IWOTM 2, Braves 1

AAR opened yesterday’s recap by noting how “streakingly inconsistent” this year’s team is.  That’s no doubt true, but isn’t it odd how such an inconsistent team can be so maddeningly predictable?

In what was the most important game of the season so far, the Braves turned in a performance that was typical of so much we’ve come to expect in 2021:

Chance to get back to .500 but coming up short of that goal? Check. (I believe this was the 10th time they’ve lost when a win would have put them at .500).

Lose after being tied through six innings? Check.  (Although this time it was not the bullpen who blew it, but the starter Max Fried who gave up the go ahead run.)

Fail to generate the late inning magic that the 2018-2020 teams were known for? Check. (The Braves had two on and no out in the 8th, with Freeman and Riley due up, but failed to score; and in the 9th, an Almonte double followed by an Adrianza single failed to plate a run—a good throw by Conforto cut down Almonte at the plate. BTW, I think Wash was clearly right to send him–I’d rather count on an off-line throw by Conforto than rely on Panda to drive Almonte home from third. But of course 2021 Braves luck prevailed and Conforto made the throw, nailing him on a very close play.)

A failure by La Gran Pelaza to come through in the clutch? Check. (Panda made the last out of the game with the tying run in scoring position.)

Other frustrating at bats in the clutch? Check. (I don’t want to be hard on Riley, because his 6th inning homer off Megill was the only Braves run of the game, but in the 8th, with the tying and go ahead runs in scoring position with one out, he whiffed at three Familia pitches out of the strike zone.)

Score one run the night after scoring in double digits? Check. (I haven’t checked to see how often this has happened, but it seems like every blooming time.)

Have your hopes crushed by one of the lesser lights on the opposing team? Check. (A pinch hit homer by Brandon Drury in the 7th was the difference in the game.)

Waste another solid performance by a starter? Check. (Varsity went 7 innings giving up 5 hits and 2 runs, striking out 9. Did Snit leave him in one batter too long? Obviously in retrospect, but not so obvious at the time–there were two out and no one on base when Drury hit his pinch hit homer.)

Fail to generate any kind of streak? Check.  (Since the ASB, the Braves have yet to either win or lose two in a row.)

Fail to close the gap on the LOLMets? Check.  (They are the same 5 games out of first that they were when they came to Gotham on Monday—and thanks to Chip for putting the silly word “Gotham” in my head.)

Leave us tantalizingly close to contention, but not really making up ground? Check.  (This inconclusive series gives AA little guidance on whether should trade prospects, sell expiring contracts, or do nothing.)

*   *   *

On July 28, 1982, the first place Braves defeated the Padres 8-6, to extend their record to 60-37 and grow their lead in the NL West to 8 games.  Phil Niekro got win number 250 on the night, pitching seven and giving up two runs.  I was at that game; it was an exciting time to be a Braves fan, and a gratifying milestone for my favorite pitcher.  Knucksie had been a shining light in the darkness of the 1970’s, and it was great to see him lead the team to these heights.

They defeated the Padres the next night to go up by 9 games.  Three weeks later, they had lost 19 of 21 games, were 63-56, two games out of first, and sinking like a stone.  This was the same team that had opened the season 13-0. 

In obvious ways, the 1982 team was the polar opposite of the 2021 team.  They are both streakingly inconsistent, but in completely different ways.  The 1982 team was never below .500; the 2021 team has never been above .500.  The 1982 squad had a winning streak of 13 and a losing streak of 11; the 2021 team has had no streaks of more than four games—and it’s been a long time since there’s even been a streak that long.

But it strikes me that they are alike, in that both could be characterized as bad good teams (to borrow again  from AAR).  The 1982 edition had two offensive stars (Murphy and Horner) but four of the other regulars had an OPS+ of 93 or lower.  We all know how top heavy and uneven the 2021 Braves lineup is. The 82 pitching staff was likewise uneven; Niekro was solid but the rest of the starters were inconsistent.  The 82 bullpen was strong.  Of course in 2021 the rotation is solid but the pen is unreliable, to say the least.

The good news is that the 1982 Braves overcame that horrific August slide.  The won 13 of the next 15 to go back up by 2 games.  They hit another rough patch in September, and fell to three games out of the lead on September 22, only to turn it on again and win the division by a game.

I’m not making any predictions, other than to point out that the race isn’t over.  The Braves really are due to go on a streak.  They may lose 11 out of 13 and drop hopelessly out of contention.  They could win 13 out of 15 and vault into first.  Or, this being 2021, they will win every other game the rest of the way and stay just out of reach.

But since they lost yesterday, I predict they will win today.  Smyly faces Walker.  Win and they are down four, with momentum on their side!

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.

35 thoughts on “IWOTM 2, Braves 1”

  1. I guess it is possible this team wins a division, but it sure seems unlikely. Not like struck by lightning unlikely, but more like “had the vaccine, get symptomatic covid anyway” unlikely.

  2. We haven’t won the World Series since Bill Clinton was in the White House. I’m ok with waiting one more year to win the World Series. Sell. Throw Fried, Anderson, Muller, Touki, and Wright or Wilson in the rotation until Ynoa or Davidson returns. Call up Burrows and Minter. DFA Smith when d’Arnaud gets healthy. Call up Contreras and Pache in September. Let the kids play.

    And then we’ll probably win the division and look like geniuses.

  3. @3 Agreed. I can get behind a move to the possible up and coming talent instead of the Smith/Heredia/Almonte/Panda retreads. We really can’t “go for it” without RAJ, so at least let some of these dudes stink it up for a minute and learn instead of the mediocrity that is half of the roster.

  4. Yep, on that ’82 team, the bullpen was a life-saver.

    Garber & Bedrosian threw over 250 combined innings to about a 2.40 ERA. Clutch stuff.

  5. Agreed with all of that tfloyd. But as fun as the 1982 season was, the brief rain-soaked playoffs were just flat-out painful. And little did we know it would be another 9 years in the wilderness.

    Things like that — 9 years without the playoffs, many of them borderline unwatchable, make seasons like this (a maddeningly inconsistent team) bearable.

    I will say this: that was an entertaining game last night. Agonizing, but entertaining. As long as the blood pressure medication holds, I can countenance hanging around with a team that doesn’t deserve to be within shouting distance of a division title…. gives me something to do while waiting for next year’s cromulent team.

  6. You know, speaking of having something to do, ’tis the season and everything. Would some of you wonderful Division I football fans care to talk about the upcoming autumn?

  7. Bama has to come to Gainesville and get beat, and the Dawgs are going to get embarrassed again in Jacksonville. Heard it here first, chums and pals.

  8. Forecast is for a Braves win today. The fact that it’s the day after a loss and Smyly is pitching almost clinches it.

    Also – five games can be made up in a week. We have two months. All you “sellers” are quitting too early. “Wait till next year” is for Cubs fans.

  9. @11 10%? Vegas probably has it as a 3-4 point Dawg favor right now. It’s higher than 10%. And when Clemson beats UGA by 3 touchdowns and Florida edges Bama, then the Dawgs probably become a dog.

    I’m just playing around. I’m juiced for Clemson/UGA, UF/Bama, and UF/UGA. I think all of those games will be competitive, and the only outcome I’m confident about is that Bama will beat Florida.

    The national media is really taking a dump on Florida because we’re losing Trask/Pitts/Toney. But ask any Florida fan, and we were all VERY tired of Toney before he showed out in 2020. That’s the work of Florida’s WR coach who is probably their best offensive staff member, so I’m not worried about the receivers. We have 4 blue chip RBs, including the best RB in the 2020 class (Bowman). Emory is Dan Mullen’s hand-picked QB, and one thing we do know about Dan Mullen is that he’ll have a good QB on the field, even if it’s a two-star like Trask. We return all of our good talent on defense.

    None of that is disparage Georgia. Georgia will be absolutely stacked. JT Daniels is probably the best QB in the SEC. I think Georgia is the best team in the SEC. I think people are really underestimating that Bama has their worst OC since Doug Nussmeier. O’Brien ain’t Kiffin or Sark. IMO, Saban got lucky having two of the best offensive minds in college football calling plays for them. Those days are over. I’d go Georgia > Bama > Florida in the SEC pecking order, and it’s really really close. And they might be 3 of the top 5 teams in the country.

  10. 1 – 0 and 2 – 1. Once again, it would have been nice to have gotten some help before this series. Catch-22 indeed.

  11. @12–Rob, I appreciate your ranking the Dawgs over Bama, but until they actually beat them on the field I won’t believe it. Every ranking I’ve seen has those two in the top five, but only a Gator fan would include UF in that group.

  12. @15 In Dixie Youth, I used to do that just to piss people off. Also would sprint from my position to the dugout between innings. Hustle never slumps. :p

  13. I am losing it. I had no idea this was an early game. I will miss the weekend games too…..first games I will miss this year.

  14. Honest question: When was the last time the Braves began a season with a pitcher on the roster who was a legit Cy Young contender? Like a top-5 betting odds favorite?

    I’m thinking it has to have been Maddox/Glavine entering 1999? Smoltz had some great seasons after that, but by then his age probably kept him off people’s lists. Maybe Kimbrel at the height of his powers?

  15. Man, now that I look back, it’s been a loooong time since a Braves ace has put together back-to-back all-star seasons. I’ve gone back as far as 2014 and the “ace” of every season failed to follow that up the next year.

  16. @14 As important as college football pundit make elite offensive playcallers, I still think they’re underrated. And I think Bill O’Brien is the worst playcaller Saban has had in a long time, and this is not something anyone is willing to talk about. Bama lost two SEC games just two years ago when they didn’t have upperclassmen elite playmakers, and they weren’t replacing an OC. I think the player turnover and the OC turnover is going to be a unique problem for Lord Saban, and not one that he’s had to deal with yet.

  17. Danby… nice.

    #12
    Yeah, Nick Fitzgerald & Feleipe Franks were terrifying.

    I know Emory Jones has probably completed some passes vs. Division 1 FBS teams, I just haven’t seen it. But I’m sure UF will put him in “situations where he can succeed.” A lot will be riding on him.

    And, BTW, don’t sleep on LSU again – they’ll be better this year & you gotta play ’em in Baton Rouge.

    UGA/UF: As long as D’wan Mathis, who now matriculates at Temple University, doesn’t have to take snaps for UGA, we’ll probably be OK Halloween weekend. (FWIW, both teams will be coming out of bye weeks.)

    As for UGA, a lot will be determined Sept. 4 in Charlotte. I got UGA at +4.5 – will probably be the only regular-season game they won’t be favored. So I happily take those points. That game’s got shootout written all over it.

  18. Why is Washington selling Scherzer and not Turner? They both have a year left of control.

  19. I look for Florida to take a step back. Emory Jones is not going to be anywhere near as good as Trask was. I could see an 8-4 type season out of them.

  20. @28 So the more talented QB that’s a better fit for the playcaller’s system is going to be worse than the less talented QB who’s a worse fit for the system? Please explain.

  21. Ballgame.

    #29
    Trask had accuracy downfield (not to mention better players on offense) — I still gotta see that in Jones.

    If Jones puts up better numbers and wins more games than Trask did last year, I’d be more than a little surprised.

  22. @27, Fangraphs & BRef both say that Scherzer is a free agent at the end of this year.

    If the Nats would trade him, Turner would certainly be an interesting rental for next year, maybe as an outfielder, but he’d be expensive.

  23. @22 Javy Vazquez finished in the top four of Cy Young but I think they traded him. Kimbrel also finished fairly high one year. I think maybe Shelby Miller did too before they fleeced the DBacks.

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