Questioning Fredi Gonzalez?

Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez has done a great job this season

Despite all the injuries the Atlanta Braves have endured this season, manager Fredi Gonzalez has the Braves not only leading the NL East by15.5 games, but also with the best record in baseball.  Here it is the 19th of August and the Braves magic number to clinch the NL East is only 24.

With the job he has done this season, Gonzalez is most likely a leading candidate for the NL Manager of the Year award.   But Fredi is human and that means he makes mistakes, too.

I’m reaching back over a week to pull this one out, but it still makes me scratch my head.  After the Braves won 14 games in a row, they were playing the lowly Marlins  (August 10) at Turner Field, with a chance to tie the Braves modern-day record for wins in a row.  Tying and/or exceeding the record would be a great accomplishment for this team.

With the Marlins leading 1-0 in the ninth inning, the Braves had Evan Gattis on first with two outs.  The Braves leading hitter, Chris Johnson, would have been up, but he had been thrown out in the first inning arguing balls and strikes.  So light-hitting Paul Janisch, who hadn’t had a hit all year, was due up next.

Thinking back, I didn’t notice whether or not Janisch was in the on deck circle.  I was looking into the dugout to see which hitter Fredi would call on to pinch-hit for Janisch.  Would it be left-handed hitting speedster Jordan Schafer, who was hitting over .300 at the time?  Or switch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich, who has pretty good power?

It didn’t even occur to me that the right-handed Janisch, would hit against Steve Cishek, the Marlins right-handed closer.  The only question, was which pinch-hitter would Fredi send up to the plate.

Much to my surprise, Paul Janisch strode to the plate to hit with not only the game on the line, but the chance to tie the modern win streak record.  Not surprisingly, Janisch struck out.  Game over.

In the post game press conference Fredi was asked about having Janisch bat in that situation.  His response was something like, “Paulie has given us good at bats in that type situation”.  So in other words, Fred’s answer was a non-answer.

We’ll never know if Schafer or Terdoslavich would have gotten on base, but the question I would have liked to ask Fredi was this:  “If it was the same situation in the seventh game of a playoff series, would Paul Janisch have hit, or would you pinch hit for him?  If Fredi’s answer is that he would let Janisch hit, I suggest you don’t make any plans for attending a  World Series parade in downtown Atlanta this October.

  • chiefknockahoma

    If memory serves me correct there was no great choice except possibly Terdoslavich (who has played OF/1B all year) to play 3rd if the game goes into extra innings. This wasn’t the 7th game of the World Series so you don’t manage that way.

    • Good points, chief. Terdoslavich played quite a few games in the minors at 3rd. Although he was so bad (I think he had over 50 errors) that it was decided 3rd wasn’t his position.

      If Janisch doesn’t get a hit, game over. Doesn’t matter who is at third. If Terdoslavich triples to drive in Gattis and you go to extra innings, you still have a chance to win. You may have a lousy fielder (Terdoslavich) at third, but at least you still have a chance.

      The chances of Terdoslavich getting hurt at third aren’t a real consideration, imo. Medlen came in to pitch in extra innings the other night. There’s a heckuva lot more concern about a guy like Medlen messing himself up throwing a 3 inning bullpen stint between starts than there is a “call up” utility player like Terdoslavich getting hurting play third.

      So no, the injury concern about putting Terdoslavich shouldn’t have precluded Fredi from pinch-hitting for Janisch, imo.

      • chiefknockahoma

        I think that makes good sense also, but I don’t think it is possible to manage every game like it is the 7th game of the World Series. That being said I think you have to give Fredi some credit that when he makes mistakes such as being too loyal to veterans in 2011 he corrects them, aka sitting Uggla down last year or how he has handled BJ this year.

        • chiefknockahoma

          Ohh and btw I was all for pinch hitting Medlen or Tehran (if they had been the only ones available) for Janish actually so i am talking out of both sides of my mouth a bit! Just saying I understand why he didn’t

          • We allow talking out of both sides of one’s mouth here. :)

  • Lee

    Great article. I thought the same thing at the time. The Chief thinks that since it wasn’t the 7th game of the World Series, that you don’t manage as if it was. I think you should manage with the plan of winning every game. Someone should have pinch-hitted for Janisch at that point.

    • chiefknockahoma

      I can see what you are thinking, but who plays 3rd? What if someone playing out of position does something and gets injured? You have a huge lead and you just don’t put people in that position, different circumstances bring out a different choice of course. Baseball is a marathon not a sprint.

  • dan harvey

    I worry way more about Uggla or BJ coming up to bat in that situation. I think Jannish will be a decent contact hitter given regular playing time. On the flip side (and I have pretty harshly criticized Fredi a couple of times before) what a total stroke of brilliance putting Heyward, Upton, and Freeman as 1 2 3 in the order. Jason looks completely natural and dangerous as a leadoff hitter.