Braves 6, Pirates 1

So, it turns out, if you can trade a few nice but not all that notable spare parts for this generation’s version of Young Andy Ashby, you probably should. Kevin Gausman continues to be the absolute gank heist of the season. One begins to suspect that Alex Anthopoulos and his team(s) are pretty good at this.

Back before the deadline, when we were all guessing and grasping and hoping and complaining about holes that needed to be filled, we often came back to the topic of a true “top of the rotation starter (TOR).” During one of those side bars, I did a quick and dirty mash-up (none dare call such a thing “analysis”) of the league’s leaders in bWAR and ERA. Just put the two lists side by side and made note of who was on both of them. It was a cheap and easy look into who in MLB 2018 might be reasonably considered a TOR.

The results were more or less what you would expect; Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom. Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander. Clayton Kershaw was missing mostly because he’s been injured and in and out of the lineup this year. But generally speaking, the superstar names popped up in the returns.

At same time, there were a few odd names in the list as well. Colorado’s Kyle Freeland in the middle of the WAR returns. Mike Foltynewicz sneaking into the ERA list. Gerritt Cole’s transformation since arriving in Houston. Guys that are having amazing 2018’s, who may in fact be poised to join the previous list as year over year superstar starters, but who are still working on some kinks and haven’t quite earned the assumption that they’re “here to stay,” so to speak.

It’s safe to add Kevin Gausman, as a Brave, to that second list. Since making the move to the NL, Gausman has absolutely dominated. His first start for Atlanta was a pedestrian 3-0 loss to the Mets, in New York. He’d been with the club all of four days at the time, so any adjustments Atlanta’s staff had for him probably hadn’t really taken yet. In his three starts since then, he’s undefeated, going 8 strong against Milwaukee, a workman 6 innings against Miami, and then last night’s gem in Pittsburgh.

Over that span his K/9 has actually dropped almost 2 full strikeouts per game. But his BB/9 has also dropped, from 2.3 to 2.0. His HR/9 has declined as well, from 1.5 to 0.3, and his H/9 has absolutely cratered. In Baltimore Gausman was giving up 10+ hits per game. In Atlanta he’s reduced that to the 6.7. Some of that is undoubtedly getting out of the firing lines of the AL East. It’s easier to limit hits against the Marlins and Pirates than it is against the Red Sox and Yanks. But some of it seems to be approach. He looks like he’s taken something off of his heater, and he’s pitching from the stretch exclusively, which I think is new.

Whatever it is, he’s dropped his WHIP from 1.379 to 0.963. That is an astounding adjustment. Clayton Kershaw’s WHIP in 2017 was 0.949. Max Scherzer’s was 0.902. Jake deGrom’s for 2018 is 0.958. We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves of course. It’s a three game sample size after all. But if you were wondering, no; your gut isn’t wrong. Since joining the Braves, Kevin Gausman has in fact been the shut down, top of the rotation “ace” you’ve been hoping for. Whether that lasts is another question, but he’s been a hell of a pick up so far.

As for the game itself, the first three innings took approximately 12 seconds to play. Ivan Nova was actually more effective than Gaus to start. He sat the Braves down 1-2-3 three times in a row, averaging less than 10 pitches per inning to get through the order. After an uneventful first, Gausman gave up a single and a walk to start the second, but two consecutive ground balls kept his sheet clean, with an inning ending double play reducing his base runners by one as well.

The Braves finally got a couple of base runners or their own in the fourth, with Ender and Freddie slapping back to back singles with one out. But neither Neck nor Johan could cash them in. Pittsburgh went quietly in their half, bringing Atlanta back to the dish in short order. After an Ozzie ground out, Kurt Suzuki singled. Dansbo jumped all over the first pitch he saw, a 91 mph 2-seamer, and lashed it down the LF line for a laser beam HR. Braves up 2-0, and the way the Buccos’ offense has been struggling and half their starting lineup on the bench anyway, you felt pretty good about it. Pirates repeat the meekness bottom half, and the Braves go quietly top 6.

Bottom half of the sixth sees the first real danger for Gausman since the second, though it should have been easier. With one out Josh Harrison pinch hits for Nova and singles. Corey Dickerson follows that up with a single of his own. Adam Frazier steps in and chops a 1-2 fastball right back to the pitcher, who turns and fires to second to start the double play. Only Dansby and Ozzie aren’t on the same page as to who’s covering and both converge on the bag simultaneously. Albies manages to catch the throw and hold the bag with his toe before being body checked off of it by Swanson. The force out is confirmed on review, but what should have been another inning ending double play is reduced to just a very odd looking second out.

Gregory Polanco walks to load the bases, but Gaus gets Josh Bell to roll the first pitch to Swanson who steps on second to end the threat.

Braves break it open a bit in the seventh. Ozzie singles, which maybe starts something for him again. Kurt Suzuki, who was at least half of the offensive story of the night, doubles him home, and then trots home ahead of Dansbo’s second two-run jack of the night. Braves up 5-0. Gaus goes back out for an easy eighth. Atlanta tacks on an insurance run top of 9, but the cost is still pending as Suzuki is due to have a CT scan on his elbow this morning. It didn’t look good in real time.

Chad Sobotka closed out the ninth. Gregory Polanco ran into a 95 mph four seamer to lead off, ruining the shut out, but he came in throwing gas for strikes, being aggressive, and generally not screwing around. Precisely what you want to see from a reliever mopping up the last inning with a six run lead.

Interesting note there; the same scout who found Sobotka toiling away for the University of South Carolina-Upstate Spartans (Spartanburg, Atlantic Sun Conference) also found Evan Phillips (University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Colonial Athletic Association) and Bryse Wilson (Orange High School, Hillsoborough, North Carolina.) I propose that guy get a raise.

Anywho, I’m rambling and I’m already an hour past the time I promised Rob I’d publish this thing. To wrap it up, gNats beat the Phils 10-4 last night, Detroit beat the Cubs, Cincy topped the Brew Crew. St. Louis did win at LA, and the D’backs topped the Halos, so it wasn’t a clean sweep for all potential WC competitors, but we’re not shooting for the WC this year anyway. Atlanta sits 2 games ahead of Philly in the East, and Washington seems to be giving up the ghost at 7.5 back and selling off players.

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102 thoughts on “Braves 6, Pirates 1”

  1. Wow, great post. Hadn’t realized how much better Ashby was for us than he was earlier in that year for Philly.

  2. I wasn’t gonna say anything about all the Gausman puffery — he has been good, after all, and I suppose as long as you say “small sample size” in there somewhere, anything goes!

    But… “Chad Sobotka closed out the ninth. Gregory Polanco ran into a 95 mph four seamer to lead off.” LOL, Polanco ran into that pitch like Fat Man ran into Nagasaki.

  3. I remember one Wednesday night, Ashby throwing a shutout with the Braves winning 1-0 in one of those games.
    There was always this one Wednesday night game that ITV or whichever English tv channel would show live. And since the commentator of that show was a Braves fan, they showed the Braves more often than not.

  4. My primary recollection of Andy Ashby is the sweat. Dude was rail thin, but he generated a Great Lake full of sweat every time out. It was like he was the X-Men’s grossest mutant.

  5. I let out an audible, extended sigh when I read Suzuki’s X-Rays were negative. There are simply no good catching options out there, as there shouldn’t be. Chirinos, Wieters, etc. would have been bad. And this gives Suzuki some rest, Flowers some more playing time, and a chance to see Charlie Culberson play yet another odd position.

  6. Sobotka came into the ninth inning of a six run lead. He threw a 96 mph four seamer past Polanco to go up 0-1. He and Flowers, fresh in from pinch running for Suzuki, double up on that pitch looking to start off 0-2. It’s flat and catches too much of the plate and Polanco doesn’t miss any of it.

    Sobotka comes right back at Josh Bell with a good morning, good evening, good night K looking. Fastball, fastball, slider. Bell never takes the bat off his shoulder.

    It takes a little more work to retire Franky Cervelli (who is cranking out a .393 OBP this season somehow.)

    Colin Moran swings at the first strike he sees and rolls out to Ozzie to end the game.

    You can nitpick all you want, but that is exactly what I want to see from a guy out of the pen with a big lead. Get after ’em. Challenge the hitters. Make them beat you. Polanco got his. Tip the hat and go back to work with the 5 run cushion.

    It’s the precise opposite of the Sam Freeman nip and tuck at the corners until you walk the bases loaded approach, and I for one love it.

  7. I’d much rather have Suzuki, obviously. He’s got a career 63 OPS+, so it’s hard to be ok with Stewart.

  8. @10, 12

    100% agreed. I think Sobotka, even with the gopherball, is earning some trust from Snit.

  9. The guy that hit Suzuki was the defintion of “uncomfortable at-bat”. He had no idea where his fastball was going. I’d have been asking to be pinch-hit for.

  10. The lede from Peanut’s recap at MLB.com:

    PITTSBURGH — After anxiously accepting the midseason transition from a cellar dweller to a postseason contender, Kevin Gausman digested the analytical advice the Braves provided and then determined it would be in his best interests to ditch the windup.

    “Any time you change anything as a Major Leaguer, there’s always a big question mark in your head about whether it’s going to work or not,” Gausman said. “I’ve had success in the big leagues before coming over here. There was a part of me that was a little hesitant. But I just tried to put all my rocks in one basket. I just jumped head-first right into it.”

    So pitching exclusively from the stretch is in fact the thing the Braves analytics guys thought they could change for Gausman.

  11. I agree with Sam. Fretting over the Polanco home run seems pointless. We had a 6-run lead and he was throwing strikes. He then went on to get the next three guys. You wanted what exactly?

  12. @8 No, I am not comfortable with calling up Stewart. The only logical option would be to call up Jackson and see what we’ve got before the offseason. He is really three true outcome at AAA right now and he’s worked with some of the pitchers on the staff in the minors already. He’s eligible for Rule 5 so we really need to see him in person before having to make a decision that. Calling up Stewart does nothing to help for the future.

  13. RE: Gausman’s BABIP.

    A .238 BABIP would make him 4th in baseball if he sustained it long enough to qualify. Teheran is leading the league in BABIP, Anibal would be around the top 10 if he qualified, Newk is 18th, and Folty is 20th. And there’s nobody amongst the leaderboard that’s particularly close to qualifying that would be skewing the numbers. We have a tremendous infield defense that seems to be sustaining all of our starters across a thousand+ innings. I think we just play defense really well, and uniquely if you’re a groundball pitcher.

  14. Forgot to mention it in the write up, but Polanco came inches away from giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Before he walked, he absolutely destroyed a ball that was just foul down the RF line. So he was seeing fastballs well all night.

  15. Sam @10 Not sure if our font will look right but this for you sir:

        /@
        \ \
    ___> \
    (__O) \
    (____@) \
    (____@) \
    (__o)_ \
        \ \

  16. I’m not saying Sobotka is bad, or that his approach was bad. I am saying you gotta give a little credit where credit is due.

    Is Gausman a “TOR starter”? Well, I don’t know because a TOR starter is kind of whatever you want it to be, and that’s part of the appeal of indistinct distinctions. He’s good, better than average with potential for more, and the trade doesn’t need to be a steal / he doesn’t need to be an ace or whatever terminology you want to use for the Braves to get to where they want to go.

    When things are going well, there should be no need to get greedy. The upswings of fandom have a way of rankling as much as the downswings.

  17. yeah, I’m an old dude so I was trying to put an ascii thumbs up in the post but stupid wordpress doesn’t like slashes or spaces so it’s a total fail. I think I’m going to practice on my local instance of Braves Journal until I get it right. Then next time you are worthy of a thumbs up you will get what you deserve.

  18. OH! It’s a fist bump! I sir, return your terrorist fist jab enthusiastically!

    EDIT: OR, it could be a thumb’s up. I’m going with fist bump. I’m a dap kinda guy.

  19. Jim Bowden via The Athletic has a strange ranking of our farm system (after the trade deadline). He has the Braves at 2 overall behind the Padres.

    Not sure if it’s frowned upon to copy and paste?

    Top 12 Prospects: 1. Kolby Allard, LHP; 2. Austin Riley, 3B; 3. Kyle Wright, RHP; 4. Mike Soroka, RHP; 5. Ian Anderson, RHP; 6. Luiz Gohara, LHP; 7. Cristian Pache, OF; 8. Touki Toussaint, RHP; 9. Drew Waters, OF; 10. Joey Wentz, LHP; 11. Kyle Muller, LHP; 12. Bryse Wilson, RHP.

  20. Placido Domingo
    sets a new record, by jingo
    has now sung 150 roles
    a fact of only mild interest to us besotted proles.

  21. Sam @17

    I saw something also where they moved where he was on the rubber and want him using his fastball less and up in the zone.

  22. @27

    Is Bowden just a shock jock provocateur at this point? Any farm system ranking with Allard at #1 is toilet paper. This is what gives prospect following a bad rap. When anyone with half of a brain can look and see that the list is bunk, then it causes some people to, wrongly, throw the baby out with the bath water and say TINSTAAPP!!!!!!1!1!!!

  23. @32

    As someone who’s known to be sick of prospect-focused fandom of this team, I feel I should assuage your fears: Jim Bowden’s bizarre ranking of Kolby Allard as our No. 1 prospect has precisely zero to do with my opinion on this topic.

    It does have something to do with my opinion on the topic of Jim Bowden as a baseball analyst, however.

  24. If MLB Tonight had a segment where Mark DeRosa beat Jim Bowden to death with his own bloody arm that DeRo had previously ripped off os his body, I’d watch.

  25. Polanco *just* missed a fastball in his first PA, too, getting under it and flying out to the warning track.

  26. I honestly have no idea what to make of that schedule release video. I’ve watched it like three times already and I still don’t.

  27. Bowden was doing NFL fantasy football talk the other day. He is clearly going for quantity over quality in the way he whores himself around.

  28. Tonights Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams has been pretty awesome. I had no clue about him. We better get some of that Good Julio tonight.

  29. More contrarian fun today… it’s not a good prospects list, but I can vaguely see a rationale for listing Kolby Allard as the organization’s top prospect. It rests on heavily weighting some idea of Allard being closest to the majors and also healthy — which isn’t a very illuminating way to do prospects lists for readers, but whatever.

    The rest of the list is nonsensical on those terms too. But maybe Bowden thinks Allard could’ve spent the year in the rotation if we gave him a longer leash and the likes of Gohara/Touki/Bryse either weren’t ready since the start of the season or would’ve had more variation in their performances if we had marched them out there.

  30. #37

    It was good to see Walter Banks (long-time Braves usher), Ed Mangan (grounds crew chief), Matthew Kaminski (organist), and all the other people who have supported the Braves over the years. To tell the truth, the video, though a bit muddled, was a breath of fresh air. Things are going well for the team this year, so we have even more to look forward to next year. I couldn’t imagine a video like this being released a few years ago. Too stuffy.

  31. Maybe we’re paying Bowden to release the prospect list that we want others to make trade offers against.

  32. @43, That would be smart. If we tip extra, maybe Bowden would do a few tweets about Rizzo on the hot seat.

    I would settle for: “Sources close to Bryce Harper say he was devastated that the Dodgers blocked him from reaching the team he strongly prefers, the Atlanta Braves, via waiver trade. Harper was prepared to lobby the Nationals front office to make it happen”

  33. I don’t know, obviously, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rizzo has a “dump players you can dump, to anyone but Philly or Atlanta” strategy. Even as a short term asset on a team that seems to be punting the rest of his last season, you don’t want to just hand Harper over to an intradivisional rival and give them an early negotiation period for his services going forward.

  34. gNats schadenfreude par excellence…”

    Arguably the most talented collection of players in the National League never figured out how to be a winning team, and its slow dissolution began by jettisoning Murphy and Adams. The Nationals did pull Bryce Harper off waivers after the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed him, ensuring he will spend the last six weeks of the season with the team that drafted him, developed him and in seven seasons didn’t win a playoff series with him.

  35. Baseball America says Austin Riley is swinging the bat well again and is very close to the big leagues. Maybe that’s our right-handed power bench bat for September.

  36. @47 @50 The Braves said they put in a claim on Adams and “considered” putting in a claim on Murphy but didn’t because they couldn’t figure what he’d add defensively. Sounds pretty dumb to me – an excuse for not spending the money. What “defensively” does Adams offer except a cheaper paycheck? I can’t see how it would hurt to add someone who’s a “bat” only and could suffice as a starter if we had a bad injury. Lame excuse.

    I actually see the same thing about Stewart – good glove, no bat. We really need a bench bat. The only excuse for this is that they expect no one to claim him when we eventually have to DFA him.

    After the deadline, I feel sure AA has the team’s best interests at heart and I expect a move before Aug 31st. With the Phillies having grabbed Luis Avilan, the Braves are the major contender that hasn’t made an August move…. sigh….. impatience reigns supreme.

  37. Julio has been pitching so much better recently. I think he’s gotten a “I don’t wanna be left behind’ vibe going.

  38. I’d have to think that Julio could have been getting in “left behind” territory if he hadn’t.

  39. Make up your mind, Joe. Did sending the runner take away a hit or avoid a double play? It can’t be both.

  40. Duvall has to at least move him over to 3rd.

    Check that. Way to go Dansby!!

    Bad ball call, though. Wonder if the ump missed it because the catcher couldn’t frame it with Dansby running.

  41. Remember Derek Lowe down the stretch in 2010? How poorly he had pitched for most of the past two years, but was brilliant down the stretch? That’s my hope for Julio this year.

  42. Someone tell me how Ender cannot screw this up. Bunt?

    At least it wasn’t a DP. Should have bunted.

    Thank God for Freddie.

  43. We all know how Dansby doesn’t miss the pitch that’s middle in. That’s true, but the real key is laying off those sliders low and away until the pitcher finally makes that mistake inside. Dans is doing much better at that.

  44. I know. Should have been able to get two runs with our eyes closed.

    Here we go. Hang on to your hats, boys.

  45. Some choice social media quotes about the screaming kid:

    • “Who are they sacrificing the rooster to in the stands?”

    • “Someone needs to shut that demonic-sounding kid up at the Braves-Pirates game.”

    • “WTH is it with Pirates games and screaming kids??????”

    • “Someone needs to shut down that kid who’s screaming”

    • “Good god is the girl at the @Pirates game cheering the team or fighting off an assault?”

    • “Whoever brought that kid to the Pirates game and hasn’t whooped that kid’s ass yet needs to have their own ass whooped. How could you possibly tolerate that?”

    • “If I had to sit next to that screaming pirates girl I’d drink myself to Death at the game”

    • “The girl screaming during the Braves Pirates game has forced me to watch the game muted”

  46. Great defense by Swanson there. Much like the backhand he flubbed in the ninth last weekend, but this time he nailed it. He really is a good defensive SS

  47. Regan (from The Exorcist) is alive and well and living in Pittsburgh.

    PNC Park should ban cotton candy sales after 6:00 p.m.

  48. Damn, Polanco can hit. That was a perfect pitch – might’ve gotten him if it was a sinker instead of a slider.

    And Jonny gets his man! Tonight’s savior. Way to go Jonny.

    How sweep it is. Now on the the Fish.

  49. What if the one closer and five starting pitchers as staples of any pitching staff is dying?

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