In Which I Present My Best Case For Not Panicking: Marlins 6, Braves 7.

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.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

25 thoughts on “In Which I Present My Best Case For Not Panicking: Marlins 6, Braves 7.”

  1. @95 from prior thread. I hope not. That would confirm Chief’s assessment of this team as a .500 outfit.

  2. The bullpen turned into a complete trash fire very quickly. That’s the biggest issue right now by far. The lineup problems, such as they are, would be papered over with several more wins if it weren’t for the bullpen. And I really think they’re being overstated to a large extent, anyway.

  3. Fangraphs claims that the Braves bullpen has the 5th best WAR in MLB. That’s probably before today’s game, as I doubt they update that table more than once a day. Surprised me.

    Of course Ronald has the best WAR, WRC+, wOBA, and WPA in MLB. Going 2 for 5 with a HR today slightly lowered his BA, OBP, and OPS while keeping his SLG the same. I assume he helped his WPA, though.

  4. Yep, no reason to panic. I would note the 4-8 stretch did not come at a randomly selected or purposely searched for point in the season, but right out of the gate — so if this is actually a 24-138 team we might have to go back and see how many of these tremendous 4-8 stretches there were!

  5. Thanks coop, as always.
    Sansho1: you are right of course, but I did note late last night that one of the 2002 bad stretches came almost right out of the gate, ending on April 16th. How panicked were any of us back then?

  6. Teams are gonna stop throwing Panda fastballs and that’s gonna be that for him.

  7. Unless we get too far under .500, I’m not going to go crazy about this crappy start. We have holes, they’re obvious, but it doesn’t mean was can’t reel off some wins. We have guys who can rake who haven’t really hit a lick yet.

    If history is my guide for optimism… the only time during the ’91-’05 streak that I was really worried that, well, “it just wasn’t going to happen this year” was in 2004 when we were 6 games under .500 (33-39) near the end of June. But 2 weird games seemed to re-set the season.

    After dropping the opener at Camden Yards, we got a Capra-esque 10-hit shutout of the O’s (courtesy Russ Ortiz & Smoltz). Then that was followed up by a thoroughly shocking comeback win Sunday afternoon — down 7-0, the Braves scored a run in the 7th, then scored a touchdown & kicked a PAT in the 8th. They never seemed to lose after that & ended up with 96 wins.

    Anyway, if I can’t be optimistic, there’s no reason for me to watch in the first place.

  8. Well, I can’t top the comment @9–that pretty much says it all–but I will follow up on the idea of two week stretches and what they tell you. The 1982 season is when I fully absorbed the lesson that stretches of 12-15 games have very little predictive value, and the corresponding need not to get too high or too low during those stretches. That team famously won the first 13 of the season. They promptly lost the next 5, then won 5 of the next 6. From July 30 to August 18, they lost 19 out of 21, including one stretch of 11 straight losses. Then they immediately won 6 in a row, 9 of the next 10, and 13 of the next 15. You may recall that they won the division, largely on the strength of winning 5 of 6 in a final week road trip to the west coast. That hot streak didn’t last either, as they were swept in the playoffs.
    That season was emotionally exhausting. And unlike 2002, we fans had no sense of entitlement; there had only been one winning season in the previous 12.

  9. @12: Bill James wrote a great article in the 1983 Baseball Abstract the next year referring to that Braves team about whether or not an early good start means you’re a good team. It was one of the many essays he wrote in that period that helped make me a better statistician in my career (I was in graduate school at the time.) The basic conclusion was that while a terrible team really can’t win 13 in a row, a mediocre team definitely can. That should have been enough to raise one’s base expectation for a team which, as you said, hadn’t been any good for quite some time, but not enough that you should start printing WS tickets. And another version of my method today is just that one: if 13 in a row is only mildly informative, 4-8 is naught but a whisper.

    That brings back another memory: James was pretty clear on how poor the sacrifice bunt was as a strategy; that in that scoring era raising the possibility of a single run while lowering the probability of multirun innings was a generally bad idea except in certain circumstances. He was particularly critical of Joe Torre’s use of the bunt. In the first game of the 1983 season, Brett Butler led off with a double off Mario Soto and Torre had Rafael Ramirez bunt him to third. I still remember the groan I uttered when the second batter of the season bunted. The defending NL West champions! Claudell Washington sac flied him home, and the Braves lost by 1. I note with some pleasure that the box score of the game shows the successful bunt to have reduced the Braves’ chances of victory by 1 percent.

  10. I think we’ll get our bullpen problems straightened out eventually and we’ll be average to above average. Not as good as last year, but not the problem point of the team. The biggest surprise for me is our starting pitching. The ERAs for our starting pitchers are below with the average number of innings per start.
    Morton – 4.76 ERA, 5-2/3 IPS
    Anderson – 4.76 ERA, Just over 5 IPS
    Fried – 11.45 ERA, 3-2/3 IPS
    Smyly – 5.73 ERA, 5-1/2 IPS
    Ynoa – 0.75 ERA, 5-1/2 IPS

    Those kinds of innings from starting pitchers are going to put a lot of strain on the bullpen, not to mention giving up a load of runs.

  11. This is off topic, but while I disagreed with Sam H on many things, one thing for which I’m grateful to him is his recommendation of the band War on Women. I’ve been deeply digging their latest album, Wonderful Hell, released last October. It is so great.

  12. Loved the recap, JonathanF. Thanks for putting things in perspective.
    Maybe this was our 2021-version of the Orioles-comeback-win mentioned by ububba.

    The starting pitching will get better, the bullpen will get more consistent and at least Ozuna, Ozzie and Dansby will start to hit. Everything is magnified at the beginning of a season. Of course, this team is better than their 5-8 record. The thing I’m most worried about besides Minter is Ozuna’s noodle.

  13. @13–thanks for the memories of the early 80’s Bill James Abstracts. It’s hard to describe how revelatory they were. He completely changed the way I (and many others) think about baseball. And those abstracts were a delight to read.

  14. @17 Right. And the first time I learned about all that was right here on Braves Journal back then.

  15. I remember reading in one of those early 80s Abstracts about the value of one run wins as a predictor of greatness. I used to think a team with a good record in one run games must be good. Prof. Bill told me that was crap, and that GOOD teams beat the snot out of their competition, and didn’t play that well in one run contests. I’m still amazed almost 40 years later, how I missed that, and how obvious it is now.

  16. Those Abstracts contained a multitude of lessons for the young aspiring writer. I remember reading the 1983 Abstract, in which he famously wrote “Sparky Anderson doesn’t seem to understand that Enos Cabell can’t play baseball!” or something like that. Then Cabell hit .311 that year, and the following year’s entry was along the lines of “Enos Cabell recovered some of the skills that made him a good ballplayer”. Careful slinging those insults around where people can read them….

  17. So Smyly to the 10 day IL. Kyle Wright recalled to start today.

    Johan also recalled and Davidson sent down

  18. I just love the “He would play through it if it was late in the season” quotes. Pretty much every time anyone is scratched.

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