Shifting Sands–Cards 6, Braves 3

The Braves took a one run lead in the second.  Against the shift (remember this detail), Donaldson reached out on an outside pitch and gently poked a single to right. After advancing on a slow chopper by Kakes, Austin “Zeus” Riley plated him with a hard hit double down the third base line (“Unlike these mere mortals, your shift has no power over me”).   

Speaking of immortals, Sorokamania continues.  Young Mike went six, doing what he always does–giving up one earned run or fewer.  He joined fellow immortals Edinson Volquez and Mike Norris (who could ever forget those all time greats!) as the only pitchers since 1920 to allow one earned run or less in each of the first eight starts of a season.  There are so many of these comparisons: Soroka now has an ERA of 1.07 through those 8 starts. The only pitchers 21 years old or younger to have a lower ERA after the first eight starts of a season were Vida Blue (1971) and Fernando Valenzuela (1981).  We’ve discussed Fernando several times lately.  I’m old enough to remember the phenom Vida Blue and his phenom-enal MVP and Cy Young season in his age 20 season of 1971 (24 wins, 8 shutouts, ERA of 1.82).  He was the youngest AL MVP of the 20th century.  Cautionary note: Blue and Valenzuela each had fairly long, very good careers, but neither ever again reached the heights of those remarkable seasons.

It was not a good night to be a worm in Busch stadium.  The two starters, Soroka and Dakota Hudson (with his sinker, he must be related to Tim) lead the league in ground ball percentage, and both teams kept pounding the ball into the dirt. Being a worm is probably not a great life any time, but the constant ground balls last night had to be disconcerting if not dangerous.

Soroka actually gave up two runs on the night, although one was unearned thanks to catcher’s interference in the fourth. The other run (the “earned” one) came in the bottom of the fifth. Molina led off with a hot shot just one step to the left of Donaldson.  JD Ole’d it (is that a verb?) and it went past him to left field.  I’m in no position to judge; I would have hit the deck face down on that one. Then Soroka hit Derek Fowler on an 0-2 pitch.  A perfectly executed “back foot” sinker was a little too perfect, literally striking the back foot. Then Soroka got a little too much of the plate with two strikes to Goldschmist, who poked one to right, beating the shift (again, remember this detail).

Soroka has fantastic command, throwing all of his pitches on the corners and top and bottom of the zone.  But even he may be mortal (the jury is out on that one).  Both run scoring singles were struck on a couple of the few pitches that he left over the plate.

In the bottom of the sixth, we saw a great example of the shift working as it is designed. Carpenter hit a liner to right that would have been a base hit in any previous era of baseball.  Ozzie, playing short field (any of you ever play 10 person softball?), snared the liner and robbed Carpenter of the erstwhile hit. By the way, Freeman had done the same in the first, lining to Koton Wong who was playing shallow right field. Once again, I urge you to remember these details.

Soroka was lifted in the top of the seventh for a pinch hitter.  Thanks to doubles by Markakis (in a very professional at bat he lined one to the left center gap), Flowers (a rocket off the left field wall), and Albies (liner to the right center gap that was misplayed by the center fielder but Ozzie couldn’t advance to third because he was focused on sliding into second), the Braves took a 3-2 lead.  Soroka was in position to get the win (as Chip would have said had he been calling the game). By the way, in the middle of the seventh inning rally, Austin “City Limits” Riley showed his Powers by hitting a rocket that was caught by the right fielder.

Swarzak continued his good work as a Brave by getting them in order in the seventh, striking out two.  In the bottom of the eighth, Winkler was called on to preserve the slim one run lead. He didn’t; by the end of the inning the Cards led 6-3, thanks largely to a 3 run pinch homer by Gyrko. Up until that hanger that Dan grooved, he had not looked bad.  Goldschmidt singled on a weak liner that struck Winkler in the back.  Fortunately, DeJong hit into a 4-6-3 twin killing.  Or did he? After replay review, the umps called DeJong safe at first. It was a bang bang play that could have gone either way; I still don’t think they consistently apply the correct standard of review. (Should we even have replay? If you are looking for another discussion topic, have at it.) Carpenter followed with a routine grounder to short that should have ended the inning—but there was no shortstop to be found, as Dansby was well to the first base side of second.  All of a sudden the game is tied. Right after this Gyrko gave the Cards the lead with his blast. Now what do y’all think of the shift? 

The Braves went weakly in the ninth against the 200 mph offerings of Jordan Hicks.

The Shift giveth, and the Shift taketh away; blessed be the name of the Shift.  Or should it be cursed?  Discuss.

The Braves are still in a stretch of very good baseball.  As Bobby always emphasized, you’re not going to win them all.  The goal is to win series after series, which the Braves will attempt to do behind Teheran on Sunday evening.

66 thoughts on “Shifting Sands–Cards 6, Braves 3”

  1. You might have seen on the broadcast that the Braves have used the 3rd-most relievers in baseball. If you took the performance of the bullpen as currently constructed, they’ve given up 26 runs in 114 innings for a 2.05 ERA. And that’s with Josh Tomlin giving up 13 ER in 23.2 IP. If you decided to release Josh Tomlin and add anyone new to the pen, the bullpen ERA would reduce to 1.29 ERA. Of course, that would mean the current crop would be largely unproven as only 90.1 of the 189.2 innings pitched by the bullpen would be by pitchers currently on the roster. But that’s probably a good thing anyway.

    Bottom line: you have to pretty much evaluate the bullpen on a week-by-week basis instead of looking at YTD stats.

  2. Thanks Tfloyd. JD definitely ole’ed that ball. JD is not the defender that Camargo is. Camargo is not the hitter JD is.

  3. Well done, tfloyd. All in all, I’m a mild supporter of replay, not because it gets all the calls right, but because it corrects about 75 percent of the terrible calls and has very few errors in the other direction. I don’t think it has much effect on really close calls one way or the other… I see it make about as many mistakes as calls it gets right, at least to my eyes, on the really close ones. FWIW (ie nothing) I think they got the DeJong call correct last night.

    In other news, Yale takes on Virginia in the NCAA lacrosse championship tomorrow at 1. I’m feeling really good about the Elis right about now, so they’ll probably lose.

  4. Asked another way:

    These are probably the most reasonable odds I’ve seen at this point for where Kimbrel ends up. Which would you take if you were a betting man:

    Brewers: 5/1
    Braves: 4/1
    Field: 3/1

  5. Thank you, tfloyd. I like how the team is coming together.

    Are there areas that need to be strengthened? Sure.

    Do I still despair? Absolutely! But the trend is upward, and faith is strong.

    Go Braves!

  6. I’m willing to give Winkler the benefit of the doubt after last night’s performance. He was around the plate, not as wild as he has been previously. In fact, not to be overlooked is the excellent job Flowers did in framing some low pitches, getting the called strike.

  7. @12: The math in that tweet is… wrong. If you led ALL 162 games going into the 9th, then yes: Instead of winning 150 games you’d only win 144. I doubt the team with the extra 6 blown saves would think they have much of a problem with closing. But, if you’re, say, a 90 win team, then you’re going to have the lead going into the 9th in about 91.5 games (given the times you come from behind yourself) less the times you blow the lead. An extra 4 percent loss factor is about 3.6 games. So yeah, at the rates we’re going you can turn a 90 win team into an 86-87 win team, and that’s not good, but it’s not 6 games.

  8. This allows me to find some more relevant stats. Pitchers so for this year have pitched in 1398 save situations. They have converted these opportunities into 33 wins, 64 losses, and 388 saves. (The remainder are where the pitcher is either replaced with another pitcher who has a save opportunity, blown saves with subsequent comebacks, holds with subsequent losses or leaving games tied). The Braves, in 55 such opportunities, are 2-3 with 13 saves. Using the MLB ratios applied to these 55 opportunities, you get 1.3-2.5 and 15 saves. So yeah, the team is maybe two saves short of average at this point. Maybe.

  9. Are you talking about tonight’s game? It’s on ESPN now. Not sure about Saturday’s game.

    Edit: lol, glad you’re with us.

  10. This is one game I’m ok with missing. The ESPN broadcast is bad. I hate the on-field mic too.

    Teheran at 3 walks through 2 2/3. What could possibly go wrong?

  11. 0-2 and then nibble nibble nibble and you walk the bases loaded to face a dude they kills us. Never the most cerebral pitcher but got away with it

  12. Julio is going to have to start the 3rd TTO shortly.

    Not exactly a clinic this inning.

  13. Nice defense for Riley and Donaldson this inning. Only one of them has an excuse to suck at it.

    When is it okay to say that donaldson is a bust?

  14. JT’s at 82 pitches, so barring some unforeseen stretch of efficiency, we should be getting about 5 innings from him tonight.

  15. Guys nibble when they don’t trust their stuff. And if they don’t trust their stuff, why should we?

    Am I projecting out the schedule correctly – the Braves play a weird 2 game series with the Nats and manage to catch Scherzer AND Strasberg?

  16. I don’t mean to troll, but I can’t remember one time that Donaldson has had a significant impact on a braves win. Not that it hasn’t happened, but not lately.

    He leads the team with 32 walks? Big whoop, he’s not batting cleanup for that. And likely not scoring with Neck behind him.

    Forget WAR calculations, just think, are we happy with a .260 20HR high obp, low slugging season from him? Seems like last years Camargo could’ve done close to that while on Mlb minimum salary.

  17. #31

    Fairly early in the game, the guys on the radio were saying that Julio’s two-seamer had no life on it.

  18. I may be wrong, but I really wish they would pinch run for McCann here. Of course having to use a pitcher as a pinch runner is one of the casualties of a 8 man bullpen.

  19. I guess it didn’t matter and we’ll have Flowers for the 9th, but if that grounder would have made it up the middle, no way McCann scores.

  20. @32 – Colorado Rockies at Atlanta Braves Box Score, April 28, 2019 Donaldson’s 3-run HR in the bottom of the 8th took us from down 7-5 to up 8-7, which proved to be the final margin.

    If your measure of success is impact on individual games, Donaldson is 4th among our position players in cumulative WPA with 1.0… only Acuna (1.9), Freeman (1.4), and Riley (!) (1.1), are ahead of him. Maybe we could’ve hoped for more out of him, best-case-scenario, but I don’t see where folks are getting “bust.” If your point is he’s not 2015-7 Josh Donaldson… okay? Also, he didn’t start the season as our cleanup hitter, that only came more recently after Snitker moved Acuna back to leadoff, so I don’t get the walk-rate criticism. People have also said that about Votto his whole career, I’ve never really understood it.

  21. #49

    Joe on the radio suspects that Acuña’s back is bothering him. He had some discomfort there a couple of weeks ago.

  22. He ran into the wall hard a couple of times in San Francisco so it wouldn’t surprise me.

  23. @39- It’s kinda telling you had to go back 28 days since he decided the outcome of a game; I won’t argue about this, my humble opinion it that he’s been underwhelming, but ok. The salary being paid to him has a lot to do with my opinion.

    @48,49- Yeah, it was a bad call (vs STL, no surprise) but yeah, I agree that Acuna has to be broken somehow, whether its back problems, exhaustion, or eyesight, there is definitely something wrong .

  24. Donaldson had a significant impact just last inning.

    St. Louis has to be running out of pitchers.

  25. @55 yup, I can see that. Just wish he was good for more than walks and singles.

    lets see if Neck can prove me wrong
    edit: nope, Neck failure and Riley IBB, lol

  26. I hope this is the last time in a long while that we are graced to listen to the ESPN broadcast team.

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