Cox shuffles power-hungry lineup
If Braves general manager Frank Wren’s attempt to land a power bat proves unsuccessful, he might want to see if the Phillies are willing to trade Citizens Bank Park in exchange for Turner Field.
In fact, while thinking out of the box, he might want to call the Reds or any other team that is capable of providing a homer-happy environment in exchange for Turner Field, a place that has become the kryptonite to the power-limited Atlanta lineup.
Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Rockies, the Braves had scored one run in their previous 18 innings and won just three of their previous 14 home games. Working with a roster that doesn’t possess a legit leadoff or cleanup hitter, manager Bobby Cox is going to have to employ some serious chemistry skills to form an effective equation with his current elements.
With his latest attempt on Tuesday night, Cox moved Yunel Escobar into the leadoff spot, placed Casey Kotchman in the second spot and positioned Brian McCann back in the cleanup spot. Kelly Johnson will bat sixth, where he’s found success in the past.
SS Yunel Escobar
1B Casey Kotchman
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
LF Garret Anderson
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Jeff Francoeur
CF Jordan Schafer
P Jair Jurrjens
In 346 career plate appearances in the lineup’s first spot, Escobar has hit .317 with a .378 on-base percentage. In the 72 plate appearances he’s recorded while serving as the game’s first hitter, the Cuban shortstop has .429 with a .444 on-base percentage.
The potential benefit of placing Kotchman in the second spot stems from the fact that he routinely puts the ball in play. In the 316 plate appearances he’s registered since joining the Braves, the veteran first baseman has struck out 32 times — or just 13 times more than the second hitter in Atlanta’s lineup has registered in 169 plate appearances this year.
Putting McCann in the cleanup spot provides Chipper Jones the protection he needs against pitchers, who still haven’t been given much reason to fear Garret Anderson’s bat. In the 11 games he’s recorded since returning from the disabled list, Anderson has hit .262 (11-for-42) and tallied just two extra-base hits — both doubles.
Johnson, who has batted .191 with a .262 on-base percentage in 105 plate appearances as the leadoff hitter this year, will now have an opportunity to display his run-producing skills. He has hit .289 with a .344 on-base percentage in 90 career plate appearances , while batting sixth.
Jumbling the order of the lineup might enhance the power by giving Jones the potential to see better pitches with McCann hitting behind him. But this is a club that is in dire need of benefiting from the longball.
Entering Tuesday, the Braves had scored 58 runs during their 17 home games. The only Major League team with a lower home total was the White Sox with 56 runs after 16 dates at U.S. Cellular Field.
The six home runs the Braves had tallied at home ranked as the Major League’s lowest mark, sitting five dingers behind the 29th-ranked Giants.
The Braves have totaled 28 homers this year and 12 of those were hit during this six games they played at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. Another four were tallied during the three-game series at Cincinnati’s compact stadium.
Further showing the power discrepancy that has been produced outside of Atlanta, the Braves have homered once every 31.7 at-bats on the road and once every 90.7 times at home. The Giants have compiled the Major League’s second worst home mark with one homer every 62.7 at-bats.
While you’re at it Frank, see if the Phillies are also willing package Ryan Howard with their ballpark.