Uggla and the Uptons coming up empty in the RISP department
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if umpire CB Bucknor had not botched this call in the top of the the 10th inning of Friday night’s 10-inning loss to the Dodgers. Had Bucknor correctly called Justin Upton safe, the Braves would have had runners on the corners and Freddie Freeman coming to the plate looking for his fourth hit of the night.
“There is nobody else on this team we want to come up to the plate right there,” Upton said.
Upton’s expression extends beyond the fact that Freeman has hit .357 with a 1.006 OPS in his last 17 games. Freeman also leads the Braves in batting average with runners in scoring position and it ain’t even close.
Freeman has batted .467 (21-for-45) with runners in scoring position. Chris Johnson ranks second on the team in this category with a .273 (9-for-33) mark. The next runners-up include Brian McCann (.238, 5-for-21) Jordan Schafer (.238, 5-for-21), Andrelton Simmons (.234 11-for-47), Evan Gattis (.231 9-for-39) and Jason Heyward (.222 4-for-18).
And that concludes the list of Braves who have batted above .200 with runners in scoring position through the season’s first 61 games. As you might have noticed this list did not include Dan Uggla or either of the Upton brothers — the three right-handed sluggers who account for approximately one-third of the team’s payroll
If you got squeamish watching Joe Theismann break his leg or Marcus Lattimore blow out his knee, I suggest you turn your head and pass over this next part that shows exactly what Uggla and the Uptons have done with runners in scoring position this year.
Justin Upton (.171, 6-for-35) — Remember when Justin hit 12 home runs and still totaled just 19 RBIs in April? The belief was his RBI total would soar once the guys in front of him started getting on base. Well, he hit .176 (3-for-17) with runners in scoring position in April. Since then, he has hit .167 (3-for-18) in these situations. This is certainly not the kind of consistency he is seeking.
Justin’s recent struggles have extended beyond the run-producing situations. Since hitting his game-winning grand slam against the Dodgers on May 17, he has hit .186 (13-for-70) with one double, no home runs and 29 strikeouts.
Dan Uggla (.128, 5-for-39) — Uggla’s two-out single in Friday’s fourth inning was actually his third hit in his past 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position. He had recorded just two hits in the 24 at-bats he recorded with runners in scoring position before May 24.
B.J. Upton (.073 3-for-41) — Yes we have seen some recent signs of encouragement as B.J has recorded a hit in four of his past seven games and produced better-looking at-bats this month. He produced a walk-off single in last Saturday’s win over the Nationals and hit a game-tying home run in Tuesday’s win over the Pirates. But there have been a plethora of squandered opportunities as he has recorded the team’s third-highest total of at-bats with runners in scoring position. He has also struck out 18 times in the 41 at-bats he has recorded in these situations.
The Braves and Cardinals entered Thursday with the National League’s top two records. But from an offensive perspective the two teams have accomplished this in contrasting fashion.
The Cardinals lead the Majors with a .342 (180-for-527) batting average with runners in scoring position. The Braves rank third-to-last with their .233 (101-for-433) mark. Along with making the most of its opportunities, St. Louis has also compiled nearly 100 more at-bats with runners in scoring position than the Braves.
While the Cardinals frustrate opposing pitcher with a flurry of jabs, the Braves have done much of their damage with knockout punches. Atlanta (81) has hit 29 more home runs than St. Louis (52).
As this season has progressed, the Braves’ offense has continued to be hard to evaluate. They lead the National League with 552 strikeouts and have also drawn the second-most walks (212). They rank fifth in runs — the category that obviously has the most significant offensive influence on runs.
While the offense garnered all of the attention heading into the season, pitching has been the key to the success the Braves have produced so far this season. Their 3.22 team ERA ranks just behind St. Louis’ league-leading 3.16 mark.
The Braves’ pitching staff should become even stronger when Brandon Beachy returns from Tommy John surgery on June 18. But if the Braves are going to make a serious push into October, they will have to reach a point where they can consistently rely on someone other than Freeman to take advantage of run-producing opportunities.