Monday Woes Return
Wearing the high socks didn’t hold back the Monday blues for long. Monday’s series opener against the Nationals started off badly and ended worse. A a one hour rain delay for the first game of a critical series was the last thing a team in the middle of a 20 game in 20 day run needed. The other thing thing they didn’t need was a four hour – thirteen minute, thirteen inning loss on three hits that never left the infield.
The game had a bright start; a Martin Prado double followed by a Jason Heyward single put the Braves in front. A quick one out rally appeared with a walk to Chipper Jones following Heyward’s single brought the prospect of the heart of the order- Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann coming to the plate with a shot at getting Nationals hurler Jordan Zimmerman out of the game early. Then inexplicably, Heyward took off for third testing the strong arm of Kurt Suzuki. He was out by six feet. A soft line drive by Freeman ended the fledgling rally and Zimmerman was out of trouble. Tim Hudson’s first inning struggles continued in the bottom half of the inning when he gave up four runs including a home run to Ian Desmond.
Huddy settled down after that inning and held the Nats scoreless through the rest of his six innings while the offense scratched a run in the bottom of the fourth with a Paul Yanish single and got two more in the fifth when Heyward hit his 21st home of the year scoring Prado ahead of him. The Braves bullpen picked up where Hudson left off keeping the lid on the Nats offense through the next six innings waiting for the offense to reappear. The Braves offense had chances to take control of the game but the recurring theme of this season – and the last two as well truth be told – is a failure to convert RISP to runs.
Failure to Deliver
The Braves were 2-12 with RISP – Heyward’s single in the first and Yanish’s two out RBI in the fourth. For Braves fans who watch regularly failure with RISP is the most frustrating characteristic of this team. I’m sure Braves pitchers – Mike Minor in particular of late – are equally frustrated. I’m sure fans would tell you that we strikeout more than most and leave more runners on the bases too. Statistically the numbers for the year compared to the rest of the league don’t say that. The Braves are:
- 2nd in hits, RBI, and runs scored with a man on 3rd and 2 out
- 10th in hits, 6th in RBI, and 5th in runs scored with a man on 3rd & < 2 out
- 2nd in hits, 9th in sac flies and 1st in RBI and runs scored with the bases loaded
Here’s a table with a look at how the Braves compare against the league for those interested. Others just skip on down. The TOP 5 , Middle 5, Bottom 5 color coded so sorting the good from the not so good is easier.
Complete information can be found at Baseball-Reference.com
All that looks a lot better than I thought it would when I started looking for it but it doesn’t explain why fans believe it happens all the time. It’s the deeper into the situational hitting the numbers where we see the holes.
Looking there we can see that the majority of our big RISP numbers and delivering those RISP when it counts come against teams playing under .500 baseball. That makes sense as we have a 44-21 record against them. The Braves eight shutouts split at five against below 500 teams and 3 against the rest. When we score
- 5 or more runs we’re 49-2, 33- 2 against the sub .500 crowd and 16-0 against the leaders
- 2 or less we are 1-14 against the best
- 3 runs we break even against them at 3-3 and
- when we score four our record is 8-9 against the top teams.
The answer is simple then, just score 5 runs or more every game. The hole in the bottom third of our lineup where in the last two weeks Uggla’s line i s-214/.353/.500 and McCann’s a pitiful 103/.212/.103 really blows that idea away. Janish has been much better at the plate than expected and has better numbers than those two gentlemen but that doesn’t make him a threat. If I knew what was wrong with Uggla I’d be making more money than I am now. McCann’s problems stem at least partly from the injury to his shoulder. On Saturday he said he has a cyst and a frayed labrum in his right shoulder. He also said he “. . .can play through the discomfort.” He might be able to play through it but it’s my humble opinion that doing so hurts the Braves more than his macho toughness helps. Jose Yepez at Gwinnett could hit as well and isn’t bad defensively, He and David Ross could carry the load while BMac gets the shoulder rested and ready for the playoff’s. His shoulder is unlikely to get better playing daily and the way he’s hitting is not helping get us there.
To Win We Must Continue Beating Up On The Beaten
The Braves are currently 70 –52 six games behind the Nationals in the NL East and leading the in the Wildcard. Cutting away the teams not in the hunt the standings from the Braves point of view look like this.
(*Wildcard Games back for the Pirates are calculated on the Braves record. For the Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants they are calculated off the Pirates record as the current number two wildcard.)
Our 70-52 breaks down as 26-31 against teams over 500. Of our 40 remaining games 12 are against those teams while 28 are against the rest. The numbers say we should finish at around 93 wins 18 at least on paper against the sub 500 group and 5 against the best. If we intend to catch the Nationals and make a serious post season run the lineup has to deliver not just against the average pitchers but against the best pitchers on the best teams. That means at the very least that Dan Uggla has to find his bat and Brian McCann has to hit or Fredi Gonzales has to sit him down and save his shoulder.
That’s a Wrap
The Braves need to find the on switch for their offense. Failing to beat the dickens out of Aaron Harang on Saturday, wasting pitching performances like Minor’s Sunday outing and come backs like the one they mounted in the fourth and fifth inning last night will not win championships and could well find them playing Gold on the 5th of October. The Wildcard spot is not a lock. A quick look will tell you that another loss here a bad trip to San Francisco could find us looking up at the Pirates, Giants or Dodgers. That cannot be allowed to happen this year. It simply cannot. The players have to raise their game and so does Fredi Gonzales at least symbolically. In the eighth inning last night with Eric O’Flaherty on the mound, the game was on the line. Jayson Werth hits lefties at a .422 clip. He hits righties at .277. While O’Flaherty did get out of the inning that was clearly the time fro Craig Kimbrel to enter the game. Even though the game went 13 innings the skipper didn’t know it would at that time. Putting Kimbrel in would have signaled that he thought this was a playoff level game not a run of the mill series and put the players – and fans – on notice he was in it to win. As silly as it sounds those things do make a difference.