May 9, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ervin Santana (30) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves Need To Get Out Of Their Own Way

Atlanta, Get Out Of Your Own Way!

The Atlanta Braves lost a close one, 8-6 yesterday to the visiting Boston Red Sox.  It shouldn’t have been a loss or even a close loss at all, since the struggling Sox were on an 0-10 skid before coming to Atlanta and Turner Field, and frankly they should still be on that skid if not for some sketchy pitching, once again, from Ervin Santana.

I don’t wish to be too hard on Ervin Santana of course, but I’ve had my doubts all along as to whether Santana could maintain the kind of command he had in April, where by his last start that month he had managed an amazing 1.95 ERA.  Since the first of May though, Santana’s ERA has slowly but surely began to balloon to his current 4.06 ERA.  The majority of that inflation has come in the last three starts for Ervin, where in each of those starts he’s given up at least five earned runs.

Atlanta must learn, game-in and out, to get out of their own way.  
In tonight’s disappointing loss to the Sox, Santana gave up five runs on six hits, while also walking three batters in just five short innings.  To be frank, Santana’s current ERA is much more in line with his career numbers than anything he did in April, so this inflation comes as no huge shock.  Our only hope is that the slide doesn’t continue, and we have no reason to believe it will.  Certainly the Sox were hungry with their 10 game slide, the worst for them by the way since their eleven game slide in 1994.

 

With Clay Buchholz struggling as well, and again I might add, the Atlanta Braves jumped all over him for an early 6-1 lead after four innings, but as the old saying goes it only takes one mistake to lose a baseball game.  There were several, but the big mistake was Santana hanging a pitch right over the middle to Boston’s David Ortiz in the the fifth inning.  That had to be one of the most pathetic pitches I’ve seen from a solid starter, right into David’s wheelhouse, and then right over the fence! There can be no excuse for such a pitch from a veteran like Santana, and thankfully Ervin Santana offered none in post-game interviews.  He simply blew it, and he knew it.

Some Positives

Offensively, the Braves as a whole are playing much better in recent games, although we are still seeing a lack of patience at the plate, a tendency to swing at too many first pitches, and making little effort to hit to fields that will score runs.  All too often we see Braves’ batters still trying to power the ball out of the park instead of making small adjustments to their stance, and making a concerted effort to get base hits and score runs.  This team, in my opinion, is NOT strictly a power team, and need to stop acting like they are if they hope to continue to win games.  You know another old saying – most teams that live by the long ball die by the long ball.  

Some positives that we are seeing are improvements in Jason Heyward‘s work as leadoff hitter, Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton‘s continued and solid approach at the plate, and really solid defense.  Let’s not forget as well  how solid our middle relief has been since David Hale and Alex Wood took up residence there, and while we’ve seen a few hiccups from a few starters, our rotation is still pitching exceptionally well!

 

Some Lingering Negatives

Where we are still seeing major issues is Chris Johnson not driving the ball to the opposite field as he showed so adeptly last season, too much of a tendency from Andrelton Simmons to try and hit for power, and while we’ve seen more solid contact from B.J. Upton lately, I still think he has primarily a one-dimensional approach at the plate.  He makes contact, but normally only with slower cures and sliders, and he tends to hit too often to center.  At times, it seems like he has little ability to do anything else.

 

Final Take

The good news is that all these issues are small issues, and quite easily fixed with a touch of patience and thought to each at-bat.  I would love to see the Braves stop this tendency to swing at first pitches so much.  We will see them go one game infinitely patient, and then the very next game lose that patience entirely.  I want to see the Braves’ batters make some small adjustments in their at-bats, and stop swinging for the fences with oblique-pinching abandon!

This team can still surprise us, and they have much, much more talent than they often allow themselves to show.  Often any team’s biggest enemy is itself, and the Braves would do well to let the other team be that enemy, and stop giving games away.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Ervin Santana

  • Joseph Fain

    This is what was so frustrating about watching the Braves offense squander so many great pitching performances earlier in the season – you knew that a) the offense would get better, and b) the pitching would come back to earth. We need to get all facets clicking at once.

    On a broader view, the Braves have largely been a second half team under Bobby and now Fredi. Let’s up they are just getting the kinks worked out.

    • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

      I heard you Joseph. This team has a ton of talent, but just needs to concentrate on finding their true identity, and playing within themselves.

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    I’m actually gonna put this loss on Fredi… something I rarely do.

    The caveat here is that Santana’s inning came unraveled in a hurry, but either Wood or Avilan should have been in to face David Ortiz in that situation in the 5th inning. I’m sure Fredi was thinking that one pitch could end the threat – and that was certainly true, but once the 2nd/3rd runs got on the board, it was time to change pitchers.

    In the 7th inning, he had another chance to bring Avilan in… and still didn’t. At least not until it was already too late.

    I understand that idea of trusting your pitchers, but here you had a team already on the ground (10 straight losses) with a boot on their neck, and you let them back up with enough strength left to kill you. Now you still have 3 more games with a rejuvenated club… 2 of those back in their yard. Not good. The price for being wrong on these pitching changes was much too high for the actions Fredi didn’t take.

    • Joseph Fain

      But isn’t that pretty consistent with the Coxian style of managing? I constantly felt with Bobby, and now with Fredi, that the pitchers were left in a batter or inning too long.

      • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

        I can’t disagree. I could almost give a pass on the 5th inning, given the speed at which that unraveled. However, you could argue that in the 7th, we were looking at a replay of the 5th and alternate pitchers were already available. As it happened, Thomas got lucky: he (barely) kept Ortiz in the yard. As it is, 2 AB and 4 RBI.

  • fireboss

    After the game Fredi said he left Santana in to “let him get his win.” That might have worked 15 years ago but not today. A pitcher’s win/loss record means a lot less than his IP, WHIP, and ERA (or FIP i yopu’re that way inclined.) The game is about the TEAM getting the win not the pitcher and his diddling around cost us this game. I don’t want to see a quick hook every time but the Red Sox were reeling and Buicholz had them with their head down. Walking bottom of the lineup guys with a 5 run lead is unacceptable. Wood was up and ready unfortunately Fredi was asleep. Bringing in Wood sticks the knife in as the Red Sox see a rally die instead Santana and Fredi offered them a hand up and two free punches effectively knocking the Braves out of the game (enough mixed metaphors?)

    I am slightly more upbeat on BJ than you. He wasn’t hitting ANY pitching over the last year so consistently hitting the 3–5 starters is an improvement. It should not be seen as this huge turn around I see everyone proffering on Twitter but it’s better than anything else we have. Someone (Fredi or Walker) needs to sit Simba down and say “Repeat after me, right field, I will hit to right field, I will not try to pull the ball, I will not fly out of my shoes on every swing. My wild swings hurt the team. I will stop those and take shorter more effective swings and when I do my power will come.” Once he’s repeated that for an hour or so maybe it will stick. He’s surrounded by swing from the shoe tops players and wants to be one as well; he’s not. Until he consciously admits that he’ll never be the superstar he has the tools to become.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      If there was no other position on the field to worry about, I’d be All In with you on that idea… but unfortunately, there’s that hole still staring at us from Second Base. Yes, Pastornicky has shown a LITTLE life there, though his defense is still sketchy (1 official error thus far) [I'm sure you've noticed - Uggla's still throwing high to first, BTW]. But when I say a “little” life, he’s still at .212 now, .231 for May.

      Four more weeks at most… that’s the La Stella time window counting down. If Pastornicky suddenly jumps up to .280-.300, then he stays. If not, then Dan gets released. That’s my guess.
      Next off-days are June 2nd and 5th, then the 23rd. I think it’s one of the first two dates.

      • fireboss

        Not sure what you don;t agree with. I’m not sitting Simba on the bench. I want him to be told every time he goes to the plate – Hit the ball to right, short swing hands inside the ball. When he comes out of his shoes swinging I;d stop him at the step and say, Is That what I told you to do? He’s trying to be Jason, Justin and sadly BJ instead of being Simba. All I want is a smooth controlled swing, bat on the ball and stop seeing him fall uncontrollably across the plate with every swing.

  • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

    Yes, and after all these comments on Fredi, I’m sad that I didn’t take another paragraph or two to wax that way about Fredi’s goofs. I certainly didn’t mean to pin the whole debacle on Ervin. I concur that Fredi was again stupid in this game.