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.

40 Comments

This is a frustrating time, Mark. The Braves have a relative surplus of starting pitching that could be dealt, but where would you upgrade the offense, realistically? 1B, C are set. Prado, too (whether he’s at 3B or in LF). Gonzalez never gets on base, but his defense and power would be tough to replace. You don’t give up on Heyward at this stage of his career and Schafer is doing what you expect from a leadoff man. Hinske or Mather can fill in effectively at either corner OF spot. That leaves Chipper and Uggla, and some ugly (sorry) possibilities. Unless the Braves want to blow up the roster, I don’t see logical upgrades.

I don’t see why you think we are set at 1B. Freeman has hardly shown he’s ready to consistently produce at the bigs. As far as I’m concerned, I still see him as a project who could use a little more seasoning and time to develop. Why not deal him along with some pitching depth for a solid veteran power hitting first baseman? Or why not deal Schafer along with pitching depth to a team who could part ways with an offensive producing outfielder? We do have options in dealing a surplus of pitching and prospects for some more reliable offensive production.

WOW! Bravo, Freddie is right where he should be at this stage. If he doesn’t end the year hitting over .260 I will be very surprised. (I will stick my neck out here, and bet you he will end up as high as .280.

Schafer is making the most out of his opportunity, and you have to like what he is doing. Will it last? It had better last, as this is his last shot with the Braves. If we are going to deal, it needs to be Nate.

AND, I hate to say I told you so, but the answer was supposed to be Uggla. Let’s don’t destroy the whole team – let’s fix THE PROBLEM.

I wouldnt make any trades right now. Freeman has to stay. He has started well

Uggla tore up Turner Field as a Marlin. Let him wear a Marlins t-shirt under his Braves uni. Former Marlins Mgr Freddi Gonzales can make it happen.

Or let him work it out in Gwinnett. Seriously, there’s plenty of precedent for this (McClouth last season).

Yeah, we see how well that worked out. :)

Brooks Conrad one of Chipper’s “favorite teammates ever”, get’s the start at 2B. Go Brooksy.

The Braves have a good supporting team without any one big player to support. Maybe Uggla will turn out to be that big stick but maybe not. It is apparent that this “Phenom of the Year” approach is not working out. Do the Braves really have the wealth of pitching the fans believe they have? As Mr. Bowman writes here, the pitching staff may be good but they have to do a lot of work. The Braves need to go counter intuitive here. The two players who would bring more value to the Braves than they are actually worth are McCann and Prado.

O no, Brooks at 2nd base. How many errors are we thinking today then? 2 or 3?

We aren’t thinking anything along those lines and in the Zippy world I’m pretty sure their is no stress on any gray matter at any time.

Zippy I thought you were all hoo-haa and raa-raa for all the Braves players. What happened to being a Fan???

The Braves are the only team to pay a late inning defensive replacement $12 million per year. Uggs will be in the game in the 9th if the Braves can get the lead.

Do you think McCann is thinking, “I can’t do this by myself” similar to Lebron

Hell the Braves pay a Double AA pitcher 7 million, a rag arm CFer 7 million and we have a batting coach who’s never coached batting.

I’m not gonna argue about McLouths arm, because it is bad, but KK’s isn’t much better, and he’s a pitcher.

I’m telling you all to look out for Freeman. The past couple of years in the minors he we a slow starter. He is starting to come around. But the honest truth is we need Uggla and Heyward to win. If we don’t have them its going to be a long year. Just as if any other team didn’t have two of their big bats perform. We don’t play in the soft AL where we can have a guy that only hits. In the NL you have to play the whole game. Think of the numbers Chipper would have if he was a DH. It shows you how ridiculous the AL is for having a designated hitter. Sorry, soap box moment at the end of a comment.

We are five games over .500 with a very poor offense. If the bats come around we are going to be very, very good.

Yeah, let’s hope they don’t hit it to him.

If my aunt Betsy had balls, she’d be my uncle Bill.

No offense intended, Bill.

So Chipper now has a torn meniscus in his right knee, a strained groin and a rehabbing left knee. I guess that offseason deer stand training is really starting to come through. Nice game tonight, but i bet he feels like road kill tomorrow morning.

Another 0 for 4 with 2 SO and 3 LOB for brooksy, now hitting a cool .156. Yet in Bill’s eyes he can do no wrong

I got some flak for my comments yesterday about Freddie and Schafer being expendable. However – if anyone thinks this team is set up now offensively to do anything other than kill itself for a wild card and a one-in-done in a divisional series is…well… ignorant/dreaming/baseball stupid/etc… and I think that even a wild card would surprise me. The way our team is set up now, we have about a 2-3 year (maybe 4) window of dominant starting pitching and bullpen depth. We also have the upper hand in salary as most of our pitchers are too young for free agency. If we do not find a way to compliment that with solid consistent offense, these 2-4 years will be a complete waste. This year will be a complete waste. We are the worst offensive team in baseball… simply because we have been beaten twice in a row by the worst offense in baseball (Padres). This year is just as good as any with Hudson on the BACK END of his prime, and DLowe also on the back end. The time is now to bolster this embarrassment of an offense if we want to do anything at all this year. Our #3 hitter is batting .250 with 4 home runs and he’s borderline crippled and on borrowed time. Our phenom outfielder is hurt more than he plays, sporting a .214 batting average. Our slugging 2nd baseman we brought in to bring fear from our lineup is the second worst hitter in the major leagues. The MVP left fielder is 3rd in the league in hitting into double plays… and we are grooming a 21 year old 1B man for the future. I’m not trying to take anything away from Freddie. For a rookie, he’s having a decent year. Decent for a rookie but not decent for a major league first baseman. It’s just that we don’t have the time to be grooming/experimenting with anybody. This team is set up to win now. We have a surplus of pitching to deal away. Why not offer up some pitching prospects with a Freeman/Schafer type of young player who will be good for a team down the road for a power hitting outfielder /first baseman? If we want to win now and take advantage of the way our team is set up… we need to improve our offense.

What’s sad is that a lot of the players we wanted Wren to bring in last year are having incredible years. (Berkman, Bautista, etc.)
This team is laughable offensively and will not do anything until there is a consistent hitter in the lineup that can drive in runs and protect Chipper.
We should probably take a wait and see approach. It’s possible that Heyward comes back healthy and hot. It’s possible that Dan Uggla remembers that he’s Dan Uggla. But if that doesn’t happen, and we don’t do anything to improve our offense… well we know what the season will look like because we’re experiencing it now.

Papa – ” If he doesn’t end the year hitting over .260 I will be very surprised” — Since when did .260 become the goal average for a major league first baseman? That’s mediocre at best. He’ll probably end with 10-12 home runs as well. Big deal. Great for a rookie learning his role… but our team is stockpiled with .260 type hitters… or worse… If there’s any position we have the freedom to improve, it’s 1B because we are not locked down with anyone. Either First, or Center field. Those are the only two positions we can improve. And wouldn’t you agree this offense needs to improve?

Don’t drink the Koolaide, Bravo! Here is my fix for the team.

1. DL Chipper before it is too late. He needs a couple of weeks to heal up.

2. Move Prado to third base.

3. Platoon Hinske and Mather

4. Jason should be back soon, then try this line up:

Schafer
Prado
Heyward
Uggla
McCann (Dan should see some pitches he can hit)
Hinske (Mather)
Gonzalez
Freeman

Well, here comes the gloom and doom…..

Speedy – Gloom and doom? Try reality!
Forget all of the horrific statistics. Look at what is happening right now. The last time the Braves scored more than two runs in a nine-inning game (before last night) was on May 16. The last time the Braves scored more than three runs in a nine-inning game (before last night) was on May 14. We average 2-3 extra inning games a week because our pitching is so good and out offense is so piss poor. It’s killing our bullpen. Even when FG tries to rest “everyday Johnny”, he has to bring him in because we can’t pull away from our opponents. Venters and Eric O’ are leading the majors in appearances and their arms will be shot by September. This was an actual question by a reporter last night to one of our players. “Is there any confidence built by the team scoring 4 runs tonight”? – Are you freaking kidding me? A major league baseball team should score 4 runs a night EVERY night. Not throw a celebration… The pitching will only get us this far. If your OK with having the best pitching in all of baseball for the next 2-3 years and have nothing to show for it but another wildcard banner… then by all means party like crazy. I think this team should be built for a little more… and celebrating finally scoring 4 runs for the first time in 30 days in a losing effort to the other terrible offensive team in the league is embarrassing.

Bravo,
Maybe you should become a Nats fan and realize what real mediocrity is about. We are not going to score 2 runs/game for the rest of the season. The keys to our offense are as follows: Martin Prado, Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, and Dan Uggla. Right now, we are only firing on two of the five cylinders. At this point, we have to have confidence in at least one of those other three guys to come around. History tells us that Uggla will improve, but the other two (Heyward/Chipper) are question marks. We have no idea what Heyward can really do and the rust on the old ford is breaking down Chipper. Bravo, I completely understand your frustration, but we are in a slump. Slumps happen. Good teams decrease their slumps, but they still happen. The future of this team depends on the offensive performance of the five guys I listed above. If most, or all contribute greatly, then we have an excellent shot at the division and possibly the pennant. If the mediocrity continues, we will be around .500 all season. That’s the way baseball goes, it’s a hard game. The only part of your argument that is laughable is that you think someone will give up a slugging first baseman for a SP on the end of his career. Power hitting 1B/OF are like gold and they don’t get traded very often. If they do, its at a high price. We don’t have the budget available to be able to bet the farm on one player. You see what the Tex trade did to our system, are you willing to gamble again?? Just because Uggla is uncharacteristically struggling does not warrant throwing stuff on the wall to see if it will stick. This is the time to look for answers, but not the time to panic. Baseball is a game of patience, and as the Rockies have shown us recently that teams get cold but also can get just as hot.

Matt Young has been recalled. Does anyone know if he plays a good enough 2B to be a defensive replacement?

I would trade conrad and lowe and try and get a big bat who can play outfield

Nobody is going to trade for conrad and lowe….unless that player had some big question marks

Speedy – I agree with your assessment that our offense lives and dies by those 5 players… obviously…but only if they are all hitting at once. McCann has been hitting all season long. Prado has been streaky and is nearly leading the league in GIDP. Chipper is breaking down. Heyward is a wild card at this point. Uggla – well we can all hope and pray he remembers how to hit. I appreciate your optimism and honestly, I am jealous of it. However… I consider this to be much more than a “slump”. It’s much more a case of where hitters go to die. It’s June now. We are in a stretch of our schedule where we are playing bad teams and losing to them. The pitcher we faced last night was 2-6 with an ERA over 5. We made him look like Cy Young. We have made many bad pitchers look like that… and frankly – it’s been about 3 years of consistently bad offense. That leads me to believe it’s more of an organizational weakness. Especially after players leave and find offensive success with other teams.
And as far as you suggesting that we give away the farm – Lowe has one more year of an expensive contract and if a team is willing to take on that year for a veteran pitching presence then why not? Also – Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Julio Tehran, and Kris Medlen are all proven starters and all very young. There is only room for one or two of them in the rotation for years to come. Obviously Tehran is untouchable… but it would be a shame to not make them available to a team in need of pitching. With Hanson, JJ, and Tehran, giving us a young strong rotation for years to come, and Huddy out there for a couple more years… why not?
What in the last 3 years of this organization leads you to believe that all of the sudden we will start scoring runs, and moving runners around on a night in, night-out basis?

Bravo – you might be on to something concerning our depth at Starting Pitching – but what is out there to trade for – realistically. Nobody is selling yet, are they? When it is time, I am sure Wren and company will make the effort.

In the meantime – the good news is that we are 24 – 6 when we score 4 or more runs. We lost #6 last night. I tend to agree that offensively – we can only get better from here – AND we are only 4.5 back. WAY TOO EARLY to be drinking the koolaide.

O and I would trade Billreef to the phillies blog for one of their blog commentators

Be careful what you ask for, Zidane, some of those nuggets floated over here a while ago,….not fun.

I’ve got to say, a couple of them were very entertaining. When mindless swearing and name calling is how you start off a counter argument, you knows you’re in for a laugh.

Bravo, my point about trading the farm is that no one is going to trade a big time bat (like the one you are referring to) for Lowe or Huddy, which you eluded to in your first rant. So that means that a bounty of prospects would have to be packaged in the deal. Similar to the deal the Pads wanted for Peavy a few years back.
Also, you are right, we do not hit well. We are not a balanced team. We have above average – elite pitching but below average – poor hitting. A good move could balance us out a little more, which supports your point. However, we do not have the monetary budget to afford making moves every 6 months looking for a big bat. We do have the organizational depth as of now, but not the bank account to cover our butts if it doesn’t pan out. Our season is built around Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla producing. So far they have not. The main reason for getting Uggla was to provide the big bat that you are looking for. As of now, he is not doing his job. I do think that there is a time to panic and make moves, but now is not the time. However, that time is quickly approaching.

The Spankmes are in a dog fight for their division with a very deep Red Sox team. More than half of their games have been started by Nova, Colon, and Freddy Garcia, so you know they would take on either or both of Hudson and Lowe. The same can be said about Texas in that tight division, and their players aren’t all priced off the market yet. Michael Young would look great at 3B in Atlanta.

The Reds certainly are going to need an arm or two to get past the Cardinals and Brewers, and they have the hitting (already NL adjusted) to help as well.

In any event, there will be a market for proven pitching if that is what we want to do.

The Dodgers are also a fire sale waiting to happen, but there is no telling what may happen out there.

Just a reminder though, the Braves need to chase a “game”, not a “name.” Too many teams get caught up in the star power.

It’s time to bench Uggla.He needs a little rest,to think about how he hasn’t been contributing at the plate.Prado will fit at second base just fine.Prado,Hinske,McCann&Freeman can’t carry the team every game.

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