NLDS Game Three Review: Atlanta

Here’s a quick summary. Johnathan Sanchez and Tim Hudson threw gems, with the only run of the first seven frames coming off a Braves error. The Atlanta offense sputtered until Eric Hinske dumped a two-run home run just over the right field fence. The Giants offense rallied with two outs to tie the game off fill-in Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel, but it looked like the game would only be tied heading into the Braves’ half of the ninth. Instead, a grounder off the bat of Buster Posey found it’s way through the legs of Brooks Conrad – the second baseman’s third error of the day (videos here) – and the Giants took a 3-2 lead. They would not relinquish it, as Brian Wilson worked around a two out single to finish the game.

As much as the pitching performances and the clutch home run by Hinske are stories in themselves, the real story will be the terrible performance by Brooks Conrad. Conrad was 0-3 at the plate for a -.116 WPA, including a failed bunt attempt in the top of th 8th inning down by one run. His fielding performance, however will go down as historically bad, as two of his three errors were at least partially responsible for two of the three runs scored by San Francisco tonight.

The first error came in the first inning, as Conrad couldn’t handle a ball off the bat of Freddy Sanchez, resulting in two on and nobody out. We can’t assume the double play here, particularly because the runner on first, Andres Torres, was off with the pitch, but recording the out at first would’ve resulted on only the runner on second and one out instead. According to the WPA Inquirer – a tool that will be used throughout this post – that error cost the Braves 7.3% in terms of win expectancy, or a -.073 WPA for Conrad.

The second one wasn’t significantly more costly, but it did directly result in the first Giants run. In the second inning with none out and a runner on third, Conrad dropped a fly ball off the bat of Cody Ross, allowing Mike Fontenot to score and Ross to reach first base. According to the announcing crew, Fontenot hadn’t tagged up on the play, which would mean that the result of a catch would’ve been a runner on third, one out, and a tie game. That difference comes out to an 8.4% drop in win expectancy for the Braves – at third base and with only one out, there’s still a high probability that Fontenot would have scored. That puts Conrad’s total defensive WPA to this point at -.157, already an impressive total for a whole game, much less two innings.

The third one is the one that will stick in the minds of Braves fans and all others who watched this game unfold. The grounder off the bat of Posey found its way under Conrad, scoring Sanchez from second and allowing Aubrey Huff to go from first to third. If Conrad makes the play, then the inning is over and the game moves to the bottom of the ninth tied at two. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this play. If the out is made, the Braves carry a 62.6% win expectancy into the last half-inning. Instead, the Braves were down to a mere 14.7% win expectancy as Sanchez crossed the plate and with more threats on the bases. That expectancy, in reality, should be even lower due to the presence of Brian Wilson in the San Francisco bullpen. Lowering the run environment to three runs per nine innings results in an 11.8% win expectancy for Atlanta. Effectively, Conrad’s error lowered the Braves chances of winning from 5 in 8 to somewhere between 1 in 7 and 1 in 9.

Conrad’s total defensive WPA in this game comes in at a staggering -.635. That number, combined with his -.116 batting total, comes out to a total WPA of -.751. Brooks Conrad cost the Braves 75% of a postseason victory, one which would have put them one victory away from the next round of the playoffs. Conrad’s play tonight, particularly if the Braves don’t come back to win this series, will go down as one of the worst playoff performances of all time.

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25 Responses to “NLDS Game Three Review: Atlanta”

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  1. Creek Johnson says:

    If managers had WPA, Bobby’s would be negative too.

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  2. carl robinette says:

    so basically, Brooks Conrad broke WPA this season?

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  3. Josh says:

    including a failed bunt attempt in the top of th 8th inning down by one run.

    Since when does the home team bat in the top of an inning?

    or the spelled th?

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  4. Mike B. says:

    I think Mr. Conrad won’t be wearing a Braves uniform next season. Or perhaps any major-league uniform.

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    • Anon21 says:

      He has some value as a pinch hitter. If he had remained in that role, no one would know his name, and he’d probably be a happier guy.

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  5. Ars says:

    I’ll admit, I was eagerly waiting for a statistical dissection of Brooks Conrad’s play from you guys.

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  6. frug says:

    At least Brooks Conrad will go down in history.

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  7. bflaff says:

    I know the Braves were pretty thin due to injuries, but it isn’t like Conrad’s inability to make routine plays suddenly manifested itself at the worst possible time. Braves had to choose between bats and gloves, and made the wrong pick here.

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  8. NEPP says:

    On one level, I feel bad for Brooks Conrad. He simply shouldn’t be starting on a playoff team. He was their 3rd option at 3B this year and it shows. Still, you simply HAVE to make those plays. He’s just overmatched. Tough break for the Braves.

    You’d think someone with the first name Brooks would be good at the hot corner.

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    • NEPP says:

      That should say 2B, not 3B…typo.

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      • Brandon says:

        You were right though. He was their 3rd option at 3B after Chipper and Martin, but had to be moved to second because he couldn’t throw across the diamond.

        I’m trying to be sympathetic to him as a human being, but as a Braves fan, I want to strangle him with my bare hands.

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  9. Andrew says:

    I have yet to hear a reasonable answer for why Diory Hernandez was not in the game in the ninth. While I think he should start, obviously Bobby Cox (and Rob Neyer today) are more focused on small sample size (1 hit in 9 ABs this year in MLB) over AAA stats (.319/344/414 this year, 319/399/422 last year).

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  10. CircleChange11 says:

    I’m not defending Konrad, but the ball he dropped in shallow RF is Heyward’s. Still he tried to catch it with his glove facing the wall instead of it facing his chest.

    More on Heyward. I’ve read how he’s a really good fielder, and on a later play he was late in getting to a soft liner, let it play on a hop and then made a poor throw to home. His range is either not as good as advertised or he’s playing way too deep. Not sure what it is because he almost made a catch at the wall.

    Lastly Konrad’s 3rd error is a 2B’s nightmare … A hard hit shot that hits the lip of the grass. The ball stayed down when it usually bounces up and went under his glove, all while he was trying to get into position for a DP. You can tell by his posture that he expected the ball to hop up closer to his belt, but it stayed below his knees. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t on those. If you play it low and it jumps up it goes over your shoulder or you take it off the face.

    Reminded me of Uggla in the ASG, except Uggla plays 2B wearing boxing gloves. I do feel bad for Konrad. So much for replacement level defense.

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    • bsally says:

      I really don’t blame Heyward at all for the Huff hit, he had to guard against the ball getting past him and the winning run scoring. And the ball that Conrad dropped was on the very next AB after Heyward totally knocked the wind out of himself running into the wall, it’s hard to fault him for that one either.

      And while I sympathize with Conrad, the third error was totally inexcusable. You’re always trained as an infielder to stay down and if the ball hops up, you take it off the chest. Still though, there’s zero reason that he should have been in that situation in the first place.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      Thumbs-down on the “I’m going to deliberately misspell an opposing player’s name because it’s all cute and passive-aggressive and stuff” business.

      So idiotic. I cannot stand that affectation.

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    • dan says:

      “Lastly Konrad’s 3rd error is a 2B’s nightmare … A hard hit shot that hits the lip of the grass. The ball stayed down when it usually bounces up and went under his glove, all while he was trying to get into position for a DP.”

      There were 2 outs in the inning. Seems silly to try to turn a double play with 2 outs.

      Hernandez should have been in the game, plain and simple.

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    • B N says:

      I agree that you can’t really blame Conrad for the 2nd error. It was an awful long run to try to do an over the shoulder catch, by an infielder. That’s a ball Heyward would have had, if he hadn’t still been shook up from the previous play.

      But the other two errors were him. Pure and simple. I get that the 3rd one wasn’t an easy ball, but a real 2B would have gotten that one. Utley would have had it. Freddy Sanchez would have had it. Cano and Kinsler would have had it. I believe we’re seeing a trend here. Conrad is the 2nd best option at 2B. Who’s better? All the other guys.

      While this postseason has been particularly bad, it only takes a glance at his career stats to see he is not a good fielder. Or a good hitter for that matter. He appears to have one good skill, which is power. So in some ways, I don’t blame him. He’s a pinch hitter who’s been put in the field. For that, you have to blame Atlanta. For under 1m, they could have had a solid defensive backup for 2B who would be all glove… and would have a better WAR and WPA. Instead, they didn’t set up appropriate depth and they’re stuck with a lead glove out there. While Conrad’s not THAT bad, he’s always been bad in the field so what else should people expect?

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  11. Nick says:

    The real question is who pitched better, Tim Hudson or Jonathan Sanchez? Who relied on their defense more than the other?

    Personally, I think it’s sad that Sanchez isn’t getting more love for how filthy he was. Still disagree with Bochy for putting Romo in and then Cox outmanaging Bochy with countering for Hinske.

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    • george says:

      Likewise, see Washington, R. series should be over

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    • Andrew says:

      The Hinske move was a great move. Not sure how Bochy didn’t see it coming from a mile away though.

      Too bad Bobby decided that would be the only good decision he would make after bringing Kimbrel in for the 9th (no Diory as defensive replacement and then pulling Kimbrel-who looked dominant despite the baserunners b/c that’s what Kimbrel does–for Mike Dunn are just inexcusable). I hope Fredi Gonzalez uses the personnel better next year.

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  12. Frankenkeen says:

    Even as a Giants fan, and no matter how much I’m savoring a torturous victory, I find it very difficult to re-watch Conrad’s error clips on without grimacing.

    While Conrad is almost solely responsible from the Braves defeat today (as much as one person can in a team sport) I don’t believe the second of his errors, which resulted in the Giants first run, was his fault. It was certainly Heyward’s ball, but he seemed to never see it and so it was left to Conrad to make a play that would have been considered spectacular if he had been able to bring it in.

    The third error is a toughie as well. The ball was stung and had nasty action that led to it to skip across the infield dirt instead of bounce. Of course it’s a clear cut error (unlike his previous one) but in my opinion its excusable for Conrad to have failed to glove it. His mistake came in his inability to keep the ball in front of him, which would have prolonged the inning, still gone down as an error, but would have prevented the run.

    There is a feeling of guilt when a “W” comes on the whipping of a player who, up until the beginning of the playoffs, had been something of an inspirational story of minor league perseverance, so while I don’t mean to be a complete Brooks apologist, I do feel some perspective is needed in gauging the difficulty of the plays in which he committed 2 of his 3 errors.

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    • B N says:

      I hear you. I do sort of hope the official scoring changes for his 2nd error, as that seemed like a harsh judgment. Running halfway into the outfield trying to make a catch over your shoulder is in no way “normal effort.” With that said, I do blame him for the 3rd. Sure, the ball was bouncing off the dirt, got it. That’s why better infielders charge the ball to get it towards the end of a bounce, rather than after it bounces (changing the spin, etc).

      Plus, just as a general principle, humans can estimate trajectories better when both they AND the ball are moving. It’s a visual-flow + motor-preconception thing. So either way, the whole issue of freezing in place played a major factor in bobbling the ball. Not an easy play, but one that professional 2B players make all the time.

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  13. Jason says:

    What is the WPA of the little roller up along first to Buckner?

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  14. CircleChange11 says:

    I saw the highlights again …

    (1) On the shallow bloopers, Heyward’s last 3 steps were half speed. He pulled up instead of calling Conrad off. At the HS level, we’d be all over the RF for nit taking charge. Especially so, given it was a 3A IF and a good ML OF.

    (2) Still, Conrad tried to catch it with his glove facing the wrong way. It hit off his heel of his glove and bounced away. With his glove facing him, and bounce off the glove would have bounced toward his chest, and he could have smothered the catch.

    (3) On the 2-out grounder he was not turning two but trying to force at second. The ball was not hit that hard and he pooped his pants. Moving away from the play, it ate him up, instead of circling around and fielding it with his mo moving to 1B. Bad play.

    As hard as it is to feel sorry for someone that makes it to the ML’s, u do have to feel for him. There’s no hole to hide in out there, and there’s no crying in baseball … So he just had to stand out there and take it. As a dad, I kept thinking of the conversation that must take place between him and his kids. Tough day when your kids realize you’re not a superhero.

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