Significance of Chipper’s influence is alarming
Remember when the Braves overcame a deficit of at least five runs in three consecutive games during the early days of this month? Well they have scored as many as five runs in just five of their past 16 games and been limited to two runs or fewer in seven times during this same span.
Accounting for Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Reds, the Braves have scored two runs or fewer in 15 of their past 45 games. Given how potent the offense has been during stretches this year, it’s hard to imagine this club has not scored as many as three runs in one-third of the games played thus far.
Given that four of the occasions have occurred within the past five games, maybe there is not much reason to be overly concerned. But it is definitely concerning to see that Chipper Jones has been out of the starting lineup in 11 of the 15 games in which the Braves have scored two runs or fewer.
As great as it has been to see Jones create so many special moments during the early stages of his final season, it has been alarming to see just how much influence his presence has in the Braves lineup.
Had Michael Bourn not enjoyed his first career multi-homer game on Tuesday night, the Braves would be going into tonight’s series finale in Cincinnati having scored two runs or fewer in each of the five games that have been played since Jones was sidelined by a badly bruised left calf.
The Braves are 19-5 in the 24 games that Jones has started this year and 7-14 in the 21 games that he has not. Sorry but a club should not be relying this heavily on a 40-year-old veteran whose knee surgery total (3) since Aug. 10, 2010 trumps the combined home run total (2) produced by Juan Pierre and Jamey Carroll during the same span.
As the Braves attempt to avoid a four-game sweep tonight, they will have to do so without Jones. He will need at least one more day to rest his leg. The club can only hope he will be ready to play during this weekend’s key series against the first-place Nationals at Turner Field.
Jones’ success this year has been fueled by the fact that he has benefited from regular opportunities to rest. So far the formula has worked as he has primarily missed just a game or two before returning to the lineup. But this week has provided a glimpse of what could happen if he suffers another injury that keeps him sidelined for an extended period this year.
At the same time, it must be remembered that this week’s woes have also been influenced by the absence of Brian McCann, who missed a third straight game on Thursday with flu-like symptoms. Combined with his scheduled day off on Sunday, this marks the fourth time in five games that McCann has been out of the lineup.
Some of the recent offensive woes are also a product of the troubles Freddie Freeman has had since his eyes started bothering him during the three-day stay in Denver. In his past 15 games, the powerful first baseman’s slash line has been .164/.292/.273.
But these recent struggles endured by the Braves are not going to draw any sympathy from the Phillies, who have spent the first two months without Ryan Howard or Chase Utley. Nor are the fans of St. Louis going to feel bad while wondering how their club will deal without Lance Berkman, who might have suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Just two weeks ago, the Braves went into St. Louis and totaled 23 runs on the way to claiming a three-game sweep of the Cardinals. Jones started the first two games of that series and recorded two plate appearances in the series finale.
The Braves have gone 4-6 while Jones has totaled just 16 plate appearances in the 10 games that have been played since the Braves exited St. Louis.
Given McCann’s recent absence and Freeman’s recent struggles, Jones’ presence might not be as significant as the numbers indicate. But as this trend has extended through the season’s first two months, it has become harder to simply describe it as coincidence.