Putting the wraps on the worst Braves season in 25 years

Atlanta Braves left fielder Nick Swisher (23) celebrates with shortstop Andrelton Simmons after defeating the Washington Nationals 2-0 in a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Jon Barash)

Atlanta Braves left fielder Nick Swisher (23) celebrates with shortstop Andrelton Simmons after defeating the Washington Nationals 2-0 in a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Jon Barash)

A win’s a win. But there haven’t been many of them. (AP Photo/Jon Barash)

The Atlanta Braves have made history, sort of, by not making history. With Tuesday’s victory, they forfeited any chance of losing 100 games. Had they lost 100 — there was a moment when such ignominy seemed not just possible but probable — they’d have been the first team ever to lose 100 after being at .500 (42-42 on July 7) so far into a season.

So: Mission accomplished, sort of. This still has been the Braves’ worst season since 1990, the year before everything got better, but with this slight finishing kick — they’ve won five in a row at Turner Field, where not long ago they lost 12 in succession — they’ve all but assured themselves of not finishing with baseball’s worst record. (Philadelphia is three games behind with four to play.) They might not even finish as second-worst, Cincinnati having lost 11 in a row in a masterful show of tanking for draft position.

Another mild encouragement: The young pitchers, on whom everything rests, have stabilized after a horrid patch. Matt Wisler has worked three quality starts in his past four outings. Williams Perez has worked four in five. Wisler’s ERA has shrunk to 5.11, Perez’s to 4.78 — still not good, but better.

The bad news: Barring a late spate of 15-run games — not likely; the Braves have scored two runs in each of those five consecutive home victories — they’ll finish last in baseball in scoring. That’s last after finishing next-to-last in 2014. That’s last having redesigned their offensive approach. They’ve succeeded in not striking out; indeed, they have the fewest whiffs in the National League and the second-fewest in baseball. They’ve also succeeded, if that’s the word, in not hitting home runs.

The Braves need four homers over the final four games to break 100 for the year. Miami, which has the second-fewest home runs among the 30 major-league teams, has 116. Last week, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs noted that the Royals have become one of great put-it-in-play teams ever, but here we see that there’s a difference between putting the ball in play and making something of it. The Royals, who’ve struck out the fewest times, are second in the majors in batting average and sixth in runs. The Braves, who as noted have fanned the second-fewest times, are 19th and last.

Oh, and for those who worship at the altar of on-base percentage: The Braves rank 17th in that category — not nearly last — but their batting order has been so flimsy as to negate the effect. The Braves’ slugging percentage is .358. Philadelphia has the second-worst slugging percentage at .380. Again, they’re not just last in a key offensive category but last by a lot.

And here’s the really chilling part: The ages of the Braves’ starting position players against Washington on Wednesday were 32, 30, 31, 38, 34, 25, 26 and 26. The great hitting hope Hector Olivera will turn 31 two days after Opening Day 2016.

The offseason emphasis has to be on acquiring more bats, there being so few in this farm system, but the Olivera trade was surely the Braves’ way of saying they didn’t believe the bats available in free agency would be affordable and/or advisable. (Two of the three biggest names — Heyward and Justin Upton — just left; the third is Yoenis Cespedes, who powered the Mets to the National League East title and thereby inflated his price but who turns 30 in two weeks.)

If you’re looking for improvement in 2016, you’d start with the young pitching, which carries the possibility of getting better. I’m not sure these everyday players are apt to do that. For all the fuss over Cameron Maybin (who’ll turn 29 on Opening Day, FYI) and his “breakout” season, the cold truth is that he’s hitting .266 with 10 homers and 58 RBIs. His WAR value is 0.5, down a tenth of a point from his final season in San Diego.

Maybin remains a journeyman center fielder. The Braves have no left fielder. Nick Markakis has three home runs and a WAR value of 1.6. (Jason Heyward’s was 6.2 last season and is 6.4 this year.) Olivera has shown promise but is a major gamble. Jace Peterson started nicely but fizzled; he also has a WAR value of 0.5. A.J. Pierzynski — who had three of the team’s four RBIs in the two wins over the Nationals — will turn 39 on Dec. 30. That’s 75 percent of the everyday eight.

Credit the Braves for not losing 100 games, but I wouldn’t stage that parade down Peachtree just yet. For all the creativity John Hart and John Coppolella have displayed in acquiring young pitching, their redo is barely half-done. There’s a reason Shelby Miller has an ERA of 3.15 but hasn’t won since May 17. The team around him stinks.

Update: The Braves have promoted Coppolella to general manager.

Reader Comments 0

85 comments
BobDawg
BobDawg

I'm not too worried about the future of this club… Our Pitching (Minors and Majors) is stocked Full and will be good trading chips when we need to pull the string on a bat or 2. …. Let's face it, if we kept Kelly Johson and Uribe; we might have finished around .500. We had a decent lineup with those 2 at 3rd and LF. We can get players like that day in and day out… Now it's about getting a strategic player when available and keep drafting and getting the minors full of players for 2017 and beyond.

SupremeGrandPoobah
SupremeGrandPoobah

@BobDawg You would actually trade good position players for our minor league pitchers?  I think most GMs will be too smart for that.

MarkAgain
MarkAgain

Well I guessed 70 wins at the beginning. Turns out I was overly optimistic. But, now I can say this..."thank goodness it's over, turn the page and let's hope that Liberty lets the front office get our team back"!

Starksy
Starksy

You mean we had a bad season? Listening to the Sunshine Boys--the cheerleaders who pass for announcers--last night I thought we might be play-off bound with all the "positives" and "good signs" they pointed out. Even after John Schuerholz came on and called it the most embarrassing season in his baseball career.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@Starksy  The broadcast booth shills are the main reason I rarely watch the games on TV, and when I do I mute the sound. They detract more than they add.

WTF
WTF

This is the team they built back in February.  Get rid of your best players and don't win.  Who would have thought.

Garret Helfrich
Garret Helfrich

Will the Braves shut down Miller before the NL playoffs begin? 

Classof98
Classof98

Nick Markakis is approximately 6'2", 200 lbs. It seems he could hit more than three daggum home runs just by accident.

fez
fez

@Classof98 Maybe he will next season when fully healthy.  He was coming off of surgery and wasn't able to do his normal off-season training.

khd713
khd713

@Classof98 Seriously. I'd bet you could take just about any National League pitcher, give him as many at-bats as Markakis had this year, and he'd hit more than three HRs.

joedavis
joedavis

@khd713 @Classof98 Markakis hit the quietest, least meaningful .296 in the history of baseball. Plenty of strikeouts, double plays, and lack of hits with the game on the line. No speed on the basepaths, opposing baserunners usually took an extra base, etc. He's an average MLB player.  $11 million a year for three more years, for a declining player.  He's a one-tool player.

Born2Buzz
Born2Buzz

Look at it this way...now we don't have to agonize over the Braves losing in the playoffs AGAIN.  

Get ready for more seasons of irrelevance. And attendance around 10-12K per game.

AtlantaSportsVictory
AtlantaSportsVictory

I wished the Braves had done a better job at "tanking for draft position", there's no point at winning these last couple weeks when the draft is our best chance at improvement.


As for the offense, the fact that we sit Olivera against left-handers is a BIG red flag to me. We should have traded Maybin when his value was higher, and we should have used the 10+ million for Markakis towards paying Heyward, we can afford it. I was game for taking a shot at Olivera but its looking like we gave up too much for too little. 


Here's to pitching a ton of shutouts next year!

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

@AtlantaSportsVictory I have no idea how the Reds dropped below Atlanta but the Braves are at #3 right now which is still a great spot for landing a potential stud.  They haven't done poorly with the few position players they've taken in the 1st round, they just need to focus on a big bat over all other considerations.  Of course they'll end up falling in love with the best pitching prospect left on the board and we'll continue to search for a bat the same way the Falcons took so long to find a pass rush and the Hawks continued search for a true center.


Atlanta...city of filling wants over filling needs.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@DawgnIT @AtlantaSportsVictory 

Because of forays into free agency, the Braves didn't have any 1st Round picks for 7 or 8 of the years between 2000 - 2014, That is an overlooked fact when determining the demise of the farm system under Schuerholz and Wren.

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

@SaveAmericaFromItself @DawgnIT @AtlantaSportsVictory  That's part of doing business.  It's no one else's fault but the Braves for parting with a 1st round draft pick.  They also received supplemental 1st round picks in some years.


They drafted and gave away Adam Wainwright.  Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were quality picks from 2000-2003.  2004 they didn't have a 1st round at all.  Heyward and Minor were the best picks from 2005-present.  


A case might be made for Gilmartin soon but he's gone just like Wainwright.  It's amazing that for how much the Braves value pitching that they've possibly traded 2 1st round picks who ended up being solid MLB players (Wainwright is and Gilmartin is getting his shot).


The Braves have been talking out of both sides of their mouth for too long.  We value a strong farm system with talent evaluation yet somehow we keep trading our talent to other teams while promoting players who don't pan out to Atlanta.  And along with those trades, we pick up veterans who don't necessarily pan out in either performance or long term deals.


I was content with the core of our team even after 2014.  It was young and subject to improve.  The gutting was hardly necessary for anything other than a front office cleansing of Wren's legacy.


Either you invest in your youth and let them grow or you do big things in FA.  The Braves are straddling the fence half-stepping all the way.


Hopefully Hart's plan will work because they are really going to take a bath in the new ballpark after the 1st half of the season is over if the team still sucks.

Jason Forster
Jason Forster

Why is it that Schuerholtz is never blamed for the demise and Wren's awful choices?  He is after all the President and man in charge.  Same story, lots of pitching and no hitting.  One ring after all these years.  Ugh.

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

I guess the people who believed that Heyward's performance in Atlanta had more to do with him being moved all over the lineup without any stability and support than his own ability have been vindicated.  Many talked about protecting Freeman in the lineup but no one ever talked about protecting Heyward.  Now the career .267 hitter is hitting .292 even after a weak April.


Heyward will likely be a legit MVP candidate in future seasons if he remains a Cardinal.  I hope he gets his ring this year.


Exactly what bats are the Braves thinking about bringing in for 2017?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@DawgnIT I still expect Heyward to wind up with the Yankees. I haven't heard any vibes out of St. Louis that they believe he will stay.

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

@DawgDadII @DawgnIT I know his parents are/were/are Yankees fans.  I can't remember if Heyward himself is a fan or has an overwhelming desire to go to New York.  I know he seemed content in Atlanta.  


I wonder if any other big money teams are going to jump into the bidding war.

Can'o'corn
Can'o'corn

so the braves are going to sit out next season and rest up for 2017.....that's the plan.  Man, i wish we had a real owner, this is pathetic.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

They have a left fielder in Markakis, he doesn't have the arm to play right field anymore.  


They need a right fielder and some hitters.  The management seems thrilled with Jace Peterson at second, but he doesn't seem to be any better than options they didn't like and discarded, Gosselin and LaStella.  Hopefully Daniel Castro will get a chance to win the job in ST. They seemed to have wasted a great deal of playing time on Bourne and Swisher, whose best days seem behind them when they could have been giving a look at Olivera and Garcia in Left field.  One of them has to move off third as they probably both need to play, based on the lack of other bats available.  Would have liked Cunningham to see more time in the outfield than watch Bourne and Swisher hit in the low .200's.   They also need to move Bethancourt and start looking for any everyday catcher.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@RafeHollister You miss the point entirely. Think a bit here, what you are witnessing is the reality that IT DOES NOT MATTER who they play this year and next, they aren't expecting to compete anyway. All the Braves are doing at this point is waiting on "prospects" who are AT LEAST two years away. JS and JH said so in very plain explicit terms last night.


That is why we see Bourn, Swisher, and the rest running around out there, because they provide some cover of MLB legitimacy for a management team that has thrown in the towel.

Dawg69
Dawg69

@DawgDadII @RafeHollister  TWO YEARS AWAY???? Who among the hitters is two years away?  They have no one on the horizon.  This team is at best mediocre for the next 5 years. 



DawgDadII
DawgDadII

The Bad (shortened version):

1. Listening to Schuerholtz and Hart last night was a hoot. Two guys admitting abject failure but begging everyone to trust in their plan even though we won't see the results for 2-3 years. Right. This is 2015, professional sports does not work that way any more.

2. You can't trust what you see in September to carry forward into next year. These are meaningless games, more meaningless than most Spring Training games. The Braves have very, very marginal MLB pitching talent at best.

3. Last year the Braves had one of the YOUNGEST starting lineups in the majors. Now look. Problem was they had talented young players who did not want to stay here in Atlanta, and some who did who were idiotically sacrificed for more suspects er prospects. Ultimately, if they want to win the team will have to spend money to buy talent. It would have been cheaper and far more effective to have spent it on a few assets-in-hand, wait and see.

4. Where are the fans? You expect fans to show up when you publicly signal this season and next really don't matter, the Braves don't intend to seriously compete? Right. These idiots belong on the unemployment line.

5. Ownership. Disengaged Corporate ownership like this really doesn't serve the interests of sporting competition and the fans. We've seen plenty of examples of this. Cardinals in the late 80's and early 90's were a good example I am intimately familiar with.

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

This is why I refuse to jump on the 2017 Braves bandwagon...I don't see any position players worth getting excited about, and they're less risky than pitchers.

RoseUp
RoseUp

Bringing in Miller, Maybin, Markakis, Grilli, A.J. and Peterson in the offseason seemed uninspiring at the time; but they all overachieved for the first half of the season, and suddenly we fans had hope. 


By the All Star break, everyone was lauding Hart as a genius, for making those moves. 


Apparently, the acclaim went to his head. He went way overboard with his talent-for-prospects approach before the deadline, and basically gutted the team. 


A little moderation goes a long way, John. In your zeal to repeat your own success, you overdid it, big time. You've ruined the Atlanta Braves. 

BravesFanInNashville
BravesFanInNashville

@RoseUp This might be one of the most uninformed posts I've ever seen on here.   Pitching is the way to win in this league and if you don't grow it yourself it's really expensive and rarely is worth the crazy money teams have to spend to get it.  


Mike Hampton $121 Million

Kevin Brown $105 Million

CC Sabathia $160 Million

Justin Verlander $180 Million

Barry Zito $132 Million 

Johan Santana $140 Million

Cliff Lee $140 Million


Not ONE of those big name pitchers has been even close to worth the contracts they signed.  As John Hart said on yesterday's broadcast , signing free agent pitching is the most inefficient use of resources in the game of baseball.  It's true.  He knows that and is proactively doing something great to prevent the Braves from needing to go that route other than maybe one veteran to help anchor the staff. 


The jury will be out to see how long Jon Lester is a value to the Cubs.  Granted they might win it all with him and after the LONG history of losing whatever they paid him might be worth it with a WS trophy but he's not going to be worth $25 Million plus per year in a few years and they will be paying him that and more.


The Braves thanks to John Hart who you say has "ruined the Atlanta Braves" now have a farm system LOADED with really promising young pitching and they have Shelby Miller, Wisler , Banuelos and Perez already showing signs of being able to pitch at this level.  The Braves will have one of the best pitching staffs in the game in 2 years mark it down..  


When the pitching is established they can then attract hitters to play in Atlanta with the new stadium money and the knowledge that the team will be in almost every game due to the strong pitching staff.  Our biggest need is to get a manager the way Chicago did with Joe Madden.  


It's not really possible to accurately access the moves Hart has made until we see if these kids he traded for can pitch or not.  If they don't have a great pitching staff by 2017 when they enter the new park then I'd say he miscalculated.  As it stands now I'm betting he's right..  





BravesFanInNashville
BravesFanInNashville

@DawgDadII @BravesFanInNashville @RoseUp While its probably true the Cardinals will remain very good, if they don't sign Jason Heyward long term they might have overpaid for one year of his services by giving up Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.   Either way its a win for the Braves because they gave up ONE year of Heyward for 4 years of Miller and 6 Big League years of Jenkins.


The Braves are in a different cycle than the Cardinals..  As the Braves saw in the 90's once they got good it was easier to stay good then it was to get there in the first place.  Success breeds success because good players like to join good teams.    Once the Braves get over this rough patch it will be easier for them to attract good players again just like it was in the 90's when the best pitcher in baseball coming off a Cy Young winning season in Greg Maddux decided to come to Atlanta.  It's hard to believe he would have signed in Atlanta in 1989 when the Braves were terrible.  The timing was perfect when his free agent year came just after the Braves won their first division and showed signs of being really strong for a while.  Those days are coming back. 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@BravesFanInNashville @RoseUp "It's not really possible to accurately access the moves Hart has made until we see if these kids he traded for can pitch or not.  If they don't have a great pitching staff by 2017 when they enter the new park then I'd say he miscalculated.  As it stands now I'm betting he's right..  "


In that span we can expect the Cardinals to reload twice and remain competitive, if not on top of the pack. Just watch.

Dominic Karr
Dominic Karr

@RoseUp Well said...not sure how people are arguing with you on this one. Because you stuck to the first half of the 2015 Braves, nothing you said is remotely debatable. Hart put a surprisingly competitive major league team on the field for the first half and then just completely gave up on them once Grilli got hurt. Goodbye Wood, J. Johnson, K. Johnson, and Uribe, and goodbye season. Hello to a ridiculous plethora of unproven prospects.

SupremeGrandPoobah
SupremeGrandPoobah

@BravesFanInNashville @RoseUp Think about what you are saying.  If pitching prospects are so valuable, why did good teams give them up so readily?  We got snookered.  Most GMs wouldn't give us a sack of baseball bats for most of these "prospects."

DrPhill
DrPhill

It is most interesting to see how well former Braves do with other teams. Heyward is looking like the MVP for the Cardinals, and even the player formerly known as BJ has upped his average by a good 50 points. The franchise is back where it was in the 1970's but with a state of the art ballpark at taxpayer expense. The guiding principle of the front office seems to be, "if it's not broke, break it."

SupremeGrandPoobah
SupremeGrandPoobah

@FelixMillan @SaveAmericaFromItself @DrPhill Hayward definitely isn't worth the big money that he thinks he is due.  However, the league regularly overpays for mediocre talent, and the rest of the teams follow suit. I'm still not too impressed with Hayward, but he has proven me wrong when I thought that Markakis would do just as well.  Nice batting average, but not much else.