Braves 3, Natspos 2

R.A. Dickey turned in a masterful performance, probably his best of the year. He went 8 innings and surrendered only 4 hits and no bases on balls. Vizcaino struck out the side in the ninth, which was a perfect contrast to his horrific performance the night before, when he walked 3 consecutive batters with the bases loaded. I guess Wednesday was just Bizarro Arodys. The Braves put together just enough offense to win 3-2. Ozzie Albies was the offensive star, with 3 hits, an RBI, and a run scored.

Dickey hinted after the game that he may retire after the season. I’ve got to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed his tenure with the Braves. That’s because I’ve always loved the knuckleball and knuckleball pitchers. I was a kid when the Braves came to Atlanta, and for the first 18 of those years, the original Knucksie was the only consistently good pitcher. Phil Niekro was then and always will be my favorite pitcher.In the two pre-1991 pennant winning seasons, 1969 and 1982, Niekro won 23 games in the first and went 17-4 in the second. Last night’s game was especially fun for me because Knucksie joined Chip and Joe in the booth for an inning or so.

I used to argue with my friends in high school who insisted that Niekro wasn’t a real pitcher, that his success was just trickery. Of course that’s nonsense. Throwing a consistent knuckleball must be one of the hardest tasks in baseball, or else more pitchers would rely on it. In my lifetime, there has generally been only one or two good knuckleballers active at any one time: Hoyt Wilhelm, the Niekros, Wilbur Wood, Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti, Tim Wakefield, and Dickey. As Knucksie told Chip and Joe, the key is practicing constantly and always trusting the knuckler.

No Braves starter in 2017 will accumulate even 2.0 WAR. Phil Niekro had over 2.0 WAR in 17 seasons. He had over 6.0 in 7 seasons, including 10.0 in one and 8.9 in another.

One more home series this year, against the juggernaut that is the Philadelphia Phillies (at least against your Atlanta Braves).

And, of course, Natspos Delenda Est.

43 thoughts on “Braves 3, Natspos 2”

  1. Good recap. Niekro was a rare breed. His stat lines are out of a video game.

    Jaime Garcia’s trade counterpart’s brother pitched 8 IP strong for Baltimore last night. May it run in the family.

  2. Niekro was in the TV booth last night for a bit. He’s not as young as he used to be and yet it was like he hadn’t changed a bit.

    I had the honor of meeting him in Phil Niekro’s Stadium Grill in Buckhead about 20 years ago. He was kind enough to sit for a few minutes with me and my wife, be in a picture with us, and autograph the article that was in USAToday when he notched 300 wins. I was star-struck.

    Good times.

  3. Love to read about Phil Niekro. I know on good authority that Phil got at least one nomination for Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1982. What all y’all spent your time on in college is your own business.

  4. A knuckler is trickery…makes about as much sense as a changeup is trickery. Pitchers throw balls and hope to get a guy out, either by blowing it past him or befuddling him. Knucklers rule.

  5. Another Bombshell from the Bowtie:

    https://theathletic.com/108130/2017/09/22/rosenthal-tensions-are-rising-in-atlanta-where-the-disappointing-braves-are-mulling-changes/

    Both Hart and Coppolella declined comment. In an interview on Thursday night, Snitker, 61, made it clear that he would love to remain manager “for a while,” but added, “I don’t worry about it. I figure things will happen the way they do. Because of where I am in my career and my life, I’m secure with everything. I don’t need this to define me. I feel like the Braves are going to do what they’re going to do. And I’ll be good with it. I’m not beating the door down for an extension. I feel when the time is right, they’re going to come to me and I’m going to be the manager or not.”

    Doesn’t that sound like, maybe, he could really leave or take the job? I don’t think that’s media speak. I think he’d be happy to report back to his position in sales or accounting because being office manager wasn’t fun.

  6. This may be the most interesting:

    On Aug. 23, the Braves blew a 5-4 lead at home when they allowed five runs to the Seattle Mariners in the eighth inning and eventually lost 9-6. Afterward, several players heard Hart berating Snitker, sources say. Reliever Jim Johnson, signed to a two-year, $10 million extension last October, had started the inning by failing to retire any of the four hitters he faced while also throwing a wild pitch and allowing a stolen base. Hart, sources say, was upset that Snitker then summoned right-hander Dan Winkler in only his second appearance of the season to face the left-handed batting Kyle Seager, who hit a three-run homer. Snitker’s choices, though, were limited; the Braves’ principal lefty, Sam Freeman, had pitched the previous two nights, and rookie A.J. Minter had joined the team that day (he would end up pitching a scoreless ninth).

    I had the recap that night, and this is what I said:

    I want to join people in blaming Snitker, but it might be helpful to give some background on the condition of the bullpen last night. Our bullpen currently consists of Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Jason Motte, Dan Winkler, AJ Minter, Matt Wisler, and Jim Johnson. Vizzy, Ramirez, and Freeman seem to have become the late inning trio over the last couple weeks. Accordingly, they had been used the two previous nights. Motte, Winkler, Minter, Wisler, and Johnson were seemingly available. But Motte pitched the 6th, Winkler has pitched one out this year, Wisler is being used in a mostly long role right now (he pitched three innings 3 days ago), and Minter had just pitched the night before in AAA and has not pitched in back-to-back days in his pro career. So what do you have? Jim Johnson. So Snitker pulled that string, and that’s what you got. What’s interesting is that Snitker put Winkler in the game next, then Minter, making that his first back-to-back. Clearly Snitker was trying to protect the young players, and as long as Jim Johnson is on the roster, eventually he’s going to get used. And if the FO doesn’t like it, then take him off the roster.

    And then I went on my tangent about pitcher won-loss record, and you almost can’t have a big enough bullpen when your starters only go 5-6. So, I’m not really tracking where Snitker went wrong. Based on having all the details there, it doesn’t look good on Hart. To be fair, Winkler wasn’t going to pitch the rest of the game, so if you were intent on bringing in Minter anyway, why not bring him in to face a lefty? Clearly Snitker wanted his debut to start at the beginning of an inning, or else why not?

  7. By the standards they set for this season, they disappointed us, and they need a(nother) fall guy. Snitker is supposed to be a loyal foot soldier. I guess we’ll see.

  8. If the front office believes winning is important, perhaps they should try and win games through their personnel moves. If they believe that development is more important, then I’m not sure how they can really yell at Snitker for not putting Minter in because he wanted him to start an inning clean.

    To be clear, I remember the game well, and it was a dumb move in a vacuum where the only thing that matters is in-game baseball strategy. If you’re gonna pitch the lefty an inning later, anyway, obviously you should put him in to face Seager unless the righty is somebody much better than Dan Winkler. But when everything the team has done and said since the start of the season, both through their actions and through the things they’ve said to the beat writers and so forth, have screamed that winning is secondary this season… You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, and that’s increasingly what I see from the front office.

    You wanna win? Great, me too! Let’s start actually trying to win! If that means dumping Snitker for somebody better, I’m on board. But acting like you’re trying to win when everyone can see that you’re really not, and then berating the manager for an in-game decision that might’ve lost one game because he was trying to get the rookie into a “better situation” when that’s basically a microcosm of everything you’ve done all season long… It’s BS.

  9. But acting like you’re trying to win when everyone can see that you’re really not, and then berating the manager for an in-game decision that might’ve lost one game because he was trying to get the rookie into a “better situation” when that’s basically a microcosm of everything you’ve done all season long… It’s BS.

    Bing. O.

    I had also thought that with the uniqueness of how the young SPs are being handled in September that there have been specific, behavioral meetings between Snit and Coppy/Hart about usage. And that’s led people to believe that it’s more Coppy/Hart that steer the usage boat vs. Snit overall. So, wouldn’t that also extend into the more detailed minutiae like whether or not the uber-green prospects like Winkler and Minter in this case are put in more favorable positions, or the positions that give the team the best chance to win. If you’re trying to win, put Minter in to pitch to Seager. If you’re trying to develop prospects with winning secondary, then he did what he did.

    Coppy/Hart: Snit, we went everyone throwing no more than 80 pitches per start.
    Snit: Gotcha, thanks! See ya guys!

    Or is that meeting longer that would inevitably extend into more details?

  10. @8 I would prefer some big changes in the FO. I think Schuerholz has never dropped the reins running this organization. It’s time he really retires. I also don’t think Coppy is ready to run the show. Bring in someone from outside to staff the front office as he/she sees fit. There are some decent assets in place, but the idea that this team could contend for anything this year demonstrates some severe misjudgments in what is necessary to field a winning team.

  11. The other thing is that time is surely running out on the free pass that came with tearing down the team and rebuilding it. They can see perfectly clearly that if the team is still not winning next year, they might be on trouble (assuming they’re not already). I think this might be the cause of some of this sniping that we’re seeing.

  12. To me, it really seems like, on the whole, a working cohesion between John Hart and John Coppolella really works. Either they BS with the best, and all those dual interviews are a sham, but it seems like Coppy recognizes his experience in relationship to Hart, and Hart has been complimentary of Coppy. Yes, I just don’t see where JS is adding any significant value, if any, to developing players and making personnel decisions. Hart has more than demonstrated he knows how to preside of some great times, and Coppy clearly has a lot of talent too. Why is JS needed?

  13. My impression is that Schuerholz is more on the business side of things. But what do I know? Nothing. That he succeeded enough in baseball to be able to protect his ass under any circumstance isn’t surprising. Look at the world we live in. That’s the upside of power.

    While trying to remind myself of how much I can’t possibly know about baseball, I tend to believe that managers are more or less interchangeable. So whoever replaces Snitker matters to me more as a sign of how close the front office thinks we are to contending.

    They’re already floating Washington and Porter. Which tells me… I don’t know what. Either one doesn’t exactly scream to me that 2018 is the year. But appearance-wise, they’re an improvement over Snitker. I guess it says “incrementalism” to me.

    It’s funny that all the fan comments I’ve seen are ignoring that the team is floating Washington and Porter and agitating for someone outside the organization. The front office may end up misreading the situation/fan expectations.

  14. @19

    I mean, Washington did manage in the World Series. Yes, I remember how badly that ended, too, but at some point, his pitchers probably needed to get an out with a two-strike count.

  15. @13

    You are so right on the money with your ENTIRE comment.

    It also bears remembering that our schedule became far more difficult after the 90-game mark.

  16. @20, From a pure enjoyment standpoint, all things equal, Ron Washington would be entertaining and great.

    …but not as entertaining and great as CHIPPER.

    If we’re not competing in 2018, I would like to see Chipper manage the team via twitter.

  17. I like the Mark DeRosa rumors, but Chipper or Greg Maddux would be great too. Hey, if we’re changing, change to someone we remember fondly.

  18. So using the game we blew against Seattle is a good discussion point, but maybe not one that necessarily paints Snitker in a bad light, but more like the total opposite. Who do you guys think was making the call to keep giving the ball to Jim Johnson game after game? Snitker? Or the guys in the FO that were desperate to pawn him off to the highest bidder (or, hell, any bidder)?

    I’m in the camp with everyone that thinks the manager barely even matters. Given that, we can keep him, or replace him. Fine by me. We need better players. If we can’t have better players, then maybe I’d like to see Chipper manage, because it would be hilarious.

  19. I don’t think “hilarious” or “entertaining” is really what we should be going for in a manager, so I’m not a fan of giving it to Chipper right now at all. That’s aside from the fact that doing that would (and should) seriously piss Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez off. If we go in-house, it has to be one of them.

    If he wants it, I give Chipper the batting coach job in a second, though.

  20. @14

    inflated opinions of self
    here flourish or lapse on the shelf
    the FO would surely expect
    such aggregate wisdom be nothing but correct.

  21. That AB was the old Dansby, muddling his pitch selection process. Took 2 identical strikes on breaking balls that ended up over the plate. Then chased the infamous slider way outside, got nowhere near it. C’mon, no regression.

    Still, good start!

  22. Man, I miss being in a pennant race. It would be so much fun if these next two weeks of games actually meant something.

  23. This is what I hate with the rebuilding process. You have a manager trying to over manage. Newcomb just got pulled at 84 pitches with a 6-2 lead. He needs to learn to pitch himself deep into games and out of trouble.

  24. Bartolo Colon, who had a short bath in the fountain of youth, appears to be the pitcher he was in Atlanta. Good career, Bart.

  25. Yeah… whenever he loses feel like he seemed to do against that lead off batter, he just evaporates. They’ve got to let him fight his way through that, it happens EVERY time with him…

  26. Jose Ramirez isn’t good. Even Vizcaino is kinda ok.

    Minter very well may be special… but this is the most volatile, least consequential thing to have “fixed” at this point.

  27. Jose Ramirez is a perfectly fine middle reliever who is getting a little lucky while acting as a setup man on a non-contending team. The current incarnation of the pen probably only works if Minter is the closer.

    Minter
    Vizzy
    JJ (he’ll work it out)
    Freeman
    Winkler
    Ramirez
    Acquired LHP
    Jackson

    Is a good start to a pen.

  28. I think we have 5 pretty good bullpen pieces going in to next year. We need at least 2 dominant relievers and things should fall into place. Of course, at the rate we are going we’ll probably carry 6 starters and 9 relievers next year. Our bench bats will be a backup catcher and Camargo will be the backup at all other positions.

  29. If Minter is pitching the 9th instead of whatever high-leverage innings come our way in the 7th and 8th, then we won’t be doing our best to win, and we’ll be making Minter unnecessarily expensive.

    Relievers that aren’t at Minter’s talent level are so volatile that you can’t pencil them in for anything. Take Sam Freeman, who is already pretty close to replacement level. That’s what he’s been his whole career…

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