Hammers Nail Little Orange Birds by a 5-1 Score

I don’t need to tell you how bad the Braves’ starting rotation has been.  Varsity Fried, the one consistently excellent starter over the course of this short season, is on the Injured List (they say he is healthy and ready to return—we will find out Friday-Shonah Tovah!).  Young Ian Anderson has looked terrific in 3 of 4 starts, but he’s only made 4 big league starts, and he barely had any time in AAA.  They are counting on the ghost of Cole Hamels to revivify in time for October, but that’s only a couple of weeks away.  He’ll come out of the shadows to make his first appearance of the season tonight against the O’s.

They’ve become so desperate to find a starter that they went prowling around the hobo camp down at the Camden Railyards in search of a Boxcar Wino. Against all odds, the derelict they trotted out there to start Tuesday’s game was very effective.  If Huascar Ynoa continues to pitch like he did on Tuesday, he can leave the hobo life and become a denizen of the luxury cabin on the Braves Express.  (Ynoa is not actually a derelict, but in fact a 22 year old who just might have a promising future in the big leagues.  For those puzzling over the reference, “Boxcar Wino” is his Braves Journal nickname.)

Ynoa pounded the strike zone with a mid to upper 90’s fastball, and he kept hitters off balance with a sharp breaking slider just off the plate and down in the zone. He went 4 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, with five strikeouts and no walks.  I’ll repeat that, with emphasis: NO WALKS!  No walks—and only one three ball count.  After four innings, Huascar had thrown only 49 pitches, 35 of which were strikes.  Unfortunately, he left the game at that point with what appeared to be back spasms.  Let’s hope that’s all it is, and that he is fine soon, because the Braves could definitely use more of what he offered last night.

As spotty as the rotation has been, the Braves’ offense and the bullpen are second to no one in baseball.  They showed off both aspects again.  Ynoa was followed on the mound by Digger O’Day, the two Grammy winners (Fresh Prince and Coldplay), Greene, and Melancon.  Each was sharp, although Melancon did give up a run on one hit in the ninth. Finals pitching line on the night: 9 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 9 K’s, and NO WALKS. 

The offense, after a bump in the road on Monday, came back strong, scoring 5 runs on 13 hits, and breaking open a close game with 3 runs in the 9th.  Freeman extended his on base streak to 31 games with 3 more hits including two doubles.  His OPS for the season is up to 1.118 (and remember he had a poor first two weeks of this short season). Duvall homered again, his 15th on the season, tying him for the league lead.  It was also his 10th in September, which ties him with Murph and Chipper for the ATL record for most dingers in September, and there are still ten games to play.  The Mime had two more hits, extending his on base streak to 17 games.  Four players in the National League have at least six home runs in September, and they are all on the Braves.

Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit except RAJ, and he walked twice and scored on a mad dash from first on a Freeman double that did not reach the wall.  Acuña has had a weak road trip at the plate, but his OPS is still .992.  As several have noted, his improved plate discipline has him in position to go to a level even beyond his first two marvelous seasons.  And watching Ronald and Ozzie fly around the bases is a joy.  Speaking of Albies, he legged out a double, helmet flying, evading the tag with a swim slide.

Let’s talk for a moment about how excellent and deep this bullpen is.  O’Day in 16 innings has a WHIP of 0.79 and and ERA of 0.64, with only ONE WALK.  Chris Martin in 15 innings has a WHIP of 0.40 and an ERA of 0.60, with with only ONE WALK.  Shane Greene in 23.2 innings has a WHIP of 0.85 and an ERA of 1.14.  Melancon is not a dominant closer, but he’s steady as a rock.  He’ll give up some contact, but his WHIP is a still excellent 1.02.  Will Smith has struggled with solo homers, but he will be fine; his WHIP is 1.00.  I predict he will be a very valuable weapon in the playoffs. 

That’s five of the solid arms in the bullpen.  Don’t forget a couple of guys who didn’t pitch last night.  A.J. Minter in 17.2 innings has an ERA of 0.51, and Tyler Matzek has been very good. 

  *   *   *

We learned yesterday that through the first three rounds of the playoffs (that is, up to the World Series), there will be no off days within a series.   That arguably puts a premium on starting pitcher depth, especially if you advance to the best of five game LDS and the best of seven LCS.  Even if you bring back a pitcher on three days rest, you’ve got to have at least 4 starters, and if your starters need the usual 4 days rest, it will take 5 starting pitchers. In other words, you really can’t make it with just three starters as the Nats did last October. 

Five starting pitchers?!  It’s still not at all clear who will start playoff games for the Braves beyond Fried and Anderson.  The announcers last night acted as if Hamels is a given as the third starter.  I’m a glass half full kind of guy, but he hasn’t yet faced a batter in a real game.  His well-used 36 year old arm seems like a thin reed to rely on.  Wright looked good in his last start, and with a couple more like that down the stretch he will get a shot to start in October.  But what if his next couple of starts are more like his first 7 or 8?  Do you want him starting in the playoffs? (That’s a rhetorical question; no need to answer.) 

I assume young Mr. Ynoa, who up until now has been a stopgap used out of dire necessity, has earned the right to another start, assuming the apparent back injury is not serious. If he can come close to replicating last night’s performance, he just might find himself in the playoff rotation. That’s no doubt a frightening thought to many here.  But with this offense and this bullpen, I wouldn’t count our Hammers out of any series against any team.

Wednesday night we will see just what Cole Hamels has left in his tank as the Braves face the Orioles in the rubber game of the series.  Let’s hope he parties like it’s 2008.

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.

47 thoughts on “Hammers Nail Little Orange Birds by a 5-1 Score”

  1. It may just be me quibbling, but it seems like listing all the relievers’ ERAs over a few innings, especially the sub-1 ones, is like saying, “Hitter X is hitting .389 this month” when he’s 7 for 18. The precise-looking rate stat gives the impression of greater significance than it has, while it seems easier to put into context something like, “Hitter X is 7 for his last 18” or “O’Day has given up one earned run in 16 IP, Martin has given up one in 15, and Greene has given up three in 23.2.” Granted, adding WHIP and walks does add information, giving a little better idea of whether the ERAs are sustainable.

    Fun game; hope Boxcar is ok.

    Love Freddie, but I doubt he’ll make the HOF unless he does at least two of: sustaining this year’s level for a couple of years; having a much slower-than-usual decline; winning an MVP; and leading the Braves to a WS win. There’ve been lots of good-hitting first basemen over the years, and to the extent that publicity/reputation matters, he doesn’t have it in the way that, say, Eddie Murray did. Looking forward to seeing the analysis.

  2. @4–you’re right. I was cherry picking from small sample sizes. We shouldn’t predict future performance based on that.
    But the performances so far have been pretty phenomenal. If they can keep this up that’s a tremendous advantage in the playoffs. OTOH, the strain on the pen because of few innings by the starters may very well mean these performances are likely to regress.

  3. A Small Dream: Win the division & stay away from the Dodgers/Padres side of the bracket. Hope some #8 team with a hot pitcher (deGrom, Bauer) can pick off the Dodgers (or Padres) in the best-of-3. Perhaps exact revenge on the Cardinals in the first round. But, for the love of God, get out that first round & take our chances.

    I know this team hasn’t won a playoff round since 2001 (that’s 0-10 incl. 13-29 in games) & we can lose 2 of 3 to any club we face (Marlins, Astros, Phils), but… to me, there’s only 2 legit-scary NL teams out there for us, and they’re both in SoCal. Let them earn their way to the NLCS before we see them.

  4. CHALLENGE:

    Rank in order of folk heroics:

    1. Adam Duvall
    2. Brooks Conrad
    3. Francisco Cabrera
    4. Willie Harris
    5. Charles Thomas
    6. Hurricane Hazle

    My answer: 3, 4, 1, 2, 5, with an incomplete on 6.

  5. Nice job, tfloyd. Just to point out (once again) that with Ian Anderson we have three Grammy winners, although his Grammy is one of the most controversial ever. (Remember when controversy used to be who got jobbed for a heavy metal Grammy?)

    To AAR’s question at 9, the answer is 3,3,3,3,3 and an incomplete on 6.

  6. On the Freddie for the Hall comment train, I was looking at this the other day when he hit the 10 year mark in the majors. Should he sustain his career at this level (and assuming he trails off should he hit the 20 year mark) he’d compile somewhere between 2800 to 3200 hits, would get lucky to hit 500 HR, and has an outside chance of gaining over 5K total bases which would put him close to the top 20 all time (Mel Ott is 21st with 5041, and of course Hank is tops with 6856 which will likely never be topped.) His WAR is going to be low (according to BB-Ref) as he might sit at 73 for his career (in the best case scenario) which places him above the average WAR for a Hall of Fame 1st baseman, but as a player overall would place him in the top 50 or so and the only ones over that number not in the Hall would be the usual suspects plus Pujols and Trout (already) and Lou Whitaker and Bill Dahlen. Long story short, he is on track but I would agree he’s already hit the Hall of Very Good. His next 10 years will be the difference (see Dale Murphy and Andruw Jones.)

    As for the playoffs, I can’t say I am so confident. On any given day right now, we would face the Phils, Marlins, Giants or St. Louis. Especially given our lack of starting depth, and no off days, we might possibly have a good 3 game series (wild card round) but to get through the Div. series bends us to where we might break. Will Fried be healthy? Does Hamels morph away from his Mike Hampton impression? Can Anderson sustain his success? Can Wright repeat his last performance (which wasn’t great, but serviceable)? And if we need a 5th…who would that be? Boxcar? Anyone betting on that to win?

    Our offense has it in them to make up for some mistakes by the starter, and the bullpen can hold it down on most days. But if we are put in a hole by the starter, it just makes the crapshoot that much more difficult. Still…2020 has been a weird year and we won it the last time in a weird year in 1995. Would I accept it? I’ll take a championship any time we can get it.

    And I agree with JonathanF on the challenge…3 all day long!

  7. #9
    After #3, it’s kinda hard to rate.

    But I’ll go 3, 6, 1, 2, 4, 5. (Conrad gets docked for Game 3 2010 NLDS.)

    I sure hope we have a Frank Cabrera this year.

  8. I certainly didn’t mean to slight Mr Anderson and his Grammy. Although Jethro Tull’s award may have been the most controversial in the history of the Grammys, I for one would take them any day of the week over Metallica or AC/DC. That’s entirely a function of my age rather than musical merit. If I were ten years younger I would no doubt agree that that geezer flute band robbed the more deserving recipients.

  9. @13 – Explain that to Kanye who still isn’t over Taylor Swift’s win. That said, I’d rank (as long as we are ranking) AC/DC, Jethro Tull and then Metallica (if those are our choices.)

  10. What if we instill an “opener” strategy in some of these playoff games? We have a surplus of reliever horses to run out there which is our biggest strength. Gm1- Fried, Gm2- Ian, Gm3- Relievers.

  11. @4,

    on Freddie, that’s gotta be right. Being good until you’re 30 isn’t good enough for the HoF; Braves fans know that better than anyone, given Murph and Andruw. But Freddie does have skills that look to age well.

  12. I didn’t mean to suggest that I wouldn’t have given Tull a Grammy… only that there was a lot of controversy. I still listen to This Was, Aqualung, and Thick as a Brick (at which point I skated away on the thin ice of a new day).

  13. @9

    Cabrera’s obviously first on the list IMO.

    I did have to look up Hazle’s exploits (I was vaguely aware of him, but didn’t know the specifics), but after doing so, I’m gonna put him second. We did win the World Series, after all (I say “we” like the Braves didn’t win that series playing for a different city, and like I wasn’t over 25 years from being born at the time).

    After that, it’s a bit hard to rate. As ububba referenced, it would clearly be Brooks Conrad for his absurd 2010 if he hadn’t crapped all over it in Game 3 of the NLDS that year. If we’d held onto the wild card spot in 2011, I’d be inclined to say it would be Willie Harris at No. 3, largely for a hit he got with the Mets (his game-winning hit to top off a comeback from a 5-run, ninth-inning deficit against the Cardinals late in that season), but alas, we did not.

    Duvall has a game-winning hit for us in a playoff game, though (as well as a game-icing home run in a different playoff game), so I’ll go him third, Conrad fourth, Harris fifth and Thomas sixth.

    @11

    Even if Freddie’s WAR is low for the position (Hall of Fame-wise, anyway), he’s in if he gets 3,000 hits. I don’t see that changing as a round number that automatically gets you in. It’s possible, though, that his best chance to get in is to collect 3,000 hits, and that if he falls short of that, he’s gonna have a tougher time.

  14. @19 – Freddie isn’t that low (should he continue) if you consider JAWS which I like for Hall numbers. Actually Pujols, Cabrera and Votto are ahead of him of current players (such as they are.) His base is Mark Grace, Don Mattingly, our Fred McGriff, Mark Teixeira, John Olerud, Keith Hernandez and Todd Helton. His potential peak is what has been said – Gehrig, Foxx, Conner, Bagwell or McCovey.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/jaws_1B.shtml

  15. Great recap tfloyd! Man, ya’ll sure can write.

    Question: was the “no days off in the playoffs” a decision just made? Seems like that would’ve been part of the negotiating between MLB and MLBPA that they had JUST to get the season played.

    If that is the case, perhaps a big IF, and our front office knew it – – wouldn’t that have put an even greater sense of urgency in acquiring more than a journeyman at the trade deadline??

  16. Great article by Kiley McDaniel on ESPN Insider on how to characterize MLB Front Offices. The take is that being aggressive at a World Series probably adds more probability to actually winning one than what the “it’s all a crapshoot” crowd think.

  17. The list of valid or potential comps for Freddie is impressive, but it is also long, as he is a common type of very good ballplayer. His back-of-the-baseball-card argument gets stronger with each passing year, and his personality wears well. Where he’s lacking is in hardware, black ink, and signature postseason play.

  18. @24–those deficits are easily fixed this year. He just needs to finish first this year in the many categories where he is near the top of the league, win the MVP, and be the World Series MVP of the Braves’ first championship in 25 years. Just do it!

  19. @23: I’m not an ESPN Insider (I’m not even a Braves Journal Insider!), so I can’t read the article, but as the President (and Chief Insider) of the “It’s All A Crapshoot” school, let me just say that better teams win the World Series more often, and making yourself better to help you win a World Series will help. The question is: how much? Like I said, in a typical year, the best team among the 12 teams has at most a 20 percent chance to win. Given 3 rounds for the non-Wildcard, that’s almost twice as good as simply flipping fair coins. The crapshoot point is that it’s still only 20 percent. A team that starts with a 12 percent chance, which is around where most of the nonWildcard teams are, as well the winning Wildcard teams, might, by improving themselves a lot, get up to, say, 15 percent. That’s a really big move, but it still leaves you as a loser 5 times out of 6. Put more bluntly, it’s like having Ender at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth facing a tough lefty.
    It’s going to be worse this year, since even the best teams have an extra two-out-of-three series to win that they probably have (I’m making this up) about a 70 percent chance of winning. But that lowers their WS chances from 20 percent to 14 percent all by itself!
    So sure… Front offices have nothing better to do than to maximize their chances… but they’re fiddling at the margins. The reason we don’t think that way is that there’s a huge cognitive bias at work. Whoever wins, we think back to the changes they made and tend to think it made their winning inevitable. It wasn’t.

  20. Good stuff @23 and @27.

    @26 – Cal Rat. Man that’s funny, I don’t care who you are.

    True Southerners also pronounce Atlanta as “Etlanna”

    Not “At-lan-tah” as some of my former Midwestern colleagues would say it.

  21. @24

    It’s true that Freddie has no real postseason success to punch up his resume. His lone positive postseason moment was what turned out to be a game-winning home run in Game 3 against the Dodgers in 2018. It’s a moment that, frankly, I had completely forgotten about until looking just now. I assume that’s largely because of the pall of his performance last year (hampered by injury though it was) and the fact that the home run only salvaged a 3-1 series loss. Also, he went 3-for-4 in the wild-card loss to the Cardinals in ’12 and was pretty good in the ’13 NLDS against the Dodgers, but both performances went to little effect.

    On the other hand, Chipper Jones wasn’t like a gigantic postseason hero for us or anything. If they gave out series MVPs for the Division Series, he’d have certainly won it for ’01 against Houston, and would’ve had a shot for ’95 against Colorado and ’97 against Houston. But he never really had a “put the team on his back and lead them to a championship or pennant” kind of playoff performance. And that didn’t really cause him any problems when it came to the Hall of Fame.

    So long story short, that’s nice to have, but as long as you’re not terrible in the playoffs (and outside of last year Freddie hasn’t been), I don’t think you absolutely need it.

  22. @26, 28. This place is the best. I’m learning stuff.
    Also from my side tfloyd. Your recap is as great as the win last night. Thank you.

    And Germans say Ut-lun-tuh.

  23. @9, that looks like a “One of these things is not like the others” list. All the others combined had only two seasons of 400 PA and none of 500. Despite his late start (I hadn’t realized he was already 32) and 2018 putridity and 2019 demotion, Duvall is a legitimately decent player of at least the quality to start on a bad team, sort of like Markakis after age 28, though with a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Before the Braves got him, he had hit 30 HR twice, driven in 103 and 99 runs those years, and been an All-Star, although that and play good LF defense were about all he did, and he wasn’t what I think of as a particularly deserving All-Star (.297 OBP as a LF that year). He has more bWAR so far in his career than all the others combined. For me, “folk hero” status includes a sense that your heroics are totally unexpected rather than just unlikely.

  24. @29, the rest of Chipper’s resume was so good that he didn’t need any postseason heroics, while Freddie’s probably not in that position. Also, while it wasn’t in the postseason, Chipper did get a lot of national attention in his MVP year for the September series against the still-challenging Mets in which he homered in all three games (4 HR total). It may have been later that month when, after beating the Mets in NY, he said the Mets fans could all go home and put on their Yankees caps.

  25. It would really just depend on what his decline phase looks like. If he’s a 5 WAR player for another 6 years, then he’s getting into that 70 WAR territory that would make him a likely HoFer. But if he’s like Joey Votto, who had his last elite season at age 33, then he’s probably not going to have the legs to get there.

  26. Has any Braves hitter had such an incredible postseason run that we would describe it as “putting the team on his back”? And really, that’s one thing that has hurt us in our playoff runs. There isn’t that hitter who hit 5 home runs and .600 during a World Series or something.

  27. Rob,

    I think we have had great runs by hitters through one series, but not all the way through. Javy against the Cardinals in 1996, Mike Devereaux in 1995 (I think).

  28. @27

    The article is about way more than just us, and has a bunch of other good stuff in there (and since it’s behind a paywall, I don’t wanna give away the whole game), but I’ll briefly cover a couple takeaways that apply directly to us.

    The article sets up an x-axis, with traditional/scouting-based at one end and progressive/analytics-driven at the other, and a y-axis, with confident/high risk at one end and hedging/low risk at the other. So the four quadrants that get set up as a result are traditional/gambler, traditional/hedge, prog/gambler and prog/hedge. Obviously, we are deeply, deeply a prog/hedge. The second-most extreme team to that quadrant (Cleveland being the most).

    He basically goes on to point out that this strategy doesn’t really fit where we are right now in terms of payroll (though that could be about to change, I guess, given yesterday’s news) and where our best players are in the course of their careers (certainly Freeman, but even Acuna can now start to be considered as in his prime).

    In terms of general “playoffs are a crapshoot” thinking, he points out that while the last five World Series winners have been split (3-to-2) between traditional/scouting and progressive/analytics, they were all aggressive in their approach to building the team that season within the confines of their given scouting-v.-analytics approach.

    We are not at all aggressive, nor have we ever been under Anthopoulos, and the question it sets up is this: While we are maximizing the length of our “championship window” by playing it this way, are we really playing it right if all we’re doing in any of those years is sort of passively hoping to win a championship while being more concerned with extending our window in which it’s possible to win one? Or would it be worth it to slice a year or two off the back end of the window to make an aggressive play for a championship over the next couple years?

  29. Here in NYC, they pronounce it: ATT-layn-Tuh.

    IMO, Atlanta should be pronounced the way Ronnie Van Zant did it during Skynyrd’s live-at-The-Fox-Theater version of “Free Bird,” when he says: “Play it purty for ut-lanna.”

  30. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Using the results of the last five World Series to explain what kind of strategies win World Series is the worst kind of retrospective bias thinking. You’ve only got 5 winners: does he calculate how many aggressive teams were losers? I still don’t think you’ll have enough data to draw any conclusions but looking at what the winners happened to do is just guessing.

  31. Our non-pitcher NLCS MVPs have been 1995 Mike Devereaux, 1996 Javy Lopez and 1999 Eddie Perez.

    Devereaux: .308/.357/.615 (He had the game-winning hit in the 11th inning of Game 1 and the series-icing, 3-run homer late in Game 4, if you’re wondering.)
    Lopez: .542/.607/1.000 (That’s pretty close to “team on back” territory, though we were bombing the ball all over the place as a team late in that series.)
    Perez: .500/.524/.900 (Eventual game-winning homer in Game 2, homer for big insurance run in Game 1, 2-run single in our big first inning in Game 6)

  32. Post-season series MVPs are generally feather-in-cap kinds of things for HoF-calibre players.

    But guys on the HoF fence, IMO, should get credit for that kind of stuff. I believe it helped Smoltz (although it certainly hasn’t helped Curt Schilling, but that’s another story…) So, yes, it could end up helping Freddie.

    Come to think of it, all kinds of weird guys have been WS MVPs — Donn Clendenon (’69), Pat Borders (’92 vs. ATL), Rick Dempsey (’83), David Eckstein (’06), Steve Pearce (’18), etc.

  33. @41

    Yeah, the list of postseason series MVPs is an interesting one. You’re just as likely to get a Mike Devereaux (who we picked up off the waiver trash heap in August) or Eddie Perez (our backup catcher) as you are a John Smoltz or Tom Glavine.

    @39

    It’s an excellent point. And to answer your question, he does not look at anything other than the last five winners.

  34. My favorite trivia question for Mets fans is: Who are the only 2 Mets to win WS MVPs & what do they have in common?

    Answer: Clendenon (’69) & Ray Knight (’86), both of whom were from Georgia.

    Clendenon grew up in ATL & graduated from HS & college there (Morehouse). Knight was born & raised in Albany.

  35. @21

    John, not sure if it was your creation but, regardless, Boxcar Wino is not an acceptable nickname for a young Black man in today’s social climate where Black Lives Matter has become a world wide mantra. We certainly should not see it here.

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