What a series. Great to see Dan Winkler activated, and the same with AJ Minter’s ascension. But bad hitting with RISP, bad baserunning, and at times, bad bullpen and work.
I want to join people in blaming Snitker, but it might be helpful to give some background on the condition of the bullpen last night. Our bullpen currently consists of Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Jason Motte, Dan Winkler, AJ Minter, Matt Wisler, and Jim Johnson. Vizzy, Ramirez, and Freeman seem to have become the late inning trio over the last couple weeks. Accordingly, they had been used the two previous nights. Motte, Winkler, Minter, Wisler, and Johnson were seemingly available. But Motte pitched the 6th, Winkler has pitched one out this year, Wisler is being used in a mostly long role right now (he pitched three innings 3 days ago), and Minter had just pitched the night before in AAA and has not pitched in back-to-back days in his pro career. So what do you have? Jim Johnson. So Snitker pulled that strong, and that’s what you got. What’s interesting is that Snitker put Winkler in the game next, then Minter, making that his first back-to-back. Clearly Snitker was trying to protect the young players, and as long as Jim Johnson is on the roster, eventually he’s going to get used. And if the FO doesn’t like it, then take him off the roster.
Which leads me to a quick pitcher won-loss discussion. People say pitcher won-loss doesn’t mean anything, or at the very least, it’s a suboptimal way of evaluating pitcher performance. But go with me for a second. Let’s say you have two pitchers, and I’m speaking in generalities here. One pitcher tends to give you a 5 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 3 BB outing. One run, five innings, 1.80 ERA. Fantastic, right? But you have to go to 4+ relievers to get the game completed. So he makes his 30 starts, and he pitches about 150-160 IP on average. The next pitcher is an Ace(TM). He makes his 30 starts, and he pitches about 200-220 IP. He will give you a lot of 7 IP, 2 ER or 8 IP, 3 ER starts. But you have a pretty good idea that your pen is going to get a rest, you’re not going to burn a lot of pinch-hitters, and he’s going to factor into a lot of decisions because the games are decided more often when he’s in the game. The first guy wins 10 games, and takes 2 losses. The second guy wins 20 games, and takes 7 losses. Wouldn’t you say that the guy winning 20 games is significantly more helpful to his team? You may not need an 8-man pen if you have a couple guys who factor into a lot of decisions; they pitch deep into games. You don’t have to have as many plus bats off the bench because you’re not pinch-hitting nearly as often. You have positional and bullpen flexibility, and there’s less chance of combustion by bringing so many different relievers in the game. I would argue that if you accumulate a lot of wins (and maybe even a lot of losses), you’re very valuable to your team and that won-loss record tells you something.
Back to the game. RA Dickey didn’t have his best stuff. He gave up two hits to the pitcher, including a run-scoring single, and a wild pitch set up a big inning. But he did well enough for the Braves to win. And in perhaps the most noteworthy thing, Minter, as mentioned, got into the game, striking out two (though one was a reliever) and otherwise looked like the Minter we had been told he was. I don’t envision him being as electric as Craig Kimbrel in the sense that he worked quickly, had an entertaining delivery, etc. I hope Minter mows down hitters in the late innings for many years, but I think it will be in a more workmanlike fashion. Dan Winkler also pitched that inning Johnson vacated, but he did give up a wall-scraping home run to dead center that was just out of Ender Inciarte‘s reach but also put the game out of reach. I will spare you a discussion on inherited runners.