A Philly sweep leaves the Braves looking … not good

Oh, look. Another Philly homer. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It was only a week ago that the Atlanta Braves were tickled to be at .500. Today they’ll need a six-game winning streak to get back there. Getting swept by Washington, which has baseball’s best record … well, that can happen. Getting swept by the Phillies, seen in preseason as one of the few teams worse than the Braves … that shouldn’t.

This is how many innings the Braves’ starting pitchers worked over three games in Philadelphia — 20. This is how many earned runs they yielded — seven. That’s an ERA of 3.15, which is very good. But Jim Johnson was touched for the tying and winning runs in two-thirds of an inning Saturday, and Arodys Vizcaino, summoned to hold an eighth-inning tie Sunday, turned it into a three-run deficit in the span of three batters.

Thus did a series that could have been won get lost. Johnson in the 10th on Saturday and Vizcaino in the eighth on Sunday were touched for six hits and five runs while recording two outs. (Both by Johnson, both strikeouts.) Granted, two of the Phillies’ hits against Johnson were of the infield ilk. All three hits against Vizcaino went for extra bases, the latter two clearing the fence.

Here we note: Johnson and Vizcaino are considered the Braves’ best relievers, and the Braves entered the season liking the composition of their bullpen. But the starting rotation, the subject of much winter hand-wringing,  has been OK. It has an ERA of 3.80, 12th-best among the 30 MLB clubs. Alas, the bullpen has undercut that — it has an ERA of 5.19, fourth-worst in the majors, and has four blown saves.

The Braves’ rotation has worked 11 quality starts — at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs — in 18 games. The Braves have won six games. That’s math that does itself.

There are other issues. Face of the Franchise Dansby Swanson is hitting .139 with two walks against 19 strikeouts. His OPS is .357; in 38 big-league games last season, it was .803. Ender Inciarte had that improbable run of four homers — he had three all last season — in five games, but he’s 2-for-25 since the Padres left town. Nick Markakis has struck out 18 times in 18 games, which is something Nick Markakis isn’t supposed to do.

But forget all that. Baseball men will tell you that the quickest way to kill a team’s spirit isn’t for guys not to hit; it’s for a bullpen to blow leads. With better bullpen work, the Braves would have won Games 2 and 3 in Philly and would be 8-10, which isn’t great but beats the heck out of 6-12.

With the skewed early schedule (only seven home games in April) and the move to SunTrust Park, this always figured to be a weird April. Still, of the five teams the Braves have played, only Washington is above .500. And here they sit, having won six times in three weeks with a five-game winning streak interspersed. If they plan to be competitive into midsummer — and that was indeed the plan — they’d better get going.

Reader Comments 0

13 comments
HotStove
HotStove

And another thing:  The story about needing fifteen pitchers to produce five starters is just hogwash cover up to the failure to draft capable position players like Zack Collins instead of Ian Anderson.  This theory was disproved this season when the rotation was improved on the free agent and trade market cheaply, while no improvement in position players was achieved.  The Braves leadership is convinced the fans and the public are stupid.

HotStove
HotStove

The Braves have only two problems, Leadership and Talent.  Snitker and Coppolella need to go for sure and Hart as well.  They all three just make poor decisions.  Next, Swanson is not ready and needs time in AAA.  Bonifacio, Peterson, Garcia, Recker, Roe, Krol can all be DFA'd as they have shown that they do not have the talent required for the MLB.  Suzuki, Collmenter and Vizcaino are on the bubble as well.  All nine of these players are performing at a level below the average replacement.  Some patience may be warranted with Vizcaino due to sample size.  Snitker is only with Atlanta as a buffer to a Coppolella firing.  Maybe Coppy could do some other job in the organization but he is in over his head.  Hart does not want to be here and he is showing it.  If Hart was up to the job, he would cut loose the deadwood, but he doesn't want the challenge.

POV1948
POV1948

Coppollela's inability to evaluate pitching is his most consistent trait.

Gman84
Gman84

But wait!! Doesn't Keith Law say we are the best organization?? Let the good times roll!!!

JeffCriswell
JeffCriswell

I would rather suffer through defeat with hungry prospects than watch a patchwork team with no chemistry. 

GTBee
GTBee

Good for them for leaving Atlanta. Why do we continue to call them Atlanta Braves? Cumberland Braves seems more appropriate. Or Cobb County Braves. Cobb County. Lol. Love that name.

mwhitt80
mwhitt80

The new stadium smells is going to wear out quickly at the rate this team is pooping in the bed.


On a bright note, it took the 2016 team until May 1st to win 6 games; so the 2017 Barves are still a week ahead of that dumpster fire.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Any time the Braves front office says they "like" something, you can bet pretty safely that it's horribly flawed. 

Starksy
Starksy

@FineousMcDirtyBird Last week Braves CEO Terry McWorthless did a gushing interview with Chip and Dip that the team was positioned for greatness for the next five to ten years.

aulner
aulner

This is a hard team to watch.  Offense is offensive, The bullpen has crushed the spirit of this team.  Snitker is doing his best but I am afraid he was dealt a bad hand to play with.....

Bob_the_Blogger
Bob_the_Blogger

A quality start is at least six innings with three earned runs or less.

ctbold
ctbold

But the Battery looks great!   And the amenities - how 'bout them amenities?  And the outfield fences are different heights!  That's so cool!  Anybody wanna go shopping?  I hear it's wonderful!  and there's lots of bars to visit.  Awesome; that's what I want from my baseball team!