Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: multiples needs for recovery exist

For the Braves to go on a deep October run, they will need to hit on all cylinders.  But 2 of their bats have been concerns lately, with a third one running into an ‘uh oh’ moment last night.

With 5 games to go, it’s almost certainly ‘close, but no cigar’ on the campaign for either Freddie Freeman or Nick Markakis to garner 200 hits this year for the Atlanta Braves.

Both have cooled from their Spring pace and each would have to go on absolute tears to get to this milestone, Freeman being 13 short and Markakis 16.

Neither will either get the batting title (.310 and .303, ranking 6th and 8th now, respectively) as Christian Yelich (.321) has dominated the Summer months and Scooter Gennett has quietly jumped up (.315) as well.

But among National League playoff teams, the Braves and Brewers are the only ones with a pair of top ten hitters (Lorenzo Cain 4th at .311 being the other Brewer).

However, it’s the OPS ‘race’ that gives a bit of concern. For quite a while, Freeman was maintaining 1.000+ numbers. As of today, he’s fallen below .900 at .893.

His slugging has cooled noticeably in recent weeks, with only 3 home runs since August 15th (also 8 doubles and a triple in that period).

The news is a bit better in recent days, including a 10-for-18 run starting with the Cardinal series. He’d have an 8 game hit streak going if not for being ceremonially removed from Sunday’s last home game.

With lots of rest before the playoffs start, the hope is that both Markakis and Freeman can be revived enough to reprise their early success.

That is what would make this lineup formidable in October: having this pair of leaders in top form along with the young bats.

Injury Concern?

There is some debate as to whether Dansby Swanson hurt his wrist or his hand on a swing in last night’s 7-3 victory. Personally, I’m thinking ‘wrist’… which unfortunately is the bigger concern.  Regardless, there is a real possibility that we won’t see him back in a game for the rest of the regular season.

Mark Bowman’s write-up mentioned not only the wrist (rather than his hand), but also the notion that the Braves might have to call upon Charlie Culberson to replace him for a while.

While Culberson would probably be a tick of an upgrade offensively, there would be a noticeable change defensively.

In such a scenario, Culberson would be inserted at third base with Johan Camargo sliding over to short.

This comes just a day after Ken Rosenthal lauded the improved defensive play of Swanson in 2018 in a piece he penned for theAthletic (subscription required).

This change (a virtual 180 degree flip, really) came about after the hiring of GM Alex Anthopoulos last -off-season while he was inquiring about how to improve the Braves’ defense at the shortstop position – only to find Ron Washington shutting down the question with a declaration that Swanson would be noticeably better this season.

Without that endorsement, it is quite plausible that Swanson would have been in AAA for a while to start the year.

While his ‘defensive pace’ has slowed, Swanson is still currently 10th in the NL with 11 Defensive Runs Saved (4th among NL shortstops). This is a marked difference from last year’s numbers that put him 8th (last) among qualifying shortstops with a DRS of -7… so yes: that’s an 18 run difference over a single year.

But the wrist ailment is (at least) not on his throwing arm. So if the Braves are faced with one of those ‘suck it up for the playoffs’ moments, they shouldn’t have to be too concerned defensively if Dansby comes back before it’s fully healed.

Offensively? Well, he wasn’t exactly playing because of his premium bat, right?