It’s been an incredible 1st half for the Atlanta Braves. 6.5 games up in a division that, before Opening Day, was projected to be one of the tightest in baseball. The offense has been amazing, and while the defense hasn’t been what it was last season, it’s still been better than the rest of the division. With the rest of the division seemingly imploding, it would stand to reason that there shouldn’t be much to complain about. So why am I disturbed? Brian Snitker.
I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now, but with one quote, Snitker has made me reevaluate my thoughts on his longevity with the team. If you haven’t seen or heard the quote, here it is. I don’t want this to sound hyperbolic, but I’ve yet to come across another quote this year more asinine than that. Just take a look at the difference from the first half numbers and the 2nd half numbers. Pay particular attention to Ozzie, Markakis, and Freddie. All 3 had monster 1st halves, and all 3 had substantially worse second halves. Looking at the games played, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened.
Of all playoff teams in 2018, only 1 team had more players play in 150 games: the Oakland Athletics. Among the rest of the teams, only the Rockies had as many players play 150+ games. All told, there were 7 players in 2018 who played 162 games. 2 of those were on the Braves. There’s a reason playoff teams don’t play everyone 150+ games. It’s a long season. Injuries accumulate, and guys legs get tired. Baseball’s hard enough when you’re fresh. Trying to play when you’re jelly legged? Damn near impossible.
There’s a reason the best teams in baseball operate in much the same way. Sports, like all things, are built on emulating what works. Analytics have proven that players need regular rest. Cal Ripken’s streak is one of the greatest accomplishments in baseball history but the game is different today. We have the data that shows it. So why, then, is Brian Snitker so oblivious to this concept?
I don’t know if it’s pure stubborness, loyalty, or something else, but it isn’t in the best interests of the team. We literally saw last season what happens when you refuse to give guys rest. Last year there was some excuse. Charlie had a great season off the bench, but that was really it. The Braves didn’t have effective depth on the bench, and it really showed come playoff time. That’s why AA went out and acquired Josh Donaldson this past offseason. Adding Donaldson, in addition to acquiring a former MVP on a 1 year deal, was meant to allow everyone to stay fresh. Camargo’s, in addition to Culberson’s, positional versatility would allow everyone to stay fresh, preventing the collapse Atlanta experienced at the end of last season. So why hasn’t that happened?
Snitker sees himself as a “traditional” manager. A guy who relies more on loyalty and gut instinct than numbers and metrics. While I find this to be maddeningly short-sighted, I can at least understand it. What I can’t understand, however, is willfully ignoring the points that are staring you in the face. Like refusing to bat Acuna leadoff for over a month, just because he has home run power. Or more recently, refusing to sit Nick Markakis against left handed pitchers despite horrendous numbers. It’s absolutely maddening. I’m not asking him to be Joe Maddon or A.J. Hinch. All I’m asking is for him to stop being stubborn and start thinking about what’s good for Atlanta. If a blogger like me can find these numbers with the click of a mouse, there’s no excuse for Snitker not to have them as well.
I know this piece comes across as very anti-Snitker. I truly don’t mean it to be. Brian Snitker does a lot of things very well. His leadership and ability to inspire is irreplaceable. His guys absolutely love him, and it shows in the way they play. Never giving up on a game, coming back late in games time and time again. They’ve continuously outplayed his mistakes, and it’s something you can’t discount. If you need proof, just look at the Washington Nationals or the Philadelphia Phillies. I want nothing more than for Brian Snitker to become the best manager in baseball. He absolutely deserves it. But bear in mind the career of Dusty Baker. It should be a cautionary tale for Snit.
You may have noticed Camargo suddenly getting 3 starts in a row after Snitker’s horrendous quote. I think it’s fair to say a certain GM had a very pointed conversation with a certain manager. I hope it sticks; really and truly I do. I want nothing more than for Snitker to stick around Atlanta until he’s ready to call it a day. But should he slip back into old ways, Atlanta will suffer the same 2nd half fall they did a season ago. Only this time, there won’t be any excuses about bench depth to fall back on. Should that happen, I encourage all of you to closely examine the career of Dusty Baker. In a few years we could be using Brian Snitker’s name in his place.