Phillies 10, Braves 4

The Braves had a magical season in 2018.  To this old hand, it was as much fun as all but a handful in the history of the Atlanta Braves. Much of the fun of the team was the youth and their enthusiasm.  Acuna exceeded even wildly inflated expectations.  Albies had a tough second half, but overall he still had an outstanding season for a 21 year old.  Camargo was a revelation, demonstrating that he can be a very productive major league hitter.  Freeman was his usual self, which is arguably the best first baseman in the game. 

So, despite our collective frustration with the perceived deficiencies of the front office’s offseason moves, most of us were excited to see this team begin the new season. 

I’ll jump to the bottom line:  Phillies 10, Braves 4.  Don’t blame the starting pitcher.  Although it’s hard to be excited that Julio Teheran was making his sixth consecutive opening day start, he pitched quite well.  His fastball consistently hit 92-93, his slider was very effective, and most importantly he struck out seven and only walked two in five innings of work.  He pitched in some bad luck in the fourth when he gave up a couple of runs.  Although it ultimately made no difference in the game, it was great to see Julio strike out Harper with a runner on third and no out.

Speaking of starting pitchers, many of us complained that the front office did not add a top of the rotation starter.  Again, we might not agree as to the exact definition of that term, but I suspect we agree that Aaron Nola fits the bill.  Nola went six, allowing only two hits and one run, while striking out eight.  The Braves did threaten against Nola, as they managed to draw five walks in those six innings.  Their patience was admirable in an opening day against a tough pitcher, but they could not get the big knock with men on base, except for a run scoring single by Markakis in the second.

RAJ was his exciting self, with a hit, two walks, and a stolen base, scoring a run and driving in another.  The only other real offense of note was a two run pinch hit dinger by Matt “James” Joyce, who knocked one from swerve of shore to bend of bay.  Oh, and let’s give credit to Swanson who had a double and a walk on the day.

One weak link in last year’s team was the bullpen.  Several young unheralded relievers pitched well in spurts last year, but no one was consistently good all year.  The big problem is that as a group the Braves’ pen led the world in walks.  Some have complained that the Braves did not do enough to improve the bullpen during this past offseason.  “Enough” is a subjective term; opinions may vary as to how much would have been sufficient.  I suspect that we all agree that “nothing” was probably not enough. 

So the first relief pitcher of the new season was Shane Carle.  Take a guess: What did he do with the first batter he faced?  He walked him.  What happened next? After a couple of outs, he surrendered another walk, and than a three run homer by Maikel Franco.  So who pitched the seventh for the Braves?  Our old friend Luke Jackson.  Wait, you ask–what is he doing on the roster?  Much less pitching with the game on the line on opening day? Here is what he was doing: Walk, single, walk, grand slam.  Because he was left in to finish the inning, he reduced his season ERA from infinity to 36.00, just beating out Carle’s season ERA of 40.50.

So, with the team’s performance on opening day, Anthopoulos has not silenced his critics. But there are still 161 to go; no need to panic.  Still, it might be nice to look to the pen and see someone coming in other than Luke Jackson.  Can you at least do that for us, AA?

Off day Friday, series resumes Saturday and Sunday, when the Braves’ turn to their strategy of finding a TOR starter among unproven rookies. I may not be happy with the FO right now, but I’ll be pulling for young Bryse and young Kyle.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

60 thoughts on “Phillies 10, Braves 4”

  1. nice balanced recap. In the limited action I saw, I also witness Swanson nearly rip Neshek’s hand off with a liner (leading to a DP). So that was nice.

    I think what kills me most about all the walks is that our infield defense is elite level, let them play!

  2. Nice recap. Carle/Jackson were more depressing than anything as you could see the wreckage coming from the moment they came in.

    One thing I did want to point out not in the recap: Wes Parsons continues to look competent, and was refreshing to see.

  3. The front office doesn’t care. Not to add a reliever or three is proof.

    I advise not to go to any games. Hit them in the pocketbook

  4. If anything costs the Braves a shot at the postseason this year, it’s going to be the bullpen. It’s utterly ridiculous that Anthopolous is sitting on his hands while Kimbrel remains unsigned. Pay the man.

    Nice recap though.

  5. @3

    And if people do that, then Liberty will look at declining profits and order the Braves to cut their payroll budget further.

    A friend of mine worked for one of the many entities that Liberty bought and eventually sold. (For some reason, they choose to hold on to the Braves, while exchanging other assets as though they have a “Swap Hands” card in the card game Uno.) He described his time under Liberty’s watch thusly: “They were brutal to work for, and also cheap.”

    Do not expect this franchise to accomplish anything meaningful under Liberty’s watch — unless you consider alienating all fans who are smart enough to see through lies, half-truths and doublespeak to be “meaningful.”

  6. I advise not to go to any games. Hit them in the pocketbook.

    I’ll just wait here until someone tells him he just said the silliest thing they’ve ever read in the history of this often silly website.

  7. Every time I catch myself thinking that the Braves deserve a lost season for their miserliness and inaction this offseason, I remind myself that the suits in ownership would probably love a losing season. It’s a ready-made excuse to sell off pieces and keep payroll low. The idea of another extended “rebuilding” period probably makes them all warm and fuzzy inside. So I start wanting them to win again out of spite.

    It’s kind of a no-win situation in that respect. If the players succeed despite everything, it validates that kind of cheap, minimal-effort approach to teambuilding. But if they don’t, it probably doesn’t achieve the intended objective (to shame ownership into investing more into the team) and might backfire.

  8. @6–I’m not going to tell him that, although I do plan to watch and attend as many games as I can, and I’m going to pull for the team. I’m not necessarily proud of that; that’s just who I am, and Liberty Media won’t change that.

    To Smitty’s credit, his prediction this week about the ridiculous food concession was the most prescient thing I’ve ever read on this site.

  9. Pluses.

    Dansby’s comebacker was soul stirring. That he and his wrist could hit a good closer that hard in the first game of the new season bodes well. His double was well earned, his first error is now out of the way. Progress.

    Acuna. His first at bat showed astonishing maturity. He is a marked man and Nola went away on him with great variety and accuracy. When he got his walk those throw overs left no margin of safety but he kept the pressure on, maintained his lead and got his base and his run. Compare to Ozzie. Nothing to do with hitting home runs he uses the threat of them to get what he can off a good pitcher. Discipline.

  10. Winning is the better way to turn up the heat on ownership. If the team is in the thick of a pennant chase, they would almost have to make a move or two. They’ve left money aside for such a scenario, apparently, so in any case it’s just a matter of when unless the team falls out of it before the deadline.

    I don’t think they’re hedging bets towards a losing season, either, and I don’t think they’re that heavily invested in what the team does. There’s money, and there’s a roster. And there’s Alex Anthopolous who seems to want to go for the home run acquisition over smaller acquisitions.

  11. Apparently Vizzy opted to not pitch in any ST games after 3/20 because of his shoulder.

  12. Even if Kimbrel is too expensive, maybe he is I don’t know, what’s Anthopoulos’s reason for not acquiring a relief pitcher all offseason? There were seemingly a hundred available via free agency and trade, it’s just inexcusable.

    Now Vizcaíno, Minter and “our stealth big acquisition” O’Day are all looking unreliable. It’s one game in and it already feels like the 2006 bullpen again. Hopefully Anthopoulos doesn’t hem and haw until late July to acquire ‘Wickman.’

  13. Important caveat: it’s just one game, and there really was plenty to like about our performance, as people are pointing out.

    A month or so ago, we concluded that coordinated fan unrest in response to this offseason could perhaps shave off something like 10 percent of revenues from the fanbase. Which would lead Liberty to sell off assets and make the team still worse. It didn’t seem like enough to trigger a sufficiently large downward spiral — fans ditch the team, Liberty makes more cuts, more fans ditch the team, Liberty cannibalizes the team — to force a sale or get MLB involved. Chief would say something demeaning here about the fans who would come out to Braves games regardless.

    Still, it’s interesting to me that Glavine stepped forward and spoke out. We’re talking Tom Glavine — Game Six Tom Glavine, Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, player rep Tom Glavine! He gives the cause a higher profile and more cred with a segment of the fanbase that doesn’t pay such close attention. He provides something positive to organize around. I wonder if that could move fan attrition from 10 percent to 15 percent.

  14. Winning is the better way to turn up the heat on ownership. If the team is in the thick of a pennant chase, they would almost have to make a move or two. They’ve left money aside for such a scenario, apparently, so in any case it’s just a matter of when unless the team falls out of it before the deadline.

    This is correct. There are four pretty evenly matched teams in the division. It’s all in the Braves players’ hands.

  15. @14

    They keep moving the goalpost. In July it will be, “Well, we had so many injuries early, we didn’t feel it was worth the prospect capital to make a major move.”

    In December it will be, “We have tons of resources at our disposal and have been close on a few things.”

    In April it will be, “Luke Jackson wanted to be here!”

  16. The goal posts might be moving a little, but that’s not entirely on Liberty Media. I think they caused the off-season priorities to shift a little, but that’s only my opinion. I happen to think they intend to become the owners of a huge sports network, and that will require a sell off of the team. Pure speculation, but they’re a leading bidder right now.

    Basically, Alex Anthopolous’s job got harder last December. I think that’s all it is for right now. He has money and room for relatively short deals. He can pick up a big talent or a few smaller ones.

  17. tfloyd
    who has every right to be annoyed
    maintained his composure
    clearly planning a future full bullpen exposure.

  18. @15 — This is my fear as well. I have visions of AA telling Bowman and DOB on August 1 that “Well, we consider our big mid-season pickup to be Mike Foltynewicz” or whatever. “Getting everyone healthy is a bigger boost than any trade we could make.” That kind of thing.

    At some point, you have to put your money where your mouth is.

  19. @18 But do you think he takes joy in giving such BS responses to the media? He knows it’s a bunch of BS. He knows it’s a disappointment to fans. It’s a silver lining response. I really do believe AA would rather be like Santa Clause than FEMA relief.

  20. A good story for all those here love to decry overreactions.

    I am most amused by the fact that calling the Braves bullpen “trash” is the least likely overreaction to be true.

    Honestly, I hate that Fried pitched so well, because I want to see him in the rotation permanently and think he may be better than Newk in the long run.

  21. @19 — AA’s mindset is something I’ve thought about a lot. He hardly even seems the same guy as he was in Toronto, when he was notorious as a gunslinger always ready to make the big move and willing to take any risk, who turned down a contract extension at the height of his success rather than be the puppet of infamous penny-pincher Mark Shapiro, and I’ve wondered why that is.

    He’ll tell you that he’s simply become more cautious with experience, but it’s still tough for me to reconcile that guy with the staid, risk-averse company man he’s played since joining the Braves. Is he secretly chafing at ownership restrictions as much as fans are? Did he agree to some kind of organizational cost-containment in order to get the job? It would be extremely disappointing to me if he views his Toronto years as simply sowing his wild oats, and now it’s time to grow up and micromanage salaries until retirement.

  22. @22 No, I really believe he learned a lot working with the Dodgers. If I can take his words as gospel, he is still swinging for the fences via trades, and that’s the more likely reason he won’t just sign a free agent. I think he is still in the market for a big contract talent.

  23. @25

    Yes, the Braves have decided to keep the cost down to the fans and not include the collectable plate.

  24. The whole “day off after Opening Day” thing is a lot more fun when Markakis hits a walk-off.

  25. @28 – I think the Blooper Burger is a wonderful name for the bullpen, although the Grand Slam may be more appropriate.

  26. Thanks for the opening day recap, tfloyd. Perfectly written.
    I really liked what I saw from Julio. Hope he will continue to pitch aggressively.
    Bottom line, we were expecting to lose against Nola. We will probably win the next two. Go Braves.

  27. @31 It’s going to be tough to say, since some folks will be eating those Blooper Burgers while watching that atrocious pen.

    Next week’s major social media announcement will probably be the introduction of Nitro Pill sales at the ballpark for either the burger, or watching the pen.

  28. @21 From the article: “There are so many unknowns in this group, with A.J. Minter (shoulder) and Darren O’Day (forearm) behind schedule. Closer Arodys Vizcaino’s injury history is no source of comfort, and Jonny Venters’ workload must be monitored closely after 3 1/2 Tommy Johns.”

    Which means tons of work for Jackson and Carle, which means plenty of losses. I’m not sure how this makes an overreaction column though, even if he admits it isn’t, because, well… it’s fact this pen isn’t the strongest.

  29. Whining about ownership is by far the least interesting thing that happens on this website, even worse than the college football stuff. If it’s going to continue now that we have actual baseball to watch, I’m seriously going to question what value is left in this place and why I spend any time here.

  30. Let’s talk instead about our vaunted surplus of pitching talent. Where’s Gohara? Haven’t heard a word about him in weeks. Why isn’t Touki in the pen?

  31. Can anyone get access to Blooper Burger sales data? It would be great to add a Blooper Burger sales update to the end of every home game recap.

  32. Well, if you have a problem with college football, that is a long-standing tradition of the founder of the site as he was a huge Bama fan, we have a 5 month offseason, and it’s hard to talk about baseball all offseason. Shoot, stretching to a field of 32 for baseball movies bored some people. And there’s only so much analysis that can go into a team that is largely unchanged from the previous season. And we don’t even talk about college football much nowadays anyway even though I’m a college football fan, so if that’s really bothering you, then just fast forward to the last sentence in this comment.

    But for real, what are you supposed to do as a Braves fan right now? Genuine question. You go on Twitter, people are complaining about ownership. You go on Talking Chop, people are complaining about ownership. You listen to the podcasts, some are complaining about ownership, or defending them with dubious rationale. I have tried my very, very best to keep the disenfranchisement about the ownership of the team from dominating the discourse, but when you have a bottom third payroll after being terrible for 3 years in the first year you’re expected to be a World Series contender, some people can’t get over that. Is it annoying at times? Sure.

    But if you think you’re going to go anywhere in the Braves Cyber World right now and not hear about this, then you’re mistaken. Believe me, I’ve tried. I read other blogs, I listen to a few of the podcasts, and I read Twitter consistently. There are venues that have better and more consistent. So goodbye, but don’t forget to send me a postcard about how much they complain about ownership too.

    Now that Grst is gone, let me share with you guys that some of the constant complaining about ownership is indeed getting overwhelming. I’m guilty of reading just about every comment on this site — even Sam’s :) — but even I’m at a point of PgDn’ing some folks, so I’m sure most of you are too. At the end of the day, there is a lot going on on-field that’s much more exciting to talk about.

    If you’re still here, Grst, let me know if you need the link to Talking Chop.

  33. Bullpen needs:

    1) Make Jackson the 8th man in the pen, or DFA him. If you told me Jackson was going to enter the game with a 3-run deficit in a game where you had a fully rested pen and an off-day the next day, I would have thought you were crazy.
    2) Give Parsons more high leverage situations faster than Snit’s probably comfortable with. I get he’s a rookie, but he’s 26, and he really seems to have good stuff now that he’s been converted. And he’s only going to get better by getting important innings. Parsons absolutely should have been in the game before Jackson.
    3) Give Tomlin multi-inning spurts when down (like yesterday!). You have to see what you have. You know what you have with Jackson (at best, the 8th-best man on a contending team’s pen).
    4) Sign Craig Kimbrel.

  34. There’s no corner of Braves country that isn’t talking about Liberty Media and the Braves’ roster right now. People are talking about it pretty much everywhere I go around North Alabama, too. There’s no getting away from it for now.

  35. @42 Luke Jackson is precisely the guy you bring in trailing 2 or more runs in a game. If you can’t trust the bullpen spot that Jackson currently occupies, then you don’t have an arm in that bullpen spot. That’s why Snit sent him in, IMO. We need the rest of the fully rested arms for pitching the 6-7-8-9 innings of games where it’s close or tied.

    And I say this before people start crapping on Snitker. He’s gonna bring in relievers you don’t like in situations that cause you to attack him because that’s who he has in the bullpen. Even having two bad relievers is going to cripple us from winning some games. Those guys have to pitch at some point, especially when trailing by 2 runs.

  36. We’re going to be trailing by 3 or more runs a lot this year, so we need to fill that spot.

  37. @44 I’m sure every manager has that line, but our offense is good enough that I don’t think 2 runs should be the line. That game was within reach.

    But overall, I think you’re right that if you can’t trust Jackson to even come in in a 3-run deficit, you’re probably correct that you don’t have an arm in that spot.

  38. A three-run deficit is by no means insurmountable. You don’t go with the worst pitcher on the staff in that situation.

    I suspect Snitker has been ordered to give the fringy guys plenty of shots early on so that they know who’s the first on the chopping block when people start coming off the IL. I’m not sure how much evidence they need that Luke Jackson is not a major league pitcher, but I bet they give him every opportunity to save his job.

  39. I fear the combination of injuries, playing stupid games with minor-league options, and yes, the refusal to sign or trade for anybody to supplement the bullpen, has made this bullpen an abject disaster at the start of the season.

    That middle complaint is really the most irritating, because Dan Winkler is easily better than Luke Jackson (though not fantastic in his own right), but they sent him down to start the season because he had an option year left, giving them more flexibility (there’s that word again), but objectively making the bullpen worse.

    And when your bullpen is as questionable as ours is to begin with, refusing to run the risk of losing Luke Jackson to waivers in order to make it slightly better is borderline insane.

  40. Like I said, there’s no pleasing everyone. If a lead needs to be insurmountable for Jackson to see the field, may as well just carry another bat.

    In that spot, there down by 3, it was going to be Jackson or someone young/inexperienced. We’re missing pretty much all of the better bullpen arms, and you’re not gonna burn Johnny Venters there.

  41. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I’m not angry with the front office yet. I’m frustrated and I’m questioning what’s going on, but I won’t be angry until May rolls around and we are struggling and refuse to do anything about it. The Blooper Burger announcement was comedy gold. I hope we can use that for a long time.

  42. Marcel Proust
    came to the conclusion the ball was juiced.
    thinking back to his youth
    he regretted those early days he was never allowed in the booth.

  43. @44-48 I think you should look at it another way. I say if you’re down less that 3 and have not yet scored 4 runs then you should consider the game competitive. The choice of reliever should assume the offense will score and average of 4.5 runs per game. Jackson should never have been brought in down 3-1 but at 6-3, Jackson is potentially the logical option.

    Of course, with Kimbrel or Minter or O’Day available, Jackson would not have been brought in (more likely Parsons and we still lose the game 6-4). If Venters, Sobotka, Viz are the back end of the pen then who is the best option to bring in in the middle innings? If you’re obsessed that you must use RH against the Phils, then it’s Carle, Tomlin, Parsons. Of those, the best combination of experience and performance is Carle. I would have preferred Fried down 3-1 to pitch the sixth. Hold them in the 6th and you blink and it’s 3-3 going into the 7th and all the best options are in play. Either leave Fried in for another inning or go to Sobotka. Fried may have had a pitch count but it sure wasn’t 11…..

    Unless you have a huge statistical reason to lefty/righty, we need to start using the best pitcher for the situation rather than hitter handedness.

    As for Tomlin, his whole reason for existing is that he doesn’t walk anyone. If you’re goal is to prevent walks then Tomlin should come before Jackson, too.

    As for Winkler, I agree that he should be on the active roster but there is some talk that he is having some minor injury issue and they want him to work it off in the minors.

  44. As I mentioned in a prior thread, if you’re going to try and test out young and inexperienced pitchers in the rotation (i.e. not bring in a hired gun) then you must be sure you have a lockdown bullpen to back them up. Fangraphs has pegged the Braves pitching staff as being really bad – easily the worst of potential playoff contenders except maybe Mariners and Brewers (now that they’ve lost Knebel). I can live with testing pitchers with lots of potential in the rotation, but there is no excuse not to make sure the bullpen will back them up. Especially with Minter and O’Day down, they must either sign Kimbrel or trade for some bullpen help and be willing to overpay. You can play with the front end or the back end of a pitching staff but not both ends at the same time.

  45. @56 Well said.

    The Braves made a choice to build around young starting pitching, which time will how that goes. They’ve got to support it with a strong, veteran pen though.

  46. Oh, they’ll “contend” all year. This is an over .500 team by talent. They could sneeze and do Nationals things and finish fourth, or they could get a horseshoe up their butt again and win 90 games, but they’ll probably be within five games of first place through August at least.

    But I want ’em to run away and hide the way we used to do and we just don’t have enough calories in our feedbag to do that. I don’t think the Phillies or Nats or Mets can either.

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