The Braves have announced that interim manager Brian Snitker has been named as the full-time manager after leading the Braves to a 59-65 following the dismissal of Fredi Gonzalez. Despite positive interviews from Ron Washington and Bud Black, the Braves must have felt impressed enough in a man without much of a big league track record to run the club as they head into SunTrust Park.
The club looked good in the final stretch of the season, winning 12 of their final 14, but with growing expectations his moves, and more specifically his handling of the bullpen, will be met with higher expectations.
The players lined to support the first time manager which, to at least one national writer, proved to be a huge plus.
Brian Snitker is expected to have interim label stripped and become full braves manager. groundswell of support a plus.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 11, 2016
Ender Inciarte had this to say to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution about Brian Snitker.
“I’ve never been so comfortable playing for anybody in my career, and I’m really pushing for him to stay here; everybody here in the clubhouse really likes him,”
The move comes to a surprise to me as Bud Black seemed like a natural fit for the club given that those San Diego clubs, while pretty devoid of positional talent, saw great development from their young pitchers often exceeding expectations (seriously Andrew Cashner turned into a pumpkin after Bud was fired). General Manager John Coppolella even voiced his concern with the recent inability to develop pitching in one of his recent Ask Coppy twitter sessions which played a role in the dismissal of Roger McDowell from the club.
The development of the starting pitching is particularly important because the Braves can not afford to rely on their bullpen as much as they did last year. Snitker often turned to Mauricio Cabrera, Jose Ramirez, and Ian Krol while in binds despite career highs in innings pitched which lead to rough stretches for the three. Snitker also subscribes to a small ball style of play, which while it has its place in baseball I prefer never seeing Dansby Swanson or Ender Inciarte ever sacrificing bunting.
To help with these added responsibilities the Braves have promoted minor league pitching coordinator Chuck Hernandez to pitching coach, hired Ron Washington to be their third base coach, along with moving Bo Porter to special assistant to the general manager. Chuck Hernandez was most recently pitching coach for the Miami Marlins from 2013 to 2015 where they saw stretches of strong pitching from several young pitchers including Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, and Nathan Eovaldi.
How Hernandez and Snitker work together remains to be seen, but their relationship with each other and with the players is incredibly vital to the success of the club. The team simply can not afford to continue to overwork the bullpen as a result of poor starting pitching development, and with just one-year contracts for both, it is clear the front office wants to see how this gamble pays off as well.