The Atlanta Braves and the Two-Month Victory Lap

Monday night in Washington, the Braves beat Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals by a 3-2 score. The beginning of the Nationals’ MLB.com game recap reads so casually you almost skip right over the astonishing part and miss the absurdity. Quote:

WASHINGTON — The Nationals entered Monday night with nine chances remaining to cut directly into the Braves’ 12 1/2-game lead in the National League East. They wasted the first of those chances in the opener of a three-game series, as Justin Upton‘s go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning lifted Atlanta to a 3-2 victory.

Braves in first, check. Nationals with chances left, check. Nationals with a blown chance, check. Twelve and a half games. Wait. Now thirteen and a half games. Because the Braves won. The number is inserted as if the gap isn’t completely ridiculous. The number is inserted as if Nationals fans ought to be holding out hope.

More than a year ago, toward the end of April 2012, I wrote an article titled “The Texas Rangers and the Season-Long Victory Lap.” The Rangers looked fantastic and they’d already opened up a seven-game lead over the Angels in the West. The Angels, of course, were supposed to be the Rangers’ main competition, and a seven-game lead is hugely substantial no matter how early it might be, since those games have to be made up. I identified the Rangers as a team with everything working, and indeed, the Angels buried themselves too deep. Then, on the last day of the year, the Rangers lost the division to the A’s and I looked like an idiot. I’d already looked like an idiot, but that made it all the worse.

The lesson is that, when it’s early in the year, it’s early in the year, and there’s a whole lot of time for things to surprise you. Faced with the same circumstances, I wouldn’t write that article again. The Braves don’t find themselves in the same circumstances.

For the Braves, it’s August, not April. For the Braves, it’s not a seven-game lead over what you’d think would be the closest rival — it’s a 13.5-game lead over the closest rival, with 49 games left. The Braves’ lead over the Nationals is basically double that Rangers lead over the Angels, and the Braves right now are winners of 11 consecutive games, showing up what’s been an impossibly hot AL Central. The Nationals could sweep the Braves the rest of the way, and they’d still have to make up another 5.5 games yet. The Braves’ lead is almost all the other first-place leads combined.

Curious, I started looking up the biggest division leads through August 5 since baseball expanded to six divisions. Obviously, the seasons are always different, so there will always have been a different number of games played through a given date, but this is a lot easier to research than the alternative, and it makes for a perfectly fine approximation. The seasons aren’t that different. Following, a table, with the biggest division leads through August 5, and the leading team’s odds of winning the division at that point as provided by Cool Standings.

Year Team Lead Div. Odds (%)
1995 Indians 19.5 99.9
2001 Mariners 19.0 99.9
2002 Braves 18.0 99.9
2002 Twins 16.0 99.6
1998 Yankees 15.0 99.7
1998 Braves 14.5 99.4
1999 Indians 13.5 99.4
2013 Braves 13.5 99.9
2005 White Sox 13.0 96.8
2006 Mets 12.0 96.4
2003 Giants 12.0 96.9
1998 Padres 12.0 99.5

Immediately, it’s apparent these Braves aren’t headed for the record books. The 1995 Indians were 63-27 when the Brewers were 44-47, and the Indians wound up winning that division by 30 games, and they didn’t even play a full slate. That doesn’t even make sense to me and I spent a full hour doing research. The Braves aren’t in the most lopsided race in recent big-league history. But they do have the biggest lead through August 5 since 2002, which counts for something. Over the course of the last decade or so, MLB has taken big steps toward greater parity, and it’s within that landscape that the Braves are running away with the NL East. They’re not even running away with it — they already ran away with it, and now they’re sitting down, resting, with shade and a cocktail.

One way in which this is remarkable: everything that’s already been said. The lead is huge. It’s the beginning of August. We just forgot about the trade deadline on the other side of last weekend. Teams aren’t supposed to have these kinds of leads. Not even at the end of September. Teams aren’t supposed to be able to look at August and September as opportunities to rest regulars in anticipation of the playoffs.

A second way in which this is remarkable: on the face of it, the Braves aren’t blowing away the expectations. That is, they’re not doing what you would’ve assumed they’d be doing if you were told last March they’d end up in this position. B.J. Upton has been a disaster. Justin Upton has been good without being amazing or consistent. Jason Heyward continues to not be easily classified, and Andrelton Simmons hasn’t hit, and Tim Hudson is gone. Kris Medlen‘s taken a step back. Jonny Venters will end the year with zero innings. The Braves have been good and they’ve overcome adversity, but they’ve gone about this in an odd fashion.

And a third way in which this is remarkable: it was supposed to be the Nationals. Steamer projected the Nationals would win the division. ZiPS projected the Nationals would win the division. CAIRO and Oliver projected the Nationals would win the division. PECOTA projected the Nationals would win the division. In pretty much every case, it was the Nationals winning over the Braves, but in pretty much every case, it was the Nationals who looked like one of baseball’s best and deepest teams. Before the year started, I told people, confidently, that the Nationals were more talented than anyone else. They were my go-to team when asked who I thought was the best in baseball. I don’t like predictions — I detest predictions — but this didn’t feel like a prediction. This felt like a statement, and I was certain the Nationals would be terrific, so long as they didn’t suffer too many injuries. Looking back, it’s obvious I and others over-stated their ability, but it sure as hell didn’t feel that way. The question wasn’t who would finish first in the East. The question was whether the Braves could hold off the Phillies.

Coming in, the Nationals were favored. If I were told in March the Nationals would hold a 13.5-game lead the morning of August 6, I’d get myself some raised eyebrows. If I were told the Braves would hold that lead instead? I might’ve slapped you in the face for wasting my time. It looked too certain the Nationals were too good, and the Braves are tied for the best record in baseball. With the Pirates. Which is another thing.

Every year, in every sport, around playoff time, people debate whether it’s better to rest up or play hard every day. People debate whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have a break, some kind of let-up before or during the tournament. The Braves can start thinking about whether they want to rest some regulars in anticipation of October. We all just bid farewell to July.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Neal
Member
Neal
3 years 19 days ago

Braves magic number is 37 on August 6th. If you told me before the season started that the magic number would be 37 on September 6th I would have been thrilled.

Braves Fan
Guest
Braves Fan
3 years 19 days ago

F*ck you Sullivan

Ben
Guest
Ben
3 years 19 days ago

If you’re trying to be funny, you failed miserably.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

I think he’s worried that Sullivan just jinxed the Braves.

Braves Fan
Guest
Braves Fan
3 years 19 days ago

I was serious. Its a jinx.

cavebird
Guest
cavebird
3 years 19 days ago

I am a little late to the party, and I think the line was over the top, but nevertheless, my comment along these lines is:
Sullivan, do you remember 2011 at all? Unless you are a secret Nats fan trying to do the Braves in (in which case it won’t work because jinx don’t work that way), why are you trying to torpedo the Braves. Please curl up, build yourself a coccon, and do not emerge until the Braves’ magic number hits 0. Thank you.

Wil
Guest
Wil
3 years 19 days ago

Quit being so ridiculous. Of course what you or anyone says on the internet is going to have a direct correlation to the success or failure of an MLB team.

Give me a break dude. No reason to be an ass because of your silly superstition. Y

Braves Fan
Guest
Braves Fan
3 years 19 days ago

Sensitive bunch on fangraphs

cavebird
Guest
cavebird
3 years 18 days ago

Will, haven’t you heard of the Hisenberg uncertainty principle and its application to sports?

Nicolas C
Guest
Nicolas C
3 years 19 days ago

That 05′ White Sox team’s division lead shrunk to half a game at one point, if I remember correctly.

Mike
Guest
Mike
3 years 19 days ago

Something that is conveniently forgotten as they did go on to win the World Series that year. Late season swoons that don’t completely remove you from the play-offs are often dropped from the narrative when the team goes on to win the championship. See the 1997 Denver Broncos.

Nicolas C
Guest
Nicolas C
3 years 19 days ago

And both of those teams are my favorite in their sports! Haha

Eric
Guest
Eric
3 years 19 days ago

The Braves and the Nats play in the impossibly hot AL Central? So many things wrong there.

bsally
Member
bsally
3 years 19 days ago

He’s saying that the Braves’ streak has overshadowed the excellent play of the teams in the AL Central.

AndyRTR
Guest
AndyRTR
3 years 19 days ago

OR.. possibly, he was referencing the Braves success against the NL Central

3-0 v. CHC
4-3 v. CIN
4-3 v. PIT
3-0 v. STL (Recent sweep during the current 11-game streak)
and, oddly enough 1-2 v. MIL
for a .652 mark against the Central.

AndyRTR
Guest
AndyRTR
3 years 19 days ago

D’oh… my reading comprehension also fails…..

mlstarr
Member
mlstarr
3 years 19 days ago

Probably why that wasn’t written.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

No, the Braves with their 11-game winning streak are “showing up what’s been an impossibly hot AL Central.”

Read more carefully, especially before you attempt to correct someone. Few things are more annoying than a mistaken correction.

Marcus Tullius Cicero
Guest
Marcus Tullius Cicero
3 years 19 days ago

This would be a classic example of Muphry’s Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry's_law

skippyballer486
Member
skippyballer486
3 years 18 days ago

You really should have linked to the wrong article there.

vivabeta
Guest
vivabeta
3 years 19 days ago

Nope. He was comparing the Braves’ winning streak to the wins being put up by the Tigers, Indians, and Royals.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 19 days ago

“The Braves and the Nats play in the impossibly hot AL Central? So many things wrong there.”

Just you.

Cards Fan
Guest
Cards Fan
3 years 19 days ago

In 2011 the Braves were 10 games up on the Cardinals on August 26th and finished the year 10-20 while the Cards went 21-9 to catch and pass the Braves to keep them out of the playoffs.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

The 2013 Nationals ain’t no 2011 Cardinals. If you want a comparison, think of the 2013 Nationals as the 2011 Nationals: a really mediocre team.

Ben
Guest
Ben
3 years 19 days ago

No, but the Braves have had stretches of 10-17 and 6-11 and 8-11 this year.

Ben
Guest
Ben
3 years 19 days ago

Heck, they went 20-23 in the 43 games previous to the current 11-game win streak.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

You’re missing the point. To overcome a 13.5 game lead, you need the leader to collapse and you need the laggard to get really hot. Maybe the Braves could collapse (but they won’t); what I’m saying is that the Nationals won’t be able to take advantage, because they aren’t good.

bstar
Guest
bstar
3 years 19 days ago

Anon, is there really a huge difference between the 2011 Cards and the 2013 Nats?

On Aug. 24 of 2011, the Cards were 67-63. No one was calling St. Louis “good” at that point, either.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
3 years 19 days ago

The cards had a ridiculously easy schedule and the braves had a ridiculous amount of injuries plus OVK was over used. Cards were getting all sorts of breaks. I think in the same day, a clear David wright foul was ruled fair and the braves lost, then Carlos Marmol walked 3 braves and then threw a wild pitch and the cards won. Just insane.

Greg
Guest
Greg
3 years 19 days ago

I disagree. The Nats starting pitching, despite injuries, has been very good. The bullpen has been mediocre if unreliable despite having a lot of guys that were really good not too long ago. The bats have been atrocious, ad we’ve us even worse luck and bad fielding. We’ve had a lot of injuries (Espi, Det, Mattheus, Harper, Werth, Zim, Ramos) and lived through long slumps (Espi, ALR, Storen, Haren, Span, you could argue Harper). So many things have fine wrong. Healthy, with better luck, and a different year, they’re in first. They have the potential to be the best team in baseball. So little has been right (average or better seasons by Zimmermann, Stras, Gio, Werth, Desi, Soriano) that all it takes is a reversion to the mean by the team and they’re the best team in baseball. For example, the Nats lost tonight. In the 7th, Desi was stealing, Simmons came over to cover and we ripped a drive up the middle, a rocket up in the middle, and because Simmons was covering the steal he snagged the ball. The Nats announcers, who are usually very positive, said that’s how the whole season has gone. This is a supremely talented team that has just underperformed due to injuries and bad luck. If guys get healthy and their bad luck moderates, then you’re talking about a 90+ win type team.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

They’ve basically had their lineup healthy and on the field for what, 3-4 weeks now? And the runs just aren’t coming. You can say it’s all luck, but the 88 wRC+ suggests otherwise.

This “90+ win team” mantra is outdated. That’s what people thought they were coming into the season. But 113 games have now told us that’s not right. You can keep on with your “unluckiest team of the decade” theory, and I sincerely hope that’s the lesson Mike Rizzo learns, because if he leaves this team alone the Braves will have much less competition for the next few years.

vivabeta
Guest
vivabeta
3 years 19 days ago

The 2011 Braves were not the team they are now. More explosive offense (though it can be streaky), starting pitching is solid top to bottom (Beachy is still iffy), and the defense is fantastic. Andrelton Simmons singlehandedly turns a really bad infield defense into one of the best in baseball. I’ve really never seen the effects of a genius SS on the pitching staff. Oh and also the best bullpen in the game.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 19 days ago

And we don’t have Derek Lowe this year, so hopefully no starter will completely fall apart and pitch an awful 5 games.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
3 years 19 days ago

Pretty sure the pen was exhausted too, McCann and chipper were hurt, I wanna say 2 or 3 other starters were hurt.

Nats Fan
Guest
Nats Fan
3 years 19 days ago

So you’re telling me there’s a chance!

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

Freddie Freeman is going to come step on your neck if you don’t settle down now.

Mike
Guest
Mike
3 years 19 days ago

And by step on your neck, he actually means hug you a lot.

MDL
Member
MDL
3 years 19 days ago

So were the Nationals right to hold Strasburg out at the end of last season? A chance to play in the LCS is so rare (and the World Series obviously more so), and I feel like they forfeited that opportunity to preserve Stras.

I guess we still need to wait for a couple more years to see if the Nats really made the right decision.

vivabeta
Guest
vivabeta
3 years 19 days ago

Their bullpen and manager destroyed their postseason last year, not Strasburg.

cass
Guest
cass
3 years 19 days ago

No, we don’t need to wait. They followed standard practice just like they did for Zimmermann the year before, just like other teams have done for players like Sale. We know they made the right decision the day they made it, well before actually.

It never should have been a controversy. It wasn’t a controversy in DC. Other teams and national writers made a stink about it for reasons I cannot comprehend. It was the right decision. Will the Nats win a World Series someday? Who knows. Doesn’t matter to the question of whether they made the right decision.

RMD
Guest
RMD
3 years 19 days ago

They obviously didn’t handle it right. They were coming off a .500 season that added a great pitcher (Gio), a prodigious talent (Harper) and full seasons of LaRoche and Zimmermann. I’m guessing they knew they would be contenders. Here are some much more viable options that a contending should have taken:

A. Put Strasburg on the “Mystery DL” at least two separate times. He ends the regular season at ~150 IP and then you run him full speed in the playoffs. (160 is such an arbitrary number. Who cares if he threw another 12 IP in the playoffs to total 172?)

B. Start him later in the year, ie mid-May instead of April. It’s Win-Win because those 160 IP could have included the playoffs. It’s risk-free.

C. Give him the Medlen treatment. Start in the bullpen. Stretch him out in the minors. He starts in the playoffs.

D. At the very least, it would have been nice to turn him into a power arm in the bullpen in September/playoffs. Possibly the closer. That surely would have limited his innings while still maximizing his output.

Greg
Guest
Greg
3 years 19 days ago

Option B above was my choice and, for a variety of reasons cited by Rizzo, I feel mystery DL stints and starting him the bullpen were untenable options. And option D was almost as risky as keeping him as a starter. It wasn’t just about number of innings.

kp
Guest
kp
3 years 19 days ago

I hate to be *that guy* but it feels so good to remember D. Cameron saying back in the spring something like “everyone who thinks that there is a major difference in talent between the Braves and Phillies is wrong.”

I didn’t necessarily disagree with him at the time; it’s just been such a blast watching the Phils and Nats implode.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

Yuuuuup. Cameron in particularly was hilariously dismissive of the Braves and damn well convinced that Harper was already a superstar. But I guarantee that if you ask him now where he went wrong, he’ll say he didn’t, that this was largely unpredictable, and make various excuses.

Butt-hurt braves fans
Guest
Butt-hurt braves fans
3 years 19 days ago

We are proud to take over as FanGraphs’ most sensitive fan base. Giants fans, we have boxed your stuff up and moved it out to the curb. This is our house now!

Cream
Guest
Cream
3 years 19 days ago

Well, to be fair: the Giants suck this year and the Braves don’t.

Dan Ugglas Forearm
Member
Dan Ugglas Forearm
3 years 19 days ago

He also balked at calling Simmons the best defensive SS. As he’s on pace to destroy most every record for defensive metrics.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 19 days ago

He certainly is setting his sights on Adam Everett’s 2006, but he still has a way to catch it in terms of UZR. Not quite sure if he’s going to get there, but it’s hard to say anyone is playing better defense than he is right now.

Even if you have a lack of confidence in single season defensive metrics, you still almost certainly recognize Simmons as clearly the best shortstop. His lead is so big that you’d need to apply a huge error margin to the measurement in order to say otherwsie.

Wil
Guest
Wil
3 years 19 days ago

Bronnt,

Well according to DRS Simmons has saved 31 runs this year,
Everett in 06 saved 34. It’s a near lock that Simmons will end the year with better DRS number than Everett in 06.

So who you hold as the best season in metrics depends on whether you trust UZR or DRS more.

bstar
Guest
bstar
3 years 19 days ago

The all-time runs saved record is 39 by Darin Erstad in 2001. Of course, that was TZ runs, so had DRS existed in the past we almost certainly would have seen higher totals for some of the all-time great fielders.

Simmons is on pace for 44-45 DRS runs at this point.

mcneildon
Guest
mcneildon
3 years 19 days ago

Not that I disagree with the idea that Simmons is the best SS in baseball, but I think it’s appropriate to mention that current, publicly available, defensive metrics have to be taken with several shakers of salt.

Cream
Guest
Cream
3 years 19 days ago

Can someone explain to me the projected standings? They show Atlanta going 26-23 over the remaining 49 games, with a run differential per game of 4.09 vs. 3.81. Year to date, that deferential has been 4.53 vs. 3.50.

This is despite playing one of the easiest remaining schedules, leading the NL in position player WAR and carrying the 3rd highest pitcher WAR. BABIPs don’t seem out of line with what you would expect given peripherals. Sequencing and strand rates also don’t hint at massively overachieving results.

26-23 is 1 game better than the Nationals project for, and 2 games worse than LAD.

What is going on here? Is it just an artifact/effect of clustering like how no teams are projected to win 90 games prior to season starting?

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

The Fangraphs projections have been pretty low on the Braves since they debuted. As of a couple weeks ago, they were projecting the Braves to play worse than the Nationals the rest of the way, so projecting them to play percentage points better is an improvement of sorts, I suppose. I haven’t a clue what’s causing them to think that the Braves will play .500 the rest of the way, but that’s probably something for the projection mavens to take a look at when the season is over.

Butt-hurt braves fans
Guest
Butt-hurt braves fans
3 years 19 days ago

Yes! Tweak the mean projection systems to be nicer to us. Also everyone should pick us for first every year. (I mean, OBVIOUSLY.)

Finally we also call for a 400% increase in fawning articles about our players. More demands to follow…

Cream
Guest
Cream
3 years 19 days ago

Not sure why you are acting like this.

We are talking about projections that have consistently underestimated the success a team will have. At first blush, I don’t see any significant red flags indicating that the team is over-achieving and am curious why the projections remain so conservative.

This isn’t a complaint about a team not getting its due…This whole article serves as recognition for its success.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

It’s just strange. There might be something interesting to look at about the way the Braves are achieving success (backed by run differential and fWAR, so it doesn’t seem like it’s just tons of good luck) and why projection systems seem to continually underestimate those ways. One thing I can think of off the top of my head: Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward are fantastic defenders, but projection systems seem to be pretty reluctant to project fantastic defense for anyone going forward. But that can’t account for the whole difference between projection and reality. All I’m saying is that it would be interesting to understand; it doesn’t chaff me any that the projection systems “don’t like” the Braves, so long as they keep winning the actual games.

Mike
Guest
Mike
3 years 19 days ago

The irony here is that you’re the one here with the red-ass and your abysmal sense of humor.

Butt-hurt braves fan (the return of!)
Guest
Butt-hurt braves fan (the return of!)
3 years 19 days ago

“We are talking about projections that have consistently underestimated the success a team will have.”

Have they? Legitimately curious. Are projection systems underestimating Braves’ wins totals consistently over a number of years? I would be interested to see some info indicating such.

(And too, remember that even if they are, any projection system could miss on the low side, or the high side, for a given team several years in a row by pure chance. And given the number of teams and seasons and projection systems, that will certainly occur. Not that there’s not something worth looking into, just that low probability chance events occur all the time and can’t be ruled out.)

Wil
Guest
Wil
3 years 19 days ago

I mean it must be SHOCKING to you that Braves fans would want people to pick their team for things.

I mean what should they say? Well, lets hope for the basement!

Creating a username and trolling a fan base just shows how pathetic you are and how much attention you crave.

(Son of!) Butt-hurt Braves fans
Guest
(Son of!) Butt-hurt Braves fans
3 years 19 days ago

“I mean it must be SHOCKING to you that Braves fans would want people to pick their team for things.”

Yes, quite. As Anon21 says, who gives a crap if they’re winning. The prediction predictions are a fun diversion, but the whole “our team is disrespected derp derp” and “the model must be wrong, obviously it hates us” is rather amusing.

Roger
Guest
Roger
3 years 19 days ago

I remember looking at Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds report in the spring after the Braves had their 10 game win streak and noting that it had the Braves playing .500 ball for the remainder of the season. I found they were still basing the remainder of the season on the pre-season PECOTA projections, which didn’t like the Braves with all their Ks. Something similar might be happening here.

If you take out the two double-digit win streaks, the Braves have played basically .500 ball all season. It makes me wonder how the Braves will do in the postseason. Which team will show up, the .500 team that has played most of the season or the dominant team that has put together those streaks?

D
Guest
D
3 years 19 days ago

Right. A combined 21 game winning streak is all luck, so it should be excluded from their record and projections. So is thier +117 run differential… All luck,

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

Well, I don’t know why one would expect the “streaks and plateaus” pattern to continue. Seems like overall winning percentage (and components) would be a more reliable guide to future performance, no? I mean, if the “hot hand” on the individual player level is not predictive, and you generally want to look to a guy’s career stats, why should it be different for a team as a whole?

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 19 days ago

This is trolling or you’re 11 years old, right?

Roger
Guest
Roger
3 years 19 days ago

Before you dismiss me for separating out the hot streaks, explain why multiple projection systems have them as a .500 team and why they’re wrong. They have spent 80% of the season matching those projections. That’s representative of your “career stats”. There is some validity there.

This is more like the toolsy player that has a hot streak. You can see he has the tools to do it, but the current skills don’t support sustaining it right now. There is a difference between the current skill level and the talent level. Sometimes a player or team can glimpse the talent level for stretches before the skill level ever catches up. Having followed the game reports all season as a Braves fan who doesn’t get the chance to watch the games, that is the sense I get with this team. It has all the talent in the world but hasn’t been able to put it together for more than stretches. Those projections to me are the impartial assessment of the skill level coming into the season based on each player’s track record. What I wonder, as a fan, is whether this team will put it together when it counts.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

If the toolsy player’s hot streaks are frequent enough and good enough that his overall line is really good, why would you project him to be league average in the future, though?

I agree that the projections are “impartial,” but that doesn’t mean they’re accurate. They can be subject to bias (e.g., underrating exceptional defensive contributions) like any other method of evaluating data and predicting the future.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 19 days ago

So if the Braves had a loss in the middle of each streak (so as to make no streak longer than 5 wins), and 2 wins at random other points in the season (that were actually losses), this would not be a concern? This is beyond stupid.

Roger
Guest
Roger
3 years 19 days ago

“Why would you project him to be league average in the future, though?”

Because I’m wondering specifically about the playoffs, where “anything can happen.” I’m not saying this team can’t or won’t play .530 or better the rest of the season. I’m wondering if, given a team with this streaks and plateaus profile so far, and a postseason that can be won in 14 games, we might see interesting odds along all-or-nothing extremes.

Reuben
Guest
Reuben
3 years 19 days ago

You could do this for almost any team since streaks are essentially how you take leads. I doubt very many teams just win 5-6 out of every 10 games for every 10 game set the whole year…

Matt
Member
Matt
3 years 19 days ago

So this imaginary toolsy player is Andruw Jones? I can live with that.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 19 days ago

What Reuben said – team performance (and individual players’ performance) is generally nothing but a series of hot and cold streaks. I would imagine that a scant few teams go 6-4, then 6-4, then 6-4, then 5-5, then 6-4, then 6-4, then 7-3, then 6-4, to get to a year-end .600 winning percentage.

Is there a way to measure team streaky-ness compared to the average? And how the abnormally streaky teams have fared historically in the postseason?

Nevin
Guest
Nevin
3 years 19 days ago

the projections are based on batted ball types, contact and strike out and walk rates, FIP and xFIP and hit ball types for pitchers. Given the Braves K rates, walk rates, poor early rates by Heyward and Bossman Jr, loss of playing time for McCann, unknowns in how Simmons and Gattis and 3B and Beachy and many pieces of the bullpen would perform, steps fwd in actual production by Chris Johnson, Teheran, Minor and Freeman, and I think its sensible that the team’s real production has so outstripped the projection systems.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

Yeah, but we’re more interested in why the projections still project the Braves to be a .500 team ROS with McCann healthy and producing and everything else going really well. If they’re now convinced that B.J. and Heyward are worthless based on their early-season (in B.J’s case, whole season) struggles, that seems like overweighting recent performance in a way likely to reduce accuracy.

Joe
Guest
Joe
3 years 19 days ago

FIP hates the Braves staff. Always has. As much as any statistical analysis without a soul or emotions can, anyway.

Wil
Guest
Wil
3 years 19 days ago

It’s also interesting to note that as the season has gone on their K rate as a team has decreased with every month.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 19 days ago

If people seriously want to consider why projections underrated the Braves this year (and aren’t just complaining about how “we get no respect), then I think we can look at the type of team they have. It’s a team without any truly elite performers for the season, but they have very few weaknesses.

Right now the Braves have six every-day players ranging from 2.0 to 2.7 WAR. That’s a very tight grouping of above average players. Their best starting pitcher is worth 3 WAR, then a couple more starters around 2 WAR, and others are generally around average. And there’s very little negative WAR being accumulated on the whole team. Nothing is really holding them back. And there’s also nobody (except Kimbrel) that you can argue is among the three most valuable players at their position in baseball. It’s a team full of above average guys.

Projections tend to regress toward the mean-lots of teams are projected to have a ton of guys who are right around average or slightly better. But it doesn’t work out that. In order for the projections to like you, you need to have a few players who are well above average, so they get projected up in the 4-5 WAR territory. Additionally, projections almost NEVER project anyone to rack up negative WAR, even though it always happens on every team. Guys are bad enough and stick around just long enough to hurt their teams, even good teams-for the Cardinals, it’s Ty Wigginton and Mitchell Boggs, or Skip Schumaker and Matt Magill for the Dodgers, etc. But if you add up ALL the negative WAR accumulated by Braves’ players, it’s only -1.8. The bottom of the Braves’ roster is not as far separated from the top in terms of true value as most teams.

Wolf359
Guest
Wolf359
3 years 19 days ago

Or perhaps they’re predicting lots of backups playing the last two weeks after the Braves clinch the division …

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

Looks like the depth chart playing time projections expect the Braves’ positional regulars to soak up between 70 and 80% of the playing time going forward, which is pretty comparable to the projections for the Pirates, who can be expected to play full steam ahead in order to avoid the wild card. Remember, all playing time projections are done by humans, and I don’t know that they’re adjusted frequently.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 19 days ago

Those things have really funky results – the DH thing with the NL teams is obviously broken and has been for months. It’s like they didn’t check things out before slapping it on the website.

cass
Guest
cass
3 years 19 days ago

Jeff, do you really have to rub it in? We’d already given up on catching the Braves before last night’s game. We clingly to a vague miracle hope we can catch the Reds for the second wild card. That’s the goal now. Mostly, Nats fans are waiting for 2014. Hopefully the Nats will be able to drive in at least a couple runners in scoring position the entire year. That’d be an improvement.

RC
Member
Member
RC
3 years 19 days ago

The opening comment in that game recap is mislead in two ways. While it says they have “nine chances remaining to cut directly into the Braves’ 12 1/2-game lead in the National League East” that was BEFORE the game began. Those numbers now sit at 8 chances and a 13 1/3-game lead. It’s certainly not outside of the realm of possibility, but it is far outside of the realm of probability.

frivoflava29
Member
frivoflava29
3 years 19 days ago

2011 Red Sox, not so distant memory, blew their 9 game lead in September. The Nats still look better than the Braves in a lot of ways. I’m not that excited!

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

The Nats still look better than the Braves in a lot of ways.

What ways, specifically?

Nevin
Guest
Nevin
3 years 19 days ago

Way better facial hair. Amiright, J. Werth?

Calvin
Guest
Calvin
3 years 19 days ago

Looks like Danny Espinosa is at it again…

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 19 days ago

I’m curious whether 2 more wins will push the Braves division win chances to 100% on coolstandings. That would be nice to see on Aug. 7.

Will H.
Guest
Will H.
3 years 19 days ago

Last year required zero SP injuries (the Stras shutdown was planned) which never happens. I believe there were some articles on that, and going into this year Espinosa had admitted an injury that he decided to play through and that was clearly decimating what offense he still had going at the end of last season, LaRoche was generally understood to have had an unlikely career season at age 32 so decline was expected, Werth’s range showed an established decline the last few years, Harper hadn’t shown he could adjust back to MLB lefties, Haren was a high risk/high reward play (I still think it was a fair shot to take, but no one should have been surprised when it didn’t work), Burnett was an important piece now gone, etc. I’m not saying I thought this team would be under .500 and both did and do like them going forward for the next few years, but they came in lacking any depth so expecting them to be the best required everything to go right (including health). I’m not saying it was a bad prediction, just that it’s hardly shocking not to turn out to be true. Just the same as it wouldn’t be crazy if they had better health next year, Span’s 2013 platoon issues proved to be small sample size, Harper adjusted to lefties, a new pen arm stepped up, etc.

Unfortunately, you can tell at Nats park that a bunch of new fans become such by being convinced that they should expect what most predicted to come true… I never heard nearly this level of booing of one’s own team back when they really were bad. Maybe the silver lining is that those folks will go away.

Greg
Guest
3 years 19 days ago

The standard for booing was much higher before 2011. They picked 1st in the draft two consecutive years surrounded by other top 10 picks. Expectations were low. You don’t boo individual awful players that you expect to suck.

People are booing because expectations were so high and they’ve played like shit. Personally, I blame bad luck, Rizzo and primarily Davey.

Nevin
Guest
Nevin
3 years 19 days ago

More predictions! The Braves come out of September with Julio Teheran and Mike Minor looking nasty at the front of the rotation, a legitimate argument going on about whether the leave Alex Wood in the playoff rotation, lotsa at bats for the bench (an angry White Bear getting regular at bats! McCann in his Last Days!).
Braves / Dodgers in the first round in an old NL West matchup, they somehow get past Kershaw and Greinke to face the Pirates in the NLCS in an old NLCS matchup. Sid Bream, Francisco Cabrera and Mark Lemke through out the first pitch while Andy Van Slyke mutters to himselfe in the first row behind the visitors’ dugout and Bobby Bonilla eats ribs. Julio Teheran for NLCS MVP, and Braves over the Red Sox (pie-eyed, unrealistic) in the Series. Evan Gattis crushes a game winning home run in one of the Fenway games over the Monster.
In the offseason, the Braves make Qualifying Offers to Maholm, McCann and Hudson. Hudson accepts (despite better offers — or maybe he takes 2 and 25 from the A’s or Yankees, or retires), the other two walk, Braves get compensation picks in the stacked draft. McCann signs with Texas.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
3 years 19 days ago

If the Yanks somehow get A-Rod off their 2014 cap, McCann will end up in pinstripes. He is a dead-pull hitter these days and will put up big numbers in Yankee Stadium.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 19 days ago

I’m not sure the Yanks can afford Cano and McCann even if they get Arod off the books. Getting Arod off the books is the only way they could even afford Cano. They have to cut over $40 million in payroll. Arod is only $27.5 million. Cano is getting a huge raise, so there is still a lot that has to be cut.

Wolf359
Guest
3 years 19 days ago

Tim Hudson makes $9M, well under the threshold for compensation.
Paul Maholm makes even less $6.5M so no draft pick there.
Brian McCann has a salary of $12M which is right on the edge but is most likely one or two million short of the top 125 salaries. Those are the ONLY contracts eligible for draft pick compensation.

In fact, only the two Upton brothers are safely above the dividing line on the Braves … Uggla could go either way.

maguro
Guest
maguro
3 years 19 days ago

You can still make a qualifying offer even if the player is making less than that this year. The question is whether you would want to offer Paul Maholm 1/$13M in the first place, because I think he’d almost certainly accept it.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

Yeah, Wolf is thinking of how the QO amount is calculated. But that has nothing to do with who you can extend one to (any major-league free agent who’s played for your team at least 1 season).

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 19 days ago

However, the Braves will not offer Maholm or probably Hudson QO. McCann will be offered for sure and will surely turn it down. On the off-chance Hudson is offered, he would take it I think in a heartbeat. It would maybe be a close call if he had not broken his ankle.

cavebird
Guest
cavebird
3 years 18 days ago

Exactly this. McCann gets the offer and declines. Huddy and the Braves probably work out a one-year deal for less than a qualifying offer. Maholm doesn’t sniff a qualifying offer and is replaced in the rotation by Wood.

Anon
Guest
Anon
3 years 19 days ago

And just missing the list – the 1995 Angels who were 11 up on 8/5 (actually still 11 up on 8/9). They rather famously lost the division. IS that the largest lead lost on 8/5 in the Wild Card era?

Joe
Guest
Joe
3 years 19 days ago

FIP and xFIP don’t…. they don’t seem to correlate with how well the best teams actually play, do they? I mean, the Braves’ staff has never had a particularly good FIP, the Giants haven’t the past couple years… It’s so flawed that including it in a projection system seems like a poor idea without using DRS rates or something as well.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

The projections do include defense as part of position players’ contributions, but as I said above, the defensive projections are extremely regressiony. Obvious example here is Simmons, who has put up a 24.1 UZR/150 this season (26.4 in his short career), and yet is projected for only 3.8 or 3 runs of fielding value ROS, less than half what a straight-line projection would give you. So that’s about one win right there. Don’t know where the rest of the pessimism is coming from.

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
3 years 19 days ago

Given the fact that Atlanta has been one of the 3-4 best teams in MLB this season, despite all of the team’s issues that Mr. Sullivan points out in this article, one has to wonder what Andrelton Simmons’ actual value (i.e., WAR) would be if we had figured out how to reliably quantify defensive performance yet. Is it possible that out of this world defensive performance by your shortstop (the most important defender in the field, that is, the defender who can make the biggest impact on a team’s performance) is equivalent to a MONSTER season at the plate (i.e., such a monster season that the individual becomes a shoo-in for MVP)?

I grew up in the 1980s, when the Cardinals would routinely go to the World Series. You look at those Cardinals teams and their offenses weren’t that great, their pitching wasn’t that great… but they had Ozzie Smith. If we were able to properly quantify defensive performance, would we look back at some of those seasons and recognize that Ozzie should’ve won multiple MVP awards?

You look at the WAR leaders in the NL, and you struggle to find a guy who appears to be the frontrunner for MVP, particularly since voters generally ignore strong seasons by individual players whose teams suck, unless they play for a team in New York or L.A., that is. [See R.A. Dickey, Matt Kemp for recent examples of this exception to the rule.] Is Andrelton Simmons the NL MVP this season and we just can’t see it, because we aren’t yet able to properly quantify defensive performance? If we could properly quantify defensive performance, would Andrelton Simmons be at the top of the WAR rankings in the NL?

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 19 days ago

I think a lot of people would point to the other most important defensive position (catcher) and a certain one with pretty good offense that is also perhaps underrated defensively that plays in the NL Central.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 19 days ago

“Is Andrelton Simmons the NL MVP this season and we just can’t see it?”

No.

Scott
Guest
Scott
3 years 19 days ago

Hardcore braves fan here and just no. Is Simmons fun to watch? Sure. Can he be a good player for a long time? Sure. MVP? Not even close this year, probably not ever going to be anywhere close.

Kk
Guest
Kk
3 years 19 days ago

Aren’t you missing the whole point of the post you’re responding to? The point is that perhaps superstar-level defensive play is far more valuable in terms of wins than it looks to the naked, 2013 eye.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 18 days ago

Scott’s right though. Is defensive value difficult to measure? Seems to be. Is Simmons having a stellar defensive season? By most accounts and metrics, almost certainly so. Is he an MVP or near-MVP? Not close.

binqasim
Member
binqasim
3 years 19 days ago

With JUp and McCann heating up and everything holds, it is impossible for nats to make up any ground I think.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
3 years 19 days ago

Making the playoffs and winning in the playoffs are two very different things. The Braves and Dodgers are peaking too soon.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 19 days ago

Good thing “peaking” in the sense you seem to mean (i.e. playing really well) isn’t something that happens once and can never be repeated!

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
3 years 19 days ago

Sound analysis Mitch! Now tell us how the Phillies with all at veteran presence is a threat!

nd910
Guest
nd910
3 years 19 days ago

The Phils don’t have enough RBI guys to make the playoffs

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
3 years 18 days ago

But once Howard gets healthy…watch out.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 18 days ago

Guys, hurt is absolutely right. You only get so many wins, can’t be squandering them in meaningless games in August. I mean, look at the Astros. They’re saving up and will be playing like gangbusters come October! The Marlins were taking a very sound approach earlier in the year by losing a lot, but they’ve been playing a bit too well lately and they probably have used their allotment of wins already.

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