Injuries, Auditions, And Schedule – Things May Get Worse Before They Get Better

This may seem like an inappropriately-timed post considering we just won 8-0, and we just extended one of the best young players in baseball for up to 10 years if we’d like. But we’re not as bad as the team that got swept, and we’re not as good as the team that beat the Cubs — a clear contender in the NL Central — by 8 runs.

But the Braves will probably have a losing record at the end of April. And they may even be as far back as 4th. Shoot, if Miami gets a bug, they could be 5th. And that’s the result of injuries, auditions, and schedule. And I’m sure fans will overreact. They don’t remember that we were 10-13 last July, but if you’re 10-13 to start the season…

The Braves are essentially missing their top 2 starting pitchers — make no mistake, Gausman is probably our second-best starter — and in some ways, their top 3 relievers. With Minter and O’Day completely out, and Vizcaino heavily limited, that is incredibly damning in the short-term. Even when these guys return, do you expect them to be at their peak performance? I don’t.

And on top of that, the Braves are giving guys opportunities that will inevitably fail. Matt Joyce will strike out with the bases loaded in the 6th when they could have hit Charlie Culberson. But Culberson has 1 AB, and Joyce has 4. That tells me that Joyce is getting an audition. Same with Luke Jackson, Josh Tomlin, and even some guys with options. Some will fail, and that may cost us games.

And the schedule is really difficult too. We play 3 games against Miami, the only true non-contender, this month. Padres and Reds may not be contenders, and there are 5 games against them. Everyone else (19 total against COL, NYM, CHC, ARI, and CLE) can be correctly described as a contender right now. That’s a tough schedule. I stand by my prediction of 93 wins, and I think we have a losing record at the end of April.

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127 thoughts on “Injuries, Auditions, And Schedule – Things May Get Worse Before They Get Better”

  1. I think this team has the chance to get hot and beat every other contender. Just need some of the bullpen guys healthy and Folty back and we’re in business.
    Off to Atlanta to catch the game tonight. Go Braves.

  2. You are predicting the Braves go 83-46 from May 1, that is ridiculous. If the Braves start 10-13 as you have written, and it could be that or worse, they will have a losing season. That is the truth of the matter. That will be what is deserved for not signing Brantley/Pollock/McCuthen, or Machado, or Diaz/Leclerc, or Kimbrel or Keuchel or trading for that 70% deal or getting Realmuto.

  3. We had a losing record outside the division last year. This year I think it’s going to be hard to come in at around .500 for intra-division total record. We’ll have to play better against those other folks if we want to sniff 90 wins.

  4. As has been the case, we will be needing our team to play better than they should be. That’s how it is with youngsters. Just about everyone, this year, will need to be better than they were last year.

    So, provided they surpass last season, they will win 93 games. That’s not an unreasonable ask for a team of blue chip youngsters who should get better as they go.

  5. I haven’t seen anything on an up front bonus on Acuna. To me, this might be what pushed this deal across the line. Does Acuna have the money to get his family out of Venezuela and keep them up in Colombia, Brazil, US, or Netherlands Antilles? 5 million now could be worth A WHOLE LOT MORE than a possible extra 30 million 5 years from now.

  6. This makes too much sense. That lineup would destroy LHPs.

  7. @8

    Nice to see someone mention that, so obvious, so easy and painless to do. It’s shameful they haven’t.

    A good guide to what’s inside the rest of the contract. $200 million light seems to be a popular guess currently.

  8. So…people are going to possibly die because Ronald Acuna signed a $100 million contract extension?

  9. In the event Russo coddled AA and swept through the Acuna contract in 15 seconds, cliches flying all over the place, both ways.

    More helpfully he asked him next about a contract for Ozzie, specifically, no one else and got a meaningless reaction from AA,’We’re always looking to hold on to our good young players’ and threw in a few names of no particular relevance to distract from the Oz.

    AA said the bullpen was looking good and other meaningless garbage like that but right at the end I think he said something interesting about Kimbrel, indirectly enough that I have already forgotten it. Anyone?!! Age you know.

  10. By the way, does Kevin Pillar fall under the threshold of “teams aren’t trading good players right now”?

  11. Kevin Pillar is kind of a rich man’s Gregor Blanco, and the fact that everyone considered the trade of him and his $5.5 million salary a “salary dump” tells you what you need to know about his industry perception.

    He’s a useful player if you need a glove-first outfielder and I think he’s a very decent bet to outperform Nick Markakis in 2019.

    So… it depends on what you mean by “good.”

  12. Kevin Pillar is, like, the Platonic ideal of a Giants acquisition. Yes, I’d say he’s still good, but probably not for much longer, given where his value comes from. They just love to get guys entering their decline phase.

    My point, though, is that early trades for the likes of Steve Pearce (who I think is pretty good for his role) are so exceedingly rare — and this front office has proven so gun-shy when it comes to trades of any great magnitude — that I hope I don’t have to be reading for the next two months things like “Well, obviously, a trade by mid-June is going to happen. Bank on it.” They barely happen for any team to begin with.

  13. @17

    Rob…just like i said, no code…I have forgotten…you’re in your thirties, wait for it!

  14. “Well, obviously, a trade by mid-June is going to happen. Bank on it.”

    I never said that, good sir guy. I said that I thought trading for big pieces would start in mid-June, but we would acquire a reliever in May. And that could literally just be a live arm that’s on a good run like, say, Jhoulys Chacin was considered at the time for the Angels when we dealt him there (to borrow an example from Braves’ lore).

    But yeah, go get the modern day version of James Russell or some crap in May, then go get some real players in June or July.

  15. memory returns after sharp slap from editor…

    having given a wet blanket answer to the Kimbrel question up front he paused and then added something to the effect that doesn’t mean we’re not talking ‘to any of them’…

    in the arid area we have been in recently on Kimbrel this was almost enough to get me to remember it right away!

  16. Does the Acuna money accelerate this year? Next? When does it kick in? I haven’t been able to find an article yet that’s definitive.

  17. @22, Fair. I am wary of a slippery slope to Realmutageous amounts of discussion of Marcus Stroman, especially when/if Keuchel signs, but I can’t disagree with you.

  18. 24—Bowman had the details as: $1 million this year and next, then $5 million for one year, then $15 million for one year, then $17 million for the rest.

  19. https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2019/4/2/18292766/ronald-acuna-jr-contract-extension-atlanta-braves

    “MLB’s 30 clubs have collectively come to the realization that they can just choose not to allow entry to the Promised Land for all but a select few, and even those few—Harper and Manny Machado, some of the best and most marketable players of their generation—are going to have to sit through a long, cold winter before finally cashing in.

    They do this knowing that it’s more cost-effective to win 90 games on a $130 million payroll and lose in the first round, like the Braves did last year, than to win 92 games on a $200 million payroll and lose in the World Series, as the Dodgers did. Particularly when fans will fixate on Acuña as a 21-year-old on a nine-figure deal and relish the possibility that Liberty Media will reinvest what it saved on Acuña rather than pocketing it, despite years of evidence to the contrary.

    It’s hard to blame Acuña for taking what is by any standard life-changing money, given all the structural factors laid out against him: He’s working in a foreign country with not even a high school education, knowing that if he suffers a career-ending injury tomorrow, he’ll go home with little more than $1 million in total career earnings and no backup plan. A guaranteed $100 million now is worth passing up a shot at $400 million in six years, because Acuña just has the one body and the one career with which to make his fortune.

    Liberty Media, a company with more than $40 billion in assets and more than $7 billion in annual revenue, will enjoy the salary Acuña’s leaving on the table even less than Acuña himself will miss it. You can make hundreds of millions of dollars by being good at baseball, but if you want to make billions, or tens of billions, you have to be willing to exploit every point of leverage society hands you, no matter the moral cost.”

  20. Are there tons of other industries where labor gets a larger percentage of revenue than what happens in MLB? I don’t understand the moral outrage stance. Lots of internet pundits are smelling their own farts here.

  21. I think Acuna’s great, and has all the potential in the world. He’s really special. That said, to say he got short-changed here, or the contract is 200 million light, is mind-blowing, to me. He’s only played roughly about one ML season, and he’s on the shy side of it. As good as we all believe him to be, you just can’t comp him to Machado, Trout or Harper yet.

  22. @29 So? “Whatabout’s” are not a good excuse for any industry to continue to operate in this manner. We ought to be, because of our “basic moral compass,” morally outraged at every industry for this. We probably can’t change it, but never trying never did anything.

    Without digging into it much, I’ve believed for a few years now that this kind of operating procedure (profits above all else, at all costs, and morals don’t exist in business) is at least problematic and at worst a political disaster in the making.

  23. Billion-dollar corporations taking advantage of their employees is a problem whether the employees in question are making $17 million a year or $7.25 an hour. It’s just a matter of scale. MLB owners are doing what management in every other industry is doing, just with the added security of an antitrust exemption and the fact that the league will cheerfully bail out failed franchises.

    In other news, Carmago is in the lineup versus the lefty, and Inciarte isn’t.

  24. What, exactly, am I supposed to be morally outraged about? All I see are two sides who reached a mutually agreed upon and beneficial arrangement, and a bunch of third parties with nothing at stake insisting they know better. If anyone is on morally shaky ground, it’s the latter group.

  25. @29, since you asked…
    Source: https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2017/article/estimating-the-us-labor-share.htm (Tble 1)

    The labor share of total output ranges from a low of 22% (Mining) to a high of 74% (Professional services) baseball is part of “Arts, Entertainment, Recreation, Accommodation and Food Services,” which averages 59%. When the minor leagues are included (as they should be) baseball’s percentage is right around 56%. Source: https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2018/2/21/17035624/mlb-revenue-sharing-owners-players-free-agency-rob-manfred

    The notion that Acuna is being exploited here in any conceivable way is so ridiculous that it’s hard to know where to start, except from the obvious proposition that he chose to be exploited in this particular way, from which it follows that he is being exploited less than any other way he might have been exploited, including waiting to become Bryce Harper.

  26. If you’re making $30k/yr and everyone else in your position is making $60k/yr, you’re being taken advantage of whether you agreed to the pay or not. Moreover, you’re making it worse for everyone else, because when the next person comes along, management can use you as a basis of comparison and lowball the next person, who might actually be interested in maximizing their earnings.

  27. He could have taken the “maximize earnings” route – the same route that also “maximizes risk”. He chose the 100% guaranteed generational-wealth route instead. There is nothing to be upset about here.

  28. I’m not morally outraged by the Acuna deal. I am, however, morally outraged by Liberty Media, baseball owners, and the wait for the team payroll to increase. Ownership is making even more money off of the team while the payroll is less than what it was last year but the deficiencies in the roster are basically the same.

    “They owe it to the city and the fans to buy more baseball talent for this team.”

    “No, they owe it to their shareholders to maximize profits to their potential and to not spend frivolously for things that won’t increase profit potential.”

    /EndOfAllArgument becuz mah capitalism

  29. @36: Does it matter if you’re half as productive as anyone else in your position? If you require some accommodation that others do not? If there are 10,000 *other* people willing to take the exact job for $30,000 that incumbents are paid $60,000 for? Is there some particular reason that a firm should have to pay new entrants whatever the incumbents are making if there are people who can do the job willingly, and just as well, for less? If I can hire two $30,000 workers and get twice as much output as I get from my $60,000 workers, how am I better off paying the $60,000 to one worker and getting half as much output?

  30. Ya know, I’m generally sympathetic to arguments to protect labor from the more rapacious instincts of late stage greed driven capitalism, but these arguments that the guy that just willingly signed a freely entered contract for 120 million fuggin dollars are specious at best.

  31. I am usually a little less “pro labor” than most of this crowd, but Kiley’s chat today has a reference to a rumor “out there” that something going on with the agent could have driven this.

    I would THINK agent only gets cut when the money comes in. So, unless J. G. Wentworth or Liberty Media cashed this out at a discount, I don’t see how they agent made anything more NOW than he would have.

  32. Ronald is happy with the deal, the Braves are happy with the deal and I’m delighted we get to see Ronald play baseball in our team’s uniform for the next decade. I don’t give a hoot about much else. Sign big brother Ozzie for a decade, extend Freddie and fix the pen and rotation; and I’ll be a pig in slop.

  33. @16, I surprise you? How so? I was referring to the emotional emphasis placed in @8’s insinuation that Ronald Acuna needed to relocate his family from Venezuela with urgency, and that somehow he’d be unable to do that because he just signed a $100 million dollar contract extension that didn’t include a big raise in upfront money.

    I think that’s bizarre, not just on its face but in its implications (which influenced how I phrased my question).

    I don’t think Ronald Acuna or his agent are so profoundly stupid that they haven’t weighed the risk/rewards in their heads. I also think there’s a not insignificant chance the Braves may be paying an Acuna that, for whatever reason, won’t be worth $100 million over the next eight years. And lastly I literally sat up in my seat when I read your words charging racism upon the Braves organization for this extension. Speaking of comments that surprise!

    Anyway, I tend to agree with the sentiments expressed in @34.

    PS: I keep saying $100m, but it’s apparently $120m.

  34. @36 If you’re a first or second year employee, making 30k in your field, while other employees, who’ve been there for more than six years are making 60k, you’re not being exploited. That’s what the senior person’s time has earned them.

    Imagine if at your job a new person starts, and they absolutely just crush it the first day. The boss decides they should make at least the same as you, if not maybe a bit more, based off just that first day. How are you feeling about that?

  35. @36 Are you arguing that a one- or two-year service time player should be paid the same as a seven- or eight-year service time player?

    Or what King said.

  36. Kevin Pillar is basically Ender Inciarte: a 2.5-3 WAR CF with great defense and a mediocre bat. If we traded Ender Inciarte today, most fans would consider that to be significant.

    EDIT: Adam, I missed your comment where you seemed to express we were in agreement. Forgive me to continuing to drive the point home. I probably owed you, though.

  37. @44 Acuna will make $90M in salary over the next 8 seasons, then the Braves will either pay him a $10M buyout or he’ll play the next two seasons at $17M each – so you end up at 8 at $100M or 10 at $124M.

  38. @29 This is a really interesting topic of the whole thing. With that said, labor percentage of sales/revenue won’t — and shouldn’t — scale in every business. I would be interested, though, to see if labor percentage of revenue has scaled accordingly in other major sports, but even that wouldn’t necessarily be conclusive. At the end of the day, the players collectively have to make a compelling argument that the revenue increases can be tied proportionately to the labor, and they’ve not done a good job of making that argument.

    And perhaps that’s why baseball has seemingly intentionally not marketed the players the way fans and analysts speculate they ought to. Perhaps they are seeing the game growing just fine without hyping up the players, and may actively want to avoid doing so so as to not give the players any more leverage in labor negotiations.

  39. @47, Ender’s better than Pillar, but yeah — it’s not a crazy comparison, I just think what you’re describing is more an example of the devil you know phenomenon. (Also known as the endowment effect.)

    If AA traded away Ender Inciarte to shed his contract, fans would be super-annoyed — why are you getting rid of a starting player when you should be adding to the team to make us more likely of making the playoffs?

    On the other hand, if AA traded for a player exactly as good as Ender Inciarte, they’d probably yawn. Heck, lots of fans on this blog find him boring and unimpressive, and we’re on the more rabid end of the Braves spectrum.

    Trading away Pillar ≠ trading for Pillar, and if AA only improved the team by the value of a guy like Kevin Pillar, it’d be hard for him to convince fans that he was significantly moving the needle.

    @49, The thing is, though, the game isn’t growing just fine. The median age of baseball fans is far older than the median age of football and basketball fans. Young kids, by and large, are not growing up as baseball fans, and that should be scary for the sport.

  40. On the other hand, if AA traded for a player exactly as good as Ender Inciarte, they’d probably yawn.

    Depends on what you mean. Ender is a 3 WAR player. If we signed his pitching counterpart — Dallas Keuchel (3.3 fWAR) — that’d jazz fans up. Charlie Morton was a 2.9 fWAR guy (and I just saw him in person throw a gem at the Trop this afternoon!), so I think that’d excite fans.

    If we’re not going by WAR, and we say that Ender is comparable to a 1-1.5 fWAR reliever, then fans would really be jazzed because we’d be talking about adding a really good setup man.

    But this is just one deal that I’m saying I hope — and they think they will — make. Trading for some serviceable reliever in May who’s making $3M is not my definition of getting us where we need to be.

  41. Alex, these assets known as baseball franchises, the owners seem to be really happy with their cash flow, appreciation, and overall value. I’m no sure how you’re saying the owners aren’t happy with the direction of these entities, especially when local municipalities are pumping free equity into them on the regular.

  42. @44

    Thanks for your note. Much we could disagree about here which would likely be good stuff but I suggest we hold off till we can be sure this thing is settled. I suspect it is not, yet. It will be though. But likely not in its present form.

    Question for you please to show my ignorance as to who an economist works for-

    Self, advisory, consultant.
    Large corporation
    NGO
    Financial Journalism field
    WHY

    Thanks

  43. @55, I enjoy your writing style, but I have to confess that on some occasions it is so oblique that I can’t follow along. I have no idea what you’re asking me! :)

  44. @44

    Thanks for your note. Much we could disagree about here which would likely be good stuff but I suggest we hold off till we can be sure this thing is settled. I suspect it is not, yet. It will be though. But likely not in its present form. So can we, say, give it a few weeks?

    Question for you please to show my ignorance as to who an economist usually works for-

    Self, advisory, consultant.
    Large corporation
    NGO
    Financial Journalism field
    Other

    Thanks

  45. @54, obviously, the owners are happy, and as I’ve said a lot, that strikes me as incredibly short-sighted.

    It is bad for baseball that there are not more young fans, regardless of whether the elderly billionaires who own the 30 teams are happy with the present value of their investments.

  46. There i go again.

    non oblique

    what do you do for a living with your professional skills, how and where do you put them to work? In what capacity?

  47. Acuña will bring young fans to the game. I don’t get all this doom and gloom here regarding the contract. This young guy just secured 100+ mio after 100- something games in the MLB. He is very happy, trust me. If that gives the Braves more financial flexibility going forward to contend for a long time, even better.

  48. @57, I’m not an economist if that’s what you’re asking me. I’m a freelancer who makes a living marketing my services and abilities to a variety of potential employers. I’m grateful to have steady work from a couple such employers, and that I am also able to work on my own projects in the same field.

  49. Hey timo!

    Welcome again – one of these days you’re going to touch down in my neck of the woods {Cincinnati) and we can enjoy a beer, maybe see a game together,.

    This is not about doom and gloom you know. It’s about fairness. Sure the kids will flock to see him. Whether he’s overpaid or underpaid, they won’t care. We should. Cheers

  50. Hey blazon, see what you mean. I’m just happy for the guy and the Braves.

    Yes, Cincinnati. Never been. Would be a great time to catch a game.

  51. Nice ceremony just now on the field presenting all the awards from last season. Ender, Freddie, Jonny, RAJ.

  52. Chip and Frenchy are an amiable and pleasant pair, and I don’t miss the grouchiness of last year’s broadcast. But they really don’t know much about basic strategy or statistics.

  53. @64, Not on this end. I have no idea what your question has to do with anything but I’m glad my answer has helped you figure everything out!

  54. @70

    Yeah, one gets the feeling that they could count one one hand the number of times a baseball strategy thought has ever occurred to Frenchy. If Chipper could remember what pitch somebody threw him in the third pitch of an at-bat five years ago, I doubt Frenchy could remember what pitches were thrown to him five minutes ago.

    By the way, Jon Sciambi, David Ross and Tim Kurkjian, which is probably the best possible ESPN announcing combo (maybe the best possible national TV broadcast combo period), is calling the game over there, and it’s a very enjoyable listen, for those inclined.

  55. They need to move Paul Byrd into the booth rather than roaming the stands.

    @70, Thanks for the tip. I’ve made the switch!

  56. It’s only the 5th game but man is Ozzie off to a hot start again. If he really has been able to consolidate the gains he made in the first half last year and can sustain anything close to that over a full season the Braves could have 2 of the top 5 young players in the game.

  57. I love the way our RHH are hitting to the opposite field. They’re really driving the ball. Camargo tagged that ball.

  58. @74–agreed about Ozzie. And I know it’s early, but what if Dansby’s wrist really was a big problem last year, and he is a better hitter than he’s shown. If Dansby can ops .750 to .800, with his defense and base running he’s another real star.

  59. He’s not allowed to be done after 90 pitches with this bullpen. We badly need our starters to be able to actually extend.

  60. We absolutely cannot have this bullpen throwing four innings a night. It’s not the recipe for any kind of success whatsoever. By definition, that means the starters have to go longer.

  61. So add Venters to the list of our relievers that no longer needs to be here. Can’t throw a strike? Can’t pitch here…

  62. Why pinch hit Culberson instead of Ender against the righty? There are now only lefty batters left on the bench. So there is a much better chance that when they do use a pinch hitter again it will be a lefty against a lefty.

  63. I know Camargo is wearing extra clothing, but does he look like he added some bulk in the offseason?

  64. @115 Both Acuna and Camargo look tangibly bigger.

    I love this team. Such an exciting, passionate, lovable team.

  65. It looks like at least one of the 2 teams playing tonight has major bullpen issues, especially in throwing strikes.

  66. Brad Brach is the type of player who would normally come back and just completely own us, so it’s heartening to see him look as shaky against us as he did for us.

  67. The Braves’ official tagline is #ChopOn, I don’t think the Chop has went anywhere (obviously, listening to this game.)

  68. We’re going to do some damage against lefties.

    Anxious to hear if they do a MRI or X-Ray on Dansby’s wrist. Clearly we’re seeing great things, and a power-sapping wrist injury would be terrible.

  69. @121 it was way less than usual. Yes, they played it a lot in the end when they were rallying. But not a single time between inning 2 and 7 I think.

    @blazon: Play Camargo. You keep preaching it.

  70. @122

    Yeah, I have no problem with Vizcaino assuming he can stay healthy. He’s the only one I don’t gulp when he comes into the game. (I do gulp when he walks the tying run to the plate, but oh well…he worked around it OK.)

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