Situational strikeouts every bit as alarming as the quantity for the Braves
While winning 13 of their first 15 games this season, the Braves batted .257 with a .332 on-base percentage and .473 slugging percentage. They homered once every 17.4 at-bats and struck out once every 3.94 at-bats.
As they have lost 14 of the 22 games that have followed, they have batted .228 with a .307 on-base percentage and .372 slugging percentage. They have homered once every 36.2 at-bats and struck out once every 3.34 at-bats.
With nearly one-quarter of this season complete, the Braves are on pace to strike out 1,510 times this year. This would shatter the franchise record set last yer (1,289 ) and leave them 19 away from the Major League record (1,529) set by the 2010 D-backs.
The Braves players are getting fed up with the strikeout questions to the point that Brian McCann expressed his frustration on Thursday night with a response to a question that did not even include any mention of strikeouts.
“I just know we’re in first place and everybody wants to talk about strikeouts,” McCann said. “The whole strikeout thing is overrated for me.”
McCann and many of his teammates are not the only ones who have subscribed to the theory that a strikeout is just another out. But it’s not just the quantity of strikeouts that have hurt this club. Their inability to put the ball in play in key situations has denied them the opportunity to occasionally benefit from the “luck” the Giants found with a series of soft hits in Friday night’s fourth inning against Tim Hudson.
The Braves have struck out once every 3.96 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. The only Major League teams with a worse percentage are the White Sox (3.84) and Astros (3.77), a pair of teams that rank in the bottom third of Major League teams in runs per game.
Without no runners on base, the Braves have struck out once every 3.79 plate appearance. With a runner on any base, they have struck out once every 4.47 plate appearances.
While this shows they do at least put the ball in play slightly more consistently with runners on base, this 4.47 mark is also better than only the White Sox (4.20) and Angels (4.11).
Entering Monday’s series opener against the D-backs, the Braves have struck out at least 10 times in 16 of their first 37 games. That equates to 43 percent. On the way to setting the franchise record for strikeouts, last year’s club recorded double-digit strikeout totals in 22 percent (37 of 162) of their games.
LOOKING BACK ON THREE UGLY DAYS
Before the Braves entered Friday night’s game against the Giants, it appeared their offense was starting to click and their starting rotation was dependable enough to provide the option of going to a six-man bullpen when Jason Heyward is ready to return from the disabled list.
Oh how quickly mindsets can change within a three-day span , especially one that proved to be as ugly as the one experienced this past weekend in San Francisco.
During the final three games of the disastrous series in the Bay Area, each of the Braves starting pitchers allowed at least five earned runs and Kris Medlen was the only one who proved fortunate enough to complete at least five innings. Meanwhile, none of the Giants starters surrendered more than four hits and each lasted at least seven innings.
Thoughts of going to a six-man pen were strengthened by the fact that the Braves entered Friday having seen their starting pitchers compile 63 innings and their relievers total 18 2/3 innings in their previous nine games.
Obviously, this is a small sample size that does not even account for two full turns through the rotation. But the same could be said about these past three games, when proof of David Carpenter’s existence materialized and the bullpen accounted for 10 2/3 innings of the 24 innings pitched.
Even with the disappointing results compiled by Hudson, Medlen and Paul Maholm, these past three games, the Braves still have compiled the fifth-fewest relief innings (103 1/3) in the National League.
So based on this larger sample size, there is still a chance the Braves would opt to go to a six-man bullpen when Heyward returns. Given the fact that Heyward has only served as a designated hitter through his first three Minor League rehab games with Triple-A Gwinnett, it would not be surprising if he does not return before the start of this upcoming weekend’s series against the Dodgers in Atlanta.