Like players, fans suffer through the dog days during the baseball season. It gets hot, people get cranky and little problems can be magnified, especially when the argument machine that 24-hour sports has fostered needs to be fed a steady diet of baseball until the beginning of football season. Then baseball can go back to being a quaint niche sport to 82 percent of the population (numbers courtesy STATS Inc.) until sometime in October, when baseball people will sniff Joe Buck’s farts and laud the ‘(Successful Team X) Way’ for giving people a champion to be proud of.
All of that is utter nonsense. The recent success the Giants enjoyed wasn’t due to the presence of mystical baseball fairies. The late 90s/early 00s Yankees didn’t win because they were the most professional of professional baseball teams. They played good enough baseball for 162 regular season games to get into the playoffs, and then they spent the playoffs playing better than anyone else. Let’s not over-think it.
Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (24) hits an RBI double during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
So the Braves are not an unsuccessful baseball team because they aren’t keeping to the Baseball Code anymore without Brian McCann around, and they aren’t an unsuccessful baseball team because B.J. Upton jaws at umpires too often, although he definitely does that. They’re unsuccessful because they have played very bad baseball against very good teams for the last two weeks, and very good teams don’t often give away games to teams hell-bent on playing very bad baseball. The question is whether they’re going to play the rest of the season that way.
For whatever reason(s), the Braves have found their way into being, if not a very bad team, then a horrendously predictable one. They’ll struggle along, losing a slew of 5-4 or 4-2 games, then turn around and beat someone 10-1. And sure, that 10-1 game is a rollicking good time and allows us man, woman and Joe Simpson alike to toss out a thousand huzzahs and ‘Hey, they’ve snapped the string, business is about to pick up!’ each other into a delusional frenzy. Does anything ever come of that? Of course not!
And so people get shuffled in the name of ‘finding a spark’. Jason Heyward is hitting fifth… no! Now he’s batting leadoff again. B.J. Upton went from Dan Uggla 2.0 to hitting leadoff for a division leader to battling Emilio ‘I’m on my fourth team in two years and seventh in an eight-year Major League career, so excuse me if I don’t get too comfy’ Bonifacio to stay in the lineup. The bullpen has 20 losses as a group, seventh-most in baseball, and while losses are no longer the end-all, be-all stat by which pitchers are or should be measured, it must be noted that the bullpen is bottom-10 in BB/9 and line-drive rate.
It’s a weird baseball purgatory – very few delusional miscreants out there who believe the Braves can stand with the Dodgers or Brewers in a seven-game series, let alone facing a juggernaut A’s pitching staff in the World series, but at the same time, stranger things have happened. An 83-win Cardinals team won the World Series less than a decade ago, after all, as we are constantly reminded by the glass half-full crowd. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s worse: that backing into the playoffs and hoping for a puncher’s chance at getting hot at the perfect time is what the Braves aspire to, or that even that low threshold looks to be slipping further out of reach.
Fangraphs.com pegs the Braves to go 23-20 the rest of the way, for an 83-79 overall record. That would get them exactly nothing – no playoffs, no Wild Card, nothing but 162 games, some memories and some handshakes. It’s hard to have a more uninspiring season. Year One of the ‘Frank Wren is going to open up the checkbook and spend money on his young players, dammit!’ era wasn’t supposed to go like this. Time is running short to pull out of this skid – 20 of the final 43 games are against above-.500 squads, which the Braves have struggled to a 22-25 record against such teams so far in 2014. If failure continues to be not only an option but an almost certain outcome, at what point do guys go from playing for the playoffs to playing for jobs in 2015?
What to Read
If you’re building a new stadium by means that are shady at best, the last thing you want is the local beat writer looking into declining attendance figures. So this David O’Brien story… hey now. On pace for the lowest attendance average since 1991? Fourteen straight years with less than three million total attendance? Good luck in Cobb County everybody!
Stat o’ the Week
Until a recent run of aptitude, it has looked like David Carpenter was regressing to the mean a little bit. However, his 4.01 ERA belies a 2.48 FIP, with the 1.53 difference the eighth-highest in the league (one spot behind former Austin Peay great Shawn Kelley, in fact). If that number holds, it would represent the largest discrepancy between ERA and FIP by a Braves reliever since the immortal Blaine Boyer posted a 1.67 in 2008.
If you only catch one game of the A’s series, make it…
Much though I’d like to point to a Sunday Night Baseball appearance for the second week in a row, especially since it’s Bark at the Park Night (I’m taking my two pups, probably a mistake), Saturday’s 6:10 p.m. (CT) matchup at the Ted features two of baseball’s best young hurlers in Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran. So that’ll be pretty good.
Complementary Old-Timey Baseball Quote
“The cops picked me up on the street at 3 a.m. and fined me $500 for being drunk and $100 for being with the Phillies.” – Bob Uecker on his time with the Phillies.
Craig Kimbrel Fact No. 40
Craig Kimbrel owns a cheetah. He named it Fastball. Craig Kimbrel’s fastball is faster than Craig Kimbrel’s Fastball.
About Colby Wilson
Colby Wilson is a free-lance columnist for the Clarksville Sports Network. He enjoys some of the finer things in life, but is at his most content lounging on the couch watching sports. If you like what he wrote, let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org; if you didn’t, keep it to yourself, okay?
Web Site: http://www.clarksvillesportsnetwork
SectionsAtlanta Braves, Baseball, Featured Story, MLB, Professional Teams, Sports, Sports Leagues
TopicsAtlanta, Atlanta Braves Baseball, Atlanta Georgia, Austin Peay, B.J. Upton, Bark at the Park Night, Baseball, Baseball Code, Blaine Boyer, Bob Uecker, Braves, Brewers, Brian McCann, Cobb County, Craig Kimbrel, Dan Uggla, David Carpenter, David O'Brien, Dodgers, ERA, FanGraphs.com, Frank Wren, Georgia, Jason Heyward, Joe Buck, Joe Simpson, Julio Teheran, Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, October, Phillies, Shawn Kelley, Sonny Gray, STATS Inc., Sunday Night Baseball, Ted, World Series