This motley bullpen crew is killing the Braves

San Diego Padres pinch runner Melvin Upton Jr., scores past Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski (15) to score the tying run in the 9th inning of baseball game Monday, June 8, 2015, in Atlanta. San Diego won 5-3 in 11 innings. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

I know he’s busy, what with the MLB draft and all, but John Hart has to do something, and I don’t mean by the All-Star break. I mean by game time Tuesday. He has to find bullpen relief, which sounds like an oxymoron but for this team isn’t.

The bullpen, or the lack thereof, is killing the Atlanta Braves. We mentioned last week that this was, going on ERA, the worst relief corps in the majors, and it has gotten only worse. The Braves have blown four saves in six games, 11 all told. (That’s the second-highest total in the majors.) The team had a chance to nose above .500 last Tuesday in Arizona. It’s 27-30 now. It has lost five of six. The only victory in that run saw the Braves override a blown save with the first homer of Christian Bethancourt’s big-league career.

San Diego Padres pinch runner Melvin Upton Jr., scores past Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski (15) to score the tying run in the 9th inning of baseball game  Monday, June 8, 2015, in Atlanta. San Diego won 5-3 in 11 innings. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Fan favorite Melvin Upton Jr. scores to tie it. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Yet another domino fell Monday on homecoming. Three recently jettisoned Braves returned to Turner Field. Justin Upton went 0-for-4 but drove in a run in the eighth and scored the game-winner after inducing a leadoff walk from Cody Martin in the 11th. Melvin (nee B.J.) Upton Jr. scored the tying run, though only just.

(Inserted as a pinch runner, Bossman Jr. cantered home on Cory Spangenberg’s middle-distance fly to left, and Todd Cunningham hit Andrelton Simmons, whose relay made it scary-close at the plate — largely because Bossman Jr. neglected to slide. Imagine if he’d been thrown out as the tying run to end the game. Would that not have been the classic B.J./Melvin moment?)

The Padres trailed 3-1 with five outs to go. They won 5-3 in 11 cantos. The Braves did nothing against the San Diego bullpen, not even in a bizarre seventh that saw them muster three infield singles and two walks and not score. (A double play and Juan Uribe’s grounder that hit Freddie Freeman quashed the chance.) The Braves wouldn’t have another baserunner.

The Padres, on the other hand, would have five over the final four innings; four of them scored. The first came off Jim Johnson, who yielded a leadoff double to Will Venable in the eighth and saw the margin halved on J. Upton’s groundout. The second came off Jason Grilli, who yielded a leadoff double to Yonder Alonso in the ninth and who tried to pick B.J./Melvin off second but overthrew Simmons. That error led to the tying run, which was unearned but still counted. Blown save for the Braves’ new closer.

After Nick Masset miraculously worked a 1-2-3 10th, Martin walked J. Upton, who was down 1-2 in the count, to start the 11th. Upton stole second. Matt Kemp doubled off the wall to put the Padres ahead. The smallish Alexi Amarista greeted Luis Avilan with a double to make it 5-3, whereupon San Diego summoned …

Craig Kimbrel.

Who used to pitch for the Braves.

Who doesn’t anymore.

The Braves went down in order against the matchless Kimbrel, Cunningham striking out to end the 200th save of the great one’s career. If you’re scoring at home, that made four blown Braves saves leading to three losses in seven days. (Plus a squandered 4-4 tie that became a 10-8 loss Friday against Pittsburgh.) Sabermetric folks like to say that closers are overrated, but Fredi Gonzalez — who has looked at life from both sides now — has always maintained otherwise. Because nothing, Fredi G. believes, takes the heart from a team faster than lost leads.

(Here we note that Shelby Miller worked another splendid game — seven innings, one run, five hits, one walk, six strikeouts — and took his third no-decision in four starts. He hasn’t won since the almost no-hitter in Miami on May 17.)

The Braves got away with having this motley relief crew for a while because they were scoring runs and playing bad teams, but the schedule has toughened and the Braves have lost nine of 14. Reality would appear to have descended. It’s up to Hart — or John Coppolella, or John Schuerholz, or somebody — to change that reality by finding some help, and by that I don’t mean David Aardsma.  (Aardsma, signed to a minor-league contract over the weekend and who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013, was called up Tuesday morning, replacing Martin. This was first reported by Mark Bowman of MLB.com.I mean an eighth-inning guy who isn’t Jim Johnson. I mean another lefty besides Avilan.

Is that apt to happen? Nah. Because the Braves don’t want to part with any of their prized prospects or spend money on a team that isn’t apt to win anyway. But that’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As this latest game was unraveling, the Braves were taking two teenage pitchers in Round 1 of the draft. Can they get here by 7:10 p.m. Tuesday?

From myajc: Old home week – Kimbrel and the Uptons return.

Further reading: Baseball’s worst bullpen belongs to the Braves.

Reader Comments 1

147 comments
BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

The Bullpen KILLING THE BRAVES is an understatement.They are absolutely ruining games in which the hitters are raking the ball.Giving up 5 run leads not just once but a few times this season is HORRIBLE!...............As Marlon Brando once said in a movie.............."The Horror.....The Horror"...................The Bullpen Apocolysp(bullpen just as bad as my spelling!)is happening Now!

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

You all are going to think I'm nuts but I don't think the bullpen is THAT bad. I think it's just bad luck. Wrong circumstances, calling up too many people and not giving them a chance, and frankly the whole relief staff going bad at the same time (?) and so on. There's no way given the success that every one of the young call ups have had in the minors to completely implode like this. I bet you it will all settle down and the Braves will suddenly get decent relief. Maybe not GREAT relief but good enough. At least to not be at the bottom any longer. I think this is being made into something bigger than it is. It will get worked out and then the Braves will be back on track.

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

@BravesFanForever The only relevant circumstances are the ones that are created by these clowns themselves-- coming into games and walking people.  That is inexcusable.  And Freddi's ineptitude (ie, blowing through 5 pitchers in one inning) is gasoline on the fire that is the worst bullpen in all of baseball.  So yes you are nuts.  There is not one single trustworthy pitcher out there. Not even close.

candlin14
candlin14

Once again the problem isnt the bullpen, its the Coach! His name is tons of fun Freddie

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

aHHHH................the days of O'Ventbrel........we miss them dearly!

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

"Because the Braves don’t want to part with any of their prized prospects or spend money on a team that isn’t apt to win anyway."


This team isn't going anywhere this year. What is the point of trading away prospects? To stagger toward a meaningless .500 record?


It's when a team has a legitimate shot at winning it all is when you push all your chips on the table.

Terrytime
Terrytime

awful awful awful, us Atlanta fans deserve better products on baseball, football and basketball fields and courts

Mutley
Mutley

What did you expect? After all this is the most cursed sports city on the planet. It's LOSERVILLE, a place where wrong is always right. The sun never shines on championship trophies in in in LOSERVILLE .

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@Mutley 

I've always said if Atlanta had a critical sports media and more demanding fans, there might be a few more championships on the collective sports mantel. I wish the pro sports fans here were as vocal and supportive of the local teams as they were for their college football teams.

Mutley
Mutley

The college teams are in the same boat. How do all the neighboring state teams manage to win a natty in some sport yet teams from Georgia are nada.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@Mutley 

The teams in neighboring states pay their top players to stay their senior years.The Dawgs could have 2-3 National Championships the past decade.

Chopp
Chopp

@Mutley Solid contribution Mutley.  You should take the rest of the day off after that hard work. Go Braves.

RoseUp
RoseUp

You have your ace, one of the most dominating starters in the big leagues, breezing through seven innings. You have the worst bullpen in the game. What do you do?


The average 6th grader: "I think I'd stick with my ace."


Fredi Gonzalez: "I think I'll go with my bullpen."

fez
fez

@RoseUp Your average sixth grader doesn't give two craps about baseball, much less how long a starter stays in the game. 

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

@RoseUp  Where have the days gone when a starter stayed in the game if he had the lead. Complete games used to be common before all this pitch count nonsense. I don't see a decrease in injuries at all as a result.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@GWJ0525 @RoseUp 

I'm so old I remember when guys like Tom Seaver, Fergie Jenkins and Catfish Hunter had 25-30 complete games a season, tossed 300 innings and never had arm problems.

What has changed in the last 40 years ?

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@fez @RoseUp 

Your average 6th grader still whines about the Kimbrel trade and the lack of pyrotechnics this season at Turner Field.

BRINGIT
BRINGIT

@RoseUp Right on the money RoseUp. Fredi G is as dumb as a box of rocks!

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

@RoseUp Agreed.  Even if pinch hitting for him resulted in an extra run or two, that's STILL not worth the tradeoff of Miller/bullpen. He did the same thing last night and luckily it worked, but it is still an unwise bet.  Freddi just has no idea what he's doing.

reckingball
reckingball

The bullpen really is bad, but that game last night could have been won. Would it have been a bad idea to leave Miller in the game to pitch the 8th?

Once again, bad HP umpiring, Grilli threw a strike 3 pitch, that was called a ball, to the batter that BJ was running for in the 9th and wound up scoring the tying run. Grilli's throwing error was a gonads buster, without the error the runner doesn't score.

There is a absolutely no excuse for Freeman being hit by Uribe's batted ball, none. That would have scored an insurance run, even if the SS had been able to knock it down.

Three reasons for the lose.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Have to keep in mind it is a rebuilding year.  They probably have a better record than most experts said at beginning of year.  That' being said, if we had a half way decent bullpen, we would be winning this lousy division.

Decaturian
Decaturian

Man if only we could undo the Kimbrel Upton trade.  Then at least we would have Kimbrel, although he hasn't been stellar he's better than what we got now.  You may say we are saving 40 some odd million on Uptons contract, but unfortunately that's all we are doing saving money, Liberty media isn't allowing them to spend it on anything that's not a stadium.

Decaturian
Decaturian

@SaveAmericaFromItself if you think maybin would be anything other than a backup on the majority of the teams in the majors you might want to find another sport to consume.  Like i said he looks good on this team but this team doesn't have much.  We have been over achieving that is clear. He may have had a nice month but you can look at his career and see who he is. Imbecile, more like the pot calling the kettle.....you know how it goes.  You may want to save your self from your self.


SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@Decaturian 

Its the middle relief guys losing the games, not the closer. Having Kimbrel would make little difference. Also, having Kimbrel would mean having BJ on the roster, and getting playing time instead of Maybin.

Decaturian
Decaturian

@SaveAmericaFromItself @Decaturian Maybin is border line ok, but on this team he looks better than he would on other teams Does it really matter though this team will flounder like a fish out of water for the next 5-7years at least. Go braves.

Decaturian
Decaturian

@Hopeless in ATL kind of a crappy cherry, outside of a couple of good months he has underachieved throughout his career. 4 teams in 7 years tells me this kid is a big bag of potential and not much else otherwise someone would have kept him. 

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@Decaturian @SaveAmericaFromItself 

At 28 Maybin may be maturing as a player and playing his potential; he was a 1st round pick out of high school.  Some players are late bloomers. A new hitting coach and change of scenery has changed players. Baseball history is full of them. See what he is doing NOW ! 

Hopeless in ATL
Hopeless in ATL

@Decaturian @SaveAmericaFromItself Maybin was on another team, starting, batting seventh, and, apparently, never working with anyone on his swing.  He gets here, takes a few pointers from Kevin Seitzer, and moves up the order (where he remains hot).  He looks like a kid with a new toy.  Just the cherry on top of that trade.   

Hopeless in ATL
Hopeless in ATL

@Decaturian @Hopeless in ATL Meanwhile, BJ was crying for two years because he didn't lead off and was asked to play some defense.  If everyone was a genius there would be no trades and the draft would only last two rounds.  John Smoltz was a "big bag of potential" too, until he wasn't.  We got Smoltz for Doyle Alexander!!!!  

Decaturian
Decaturian

@Hopeless in ATL what? smoltz was a prospect when the braves got him, not like maybin who is in the middle of his career and yet to establish himself.  Who cares about BJ we didn't have to play him we could let him ride the pine it's not like we are doing anything with the money we are saving by getting rid of him.


SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@Decaturian @SaveAmericaFromItself 

Maybin is hitting .299, .371 OBP w/27 RBIS in only 171 at bats hitting either 1-2, and that is "border line ok"?

Are you an imbecile?

They've not had that kind of production from CF since Andruw Jones.

Using the 45 million of BJ's contract toward the new stadium?

You must be an imbecile !

Bob_the_Blogger
Bob_the_Blogger

I would have jumped for joy if Simmons had thrown out the player formerly known as BJ.  Upton should change his middle name to Lollygag.

DontTaseMeBro
DontTaseMeBro

They made it obvious that this was going to be a "rebuilding" year before the season ever started.  Why agonize over it now?  I suspect next year will be more of the same with the possibility of getting a couple of more youngsters given a sink-or-swim chance.  All building for a bust out year in 2017.  For the rest of this year at least they will just be mailing it in and it will require fans that lean toward the fanatical side to pay to see it.  I won't be one of them. 

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@DontTaseMeBro 

The rebuild seems to be a surprise to some. Look for a busy off-season by John Hart. Longterm upgrades are needed at 3B, LF and middle relief. Won't have to wait til 2017.

JImmy4God
JImmy4God

God bless Cobb County for taking the reins!  Aa least I can walk to my car after the game without carrying a taser.

Chopp
Chopp

@JImmy4God That is just a juvenile, ignorant, old and tired comment.  It would seem to me that someone saying something such as this does not even support the Braves in the first place.  You sir, are a troll.  Go Braves.

Trackbacks

  1. […] saw the return of former Braves Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, and Melvin Upton Jr. to Atlanta, the Braves bullpen squandered a 3-1 lead at the onset of the ninth inning to trigger a late San Diego rally. A pair of San Diego […]