Should the Braves Be Concerned About the Playoffs?

It’s easy to forget when your favorite team is mired in one, but every team, except maybe the 2001 Mariners, slumps during the course of a season. Good teams can usually overcome these losing bouts. It’s the beauty of a 162-game season. But when those slumps come in September it can become threatening to a team’s playoff chances. As the remaining games dwindle a team has fewer chances to recover. That can render fatal an otherwise innocuous slump. The Braves appear to be in one of those slides.

A day after watching Derek Lowe pitch perhaps his best game as a Brave, the team crumbled at the feet of Livan Hernandez. That’s not all bad, considering this has been Hernandez’s best season since the Expos still existed, but when viewed in the context of the Braves’ slump it looks that much worse. The loss incensed Crag Calcaterra, noted Braves fan, who said, “I guess that means the Braves still lead the wild card race, but it’s a fact: you are not deserving of a playoff spot if you go out and get shut the hell down by Livan freakin’ Hernandez in mid-September.” When I first read that I thought it was an overreaction, but after looking at the Braves’ woes of late I’m not so sure.

Baseball Prospectus’s playoff odds report still gives the Braves a 77 percent chance of making the playoffs, whether by winning the division, 32 percent, or the Wild Card, 45 percent. That gives them far better odds than the next closest Wild Card contender, the Giants, who have a 44 percent chance of entry. An average of a million simulations gives the Braves 91.8 wins the rest of the way, which tops the Giants by 1.7 wins and even the Padres by 0.4 wins. But the simulations don’t know the exact nature of the Braves’ slump. Is it something they can battle through? Or is it of the 2007-2008 Mets ilk?

The rest of the Braves’ schedule contains plenty of opportunity. After finishing their series with the Nationals today they’ll head to New York, Philadelpha, and then Washington. That means two series against the sub-.500 teams and one against the team that sits just two games ahead of them. Philly won’t make it easy for Atlanta, though, as they’ll send Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt to the mound next week. After that, the Braves finish the season with two series at home, one against the Marlins and the final one against the Phillies again. That final series could be the key to the season.

The Phillies also finish the season with an NL East circuit, but they get Washington twice and Florida not at all after today. That probably leaves Atlanta to the Wild Card, which should still be in play during those last three days of the season. The Giants will do battle with the Padres, and there could be a playoff spot on the line there, too. The Braves, though, will be facing a comfortable Philly team that will probably want to line up its playoff rotation and make sure its starters are rested. That could give the Braves just the advantage they need.

A lot of this, of course, depends on how the Braves play in the 13 games before that final Philadelphia series. It doesn’t help that they’re down 4-0 to the Nationals as I write this. But if they can hold on and keep their lead in, or at least remain tied for, the Wild Card race between now and the season finale they could certainly make the playoffs — deservedly or not.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


78 Responses to “Should the Braves Be Concerned About the Playoffs?”

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  1. Bobo says:

    Hey Joe, when you get a chance fix the title to say, ‘braves’ not brave. Nice article, the braves will be fine, they have a ton of games with the Phils left and still have a fair shot at winning NL east. 6 games head to head to help decide.

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  2. Nick says:

    Joe, I like you a lot and I love your work on RAB. And this isn’t so much you a criticism specifically made toward you as it is toward the site.

    The articles on this site are garbage. Absolute, 100% garbage. Nobody obviously proofread this. It took no research at all. And it isn’t just this one, it’s every one. If a Fangraphs article isn’t something I could have looked up in a minute like “Usually bad/good player is having a good/bad season! It’s because of his BABIP going up/down,” it’s another thing I could have determined/found in 10 seconds like “The Braves are slumping and might miss the playoffs,” “Joe Saunders sucks,” or “Derek Lowe pitched a good game!” And the terrible quality is shocking, since most of the non-Cameron writers on this site are very smart, and usually very good when writing at their own blogs.

    So…I dunno, try harder? Invest in an AP stylebook? Whatever.

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    • Hunter says:

      I’m not sure I would put it as harshly as you did, but I tend to agree. I wouldn’t say all of the articles, but at least 50% are totally obvious conclusions that render an article unnecessary. e.g. the “Joe Saunders still sucks” article.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I wouldn’t say all of the articles, but at least 50% are totally obvious conclusions that render an article unnecessary. e.g. the “Joe Saunders still sucks” article.

        True. I view the articles, not so much as informative pieces (solely), but more of a “starting point” for a good discussion involving author and readers that are interested in the topic.

        Any, in-depth article that included research and that was well-written on a very detailed and specific topic would likely involve considerable time by the author and exist in a format that would be too lengthy for many readers to committ to.

        You can’t have those types of articles on a website that updates with 7-10 articles per day. Over a 162-game season, most of the things are obvious.

        There might be 8-15 very interesting article topics out there, about someone having a very peculiar season, or something along those lines. Most of those articles would fit in nicely in a baseball annual (IMO) rather than a daily website/forum.

        Readers want these masterfully written and extensively researched, highly interesting articles that inform and provoke intelligent discussion … all in a few hundred words, and about topics that are very interesting. Well, yeah.

        I would prefer that any article with the conclusion “good/bad luck on BABIP” without an attempt to explore other possible causes for the changes in BABIP, to disappear. There’s really no valuable purpose in that, outside of trying to predict a regression to the mean (which in itelf isn’t exactly newsworthy).

        I give these authors credit for continually looking for topics to write about, and devoting the time to give us something to read and discuss each day.

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    • JK says:

      That was what you took away from the article? It really goes into quite a bit of thought, given its brevity, on Braves chances along side many of the other contenders, and quickly lays out some of the scheduling, chances if the Phils have locked it up, etc. They’re aren’t writing 6000 word thesis statements here, just some quick thoughts to let the community discuss.

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    • Joe Pawlikowski says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I don’t like to reply to comments in this manner, but your critique makes it clear that you just don’t like the site. That’s fine. This is a pretty narrow niche that not everyone will enjoy. If you think you’re better off looking things up for yourself, well, why do you need us? You can enjoy the numbers presented on FanGraphs without reading the articles. That seems a bit more productive than saying “try harder.” We publish every day. There are going to be ones you don’t like, even if you generally do like the content.

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      • Steve says:

        Ah, so rather than address the criticisms (most of which are right on) you simply excuse the commenter as having a hateful view towards the site, even though most of the comments here are negative.

        It’s OK to admit mistakes now and then rather than lashing out at potentially-helpful comments.

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      • Joe Pawlikowski says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        There was no lashing out. There wasn’t one scintilla of hostility in my reply. It was merely an observation that if Nick doesn’t like any of the content on the site that it’s probably not for him. It seems like a fairly obvious conclusion given his comment.

        As to the article, it’s not perfect, no. And not everyone’s going to like it. Again, we publish every day. There will be clunkers here and there.

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      • Steve_IS_a_Bozo says:

        Steve, Joe didn’t ‘lash’ out, he responded very cool and calm. Me calling you a BOZO is lashing out. Joe letting you and your knuckle dragging primate friends know that they have other options for their entertainment is being considerate. Now go shove a banana up your azz and swing from a couple of trees.

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      • Steve says:

        Glad to see that the unofficial site of the sabermetric movement has such intelligent debate.

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      • Andy says:

        Writing daily articles doesn’t give you a carte blanche to be lazy about basic editing. Fangraphs, for better or for worse, is one of the leaders in sabermetric analysis. Act like it.

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      • Nick says:

        I DO like the site and I DO like most of the writers. That’s my problem. The writers are heavily dumbing themselves down. They’re writing about things that take no research. Things most of the target audience of Fangraphs already knows or could find out in about 3 seconds just by searching a player.

        This site has so many amazing stats, and they’re all absolutely free. It’s incredible. I can look up what Babe Ruth’s BABIP was in 1927. I can quantify how bad Adam Dunn is at defense. I can make my knowledge of baseball better. But the articles do not reflect the accomplishments of the numbers portion of the site. They are really no better than your garden variety Bleacher Report article. They have more advanced stats, but if the message is still obvious and not worth reading about, who cares?

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      • Joe Pawlikowski says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        Andy, I never touched the editing issue. All I was addressing with the daily posts comment is the content. Sometimes we’re going to put together an article that doesn’t work. Sometimes we’re going to regret pushing the publish button. Sometimes it won’t resonate with people.

        To the editing issue, that’s 100% on me and I apologize for the lapse. This article had two particularly bad errors, both of which I corrected after commenters pointed them out. But they shouldn’t be there in the first place, and I need to work harder to get errors out before the articles goes up.

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      • Hunter says:

        I think the original author, while a little harsh with his post, has a good point to make.

        To me, a good article at Fangraphs should follow this basic outline:

        Interesting Hypothesis—> Data —> Conclusion

        Simple, right?

        However, many of the articles do not do this, usually for two basic reasons:

        1) The initial hypothesis isn’t interesting. It’s something that would make even the most casual of sports fan say, “Well, duh.” If the hypothesis is so banal that everyone will agree with it without even any evidence, chance are that it won’t make an interesting article.

        2) Many of the authors resist drawing conclusions. I understand the need to be cautious, but many (such as this article) draw conclusions so wishy washy as to render the article effectively meaningless. This article basically says “The Braves could still make the playoffs, anything could happen!” Uh, thanks. That’s pretty much what I had thought prior to reading the article. Present me with something I didn’t know.

        I am not trying to be snarky in the slightest, but maybe if others agree with me, this is something that can be addressed?

        At the very least, you all have so many regular contributors here, how about hiring someone to proofread and edit all of the articles before publication? I bet a grad or undergrad level journalism/English major would love to have this gig on the resume. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        Hunter,

        On point number 2, the issue is that these guys understand statistics. If you apply genuine, honest statistics to every hypothesis that’s tackled at fangraphs, the vast VAST majority of them are going to lead to a wishy washy conclusion. To just grab an example out of the air, no matter what data we use, we can’t conclude that Derek Jeter is suffering from age related decline. We can say he Might or Probably is suffering from age related decline, but to say that he IS is simply statistically incorrect. So there’s 3 options as I see it, reduce content to statistically significant findings (which means the authors are going to create a LOT of material and ideas that are ultimately scrapped), publish a bunch of wishy washy conclusions with the occasional “hit”, or simply lie to the audience and draw unsubstantiated, strong conclusions. None of these choices is ideal, but I think you’ll find that whichever preference you have, there’s a website for you. Fangraphs happens to be one of those that adopts the wishy washy approach.

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      • Hunter says:

        Brad, that is a good point, and I understand what you are trying to say.

        However, you can see that even in the hypothetical article you named, there are other options than just presenting Jeter’s numbers and then concluding with, “Is he in an age related decline? Impossible to know!” This would be a typical Fangraphs article.

        Instead, you could get some comps for Jeter and compare when each went through their declines. Say something like, “While of course it is impossible to know for certain whether Jeter is suffering an age related decline, comps with Players X, Y, and Z show a typical decline around age [A] is to be expected, which coincidentally is when Jeter’s numbers also fell off.” Still a stastical approach, but ultimately more satisfying than just concluding with total wishy-washiness.

        It’s almost like some of the articles are half-unfinished but just published to meet a deadline. I couldn’t imagine that that was the case, but it certainly is puzzling.

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        Good comment Hunter. That is something that should be circulated through Fangraph’s Yahoo/Google group.

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    • Josh Inground says:

      What a cheap shot at the Mets’ expense. Your Yankee bias is getting out of control.

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      • Josh Inground says:

        Jesus Christ, how the hell did that end up as a reply? There were only six comments showing when I tried to post this.

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      • Steve says:

        To be fair Josh, the Mets’ entire existence is kindof a “cheap shot”. It’s impossible to even mention them without it seeming like a dig.

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      • Joe Pawlikowski says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        Can’t tell if serious…

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      • Josh Inground says:

        Apparently no one has any interest in commenting on the actual content of an article anymore. I was just trying to keep up.

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    • Andy says:

      Joe, that’s a fair answer and if I misunderstood your point I apologize. I’m not trying to single you out, it was just something that I noticed.

      About the stories — I understand that sometimes that content has to come from nothing. I just hope that quality doesn’t suffer due to a need for daily pieces.

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  3. holy hell says:

    Get an editor please. please please please. The first line of the second to last graph is a mess.

    “Even if the Braves don’t make up any ground and go into the final series with little more than a prayer, if that, to win the division.”

    This is not a complete thought.

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    • Joe D. says:

      “Get an editor please. please please please. The first line of the second to last graph is a mess.”

      What is an “editor please”? Perhaps you meant, “Get an editor, please.”

      This sort of sloppy commenting helps the terrorists win.

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  4. Greg Maddux says:

    I thought the title could’ve been a play on words.

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  5. smh says:

    Maybe have Dave Cameron proofread everything pending publication?

    It’s starting to get ridiculous.

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    • Joe D. says:

      “Maybe have Dave Cameron proofread everything pending publication?”

      This is not a grammatically correct sentence, due in part to absence of a subject.

      Please remember that this sort of sloppy commenting makes Baby Jesus cry.

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  6. Paul says:

    I kept waiting for this piece to tell me something new.

    The first paragraph tells me that September is a bad time to slump. The second paragraph tells me NBC’s Craig Calcaterra, as a Braves fan, was displeased with a loss to the Nationals. The third paragraph tells me something I can find at BP. The fourth paragraph tells me what the schedule is, and that the last series of the year could be important. The fifth paragraph continues with the schedule, but does offer a bit of opinion on one way things could shake out. And then the last paragraph says that, really, anything can happen and the Braves may or may not make the playoffs.

    All the while, I’m never really given an answer to the article’s title question.

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    • Paul says:

      I can understand the first two paragraphs setting up the piece, but the meat of this article is lacking.

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    • Maximus says:

      Paul are you a Boston fan? Is this gang up on Joe day at Fangraphs?

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      • Joe Pawlikowski says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        Can we please not get into the Boston/New York thing again? It was silly yesterday.

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      • Steve says:

        One can call a pointless article pointless without having a team bias. I actually have never heard of RAB until now, and thought most of Paul’s points were right on.

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      • Paul says:

        I’m actually a Phillies fan who saw this link and become genuinely interested in seeing what someone here had to say. Like I said, I don’t read the articles all that often, but the general assumption I have with FG articles is that I’ll be presented with a new take on something, or presented with perspective I hadn’t considered before.

        I tried to phrase my comment gently while still critiquing, but it obviously still inspired a bit of white-knighting. The purpose wasn’t to “gang up” on anyone. That isn’t productive. The purpose was to offer an opinion out of lockstep with the general population while not sounding boorish enough to be dismissed out of hand.

        So I’ll check my calendar again, but no, I’m pretty sure this isn’t Gang Up On Joe Day.

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      • Reld says:

        Maybe the rest of the Non NL East Fans don’t have the schedule memorized to know the order and places the Braves and Phils play? Maybe they didn’t know, or hadn’t thought about before, that the Braves could by playing a team that had a Playoff spot wrapped up? Maybe they didnt’ know the number of times the NL west leaders play each other over the next couple of weeks. I certainly think that is possible, and then, and nice brief article like this helps to put something, that is certainly simple to the folks that are neck deep in the pennant race fevor, into the proper perspective to non-NL east fans. Maybe try, just a bit, to think about this from a different perspective before becoming the place to put Playtex sport tampons.

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      • Paul says:

        http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/?tcid=nav_mlb_schedule

        Glad you were able to reply intelligently. I was afraid every level-headed comment I make might be met with terribly unfunny insults that add nothing to the conversation and still don’t answer my concerns.

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      • Thor says:

        Paul — you come across as a giant douche. Thanks for posting the schedule but Reld’s point is valid. Not all fans are going to look at the schedule of every other team.

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  7. Dave says:

    I think the more important thing here is why there is a Playtex Sport Tampons ad appearing at the top of the site. I’m not a genius, but I think they might have their demographic wrong. Somebody, somewhere, is wasting Playtex’s money.

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    • Locke says:

      Hahahahahahahahhaahaha

      I am glad I’m not the only one who thought that. The other possibility is… maybe there are actual chicks surfing FG…

      567-345-2343

      Call me.

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    • Hunter says:

      I’The Playtex people bought ad space on a block of sports-related websites. They most likely didn’t investigate each one personally to see if it fit their target audience, just figured that at least a few of them would reach the target audience.. Kinda like the internet equivalent of junk mail, except a lot cheaper.

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      • Locke says:

        I guess if dudes bought their GFs tampons that would make sense. Otherwise I’m with Dave. Someone at Playtex is drunk.

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    • Steve says:

      The playtex ads started showing up after the Beckett piece. Coincidence??

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    • quincy0191 says:

      Dude. Adblock. Come on. I haven’t seen an ad in months.

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  8. Brick Tamland says:

    LOUD NOISES

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  9. Hunter says:

    To me, a good article at Fangraphs should follow this basic outline:

    Interesting Hypothesis—> Data —> Conclusion

    Simple, right?

    However, many of the articles do not do this, usually for two basic reasons:

    1) The initial hypothesis isn’t interesting. It’s something that would make even the most casual of sports fan say, “Well, duh.” If the hypothesis is so banal that everyone will agree with it without even any evidence, chance are that it won’t make an interesting article.

    2) Many of the authors resist drawing conclusions. I understand the need to be cautious, but many (such as this article) draw conclusions so wishy washy as to render the article effectively meaningless. This article basically says “The Braves could still make the playoffs, anything could happen!” Uh, thanks. That’s pretty much what I had thought prior to reading the article. Present me with something I didn’t know.

    I am not trying to be snarky in the slightest, but maybe if others agree with me, this is something that can be addressed?

    At the very least, you all have so many regular contributors here, how about hiring someone to proofread and edit all of the articles before publication? I bet a grad or undergrad level journalism/English major would love to have this gig on the resume. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.

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  10. hk says:

    I’m going to take my complaint in a different direction. I have a problem with the ending, “…they could certainly make the playoffs — deservedly or not.” Aren’t games in April as important as games in September and vice versa? If the Braves make the playoffs, they deserve it whether Livan Hernandez shut them out in September or not. As was mentioned in the opening, every team slumps during a 162 game season. If a team is good enough through August that they can slump in September and still get in, they deserve to be in.

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    • quincy0191 says:

      Yes, a game in April is the same as a game in September. But here’s the important bit:

      “when those slumps come in September it can become threatening to a team’s playoff chances. As the remaining games dwindle a team has fewer chances to recover”

      Winning games in April means you don’t have to win them in September, but not winning games in September means you have to win them in April, and it’s a little hard to do that when you’re playing in September. Obviously every team, whether it intends to contend (lookit me!) or not, should try to win every game in can in every month of the season, but there’s less room for error in September. It’s like how allowing a run in the fifth inning is the same as allowing it in the ninth in terms of the number of runs allowed, but once you hit the ninth inning it’s harder to win if you allow meaningful runs. Anyone who believes WPA means anything should necessarily believe that September baseball is at least slightly more important than April baseball.

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      • hk says:

        quincy, I get what you’re saying when it applies to the present tense. However, once the season ends, if you’re in the playoffs, you deserve to be there because you overcame the slump(s) whenever it or they occurred and had the best record in your division or the best record of any non-division winners. On the other hand – back to the present tense – if the Braves continue to slump and don’t make the playoffs, they will deserve to be out.

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  11. Jamie says:

    i agree with the complaints. this article is pish.

    shoulda talked about how the braves failed to stay in first place. how their season relied on jurrgens babip magic and chipper jones and troy glaus. or how venters is used in every single game. how about hudson coming back down to reality?

    so many better ways to basically say that the braves are regressing to their talent level and the concerns of injuries were validated.

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  12. Dave says:

    This article exemplifies what is wrong with most articles here lately. This is just another in a long that is really poorly written. And they are usually from the same few writers.

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  13. braves fan says:

    For Jaime, here is some decent perspective on the braves blowing the division lead. This was published right before the most recent homestand, where the braves did indeed play some really bad baseball. http://capitolavenueclub.com/?p=3037

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  14. Phillies Fan says:

    Speaking of the Braves, what does everyone think of Craig Kimbrel? He has struck out 45% of the batters he has faced. Only 36% of the batters that he has faced have put the ball into play. Don’t lecture me on small sample size, I know it’s only 13 innings, but still. The times I’ve seen him pitch, he just looks unhittable.

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  15. Jim Mora says:

    PLAYOFFS?!! PLAYOFFS?!!!!!

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  16. DavidCEisen says:

    “when those slumps come in September it can become threatening to a team’s playoff chances. As the remaining games dwindle a team has fewer chances to recover.”

    The Braves are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Teams go through rough stretches more out of random fluctuation more than anything else. Past results have little bearing on future games. If the Braves are a .570ish winning percentage team, then they are a 570ish winning percentage team after losing or winning 5 games in a row. It doesn’t matter when the bad stretch happens.

    If Pujols went 0-15, we would expect him to be great moving forward.

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  17. marcello says:

    The solution really is to turn off commenting. It’s sickening to see so many people bitching about all the free shit they’re getting. Spoiled brats who feel they are entitled to everything. Your parents failed.

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    • Jason B says:

      +74. It’s one thing to offer constructive criticism, along the lines of “did you think about this angle? Or here’s a different conclusion I drew from the data presented, or here’s another part of the data that needs to be examined.”

      It’s another level of douchebaggery to say “This site BLOWS, these writers SUCK, etc.” If you can do better, write your own analysis and throw it open for comment. If not, kindly hush and/or leave.

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    • kbertling353 says:

      umad

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    • Hunter says:

      A few people were bitching. Quite a few people tried to provide constructive criticism to make the product better, in the assumption that the authors of Fangraphs strive to improve said product.

      Shocking, I know.

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    • Locke says:

      That’s one perspective. The other is that this site has built up quite a reputation of producing material at a high level… and you don’t see articles get bashed like this everyday. Sure, you see tons of nitpicking and backseat editors, but those comments are 75% constructive. This is an oddity of a comments section.. perhaps because this article actually sucked. It’s nothing to do with being entitled.

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      • Homosapien says:

        Locke — leader of the bash Joe parade from yesterday…So joe is biased in his articles, but you aren’t biased in you attack of Joe’s articles. Right, got it thanks. Oh and the PLAN sucked from the start.

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    • Rich says:

      There’s adds on this page, which means this isnt’ free at all.

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  18. Gio says:

    This isn’t a Joe Posnanski article people.

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    • Anon says:

      Correct. It’s about the length of a Poz opening paragraph. Ugh.

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    • BlackOps says:

      Joe also has his share of grammatical mistakes. His articles are rarely perfect from that standpoint. I know it’s a matter of professionalism, but I’m not sure we have the right to complain about that. The writers here should be the ones upset about it, because it reflects on them.

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  19. Joe D. says:

    Just one man’s opinion: The constant griping about the occasional grammar error is far, far more annoying than the grammar errors themselves. And it’s not even close.

    I also tend to notice the errors, but they simply don’t bother me. This is especially true when the thought/intent is completely obvious, which it is in most cases here.

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  20. Sam says:

    I’ll make this sweet and simple: I’ll take the wild card and like it.

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  21. AMusingFool says:

    Even those 2001 Mariners managed a 4-6 stretch over ten games. Of course, that was in July. But then, separately, they did have a four-game losing streak in September.

    What am I trying to say? I have no idea. ;)

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  22. Nick says:

    FanGraphs writers really are a bunch of snobs. It’s sad because they are all very smart people with great ideas on how analyze and breakdown baseball.

    But some times, I really feel that there is an agenda with some of the writers here.

    Peace out fellers

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  23. Thank you, you now have me thinking a little different, Thanks

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