Brief Atlanta Braves 2019 NLDS Update: Your Eyes and Ears do Not Deceive You

Yesterday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals forced a decisive fifth NLDS game against the Braves, which will occur tomorrow evening back in Atlanta. Each of the Cardinals’ two wins came by a single run, while the Braves have claimed their wins in low-scoring 3-1 and 3-0 affairs. All of the games have been full of the sort of tension-built excitement that makes October baseball so much fun.

Atlanta was and remains the favored team and has home-field “advantage” for game five, but it’s clear that they’re going to need more from the full depth of their lineup if they’re going to top this plucky Cardinals team. If the Braves’ roster has looked (and sounded– local radio coverage > TBS national telecast coverage) consistently inconsistent this series, your sensory receptors aren’t deceiving you. Take a look at the current status of the 2019 postseason cWPA leaderboard:

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Atlanta fans probably have been saying to each other, “Wow, Dansby Swanson and Adam Duvall and Ronald Acuña and Mike Foltynewicz have been huge for the Braves this series, and, moreover, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis have been completely useless, and Mark Melancon and Julio Teheran have been killing us!” As cWPA confirms, the analysis by those Atlanta fans has been spot on!

As good as the good guys have been, it’s difficult to imagine the Braves advancing without getting something– anything, at this point– from Freeman, whose .535 OPS in this series indicates he’s been worse at the plate than any qualified hitter in the 2019 regular season. (Even 2018 Chris Davis had an OPS of .539! Since 1988, only two qualified hitters ever have posted a regular-season OPS below .535: Matt Walbeck (.530 in 1994) and MLB Network’s own Billy Ripken (.518 in 1988).) Sure, it’s only been four games, but Freeman’s been practically invisible– just two hits, one walk, and one run scored across eighteen plate appearances in which he struck out five times in a key spot in Atlanta’s lineup– at times when the Braves really need him to shine. This isn’t necessarily news, as he entered the postseason on a cold streak, but he’s going to have to snap out of it quickly.

Game five starts tomorrow in Atlanta at 5:02 pm. Indications are that Foltynewicz, winner in game two, will start for the Braves, and Jack Flaherty, owner of a dominant second half leading into these playoffs, will start for the Cardinals.

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2017 Atlanta Braves Season Preview

Spring training is under way, which makes this the perfect time to find out what’s going on with the Atlanta Braves as they prepare for their first season in Cobb County. My latest contribution to Banished to the Pen is a preview of the 2017 Atlanta Braves. Even more than usual, I do recommend taking in this and other Braves content, including however you prefer to track game action, from the relative comfort of your home, office, or mobile unit, because actually getting to these games is going to be a bear, and El Oso Blanco lives in Houston now.

The full post is available here.

The Braves are failing on their own terms

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It’s no mystery that I’m not crazy about the business decisions made by the Atlanta Braves’ leadership in the last few years. When I arrived in Atlanta, the Braves were a playoff team. Three years later, they’re a fourth-place team in their own division, nearly unrecognizable both in terms of record and roster. So many familiar faces are gone (only five players on Atlanta’s 2013 40-man roster remain, and the best of that bunch, Freddie Freeman, is the subject of daily trade rumors, while three of them might not belong on any major-league roster), and the team’s new, suburban stadium project, which was wrong-headed from day one, isn’t looking any better at last check.

I’m willing to concede that reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of the Braves’ recent management decisions, though. The problem for proponents of the Braves’ plan to put a winner on the new field in 2017, all other attendant circumstances be damned, however, is that they aren’t even doing that right:

The Braves are set to move into a new, publicly funded stadium in Cobb County in 2017, and even if the rebuild goes smoothly, they seem unlikely to be in a position to win by then. There’s an unwritten rule to the art of stadium-building that says if you’re going to use the public’s money to fund shiny new digs (and you bet the Braves are), you at least have to make a good-faith effort to put a solid product on the field. The Braves are trending in the opposite direction, cutting payroll and trading off cornerstone players while construction crews are turning the $672 million SunTrust Park from blueprint to reality.

On average, a team’s payroll increased 21 percent the year it moved into a new stadium, and it jumped a staggering 57 percent during the four-year span prior to Opening Day in the new park—there’s some plain ol’ inflation mixed in there, but much of the increase is due to owners willing to shell out big contracts in exchange for the discount on a franchise-altering stadium deal.

It typically costs money to build winning baseball teams, and spend money is what teams usually do when they want to have a winning team playing its home games in their new stadium. Atlanta, by contrast, has been reducing payroll in all of its recent transactions. In other words, they aren’t doing the thing other teams do when they’re doing the thing the Braves say they’re doing.

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Previously
New Braves stadium project continues to falter
Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Cobb’s Braves Stadium Bond Deal
Braves Break Ground on Baseball Boondoggle
The yard sale at Upton Abbey continues
From Barves to Burbs: What’s happening to baseball in Atlanta?

Upton Abbey – S2E1 – April Showers

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As planned, ALDLAND conducted a show of force during the Braves’ home-opening week, making our presence felt during game three of each series, which were played against the Mets and Nationals.

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Although Atlanta lost that game and the series to the Mets that Thursday night, the game was a sign of things to come for the Braves. Continue reading

Upton Abbey: Episode 2 – Lords of the Manor

upton abbey bannerWe somehow managed to get through the first installment of this series without even mentioning the Braves’ big offseason acquisitions and namesakes of this very series, Justin and B.J. Upton. The brothers did not wait to let their presence on the team be made known, however. Continue reading