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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 5

CNC Contest - Win a DVD!

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Hello loyal Chop N Change readers. I've got an exciting little CONTEST for everyone. The prize for winning? A brand spanking new copy of A+E's Baseball's Greatest Games - 1992 NLCS Game 7!! That's right, you can have the greatest win in Braves history on DVD just for entering! For more information on the DVD, you can click here

Now, how do you win the contest? Simple: I want a story from you. I want you to tell me about your greatest memory as a Braves fan. The story should be a minimum of 50 words, and can talk about any game you want. I'll be picking five winners, all of whom will receive a copy of the DVD from A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions. 

Submit your stories to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The deadline for entries will be Saturday, September 17th, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST. Any entries received after this time will not be accepted.

Best of luck to you alll, and I'm eagerly anticipating hearing your stories. A special thank you to A+E Home Entertainment and MLB Productions for letting me run this contest. Enjoy!

Game Recap - 9/7/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Phillies 3, Braves 2

WP: Madson (4-2)
LP: Moylan (1-1)

All week, the Phillies announcers talked about how if you wanted to beat the Braves, you should get ahead of them after six innings. Well tonight, the Phillies were ahead until the sixth inning, when the Braves tied it up before taking the lead in the seventh. And....they gave it right back, as Jonny Venters had a rough outing and coughed up the lead. In the ninth, because it was a tie game on the road, there was no reason to use Craig Kimbrel, right? So Peter Moylan was put in, in his second appearance off the DL in a crucial game. His inning went ground out-walk-single-single, and that's ballgame. Two of the hitters he faced were lefties, which Moylan can't get out at all. After Carlos Ruiz singled and lefty Ross Gload came up to pinch it, why wasn't someone, ANYONE else put into the game? Like say, maybe the best reliever in baseball? Fredi's bullpen use is atrocious. He'll use Kimbrel with a three run lead at home against the bottom of the order, but not in a tie game on the road in the ninth with the winning run in scoring position? Just silly.

Anyway. The highlights of the game. Brandon Beachy was excellent. He only went 5 2/3, but allowed just two hits, and one earned on a solo homer by Raul Ibanez. Beachy walked just one, and struck out seven. All in all, a solid performance as per the norm by Beachy. Eric O'Flaherty was actually used for more than an inning, getting four outs while striking out two and allowing just one runner to reach base, that coming when he plunked Chase Utley in the head.

Offensively, the Braves should have gotten more than two runs. Jason Heyward reached base four times, on a pair of singles and a pair of walks, and scored just one run. Chipper Jones and Brian McCann each reached base twice, and neither scored a run. The team did go 2/8 with runners in scoring position, but still stranded eight. Dan Uggla and Eric Hinske, hitting in the five and six holes tonight, went 0/6 with a walk. Hinske was double switched out for an ailing Freddie Freeman, who singled in Heyward to plate the team's second run. I think I forgot to mention that the Braves got no hit for the first five innings of the game. Yeah, that's not a good way to finish the series in Philly. This was also the first time all season that the team was swept. No big deal to me, but some fans are freaking out about it. Whatever, it's the best team in the NL.

We have a doubleheader tomorrow in New York, yippee! Game one will feature Mike Minor against Chris Schwinden in his major league debut, while game two features the return of Julio Teheran against Dillon Gee. First game starts at 4:35, with the second following after that game ends. Try not to get too caught up in the beginning of the NFL season, OK guys? 

Game 137 Recap (9/2/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .


Dodgers 8 (67-70), Braves 6 (81-55)

W: Hong Chi Kuo
L:
Arodys Vizcaino
SV: Javy Guerra

Well, this was a disaster. 

I had a whole lede ready to go about how with a Braves victory tonight (they were leading 5-0 at the time), they could lose every game the rest of the season and still be assured of a winning record. Which struck me as cool, for reasons that, in retrospect, escape me. BUT all of that (perhaps misplaced) jaunty optimism is now shattered; all that remains is frustration embodied in 12-point Arial.

Don't worry, that's all the emo you'll get in this recap. 

I'll be honest: I just didn't think the Dodgers could hit the way they did tonight. I didn't think that Arodys Vizcaino would (possibly ever) get touched up the way he did tonight (1/3 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). And I certainly didn't think that second base umpires could mistake second base for a fearsome dragon lying dormant in the infield, ready to be awakened at the merest hint of a correct call, because who even believes in dragons and isn't also a preteen? And what umpire is a preteen? 

ANYWAY, the nice thing to take away from tonight's game is that it's a rare occasion that the Braves will rack up 14 hits and six runs and still lose. Yeah, it stings, but half of why it's so obnoxious is because we know the Braves can do better. They're not going to get rung up on double plays to end four of the last six innings in the game, and they have the kind of bullpen where a meltdown like we saw with Vizcaino -- who doesn't turn 21 until November, might I remind you -- is a shock. 

At least, it is now that Scott Proctor isn't on the team.

 As long as we're on a positive trip, I'd like to touch on Brandon Beachy. He threw six solid innings (4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB and 7 K) but one thing really stood out: a 96-mph fastball to Matt Kemp in the first inning that drew a foul tip strikeout despite being belt high and down the middle. I was really surprised when I saw Beachy hitting high-90s on the gun early in the season, and I'd assumed that he'd regress as the season went on, and certainly after going on the DL for that oblique strain. But while he's still working in the low 90s, it's great to see that when push comes to shove, he can reach back on that fastball and blow it past even a Matt Kemp-quality hitter.

Vizcaino, for as ugly as his line was, still looked solid mechnically and was lighting up the radar gun in his own right, so I'm not too terribly concerned about his fortunes going forward. I would encourage Atlanta fans to not BOO THE 20 YEAR OLD KID WHO DOESN'T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH, though. 

Props to Dan Uggla for knocking his 31st homer of the year in the 9th inning, and to Michael Bourn for recording a couple hits and beating out what would've been yet another crushing double play. Martin Prado put forth a pair of base hits, Freddie Freeman and Alex Gonzalez both doubled, and Bourn -- evidently inspired by the Dodgers, who stole four bases tonight and yes of course Juan Rivera tallied one why even ask -- swiped a pair of bags.

Finally, it wouldn't be a C-n-C recap if I didn't criticize Fredi, so here we go. Hey, Braves fan: why did we acquire Matt Diaz? I know that Joe's against the whole deal, but the idea is that he'll be a mildly positive contributor against lefty pitchers and people kinda like him. Now, selfsame Braves fan: why did we acquire Jack Wilson? Wilson cannot hit a lick, but has long been known for his defense, meaning that we now have a late-innings defensive replacement for Alex Gonzalez, meaning in turn that we can pinch hit for Alex Gonzalez.

So: WHY DID JACK WILSON PINCH HIT FOR THE PITCHER AGAINST HONG-CHI KUO AND ALSO WHY DID ALEX GONZALEZ BAT AND OH MY GOD DID IT HAVE TO DO WITH THAT DRAGON? Guys, this is our home ballpark: if the manager and the umpires are too scared to do the right thing because they're afraid a primordial beast is going to rise up and char and/or devour every living (and probably inanimate, because let's face it, it's a dragon) then we should probably alert the grounds crew!

Not the least reason for which is that Nathan "Nelly" Eovaldi (get it? E-I-E-I-O, E-I-Ovaldi ... whatever) and Mike Minor, champion of alliteration, will square off tomorrow night at 7:10 EDT and they're both young, exciting pitchers, and I think we can all agree that it would be a terrible tragedy if they got eaten by a dragon.

Game Recap: 9/01/11

Written by Jake Humphrey on .


WP: Hudson

LP: Wang

SV: Kimbrel

Wow, the Braves were finally able to take a series from the Nationals. And not only that, but Heyward got to start! So before we even get into what happened in the game we ought to be happy.

Brian McCann got the game started off right for the Braves with a solo homer, his 23rd, in the bottom of the first off Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang (it's players with names like that, that make me miss Skip more than ever but more on that later). Chipper added a homer of his own, his fifteenth of the year, in the seccond inning. Hinske drove in a run in the fourth to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.

The Nationals got on the board in the top of the sixth with Jayson Werth absolutely DESTROYED an 0-2 pitch from Hudson. The Braves responded in the bottom half when Alex Gonzalez singled in Dan Uggla, who had doubled to lead off the side, and to steak the Braves back to a three-run lead.

To this point of the game, everything seemed to be going fairly well according to plan. Hudson pitched six strong innings, and while he was somewhat miffed at being pulled out after only six innings, O'Flaherty did his job in the seventh and the ball was predictably handed to Jonny Venters for the eighth inning. Venters just didn't have his best stuff tonight, eventually loading the bases and giving up a run on a E5. Thankfully he was able to compose himself and get out of the inning without any further harm, but that's not the kind of outing you like to see from your set-up man.

The Braves added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth after Jason Heyward(!) tripled and Gonzalez drove him in with a sac fly. Heyward was 2-4 tonight and I don't think I need to tell anyone how important it is to get him going before the playoffs. Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 42nd save of the year.

Every Braves starter in the game recorded a hit except for the now-cold Jose Constanza who was for some reason hitting second. Uggla went 1-2 with a double and two walks. Hudson pitched a good six innings, striking out five to two walks, and surrendering only one run on five hits.

But as I alluded to earlier, facing a pitcher named "Wang" really makes me miss Skip Caray. He and Pete Van Wieren were the voices of my childhood, as I'm sure they were for most of you readers as well. Those two, as well as the recently-deceased Ernie Johnson, Sr., were the voice of our Atlanta Braves for well over thirty years. We can honor the memory of Skip and Ernie, as well as the career of Pete, by voting for them for the Ford C. Frick Award, which is given out anually to a active or retired broadcaster by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fans can vote on the Frick Award at http://www.facebook.com/baseballhall.

Examining the Postseason Roster

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Barring a massive collapse, the Braves are going to the playoffs. They've got an eight and a half game lead on the Carindals, and a nine game lead over the Giants in the NL wild card race, and neither of those teams is playing great ball right now. The team has a 97.7% of going to the playoffs, the fourth highest percentage in baseball. So yeah, it's looking pretty likely that this team will be playing ball in October.

When postseason ball comes along, the need to set a postseason roster takes place. I'm going to break this down into a few chunks: the starters, the bench, the starting pitchers, and the bullpen. As we've hit September 1st, there will be no more acquisitions taking place to beef up the roster. The Braves are going to go to war with what they have in the majors and minors right now.

First, the starters. These eight guys are set in stone to be the starters come October, barring injury: Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Alex Gonzalez, Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, and Jason Heyward. We are not busting down any doors on this one.

Going to the bench, there are a couple more guys who are locks: Eric Hinske, Brooks Conrad, and David Ross. That leaves two (or three, depending on how the bullepn shakes out) roster spots left for the bench.

The nominees for these bench spots are Julio Lugo, Jack Wilson, Matt Diaz, Jose Constanza, and a bunch of guys in AAA on the 40-man, like Brandon Hicks, Matt Young, Wilkin Ramirez, and JC Boscan. We can immediately eliminate the minor leaguers, since the Braves solidified their bench yesterday with the acquisitions of Diaz and Wilson. Both of those guys appear to be locks on the roster too, since they were acquired for that sole purpose. If the Braves are going to stick with a five man bench, then everything is set with those five. But what if the team decides to drop a starting pitcher in the first round, and go with a six man bench? If that happens, Constanza is the immediate choice due to his speed. I don't think Lugo has a prayer at making the postseason roster after the trade for Wilson, unless he struggles mightily after being brought in.

The starting rotation and bullpen are a whole different story. With Tommy Hanson out for the foreseeable future, the Braves have five starters for three spots in the rotation during the divisional playoffs. The immediate guess is that the rotation for the first round will be Brandon Beachy, Tim Hudson, and Mike Minor. Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens have been absolutely horrible during the month of August, but Lowe's start last night gives the squad a glimmer of hope that he could pull off a September like he did last year in helping carry the team into the playoffs. But if Lowe has a solid month, who gets the boot? My immediate guess would be Minor. He's been much better in four August starts, despite what that slightly disappointing 4.03 ERA looks like. In August, Minor allowed just one home run, walked four, and struck out 26. He's been fine, and is pitching much better than Jurrjens (6.17 ERA, four HR, 11 BB, six K in August) and Lowe (4.50 ERA, four HR, 13 BB, 31 K in August, though he's got a 1.50 ERA in his last three starts). Beachy and Hudson appear to be locks with as well as they've pitched this season, especially lately.

And now, the interesting part of things....the bullpen. The holy trinity (Kimbrel, Venters, O'Flaherty) are lead pipe locks. Arodys Vizcaino will join them as well. What about Scott Linebrink? He had a pair of rough outings in his return from the DL two weeks ago, but has thrown 2 1/3 scoreless in his last three appearances (despite allowing five baserunners). Plus, he's a veteran. Fredi loves veterans. If George Sherrill is able to pitch (he was placed on the DL yesterday to make room for Diaz), then he would be another lock for his shutdown ability towards lefties. That leaves us with one open spot. Cristhian Martinez is currently taking up that spot in the pen, but with a starter or two in the bullpen, there's no need for a long reliever. I don't think he'll end up making the cut. Martinez got a lot of use in August and struggled, allowing seven earned in 14 innings, but he did walk only one hitter while striking out a batter per inning.

But there's another interesting option currently in Gwinnett: fan favorite Peter Moylan. Moylan will finish up his rehab and join the Braves late next week, and has had a reputation over his career as a ground ball machine. I don't see any way that Moylan doesn't make the roster if he's healthy, despite him not pitching in the majors since the beginning of April. I'd like to see what he can do in the majors before handing him a spot, though. He's been fine during rehab in AAA, but there is a world of difference between Gwinnett and Atlanta. If his tendency to walk lefties pops up again this month, it might be not the best idea to roll with Moylan on the postseason roster. Someone like Anthony Varvaro could be a better bet due to his insane strikeout ability. He's also got a problem with walks though. I don't see either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado making the postseason roster, just because it seems like overkill to thrust a rookie into the shark tank that is a playoff bullpen when neither has any experience relieving during their careers.

The only real questions in my mind come down to the pitching staff, notably what the Braves want to do with their rotation and that final bullpen slot. Here's hoping that the team doesn't go with reputation over results. There's no reason for Jair Jurrjens to be starting a playoff game if he continues to pitch this poorly. I could see making a case for Derek Lowe, though. And handing a playoff roster spot to Moylan based on the fact that he's Peter Moylan...yeah, that could be a little sketchy if he's still struggling against left-handed hitters upon getting called up. I guess we'll find out what's going to happen in a little less than a month. 

Braves Improve Bench by Acquiring Jack Wilson

Written by Joe Lucia on .

On the heels of this afternoon's Matt Diaz trade, the Braves were still looking for a middle infielder to replace the terrible Julio Lugo on the bench. Well, they've found that guy with Jack Wilson of the Mariners. Wilson is currently on the DL with a bruised heel, but should be ready to come off in the next couple of days.

Now, what's the benefit for bringing in a guy like Wilson instead of sticking with Lugo? Wilson is a bad hitter, but nowhere near as terrible as the anemic Lugo. The real benefit for bringing in Wilson is his defense: he is EXCELLENT with the glove at both short and second. If the team feels the need to get Alex Gonzalez out of the game, they can go with Wilson and not lose anything on defense, while remaining consistent (well, consistent on a low level) with the bat. When the team needed to give Gonzalez rest or whatever, they'd go with Lugo, who can't hit or field at this point in his career. Wilson at least brings something to the table, while Lugo takes everything off the table.

The bench is looking pretty solid right now, with Hinske, Ross, Conrad, Wilson, and either Diaz or Constanza, assuming the team only goes five deep in the playoffs. That's a bench that can compete with some of the best in the league, and it'll give the Braves a distinct advantage in October. 

Game Recap - 8/31/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Braves 3, Nationals 1

WP: Lowe (9-12)
LP: Lannan (8-11)
SV: Kimbrel (41)

Let's get the good stuff out of the way first: with his 41st save tonight, Craig Kimbrel set a new rookie record for saves, breaking Neftali Feliz's record of 40 last year. And to think, he's still got a month to tack onto that total. Could 50 be in sight?

Anyway, the game. This was a real solid win. Derek Lowe turned in a shockingly great start. He held the Nats to two hits (both by Ian Desmond) through six innings while walking two and striking out six. Then he came out to start the seventh, allowed a homer to Michael Morse, and was pulled to a great ovation. The three horsemen of the apocalypse then set down the next nine Nationals hitters in a row on just 35 pitches, striking out three in the process. I love six inning games. 

The offense for the Braves came in short bursts. The scoring started in the second with a Chipper Jones solo homer, the 450th of his career. I'd love it if he stuck around long enough to get 500, but I doubt it'll happen. He's got 14 this year and will probably finish at 18 or so...he'd need two plus years of that kind of production to hit the magic milestone, and I don't think he's got that much left in the tank. The Braves got more scoring in the third, when Lowe of all people lined his first career homer over the left field wall. The third run was tacked on later in the inning when Dan Uggla drove in Martin Prado on an infield single. In Matt Diaz's re-debut with the team, he was up to his old tricks again, scoring two bloop hits and seeing just seven pitches in three at bats. Some things never change. Freddie Freeman also had a pair of hits despite inexplicably hitting in the seventh spot of the order. Shockingly, the top three hitters (Bourn-Prado-McCann) went 0/11 with a walk. It's pretty encouraging when they struggle and get picked up by the lower half of the order.

The Braves look to clinch a .500 record for the season and pick up their 81st win of the year tomorrow against the Nationals. The pitching matchup is a favorable one for the Braves: Tim Hudson versus Chien Ming Wang. First pitch is at 7:05. I will *not* be watching the game live, because I will be at the Nationals AA game in Harrisburg to see Stephen Strasburg make his final rehab start. The game would have been perfect if Harrisburg lost or Bowie won tonight, because they would be in a position to clinch the division title...but the Senators clinched tonight with a 2-1 win over Portland. Oh well, it'll still be a great time.

Also, I'm going to look to get some meaningful content of some sort up tomorrow. No idea WHAT...but it'll be here, so look for that. 

Why I Am Firmly Against the Diaz Acquisition

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The Braves acquired Matt Diaz from the Pirates today for a PTBNL. Most fans are giddy as HELL, because they all love Diaz as a person. I feel bad, because while he seems to be a really great guy, he's really outlived his usefulness on the field. I mean, that's why the team cut him last offseason, right?

Diaz's role throughout his entire career has been that of a lefty killer. Last season with Atlanta, he had an overall line of .250/.302/.438, which is substandard from a corner outfielder. But against lefties, his line was a solid .273/.318/.512. But that line was actually a downgrade from his career line against lefties, which is .329/.369/.511. You can't even blame a low BABIP last season for his struggles, as his mark against lefties was .312. While that's down from his career lefty BABIP of .362, it's still a high number.

This season with the Pirates, Diaz has become unplayable. His overall line is a hideous .259/.303/.324. Against lefties, once his forte, Diaz is hitting .295/.342/.362. His once solid power against lefties has completely disappeared. You can't even blame Diaz's starting drop in power on his home park, as he's got a .063 ISO at PNC Park, and a .067 ISO on the road. That is a minimal difference.

What concernes me about the Diaz acquisition is his playing time. You know that because he's back in the fold, he's going to be getting regular starts against lefties. And of course, in tonight's lineup, Jason Heyward is on the bench. He gets benched the night after he goes 1/2 and drives in the only two runs of the game for the Braves. Meanwhile, Diaz is in the midst of an August stretch where he OPSed .574 in 32 at bats. It's almost as if the Braves don't WANT Heyward to get into a groove, first starting Jose Constanza over him due to the hot hand fallacy, and now starting Diaz in front of him due to the platoon fallacy. Diaz is also a terrible defender in right field while Heyward is a magnificent one, but since no one really gives a damn about defense when discussing Jason Heyward, I'm sure you'll all let that little tidbit slip by too.

But I'm not done yet. In the offseason, Diaz signed a two year deal with the Pirates worth $4.25 million. The Braves will still be on the hook for $2 million next year...and that is more than both Eric Hinske ($1.5 million) and David Ross ($1.625 million) will be making. They are two of the best bench players in the league. Diaz is not. The team is locked in for $2 million for a bench player who only has usefulness against lefties. This is not a smart way to run a team at all.

I understand the reasoning behind the deal. Diaz is a fan favorite who has a reputation for being a lefty killer off the bench, which is something that the Braves have felt they've needed all year. However, that reasoning is outdated, and the cons outweigh the benefits in this situation. With the addition of Diaz, someone who could actually help the team in October will be left off the roster. And it's probably going to end up being Jose Constanza, because I can't see any situation where the team goes into the postseason with Brooks Conrad as the only member of the bench with an ability to play up the middle. Funny how that works....yesterday's treasure is today's trash. Matt Diaz is today's flavor of the week, and Braves fans are going to realize pretty quickly that he's not the same player that he was back in 2009. 

Braves in the AFL Announced

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Today, the AFL rosters were announced. Braves prospects will be on the Surprise Saguaros, and seven members of the minor league system are going to the desert. Without any further ado, here they are, with a little bit of analysis for each one.

-Billy Bullock. Acquired from the Twins in March for Scott Diamond, Bullock is a reliever who has struck out 65 and walked 34 in 49 2/3 innings. The fastball is dynamic, but the control is a mess.

-Erik Cordier. I'm not a fan of Cordier. He's battled injuries this season, and has only thrown 86 innings for Mississippi and Gwinnett. He's walked 48 and struck out 63. He's on the 40-man roster, and is probably tenth on the starting pitcher depth chart right now. This seems like a "last chance" to prove himself.

-Sean Gilmartin. The first round pick of the Braves in the 2011 draft, Gilmartin has made five professional starts: one in the GCL, and four in Rome. He's walked 23 and walked only two, and is way more advanced in his development than his current level of competition would indicate. I wouldn't be shocked to see him in Mississippi to start the 2012 season.

-JJ Hoover. After a rough start to his career in Gwinnett (which I witnessed, live and in person!), Hoover has excelled in his second run in the International League. He's been converted to the bullpen, and as a reliever for the G-Braves this year, he's struck out 22 and walked just four in 10 2/3 innings. He's struck out multiple hitters in all but one of his relief stints in AAA this year.

-Christian Bethancourt. Bethancourt is the best catching prospect in the system, and is still very young at just 19 years old (he turns 20 on Friday). He's struggled since a midseason promotion to Lynchburg, OPSing just .608 with no power and no patience at the plate in 44 games. He's turned it up a little in August, with a line of .313/.324/.375.

-Phil Gosselin. Gosselin has taken a step back offensively this year in the Carolina League after earning a late promotion to the league last season. He was drafted out of the University of Virginia last season by the Braves, and has had some peaks and valleys in his game this season: his power has increased while his walk rate has decreased and his strikeout rate has decreased. I'd like to see a college bat like this show a little more at the dish, and the AFL will be a good place for him to show off his abilities.

-Todd Cunningham. Cunningham was a midseason All-Star in the Carolina League, but has fallen off a bit in August after returning from an injury. He was having a great season before he got hurt. Cunningham doesn't strike out much at all and has decent speed, but no pop. He was another college bat taken by the Braves last season, and needs his power to mature a little more before he becomes an impact prospect.

Looking at the rest of the Saguaros...it's a damn solid team. In addition to the Braves, the other teams putting players on the team are the Royals, Rangers, Rays and Marlins. There are some decent prospects on the team, including Jeremy Jeffress, Kyle Skipworth, Tim Beckham, Christian Colon, Matt Dominguez, Mikie Mahtook, and Wil Myers. Gosselin is one of two second basemen on the roster, so he should get a decent chunk of playing time, as should Cunningham since there are only five outfielders. As for the catchers....Skipworth has never hit as a professional, and Elio Sarmiento (the third catcher) is a 25 year old. Definite positive for Bethancourt's playing time.

I'm hoping that the games will be aired in some fashion, on MLB.TV or MiLB.TV...but I doubt either happens. Games run from October 4th to November 19th. 

Managers, Fredi, and MOY Awards

Written by Mark Smith on .

People misunderstand my hatred of Fredi Gonzalez. Overall, I don’t hate the man, and while I do think there are and could be better managers, I’m not sure I would even fire him. Thinking about the manager in totality, their job priorities go clubhouse management and (massive gap) strategy. I will remind you that filling out the roster really doesn’t come into play at all for managers, though they do get some input, so while the Braves have handled injuries quite well, that has more to do with Wren maintaining pitching depth, keeping Prado around to fill in where necessary, trading scraps for Bourn, and having some voodoo magic to keep David Ross and Eric Hinske as important bench players. None of that has to do with Fredi, so stop giving him credit for the Braves’ record.

But what can we give him credit for? As I said, maintaining the clubhouse is Fredi’s, and any manager’s, top priority and most important duty, but it is, unfortunately, the one thing we have zero access to. We don’t know what happens in the clubhouse, what Fredi does to maintain it, and whether or not it has any efficacy. We just don’t, and neither does DOB or Bowman. All the good stuff happens behind closed doors and away from curious eyes. But let’s try to piece a few things together. The fact that we haven’t heard anything from the clubhouse is probably a good sign, but is the happy clubhouse because of Fredi or the winning record?

Winning teams rarely have problems, but it’s also irresponsible to hold it against Fredi that he has a good team to manage. The one exception might be Chipper calling out Jason, but I’d argue it wasn’t a big deal and may be a point in Fredi’s favor. Chipper obviously just says things now and has given up keeping his mouth shut, but he’s the team leader and more harm than good might be done by telling him to shut up. And Heyward still likes Chipper. Parents scold children all the time, but it doesn’t mean the children now hate the parents. Heyward and Chipper have obviously worked things out, if there was something to work out, and Chipper’s been feeding Heyward batting tips. He could have gone to McCann, but he went to Chipper. Problem over.

The next biggest issue is this thing with Heyward and his playing time. We’ll talk about strategy in a minute, but let’s focus on the clubhouse right now. In no way has Heyward moaned and groaned about what has happened. Sure, that might be a point in Heyward’s favor, but that he showed no surprise or anger tells me Fredi sat him down and explained the situation. Communication is key, and I applaud Fredi if this is common practice. That no one else has said anything is another point in Fredi’s favor. It could be that everyone was just on board, but it also tells me that the players are behind his decisions, which is crucial for a manager who must have players obey him. Overall, if I were to say managing is 80% clubhouse and 20% strategy (I have no idea if that’s close to the truth, but I’m trying to be conservative), Fredi already has an 80/100 from me.

Now comes the strategy part and where Fredi and I part ways. Right off the bat, I’ll give Fredi a few points of credit for generally yanking starters on time, but that’s about it. His lineup construction has seen Jordan Schafer and Alex Gonzalez high in the order for significant periods. He pigeonholes his best relievers into the 8th and 9th innings. He bunts early in the game, restricting the potential for multiple runs when no one has any idea what number of runs will win the game. He refuses to pinch-hit with his best right-handed bench bat Ross, and he refuses to pinch-hit for Alex Gonzalez in critical situations. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Fredi’s a poor tactical manager.

But so are most managers, and I think it’s part of the process. These managers were brought along in the game during a time when speed was your lead-off man, middle infielders hit second, and closers were becoming the cool thing to have. Most managers are simply going to make similar decisions because it was taught that way to them, and that’s hard to break. But it’s also why Fredi’s a poor tactician. He understands the behind-the-scenes macho culture of baseball and has baseball cred, and that’s why he does well in the clubhouse. But his inability or refusal to actually think for himself is troubling. His responses to strategy questions are known before he gives them because they are so stereotypical. And they’ve been proven wrong by people curious enough to look. But the difference between Fredi and most other managers is the difference between trying to sweep dirt off a carpet with a normal broom and a Swiffer. Both are ineffective, but the Swiffer might get a little more.

To give Fredi his final grade, I’ll give him 4 points out of 20 for strategy. Overall that’s an 84/100, but a few people might give him a couple extra points in the strategy department. In any case, Fredi earns a B/B- for his overall managing prowess, which is about what I would have expected. A B/B- is fine and certainly enough to let him continue on, but it’s certainly nothing special.

Now about that Manager of the Year Award, it’s the hardest award to award correctly. As I’ve already said, the most important thing they do is also the most opaque to our eyes. There are also tons of myths surrounding the award. For one, managers get credit when the team vastly outperforms projections even though projections are not certain and the improvement probably has nothing to do with the manager and more to do with the general manager (I find it funny that a lot of people know who the manager of a team is but not the general manager, when the general manager is probably the most important man in the organization). For another, the manager gets credit when he deals with injuries or hardship, even though the virtue is probably (again) the general manager’s and not the manager’s. Picking the right one is extremely difficult, but I don't think Fredi's your man. It’s not that I don’t want to give Fredi credit. I’m fully willing to give him credit where it’s due. But I won’t give it to him because I’m told to or because baseball tradition tells me to. I expect him to make moves that are beneficial to this club, and when he does not, I will point it out.


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