Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Game 2: Braves v. Nationals 4/12/16

That was a winnable game. I thought the Braves had a legitimate shot at pulling out a victory given the pitching matchup and the prior success that several hitters had against Gio Gonzalez. Alas, none of that came to pass. And it hangs on two people, both of which were named Fred.

One Freddie many of you love and can do almost no wrong. The other Fredi many of you despise and want him fired yesterday. Both of them played into this loss, and both of them need to get it together quickly or this losing streak will continue well into next week.

Why was Freddie Freeman a problem? Freeman was 0-3 with a walk in the game. The score was 0-0 when Freddie came to the plate in the top of the 8th with no outs. There were runners on 1st and 2nd, and the lead runner was Mallex Smith. Now in this case, I don't need a hit out of Freddie. I need something either to right field, a slow roller grounder that doesn't result in a double play, or heaven forbid a bunt, or basically some contact that's not sharply hit right to a fielder. What I got was a strikeout. From our "best" hitter with a game on the line who is currently hitting .095 on the season. No runners advance, nobody behind him can get a hit, and we got nothing that inning. If it's just one AB, it's one thing. But Freddie hasn't hit at all in this 0-7 streak, and until he does we might never see another win.

Why was Fredi Gonzalez a problem? Several reasons. First, when the Braves got a runner on 2nd with two outs in the top of the 7th, Fredi pulled Chacin and pinch hit Jace Peterson to try and get the run in for the win. The problem with that line of thinking is after the game he said he might not have done it were it not for the losing streak. Chacin only had 69 pitches and wasn't just great, he was shutdown phenomenal. Add in the fact the every Braves fan in the world knows the bullpen can't cover 3 innings right now, and you end up with a rock and hard place decision to go for the win.

However, I could have forgiven that move if Fredi put in a pinch hitter with a decent record. Jace is a .167 pinch hitter with only 15 appearances. He's a .182 hitter with 2 outs and RISP. Under no circumstances is Jace the guy to hit in that scenario, unless you believe in Fredi's philosophy that Lefty/Righty matchups outweigh all other statistics. Because Jace is a lefty he went into that slot against a RH reliever, and struck out.

But wait, you'd say as a smart fan. Wasn't Kelly Johnson available? A lefty hitter with much more PH experience and a longer career? A guy that has a .243 average with 2 outs and RISP? A guy that hits lefties at a .273 clip and a PH average of .205? There's literally no case where Jace was a better choice in that slot than Kelly Johnson. But Fredi waited until later in the game to put in Kelly, who knocked in the only run of the game well after it stopped mattering.

There's more though. With two outs and runners on 1st and 2nd in the bottom of the 8th, Fredi made two more key errors. One, he decided to go with Eric O'Flaherty as a lefty reliever to face Bryce Harper, even though EOF has an ERA over 13 on the season and 2 credited losses. Two, he decided to pitch to Harper at all, a .300 hitter with .750 slugging this season and the 2015 MVP. With the game on the line and a base open. You easily can walk him and take your chances with Zimmerman, or you can go with Vizciano who is a better pitcher. But no, Fredi is OBSESSED with lefty matchups over all else. So instead of the better RH Vizciano, he went with the infinitely worse lefty EOF against the best hitter in the league. And shocker of shockers, Bryce Harper won the game for the Nationals with a hit.

Playing the percentages doesn't work if your talent isn't the same. That's what drives me nuts about Fredi's pitching management. He makes what he considers the right matchup call, but he doesn't weigh in the factor that one pitcher is simply WAY better than another, or one batter will smack around a guy no matter what arm he uses. By Fredi's logic pulling a AAA guy who is a lefty out of the pen is a better option that our RH closer because Bryce Harper is left handed, and that's patently insane. I'm tired of it.

We need both Fred's to wake up and get this thing pointed in the right direction. Because I guarantee you one thing, the front office won't sit on it's collective hands while the team sets futility records as they prepare to head into a new ballpark.

GO BRAVES!

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