The State Of Snit

The State Of Snit

Hello Sports fans,

Welcome to the therapeutic space of pulling one’s hair out and cussing at the television for Braves fans everywhere! No, seriously, this space will be dedicated to managerial (GM included) analysis. And I hope you’ll find it interesting while also providing that needed release to deal with the stress of Braves baseball.

First, let’s talk a bit about myself in the baseball ideology scale. I consider myself an analytical old-school baseball guy. It’s either a paradox or an oxymoron, I suppose you can decide. I still believe there is a place in the game for the eye test (for the scout’s opinion). And I paradoxically believe SABERmetrics. I am just starting to peel back what this new data can tell us, but there’s no denying its predictive and evaluating power.

That said, when it comes to managing the Braves I believe it is to be done by the numbers and probability absent the “gut” managing we’ve all been subjected to as Brave fans.

Some argue that the manager plays a small role in outcomes of baseball games. I think this is faulty logic. Sure, the players play, and the result is decided on the field. But decisions made by the manager influence game outcomes every night. On some nights, the manager doesn’t affect the game much. Other nights? He impacts the game in major ways. Case and point: The manager’s impact on a game varies widely from game-to-game.

All that is to say: managers do influence game outcomes. In the years prior to 2011, Braves fans were spoiled by the steady hand of Bobby Cox. Some fans have stated Bobby wasn’t a great in-game strategy man. That his whole (or large part of his) value was his ability to manage a clubhouse. This is revisionist history.

Here’s the thing, in Bobby’s long career as a manager, he definitely had moments where he made a move and it didn’t work. That happens. Occasionally it was a move he failed to make… like replacing Brooks Conrad with Diory Hernandez in the 9th. But in the large sample of Bobby’s career, he proved able to get the matchups he wanted in crunch time. And that is what managing in the NL is about in my opinion. I bold those words because that is what managing a late game is. Getting the matchup we want.

Brian Snitker and his predecessor have had problems with decision making. Now, this year, Snitker has improved his management in some areas. We’ll talk about those. But first I want to go through a few scenarios thus far that have raised my ire. Keep in mind, result in a few of these cases are irrelevant. The goal of managing a late game is to get the best matchup for the Braves. When that doesn’t happen, the management has failed result be damned.

The situation: Braves 5, Nationals 1 in the Top of 6th at Sun Trust Park.

With two on and Peter Moylan on the mound, Wilmer Difo walks to load the bases.

The Nationals have Ryan Zimmerman available to pinch hit since he was given the day. The lineup card should have reflected this. With Moylan on the mound, Nationals skipper Dave Martinez sent Brian Goodwin to pinch hit for Pedro Severino. The hope for Martinez is that Snitker takes down Moylan and goes to a left-handed reliever, in this case, Sam Freeman. Zimmerman, if you were curious, sports a .944 OPS against lefties over the last three years. For comparison’s sake, Zimmerman has a .748 OPS against righties.

Snitker appeared to immediately realize his mistake. His body language said worry and agony as Sam Freeman was forced to deal with notorious Braves killer, Ryan Zimmerman. Fortunately, Freeman struck out Zimmerman and the Braves went on to win. But a managing mistake like that cannot go unnoticed or without criticism. This was a blunder. Now you must be saying, “what would you have done smarty pants?” Glad you asked.

What Snitker should have done: Once Goodwin is announced, Snitker should have gone to the mound and called for Dan Winkler. Winkler insures that Zimmerman stays right where he is (the bench), and Winkler would face the much less dangerous Goodwin.

Bench bats and double switches: The struggle is real.

It’s been noted by good Braves twitter scribes that our inability to pinch-hit our best bench bat is notably bad. Here are a few examples:

Series Finale, Cincinnati Reds

The situation: Game tied at 4 in the 6th, after Joey Votto went boom in the 5th.

Ryan Flaherty is facing a left-hander with 1-out and Ronald Acuña Jr. on first. Flaherty has hit .202 against lefties in recent years. His OPS over that same sample size? A meager .570. Last year, Johan Camargo crushed lefties hitting .403 with an astounding OPS of 1.128. With one out in the 6th the score tied at 4, we let Flaherty face the lefty, and he hit a harmless looping liner that ended in a double play to end the inning.

Note: A pitching change had been made here so the lefty would have had to face Camargo with Acuña Jr. on first. We could have pinch hit Charlie Culberson after Camargo’s at-bat.

The Reds wouldn’t have removed the lefty, most likely, because Ender Inciarte would have been on deck. We could have generated two favorable matchups in a tie game. Inexplicably, Culberson was the only bat that got used that day, and he saw a right-hander (OPS .499, sad face).

Using Peter Moylan, a final gripe

Lastly, let’s look quickly at Peter Moylan’s usage. Over the last three years, lefty hitters carry a 1.033 OPS against Moylan.

Granted Moylan hasn’t been good against anyone this year, but he’s faced 18 left-handers so far. That number should be very close to 0. Moylan faced three lefties in the disastrous 5th inning last Monday that led to a bases-loaded nightmare that ended in five runs for the Reds.

To double switch or not double switch…

We’ve seen some seriously questionable double switches by Snitker in his career. I won’t rehash those for the sake of us all. However, I was slightly annoyed that he didn’t double switch on Friday after Julio Teheran left with a shoulder issue.

In the top half of the 4th, Ryan Flaherty made the final out. And with Julio done for the day, I thought a double switch moving the pitcher spot to the 8-hole made some sense. Johan Camargo could have come on to lead off the 5th. But alas…. We did not double switch. Max Fried led off the 5th with a grounder to short.

Flaherty has been a nice find. I’m not understanding, however, why he’s entrenched at third to the point that we can’t even get Snitker to do his favorite thing ever: double switch.

Right now, it feels like that time we won a game with Nick Markakis hitting leadoff under Fredi Gonzalez…. And Markakis hit leadoff for two months results be damned. Why can’t we get Johan Camargo into the lineup? Flaherty has lost 60 points on his average over the past week or so… This I do not get.

I saw an opportunity to not let the pitcher lead off an inning, a simple managerial move…. And we didn’t do it. But I digress….

Not all hope for Snitker is lost? But it probably is…

Look, I’m not a Snitker fan. And I don’t want him to be manager after 2018. It would be wrong of me not to point some of the good things he’s done. He’s made some adjustments from last year that have helped big time.

The Situation: Mets 3, Braves 2 9th Inning 0 outs, Dansby Swanson on first

In the past, and in several cases last year, Snitker would have sacrificed to get the tying run to second. Needing two runs, we’d give away an out. This strategy really upset me. And faced with that situation here, Snitker let Camargo swing away. And he was rewarded. Camargo smoked a worm-burner into the gap for an RBI-triple. This was an example of real growth for Snitker.

This is a big shift in managerial strategy in my opinion. Giving up outs when you’re trailing is not a good strategy. Abandoning the bunting while trailing makes me happy.

Lineup change to ponder

The large majority of this piece was written for publication before Sunday’s game in Philly. I think we all awoke (at least I did, I still sleep in like I’m 18) to a surprise. Brian Snitker had done the thing none of us thought he would do. He dropped Ender Inciarte out of the leadoff spot.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ender. A lot has been written about his misplacement in the order. He’s an excellent contact hitter and is showing himself to be an elite base stealer. But, for a leadoff man, he’s never been strong getting on base. And he’s not a power threat. The leadoff spot ends up in a lot of RBI situations, so some thunder at the top is a plus.

The lineup he put forth on Sunday was opposite of the reasons I wanted to fire Snitker. I never thought he would fill out that lineup card. But he did, and he proved me wrong. He’s done some things here of late to raise his stock. I can be persuaded.

I am still not a believer for the reasons I outline above, and if he changes the lineup to its previous sub-optimal status? All of the goodwill shall be wasted. Everything about that lineup was perfect. If Snit can improve in late game situations? I don’t know. That lineup card really altered my view.

The Braves are thieves

The Braves of the last few years have been among the most conservative baserunning teams in MLB. So far this year the Braves are among the most aggressive team on the base paths in all of baseball. You can highlight that 19 team steals, with Ender Inciarte leading the team with 13.

The Braves have stolen 24 bases with nine caught stealing. Ozzie Albies has a caught stealing on a straight pickoff, Swanson was caught going on the first move against a lefty Sunday, and Inciarte got picked off in a bad situation last night. So, it feels like 24-and-5. Mad props to the Braves brass, and when I say brass, I mean more than management.

Steals aside, the team has been aggressive going first-to-third, Atlanta has put the pressure on with every chance. It’s exciting to watch. And I have to acknowledge the change because the Braves have been extremely conservative on the bases in recent years. I wasn’t able to find a great stat on steals in 2017, but I did see the Braves ranked 18th in MLB in steals per game. Ender himself is on pace to destroy his career high for steals. And if you haven’t noticed, Ender is getting in there with ease. Very few close plays at second especially.

The Braves sport four extremely athletic players that possess game-changing speed. The base running aggressiveness is a great chance to take advantage of a big strength. I feel it necessary to single out Braves superstar Freddie Freeman as well here. While not nearly as fleet of foot, he’s one of the smartest baserunners in the game.

We’ve seen Freeman’s aggressive base running create runs several times. Opening day is one example, Freeman’s play on the bases forces an error that opened the door for the Braves to tie the game.

To close out this diatribe, keep running, fools.

9 Comments

Snitger is not a good tactical manager, but my question to all is the following: What was Walt Weiss doing when these decisions were being made? Why was he not pointing out the implications of these moves 2 or 3 batters before they arose? Isn’t that the bench coach’s job?

The role of bench coach originated with Dom Zimmer on the Yankees of the mid-90’s. Joe Torre was good with the press and a great leader but had essentially failed in his other managerial assignments because of his tactical miscues. Popeye was no longer able to be an effective manager but had 50+ years of experience: the combination put Torre in the HOF, and kicked off the creation of the role on every team.

So I ask again: what was Walt doing during these decisions?

I disagree with you on a lot here.

There’s a lot of things that get hung on Snitker, and they’re only half his fault. The man gets hammered for his bullpen usage- which, I’ll admit, isn’t perfect- but he’s also working with the hand he’s been dealt by the GM. The guy doesn’t have an Andrew Miller and Cody Allen out there, or the depth like the Yankees have. Management simply didn’t spend there. They went budget shopping with Moylan, and picked up some scrap pile parts.

The Braves bullpen currently has Winkler, Carle, Minter and Viz as dependable options out of the pen. You may say that’s four pitchers, but the starters are also usually only going about 5. So you either have to play with fire, or pitch them every night.

Snitker is improving strategically, but he’s also getting more talent to work with every day, too. That’s a huge difference maker. Players love the guy, too. You can’t discount that. You can hire the smartest manager in the world, but if he can’t relate to players, they’re not going to respond as well. So while the in-game stuff may be important, the personal side of it is just as much.

If the Braves keep playing the way they’re playing, I don’t see how they don’t extend him. They very well should.

King….NO WAY did AA take The Braves GM job….if he knew that he was going to have to give Snitker ‘the keys’ to his team to manage LONG TERM! I’m sure that AA had to prod Snitker FOR WEEKS to make the lineup changes that he made on Sunday.

AA is in the process of remolding/fine tuning the 25 man roster (sure, it’s nice to have young/shiny new pieces like Acuna, Albies and Soroka he can add, lol). However, The 2018 Free Agent Offseason..is where AA is really going to MAKE HIS MARK on this team! NO WAY does he give THAT SHINY NEW CAR (which will be The 2019 Braves) to Snitker!

AA will want to hire a manger who is more in tune to his vision. In other words, he will not want to have to ‘micromanage’ a 70 year old man who is stuck in his ways when it comes to lineup construction/bullpen management.

Paul, I’m assuming you’re largely speculating that AA had some influence into Snitker’s lineup changes. Is there anything out there that supports your theory? I’d also find it hard to imagine he was prodding Snit for weeks. Acuna was just called up not much more than a week ago.

Snitker took a team with hardly any talent on it last season and didn’t end up in the cellar. This season he’s managed the club to a winning record; and right now, the team sits ahead of a popular World Series pick in the form of the Nationals. What more can the man do to prove himself? Look at how many players went to bat for him.

So many people now are all about analytics. Managers who prescribe to that aren’t perfect either, though. Kapler’s made mistakes. Dave Roberts has the Dodgers 5 games under .500 right now out in LA. And AJ Hinch just made some questionable managerial choices last night, too. So it’s not always the golden ticket to a World Series.

The Snitker decision that really PISSED ME OFF…was on Friday against The Phillies…to bring in Chase Whitely in the bottom of the 7th inning when The Braves were only down 4-3.

Teheran was pulled early after 3 innings with the score 3-3. Fried gave up one run in his 3 innings. With The Braves proclivity of scoring late runs/mounting late comeback apparent so far in The 2018 Season….for the life of me, I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why Snitker would bring in, at best, ‘a fringe reliever’ making his 2018 debut (Whitely wasnt exactly ‘impressive’ during his time in Tampa).

Quickly, Whitley gives up 2 runs without getting a freaking out. After The Braves failed to score DESPITE having 2 ‘different’ rallies in the top of the 8th inning…..the game was sealed when he brought in Moylan in the bottom of the 8th inning, who gave up another run to make the final score 7-3.

Winkler could have been brought in to pitch the 7th…while Minter could have pitched the 8th (neither had pitched the previous game in Cincy on Thursday). If we dont come back…no need to bring in a pitcher to pitch the 9th. If we do come back (a one run deficit with 2 at-bats….would have put pressure on Phillies Manager Kapler to manage different than he did in that top of the 8th inning…when he had the luxury of a 3 run lead), then Vizcaino could have pitched the 9th to get the save (he did throw 24 pitches in Thursday afternoon’s game…however he had the previous day off when Minter got his 1st career save).

I suspect that at the end of the season…Braves GM, AA, will let Snitker go and hire a manager who is more ‘modern’. While I like how Snitker basically ‘gave in’ to AA’s wishes to put Albies and Acuna at the top of the ordere (NO WAY does Snitker do this lineup on his own, lol) while putting Inciarte in the #9 hole…I would like to see Flowers/Suzuki inserted in the #4 hole (splitting up Freeman and Markakis, having them hit #3 and #5).

As of now, having Freeman/Markakis hit #3 and #4 together, makes it easy for the opposing manager to bring in a tough lefty to face both of them (without having to face a right handed hitter). Sure, both Freeman/Markakis can hit lefties….however there are some tough lefties out there who can get lefties out (no matter who the hitter is).

I would like to say that AA has done AN AMAZING JOB of ‘rebuilding’ The Bench! When Bautista eventually gets called up…The 4 Man Bench will consist of the following:

1. Preston Tucker
2. Johan Carmago
3. Flowers/Suzuki
4. Bautista/Flaherty

I know that you pointed out that you would rather see Carmago starting over Flahtery…however if Bautista shows that he can still rake left handed pitching…I could live with a platoon of Bautista/Flaherty at 3rd…with Carmago being the ‘SuperSub’ who can play any of the infield positions (Snitker is going to have to start giving Albies and Swanson a day off soon)…in addition to being a switch hitting pinch hitting threat off the bench.

When was the last time The Braves had three power bats available to pinch hit (in theory, on days when a right handed is starting…with Tucker, Bautista and Flowers/Suzuki)….as well as a quality switch hitter like Carmago?

Once Annibal Sanchez gets activated (assuming that Shane Carle’s early exist from the 7th inning last night IS NOT serious), I really like the following 8 man bullpen:

1. Vizcaino
2. Minter
3. Winkler
4. Carle
5. Freeman
6. Moylan
7. Sanchez (I really like him being a multi-inning/long man relief option)
8. Biddle/Fried (while I envision Fried eventually settling into an Andrew Miller-like role….I assume that The Braves will still want to give Fried every chance to show that he can eventually be a quality starting pitcher…so they will soon send him back down to AAA to start. If Biddle can show that he can be a multi-inning/long relief option….he’ll form a potential formidable lefty-righty long relief tandem with Sanchez).

I suspect that Moylan may end up being replaced later this summer (possibly by Kyle Wright). While Wright is one of our future starting pitchers…AA did say that he may use some of our young pitching prospects to initially fill bullpen roles. Wright has the stuff to pitch LIGHTS OUT in the bullpen (at least for this season IF a role does not open up for him in The Starting Rotation). Sam Freeman hasnt been quite as effective as he was last season. The Braves have a number of relief options in Mississippi, like Corbin Clouse and Devan Watts…who could easily skip AAA and be called upon to pitch in Atlanta if a need arises.

As much fun as the start of 2018 has been (especially when compared to how BAD the past 4 years have been)…..people need to realize that our starting rotation..as it is currently construction IS NOT playoff caliber (really, do you really think that Teheran and McCarthy can throw quality starts in The Playoffs?).

While Folty, Newcomb and Soroka all have potential (with their swing and miss ability..which plays WELL in The Playoffs)…my position is that 2019 will be the 1st year where The Braves will be WORLD SERIES CONTENDERS! Come The July Trade Deadline…AA should look for opportunities to trade BOTH Teheran and McCarthy…opening up a spots for Allard and Gohara (assuming he’s able to right the ship…which right now looks UGLY. He’s currently getting rocked for 6 runs in 2 innings in his AAA start today). If not Gohara, then Kyle Wright. For Soroka, Allard, Gohara and Wright to pitch effectively in 2019..we need all of them to get significant starts in 2018.

I know, a tough sell for 2018. However I’m a Braves fan FOR THE LONG HAUL (been one since 1982….when I was a 10 year old watching that 13-0 start to that magical 1982 season. If I live another 36 years, I would like to see ‘one more’ 14 year run of winning division titles that put The Braves in position to win a World Series every year). The last thing I want to see AA do…is start peddling our young talent to chase a PIPE DREAM playoff run in 2018.

Whatever success that we have in 2018..should come from the players that we have RIGHT NOW (as far as reinforcements from within our system). I DO NOT want to see ‘a Noah Synderguard’ traded for ‘a R.A. Dickey’! If AA can swing a trade/trades that DO NOT involve giving up any of our significant prospects…then great. If not…let’s stay pat. AA will have PLENTY OF MONEY to go after Free Agents after The 2018 Season (which DO NOT require giving up any of our prospects) to improve the roster for 2019!

I don’t care that Braves bullpen has weak players.
I don’t care that last season we weren’t last.

Snitker’s note should be process oriented not result oriented. And he sucks.

To be fair though, I mean players do make a difference. Would you fire Showalter this year if you were running the O’s? The guy’s winning percentage isn’t far off of Bobby Cox’s, so he might be a borderline HoF manager. He doesn’t have the greatest players this season, though- so they’re terrible.

To me it just feels like if you’ve got a team full of happy players, they’re playing their tails off, and they’re overachieving, you don’t have a managerial issue. I struggle to see how that equates to sucks. Lol.

And yes, you can find some errors in his decision making- but that’s the same with every manager. Bobby Cox got smashed for years for some of his moves. LaRussa “over managed” according to some. You don’t find perfect. I feel like you only make a change when a team drastically under performs without injuries, or tunes the manager out though.

But of course players do make difference! Players are much more important than manager! Give me Maddux, Chipper, Babe, Musial, Williams (in their prime) etc – and even with me as a manager they would beat some college team managed by Connie, Earl, Bobby, Casey, Tony and Sparky.

So manager should be judged in context. It’s not that I think Snitkers should be let go because Braves had bad season. They had bad season because they had bad players. But I think Snitkers should be let go because his decision making wasn’t good.

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