Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Roundup: Bullpen Usage, Rotation Comparison, Missing Alex Wood

Welcome to this week's Monday Roundup. WOW is improving in its content delivery as this weekend saw a number of articles. Going to continue the trend moving into this week. If you haven't already, check out new contributor Ryan Cothran's first article about BABIP.

May 8: Off

May 9: 8-3 LOSS at Astros
Bartolo Colon was saddled with a five-run first and this game was essentially done. Colon did work into the sixth, but gave up three more runs and was removed after an eight-run barrage over 5.2 ING. It was the first time since last July that he surrendered three homers in a game. Sam Freeman worked 2.1 innings in relief to close out the game. Matt Kemp had a two-hit game.

May 10: 4-2 LOSS at Astros
Jaime Garcia was flirting with disaster until a three-run fifth was his undoing. He went six innings and did walk five. He also gave up six hits, including three doubles, and struck out four. Jason Motte and Arodys Vizcaino each worked a scoreless inning in relief. The Braves got both of their runs in the fourth when Freddie Freeman led off the frame with a game-tying solo bomb, his 12th, and Adonis Garcia hit a two-out shot later in the inning. It was his fourth homer, but the Braves couldn't add on.

May 11: Off (again (for reasons))

May 12: 8-4 WIN at Marlins
For a change, it was the Braves turning a game into a blowout in the late innings. In the seventh inning, with the score 2-1, the Braves offense consisted of an HBP, three singles, an intentional pass, and two unintentional walks. By the end of the inning, the Braves had plated six. Tyler Flowers was a big part of the frame as he got the rally going the hit-by-pitch and singled in two runners to close put a bow on the frame. Earlier in the game, the catcher also blasted a two-run homer, his first homer of the year. Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp both had two-hit games to join Flowers. Mike Foltynewicz started and went six innings. His changeup was working better than it had all year and he worked around a half-dozen hits - but no walks - to give up just one run. Ian Krol was picked on for two runs and Jim Johnson gave up a solo shot, but the Braves were never seriously threatened after the seventh.

May 13: 3-1 WIN at Marlins
Julio Teheran turned back the clock to Good Julio with six scoreless innings. He left with a 2-0 lead and the Marlins cut into that lead, but ultimately fell in the game. Nick Markakis had a three-hit night while Freddie Freeman doubled twice and scored two runs. Eric O'Flaherty gave up a solo bomb, but Arodys Vizcaino and Jim Johnson shut the door from there.

May 14: 3-1 LOSS at Marlins
The Braves were rolling toward a sweep and then R.A. Dickey failed to get a call. Shortly after that, Tyler Moore, who spent time in the Braves system last year, hit a three-run pinch-hit bomb. The 1-0 lead was gone and the Braves failed to secure the sweep. Dickey had his best game as a Brave going before the Moore blast. He worked seven innings and walked three, but did all he could. He was hurt by a woeful effort on offense in which the Braves left a dozen runners on base and went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Only a single by Nick Markakis which scored Ender Inciarte kept the Braves from being shut out. Inciarte was on base three times with two singles and a walk.

This week: 2-3
Season: 13-21, 9.5 GB, 5th Place

Upcoming Schedule: No random off-days await the Braves, but they do open the week with a four-game series with the Blue Jays that includes two games in Toronto before both teams head to Atlanta to conclude the series. The Braves end the week with a three-game set against the Nationals. The getaway game in Toronto on Tuesday will be a random 4:07 EST start while the Saturday game will also be a late 4:10 start. Sunday's game is a typical day game that begins at 1:35. If you want to attend a game this week, try Sunday's. As a Alumni Sunday, you get a chance to meet and secure autographs with some former Braves players include the Hall of Fame knuckler Phil Niekro, Chris Chambliss, Gerald Perry, and Terry Harper.

Three Last Things
Rick Briggs (CC by 2.0) via Flickr

1) Modeling After the Reds

No big league team has more bullpen innings than the Cincinnati Reds. With an 8-3 loss in yesterday's game, they are up to 153 innings on the year. Yet, the Reds are below the major league average in number of outings by their bullpen? How does that happen? The Reds are taking advantage of a bullpen with several recent starters. As Craig Edwards pointed out last month at Fangraphs, the Reds are doing something special with their pen in which they rely more on young arms that have recent starting experience. Raisel Iglesias started 29 games between the minors and bigs the last two seasons. Michael Lorenzen was a full-time starter in 2014 and 2015. Robert Stephenson is a reliever for the first time. The Reds, despite living in a National League environment, aren't going through their bullpen before the ninth inning to get one or two outs per pitcher. Rather, they are asking their pen to get four, six, or even more outs.

Could the Braves follow suit? You bet they can, but it will require some changes to the roster makeup. Right now, only Josh Collmenter has been used to get multiple outs and many of their relievers are unlikely to be ready to be used in that type of role. The current core of Jose Ramirez, Jim Johnson, and Arodys Vizcaino will remain in place, but might the Braves opt for Lucas Sims and/or Sean Newcomb rather than Jason Motte and Sam Freeman? I realize starting their clock early for bullpen work might not be advisable, but I'm not trying to turn them into set-up relievers or specialists. I want multiple innings out of them.

It's a thought - one in which the Braves ought to entertain.

2) Braves Second in the Division in Starting Pitching ERA

With a big hat tip to Braves Options Guy for this, but for all of their troubles with the starting rotation, the Braves are actually second in the division in starting pitching ERA.

Don't get too happy about that, though. The difference is nearly a run between the Nats at 3.77 and the Braves at 4.71. The Phils, Marlins, and Mets are among the four worst pitching teams according to ERA in baseball with the Braves standing pretty at sixth worst. Now, to be fair, the Braves are worse than all of their division mates in FIP and fWAR. Still, it's always worth mentioning the positives - if you call "at least others are worse" a positive. Considering the Braves are on pace for a hundred losses, any positive is worth a little digital ink.

By EricEnfermero (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
3) The Worst Deal is Looking Worse

Ask a Braves fan to come up with the worst deal completed under the John Hart/John Coppolella regime and even if they disagreed with the rationale of other deals, most Braves fans would come to an agreement on which deal was extra strength terrible. That would be the Hector Olivera trade. Less than two years later, it's only gotten worse.

Alex Wood was starting to struggle with the Braves in 2014. His fastball lost velocity and his K's tumbled. Including him in the deal seemed like a smart "get what you can" effort. Since the trade, Wood has found himself - and a good 3-4 mph on his fastball. Some of that may be due to the new Statcast system, but not all of it. His sinker has been especially good this season. He's spotting it for strikes a lot better than he did toward the end of his Braves tenure and with the added velocity, getting 2-4% more whiffs on his most used pitch.

Even without Wood pitching as well as any pitcher in baseball, the deal was a black eye. For Wood and Jose Peraza, the Braves had precious little to show for it. That's not including Luis Avilan (2.71 FIP with the Dodgers) and paying the Dodgers to carry Bronson Arroyo. The Braves received Paco Rodriguez, who they cut this spring, and Zachary Bird, who they lost in minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Now, they did get Austin Riley and he still might make it to the bigs, but if he doesn't, the Braves will continue to use the Olivera trade as a cautionary tale.

Of course, Atlanta did turn Olivera into Matt Kemp so there's that.

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