McCann and Prado enhance concerns surrounding the Braves
Three weeks ago the Braves’ primary concern centered around whether they might have enough healthy arms to form a respectable starting rotation for the playoffs? Life was so much easier for Brian McCann, Martin Prado and the rest of the team back then.
The Braves have spent the past couple weeks understanding Jair Jurrjens’ return was doubtful and holding out hope for Tommy Hanson will be ready for the start of the playoffs. Now with just two weeks remaining in the regular season, they can only guess what they might receive from the once ever dependable duo of Brian McCann and Martin Prado.
Prado produced a key triple and came within a few feet of delivering a potential game-ending hit in the 11th inning of last night’s 12-inning loss to the Marlins. But it’s safe to say he simply hasn’t been the same while batting an uncharacteristic .260 this season.
Right now does not seem to be the time to debate whether Prado’s struggles are a product of his move to left field, the staph infection that sidelined him for a month or lingering effects from last year’s torn oblique/hip pointer. Instead, the Braves are simply holding out hope that he’ll start looking a little more like the guy who hit .307 both of the past two seasons.
Last night as the Braves recorded just three hits in a season-high 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position, Prado and McCann both went 0-for-3 in these situations.
McCann struck out with the bases loaded and one out in ninth and again with runners on first and second base and one out in the 11th inning. The frustration showed on his face as he sat at his locker and assumed his responsibility to be held accountable.
When asked if he is still bothered by the left oblique strain that sidelined him at the end of August, McCann quickly deflected the question. If the oblique was a serious issue, he’d likely be dealing with too much pain to play. But since coming off an 18-day DL stint in August, he has struggle to regain the form he had while spending most of the season as the club’s most valuable player.
Since completing a Minor League rehab assignment that lasted just two games, McCann has batted .159 (14-for-88) with five homers, a .275 on-base percentage and .352 slugging percentage. But the most telling stat might be the fact that he has struck out once every 3.67 at-bats during this span.
When McCann enjoyed a two-homer game against the Cubs Aug. 25, he seemed relieved that some extra time in the batting cage had helped him regain comfort at the plate. But he did not play the following night and Hurricane Irene forced the Braves to remain idle over the following three days.
Since then McCann has once again struggled to find comfort at the plate. He has batted .146 (7-for-48) with a homer in the 13 games since the storm necessitated a mini break. Once again the most telling stat might be the fact that he has struck out 16 times (once every three at-bats) during this span.
If this sample size is too small, utilize the 3.7 AB/K mark he has posted since returning from the DL and you’ll still see a disturbing trend. Before going on the DL, McCann’s career AB/K ratio was 6.4. Simply accounting for this season, his AB/K ratio before going on the DL was 5.4.
So yes, McCann was striking out more frequently even before he went on the disabled list. But since returning from the oblique strain in less than three weeks, he has been swinging and missing more frequently than ever remembered during a one-month span.
WORTH NOTING: Peter Moylan impressed with two strikeouts in a perfect inning during Monday night’s loss. It was Moylan’s best outing since returning from back surgery and one that should give the Braves even more confidence to use him in clutch situations during the remainder of the season.
Brandon Beachy issued a costly sixth-inning walk and struggled to command his fastball while totaling 73 pitches in the Monday night’s first three innings. But while needing just 16 pitches to get through the fourth and fifth innings, the rookie hurler once again showed some of the poise and determination that has caught the attention of many around the baseball world this year.
Beachy needs just four more strikeouts to pass Irv Young for the most strikeouts by a Braves rookie pitcher since 1900. Young recorded 156 strikeouts for the 1905 Boston Beaneaters.
With the Cardinals’ loss to the Pirates Monday night, the Braves maintained their 4 1/2-game advantage in the National League Wild Card race. With just 14 games remaining, the Braves still have some cushion But given that they have won just five of their past 16, it might be worth noting the Giants are also now within 6 1/2 games.
The Braves will play their next 11 games against the Marlins, Mets and Nationals. With the Phillies coming to Atlanta for the season’s final three games, it might be in their best interest to clinch the Wild Card over these next 11 games.
The Phillies will have already clinched the division by the time they arrive in Atlanta. But they were in the same position when they came to Turner Field to end the 2010 regular season and I’m quite sure many of you remember that they still managed to win the first two games of that series.
things were exactly the same last year, when they won the first two games of the series and forced the Braves to win their regular season finale to clinch the Wild Card berth.