August 10, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) hits a two-run home run during the eighth inning of a game against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

The Braves Lineup: Weakness of the major pieces


Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

The Braves offense has been tremendously streaky this year. We’ve seen them go on multiple monster stretches, where they average around 6 runs a game for 2 weeks. We’ve also seen them go ice cold, where they can barely manage put up 3 runs for the same period of time. During these poor stretches, it’s very easy to see pitchers exploit the big weaknesses in our hitters’ swings. I wanted to take a closer look at the nature of some of these weaknesses.
The easiest one to see was Dan Uggla’s. No surprise here. He can’t hit anything low. Below is his batting average by zone against breaking pitches in 2012.

And pitchers will keep throwing them, because he keeps swinging at them. His swing rate against breaking balls:

And he keeps missing. Here is his whiff rate against breaking balls:

Dan Uggla can’t lay off them, and he can’t hit them. To save you from more agony, I will refrain from putting up the same charts for Uggla against changeups. Believe it or not, they are worse. At least he can draw a walk from time to time.
Freeman is a little more interesting. As I understood it in 2011, he was very good when he could get his arms extended to the outer half of the plate, posting a very high batting average and slugging percentage on outside pitches. Here is his SLG% by zone against all pitches in 2011:

Somehow, something changed in 2012. His hitting profile has flipped entirely. Both batting avg and slugging are very high on inside pitches and terrible against outside pitches. Freddie’s 2012 SLG% by zone:

I’m really not sure how that happened. His swing and approach really don’t seem all that different. But it is, in fact, a bit encouraging that he’s demonstrated ability to hit pitches on both sides of the plate – he just needs to put it together.
Similar to Uggla, Michael Bourn has an enormous hole low in the zone. In particular, he’s absolutely useless against pitches slow pitches that are low and away. This is his batting avg against breaking balls this year:

Also just like Uggla, he is unable to lay off low breaking pitches and whiffs a toooon:
Swing rate:

Whiff Rate:

On the flipside, Jason Heyward thrives against low stuff, no matter what it is. But he struggles against anything that’s up in the zone. Batting average by zone against all pitches:

He’s particularly bad against high fastballs, sinkers, and cutters, which are what most of the high pitches tend to be. Batting average by zone against hard pitches:

It’s weird that he gets jammed so much by fast, high and inside pitches, considering that he stands so far away from the plate.
And finally, Brian McCann has been struggling mightily with the shift this year. Thus, while he’s been actually very good at keeping his whiff rate low all across the board, he is getting dominated by pitches low and inside because he keeps hitting them to the overly covered right side of the infield. BMac’s Avg by zone against all pitches:

He also has lost his ability to hit the breaking balls:

On the bright side, Chipper Jones and Martin Prado are very well-balanced with no gaping holes in their swings. But for the five starters above, the weaknesses in their swings could present a big problem for the offense down the stretch, especially in the 1 game playoff where you know pitchers will be ultra-harsh in exploiting them.

(All Pitch F/X graphs above are from Baseball Prospectus).

Tags: Atlanta Braves Lineup