Opening Day Reflection… How did we Manage? Over or Under?

Opening Day Reflection… How did we Manage? Over or Under?

Yesterday marked one of my favorite days of the year…Atlanta Braves Opening Day!

There are high, yet realistic hopes for this Braves’ team. Most MLB evaluations have the Braves somewhere around 72-78 wins for the year with a huge asterisk that is the unknown of young players like Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Luiz Gohara, A.J. Minter, Preston Tucker, Dansby Swanson, and more to come. Like every season in the past 4-5 years, there’s a whole lot of ifs, but man oh man, aren’t the ifs this year so much more fun than the ones in the past?

Like most games, there were ups and downs with the climax coming in the bottom of the 9th. The ever-criticized cleanup hitter Nick Markakis stepped up to the plate and did the unthinkable. For many that know his play, no one would’ve been surprised had he singled or doubled in the game-winning run. However, Nick shocked the Braves world, went yickety, and the rest is Opening Day history. It was Markakis’s first walkoff homerun in his 12-year career. At the end of the day, we are all Braves fans here, so whether or not we enjoy Markakis has little to do with the feat. It was extraordinary and, for a little while, Kakes is our hero.

As was with 2017, Brian Snitker made some moves that made Braves fans explode all over social media. But Snitker wasn’t the only one being heavily criticized as new manager of the Phillies, Gabe Kapler, also made Phillies’ social media explode in rage. Let’s take a look at their decisions. I’ll give my opinion and I’d love to see some respond in the comments on their takes.

Brian Snitker‘s Management Decisions

 

  • Nick Markakis batting cleanup- Many looked at the lineup last night and had a mini-freak out when Nick Markakis was batting cleanup.  While I won’t get into too much of a lineup construction argument, it’s really not that big of a deal. Yes, aside from 1 at-bat against Hoby Milner, who was deemed FF5’s arch-nemesis when he entered (then Freddie planted one in the RF stands), Freddie was pitched around all night (and I tweeted about that). But with Tyler Flowers receiving only a handful of Spring Training at-bats, I’m not sure what choice there was unless Nick Markakis and Freddie swap and that’s too debatable to discuss. The bigger problem is obviously that Markakis or one of the catchers seem best choice for the spot and that is disheartening. The move? Defensible
  • Julio Teheran pitching in the 6th- Some were a bit upset about Julio going out for the 6th inning and then were really triggered when the leadoff guy hits a dinger. I’m not one of them. He had looked great and I do believe in the empowerment of a starting pitcher to try to get the win.  Defensible
  • Rex Brothers 1st up in relief- This is where Snitker’s judgment really starts to falter. The Braves have 8 fresh arms in the bullpen, 2 of which had awful springs in Rex Brothers and Dan Winkler. Compounding that point, Rex was awful last year. Until he proves trustworthy, he should be mop-up specialist and work his way into higher leverage innings. It’s my opinion in that situation where a game can quickly get away, the best choice is to bring in a pitcher that throws high quality strikes. It just so happens that pitcher is a lefty for the Braves. This was a clear cut situation for A.J. Minter. Some argue Sam Freeman. Sure…if your opinion is of the old school approach and think it’s necessary for AJ to pitch in the 8th or 9th, whatever.  This was a bad choice, but Rex has been known to get LHHs in the past so….Barely defensible
  • Rex Brothers facing a RHH in a bases loaded high-leverage situation- Nope…not one part of this should any fan be okay with happening. First off, Rex had a 7.23 ERA in 2017. A 7.20 ERA in Spring Training, and RHHs have lit him up. Midseason when pitchers are taxed? Maybe. But first game and first Opening Day at Suntrust Park? I was mad. Really madReally, really madIndefensible
  • Dan Winkler brought in with bases loaded- Dan was really good last year. He was less good this spring, and while I don’t put too much emphasis on spring training numbers, he really struggled with walks this spring. A bases loaded situation is a tough 1st assignment to a guy that walked 8 batters in 7.1 innings during spring. With Knapp being a LHH, maybe Sam Freeman makes the most sense, but point being is that it doesn’t seem wise to bring in a guy struggling with control. Barely defensible
  • Peter Moylan facing a LHH with a man on- With 1 out and Braves down 3, Moylan was left in to pitch to a LHH with a runner on 2nd.  It worked. Moylan is an effective reliever, but he should not be facing LHHs in big situations. Sure, it’s going to happen but there’s a career .300 points difference in his OPS against LHHs and RHHs. Still, a RHH was next…a good RHH. Somewhat defensible
  • Emptying out the bench in the 8th in a tie game- Snitker gets in a bit of trouble with his bench as he really likes the usage of a pinch runner. Since Kurt Suzuki had to come on in the 2nd inning due to Tyler Flowers’s injury, there’s a bit of a pass here. Still… this is riverboat gambler type-stuff and the safe move is to let Suzuki run. It worked out so there’s that. Somewhat defensible

 

Gabe Kapler‘s Managerial Decisions

 

  • Not starting Odubel Herrera– Unless he was hurt or was sitting for disciplinary reasons, this seems bizarre. Herrera has been the best player for the Phillies the last 3 years. I’m not a Phillies’ fan but this one is a real head-scratcher. Indefensible.
  • Removing Aaron Nola– The starting pitcher hasn’t broke 70 pitches and hasn’t given up a run. No matter what your metrics tell you, let him pitch Gabe. Personally, I’m thankful you didn’t.  Indefensible
  • Allowing Edubray Ramos to pitch to Preston Tucker- Dude was legit good last year and year prior, but has bad splits against LHHs. I only give this grade due to the bizarre happenings above which had to be plans of “playing the odds”, yet didn’t happen here. Why? Indefensible

 

Final Breakdown

Walt Weiss is here as a bench coach, but really his job is to prevent Snitker from making decisions based on “gut”. Unfortunately, there were at least 2 moves last night that showed 2017 Snitker is no different than 1 game sample 2018 Snitker. If Snitker stays married to the idea of pitching his relief core in particular innings rather than situations, I’ll go bald. Wait a minute…

Kapler was brought in as a bit of a new-age manager infused deeply into analytics. He chose to use those analytics when his SP had his first big hiccup in the 6th inning and seemingly ignored them when filling out the lineup and leaving in Edubray Ramos to face a LHH. If analytical is going to be the approach, stick to it.

 

9 Comments

I’m glad you didn’t really hammer Snit, because I think the guy gets a lot of unfair criticism. He hasn’t really been given anything resembling a complete ML team to work with by last year’s FO, or this one. That leads to things like batting Nick 4th in the order, and maybe leaving a SP out there a bit too long. He’s going to make mistakes, as every manager will. Some of the criticisms he gets though should be directed higher up the ladder though, and in different forms.

And a side note… although I’m not an analytics guy, like at all… I think Kapler’s going to round into a fine manager because of his people skills. Good hire on the Phils’ part.

It doesn’t matter what kind of team you got. You still should make fundamnetally sound decisions. Snitker isn’t and should be sacked after this season. Maybe he’s a good developmental guy, but his gameday decisions suck big way.

OK, Ryan (and others), it’s really hard to evaluate the moves without doing some armchair quarterbacking. In medias res, Snit’s lesser defensible decisions seem better. With regards to both the Rex decisions, I have to go with King’s point here. Snit has to use the personnel he’s given and he had no idea that Kapler was going to pull Nola like that. That game’s narrative was all about how anemic the offense was and a two run lead looked golden. In that situation, you have to have your best relievers for the game where your leading and need to protect it – like, maybe, the next two games. The bottom line is that Rex should not be on the roster. If Snit had been given a real ML reliever as the seventh and eighth relievers then that guy might have a better chance. I’ll go back to what I said before, someone like Biddle would be a better choice for the roster and would have been perfect for that situation. Once Rex gave up the walk and it was 3-0, I know Snit figured it was best to see if Rex could get one out on the day. And I liked the Winkler move. Based upon past history, Winkler has been nearly as good as Minter. And he did get a K right after the single. But again, the difference at that point between 3-0 and 5-0 was not that big a deal with the Braves offense being as bad as it was. That dynamic changed based upon the Nola change. Think about it another way. If the Braves had left the top of the sixth down 2-0, then maybe Kapler doesn’t pull Nola. At 5-0, taking a chance on a reliever is not as bad a decision.

Another possibility to consider is that Snit wants to see his more vulnerable relievers early in the season to know which one should be cut when Gohara comes back. If Carle and Rex are a toss-up then you can count on seeing them more than one might expect to be able to save the others and make a better decision when cut time comes. Almost all of the negative decision making on Snit’s part can be traced back to bad roster making. I just hope that the mismanagement of the roster doesn’t turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy with regards to the final 2018 record.

And the Braves bring in Socolovich???? Someone is trying to make the team worse not better. And they had to add him to the 40-man roster. That’s just just …… wrong. He’s failed everywhere he’s been.

OK, replacing Swanson with Culberson in a tie game was one of the worst manager moves I’ve seen. With short bench anyway with Flowers and Suzuki out (and the Braves bringing up Socolovich instead), to burn your last position player was idiotic. Although, he could have pinch hit Teheran for Carle. Teheran is not an awful hitter. The Braves are not equipped to withstand losing a lot of these close games. I still don’t get it – lose a catcher and replace him with a substandard pitcher? What kind of people are running this show????

Is there anyone out that that thinks Rex or Socolovich or several others are more worthy of a 40-man roster spot than Akeel Morris? What kind of vendetta do the Braves have against Akeel? I sure hope Ravin turns out be decent. At least he might be as good as Carle (rolls eyes)….. Rex and Socolovich have nothing in their history or Spring performances that shows they deserve a shot. I think the Braves are still playing like it’s Spring training with the relievers. Apparently, they don’t mind only being one deep at catcher. Anyone wanna take over/under bets on Snitker pinch hitting for Stewart?

Great article!

Two things I didn’t like about Friday nights game:

Pinch Running Bourjos for Preston Tuck.

I understand he *almost* scored the go ahead run, by with the bench running low I would have just rolled the dice and let Tucker stay in the game.

Also Bourjos did make a great catch in LF

The second decision was allowing Carle to hit. I would have had Teheran pinch hit. Julio swings a half decent stick, and I think would have given us a shot of getting on base.

Overall I’m excited about taking the serious against the Phillies!

Anyone thinking at this point that Flaherty is the second coming of Chipper Jones? Anyone? LOL……. On the other hand, I bet Camargo does significant time at AAA now as long as Flaherty stays hot and AA doesn’t want to designate Culberson. After reading that Carlos Perez is another “AA special”, I am really getting the feeling he has no idea how to evaluate players he hasn’t seen before. Anyone wanna speculate on a Donaldson deadline deal (I think a bad idea but it would be right up AA’s alley)?

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