Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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19 Sep

Mets 5, Braves Go ahead and guess

Box Score, but don’t bother

Well, the Braves continued their assault on Offensive Ineptitude by being shut out for the 15th time
this year, this time courtesy of the Mets and Zach Wheeler. Julio Teheran threw 89 good to very good
pitches, and one stinker that Lucas Duda drove out of the park in about 4 femtoseconds in the top of
the 6th, which drove in Daniel Murphy who had doubled.

Jordan Walden and Luis Avilan combined to suck any drama out of the game by giving up three runs in
the top of the 9th, and the Mets taunted us by letting Buddy Carlyle close out the game. And of course
he retired the side in order.

Disgusting factoids gleaned from the broadcast:

In his last four starts, Teheran has been the “beneficiary” of two whole runs scored by his teammates.
In addition to the 15 shutouts, the Braves have scored 1 run twenty-four times. In the last 35 innings,
the Braves have put up a goose egg in 33 of them. And, if that didn’t make you sick enough – they
have dented the scoreboard in a mere 6 out of the last 64 innings. With the Pirates win over the
Brewers, the Braves are now 7 back with 9 to play. Let’s just go ahead and get swept and put this
season out of our misery.

18 Sep

Boston’s Lead Over the Giants Increases (by AtlCrackers Fan)

Ed. note: to see the previous installment in the 1914 Braves saga, click here

By the morning of Sept.11, Boston had resumed its surge into first place, holding a tenuous 2 ½ game lead over the New York Giants. The standings looked like this:

  W L Pct. GB Change
Boston Braves 72 54 .571 7-2
New York Giants 69 56 .552 2.5 4-5
Chicago Cubs 69 61 .531 5 5-3
St. Louis Cardinals 68 62 .523 6 4-2
Pittsburg Pirates 59 66 .472 12.5 4-3
Philadelphia Phillies 58 68 .460 14 4-5
Brooklyn Dodgers 57 70 .449 15.5 3-6
Cincinnati Reds 56 71 .441 16.5 1-6

The Braves would go 5-1 over the next seven days, winning the final game of the series from Philadelphia, taking two of three from Brooklyn and two from St. Louis.

Boston managed this record despite the return of itss early season bugaboo, poor fielding. In the six games, Braves fielders committed 16 errors, including seven (!) against Brooklyn on Sept. 14th. But Dick Rudolph overcame the miscues, along with eight hits and a walk, and recorded his 21st victory as Boston held on for a 4-3 victory.

Overall, Rabbit Maranville accounted for 6 errors at short, while Possum Whitted added three more (all in the Sept. 14th game) while filling in for Johnny Evers at second.

Despite the fielding miscues, the Braves added a game to their lead, holding a 3.5 game lead with 24 games left. The Braves would participate in nine more double-headers before the season ended.

The standings on the morning of Sept. 18 1914 looked like this:

  W L Pct. GB Change
Boston Braves 77 55 .583 5-1
New York Giants 74 59 .556 3.5 5-3
Chicago Cubs 72 64 .529 7 3-3
St. Louis Cardinals 71 64 .526 7.5 3-2
Philadelphia Phillies 64 71 .474 14.5 6-3
Pittsburgh Pirates 62 71 .466 15.5 3-5
Brooklyn Dodgers 59 74 .444 18.5 2-4
Cincinnati Reds 56 77 .421 21.5 0-6
17 Sep

Braves Win! Braves Win! Braves Win!

ESPN Box Score

The Braves offense has proven that they hate all of their starting pitchers, but they especially hate Alex Wood and outright refuse to score when he is in the game. In the wake of their division-clinching victory last night, the Nationals started the Syracuse Chiefs lineup and threw a rookie in place of Gio Gonzalez. Wood starting against a rookie, the Nationals countering with a AAA lineup…against the Braves, that script would seemingly write itself.

Wood looked like his normal awesome self. Then in the 5th, someone named Steven Souza hit his first career home run. Ballgame? For the first five innings, it seemed as though Clayton Kershaw had sneaked his way on the Nationals roster, celebrated Halloween early, and disguised himself as a Blake Treinen, holding the Braves offense in check. It would have been an impressive performance, but IWOTB.

To be fair to the Braves, the Chiefs did win their division, so it’s not like the Gnats were throwing any old AAA team out there.

Then the 6th inning happened. I saw it, or else I might not believe it actually happened. The Braves threw the script out of the window, scored multiple runs for Wood, and took the lead. Phil Gosselin led off the inning with his second of three hits of the night, and Ramiro Pena followed that with a single of his own. Freddie Freeman tried to Barve it up and hit into a double play, but he beat the throw and so the Nationals settled for a fielder’s choice. Justin Upton struck out looking on a breaking ball (an improvement over the first inning, when he grounded into a double play in a similar situation), and then Jason Heyward was hit on the thumb to load the bases. Christian Bethancourt guided a ball off the first baseman’s glove into right field (basically, the moral of the inning was hit the ball on the ground to the right side of the National’s AAA infield, and good things will happen), clearing the bases when the Nationals lobbed the ball back into the infield and Jason Heyward took advantage of that to score from first on a ball that didn’t make it more than 30 feet away from the infield. Heart and Hustle Award recipient right there.

Suddenly the Braves had scored Wood a month’s worth of runs in one inning and he had to quickly relearn how to pitch with a lead. The excitement was too much for him, and he gave up back-to-back hits to open the 7th and end his night. David Carpenter came and and got out of the inning unscathed. Jordan Walden pitched a perfect 8th and Craig Kimbrel a perfect 9th. That is how you win ballgames.

Other Braves items of note:

  • Evan Gattis’s mystery illness is a kidney stone. He apparently had strep throat and then developed the kidney stone. Weird. That man gets the strangest illnesses.
  • Tonight was Tom Glavine bobblehead night. Most of the time, bobbleheads look somewhat like the person they are representing. Glavine’s…not so much.
  • Craig Kimbrel was presented with the Braves Roberto Clemente Award before the game. It was nice to see him alive and breathing, since it had been awhile. It was even nicer to see him in the game in a save situation.
  • Andrelton Simmons took a big swing in the 3rd inning, fell down, and ended up leaving the game. It’s painful to watch him play right now, since it is so obvious he is in pain. Once the Braves are officially mathematically eliminated, maybe Fredi will sit him more.

So, is there hope? A small ray of light piercing the gloom? For this season, no. Mathematically, the Braves are still “in”, but even the world’s biggest optimist would have to come to grips with reality at this point. However, in the midst of speculating on who loses his job this winter and how many changes will be made, consider this: the Gnats looked good on paper last year but had a rotten season. This year they’re one of the better teams in the league. The AL Wild Card game last year was played between the Rangers and Rays—neither of which will get close to the playoffs this year, and one has the league’s worst record. The Red Sox, of course, were World Champs last year and were so far out of it by July this year they became sellers at the trading deadline. The Angels finished six games under .500 last year, but this year have clinched a playoff spot and are currently 37 games over. The Giants were 10 games under last year and 16 over this year with a large lead in the Wild Card race… I think you get the point. So, just because this year didn’t work out, and we are all left scratching our heads wonder what in the heck went wrong with this offense, remember that 2015 is a new season and anything can happen. This is baseball, after all.

Natspo(s) delenda est in October. Take it away, the NL contenders.

(I’d also like to apologize to my fellow recappers for hogging all of the wins this month. I’d love to share…maybe the Braves can help me out with that this week?)

16 Sep

Well, That’s That

You know, the band Failure is back. That’s really cool, because I only just started getting into them, and they hadn’t been an active band in more than a decade. I’m hoping I’ll get to see them live. Also, their last album, Forgotten Planet, is full of incredibly depressing songs like the above, which begins with the fairly apropos lyric, “Right now we’re sick of everything.”

So let’s start there. The 2014 Braves had a great first half, and they did exactly one merciful thing in the second half: they did not toy with our emotions. They took a nosedive and stayed down. Despite a catastrophic series of injuries to the pitching staff — a disturbing specialty this franchise has developed — the pitching was really quite good. Well, the rotation was good. The bullpen was pretty erratic, outside of Kimbrel, Walden, and two months of Shae Simmons. The defense was pretty good, so long as they didn’t hit the ball at Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, or Freddie Freeman.

The offense, however…

The offense was a Scared Straight video. It was a portrait of Dorian Grey. It was a suffocating Quato. It was a malformed, misshapen wreck. That was what it looked like in April. It didn’t get any better than that.

Tonight, the Braves got shut out again. This time, it happened to be the Nationals, which meant that they got to celebrate their division championship in Atlanta, which was apt. The Braves all but knitted the pennant flag for them. There will probably be some amount of cleaning house on the team, but not too much, because firing someone is a tacit admission of poor judgment, and whoever is doing the firing — whether it’s Wren considering whether to fire Fredi, or McGuirk considering whether to fire Wren, or heaven forbid, Liberty considering whether to fire McGuirk — will want to save face.

For now, the Braves have to play out the remaining 11 games, and about the only thing left to play for is a .500 record. This team is long past showing pride or backbone, but it would be nice to avoid a losing season. Even though it would be a polite fiction: this has been a losing team since April turned to May.

16 Sep

Primary Life Insurance Beneficiary 4, Dr. Baden’s examinee 2,

[Sometimes, one perceives a lack of sufficient understanding to properly explain a situation. So, today, I have called on Dr. Michael M. Baden, noted medical examiner, to review the corpse of the 2014 Braves and explain the causes of this death, and the relative importance of each cause. I now turn you over to Dr. Baden, (but with parenthetical remarks by me, because, in my experience, sometimes Dr. Baden gives complicated explanations).]

The patient shows signs of infectious disease. There are visible lesions and sores. The scar of one significant lesion appears to be partly recovered (Uggla). Another is so pronounced that I wonder if the patient ignored it because of neuropathy (BJ Upton) because certainly the pain caused by such a lesion should have led to better treatment. The white blood cell count is elevated, but in a manner which suggests a strong immune system (pitching and defense).

The infectious disease is one which restricts the ability of the patient to move (lack of offense). That disease has spread throughout the body with at least some evidence of it in almost every tissue (player). Ordinarily, we would not have expected (preseason ZIPS and other projections) this disease to become so pervasive. Therefore, I am concerned about the role of the attending physicians (Wren, Fredi, Walker) as this patient’s condition deteriorated. Clearly, some of the treatment plan for this patient was inappropriate and contributed to the patient’s demise.

One potential issue in this case is that there are several life insurance beneficiaries. Therefore, my examination must take into account the extent to which any of my findings could have been influenced by the actions of any of these parties. The Washington Nationals had the largest expected payout from the patient’s death. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers had a lesser valued policy, contingent on their survival as to each other. Until the patient seemed very close to death, the actions of the Nationals contributed TOWARD the patient’s health. However, I will note troubling findings relating to the Nationals further in my report. Likewise, the Brewers contributed to the patient’s health particularly in his adolescence when many thought the patient would be robust and healthy throughout his life. The Pirates didn’t positively contribute, but they alone could not have caused these problems.

This corpse shows recent evidence of necrophilia. The DNA indicates that this intimate violation was caused by the primary life insurance beneficiary, the Nationals. Though it makes no sense other than as a possible delayed nervous system response, there is very minor evidence of a struggle against the aggressor.

The T cell we identify as Ervin Santana valiantly fought the disease, with quality in the start to his immune reaction (a “quality start”). The need for movement in this patient was great, but the only reflex seemingly able to create movement, known as the Freddie Freeman reflex, was restrained by bindings (ejected by umpire) and therefore unable to be involved in the outcome. In baseball terms, we would say that the Nationals got 4 before the Braves finally got 2 in the top of the 9th inning.

As my last finding, I remind one and all of the need to promptly dispose of these remains, because the stench will become more and more unbearable.

15 Sep

On Collapses

They say nothing is as boring as listening to someone else’s fantasy sports story, and usually they’re right, but sometimes that fantasy sports story is instructive of a larger point, and that’s what I’m going for here. You’re just going to have to buckle up and hear me out on this one, buddy.

So it’s the playoff semifinals, and I’m in a tight-as-hell matchup with a guy who has the tiebreaker on me. Mid-afternoon yesterday, the last day of the match, I’ve already lost my leads in ERA and WHIP (not a good day to start Mike Minor). But I’m still up 5-4-1 (the tied category is saves), so, you know, hanging on by the shortest hair on my ass.

I settle in with some MLB.tv to check out my players, specifically my closers. Hey, Jake McGee‘s out there with a one-run lead in the ninth! Let’s see how this goes! One out… two outs… two strikes… boomhomerunblownsaveturnthisoff

OK, deep breath. Click over to the Philly game. Papelbon‘s got a three run lead against the Marlins. Let’s watch this one. No outs… still no outs… guys on base… more guys on base… Jordany Valdespin takes like a 45 pitch at bat… boomtiegameblownsaveturnthisoff.

At this point, I realize what’s coming. My opponent has Kenley Jansen and I have Sean Doolittle in the late-afternoon West Coast games, and I text a league-mate who got knocked out last week and inform him that Jansen’s going to get a save, Doolittle’s not, my opponent will flip saves to his column and win the week 5-5 on tiebreakers, and I’m going outside to wash and vacuum my car and enjoy the outdoors now because I don’t really much want to watch it.

When I get back from washing my car, Jansen has saved the Dodger game, Doolittle was taken out of save position by the A’s tacking on too many insurance runs in the 8th, and I did indeed lose 5-5. But at least I saw it coming and reacted accordingly.

***

Collapses are mostly similar in nature, and one of the worst feelings as a sports fan is knowing you’re in one and knowing you’re powerless to do anything about it. If I have a bad run shooting pool with my friends or a streak of unfavorable verdicts in my courtroom, I can summon my inner arrogant bastard and say I got this on the next try. But as a fan, you’re getting thrashed around by forces of nature without any recourse.

And one of the most powerful of those forces is the collapse vortex. It starts with something annoying but harmless-seeming, and spirals out of control to the point where you know what’s coming and it’s just a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. This year’s finish doesn’t entirely qualify because it’s just the toothpick and pickle spear on an already-established poop sandwich; I’m thinking more of 2011, where the Braves woke up on September 5 with an 8.5 game lead in the wild card race, yet spent October golfing.

Every day that month was “don’t panic, we still have a X game lead and 90+% playoff odds.” And every day was a new loss or neutral day in the standings. The odds said don’t panic, but the here-comes-the-collapse vibe said otherwise. I’m basically a rationalist about most things in life, but damned if the collapse vortex doesn’t bring out my inner witch doctor. Forget your math. This is happening.

***

I’m trying to make sense of the fact that fantasy baseball – a simulacrum of baseball competition, numbers on a board, roulette by way of baseball statistics – can trigger my flashbacks to the 2011 Braves, or the 2010 Iron Bowl, or the 2006 NBA Finals, or the 1996 World Series, or any of the myriad collapse vortexes I’ve been subject to as a fan of collapse-prone teams over the years. But the same logic – bad thing begets another bad thing begets all the bad things – seems like it applies. (Not the first time this has happened to me in the decade-long history of this fantasy baseball league, by the way. I’m basically its Braves.)

Maybe we’re just hard-wired to look for patterns and a bunch of independent events (like the Rays’ and Phillies’ closers blowing saves on the same day) looks like momentum because our brains make sense of the world by interpreting it this way. Or maybe actual voodoo witchiness. As a committed rationalist in most areas of life, I want to believe the former. As a Braves fan who picked up with the 1996 team, I can’t rule out the latter.

***

So is the collapse vortex a real thing? My fantasy baseball experience would seem to indicate that it’s just one of those mathematical oddities sometimes, a bunch of independent events that create a psychological illusion of free-fall. But real-life teams facing real-life collapses have to decide whether it’s statistical noise or a condition preventable by better management.

Back in 2011, the Braves and Red Sox both blew safe playoff bids in the last month, but the organizations’ reactions were very different. The Sox fired Terry Francona, hired Bobby Valentine, fired Valentine after he proved even worse and finished last, rebuilt the roster, hired John Farrell, and won a World Series before dropping back down to last place this year. It’s a peripatetic approach, but doubling down on bold experimentation got ‘em a chip.

The Braves value – maybe to a fault – their self-image as a stable organization, one that tinkers but doesn’t overreact, so they chalked 2011 up to chance and margins-tinkered on. But the objective fact is that this management team has been in place for four Septembers, and one-and-we’re-working-on-two of them have been horrific death spirals. That’s uncommonly bad. However you fix that, it probably doesn’t involve just getting a new hitting coach and finding a cheaper Ervin Santana replacement.

Stability in maintenance of a winning model is good. Stability for its own sake is the ol’ definition of insanity, though, and even if we don’t know what exactly causes epic collapses, we can see that continuing to run it back with the same cast of characters… that strategy at least fails to prevent them, let’s say. I get that sometimes you’re just beholden to pure rotten luck – I lived that math yesterday. But on the off chance it’s something preventable, it’s probably time for the real-life decision makers to start trying bolder strategies than “run it back and do like we always do.” Because if there is an ability to I got this your way out of an impending collapse, it’s not in Atlanta these days.

14 Sep

The Worst Team in Baseball Just Swept Us

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Jim Morrison…

 

14 Sep

Rangers 3, Braves 2

I did not see the game, but Julio Teheran took a no-hitter into the 6th but then things fell apart.
The Rangers scored 3 runs on 3 hits and an error. The offense was too sickly to recover and bring a win to Julio.

13 Sep

Rangers 2, Braves 1

The Horrid Box Score

Pitiful.

The Platonic Ideal of the 2014 Braves season was captured tonight in a game they couldn’t win
against a woeful Rangers team that is playing out the string. Excellent starting pitching – this time
Alex Wood, coupled with a complete inability to get the big hit when needed and a suddenly shaky bullpen leads to another loss.

The Braves jumped off to a 1-0 lead in the third, when B. Upton (!) singled, and Andrelton Simmons
(!!) singled him to third. Jason Heyward hit into what should have been called a double play, but the
unpires missed it, so he got the only Braves RBI of the night. JHey then escaped a pick-off, and the
Braves loaded the bases on a Phil Gosselin single and a Freddie Freeman single. But Justin Upton
struck out, and Chris Johnson Regressed the way out of the inning without further scoring.

In the 4th, Wood gave up a walk to Elvis Andrus, a HBP to J. Arencibia, a double to Ryan Rua and a
walk to Robinson Chirinos, but thanks to a pickoff of Andrus on second base, escaped without further
harm.

In the 5th, the Braves again squandered a scoring chance, with Simmons opening the frame with a
single (!!!) and Heyward singling him to third. But Gosselin struck out and Freeman grounded into a
double play.

The Rangers tied the game in the 6th, Arencibia doubled and was pinch run for. AdriA. Beltre singled
to right, and Rua hit a little dribbler to third to score the tying run. Wood got a pop out and a struke
out to strand Beltre at second base.

The Braves last chance was in the 8th. With one out, Freeman walked, and stole second as Upton
Majoris struck out for the third time. Doumit was walked intentionally, and Emilio Bonifacio pinch ran
and stole second. I don’t know why he bothered, as Regression also struck out.

David Carpenter “relieved” Wood in the 8th, and quickly got the first two outs. But consecutive
singles to Beltre, Rua, and Chirinos plated the winning run, and that’s all I need to say about that.

The Braves are three back now from the second wild card spot, with the Brewers between us and the
Pirates. Things are really looking grim now. If we can’t beat a team that was 45 games under .500,
especially with our post-season hanging by a thread, then we probably don’t deserve a berth. Of
course, unless the guys remember how to make contact (Looking at you Justin) with a runner on
third and less than two outs, we won’t have to worry about whether we’re going to deserve a spot,
as we won’t be playing after the regular season.

11 Sep

Boston Moves Past the Giants (by AtlCrackers Fan)

Ed. note: to see the previous installment in the 1914 Braves saga, click here

From September 4-10, Boston finally captured sole occupancy of first place in the National League.

Here were the standings on the morning of September 4:

  W L Pct. GB Change
New York Giants 65 51 .560 - 6-3
Boston Braves 65 52 0.556 0.5 5-3
Chicago Cubs 64 58 .525 4 5-4
St. Louis Cardinals 64 60 .516 5 2-7
Pittsburgh Pirates 55 63 .466 11 4-4
Philadelphia Phillies 54 63 .462 11.5 3-4
Cincinnati Reds 55 65 .458 12 3-5
Brooklyn Dodgers 54 64 .458 12 5-3

The Braves completed their 22 game road trip, capturing the final two games in Philadelphia. After a Sunday off, Boston opened at home (actually, they were playing at the home of the Red Sox, Fenway Park, not South End Grounds) with a three games against the New York Giants. Boston would split the Monday double-header and capture the final game on Tuesday, taking the series — and sole possession of first place. The Braves scored three runs in the last two innings to win the opener in a 5-4 squeaker. After losing the night-cap by a 10-1 margin, Bill James would capture his 19th victory, and 5th in a row, with an 8-3 thrashing of the Giants.

Boston would then play back-to-back doubleheaders on Wednesday and Thursday against the Phillies. They would split the Wednesday matches, and take both ends of Thursday’s games. (That’s three double-headers in four days, for those counting.)

Perhaps the biggest highlight, and a perfect symbol of the Braves’ improbable run, came in the second game of Wednesday’s double-header. George “Iron” Davis, a 1912 graduate of Williams College, had signed with New York’s AL team — then known as the Highlanders — but he was grabbed by Stallings in 1913 after he was sent to Rochester in the International League.

Boston was a good place for him, as he had enrolled in Harvard Law School. In 1914, he made his first appearance for Boston on July 1, and had only made two additional appearances before Sept. 9. But on that day, the spitballing Cantab twirled a no-hitter. Davis survived five walks, three in the 5th inning, as well as two errors by 3B Red Smith, to defeat the Phillies 7-0. It was one of only seven career wins for the future lawyer.

TRIVIA NOTE: Davis remains the only National League pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Fenway Park.

The standings through September 10:

  W L Pct. GB Change
Boston Braves 72 54 .571 7-2
New York Giants 69 56 .552 2.5 4-5
Chicago Cubs 69 61 .531 5 5-3
St. Louis Cardinals 68 62 .523 6 4-2
Pittsburg Pirates 59 66 .472 12.5 4-3
Philadelphia Phillies 58 68 .460 14 4-5
Brooklyn Dodgers 57 70 .449 15.5 3-6
Cincinnati Reds 56 71 .441 16.5 1-6

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