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Braves Overmanaged To Death In 5-4 Loss To Marlins

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The Braves' Jair Jurrjens was undone by one bad inning (the 4th), in which a 2-0 lead turned into a 4-2 deficit. In that inning, the rain was pouring down, the mound was deteriorating, and the home plate umpire was squeezing the strike zone (he was all over the place tonight). In that inning, 6 straight Marlins reached base with 1 out, highlighted by Wes Helms' 2-run triple. Jurrjens settled down and pitched great after that, but the damage was done. his final line was 7 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 BB (1 IBB), 6 K, and a -0.107 WPA.

Chris Volstad of the Marlins fared a bit better. He (and the Marlins' bullpen) were able to wriggle out of numerous jams. He gave up a solo homer to Eric Hinske and finished with a line of 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 3 K, and a 0.025 WPA.

In the battle of the bullpens, the Braves did get a run in the 8th to tie it at 4 when Melky Cabrera and Chipper Jones hit back-to-back doubles, but after that the Braves couldn't seem to get a run across no matter how many guys they got on. They hit into bases-loaded double plays in the 7th (Troy Glaus off of Clay Hensley) and 11th (Nate McLouth off of Jorge Sosa, of all people).

The Braves bullpen pitched amazingly until the 11th. Peter Moylan struck out the side in a scoreless 8th, Takashi Saito struck out 2 in a perfect 9th, and Jonny Venters got a double play to finish off a scoreless 10th. Unfortunately, Bobby Cox turned to Jesse Chavez for the 11th, and he blew it very quickly (though it should be noted that none of the balls hit off of him were hit hard; they just found holes). Two hits and an intentional walk brought up Helms again, with the bases loaded and no outs. Needing a miracle, Chavez didn't get it, as Helms grounded weakly, but through a drawn-in infield to secure the walkoff victory.

This was a tough series loss for us. Hopefully we can move on and beat up on Strasburg and the Nats starting Tuesday. Go Braves!

Okay. Now I have to rant a bit about some managerial moves. If you don't want to read it, that's fine. I've placed it after the jump, so you can just stop reading or skip to the comments if you don't like that sort of thing. But there are a few things that Bobby did in this game that I just have to complain about a bit.

In the clubhouse, Bobby Cox is a peerless manager. Nobody is better at managing players. Even during game situations, he's generally pretty good outside of a couple blind spots. But boy did he screw the pooch today.

I'm sure you could find a hundred things that went wrong with this game. You could blame the home plate ump, or the crappy field conditions, or the Braves' inability to hit with the bases loaded, or the presence of Nate McLouth on the roster. And I'm sure all of those things helped prevent us from winning. But I just want to focus on three moves Bobby made that made no sense at the time, and clearly interfered with our chances of winning the game:

  1. Pinch-running Nate McLouth for Eric Hinske in the 7th inning. Even if you assume that there is a big speed upgrade here (it seems pretty marginal to me), any slight benefit you gain is more than offset by the tremendous offensive downgrade. It's not like it was that late in the game; Hinske's spot in the order came up twice more before the game was over. McLouth grounded out weakly in the 9th and--crushingly--hit into a double play with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 11th. Raise your hand if you'd rather have had Hinske up in those spots (or Diaz, or really ANYONE else).
  2. Pinch-running Matt Diaz for Brian McCann in the 9th inning, and then telling him to steal. While there was clearly a speed upgrade here, this move required taking out one of our best hitters, ended up costing us an out when Diaz was easily thrown out, AND wasted Diaz in a game in which every position player got into the game. Having McCann anchored to first base there is infinitely preferable to having the inning over and both Diaz and McCann out of the game.
  3. Using Jesse Chavez out of the bullpen instead of Billy Wagner to start the 11th. Look, I know Wags has been in a tough stretch lately, and I know "the Book" says not to use your closer in tie games on the road, but come on. Who gives you a better chance to win in that spot? Isn't your closer for high-leverage situations, just like that? Even if you wanted to start the inning with Chavez, don't you have to bring in Wagner once Chavez loaded the bases? Why lose with your 12th-best pitcher when you have one of your best still available? I can see using Moylan, Saito, and Venters before Wagner, since they're all really good. But Chavez? This mistake always gets me, and it happens all the time.

Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I would like to say that Bobby did make one good move. He pinch-hit with Chipper Jones at exactly the right time, leading to Chipper's game-tying double. 

But oh man, sometimes I wish we could just keep managers away from "the Book" and all of its silly ideas of what works and what doesn't. It often does more harm than good.