Offensive woes and frustration mounting
The Braves were spared being on the wrong end of history again last night. But they still endured a rarity that has proven to be too common over the last 10 days.
While flirting with a no-hitter into the eighth inning last night, Marlins ace Josh Johnson further frustrated a Braves offense that has been a disappointment during the first two weeks of this season. There’s no shame in being dominated by Johnson. But Fredi Gonzalez’s boys have been doing a little too much hat tipping during the season’s first 12 games.
Courtesy of Chipper Jones’ ninth-inning solo homer off Randy Choate, the Braves were spared being shut out for the third time in a span of eight games. Jones’ solo shot and Freddie Freeman’s one-out double off Johnson in the eighth inning, accounted for the two hits registered by the Braves in the 5-1 loss.
This marked the 85th time since moving to Atlanta in 1966 that the Braves have tallied two hits or fewer in a game. To break that down further, it has happened in just 1.2 percent of the games they’ve played during that span.
Unfortunately for Gonzalez, his club has already tallied two hits or fewer in 16 percent (2 of 12) of this year’s games. Or for you masochists who don’t care about the meaningless of numbers produced by even smaller sample sizes, the Braves have notched two hits or fewer in 25 percent of their past eight games.
This is just the third time in Atlanta Braves history that they have recorded two hits or fewer in two April games. The most recent instance had been April 10, 1989 at Houston and April 15, 1989 at San Francisco.
Any of you who currently feel that you might have been too rough on Terry Pendleton over the past couple seasons can simply give him a wave when you’re at the park and near the first base box. He’s a forgiving soul.
These offensive problems are not a product of Pendleton’s teachings or those of new hitting coach Larry Parrish. In fact right now, you could argue that a number of factors have led the Braves to produce a National League-worst .280 on-base percentage and hit just .222 (the NL’s second-worst mark).
There isn’t reason to panic just two weeks into the season. But if this third week proves to be as frustrating as the second week was, the Braves might find themselves in a hole at a time when they were supposed to be separating themselves from the injury-riddled Phillies.
Many of you have said you want Nate McLouth removed from the two hole. Given that he has hit .220 and gotten on base at a .289 clip, that might happen.
I think Jason Heyward is best served in the middle of the lineup where he can consistently draw RBI opportunities. But if McLouth isn’t in the two hole, Heyward might be the best option by default.
Freddie Freeman is showing signs that he’s ready to go on an offensive tear and I don’t think he would be fazed if he was batting second. But this would just add one more speed-challenged body to the top of this order.
While hitting .249 with a .292 on-base percentage since the start of the 2010 season, Alex Gonzalez doesn’t appear to be a prime candidate.
Thus if these offensive woes continue, Gonzalez might have no other choice to put Heyward back in the two hole.
With all of this being said, McLouth’s presence in the two hole certainly hasn’t been the primary reason this offense has proven to be subpar during the season’s first two weeks.
Jones has done his job hitting .310 with four doubles and a homer in the three hole. But it’s definitely concerning that his extra-base hits total (5) is greater than the combined total (4) of Dan Uggla (two homers and a hustle double) and Brian McCann (one homer).
McCann and Uggla will eventually generate the kind of production expected in the middle of the lineup. But for now, their lack of power has served as just one of the many variables that has made the first two weeks of the season frustrating for the Braves and their fans.