dbacks game after a pitch struck his left hand. We’ll share an update when we have one.

    Pretty bad luck there.

  49. I know he isn’t really a prospect because he’s a pitcher, but how about Soroka’s line tonight! Seven innings, 12 Ks, 2 hits, no walks.

  50. Well maybe he doesn’t exist–but I’ll go ahead and talk about him anyhow:

    Soroka’ s line tonight: 7 ip, 2er on two hits, 12k, 0 walks

  51. Thank you, Chief.

    Not to parrot Chip, but sliding head first seems more hazardous than feet first. Monte Irvin might disagree, but there seems to have resulted a generous number of injuries from going in head first.

    Soroka looks like a prospect from this perspective. I don’t believe in the boogey man, but Soroka seems real.

    Soroka. Wow. He sure seems like a prospective member of a future Braves starting staff.

    Can baseball legislate personal choices that endanger no one else? Look out, Big Brother.

  52. @77

    Mike Soroka
    has emerged from the pack, suddenly the Joker
    such perception arrives
    when twenty dally and just one thrives.

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