Offensive woes becoming more concerning
If you wish to maintain an optimistic outlook, you could argue the Braves’ offense has only been miserable for the past two weeks. Given the lineup had shown signs of life during this month’s first two weeks, you might at least have the basis for an argument.
But as Jonny Venters was denied a chance to get two consecutive days of rest and the Braves were extended to extra innings for the eighth time in their past 18 games yesterday, there was reason to wonder just how damaging these two weeks of offensive ineptitude might prove to be as the season unfolds.
A casual observer might quickly look at the situation and say the Braves miss Jason Heyward. Those who have watched this club throughout the entire season know this club was getting along just fine while Heyward batted .098 (4-for-41) in the 16 games he recorded a plate appearance this month.
Others might choose to continue to put the blame on Dan Uggla, whose first two months in Atlanta have been worse than even his biggest critics could have imagined. But other than the fact that he has not delivered the clutch homer like he did on April 24 in San Francisco and on May 15 in Atlanta, he has essentially spent the past two weeks producing the same futility that he has in the other six weeks of the season.
It might be easier to argue the Braves have been more influenced by the fact that the Chipper Jones has seen his batting average drop from .275 to ..250 and his slugging percentage from .465 to .413 since he learned he has a torn meniscus in his right knee.
But while attempting to determine why the offense has been so miserable while the Braves have won just five of their past 11 games, it’s easy to see the futility created has been a group effort.
In the 11 games dating back to the start of the recent seven-game road trip, Martin Prado has batted .209 (9-for-43), Jones has hit .162 (6-for-37) and Uggla has hit a cool .100 (4-f0r-40).
In other words, maybe the Braves should feel lucky to have won at least five of these past 11 games.
Given that the Braves have scored two runs or fewer in 36 percent (20 of 55) of their games, it’s obvious this offense has underperformed for much more than just two weeks. But it should be noted that seven of these games have occurred within the past 10 games. In one of those games they went north of two runs, they only did so after being pushed to extra innings.
Prado will be fine. With Jones saying his right knee is bothering him again, it’s unknown just how productive he will be for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point where there might be even more uncertainty surrounding Uggla.
Multiple times I’ve heard fans and fellow scribes wonder if “that will be the at-bat that turns thing around for Uggla.” Well he did bat .306 with three doubles in the nine games he played after hitting the game-tying eighth-inning homer against the Giants on May 24. But he has hit .119 with a .416 OPS in the 23 games that have followed.
Uggla was roundly praised on May 15, when he hustled around the bases and capped a two-hit performance with a game-winning, eighth-inning homer off Roy Halladay. But in the 13 games that have followed, he has four hits (all singles) in 47 at-bats.
Among all qualified National League players, Uggla ranks second-to-last in batting average (.178) and on-base percentage (.246). His .322 slugging percentage ranks as the fifth worst mark, sitting just above the marks posted by Omar Infante (.312) and Hanley Ramirez (.309).
It was easy to understand when Uggla struggled through the first month in his environment. But with June now just one day away, there is certainly much more reason for the Braves to be concerned about that five-year, $62 million contract they gave Uggla in January.
What a long strange trip it was: Now that Jo-Jo Reyes has finally notched a win for the first time in nearly three full years, it seems appropriate to review the odd events experienced during the road trip that included his previous win in 2008.
Tom Glavine went on the disabled list for the second time in his career and John Smoltz underwent a shoulder surgery that essentially concluded his playing career with the Braves. After Jair Jurrjens turned his ankle after missing a step while leaving Wrigley Field, Jeff Bennett made an emergency start the next day and broke Alfonso Soriano’s hand with a pitch.
After Tim Hudson was forced to exit the following afternoon’s start because of dehydration, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien and I enjoyed a relaxing dinner in Chicago. The following morning the cab taking us to the airport wrecked.
Fortunately we stopped a Super Shuttle van as it was attempting to get around the wreck and made it to Anaheim in plenty of time to watch Reyes beat the Angels on just what happened to be Friday the 13th.
To add to the oddity of that Friday, that was the night Chipper Jones was hit in the eye by a ball he fouled off the cage during batting practice.