Time is running out as the Braves attempt to prove they aren’t who they have been

As the offensive woes have continued to mount, there has been reason to wonder when the Braves might break out of their funk and at least start hitting more like they did last year.  But with less than three weeks remaining in the season, we’re probably way past the time when we should be using the word “funk” when describing a team that has disappointed at the plate since being shutout on Opening Day.

Instead, it might be time to accept that this offense is either an underachieving group or one that proved deceptive enough last year to be grossly overvalued entering this year.

If former NFL coach Dennis Green was currently serving as the Braves manager, I wonder if this would have been his reaction following Monday night’s 2-1 loss to the Nationals:

Reporter:  What did you see from your offense as it was held to one run or less for the sixth time in the past nine games tonight?

Green: The Braves are who we thought they were. 

Let’s not forget that while winning 17 of their first 24 games, the Braves hit .245 compiled a .705 OPS and averaged 3.7 runs.  The Pirates, Cubs, Cardinals and Padres were the only NL clubs to average fewer runs per game during that period. 

Since getting off to that 17-7 start, the Braves have gone 57-63.  In the process, they have hit .242, compiled a .669 OPS and averaged 3.7 runs. Given that the average runs total is identical within these differing sample sizes, it must be the pitching that has been different.

Well, of course it has. No sane individual expected Atlanta’s rotation to maintain the ridiculous 1.57 ERA it produced during the season’s first 24 games.  The pitching staff as a whole produced an incredible an unsustainable 2.04 ERA during that stretch.  <p> 

While winning just 57 of the 120 games that have followed, the Braves have seen their injury-decimated starting rotation produce a 3.84 ERA.  The staff as a whole has a 3.59 ERA during this span.

The Pirates have produced an identical 3.59 ERA going back to this same date.  But while going 65-52 during this stretch, Pittsburgh has been 9 1/2 games better than the Braves in the standings.  The Buccos have made up this ground while hitting .266, compiling a .749 OPS and averaging 4.3 runs within this span.

Consequently, the Pirates would earn the National League’s second Wild Card spot if the season ended today.  They are 1 1/2 games in front of the Braves and Brewers.

The Pirates will host the Brewers (Sept. 19-21) and then come to Atlanta for a four-game set that might determine which of these two clubs will earn a playoff spot. 

Three weeks ago, it did not seem like these two teams would be in their current positions.  When the Braves took the first two games of a series in Pittsburgh, they extended their winning streak to five games and handed the Pirates their seventh straight loss.  But the tide turned in that series’ finale, during which Jordan Walden’s command issues and a lack of communication between the Upton brothers led to a bad loss for the Braves. 

Going to back to that final game in Pittsburgh, the Pirates have won 11 of 17 and the Braves have lost 10 of 18.

Though Atlanta’s offense has been a problem throughout the season, its current stretch of futility has been quite troubling.  Along with being limited to one run or less in six of the past nine games, the Braves have hit .211 and compiled a .582 OPS while averaging 2.3 runs in their past 15 games.

There is still a possibility that the Braves will turn things around in time to gain a playoff spot. But as every day elapses, there is more reason to begin assuming these guys simply are who they have been most of this season.

1 Comment

Or, to put it in another way, “they are who we thought they might- but hoped they wouldn’t- become.” Great article, Mark- spot on! And, I am, still, cautiously hopeful.

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