What Went Wrong Against the Dodgers

When you lose 3 of 4 games to an opponent, it’s easy to say that a lot went wrong. And in this series, you’d be correct. That isn’t to say there weren’t some glimpses of optimism for the future, and we’ll get to that. But this was not a evenly matched series, and it was obvious from the beginning. We were outscored 20-8 in the series, and our one win was a nail-biting one-run win that almost always seemed like it was about to go the other way.

The starting pitching had been a strength for this team, especially as it was able to pitch against the Marlins, Mets, Phillies, and Washington for much of the season. But the strength of the rotation was in its depth, and not necessarily that we possessed a formidable one-two punch or even one truly dominant starter. Mike Foltynewicz got rocked in game 1, clearly over-matched by his emotions (yes, I said it) and the Dodger lineup. Anibal Sanchez didn’t do much better, given up 3 runs and not getting through the 5th in his start. Sean Newcomb, surprisingly, was helpful out of the pen in game 1 and as the game 3 starter. He was one batter away from pitching 3 scoreless in game 3, but Kevin Gausman allowed his two inherited runners to score. Folty did come back to pitch well in game 4, but Folty, Anibal, Newcomb, and Gausman did not match up well with Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Rich Hill. So while it seemed like the rotation was a strength in the regular season, it was obvious we’re a long ways away from competing with teams like the Dodgers.

For me, though, the most discouraging development was the offense. Our top 4 hitters in our lineup (I’m including Camargo in this) went 8 for 49 with two home runs and six walks. The rest of the lineup had a similar level of futility. As a team, we hit .154/.218/.211. The bench didn’t produce a hit in 4 games, and two at-bats were given to the great Ryan Flaherty. Nick went 1-12. Camargo was 0-15. Culberson was 2-12, and Acuna was 3-16. The only silver lining is that the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies were somehow worse than us at the plate in their match-ups. Sometimes the bats just go cold against good pitching.

There were some bright spots with the young pitching. In what should be considered a great move by Snitker, Max Fried appeared in all 4 games. He made one mistake to Max Muncy that was hit into the right-center field bullpen, but overall, he was a weapon out of the pen. Same with Touki Toussaint. Like the rest of the staff, he struggled with his command against the uncanny Dodger plate discipline, but he held them scoreless across three innings. AJ Minter and Arodys Vizcaino also were able to keep them off the board. But Chad Sobotka, Brad Brach, and Jonny Venters didn’t help us stay in some of these games, and they gave up 6 ER in 5.2 IP.

I really have to give it to Snitker and AA for pulling the strings to give the team the best chance against a vastly superior team. The criticism of Bobby Cox was that he managed the playoffs too closely to the regular season. You can’t say that about this regime. Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Dan Winkler, and Sam Freeman combined for 245 appearances, and they didn’t make the roster. Instead, Sobotka, Touki, and Fried the roster, even though they had only appeared in 35 games total. There’s the saying, “What got you here will not get you there,” and they set their roster and lineups accordingly. They attempted to ride the hot hands in the pen, and to some extent, that was successful. Opening Day starter for the last 5 years Julio Teheran only appeared in the last game once it was out of hand and the season was largely over. There was minimal patience with Folty and Newk once the issues that plagued them in the regular season appeared. They continually tweaked the 2nd spot in the order with the vain hope that Albies, Inciarte, and Camargo could provide a spark. They ought to get some credit that they knew they were at a disadvantage and did most everything they could to try to sneak three wins.

We weren’t supposed to win, and we didn’t. But 14 guys appeared in the postseason for the first time, and they’ll be back.

73 thoughts on “What Went Wrong Against the Dodgers”

  1. JonathanF was JC’ed last thread:

    “Rob tells me he’s going to post a postseason recap. But wait, wait! I want one more recap!

    Fortunately, under the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, Game 5 took place. Herewith, my recap from one of these worlds:

    It was a chilly 28 degrees in LA for Game 5 of the Braves-Dodgers Divisional Series – That’s right, Hell had frozen over. Clayton Kershaw was unavailable because his contract has a minimum temperature clause. The Dodgers decided to pitch Alex Wood instead. Other than a home run on the first pitch all four times Freddie Freeman came to the plate, he pitched a perfect game through 9.

    The Braves decided to pitch Ryan Flaherty so that he had a possibility to be of some value. Rene Rivera caught him, as he always does. These two moves alone greatly strengthened the bench hitting, particularly by moving up Max Fried as the lefty pinch hitter off the bench right behind Lucas “Just Foul” Duda. (That’s really unfair to Lucas, but “Just Foul” was an available nickname once Duvall was left off the roster, although the meaning was actually different.)

    Flaherty walked the first three men every inning until the 9th, but somehow gave up no runs. Twice, Yasiel Puig ran into triple plays, and he was caught stealing 3 times, each time attempting to carry out a walking “I’m invisible so you can’t see me” steal. He was declared safe (the umpires couldn’t see him) but his image was clearly visible on replay in Chelsea. In the least likely part of this recap, they overruled the call on the field in the Braves’ favor. Justin Turner just missed scoring on a sac fly when a swarm of bees emerged from his beard, temporarily blinding him and causing him to miss home. Matt Kemp dropped dead of old age coming home from third on what would have been a grand slam, and his corpse was passed by the other two baserunners and the hitter for another triple play. In the bottom of the 9th, though, up 4-0, the Braves mysteriously activated Dan Kolb and put him in because Flaherty had reached 325 pitches. The rest is history, or at least a Many Worlds version of it.

    Interestingly, since the win came in the bottom of the 9th, only 187 people were left in Dodger Stadium, including the two teams and their coaches.

    Wait until next year.”

  2. Nicely recapped Rob and JonathanF (lmao).

    The Dodgers have a deep and powerful offense. The Braves do not. Thusly, the Braves pitchers were afraid to challenge the strike-zone (justifiably), and the Dodger pitchers, for the most part, had no such fears.

    That’s my narrative at least. We’ll see if Folty and friends can take anything away from this experience or not. Make them hit back-to-back-to-back HRs rather than walking two per inning. If they can hit like that, tip your cap and just deal with the fact that they are better. I bet they *won’t* be able to hit like that though. Folty and Newk have filthy stuff. Trusting it is the next step. The next step also must involve better command of secondary pitches, so when they need to pitch backwards in the count, they can do so.

  3. Excellent recap.

    All, please see my rosterbation on the last thread. I don’t want to recopy it.

    One thing missing from Dusty’s analysis was Camargo….

  4. I believe we keep McCreery, Sanchez and Luke Jackson and release/non-tender the other 8 guys on your list, Rob. Those 3 did enough to stay for now.

    As for what to do with them: McCreery will start the year at AAA and be first in line for the inevitable venters injury; Sanchez should be converted to the bullpen where I believe his stuff will really lay up; Jackson will stay on the Gwinnett shuttle as the last guy in the pen. Jackson is worth more to a bad team as a potential rotation piece (ala Jesse Chavez) so he isn’t making it through waivers again.

  5. It’s very intimidating to those teams that are celebrating on our home field. Or so I’m told.

  6. @6

    Yeah, good luck with that.

    You’re not necessarily wrong, but the Braves have gone completely all-in on it and couldn’t get rid of it if they wanted to now.

  7. @5 You may be right about those three except I was referring to Ricardo Sanchez as a release and re-sign. I actually didn’t think my non-tender list would get that long until I wrote it. It all depends upon how many 40-man spaces we need for additions and Rule 5 protection. I actually think most of our Rule 5 work has been done by the September additions.

    With Anibal Sanchez, if you want to keep him on the active roster, would have to displace someone else.

    So, snowshine, who do you dump (or option) to keep A. Sanchez?

    Another issue is that A. Sanchez will cost real money not the league minimum. Whoever ultimately replaces him will likely cost less. As I mentioned in my post, even without A. Sanchez and by trading Teheran and by sending Allard, Gohara, Wright, Wilson back to the minors, we still have six legitimate rotation candidates. I just don’t see how A. Sanchez fits without setting back another young gun either in the rotation or the bullpen.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Anibal and think he did a great job, but he is 35+ and we have a huge amount of high potential pitching.

  8. RE: this recently concluded playoff series, it’s the process and not the results that gets to me. No one’s surprised by the outcome. But our approach left a lot to be desired on both sides of the ball.

    Let’s not skirt the issue: our hitters don’t take walks, and our pitchers just hand them out.

  9. Rob, I absolutely love you for pointing out Bobby’s (and Fredi’s) management style in the playoff.

    That’s why I like AA and Snit. They may not all be the right decisions and I may not agree with all of them, but at least I can sense that they are trying to figure things out rather than Bobby’s style.

    Hey, we went as far in the playoff as the Yankees!

  10. @10 I think watching Snit’s interview, it shows me that they know what’s the problems are. They know they handed out too many walks, they know they didn’t hit enough, they know the roster needs to be better. This roster is not designed to make a run at the world series and it was obvious that they didn’t go all in during the trade deadline.

    They know all that. Let’s see what they will do this off-season to address the problems that they know.

  11. 2019 will be very exciting for us. We have all the funds and trade pieces to put together a championship team already for 2019.

  12. Zuk wants to come back. I’d have preferred him over TyFlo but had no vote.

    Cliff, JonathanF, Rob: well done. Thanks.

  13. Roger,

    Thanks for completed what I started and I knew I was missing someone important (Camargo).

    Was really trying more to get a sense of the payroll, but the 40 man will make for some interesting decisions this off season as well.

    I think my baseline payroll on the books of $88 million still holds up (my numbers allow for 27 ML spots and I think that’s fair with potential injuries).

    You could shave that down to $77 by trading Julio.

  14. My sure-to-be-wrong prognostications about what the Braves will do this offseason:

    1) Mega-deal for Acuña
    2) Sign Bryce Harper
    3) Trade for Danny Duffy
    4) Trade for Austin Hedges

  15. I have liked Duffy in the past, but I think he had some velocity/injury concerns last year that would have me nervous about him. I may be mistaken.

    I’m with you on 1, 2 and 4 though.

    Just realized that the Braves only had 3 run scoring hits in the series. Acuna’s slam, Freeman’s HR and Zuk’s pinch hit.

  16. I’m not wed to Duffy, but I’m just thinking they’ll be looking to acquire someone with proven TOR upside and multiple years of control. And they’re obviously not getting that from a contender, so there’s a pretty limited pool.

    A guy like Marcus Stroman would fit the bill, too. Dylan Bundy, maybe, if you squint. With all these guys, I think the medicals would be the key.

    Can’t see them ever lining up with the Mets on a deGrom deal. If the Yankees are itching to be rid of Sonny Gray and selling him for peanuts, that would be good, but he only has one year of control left.

  17. deGrom could be an in-season addition, perhaps. It looks like the Mets are going to try one more time to build an offense around their staff, and when and if they fail, they may sell.

    I do want to see some extensions this offseason.

  18. These are OPS & short-series stats, so they’re of limited usefulness, of course, but Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs has ranked all of the postseason series ever to find the biggest disparity in OPS (and other stats) between the two teams. From that list–

    1. HOU – CLE LDS 2018: Hou 1.037 // Cle .418 // Diff. .619

    5. LAD – ATL LDS 2013: LA .962 // Atl 0.564 // Diff 0.398

    7. LAD – ATL LDS 2018: LA .803 // Atl .429 // Diff .374

    Apologies for the janketty formatting. His thesis was emphasizing just how historically Cleveland got clobbered by Houston, but I couldn’t help notice us in there too. https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-astros-gave-the-indians-an-all-time-beating/

  19. Nick went absolutely ice cold at the end of the season (.695 OPS in August, .646 OPS in September), so it’s not a surprise that he didn’t put up more. Guys that had some pressure on them because they were in the playoffs for the first time (Camargo, Albies, Acuna, etc.) or starting for the first time (Culberson) were bad as well. We needed a lot of guys to play over their heads, and against the best competition, they played to their worst levels. I don’t think they’ll struggle next year the way they did this year.

  20. Our friend Ryan Cothran has evacuated with his family to New Orleans. His house is almost directly in Hurricane Michael’s path. As Ryan stated on his Twitter feed (@baldheaded1der), “Seriously terrified for our area. If you’re the praying type, pray for the Panhandle.”

    You got it. Stay safe.

  21. We just came back from Seaside a couple weeks ago, it’s so beautiful there, here’s to hoping Michael is all bark and no bite.

    I think we’re going to see a lot more roster turnover than you guys are predicting. We’re close, but yet so far away still.

  22. I think that the Braves organization needs to get a handle on what the long term analysis of Swanson really is as well. Yes, he’s a plus defender. I think he improved by leaps and bounds defensively this year. He’s getting into borderline territory IMO of where his defense actually matters. But… it’s pretty clear he is a .240 to .255 hitter with somewhat limited power and prone to massive slumps where his fundamentals are terrible mixed in with some hot streaks.

    I think the Braves need to decide if he is a piece worth building around or with, or not. And make decisions based on either way. In this time of increased offense, HRs etc. My vote would be, no.

    Having said all that, he’s far from the biggest issue with the team/org but I don’t think its a given that he’s a long term solution.

  23. I am amazed at how accurate the storm track forecasts have been. We live about 50 miles west of where the eye will be coming ashore shortly, and have been keeping a constant eye on things. We decided to ride it out and so far it has not been terrible here. But if we lived in Panama City, no way we would have stayed. Stay safe anyone who may be in harm’s way.

  24. #29

    Yeah, things are pretty calm here in Pensacola. The neighbor’s newly built dock is underwater, but, thankfully, that’s the worst of it–so far.

  25. Is Albies Joe Morgan-lite or Marcus Giles?

    Gonna side with Chief on this, in that this is a fair question to ask. Can Albies make the adjustment?

    This kind of thing is what I’m getting, @10. You can’t just chalk it up to playoff nerves. Albies was the hitter he was since August.

  26. @27 The Waffle House Index says Michael will be exceptionally bad. 18 Waffle Houses closed so far. Worse than Florence.

  27. I just lost the internet in my town house in PCB (at least I think so because my web cam down there has stopped sending video). Hopefully the damage is minimal and everyone there is staying safe.

  28. Albies is not the same as Dansby. He is so much younger and performed better even if he had some rough stretches. With Ozzie, I think you assume his second half was his sophomore slump. Discipline can be learned. I’ve always referred to Freddie as First-Pitch Freddie yet Freddie gets plenty of walks.

    I see Dansby as a potential JJ Hardy – GG defense with some pop (20-25 HRs) and a crappy OBP but with more speed. Plus he’ll get some clutch hits out of the 8th spot. Hardy was a 3-4 WAR player for the bulk of his career and only had an OPS+ over 100 three times.

    Dansby (and Ozzie for sure) is a core player. If he tanks at the plate next year, we can revisit. But if he can get to 95 OPS+, 20+ HRs, and GG defense then he never leaves.

    Frankly, I am amazed anyone is questioning Ozzie. He just put up nearly a 4 WAR season at 21 and was an All Star. He is the second coming of Jose Altuve. And he will get better.

  29. I see them as above average defenders and near-average bats, with room for upside (a lot of room). You don’t “build the team around them”. They are hopefully better versions of Blauser/Lemke.

    You build the team around Acuna/Freeman and 2 more OF’ers that we have yet to acquire.

  30. I believe Dansby and Albies will be a part of the core for a long time. In the near term, I understand the worries. There is not much that scares you in the lineup aside from Acuna and Freeman, so you’ve got to work in a bopper somewhere. Harper could go a long way to fix that.

  31. @42 co-sign. Add a catcher who is a more consistent offensive threat, add Riley to the mix, and the position players are set.

  32. I’d feel better having seen Albies make an adjustment of any kind at the major league level, but I imagine he can pull it off.

    He’s an all-around better version of Rougned Odor — and Odor is the cautionary tale here who didn’t necessarily improve even though he too got the call at a very young age.

  33. On Albies, it has been pointed out that pitchers just kept throwing high fastballs to him and he would pop them up or fly out meekly, especially left handed. I trust Seitzer is working with him on this. It’s a combination of laying off that pitch (especially since he isn’t doing any damage against it) or adjusting mechanically where you can do something with a ball pitched there even if it is just fouling the ball off to get a better pitch.

    To me, this is an easier fix than the hitter who swing at balls low and away and way outside the zone (think Andruw and Frenchy). A high fastball is easier to identify in most cases than a slider off the plate which starts like a fastball down the middle.

    All this to say, I think Albies problems are fixable and he’s got tremendous athleticism and youth on his side. If he can adjust, sky’s the limit.

  34. I do not think that Albies is Altuve. Altuve has hit .338+ 3 times.

    I also do not agree that Swanson will ever sniff 25 HRs in a season. He is more likely to hit 5 than 25. Come on.

  35. Someone who showed the promise that Albies did in the first half of the season should certainly be given a chance to adjust next year.

    On Dansby, I guess I’m not 100 percent sold on him being our shortstop for a generation, but he was good enough on defense this year where it really almost doesn’t matter what he does offensively. And he can become at least palatable offensively if he just decides to look for pitches middle-in and resolves to never swing at anything middle-out (or further out) until there’s at least two strikes on him. He started making that adjustment in the second half and was better.

    In any case, if both of those guys are issues, they’re a fair distance down the list. We need to replace Markakis with a legitimate power bat (likely via free agency), sign or trade for a No. 1 or 2 starter to shore up our rotation, and fix the bullpen.

    I still think our rotation looks much better if you acquire a No. 1 and slide everybody down a slot (or worst case, leave Folty at No. 1 and acquire a No. 2).

    Also, as mentioned the other day, assuming we’re not going to suddenly find ourselves with the best-locating pitching staff in the majors, something has to be done about the pitch-calling. Whoever’s mostly responsible for it needs to be switched out. If it’s Chuck Hernandez, fine. If it’s Sal Fasano, fine. If it’s the catchers, let Suzuki walk, sign another catcher, and relegate Flowers to backup duty. If it’s some combination, figure it out. With our current crop of pitchers, we need to focus on getting ahead in the count, not throwing pitches that aren’t working the first 20 times we throw them, and not trying the pitch selection equivalent of elaborate bank shots that require perfect execution. In other words, get back to basics.

  36. Dansby was certainly not good enough with the bat to avoid any discussions about his future. And since the advanced metrics didn’t consider his defense Andreltonian, he rated out as simply a league average player. So if you’re looking at the roster and wondering where you might be able to add value, you at least have to stop at SS and wonder if he’ll grow and develop.

    https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=16556&position=2B

    A lot of the scouting on Ozzie and a two second look at his minor league stat line couldn’t have predicted the player profile he ended up being. While he and Dansby are double-play partners, that’s where the connection ends. Through June 30th, Ozzie had a .276/.316/.520 line with 17 HRs in 349 ABs. He was on a MVP pace before he hit .245/.290/.383 from July 1st on. I agree that hopefully that is his “sophomore slump” considering he had spent so much time on the roster in 2017. Ozzie should be penciled in at 2B, if not SS, for the next half-decade with no reservation.

  37. Some are mentioning on twitter that the Braves are at the top of Britton’s list and potentially vice versa. I like the idea as he could provide late inning stability and still not break the bank.

  38. @53 McDowell has to be feeding us stuff. We traded for Gausman, Brach and O’Day, and now we’re connected to Zach Britton.

    I bet we are going to be connected to a lot of players this offseason.

  39. Watching these other playoff teams, I don’t think a batting order that includes all four of Swanson, Inciarte, Carmago, Suzuki/Flowers can really be up to postseason standards. Any of those hitters can swing it in the 7/8 spots, but shouldn’t sniff the 5-hole.

    Now the question becomes, where/how do you upgrade?

  40. @59 – Bama’s qb, Tua, has been unstoppable. The NCAA single season Passer efficiency rating record is 198.7 by Baker Mayfield. So far Tua’s rating is 258.7. Tua is 76 for 101 with 0 interceptions and 20 tds. In other words, he has only 5 more incomplete passes than touchdowns. Maybe Missouri can slow him down some, but it hasn’t happened yet. He still hasn’t played in the 4th quarter.

  41. @58 Nice article. Exactly what I’ve been trying to say about Ozzie except better done. Ozzie may not be Altuve but he is Ozzie. He will hopefully produce the same value in a different way.

  42. @61 It’s not Mizzou’s defense that is the concern. It’s not that great – Bama will get their 50. The test this weekend is to keep Mizzou from scoring 50. If they had any defense at all, they’d be a top 25 team.

    Bama doesn’t see a “real” defense until LSU.

  43. Alabama will beat Missouri by 40+. I’d say something like 51-10 or 51-13.

    Having said ALL of that, Bama’s schedule is about as easy as it can get and Tua has still not played even a competent defense. When he does, we will see. Alabama’s defense is not as good as in recent years. They’re 10th in the conference in rushing yards allowed after finishing 1st for like 9 years in a row. I also think their DL are just OK.

  44. Agreed on Bama not seeing a real defense until LSU. The games with LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn will prove how good Bama’s offense is.

    Bama’s defense looked pretty good until Texas A&M. They are very young, especially in the secondary. They designed their defense to slow down the hurry up offense and it worked because teams can’t do real complex schemes with the hurry up. Teams that slow down their offense and have more complex schemes tend to do better against Bama.

  45. I may be in the minority but I do not want Bryce Harper on this team. I think he is the most overrated player in baseball and he’s a giant douche.

  46. @58

    Thanks for that article, Alex, must have missed it first time round. I’m a huge Ozzie fan and have been since last September. Altuve lite? Not for me, he flattened him through June. His defense and hostile base running major plus.

    April, May, most of June. That’s not an aberration, it’s a true indicator of a 20 y old’s extraordinary ability. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so greedy and given him some time off – can’t remember any.

    What concerns is what do we do now, if anything, here in mid November? Back in Curacao, leave him alone? I don’t think so, the wound to his psyche in the second half must be deep, he needs TLC. And whatever else to remind him he’s a terrific baseball player and we are so lucky to have him. What’s the best way of doing that – and when – and with whom?

  47. @68

    ‘the leaves of brown
    came tumblin’ down
    remember
    that September
    in the rain.’

    And that’s followed by October, not November. Just checkin’ you were paying attention. All the more time for Ozzie.

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