Time to Rebuild The Bench

After a morale building trip to visit the AAAA team in Houston where we managed to win three times against the worst record in baseball the Braves returned home to find they are the Jekyll and Hyde team we’ve seen since the beginning of the year. When challenged by the best pitchers they raise their game and play admirably even if they don’t win. When facing number three, four or five starters – particularly rookies we haven’t seen before – we are flat and uninspired. Even in Houston we took extra innings to beat a rookie pitcher and only then because the Astro bullpen that leaks runs. So being handed our ass in a bag two nights in a row by Jose Reyes and a Mets team that look like they are enjoying the game and never seem  to give up was not a bid surprise.

As I noted after Tim Hudson’s last start, I suspect his back is not what he would like it to be so his sinker isn’t sinking and he’s not getting on top of the ball as he should so his usually automatic release point is moving around on him. Having said that Hudson and the rest have the right to expect a team that seeks post season play to score more runs than the league average ERA for him now and then. The Braves lead the league in ERA (3.07) but  are 12th in runs scored. Our pitchers are second in home runs allowed and the lineup is third in home runs. We’ve scored 264 (3.8/game) runs while our opponents have scored only 230 (3.3/game.)   No surprise that when we score four runs we’re 27-7 and when we don’t we’re 11-23.

Looking at this year’s lineup versus last year’s we can see that we’re about 40 walks off of last year’s pace, 30 hits down and 38Ks up at this point (42%) of the season. When we hit the ball that stays in the park it’s an out 23% more.

2010 2010 pace 2011
Walks 1st (634) 266 10th (224)
BAbip .301 .278
Hits 7th (1411) 592 12th (562)
OBP 1st (.339) 14th
Ks 11th (1140) 479 6th (517)

 

I know a lot of folks want to blame Larry Parrish and for the record, I am not a fan and would have liked to see Julio Franco in the job. However contrary to anecdotal data (what we believe we see) the Braves are not:

  • Seeing significantly less pitches per at PA (3.79 this year vs. 3.89 last Lg. Avg. 3.81)
  • Swinging at a lot more first pitches (28% vs. 25%, Lg. Avg. 27%)
  • Striking out at a significantly higher rate (19.2% vs. 18.2%, Lg. Avg. 19.1) Some of that increase could have been predictable when we swapped Omar Infante for Dan Uggla; though his slump is making it a bit worse.

There are differences in hitting with RISP – we’re 12 points up on last year – and RISP with 2 out – 9 points down – but not huge differences. The one area where we do have a shortfall is our bench.  Last year when we called on our role players they stepped in and generally hit well, within a few points of our starters. The numbers this year are a lot different.

Bench Hitting BA OBP SLG BAbip
2010 .249 .309 .381 .293
2011 .216 .268 .421 .265

The Phillies bench by comparison are .243/.315/.289/.324

It’s quite possible though I’ve not done a detailed analysis, that the many of the missing 30 hits, 42 walks and 38 extra strike outs come from that part of the team as well.

I know that Jason Heyward’s injury has hurt and that our centerfield position hasn’t produced as we would like but that was the case last year as well. The numbers say that our bench needs attention immediately. With the exception of Eric Hinske and David Ross, the bench has been the weakest link. It’s time that was acknowledged and addressed. As we near the halfway point of the season, waiting for Wilkin Ramirez/Diory Hernandez/Brandon Hicks to become major league hitters, Brooks Conrad to find his magic stroke or Joe Mather to turn it around is a luxury we can’t afford.

Tags: Bench

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