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Snitker Made All the Right Moves

November 16, 2021

Hugh Atkins

I’ve had two weeks to process the Atlanta Braves winning the 2021 World Series. Throughout the postseason I kept waiting for some disaster, possibly self-imposed, to knock them out of the playoffs. But when Sam Holbrook didn’t sprint in from Crawford Street to invoke the infield fly rule on Jorge Soler’s massive three-run homer in Game 6, I began to believe the Braves actually had a chance to become World Champions.

Speaking of the three-run homer, the Braves used it to great effect in each round of the postseason. Perhaps Braves manager Brian Snitker took a page from the playbook of longtime Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who hated playing for just one run. The three-run homer can make just about any manager look smart, but as Snitker demonstrated, a wise manager can put a player in position to go for three runs with one swing.

If you play for one run, that’s all you’ll get.

–Earl Weaver

© 2021 Atlanta Braves Media Guide

In Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, the first two Braves batters reached base in the bottom of the fifth inning. Even though Ian Anderson had five scoreless innings under his belt, Snitker called on Joc Pederson to pinch hit. This wasn’t a hunch on Snitker’s part; he was going with the hot hand, as Pederson was 2-2 as a pinch hitter in the Series, including a home run in Game 1. Snitker’s move paid off when Pederson launched a three-run homer. The Braves went on to win 3-0, giving them a 2-1 lead in the Series.

With Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers tied 1-1 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Walker Buehler fooled around and walked Travis d’Arnaud. Once again Anderson was pitching well for the Braves, but Snitker decided to send Ehire Adrianza to the plate to pinch hit. Adrianza dropped a double down the right-field line, bringing Eddie Rosario to the plate.

Matzek vs. Betts - Game 6

Matzek vs. Betts NLCS Game 6

Rosario, who was hitting .583 in the NLCS, lined a cutter into the right-field stands for a three-run homer, putting the Braves up 4-1. The Legend of Tyler Matzek was born in the top of the seventh inning, and the Braves held on to win 4-2.

Again, this three-run homer was the product of some shrewd managing by Snitker. After the walk to d’Arnaud, Snitker went to his top pinch hitter; Adrianza had tied for the league lead in pinch hits this season. Snitker figured that if Adrianza could somehow reach base, then the hottest hitter on the planet would come to the plate. If Rosario weren’t on deck, I don’t think Snitker makes this move.

In Game 6 of the World Series against the Houston Astros, Snitker tweaked his starting lineup. Ozzie Albies was struggling a bit in the third slot so Snitker dropped him to seventh and bunched his three most threatening hitters–Rosario, Soler, and Freddie Freeman–at the top of the order. Albies led off the top of the third with a single, but Luis Garcia retired the next two hitters. Then Rosario drew a walk, bringing Soler to the plate for the three-run homer that proved to be the knockout punch for the Braves.

Snitker also got the most from his starting pitchers and had enough sense to rely heavily on the bullpen that got him to the playoffs in the first place.

Managers may get too much credit when their teams win, but more often than not, they get too much blame when their teams lose. I think Brian Snitker outmanaged his opponents in every round of the postseason. And the three-run homer sure helped.

(The quote from Earl Weaver is from Weaver on Strategy by Earl Weaver with Terry Pluto © 1984.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Calvin Smith permalink
    November 23, 2021 12:17 pm

    I don’t think I’ll come down from this for a long time. I really appreciate the call back to Earl Weaver! Snitker is a true throwback and really doesn’t get enough credit for his managerial prowess both from this season as well as last!

    Like

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