Braves struggling to find consistency since the break
When the Braves last visited New York City during the first week of June, Dan Uggla was hitting .172 and many of you were wondering if the Braves’ key offseason addition was ever going to live up to expectations.
One month later as you celebrated the Fourth of July and Uggla was hitting .173, many of you were probably cursing him even louder and wondering just how good the Braves could be if their second baseman ever started making consistent offensive contributions.
Well as the Braves prepare to begin a three-game series against the Mets at Citi Field tonight, Uggla is in the midst of a 25-game hitting streak and the Braves look like they did when they were nothing more than mediocre during the season’s first three weeks.
While Uggla has batted .354 with 11 homers and a 1.171 OPS during his 25-game hitting streak, the Braves’ starting pitchers have stumbled and their hitters have nearly perfected the art of squandering scoring opportunities.
In the process of splitting their first 20 games since the All-Star break, the Braves have won one 19-inning affair and claimed three victories in games that they trailed by at least three runs.
Instead of crediting the fight they have shown to win these games, it’s seemingly more important to focus on what they must do to make sure they don’t completely squander the five-game lead they possessed in the National League Wild Card chase heading into the All-Star break.
It’s obvious the Braves need their MVP Brian McCann back in the middle of their lineup as soon as possible. At the same time, the past couple weeks have proven just have valuable Chipper Jones was as he spent the season’s first three months serving as a consistent run producer.
At the same time, the Braves have to pitch much better than they have while posting a 4.27 ERA since the All-Star break. Their starters have gone 6-8 with a 5.28 ERA during this span. The Braves entered the All-Star break with a 3.11 team ERA and their starting pitchers posted a 3.23 ERA during this stretch.
Since entering the All-Star break with an NL-best 1.87 ERA, Jair Jurrjens has made four starts and posted a 6.26 ERA. Tommy Hanson’s ERA has risen from 2.44 to 3.20 as he has struggled during the early innings of three of his past four starts.
While Jurrjens likely won’t match his first-half dominance, he is quite capable of turning things around quickly. At the same time, as long as Hanson’s inconsistencies aren’t a product of a sore shoulder, there should be limited concerns about his ability to soon regain his successful form.
As long as Jurrjens and Hanson turn things around like Tim Hudson has over the past two months, the Braves shouldn’t have to concern themselves with the hope Derek Lowe matches the dominance he displayed last September.
Getting Jurrjens and Hanson back on track seems to be the Braves’ greatest concern. General manager Frank Wren upgraded his lineup with the addition of Michael Bourn. Now he simply needs some of his position players to remember what it’s like to consistently produce timely hits.
The Braves hit .271 with runners in scoring position before the All-Star break and .252 w/ RISP in their 20 games leading up to the break. As much as it seems they have squandered too many scoring opportunities recently, they have hit .257 w/ RISP in their first 20 games since the break.
Most of the frustration has built while they have hit just .224 with runners in scoring position over their past 12 games.
Jones is hoping to return to the lineup tonight and if he remains healthy enough to be a consistent part of the lineup, the frustrations surrounding this offense could significantly decrease. He has hit .397 with runners in scoring position this year.
Over the next couple weeks, the Braves should be able to once again begin constructing lineups that include both Jones and McCann. Once they do, Bourn’s value will be better realized and that disgust many of you have been feeling the past couple weeks should subside.