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The Braves are regressing badly

May 4, 2013, 5:00 PM EST

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

The Braves were 12-1 after their victory over the Royals on April 16. They had just rattled off ten consecutive wins, due to an incredibly potent offense and unhittable pitching. The Braves hit three or more home runs in three of their first five games with Justin Upton hitting one just about every night. In fact, of their 29 games on the season, they have hit multiple home runs in 11 of them. Word quickly spread that the Braves were the presumptive heir to the slow-starting Nationals’ throne atop the NL East.

Problem was, it was never going to last. Justin was never going to continue his 97-homer pace. Paul Maholm, with a career 4.23 ERA, wasn’t going to go the whole season without giving up a run as he did in his first 26 innings. They weren’t going to avoid injuries all year. The struggles of Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons, and B.J. Upton couldn’t continue to be swept under the rug.

Since April 17, the Braves are 5-11. They’re still in first place, but tenuously so as they nurse a 2.5-game lead over the second-place Nationals. They have averaged 3.25 runs per game, scoring three or fewer runs nine times in 16 games while striking out 156 times in 590 plate appearances (26%).

The Braves have had the second-fewest opportunities with runners in scoring position (236 PA) in the National League. In those scant opportunities, they are hitting .230. Despite the team’s prodigious power, their .316 on-base percentage is only two points better than the NL average. They steal bases both infrequently and with poor efficiency, making them baseball’s fifth-worst base-stealing team according to Baseball Prospectus.

This isn’t to say the Braves are a sham, but they will sure look like one every time they enter their bust cycle shortly after the boom. They can pitch with the best of them, but their homer-reliant offense will make their hurlers a nonfactor in every drought. The good news, though, is that they play in the same division as the Marlins, Mets, and Phillies, so they’ll have plenty of opportunities to pick up cheap wins as they keep the Nationals in their crosshairs.

  1. randygnyc - May 4, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    The phillies are a cheap win. I love that. Like they aren’t even there. The only ones who don’t know are phillie fans.

    • mgoldst19 - May 4, 2013 at 5:38 PM

      The author of this piece is a Phillies fan and runs a Phillies blog.

  2. xmatt0926x - May 4, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    randy, you really need to assess your life and why , at your age, you take this stuff so seriously to the point that you constantly spew hateful venom, every day, at all hours. It’s really pathetic and the only one who doesn’t know is randynyc.

    • aceshigh11 - May 4, 2013 at 9:33 PM

      He’s a Republican. ‘Nuff said.

    • chill1184 - May 4, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      You expected anything better from a Yankee fan? How long have you been watching baseball and commenting on sports sites?

  3. sleepyirv - May 4, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    As the title states, it’s regression. There’s no reason to “worry” about Atlanta- it’s not like we expected them to go 24-2. They’re still leading the division, not that it matters this early. Go 17-12 is a nice start, no matter how they got there.

    • paperlions - May 4, 2013 at 6:49 PM

      Except that isn’t how regression works. If you think a team should win about 95 games over the entire season (winning % of .586), then over any sample size that is what you would expect them to play. If they start off 12-1, the expectation for the next 20 games is still that they should win about 11-12 of them (winning% .550 to .600), you don’t expect them to play badly to account for starting off better. The fact that they are 5-11 since that start is “regressing badly”…simply regressing would have been going 9-7 or 10-6, as expected (instead of continuing with their .900+ winning%).

      • wlschneider09 - May 4, 2013 at 10:52 PM

        In order for your statement to be true each and every game has to be a completely separate and independent event (e.g.allele segregation in genetics). I don’t think that’s a valid assumption for any baseball team.

      • paperlions - May 5, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        Of course it is. There is no such thing as momentum in baseball (thus the saying “momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher”). There is no relationship between the outcome of one game and the next or prior game, just a huge amount of stochastic outcomes laid over top of a level of talent/performance.

        On what basis is there a lack of independence?

      • wlschneider09 - May 5, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        You have to do better than that paper, you’re a scientist. The games are not independent when you play the same opponent three times, then go off to play a different opponent of different quality three times. Your odds of winning the first three are not the same as winning the second three. The likelihood of outcomes are not independent and equal. Same story for playing at home vs. the road, 15 day DLs for key players, flu going around a clubhouse, etc…

      • paperlions - May 5, 2013 at 6:03 PM

        The probabilities are indeed independent. The probabilities are not equal, of course, as starting pitcher has a huge effect….but there is no causal link whatsoever between games. Equal probabilities are not the same as independent probabilities….and the outcome of one game has no bearing on the outcome of the next….that is, but definition, independent.

        You are confusing inequality of probabilities with their independence.

      • wlschneider09 - May 5, 2013 at 11:50 PM

        You’re consistent paper, I’ll give you that. It’s like you’re standing there screaming “It’s a forest! IT’S A FOREST!” so you won’t have to admit that all the trees aren’t identical.

        So in order for your assessment of regression to be correct both the independent and equal assumptions must be correct. You’ve already conceded the equal part. I’m guessing I won’t get you to budge on the independent part. After all, it’s completely inconceivable that human beings would let the events of the previous day affect their performance the day after. Morale, schmorale. However, let me throw out a few examples that might just argue against independence:

        1. The starter from the previous game gets blown out by the second inning, using up your bullpen. You’re at a disadvantage because of the effects of the previous game.

        2. The previous game goes 18 innings, using up both your bullpen and your field players energy. See above.

        3. You play a late game or a doubleheader and then travel to play a team that had the day off.

        4. A key player gets banged up in the previous game and asks for the day off.

      • paperlions - May 6, 2013 at 7:29 AM

        No, probabilities don’t have to be equal for events to be independent.

        People have already done analyses looking for “momentum”, it simply doesn’t exist….or to put it probablistically, streaks occur exactly as often as you would expect by chance.

        All of your narrative driven items that could cause relationships are:

        1) short term, if they have any impact at all

        and

        2) assume they only happen to the focal team and not at the same frequency to their opponents

        Meaning that the probabilities are still as independent as they ever can be. Sorry, but you are grasping at tiny straws that simply wouldn’t have an effect over any sample size whatsoever. Tiny potential effects that likely occur as both positive and negative effects have no effect on expectation whatsoever.

      • paperlions - May 6, 2013 at 7:31 AM

        Oh, and I didn’t concede anything about equal probabilities. You made an invalid assumption, that equal probabilities are required for events in a sequence to be independent. As long as subsequent probabilities are not affected by previous outcomes (and injuries are not outcomes, wins and losses are outcomes…injures, guys coming back from the DL etc are all things that define the probabilities a priori, they don’t make them contingent on event order), they are independent.

      • wlschneider09 - May 6, 2013 at 11:42 PM

        Very well then, enjoy your forest. Just don’t pretend your applying regression correctly in it.

  4. nps6724 - May 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    It doesn’t help that Brian McCann and Brandon Beachy haven’t played an inning this season and both Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward have been or are on the 15-day DL. That’s 3 everyday players who’ve missed a combined 54 games through the first 29. The fact they’re even in 1st is a miracle considering.

    • knowlegeforyou - May 4, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Exactly what I was going to say. Add in Uggla, BJ, Heyward, and Simmons not hitting. This team is going to go on a rampage when they are healthy and clicking.

  5. deathmonkey41 - May 4, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    I’ve never been a fan of BJ Upton.

    • knowlegeforyou - May 4, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      He is better than he is showing. Bourn, Hamilton, and Victorino haven’t shown they were better options

      • biasedhomer - May 4, 2013 at 7:00 PM

        Bourn is easily a better player than Upton.
        And Victorino is having a better year than Upton.

      • knowlegeforyou - May 4, 2013 at 7:16 PM

        It’s April and Bourn was asking for more than Upton.

      • hittfamily - May 4, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        Everyone in the league is having a better year than BJ. That still doesn’t take away the fact that the guy hit 7 homers pre all star break last year, and 21 after, good enough for 3rd in all of baseball.

        Maybe the guy just starts slow. 100 at bats is a little early to decide if a 5 year deal was boom or bust.

  6. heyblueyoustink - May 4, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Yo Billy, it’s just starting to get warm, and you know damn well the Phil’s are a second half team. Not exactly cheap quite yet.

    As far as the Braves go, pitching and swing for the fences hitting? It’s a live by/ die by situation. Enjoy!

    • historiophiliac - May 4, 2013 at 6:27 PM

      Yeah, you just got Delmon Young on the roster!

  7. jhorton83 - May 4, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    This is shocking since Fredi González is such a great manager. Who could have seen this coming?

    • knowlegeforyou - May 4, 2013 at 7:20 PM

      I would love the braves to fire Fredi and Walker. I would say hire Giambi and someone who actually knew how to hit as a player for hitting coach, but Chipper is keeping up with his porn star girlfriend and bonds can’t legally hold a bat lol

      • duckthefodgers - May 4, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        Giambi is playing baseball, why would he coach? Assuming youre talking about Jason.

  8. greymares - May 4, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    evidently nobody has told Bill Baer he’s not allowed to write negative articles about the Braves on this site.

  9. joejaws75 - May 4, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Phillies a cheap win that’s an arrogant remark. When they were 12-1 the loss was to the phillies

  10. ramblingalb - May 4, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    Not sure what the point is, they are on pace to win 95, and did someone expect them to continue the 12-1 pace and win 150?

  11. Kevin Gillman - May 4, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    The Braves are still better than the Nationals.

  12. schmedley69 - May 4, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    I’ve been saying it for years, but the Braves just lack that certain something that most winning teams have. I believe the term is grit.

  13. realgone2 - May 5, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    Oh wait…..they’re still in 1st place. Call me when they’re battling your jerk off Phillies for 4th.

    • greymares - May 5, 2013 at 9:04 AM

      fortunately for you the great 12-1 start has pushed the 4th place battle back to July. but it will happen it has to happen with that starting staff.

  14. joejaws75 - May 5, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    The reality was after the phillies the braves beat up the mets. Marlins. And cubs

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