Braves in September

Several reasons have floated around for the cause of the Braves’ historic collapse. Many people point to the horrible September that the Braves and their players experienced. Similar down months happened previously in the 2011 season, but went unnoticed due to the lack of playoff implications.

No Offense

The Braves offense was not a powerhouse over the entire season. They averaged just under four runs a game (3.96). It was 10th in the NL. While not great, it was even worse over the last month. They scored only 87 runs, or 3.22 runs per game. Now, which of the following slash lines led to the offensive collapse:

#1: 0.235/0.300/0.357
#2: 0.222/0.290/0.388

The first one is September, while the second is from June. Here are the actual results:

June: 17-9 record with 105 RS or 4.04 R/G
Sept.: 9-18 record with 87 RS or 3.22 R/G

Now taking it one step further, here are the expected number of runs scored using Tom Tango’s Morkov Run Expectancy Calculator for the two months:

June: 3.77 R/G or 98 total runs for the month
Sept: 3.60 R/G or 97 total runs for the month

The Braves had nearly the same offensive production in the two months. In June, they scored more runs than they should have. In September, they scored fewer than they should have. The lack of offensive production was not limited to just September for the Braves in 2011, but it will be the month remembered.

Craig Kimbrel Wearing Down

Craig Kimbrel did not have a good month (4.76 ERA, 3 Blown Saves) and people love to point it out. Again, guess which group of stats is his in September:

#1: 14.7 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 1.43 WHIP, 2.37 FIP, 2.34 xFIP
#2: 15.9 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 1.41 WHIP, 3.64 FIP, 2.12 xFIP

The FIP may give it away, but the first set of data is from May and the second one is from September. While most pitchers would take those numbers any day, they are near to, or worse than, his yearly numbers, as follow:

2011: 14.8 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.04 WHIP, 1.52 FIP, 1.94 xFIP

The month of September was not unique for him. He maintained the same average fastball velocity across the season. If he was wearing down, there were no signs of it. If having a bad month means he was done, he should have been shutdown in May.


People are going to look back and remember the epic September collapse of the Braves. The reasons behind the collapse were spotlighted happening in the last month. They happened at other times during the year. The last month will unfortunately be the one cited.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

19 Responses to “Braves in September”

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  1. Nik says:

    Kimbrel wasn’t worn down. He just chocked under pressure.

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  2. Jamie says:

    choking – regression. same thing. dude lost it.

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  3. kampfer says:

    I was watching the game and I think he is squeezed a little.
    He had been around the zone and hitting his spots be4 the umpire just decided to not give him the low outside corner. His command was indeed impressive yesterday and McCann was framing his pitches quite well. It was really more the umpire than anything who beat Kimbrel.

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  4. Neuter Your Dogma says:

    Also add that the Braves’ Sept. pitching was not as good as prior months. Venters, Minor and Delgado -0.4 WAR.

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  5. HarryLime says:

    Considering Hanson and Jurrjens were on the DL in the final month, the Braves “collapse” isn’t all that surprising. I don’t view it as a collapse, more like some really bad timing.

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  6. NEPP says:

    Dont forget about Venters also wearing down:

    Apr-Aug: .453 OPS, 1.31 ERA, 0.965 WHIP
    Sept: .793 OPS, 5.11 ERA, 1.865 WHIP

    Perhaps Fredi Gonzalez isn’t the best manager when it comes to bullpen management, eh?

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  7. Phantom Stranger says:

    Speaking honestly, Fredi had limited options down the stretch, as the starters were just not going deep into games once Hanson and Jurrjens went down. Part of the problem was the anemic offense, producing close games almost every night. My guess is that Fredi thought the Wild Card would have been clinched much earlier than the final day of the season. Once it became apparent that was not going to be the case, there were few opportunities to rest the reliable relievers in the heat of a close race.

    McCann was just a shell of himself after the injury, who probably should not have been out there. Heyward’s season was a complete disaster, I hope it does not permanently affect his development. His swing is so screwed up that every single team was using the same book all season to get him out.

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  8. David says:

    Point article neglects to mention: the bad stuff happened concurrently in September, while throughout the rest of the year, when bad stuff happened, there were other things going right to pick up the slack. It was a very Murphy’s (not Dale) Law type of month for the Braves.

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  9. stratobill says:

    How can you start an article by alluding to “several reasons being floated around” for the Braves collapse and then fail to mention that they were missing two of the best starting pitchers all month? Any team that loses quality starters like Hansen and Jurrgens is going to be hard-pressed to keep winning.

    You must of been in a hurry to post this.

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