Braves offense providing reminders of April

Coming out of the All-Star break, the Braves offense looked rusty while the club was splitting a four-against the Brewers.  A little more than two weeks later,  their offense alarmingly looks like the one that struggled through the early weeks of this season.  

The 8-10 record the Braves have posted since the All-Star break matches the mark they had when they won eight of their first 18 games to start the season.  Fortunately, their most recent inconsistencies were experienced while they already had gained a somewhat comfortable lead in the National League East race.  

But based on what you’ve seen over the past two weeks, can you really find much comfort in the fact that the Braves still own a two-game lead over the injury-depleted Phillies in the division standings?

Through the first 18 games of this season, the Braves hit .228, compiled a .683 OPS and averaged 3.8 runs.   Through their first 18 games after the break, they have hit .254, compiled a .749 OPS and averaged 4.2 runs.

So the offense hasn’t necessarily been as bad as the one that slumbered through April.   But it seems pretty apparent that the Braves couldn’t have picked a worse time to go through a 4-7 stretch that has been plagued by the fact that they’ve hit just .167 (18-for-108) with runners in scoring position.  

These squandered opportunities have come while the Phillies have managed to add to the star power of the club’s disabled list (Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley)  and simultaneously win 10 of 12.  Oh yeah, this stretch also coincided with their acquisition of front-line starter Roy Oswalt.

Things aren’t going to get any easier for the Braves this weekend when they attempt to break out of their offensive funk while facing San Francisco’s quartet of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.  

Lincecum, Zito, Cain and Sanchez all rank among the top 20 NL pitchers in ERA.  During the early portion of this season, Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey ranked at the top of this list.  

But as they head into tonight’s series finale against the Mets, the Braves have a chance to take advantage of a struggling Pelfrey, who has gone 0-3 with a 9.59 ERA in his past six starts.   Opponents have hit .446 and compiled a .504 on-base percentage against him during this span.  

Pelfrey surrendered a season-high 12 hits (all singles) and allowed four earned runs while lasting just four innings against the Braves one July 10.   He is 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA in the four starts he’s made at Turner Field since the start of the 2008 season.   The lone win came on May 17, when he limited the Braves to two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.

RISP struggles:  With the Braves once again squandering far too many scoring opportunities,  there has once again been a lot of chatter from fans who want to see Jason Heyward moved into the third spot of the lineup.   

Unfortunately for Heyward, he hasn’t been immune from the bug that has been afflicting his teammates in recent clutch situations.   The talented rookie has hit .333 (5-for-15) with runners in scoring position since returning from the disabled list.  But he has just two hits in his past 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position.  

Sitting in his customary third spot of the lineup, Chipper Jones has hit a respectable .303 with runners in scoring position.  With 11 more at-bats in these situations this season, Heyward has compiled a .310 batting average.  

Despite the fact that Jones has at least managed to produce a .449 slugging percentage since June 15 (retirement day), there is certainly reason to argue that Heyward is more suited to provide the kind of power potential a club would want from its three-hole hitter.   

If Heyward was providing the pop that was present when he was slugging .596 through May 30, there wouldn’t even be reason to debate whether he should bat in  the three hole.  But within the small sample size that accounts for what he’s done since he returned from the DL, he has slugged at a .443 clip (8 doubles, no homers).  

With the assumption that Heyward is going to start showing more power, there’s definitely reason to believe the Braves could benefit from flip-flopping him and Jones in the lineup.  But the present offensive woes have much more to do with the fact that Troy Glaus has recorded just four hits in the 28 at-bats he’s compiled w/ RISP dating back to June 22.

If you’re one of those people who actually enjoy being nauseated with Brett Favre’s retirement talk, then I suggest you allow yourself to once again read one of the countless stories that have recently been written about Glaus’ struggles.

TIDBITS:  Nate McLouth went deep again last night for Triple-A Gwinnett.  In the six games he’s played since being optioned to Gwinnett, McLouth has batted .375 with three homers…After seeming him hit just .119 in 17 games for Gwinnett, the Braves opted to release Willy Taveras.   They took a gamble by signing him last month with the thought he might provide insurance in the event that McLouth didn’t rebound.  Once they  acquired Rick Ankiel from the Royals Saturday, they no longer needed Taveras.

TONIGHT’S LINEUP:

Infante 4
Heyward 9.
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Hinske 3
Diaz  7
Ankiel 8
Gonzalez 6
Medlen 1

35 Comments

I think Bobby should at least try flipping Heyward and Chipper in the lineup…what could it hurt? Remember, one of the main reasons we came out of that April slump was a realignment of the lineup that included Prado going into the leadoff spot. Who’s to say lightning can’t strike twice in the same place?

Really? You wanna keep a guy thats batting .119 at Triple-A? If he can’t get on base then the only thing that speed is doing is helping him get back to the dugout quicker during that walk of shame..

The McLouth situation, really makes me want to return to what has been a consistent theme with Braves players who begin to struggle and then become worse and worse as they try to work out of it. Consider the individuals Andruw, Kelly, Frenchy, Nate, Glaus and a few others less dramatic. All of these guys went to other organizations and in most cases had dramatically different numbers once they left. It seems that when a player struggles here, they seek coaching in order to try and correct a problem and that makes their problem progressively worse. I all of these cases the players had had dramatic success at all levels prior to joining the Braves. Either we are just cursed(which I hope no one believes) or our batting coaching is actually exacerbating the problems that our hitters experience during the normal course of the season. It renders these players so ineffectual that they then have to be demoted, traded for worthless prospects or carried on a roster because we can’t even get rid of them. Where in the Braves manual does it state that you can’t fire a coach when they aren’t getting the job done? When does loyalty become folly? How many times to we have to experience this heartbreak before SOMEBODY DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT?????

NC, come on, Taveras can’ t hit a lick. You can’t steal first, and you can’t carry a guy on the major league roster just to pinch run.

Billreef, you know as well as I do why TP has been safe all these years. Bobby protects his coaches and does not let them be fired or manipulated in any way by upper management. When Bobby rides off into the sunset, the bath water is definitely going out with the baby. I have it on pretty good authority Bobby and management had this discussion mid season last year. It was surprising to me that he was able to keep his staff intact for this last season. Given the turn arounds by Kelly last season and McLouth this season, I’d at least consider talking to Jaime Dismuke about TP’s soon to be old job with his soon to be previous employer.

And yet the Braves are gonna need speed come playoff time and Taveras was gonna be that spark to steal bases and get the Braves what they need a viable Outfielder but no they let him go how bout letting go Mclouth and Keeping taveras.

Isn’t the whole problem with Nate’s swing that he’s trying to hit homeruns? Seems like we should be encouraging him to hit line drives, not to keep elevating his swing aiming for the fences.

Bill, you’ve got quite a point. However, to be somewhat of a devil’s advocate, even with the homer last night, Francoeur hasn’t exactly lit it up this season. Also, Kelly Johnson had an amazing April, but has since tapered off. I definitely see you point, to me it just seems that we have a horrible time adjusting to pitchers. Why are all of our runs lately coming in the first three innings? I think we have the framework set for the hitters to be successful, but something is getting lost in translation during the game. And, to be honest, that is the job of a hitting coach. I wish Baylor was still here. . . .

To someone who knows a little more about waivers than me: What are the chances the Braves could pick up Dunn on waivers? I wouldn’t think its very likely but I could be wrong…

Some more not so good news. The Pirates just claimed Resop off waivers.

Stupid time stamp!

Some more not so good news. The Pirates just claimed Resop off waivers.

said it two days ago on the other blog, Braves have only screwed themselves by letting KK rot in the pen. 1 appearance over 32 games and now he wont have the stamina to go deep in a game. I hope Med’s is fine, but this is piss poor managing to let your back up starter rot for 32 games. Now what?

There’s a priority system, titletownbrave. If Dunn goes on waivers, the worst team in the NL gets priority in picking him up, and it progresses up the ranks. As it stands, we’re in the bottom of the pecking order.

Title- we can’t get to Dunn because everyone who has a worse record than us will get a shot first. That’s the long and the short of it.

Kris Medlen has been one of the most consistent performers team this year. They are saying ligament injury, not good news. This was the last thing we needed right now. God, Kris, after being such a competitor this year, I am really reeling at the thought of losing you for any period of time. Good luck buddy, Get Well soon.

What happened bill, I’m not able to see the game tonight but am following on gametracker?

Oh man, I read DOB’s report. That is NOT good. Usually when a trainer is able to dianose a ligament injury that quickly without the MRI, that is not good at all…..That is a horrible thing to happen to a heck of a competitor.

It’s tough to think optimistic given the Braves announced Medlen has injured the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The MRI tomorrow will tell us how much damage has been done.

With the assumption, he will miss an extended period of time, we’ll likely soon see Mike Minor in the Atlanta rotation. Kawakami isn’t physically (endurance-wise) ready to serve as a starter.

I would be shocked if he comes back at all in 2010, we may realistically be looking at post all star break 2011….The Braves are not going to release the injury as a UCL injury unless it’s pretty certain an injury to that ligament. Otherwise they would have listed “forearm tightness”, “elbow pain”, or some other broad term hoping the ligament was still intact. Even if its frayed, you can bet he will be out 3 weeks.

I’ve lost it too, speedy. Trying all my tricks to coax a broadcast out of MLB. I’ll let you know if anything works

Mark,
Why in the heck do we even have Kawakami on our team if he can’t even be a spot starter. There’s got to be some way to dump this dead weight. I think your logic is just, and I think Minor is the better pitcher but it is so frustrating to have a $6mil bench warmer…I mean there has to be someone cheaper. Let’s sign Cecil Fielder to that job, at least he would take up more room and be cheaper…

Speedy, Just got the picture back, try it again

like I said two days ago, the Braves are only hurting themselves by letting KK rot in the pen for the past 32 games. 32 games and 1 appearance and now they may have to rely on him to come back and be a starter again. This is just piss poor managing and KK probably wont have the stamina to go much more than 5IP

A series win against a division rival. I’ll take it.

I think everyone needs to take a cautionary approach to Mike Minor being able to come up and start effectively in the Majors. This is a kid who has a losing minor league record, Who posted a 4+ ERA in Double A and is coming off a college season where he went 6-6 and posted a 3.90 avg less than a year ago. He may be a really nice prospect, but Stephen Stasburg he ain’t(Strasburg finished the 2009 season 13?1 with a 1.32 ERA, 59 hits allowed, 16 earned runs, 19 walks, and 195ght well come on to contribute in Medlen’s abse strikeouts in 109 innings pitched). And even Strasburg has struggled with the rapid ascendancy. Minor mince but it may be a rocky road. Not exactly what you want to plug in for a pennant stretch drive.
I am so sad for Kris. He has come so far to overcome all the stature issues and become a major contributor for this team. All that being said, we are now facing problems in our lineup still, while facing a new challenge in our rotation. Kris was one of the anchors of this rotation. When some guys were struggling with consistency, he was solid. He and Hudson kept this starting rotation from unraveling. I hope this doesn’t have a ripple effect with our other starters. I can’t in my right mind figure why we messed with his schedule around the All-Star break. This one is on management for their ridiculous game management and roster skills.

Geez, MLB helped me hack that up. I think you all know what I mean.

I’ve seen Minor pitcher a little bit live. The kid isn’t going to walk anyone and is a good strikeout pitcher. But when I saw him pitched he lived high in the zone. That could be dangerous. But then again that was at the start of the season in AA. His stats in Gwinnett suggest he may have figured it out. But as with all rookies, there is going to be a learning curve. It would be nice to see an effectively lefty down the stretch in the rotation though. Plus, Minor came out of college, so I don’t think we have the time to baby him too much. Bill, I will give you this, he could be a big key to the rest of the Braves season, good or bad.

Fifth starters have never been managed well in the Braves’ organization, at least as long as I’ve been watching. Two decades ago, it was all about getting Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, and Avery out there as much as possible. But times are different now

Speaking of… Bill, do you want the club to sign Smoltz for the homestretch of the season?

Remember my complaining about not using Kawakami at all and letting him rot, because in case of an injury we would be screwed? Well we just lost Resop, Minor is the best AAA option, but Kawakami is the best option overall but HE HASNT BEEN PITCHING AT ALL. Nice job. This reminds me of Napoleon invading Russia. You start to lose guys and there’s no backup. Well done.

Remember my complaining about not using Kawakami at all and letting him rot, because in case of an injury we would be screwed? Well we just lost Resop, Minor is the best AAA option, but Kawakami is the best option overall but HE HASNT BEEN PITCHING AT ALL. Nice job. This reminds me of Napoleon invading Russia. You start to lose guys and there’s no backup. Well done.

I don’t know if you can pull him off the comedy tour. He seems to be making quite an impact as the New Foxworthy. I would never underestimate the guy though, if HE thought he was in game shape, I would trust that opinion long before and after I gave Wren the same creedence. Has he been throwing?

I think I would take Teheran over Smoltz at this point. Smoltzy has been living the good life for too long, commentating and playing golf. No doubt the spirit is still there, but his shoulder is just a mess now.

No idea. I would guess that with him calling games on Peachtree and doing analysis on MLB Network, he may not have had much time to throw this season.

Smoltz isn’t an option. He’s been focused on the golf and broadcasting circuit. I ran into him tonight as he was looking for Medlen. Based on his past experiences, he said there’s always a chance there’s just a small tear that could heal over time. But I’d have to say he might be a little overly optimistic.

Medlen seemed to be feeling more pain than I remember Hudson, Gonzalez. or Moylan talking about when they blew out their elbows. Given that my M.D. credentials are limited to a physiology course in college, that really doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

I understand that the Braves would be taking a risk by promoting Minor. In hindsight they now have to feel like it would have been better to infuriate future Japanese prospects rather than avoid asking Kawakami to accept the embarrassing demotion to the Minors.

I referred to it as embarrassing only because I’ve been told that the Japanese players feel like they’ve disgraced their country if they aren’t able to stick in the Majors.

Minor would be on schedule to pitch for Gwinnett tomorrow night. My expectations are that he will skip that start and be on the mound Monday in Houston.

I understand you don’t want to start his service clock and that he has made just five starts above Double-A and that he wasn’t really all that good in Double-A.

But Cody Johnson is no longer his left fielder and really I don’t know if the Braves have another choice.

D*mn Viva, working a reference to Napoleon into a Braves Blog, I am impressed.

Why make dunn the 5th guy in our rotation and make it try outs for any trades in the offseason and maybe the Braves can get that big bat a RH big bat we been trying to get forever.

Frank Wren had better get off his *** and bring in some offense. If he does not the Braves will continue their slide. And I mean some real offense…someone who can hit for power and has a decent batting average. With who the Phillies have brought in (by signing or trade)and brought up from the minors, the Braves cannot stand pat. I don’t mean someone who has 11 homers and is batting 265. The braves as they are now will end up looking up at least at the Phillies and maybe another division team.

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