Watching the Braves slowly die

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I can’t decide if watching John Lannan shut down the Braves is worse than watching Livan Hernandez do it, but hey, at least I have recent data points on both of those things in order to make an informed comparison!  The Braves dropped yet another game they had no business dropping if they plan on playing past October 3rd, losing 4-2 to the Nationals this afternoon.

All of the Nats runs came on a Justin Maxwell grand slam in the second inning. The Braves scored a run on a groundout and an RBI single. They ran out of multiple other opportunities, however, with Martin Prado getting nailed at the plate once and Jason Heyward getting called out when he couldn’t avoid a batted ball while running the bases. It was pretty dreadful.

The Braves are now 2.5 back pending tonight’s Phillies-Marlins game. It may be more useful for Braves fans to watch the wild card standings, however. They’re a game up there, though tied in the loss column.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.