Is a team that wins four games out of twelve a bad team? There are many ways to approach this question: here’s one. In a 162-game season a team has 151 12-game stretches. Let’s look at the number of wins over those stretches. First, let’s take a really bad team: the 2015 team, for example. They had one 12 game stretch with no wins, 10 with one win, 9 with 2 wins, 17 with three wins, and 22 with four wins. So 59 of their 150 12-game stretches, almost 40 percent, have four or fewer wins. Now, let’s take a good team: 2002. They had only 3 12-game stretches of 4 wins, and never had a stretch with less. So their bad-stretch rate is 3/150, or 2 percent.
So we’re definitely onto something here. Graphing the number of bad stretches (4 or fewer wins in a 12-game stretch) against wins makes this really clear:
Good teams don’t have a lot of stretches where they lose 8 out of 12.But they almost all have at least one. Only two teams have none: 1997 and 1999.
But the 106-win 1998 team had 4. The 98-win 1992 team had 17! A single bad stretch tells you almost nothing about where you’re going to end up. A standard linear regression model tells you that every additional bad streak reduces your aggregate win total by only about a half-game, so it’s really, really weak evidence about where you’ll end up. If you thought the Braves would win 95 games this season before the season started, the first 12 games ought to drop your estimate to about 94.5. Stay calm.
That said, of course, when 100% of your 12-game stretches are bad, it doesn’t breed confidence. And if the Braves couldn’t salvage game 4 of this series, they’d have had two bad 12-game stretches in their first two.
After an uneventful first inning, four hits and a walk yielded by Ian Anderson put the good guys in a two-run hole in the second, growing to a three-run hole in the 4th after another two-out RBI. The Braves’ “offense” through the 4th consisted of skills I’m capable of exhibiting, at least theoretically: HBP and Walks, plus a pretty good double from Dansby. (Actually, I probably could never draw an actual BB against a pitcher in full control of his faculties, but I’m quite certain my reflexes are too slow to get out of the way of a pitch that was thrown in my direction by accident.)
Around 2 PM, the team brunch was digested and the bats got going. Adrianza had a solid single and RAJ did what he does: a two-run shot pulling the deficit to one. Trevor Rogers pitched just about perfectly (I’m not even sure giving up a homer to RAJ should count against you) and was replaced by Zach Pop in the 6th. (I believe Z-Pop is the latest musical craze from Zambia.) Zach gave up an infield single to Dansby and hit Herredia, leading to a two-out three-run homer from Panda and a two-run lead (owned by Webb who had replaced Anderson in the top of the inning.) A LEAD!!!! A VERITABLE LEAD!!!!
But for how long? Starling Marte took Nate Jones‘ first pitch into the bullpen to pull the lead to one. Jones survived without any further trouble, but he’s just one of those guys who doesn’t inspire confidence. Matzek looked fine in the 8th. Having perked up for two innings, the post-brunch nap took over, and the next two innings were quite meek.
So, for the first time in quite a while, a save situation. A.J. Minter was brought in as Smith was overused in the last four losses. (Makes sense, right?) Unpromisingly, Minter walked the opening batter and then faced pinch-hitting Adam Duvall. It’s not like he’s done anything in this series. A double in the right-center gap tied the game. Another two-out hit from Garrett Cooper and once again we trail going to the bottom of the 9th.
Mirabile dictu, Ender led off the 9th with a single. A bloop single from RAJ put two on with no one out and Freddie Freeman at the plate. In a terrific at-bat, Freddie fouled off 5 pitches before walking to load the bases for Travis d’Arnaud. He struck out looking. But Ozzie walked. Tie game. A first pitch single by Dansby for a 7-6 win. Had it all the way.
A few notes: (1) What Pablo has done is great, but it’s a terrible sign when your third-leading home run hitter is a pinch hitter. (2) We all knew going in that Marcell was going to cost us runs in the field. But there is no amount of good team chemistry that can compensate for both a spaghetti arm in left field and an anemic bat. There is no bigger financial risk right now on the Braves roster than Ozuna’s contract. He was great last year in 267 plate appearances. Well, he’s already had 56 plate appearances this year and he’s looked terrible. There’s plenty of time to turn it around, of course. But there’s also plenty of time to become Dan Uggla. And I’m as surprised as anyone to think that we may need to get Sandoval some more at bats. And right now, Ozuna vs. Riley in left is about a wash, though it’s not clear that either of them is any more productive than Emilio Bonifacio at the moment.
So in our last twelve games, we’ve now won five. Everybody feel better?
It’s up to the Windy City to hear irrelevant anecdotes from Chip Caray for 3 hours, with a ballgame interspersed. Go get ’em.