What’s Trending for the Braves today? How ’bout an Offensive Upswing!
The Braves scored 5 runs yesterday, which seems like an unprecedented, astronomical, and somewhat preposterous total compared to the twos, ones, and eggs that we’ve been seeing from the team thus far this year (16 times, the Braves have scored 2 runs or less in a game!). However, I can say with confidence that the Braves offense, overall, will only get better from here on out. By using some advanced metrics, adding in a splash of common sense perspective, and sprinkling some personnel change(s), I’ll try to persuade you all to keep your pants dry and step away from the proverbial baseball blues ledge! The Cubs helped…now it’s time to let the facts help a bit more.
The Braves were a good, albeit, inconsistent offensive team in 2013. They were 4th in the league in runs scored and were very much a team built the exact way they are this year; high walks, high strikeouts, high power. Thus far, the Braves are dead last in runs scored. This will not last as this is a good offensive team. Let’s analyze the poor offensive trends thus far:
Downward Team Trends that should start to trend UPWARD!
1. Low BABIP average- When the ball is put in play, this team is built to hit said ball HARD. Hitting the ball hard typically shows an increased batting average on balls in play. Right now, the Braves are 25th in the Majors in BABIP, and they were 6th in the Majors last year. Look for the Braves to steadily climb the BABIP ladder over the course of the season.
2. BB%- Simply put, the Braves used to walk a ton, now…not so much. As the BABIP evens out, look for the BB% to rise as well. If pitchers have something to be afraid of, they’ll have to start dancing around the zone a bit more.
3. ISO- ISO is a great stat that can be explained here. The Braves are built for power and are a top-tier team in this category. However, the early season’s collected stats show the Braves as just middle of the road. Their rank was 7th last year, and thus far it’s 14th. As the BABIP trends upward, look for the ISO to do the same.
So, who’s due to improve?
Up until last week, the Braves have essentially ran the same 8 guys out day in and day out. Aside from Dan Uggla, who likely won’t be a factor in a Braves’ uniform anymore, let’s take a look at 2 players who are seeing fluky-bad results.
1. Jason Heyward- Heyward hit a home run yesterday, which was a good sign for the offense. While it’s probably true that Heyward was due an adjustment period for the broken jaw, no one expected him to struggle this hard on the offensive side. The good news is that his struggles shouldn’t continue. Heyward’s career BABIP is .299. This year, he is below that margin by .049 points, a significant change. Also, Heyward’s ISO for his career is .179. This year? .115. More likely than not, Heyward’s stats will continue a steady upward trend for the rest of the year.
2. Chris Johnson- expecting 2014 Chris Johnson to be 2013 Chris Johnson is unrealistic. However, expecting Chris Johnson to be career Chris Johnson is not. The major downward trend that will balance out is CJ’s ISO, which is down .070 points. While Chris is unlikely to compete for a batting crown this year, he’ll likely start collecting the extra base hits very soon.
1. 2nd base- Some way, somehow, production from 2nd base will improve from what we saw in 2013, and what we had been seeing
in 2014. With the mix of Ramiro Pena, Tyler Pastornicky, and, hopefully Tommy La Stella, the Braves should get positive production. Uggla was a well-below average hitter last year, and thus far this year. All the Braves 2nd basemen have to do is to be average.
2. Outfield- Just like last year, B.J. Upton might be working his way into a platoon. While BJ isn’t showing success from either side of the plate, his numbers against right-handed pitchers are atrocious (.582 OPS). One way or another, production from CF should improve, whether it be BJ himself, or some combination of a platoon with Schafer/Heyward/Doumit with obvious positional shifts being put in place with the latter 2.
Last, but by no means, Least…The Fluke of the Fluke…
Runners in Scoring Position!
The Braves are 25th in the Majors in hitting with RISP. Worse than that, the Braves are DEAD LAST in hitting with RISP and 2 outs. This is purely fluky and will start to even out. With their high-K rate, the Braves will probably continue to be in the bottom half in both categories. However, by season’s end, bottom of the barrel offenses (Cubs, for example) will be at the bottom of the barrel for these stats, as well as other offensive stats. The Braves are not a bottom of the barrel offensive team.
As always, thanks for reading. Now get off the ledge and go get yourself a nice steak dinner and a massage.