Bradley’s Buzz: Let’s talk about the Braves’ bullpen. (Please don’t shout)

This bullpen is awful! Worst in the majors! Worst in the history of the majors! The Braves have no chance in the playoffs! They won’t even make the playoffs! They won’t win another game! It’s all over!

None of that is true, but some among us are too busy freaking out to care about truth in numbers. The Braves just blew two high-profile games in St. Louis. Had they won both, they’d be within a game of the first-place Mets. But they didn’t and they’re not, which means the apocalypse is at hand.

Handed a one-run lead Saturday, Kenley Jansen retired one batter, yielding two hits (one that was grounded, not emphatically, to shortstop), two walks (one with the bases loaded), a hit batsman and a wild pitch. He threw 23 pitches, 11 for strikes. Had Corey Dickerson’s meek bouncer – struck at 76.7 mph, slower than a pitcher’s changeup – to Dansby Swanson been hit harder, it would have triggered a game-ending double play.

Handed a one-run lead Sunday, A.J. Minter yielded a Tommy Edman homer on his first pitch, a fastball. Then Lars Nootbaar walked. Then Austin Riley flubbed a bunt. Minter struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who rank first and second among National League position players in WAR. Then Tyler O’Neill hit a home run, also on a fastball.

Before those two losses, the Braves had won 15 of 17. Now they’ve won 15 of 19. That’s a winning percentage of .789. If a team played .789 ball over a full season, it would win 128 games, which would break the MLB record for wins by 12 games.

With three outs to go in Saturday’s game, they were on one of the great streaks of any Braves team ever. They’d gone 3-1 against the Mets and 2-1 against the Astros, both on track to break 100 wins. They’d taken the first game in St. Louis, beating the NL Central leader 11-4. Over 17 games, they’d outscored opponents by 62 runs. The Mets had gone 11-7 over the same stretch – that’s a winning percentage of .611; they’ve played .636 ball on the season – and seen their lead shrink by five games.

This isn’t what you want to hear today, but we offer it nonetheless: This is baseball; nobody wins ‘em all. The Braves’ next eight games are against Colorado, Miami and Oakland – all among MLB’s 10 worst teams. The Mets’ are about to face the Dodgers, on pace to win 113 games. Let’s talk again in a few days.


About that lousy bullpen

The Braves’ relievers are second in the majors, trailing only L.A., in FanGraphs WAR. They’re sixth in ERA. They’re third, trailing Houston and L.A., in fielding independent pitching. They’re second, trailing the Mets, in strikeouts per nine innings.

That’s the good part. Here’s the bad.

They’re second in the majors in blown saves. They have 24 to the Cubs’ 25. Jansen has five blown saves, Minter four. Minter has also worked 59 games, second-most among MLB pitchers.

If you’re concerned that Jansen seldom seems to work a 1-2-3 inning … well, he hasn’t lately. Over nine August appearances, he has faced a minimum of three batters once, that against Pittsburgh. Over 8-1/3 innings, he has yielded eight hits, six walks and one HBP. He has struck out 10. Opponents have scored three earned runs against him this month; two came Saturday.

He’s tied for the NL lead in saves. He’s seasoned. He’s fearless. He has worked 57 postseason games, allowing 15 earned runs. In 13 postseason games against the Braves, his ERA is 0.00. I wouldn’t worry about Kenley Jansen.


About Adam Wainwright

Sometimes he seems to exist just to prove that John Schuerholz, Hall of Famer, wasn’t quite perfect. Counting postseason, Wainwright has pitched 22 times, Sunday night being the most recent, against his former employer. He’s 10-4. He’ll turn 40 tomorrow. He has to retire someday, doesn’t he?

On Dec. 5, 2003, Schuerholz traded the minor-leaguer Wainwright, plus Jason Marquis and Ray King, to the Cardinals for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero. Drew was a major talent from Valdosta who’d been picked second and fifth overall in consecutive MLB drafts. (Long story. Scott Boras was involved.)

Drew was set to become a free agent. The Braves believed they could convince him to stay beyond 2004. He signed with the Dodgers. (Doesn’t everybody?) Two years later, he signed with Boston.

We think of Drew’s season here as a failure. It was actually pretty great. His WAR was 8.3, sixth-best among big-leaguers. (Ahead of him: Barry Bonds, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen, Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols.) Drew’s OPS was 1.006. He finished sixth in NL MVP voting. The Braves won the East and lost to Houston 3-2 in the NLDS.

Wainwright, who’s in his 17th MLB season and who’ll draw Hall of Fame support, has a career WAR of 47.6. Drew, who last played in 2011, had a career WAR of 44.9. On paper, that wasn’t a terrible trade. On paper, no trade ever is.


A few words about football

Georgia opens against Oregon on Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Georgia Tech opens against Clemson on Labor Day in the same edifice. The Falcons open against the Saints on Sept. 11, also at MBS. Of the three local teams, two are underdogs.