Bill Baer

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 23:  Brian Snitker #43 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after being ejected by third base umpire Mike Everitt #57 from arguing the call on the video review initiated from Emilio Bonifacio #64 being called out at homeplate against Travis d'Arnaud #7 of the New York Mets to end the seventh inning at Turner Field on June 23, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Report: Brian Snitker is the favorite in Braves’ managerial search


ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Brian Snitker has emerged as the favorite in the Braves’ search for a manager for the 2017 season and beyond. The Braves have also considered Bud Black and Ron Washington, as well as coaches Eddie Perez, Terry Pendleton, and Bo Porter.

Snitker, 60, took over as the Braves’ interim manager after the club fired Fredi Gonzalez. They went 9-28 (.243) under Gonzalez but 59-65 (.476) under Snitker. Snitker has been a part of the Braves’ organization in a coaching capacity since 2006, when the club brought him on board to serve as the third base coach. Prior to that, he was the manager of the Durham Bulls, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Greenville Braves, Mississippi Braves, and the Richmond Braves — all in the Braves’ minor league system.

As a minor leaguer, Snitker played in the Braves’ system from 1977-80 as a catcher and occasionally as a first baseman, batting .254 with 23 home runs and 112 RBI over 872 plate appearances.

Video: Josh Donaldson never stops running, scores ALDS-clinching run for the Blue Jays

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates after sliding safely into home plate in the tenth inning for the Toronto Blue Jays to defeat the Texas Rangers 7-6 for game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Josh Donaldson‘s heads-up base running in the bottom of the 10th inning sealed the deal for the Blue Jays, helping his club walk off 7-6 winners in Game 3 of the ALDS and wrapping up a 3-0 series sweep. The Jays will face the winner of the Red Sox/Indians ALCS series.

Donaldson reached base after leading off the bottom of the 10th with a double off of Matt Bush. Edwin Encarnacion was intentionally walked to bring up Jose Bautista. Bautista struck out, but Martin was able to put the ball in play, which opened up the opportunity for the Rangers to make a mistake. They did. Martin hit what should’ve been a 6-4-3 double-play to end the inning, but second baseman Rougned Odor pulled first baseman Mitch Moreland off the bag with a wide throw. Donaldson never stopped running and Moreland couldn’t beat him to the plate with his throw.

Blue Jays’ ability to grind at-bats crucial to ALDS sweep over the Rangers

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays is swarmed by teammates after the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers 7-6 in ten innings during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

During the regular season, no team saw more pitches per plate appearance than the Blue Jays at 4.03. The major league average was 3.87. Over a full season, about 6,200 plate appearances, the difference between the Blue Jays and the league average amounts to nearly 1,000 pitches. As a result, not only did the Blue Jays lead the American League in walks (632) and rank third in on-base percentage, (.330), the Jays’ pitch selection helped them blast the third-most homers (221).

Blue Jays batters’ ability to grind at-bats was crucial to their 3-0 series sweep over the Rangers in the ALDS. Let’s start with Game 1.

Against starter Cole Hamels, who ended up lasting only 4 1/3 innings, Jays batters saw six or more pitches in an at-bat four times, raising Hamels’ total pitch count to 82 before he departed. Those four plate appearances resulted in a walk, a strikeout, an RBI single, and a three-run triple. They weren’t able to work the count much against Alex Claudio, who relieved Hamels, so the lefty wound up working 3 2/3 scoreless innings as a result. But Jose Bautista‘s three-run homer against lefty reliever Jake Diekman in the ninth that put the game away? That was the result of a six-pitch at-bat.

Let’s go to Game 2. Bautista worked a six-pitch at-bat against starter Yu Darvish that ultimately yielded a leadoff walk. He’d score shortly thereafter on a Troy Tulowitzki home run. Darvish would only last five innings, throwing a total of 84. That’s an average of 17 pitches per inning. Not exactly efficient. Darvish threw 23 pitches in the fateful fifth inning that bolstered the Jays’ lead from 2-1 to 5-1.

In Game 3, Ezequiel Carrera led things off by working a single on the sixth pitch he saw against starter Colby Lewis. Carrera would end up scoring and the Jays would force 23 pitches out of Lewis in the first frame. In the third, Carrera took five more pitches from Lewis and worked another single. Josh Donaldson followed up with a ground-rule double, chasing Lewis and forcing manager Jeff Banister to bring in reliever Tony Barnette. Edwin Encarnacion saw five pitches with the fifth pitch resulting in an RBI single.

Let’s flash forward to the bottom of the 10th inning, with the Jays and Rangers tied up at six apiece. Matt Bush was still on the mound for his third inning of relief. Donaldson ripped a double to right-center on the second pitch. Bush then intentionally walked Encarnacion to set up a double play. Bautista stepped to the plate and fell behind 1-2. In a 1-2 count against a pitcher who throws in the high 90’s like Bush does, it would be hard to fault a hitter for cheating by starting his swing early. Bautista, though, did not, taking two consecutive balls to work the count full. He’d ultimately strike out on the sixth pitch, Bush’s 34th of his stint. Bush threw 30-plus pitches only twice during the regular season: 33 against the Astros on August 7, and 31 against the Mariners on August 30.

Martin, in what would become the final at-bat of the game, saw eight pitches from Bush. Like Bautista, he fell behind 1-2, then took two fastballs to work the count full. He fouled off two more fastballs before putting the eighth pitch in play. It should have been an inning-ending double play, but Rougned Odor made a throw wide of first base, allowing Donaldson to score on a heads-up base running play.

Let’s count it up: Jays batters saw 156 pitches in Game 1, 130 in Game 2, and 151 in Game 3. That’s a lot of pitches! Beyond extending an at-bat, allowing more opportunities for the pitcher to make a mistake, racking up the opposing starters pitch count can force him out of the game early. As a result, more strain is placed on the bullpen. Racking up the relievers’ pitch counts can mean they’re unavailable the next day or at the very least can’t be used for very long.

While the Blue Jays’ offense isn’t as good as it was last year, they still may be among the most frustrating for opposing teams to face. If you’re going to get them out, you’re going to break a sweat doing it. The Indians or Red Sox can’t be thrilled at the prospect of having to face them in the ALCS.