Author: Craig Calcaterra

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright won his 20th game last night


Adam Wainwright shut out the Cubs for seven innings last night and notched his 20th win of the year. He joins Clayton Kershaw in that club. If it wasn’t for Kershaw, Wainwright would probably be picking up a Cy Young award too. Going 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA for a division winning team will do that for you most years.

It seems like Wainwright has had a lot of those years. As Bob Nightengale noted this morning, he is one of the greatest pitchers to never win a Cy Young award. In an era where 20-game winners are a lot more rare than they used to be, Wainwright has won 19 or 20 games in four of his last five seasons. That’s made all the more special given that those seasons wrap around a year lost to Tommy John surgery. No, wins aren’t everything. But when you get enough of them, consistently over time, it does tell you something.

Maybe even more than people who tend to like wins as a stat will even give Wainwright credit for:

I’m sure Ringolsby meant that as praise, but really, that’s a slight to Wainwright when you look at all of the other stats those two have. He’s more like the Dave Stieb of his era. Or Mike Mussina. Like those guys, he may end up as a guy who is widely considered a top ace during his career, only to become somewhat under-appreciated after he retires due to the lack of hardware.

Actually, Wainwright is better than Stieb and probably Mussina too. And his World Series rings and heroics will make up for the lack of hardware. But I do feel like people are going to forget how good Wainwright is when they assess his career after the fact.

John Schuerholz defines “The Braves Way.” And it’s a pretty big pile of crap.

John Scheurholz

Yesterday, during the press conference announcing the firing of Frank Wren, team president and former GM John Schuerholz made mention of “The Braves Way,” and suggested that the team had gotten away from that in recent years. He was finally asked by someone to define it. Here is what he said:

It’s a special way of identifying young players who you want to become part of your organization with great comfort and expectation that when they put on a Braves uniform, they’ll be taught well, instructed well. Their makeup and their character will allow them to turn into winning championship-caliber players. They’ll fill the pipeline of this organization with highly capable, high-character, young, winning men who help you win many, many championships on a major league level, year after year after year.

If you need to vomit, please do. You’ll feel better afterward.

I am not dismissive of the idea that a team needs an organizing philosophy and that the culture of any institution matters. But it’s just culture. It’s not, as Schuerholz suggests here, the primary organizational criteria or mission statement and it’s not the basis for actually finding talent. The idea is to win a lot of baseball games. Talent is mostly an objective thing. You get smart scouts and analysts to find it, good coaches to develop it and you pay money to sign and retain it. It’s not easy — not by a longshot — but it’s made all the more difficult if you then start making that process subservient to makeup and character.

But I don’t even think the Braves have done that too much, actually. They won with John Rocker and Gary Sheffield and Denny Neagle and all kinds of other jackwagons. The won by drafting and developing players and they won by signing free agent mercenaries. They have won with Bobby Cox managing well and they’ve won with Fredi Gonzalez being nearly unable to get out of his own way. They’re no different than any other baseball team. And they are no more special than any baseball team.

I suspect John Schuerholz truly believes in “The Braves Way.” As the guys at Talking Chop note, there’s probably some healthy nostalgia at work. But there’s also some self-deception at work. Schuerholz sounds a lot like most of us do when we look back at our successes and assign them to our own skill and will and tend to forget the good fortune and sometimes dubious decisions which, against all odds, helped those successes along. Schuerholz and Bobby Cox did a ton to turn the Braves from losers to winners in the late 80s and early 90s. They also had things like the Padres’ 1993 fire sale and Greg Maddux’s aversion to playing in New York work in their favor. Perhaps his memory dwells on the grit and overachievement of Mark Lemke, but paying top dollar for Andres Galarraga and enduring and making excuses for John Rocker helped a whole hell of a lot too.

This “Braves Way” stuff is aimed at getting a certain segment of fan to be OK with losing and to be OK without paying top dollar for talent. To get some people to, more or less, say “Hey, this may not be ideal, but at least we have not sacrificed our 100% invented-on-the-spot principles just to win!” To ignore the fact that the team has played the local populace for a new stadium it didn’t need and to overlook the fact that Liberty Media, the team’s owners, are way, way more interested in the Braves turning a profit than they are in hoisting championship banners.

Maybe that suckers enough fans into being cool with underachievement. It’s Atlanta, after all, and once football season starts people stop caring an awful lot. But for hardcore baseball fans, it’s no substitute for doing everything possible to put the best team on the field and for simply winning. The Braves haven’t always done that lately. They need to start doing that more and start worrying about slogans like “The Braves Way” less.

Video: Yasiel Puig made a fantastic throw last night to nail Brandon Belt at the plate

Yasiel Puig throw

It came in, ultimately, a losing effort. And maybe if he doesn’t make this amazing throw the game ends two innings earlier and everyone gets a better night’s sleep. But you can’t deny the beauty of Yasiel Puig gunning down Brandon Belt at the plate in the 11th inning of last night’s Giants-Dodgers game.

And let’s not ignore Drew Butera — I think it was Drew Butera — positioning himself perfectly to apply the tag without running afoul of the plate-blocking rule:

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

Danny Duffy

Indians 4, Royals 3; Royals 2, Indians 0: The resumption of the suspended game was probably a foregone conclusion, though the Royals did make it interesting by adding a run in the 10th. The full game was far more interesting from their perspective, however, as Danny Duffy tossed six shutout innings and the bullpen did the rest. This, combined with the Tigers’ loss pulls Kansas City to within one of Detroit in the division. This combined with the Mariners’ loss gives them a two-game lead in the wild card. Not a bad night all things considered.

White Sox 2, Tigers 0: Chris Bassitt — who I will freely admit I had never heard of before the moment I read this box score — tossed seven and two-thirds shutout innings against the second best offense in the American League. Tyler Flowers with a two-run homer for all of the game’s offense. Bassitt is from the Toledo area, I gather, so dominating the Tigers in Detroit was probably pretty special to him.

Blue Jays 14, Mariners 4: Seattle does not, to put it bluntly, keep pace. Jose Bautista was 3 for 3 with a homer and walked to reach base a fourth time. The walk came with the bases loaded. James Paxton was absolutely rocked. And not in a good, Def Leppard kind of way. It was in a bad, nine runs in two and two-thirds kind of way.

Athletics 8, Angels 4: Oakland does, in contrast, keep pace and remains at the top of the wild card standings. The A’s plated six in the first inning and Jeff Samardzija was excellent, allowing only an unearned run in seven innings. The pen was not as excellent — Albert Pujols hit a three-run homer off of Evan Scribner — but Oakland had enough of a margin by then.

Giants 5, Dodgers 2: The Giants still have some fight in them for the division, pulling to within three and a half of L.A. after this 13-inning win. Andrew Susac singled home the go-ahead run with two outs in the 13th and then Gregor Blanco put it away, more or less, with a two-run double. Blanco also homered to lead off the game. Even if the Giants don’t catch L.A., the win helps them keep pace with the Pirates, whom they must beat out by a game in order to host the wild card matchup.


Yankees 5, Orioles 0: Derek Jeter is going out with a bang. He drove in three, hitting an RBI double and a run-scoring groundout. His three runs driven in push him past Enos Slaughter and Roberto Clemente and ties him with Paul Molitor on the all-time RBI list. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda was dominant, allowing only one hit in seven and a third, striking out eight and allowing just one walk.

Pirates 1, Braves 0: I guess having a new interim general manager for, like, nine hours was not enough to goose the Braves’ offense. Andrew McCutchen homered and Francisco Liriano and the Pirates’ pen didn’t give the Braves’ squat. It’s gotta feel really good to be a Braves pitcher these days and know that if you don’t pitch a complete game shutout, you got no chance.

Cardinals 8, Cubs 0: Adam Wainwright wins his 20th, shutting out the Cubs for seven innings. Jon Jay dove in three, Matt Adams two. The Cards look ready for the playoffs to start.

Padres 1, Rockies 0: San Diego wins their fifth in a row and seventh of eight. Eric Stults shut Colorado out for six and a third. Rene Rivera’s RBI double in the first constituted the game’s only offense. With an early run, no more offense and the thing ending before 10pm, this was basically the quintessential Petco Park game. I’ve been to hat park, I dunno, seven or eight times, and almost every game has been like that.

Rangers 4, Astros 3: The Rangers have won nine of ten. Hey, we all start slow, right? Guilder Rodriguez — who played in the minor leagues for 13 years before being called up when rosters expanded — had his first two major league hits, including a tiebreaking RBI single. After the game he said “This is my second-best moment after seeing my two daughters born. It’s unbelievable. I feel great.” Sorry. I need a moment. Got some dust in my eye.

Diamondbacks 6, Twins 2: Theory: an interleague game between non-rivals in late September, both of whom really suck may be The Least Essential Game in Major League History. It counted, though. Josh Collmenter pitched effectively into the seventh and Mark Trumbo hit a two-run homer.

Masahiro Tanaka is going to pitch again on Saturday

tanaka yankees getty

Masahiro Tanaka feels good after his start yesterday and so the Yankees have him on track to start against the Red Sox on Saturday.

There were no guarantees he’d get a second start even if he felt OK, so this is a good sign. He allowed one run over five and a third innings while striking out four and walking none against the Blue Jays yesterday, throwing 70 pitches. He’ll get 85 pitches against the Sox.