October 6, 2012 at 2:08 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: David Ross, .296
Least Valuable Brave: Dan Uggla, -.144
Most Valuable Cardinal: Matt Holliday, .261
Least Valuable Cardinal: Jon Jay, -.053
2nd – (ATL) David Ross two-run homer for a 2-0 Braves lead, .209
4th – (STL) Chipper Jones error puts runners on corners with no outs, .113
4th – (STL) Allen Craig RBI double for a 2-1 Braves lead, .142
6th – (STL) Matt Holliday solo homer for a 4-2 Cardinals lead, .130
First of all, the fact that Major League Baseball would even allow the Braves to be put in this situation reflects on its lack of competence. To have a baseball team play 162 games over six-plus months only to determine its fate for the entire year over a span of three hours is complete idiocy. This is compounded by the fact that a human has the ability to make one single judgment call that can make or break a team’s entire year. I’m sure MLB got its ratings. It got people talking about the sport. It grabbed the next day’s headlines. It also lost credibility, not only on the field with the umpires but in its leadership roles. Major League Baseball wanted to create a drama-filled show but got a circus.
The infield fly call was wrong. You don’t even have to fully understand the rule to know the call was missed. Pete Kozma did not reach “ordinary effort” under the ball, no matter how badly Sam Holbrook wishes that was the case. And people can talk about his feet shuffling and whether he was camped under the ball all they want. Lost in all of this is the fact that Kozma is nearly in Matt Holliday’s spot in left field. If MLB wants to get away with this being a “judgment call,” they should take a look at how far Kozma is in left field and judge that the infield fly rule is no longer a legit call that far out. MLB will say whatever is easiest in order to sweep this under the rug and move on, and that’s exactly what we got out of its leadership after the game.
The Braves messed themselves up before any infield fly call was made. Chipper’s error in the fourth gave the lead up and was perhaps the biggest mistake. They attempted a safety squeeze with runners on the corners, one out and the pitcher on deck, which is just unheard of. Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons committed errors in the seventh that led to a bigger hole. In the midst of all that happened in the eighth, they still had a shot to get back in the game but left the bases loaded.
It’s just about the worst way you can draw up the end of the season and Chipper’s career. Plenty of it was the Braves’ own faults, plenty of it can be put on the umpires, plenty of it can be put on MLB. Add it all up and you get a disappointing final loss for what is a solid team.
I’m going into hibernation for a while.
October 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (LF), Jason Heyward (RF), Chipper Jones (3B), Freddie Freeman (1B), Dan Uggla (2B), David Ross (C), Andrelton Simmons (SS), Kris Medlen (P).
Cardinals lineup: Jon Jay (L, CF), Carlos Beltran (S, RF), Matt Holliday (R, LF), Allen Craig (R, 1B), Yadier Molina (R, C), David Freese (R, 3B), Daniel Descalso (L, 2B), Pete Kozma (R, SS), Kyle Lohse (R, P).
The Roster: (starters bolded)
Pitchers – Luis Avilan, Chad Durbin, Cory Gearrin, Tim Hudson, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters.
Catchers – J.C. Boscan, Brian McCann, David Ross.
Infielders – Jeff Baker, Freddie Freeman, Eric Hinske, Chipper Jones, Lyle Overbay, Tyler Pastornicky, Andrelton Simmons, Dan Uggla.
Outfielders – Michael Bourn, Jose Constanza, Jason Heyward, Reed Johnson, Martin Prado.
Wild Card Game vs. Cardinals
It’s a bit tough to hinge an entire season on 2.5-3.5 hours of baseball, but that’s what the Braves and Cardinals are forced to deal with. Time to make the most of it.
If you’re looking for information on the opposition, Ben wrote on Kyle Lohse, the St. Louis starter, here, and wrote three keys to the game here. I wrote on the Cardinals offense, how Kris Medlen might fare and also touched on Lohse a little here
Mark Bowman writes on Kris Medlen being the right man for the job.
Bowman writes on five keys to the Braves postseason.
Fredi Gonzalez’s decision to start David Ross over Brian McCann in the wild card game.
Dan Uggla was back in the lineup Wednesday and should be good for today. Also, the Braves will wear their normal home whites instead of red because of the Cardinals.
Teddy Mitrosillis of ESPN has an outstanding breakdown of how Medlen should pitch to each batter in the Cardinals lineup (Insider).
The Baseball Today podcast makes its postseason predictions.
Keith Law ranks his top 10 pitchers for the playoffs based on how he thinks they will perform. Medlen is No. 6 (Insider).
Jim Bowden says Michael Bourn could benefit from a good October in the free agent market (Insider).
John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus writes on the strategy of playing one game for the Braves, with quotes from Fredi and several players.
Ray Glier, a freelancer writing for SB Nation, writes perhaps the best feature on Medlen yet.
Rob Neyer writes on Medlen’s season.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs writes on the decision to start Ross over McCann.
Daniel McCarthy of Baseball Analytics looks at some heat maps of Medlen, particularly against Matt Holliday.
Alex Remington of Big League Stew gives some numbers for the wild card game.
Ken Rosenthal previews the wild card game and picks the Cardinals to win.
October 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
When it comes down to it, all that really matters when attempting to analyze one game is the starting pitchers and maybe a couple relievers. A starting pitcher has a greater effect on a single game than anyone else unless it comes down to a high-leverage play late in the game, which is certainly possible considering these are two very good pitchers meeting.
But if you’re looking for the one big key to the game, look to see how hitters might fare against Kris Medlen and Kyle Lohse. Ben already did a great job letting you know what to expect from Lohse. One key for me:
“One interesting note is that despite throwing his sinker at such a high rate, his 40% ground ball rate is not something to write home about. This is where I believe the Braves will have to take advantage. Since he is such a high contact hitter, they will have to get a hold of the sinker and put it in the air. Lohse has done a solid job of limiting home runs this season, and the game will be played in a slight pitcher’s ballpark, so pushing one out of the stadium will be difficult. Even so, if they can elevate his sinker slightly they could put balls into the gaps and rely on rallies to score their runs. Lohse is going to throw strikes, so being aggressive is likely the best way to attack the sinkerballer. Even though his strikeout rate is higher than usual, compared to the rest of the league it is not entirely impressive. The Braves will make contact, they just need to hope the ball lands where the fielders aren’t.”
The key for Lohse is weak contact and control/command. He doesn’t have a great strikeout or ground ball rate, but he avoids walks and home runs and throws a solid chunk of innings. His BABIP the past two seasons has been .269 and .262, which should give a good idea of how he succeeds.
Beating a pitcher like Lohse requires an offense that doesn’t play into his game. As Ben said, being aggressive is probably the way to go. It allows the Braves to catch the occasional Lohse sinker left up, as well as avoiding counts where hitters would play into Lohse’s hands and have to pound a fastball into the ground. His walk rate means the Braves can’t wait on the free pass or even deep counts all the time.
The Cardinals offense has been one of the best and most consistent all season, ranking second in the league in total fWAR, third in wOBA and first in wRC+. They’re righty heavy in the middle of the lineup with Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina, but pitchers also have to deal with Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay around them.
Medlen has actually fared better against left-handed batters because of the extreme success of his changeup, but the split is minor. His wOBA against RHB is .239 compared to .230 against LHB, and he has a 2% advantage in K% against LHB. Medlen induces far more ground balls against RHB because of his curveball, and in turn, he has allowed the majority of his home runs to RHB because of missed command (although five is hardly a large number).
Some Cardinal wOBA’s against RHP/LHP:
Molina – .359/.427
Holliday – .358/.431
Craig – .353/.427
Freese – .359/.380
Jay – .350/.315
Beltran – .350/.361
Carpenter – .362/.335 (340 PA)
The Cardinals’ average wOBA against RHP among its usual starters (or those with the most PA’s) is .355. The average against LHP is .385. Among RHB in the Cardinals lineup, the lowest wOBA against LHP is still higher than all against RHP except Carpenter’s in a smaller number of PA.
Regardless of the minor difference in Medlen’s numbers between RHB and LHB, the Cardinals thrive against LHP but are much more tolerable against RHP. This combined with the Braves facing a right-handed pitcher means two factors leaning in the Braves’ favor.
October 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Ben Sheets is calling it a career. Mark Bowman broke the news today that Wednesday will be Sheets’ final outing. He is expected to throw two innings before handing it over to Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado.
And how fitting that is. It wasn’t long ago Sheets was in those two youngsters’ shoes, throwing gas and expected to be an anchor in a team’s rotation.
Now, he just wants to throw a couple innings and go home to his family.
Sheets was the 10th overall pick in 1999 out of UL-Monroe. He reached as high as No. 5 on Baseball America’s Top 100, tossing a combined 2.40 ERA in 153.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2000. Baseball Prospectus wrote this on Sheets in 2001: “We heard he pitched pretty well in an international tournament last year. Ben Sheets doesn’t get tons of strikeouts, but he throws hard, pitches inside, and gets a lot of weakly-hit balls. A low strikeout rate is often a danger sign, but in Sheets’s case, we’re not worried at all. He has a good chance to be the NL Rookie of the Year.“
Of course, before that, he became an Olympic champion by throwing a shutout against Cuba in the 2000 Games, winning a gold medal and sitting himself right up front in the baseball world.
Sheets plugged away in 2002 and 2003, recording ERA’s of 4.15 and 4.45 with good strikeout rates and an improving walk rate. But he was labeled as an innings eater at the time, not having yet turned a corner.
That changed in 2004, as Sheets recorded a 2.70 ERA and 2.65 FIP over 237 innings, including a 28.2% strikeout rate and 3.4% walk rate. Sheets finished second in the league in FIP, third in ERA, third in K%, second in BB%, first in K/BB and fifth in LD%, all while throwing the third-most innings. The man finished eighth in Cy Young voting. If you ever need another reason why award voting is nearly meaningless…
And the Brewers simply ran him into the ground. Some pitchers are able to withstand a lot of innings early in a career and some can’t. Sheets never had the shoulder, back or arm for 215+ innings between the ages of 23-25. It doesn’t help when you throw a curveball 30% of the time in your career.
The result was four trips to the disabled list between 2005-07 and nine total in his career. That includes shoulder inflammation, a shoulder strain, another shoulder strain, more shoulder inflammation, Tommy John surgery, and eventually more shoulder inflammation with the Braves this season. He never reached 200 innings again.
Sheets’ injury history isn’t just a loss for him, it’s a loss for baseball. He had a talent for getting strikeouts, particularly with the curveball, that deserved a long career. We all wanted Sheets. We wanted to see him punch out 10+ every outing. When it came against other teams, we could do nothing but watch in awe and applaud it. When it came against the Braves, we did the same.
When the Braves signed Sheets this season, we all agreed that even one good start from him would make the signing worthwhile. He gave the Braves 48 solid innings before his shoulder said no more. As a Braves fan, you can’t ask for any more out of the man. As a baseball fan, you can’t help but want more.
September 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Kris Medlen, 67 game score
Least Valuable Brave: Martin Prado, -.107
Most Valuable Met: Justin Turner, .027
Least Valuable Met: Jenrry Mejia, 40 game score
2nd – (ATL) Freddie Freeman double to put two in scoring position with no outs, .119
2nd – (ATL) David Ross three-run homer for a 3-0 Braves lead, .190
The Braves sent Chipper Jones out in style in his final regular season home game, getting ahead early and allowing the sellout crowd to enjoy its final innings with Chipper without worrying so much about the score.
The win also meant the Braves are 23-0 in Kris Medlen’s last 23 starts, setting a major league record. The previous record was held by Whitey Ford and Carl Hubbell. Here’s to hoping it goes to 24 straight in his next start.
The Braves need to sweep the Pirates, and the Phillies need to sweep the Nationals, for the Braves to remain alive. Washington’s magic number remains at one after losing to the Cardinals.
While it’s not the final game in Atlanta for Chipper, it was a personal good-bye for me as I attended to see him play in person one more time. Watching him disappear into the tunnel following the post-game interview and hugs with his parents is something I will never forget, along with the many, many memories he gave me through the years.
September 29, 2012 at 1:26 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game 2 vs. Mets
The Braves were downed 3-1 on Friday as Lucas Duda took Tim Hudson deep with the go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning. The Nationals were routed by the Cardinals, so the Braves were unable to take advantage of a rare Washington loss at this point. They remain four back with five to play.
Chris Young takes the mound against Mike Minor in the second game of the series. Young has been tough to watch at times this season, sporting a 4.21 ERA and 4.68 FIP over 109 innings. His 15.9% strikeout rate is off his career mark by around 5%, and a 7.5% walk rate barely gets him by for the lack of strikeouts. Young has always been one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball, and it’s only more extreme this year. If you count 100 innings as the minimum mark, Young’s 59.5% fly ball rate ranks first in MLB, with Phil Hughes coming in second at 47.6%.
Young avoided trouble in his last start against the Braves, allowing two runs over six innings despite four walks. He benefited from seven strikeouts, which tied for his second best this season.
In fact, you should expect plenty of fly balls from both sides, as Minor holds a 44% fly ball rate. But Minor has utilized strikeouts well lately, recording 24 punch outs over his last 24.2 innings, and allowing just one home run over that span. He allowed two runs over six innings against the Phillies last time out, walking one and striking out six.
A note from the MLB.com preview linked below: “Left fielder Martin Prado has a National League-best 59 multihit games, including nine in his last 19 contests. His next one would make him only the 10th player in franchise history to have 60 multihit games in a season and the first since Terry Pendleton in 1992.”
Braves.com recap for Friday’s loss.
AJC quotes following Friday’s loss. Chipper Jones: “Do you have an hour? It’s all overwhelming. I’m sitting up there on the stage, my family and my best friend on the planet and Bobby Cox and Hank Aaron and all the people who have helped get me to this point. There’s standing room only in the stands. I just remember thinking when Bobby went through it, golly, there’s a lot of love in this ballpark. And look at how much adoration they have for Bobby. And I was thinking to myself ‘Wow,’ I see all those 10s flashing up. I even said to Josh Thole when I stepped into the box one time, I was like ‘how the heck am I supposed to hit with all this going on.’ It got to me.”
“There were a lot of people there and I appreciate each and every one of them. As I said when I was up on the podium, I know it’s not just the 40 some odd thousand people that were here (more like 51,910) but it’s everybody sitting on their sofa watching TV, everybody listening to the game on the radio. Braves country extends far beyond the 40,000 people that come to the games. It’s an entire region of the United States and I could feel them, I could feel them pulling for me tonight.”
Mark Bowman has a great article on the Chipper ceremony, including quotes from Paul Snyder, John Schuerholz and Chipper’s mother, Lynne Jones.
In notes, Dan Uggla is playing with a cut on his left hand after somehow cutting himself during the clinching celebration. Also, Fredi Gonzalez said he would choose between Mike Minor and Paul Maholm to start a possible Game 2 of the NLDS. Hopefully Fredi will come to his senses and choose Minor.
Jay Busbee of Big League Stew recaps the Chipper ceremony.
September 29, 2012 at 2:15 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Lucas Duda, .525
Least Valuable Met: Scott Hairston, -.207
Most Valuable Brave: Freddie Freeman, .081
Least Valuable Brave: David Ross, -.082
1st – (ATL) Freddie Freeman solo homer for a 1-0 Braves lead, .153
7th – (NYM) Scott Hairston struck out with runners on corners and one out, -.137
7th – (NYM) Lucas Duda three-run homer for a 3-1 Mets lead, .539