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:

playoff cwpa 10-8-19

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.


1500 words to say that Conan never was that funny and he isn’t getting funnier and TBS doesn’t seem to care

Mostly for structural technological reasons, this ALDLAND writer doesn’t watch a lot of TV. Like anyone even loosely following popular media and culture over the last few years, though, I’ve seen Conan– primarily on-demand, online, and for reasons unrelated to O’Brien himself– and have some opinion on him that I haven’t enunciated because it didn’t seem worth the effort to put into words that someone else would want to read that Conan really isn’t that funny. His move away from NBC piqued interest in the way that Charlie Sheen’s meltdown did– a spectacle was happening, and the corporate networks were openly trying to figure out how to handle it– but the only real consequence I felt was that the Mighty Max was off daily television.

Grantland’s Andy Greenwald took up the task of writing all of that (even the paragraph above feels like too much) out longhand and nearly long form. Here’s the portion I thought quote-worthy:

But after a week watching The Great Conando pant after nobodies and ding Americans for being overweight, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the lower ratings that should concern TBS. It’s the lowered expectations. By constantly moving the goalposts and pre-apologizing for Conan’s numbers, TBS only reinforces the perception that they’re less interested in the reality of Conan as a talk show than they are in the projected fantasy of it as some sort of web-friendly content farm. (Last week, Vince Vaughn “stopped by” to debut a trailer for his new movie. Yes, the star wattage was nice, but it seemed like an awfully expensive way for TBS to involve itself in something the Internet already does well enough for free, the equivalent of priority-mailing a letter to announce an e-mail you plan on sending in the morning.) Koonin’s hands-off policy and drama-free endorsements (“He’s our Mount Rushmore”) must make for a pleasant change of pace after 17 years among the backstabbing brownshirts at NBC. But it also seems to have stripped O’Brien of his most powerful weapon: his ferocious survival instinct.

Whether he was staving off cancellation rumors with coked-up werewolves or blowing off NBC’s rescheduling plans by blowing their money, O’Brien’s comedy has always worked best when he’s fighting for his life. . . . Now, tasked with little more than delivering a modest number of age-appropriate eyeballs, O’Brien seems both stunted and settled, lavishly rewarded for doing what he loves most for a company that seems to value the end product the least. It’s been well established by now that Conan O’Brien can’t stop. But it seems he’s only transcendent when someone is trying to make him.

Which is a nice way of saying what I wrote above, I think.

I also think that the reason I find myself watching him on youtube (again, for the guests) more than his competitors (that’d be Letterman, Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon) is because those comedians who seem to be smart (Louie, Norm, Tracy, Will) also seem to really respect Conan, and they seem to elicit honest, non-Guy Smiley reactions from Conan, and those do add to the experience of watching the guest.

Although maybe that’s really just a Norm thing.