Braves were undone by decision to go to Dunn

Instead of simply stating the obvious and reiterating what has been tweeted, blogged and talked about at great length over the course of the past 14 hours, I’m going to blame all the pain and disgust many of you are feeling on Eric Hinske. 

Had Hinske not provided you hope with that go-ahead, eighth-inning blast, Braves manager Bobby Cox might have never made that ill-fated determination that left-hander Mike Dunn had a better chance to retire Aubrey Huff than his strikeout specialist Craig Kimbrel. 

Game 3 was ultimately lost because Brooks Conrad was still showing that same defensive apprehension that many of us, including this National League scout, have witnessed for more than a week.

But had Cox simply allowed Kimbrel a chance to prove that he is indeed ready to serve as the closer, Buster Posey might never have had the chance to shoot and score through Conrad’s legs. More importantly, the Braves might have actually been sending Derek Lowe to the mound tonight to face a short-rested Tim Lincecum with a chance to clinch matchup against the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.

Instead if a short-rested Lowe proves better than 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner tonight, the Braves will have to travel to San Francisco for Wednesday’s Game 5 to face Lincecum, who will have had an extra day to recover from the 119-pitch masterpiece he produced in Game 1.

Before we delve further into this post, I’m not trying to overlook the significance of Conrad’s three-error performance. The ninth-inning error obviously proved decisive.  The errors he made in the first two innings proved destructive as they led to an unearned run and forced Tim Hudson to throw an additional 25 pitches.

Hudson ended up throwing 104 pitches in seven innings.  Without Conrad’s early miscues, the Braves ace certainly could have completed at least eight innings. If that was the case, then Jonny Venters and Kimbrel would have both been available to pitch the ninth inning. 

Instead, Cox chose to pull Kimbrel with runners at first and second and two outs in favor of Dunn, who promptly lost his lefty-lefty matchup by allowing Huff to deliver a game-tying single to right. 

“If [Huff] hits a double or a homer off Kimbrel, then you’re asking why we didn’t bring in the lefty,” Cox said after the game. 

With all due respect, I don’t think this would have been an overwhelming thought even if the much more experienced Venters had still been available.

In Billy Wagner’s absence, Kimbrel stands as the club’s best option in the closer’s role.  Dating back to Sept. 9 extending through the end of the regular season, the 22-year-old rookie matched Wagner with a Major League-leading 18.26 strikeouts per nine innings. 

With runners on first and second and two outs in last night’s ninth inning, the defensively-challenged Braves were certainly in need of one of those strikeouts.  But Cox chose to allow Dunn to face Huff, who hit .297 with an .894 OPS vs. right-handed hitters and .296 with an .884 OPS vs. left-handed hitters this season. 

After spending most of this year with Triple-A Gwinnett, Dunn spent the final month of the season in Atlanta, allowing left-handers to hit .250 (6-for-24) against him.  He did record 12 strikeouts in the 24 at-bats left-handers compiled against him during this span. 

But there certainly wasn’t a reason to replace one rookie reliever with another, especially when the formula includes somebody as talented as Kimbrel.

After he returned to the Majors at the conclusion of Gwinnett’s season, Kimbrel limited left-handed hitters to a .133 batting average.  He struck out 10 of the 15 left-handed batters he faced in this span.  

There was obviously a chance that Kimbrel would have also allowed Huff to tie the game.  But even if everything had played out in the same manner, I don’t think anybody would have second-guessed Cox’s decision to stick with his impressive young right-hander while Dunn remained idle in the bullpen. 

Now the Braves have to find a way to win two games in a row. In the process, they’ll have to arouse a slumbering offense that has tallied just two runs (one earned) against the Giants starters.

And of course, they have to address the Conrad issue.  My guess is that we’ll see Troy Glaus at third base and Omar Infante at second base tonight. Glaus could certainly prove to be a defensive liability at the hot corner. But right now, the Braves have no other choice. 

Plus their lineup might benefit from the instant offense that Glaus could provide with his occasional power.

In San Francisco, the Giants fans chanted “Posey’s better” when Jason Heyward came to the plate.  The Braves fans countered with some “Heyward’s better” chants when Buster Posey strolled to the plate yesterday. 

So far this head-to-head matchup has been a mismatch.   Heyward has struck out seven times and gone hitless in 12 at-bats. Posey has five hits, including a double, and just three strikeouts in 12 at-bats.

Through the first three games of this NLDS, the Giants have undoubtedly been better than what’s left of what was once a pretty good Braves club.

But with Lowe and Tommy Hanson going in the final two games, the Braves can feel that they at least still have a chance.   

52 Comments

At this point – the entire team is untested. So what’s the difference between an untested Greg Kimbrell and an untested Mike Dunn? 5-6 mph, for starters. Of course, if Kimbrell hadn’t thrown that slider to Sanchez, and stayed with heat that he couldn’t catch up to – we might still be discussing Lowe vs Lincecum.

Bottom line, though, is that the offense is offensive – our starting pitchers deserve better than the fate they’ve been dealt.

Oh, and what’s the chances Diory Hernandez gets the start at 2B tonight?

Really well done. I agree with the recap for the most part. I did not have a huge problem bringing Dunn due to Kimbrell’s inexperience with massively pressurized situations like last night’s. It was really hard to watch that top of the 9th last night but the pain is starting to wear off and I’m ready to watch the Braves win two straight!

I usually agree with everything you say Mark, but not this time. You are saying our only way out was with a Kimbrell Strikeout, thus taking the error out of Conrad’s hands? No one knows what would have happened. You could’ve had the same lazy ball hit to Conrad with a different pitcher on the mound. Cox never wants to put extra pressure on a rookie. I think he did the right thing. It was all working out like a script, until the bad news bears bill buckner error happened. In defense of Conrad, his 2nd error should have been caught but could’ve been ruled a hit as well. He ran a long way to get there. Also, we would not be here without Conrad. He made some noise this year. We still have a shot.

Brooks Conrad is the best. He took responsibility for the loss in a team effort. One so-called error in the outfield should have never been called an error. Wait, NO ONE is beating up Heyward for letting a catchable ball drop allowing the tying run to score. Or how about a few more runs on the board??? A little less blame and more CHEERING PLEASE!!!

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GO BRAVES!!! 11 for 6!!!!!!

I appreciate the analysis but the decision by Bobby Cox that we should be analyzing is why he keeps starting Brooks Conrad at 2nd bse? Bobby probably would not have had to make the call to Dunn if Brooks Conrad was not in the game. Believe me, I love Brooks — he has come through for us, he is gritty and I absolutely love seeing him come off the bench but the truth is he is not an everyday infielder.

The frustrating part is that Bobby has Troy Glaus, a proven 3rd baseman on the bench. If he played 3rd then Infante — who missed several make-able plays at 3rd — could go back to his normal position at 2nd and Conrad could thrive as a guy off the bench.

Some may say Glaus is old and slow but ask yourself this question, could it get any worse than Conrad’s 5 errors in 6 games? — the last one that literally cost them the lead in Sunday’s game. I think not.

Let’s get some early runs for a change and go back to having some fun out there. Swing at a few first pitches tonight. They are to the point where they are just grooving them knowing the Braves are taking. Get aggressive early in the count and go to ripping boys!!!

For the first time in a long time, a sporting event caused me to lose sleep. Not so much for the outcome, heck it is a miracle the Braves have gotten this far, but because of the performance of poor Brooks Conrad and the reaction of the some of the fans. I felt horrible for him. He didn’t get up yesterday morning and say I’m going to do everything I can to screw this up for our team. Sure, I was very disappointed the Braves lost last night, but my heart was breaking for Conrad.
What horrified me was the vicious, obscene attacks on him and even worse, the vitriol that was spewed at anyone who dared defend him online.
I could give a rat’s fanny that he is a well paid professional athlete, expected to perform, blah, blah, blah…he is also a human being, trying his best, and last night his best wasn’t good enough. Granted, not near good enough.
I doubt any of the cowards that vomited all over their keyboards last night would have the balls to say anything like the words they used in a face to face situation – shame on you!
Brooks Conrad, in addition to being a baseball player, is someone’s child. Speaking as a mother, it doesn’t matter how old they are, your heart breaks for them when they hurt. I hope the losers and mean spirited people who blasted him from their computers stay home tonight. It would break my heart again if Conrad got booed. Not that I believe that he will play tonight. I think Bobby will keep on the bench…more for his protection than anything else.
If the Braves pull another miracle out of the hat and advance past tonight, we will need Brooks Conrad and we need to stand behind him.
Go Braves!

Line up posted:

Infante – 2B
Diaz – LF
Lee – 1B
McCann – C
Gonzalez- SS
Heyward – RF
Glaus 3B

Rick Ankiel in CF batting 8th

its a bobbys fault i told you he dont know how 2 handle a pitching staff.or make a lineup.i told you the ways we got into the ploffs al thoes years.we beat leland pirates.hes the only manager worser than cox.and we beat wagner astros .see we won game 2 with cox kicked out and wagner hurt.get the point!i hope freedy dont try 2 coach like coxs.or were in for disapointment again!

That’s one ugly looking lineup. This has to be the most beat up club that I can ever remember being in the postseason. I’ve been rooting for him, but it’s mildly reassuring to see the Giants secret offensive weapon out of the lineup.

Glaus at third? First play of the game will be a bunt down the 3B line. That is the first thing the Giants did when Glaus was in there a couple of games ago and that was the play where Wagner got hurt. You guys’ just can’t win with your defense.

Trying doing well with 2 guys from the original lineup.

I agree with Bobby starting Glaus at 3rd tonight, I thing Conrad needs the pressure taken off of him. That being said , remember if it wasn’t for him off the bench this season, the Braves may not even be in the playoffs. It is amazing they are considering all the key injuries this year. I doubt if there is another team in baseball that would have made the playoffs having to overcome all the injuries the Braves have had to overcome. I think Bobby Cox should win manager of the year.
Hope Conrad gets the chance tonight to hit a game winning RBI ( better yet the whole offense take the pressure off and score plenty of runs so that no one needs to be a hero tonight.)

iluvthebraves- That was the most poetic statement I have ever read on this site. I myself was so appalled at some of the comments last night I was uncertain if I would ever post here again. Fortunately my faith was restored by you and a number of others who saw the stupidity of the comments from last night. It’s great to have some REAL Braves fans here for a change. Welcome.

There is life left in this wounded dog yet. Way to go Brian

get bobby and thoes sorry b d out of ga

get bobby and thoes sorry b d out of ga

get bobby and thoes sorry b d out of ga

Gonzalez’s second error (on the throw). On the other hand, the fact that he kept the ball from getting into left saved the go-ahead run.

However, I’m still not so sure that Omar came off that bag. No good replays available either.

That same call went against us – was that in San Fran or before the playoffs? May have been in the Phillies series where the 2 baseman clearly came off the bag and was given the phantom out.

I see, bill. You can ridicule and talk **** about Troy Glaus… Nate McLouth, Frank Wren, Bobby Cox, Yunel Escobar, Rick Ankiel, lately Omar Infante as much as you want, but when we ride your boy for setting a defensive(or lack there of) record for the playoffs, we’re childish and immature. Your using nc’s logic now. 2 wrongs doesn’t make a right, and it sure as HELL doesn’t make you right.

We can’t buy a break (or a call). Bang bang but looked as though Edgar was out by an eyelash.

Gonzo just failed to run on the Ground ball to SS. This guy is Garret Anderson revisited. He loafs and daydreams and couldn’t get Esky’s newspaper at this point.

Brandumb, you are too young or too ignorant to get it, but you don’t kick a guy when he’s down, grow up.

Gonzo has a mother too.

We just won’t learn. Huff sitting on the slider got one. DO NOT THROW 2 strike sliders over the plate. WE DO IT ALL THE TIME.

Nobody’s kicking him, bill. He’s a man, he makes mistakes. The man doesn’t care about what any of us say, including you. The main reason we bring Conrad up is because you fight for him day in and day out, and say he’s the only reason we’re here, and yet he’s the reason we’re on the brink of elimination. We’re making fun of you bill, not him. We all get kicks out of making fun of you, bill. And your “witty” comebacks and puns can’t take back everything you said about Conrad that has proven to be false. Let’s hope your boy can redeem himself… and he doesn’t. Where’s your savior now?

And don’t kick someone while they’re down? You were kicking McLouth out of Spring Training. You’ve kicked Glaus until he had no knees, and still are. What a hypocrite.

We better win it here boys or Brooksy will be back at 2B

This sums up our season guys. Melky Cabrera at the plate when it counts, and he grounds out. Thank you, Melky Cabrera, for being the crappiest outfielder imaginable. If you’re back in ’11, I’ve lost faith in the Braves.

Let me make this clear: I HATE MELKY CABRERA. I DO NOT HATE BROOKS CONRAD.

You guys can retire to you mama’s basement now.

I really do not understand the move of subbing Melky for Diaz. Would have loved to have seen Diaz up in that situation.

Thanks you for the ride Braves – ALL of you.

Can’t wait until February!

Amen, barry. Hoping to hear about Melky’s non tender soon. And maybe trade of Kawakami.

Thanks for the ride, Mr. Cox, and thanks for letting me hop on the bus back in 1991 when I was but eight years old and had no knowledge of the greatness that is the professional sports world.
It’s gonna be hard not seeing a manager in spikes next season in our dugout. Whatever shoes he decides to wear, they’re gonna be extremely hard to fill.

I can second guess Bobby’s decision quite easily. Would he have pulled Wagner in the same situation.
When you have a guy with Kimbrell’s stuff, and a lefty that hits lefty better than he hits rightys, you stay with the better stuff. But Bobby is old school, and this time it cost him. He says “If Huff hits Kimbrell, you are asking why not bring in the lefty.” Bull. You just answer, Kimbrell has strikeout stuff and Huff hits leftys higher than rightys.
But here is my question. Who tells Brian McCann to call for a slider from a pitcher who throws 97 and a hitter who has not come close to his fast ball. Did not anyone remind McCann of Wohlers’ sliders to Leyritz in 96. You just cannot get beat with your second best pitch, even if it was thrown way off where it was called for…you don’t call for it at all!!!

Now it is over and Bobby goes off to the sunset. And the poor Braves pitching staff has nothing to suggest offense is coming next year. Maybe they will sign Crawford…naw, Wren still thinks Rico Carty and Felipe Alou will solve the problem.

Crawford should be very high on FW’s to do list right now.

That ONE move would make all the difference in the world on this team.

Also – would love to see Chipper become a player/coach and transition into the hitting coach’s role.

Am anxiously awaiting to see the new manager announced.

Lets talk next season’s roster, in a perfect world.

Crawford LF
Prado 2B
Chipper 3B
McCann C
Heyward RF
Gonzalez SS
Freeman 1B
McLouth(?) CF

Bench:

Ross C
sign a 4th OF type(better than Melky) for cheap. Someone like Reed Johnson, or Rick Ankiel, if he’s cheap enough
Infante 2B/SS/3B/LF/RF/CF
Hinske 1B/3B/LF/PH(need to resign him)
Conrad 2B/3B/PH

Rotation:

Tim Hudson
Derek Lowe
Tommy Hanson
Jair Jurrjens
Mike Minor

Bullpen:

Moylan
O’Flahrety
Venters
Kimbrel
Beachy(or Kawakami, if we can’t trade him)
Dunn
Maybe someone like Martinez, or another Free Agent

I think Crawford could literally change the game completely for us.

Probably going to have to parlay D Lowe’s tremendous season ending performances and move him to clear salary for the likes of Crawford.

I love him, but it is a reality. The money is going to have to come from somewhere.

I really doubt Kawakami will be back next year. and Beachy will most likely be at Gwinnett to give us rotation depth.

Wow. Braves fans come up small again in a potential elimination game. What a sorry lot you are. No wonder the Braves faded weakly into the night.
And I like how billreef anguishes about your treatment of Conrad, while he continuously trashes everybody else on the team. What a hypocrite. Conrad is now a historical joke and will always be treated as such. Without him, the Braves would still be playing.

Phan, if it wasn’t for the bombs that Conrad hit coming off the bench throughout the season, they wouldn’t have even made the playoffs. So your jackass comment that without him we would still be playing is, as Mike Tyson would say, just ludicrous.

I made a spreadsheet for the estimated Braves 2011 commitments, but I do not know how to share it with you guys on this blog.

Thanks for everything you’ve done for Atlanta, Bobby. It won’t be the same watching a Braves game without you.

As for next year, Crawford would be great but I don’t see it happening. I’m sure instead we will take a chance on some guy that is washed up like we have been prone to do lately. Considering our payroll/injuries, I feel as though we had a good season.

As for Gonzo not running out the line drive, it was lazy. However, natural reaction is to stop when you see a line drive go right to a player. Gonzo definitely seems to have his up and down moments, but i think most professionals would have done the same thing.

Wren needs to man up this year and actually fill our needs, because he didn’t get it done this season.

As for D Lowe, it was a great sign to see him finish so strong. Hopefully that rolls into next year.

Here ya go, Brandon (see attached link). Braves have committments of $59.5MM to date for 2011.

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tgCitDGAjoOm8mS8PZNDTJA&output=html

A couple of corrections for whoever’s spreadsheet that is. Ross has signed 2 year contract for 2011-2012 at 1.625 per year. Also you might as well ink Omar to the exercise of his club option or a renegotiated contract in excess of the 2.5 million plus 1.0 PA bonus. No one in their right mind(Frank?) wouldn’t exercise that contract for an all star who finished 3rd in NL BA. You can also strike Wagner’s buyout option for 2011, he ain’t returning. The 2010 numbers are all also off terribly they don’t include player’s traded for and do include players traded. This looks like a regurgitation of the opening day roaster and payroll with some of the call ups and some missing. You can count on the fact that the white haired wonder will be looking to dump additional payroll so that Liberty can show additional profits before the pending team sale.

My estimate includes buyouts, Free Agent reductions, non-tenders of Diaz, Proctor, and Melky, and estimated arbitration offers. I have a grand total of $71.625m, minus Kawakami, because I don’t know how much salary we’re going to have to eat to trade him.

Wow, this is pretty critical. I’m not really sure I agree with you but I don’t think that the Braves played to their potential, with the exception of Derek Lowe.

Michael

http://phanaticaddict.mlblogs.com/

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