Posted: 8:09 am Monday, May 5th, 2014

The Braves: From near no-hitters to no hitting 

By Mark Bradley

Chris Johnson displays the proper method of bat disposal. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Chris Johnson displays the proper method of bat disposal. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Not so long ago, all the buzz was about the Atlanta Braves’ pitching. Their starting rotation was flirting with no-hitters once a week while compiling an outrageous ERA of 1.50 through 21 games. But then Alex Wood and Aaron Harang got hit hard on consecutive nights in Miami, which led to getting swept by the Marlins, and then the Braves got outpitched by San Francisco, which spawned another sweep, and now we’re back to where we’ve been for a while now.

The Braves can pitch, but — apart from the more-than-occasional home run — they can’t hit.

They still have the lowest ERA (2.72) in the majors. That’s great. They have, sad to say, scored the second-fewest runs in the majors. (Only San Diego has done less.) They’ve managed 99 runs in 30 games, and as long as the pitching staff was allowing only 1’s and 0’s, that was enough. But the Giants managed only nine runs — they hit seven homers — and still won three games at Turner Field.

The Braves have scored 10 runs over these six lost games, three in the past three. They’re 27th among 30 big-league teams in batting average (.233), 27th in hitting with runners in scoring position (.210) and 27th in on-base percentage (.294). They’re fourth in baseball in strikeouts and ninth in home runs. In sum, they’re the same clout-or-out team they were a year ago.

Jason Heyward, the leadoff hitter, is hitting .220 with an OBP of .301. B.J. Upton, who bats second, is hitting .213 with an OBP of .303. That means Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton are coming to bat with nobody aboard. Dan Uggla is again below the Mendoza Line — when are we going to rename it the Uggla Line? — and Chris Johnson, who was just granted a three-year extension, is hitting .245, lending further credence to those who believed the .321 of last season was a blip.

Fredi Gonzalez hinted after Sunday’s loss that lineup changes could be coming, but what is there to do? It’s not as if the Braves have an Oscar Taveras (Cardinals) or a Gregory Polanco (Pirates) tearing it up in the minors. The Braves start seven guys on long-term contracts, plus the folk hero Evan Gattis. And reserves Jordan Schafer, Ryan Doumit and Ramiro Pena wouldn’t appear to be options; they’re hitting .176, .188 and .214, respectively.

For both better and worse, the Braves are what they are — a team that pitches well no matter who the pitcher happens to be, but also a team with severe offensive limitations. That was enough to win the National League East last season, and the Braves again hold first place (albeit by a skinny half-game). But it does make you wonder why the Braves’ two hitting coaches get less than half the results of one Roger McDowell.

Further reading: The Braves’ rotation has been nothing but quality.

100 comments
TheFlowerChild
TheFlowerChild

Long-term contracts are the bane of the Braves. 


Gwinforfun
Gwinforfun

Why not let UGGLA lead off? If he cuts down on his swing and puts the ball in play, his speed can do the rest. I think its worth 24 million to have him resurrect his career in a completely different mode. Think I'm crazy, try it  and see what happens. I really believe the guy can do it and do it well!!!!

chrisbeyer
chrisbeyer

Jason Heyward is the most overrated player on the team.   If one examines his total body of work, he has been a mediocre (or less) hitter at best.   He survives in the lineup as the result of many who believed he would become a superstar in the league.   Time keeps marching on and it isn't happening.  He has had long and notable  slumps during his tenure with the Braves and at some point a smart GM and Coach would come to terms that Heyward isn/t going to be a star player (or anything close to that).

shitlipps
shitlipps

FIRE ART FACE FREDI,NO  ONE WANTS TO PLAY FOR THIS ILLEGAL CUBAN. NO LEADERSHIP.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

Batting Averages of the culprits :


.184 Dan Ugga

.211 B. J. Upton

.216 Jason Heyward

.246 Chris Johnson

.250 Ramiro Pena

.267 Evan Gattis

.271 Andrelton Simmons


7 Braves' all 7 of whom have been Starters are not hitting the ball well.  And, the entire bench is totally non-existent all season long - throwing gasoline on the fire unable to hit the ball either - coming off the bench to be unable to hit.


18 games Braves have scored 3 runs or less of 32 games


A fifth of the season has been played already now today, so the sample size is not what you said it was when I told y'all we cannot hit the ball as a team, again, this season, and would go nowhere in the play-offs as a direct result thereof.


18 of 32 games, Braves scored 3 runs or less - 2nd worst in baseball.



Marmoset
Marmoset

no worries---atl in the weakest division in baseball-they'll win that easy and pull an upset in the playoffs

SaintsFkngCheaters
SaintsFkngCheaters

Good thing we have this collection of NO HIT LOSERS locked up in contracts. I wouldn't want to risk losing any of them. Yeah, right. Like any other team WANTS these losers. They can't wait to sign sub 200 hitters for millions of dollars.

SaintsFkngCheaters
SaintsFkngCheaters

I want to take my son to a MLB game, but there is NO WAY I take him to see this team. Even when they were winning the 1-0 games, I can't stand NO HIT teams like the Braves. It's so boring, who cares if they win when it's NOT entertaining?

DrPhill
DrPhill

Enough with the tantrums, Justin and Chris.  It's not the ump.

cvan32802
cvan32802

Mike S777 -- great point about the organization.   They are poor judges of major league talent on the offense side and once they get here they get coddled --- "great team to play for".    Too many of these guys take advantage of that and don't feel any need to produce.   What we are witnessing on the field now is similar to the big collapse a few years ago -- a team that doesn't care no matter what they say.   After all, we scored a whopping 3 runs last night and our manager, who should be pushing for better performance, said "our bats looked a lot better" -- disgraceful.   The Braves organization was built around superlative pitching and average to slightly better than average hitting.   We don't have a Hall of Fame rotation anymore and as Mike points out we don't seem to be able to take a batter and get improved performance, unlike many of the cast-off pitchers who have come here and done reasonably well.

sea8491
sea8491

Too many of the Brave players do not belong in the major leagues, you know who they are?


Wonder when the changes will come?

FSUNole
FSUNole

this team sucks arse...screw em

MikeS777
MikeS777

I've been saying this for years, something is wrong with the Braves hitting coaching or at least their day to day routine. The Dan Uggla jokes are masking a bigger issue here.  These issues started years ago.

We saw Nate McLouth come here and completely disappear.  Alex Gonzalez was hitting the cover off the ball in Toronto.  He gets traded here and disappears as well.  Heyward comes up hot from the minors and disappears.  Justin Upton has a hot April, then dropped off in the second half.  He's started hot again.  Lets see how long it lasts.  BJ Upton is keeping Uggla company around .200.  Neither player has hit nearly as bad in their careers as in a Braves uniform.  Chris Johnson's season has gotten off to a terrible start too.  Jordan Schafer continues to bat poorly in a Brave uniform.


Its time to stop throwing Uggla, BJ, under the bus, and realize there's a much bigger problem with Atlanta than one or two guys not hitting.  The Braves have been playing with multiple holes in their lineups for years now.


Chipper Jones, Freddie Freeman, Michael Bourn, Brian McCann...these guys were the best in the lineup because they were the best players on the team (Freddie still is).  Anything less than these guys is not performing in an Atlanta uniform anymore.  When it's this many players struggling, you have to start looking at the system, not the players.

countryboyy
countryboyy

they are over payed  they give them raises now they feel they dont have do any  thing  i   feel they need to sit them down and bring up   the aaa team show them they can be replaced  the position players the pitchers are fine 

Baghead
Baghead

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we will be inserting BJ in the #5, cinco, hole tonight.  Here, he has fared exceptionally well over his career, batting a whopping .036, with an OBP of .121 and leaving an astounding 4,204 runners in scoring position.  Fredi, you're a genius!  I guess Wren gave his blessing to change the lineup.  For a change, I agree with Rick C.  Heyward and BJ have stepped it up the last couple of  weeks.  However, when at bat in key moments, like RISP, they are complete garbage.  All of the herky jerky, jumping around, gum chomping , bats flailing along and complete emotional breakdown leads to almost zero RBIs.  When Freeman and Simmons go into slumps, somebody has to step up.  This team doesn't have that someone.  

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

Stinger- you are correct. Heyward and Upton should not be at the top of anyone's lineup card. Simmons is the only player who is not a strikeout machine right now and should be batting up top.

TOo much typical "gettin cute" with the lineup. "Well i'm going to bat Freeman behjind Upton so he will protect him. BS, put your best hitters at the top so they get more abs. You wann bat at the top of the order then do something.

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

They won the eat because Washington was injury riddled and failed miserably. That coupled with their incredibley fast start and the BRaves won the division in a perfect storm year.

THey put this team together they have to live with it. It's a team full of all-or-nothing hitters (sans Freeman) who strike out a ton!! If it weren't for some video game numbers by their pitching staff they'd probably be in last place right now.

ANyone thinking Harang is going to win comeback player of the year is delusional. I'ts up to Santana, TEheran, and Minor.

Other than Freeman and J Up (and even he is debatable) there is not one hitter/basrunner that a pitcher really has to worry about.

Don't give u pthe long ball and you'll be fine.

journalist jimmy smith
journalist jimmy smith

jimmy smith was noticing all the batting glove problems jason heyward seems to have at the plate.  heyward steps away after every pitch and adjusts not one, but two batting gloves.  then, heyward steps back in and makes an awkward swing.  heward misses the ball and steps out again and repeats the glove adjusting.  this journalist wonders if ridding heyward of the glove(s) would allow heyward to focus on heyward's at bat and making contact with the ball?  of course, it could be eye problems instead of batting glove problems.  everybody seems to be having eye problems and fredi must be the worst if he can't see his team doesn't handle baseball fundamentals very well.  fund-a- MENTAL?  mental may be the problem for fredi.

Stinger2
Stinger2

forexbomb: You buy the team and then you can make out the lineups.

Stinger2
Stinger2

Some of the negative complainers on here need to take a vacation.

forexbomb
forexbomb

Sounds like a manager problem to me....  I mean, I don't make millions trying to figure out who needs to hit where in the line up...  Good grief, this batting line up is a JOKE!

oldcrackerfan
oldcrackerfan

I've read the article and every post.  There's the usual amount of carping, but there are also quite a few suggestions for improvement.  I appreciate the latter more than the former.  The fact, as I see it, is that the Braves have relied on the home run for over two decades.  They don't bunt, steal, or hit and run because they aren't taught to do so; that's clear.  But just as important is the hitters' belief that they are going to get on top ten plays of the day and get bigger contracts if they jerk one out, far out.  So baseball is no longer a team sport; it's each guy hoping to do what will most benefit himself.  That, to me, is the key: it's no longer a team game the way it's played here.  Would you want to coach or manage players who think like this?  Freeman is the only Brave who has shown a willingness to hit the ball where it's pitched, and it's no surprise that he's the most effective hitter in the lineup.  Johnson has the same approach, with uneven results--because he's simply not as talented as Freeman.  Heyward is willing to hit that way, but his swing hampers him.  As long as the economic and television pressure is so great, as long as management caters to this philosophy, and as long as fans come to see the long ball, don't expect much change in offensive production. 

Cousingeorgestone
Cousingeorgestone

Good gosh, there can no longer be any debate about this issue;  makes you wonder how Wren and the rest of the so-called "braintrust" would score on the Wonderlick.   STOP IT with the failed Uggla experiment, the sample size is way beyond proving the guy just doesn't have it anymore!!!!    With BJ, yeah, he's improved but so what, who couldn't after he scraped the bottom of the barrel last year?  Is that what 75 million buys these days, a hitter barely above the Mendoza line???   The Braves spin on things reminds me of political spin-meisters, e.g.,  trending up, things are great, working hard every day, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.



Hammerman
Hammerman

Uggla needs to be DFA ASAP that is the only option.Give Pastornicky the gig and bat him in the 1 hole.Trade the better Upton and Heyward since they will bring the most in return.Start pulling Johnson around the 7th inning every game giving Pena some swings.Then say 4 Our Fathers and 2 Hail Mary's.3rd Pace team.

TampGator1
TampGator1

I have tried to be an Uggla supporter for over a year now.  Sorry, but not any more.  PEDs....no doubt, got him that Braves contract.  Just no doubt in my mind anymore.

RickyBobby
RickyBobby

I have  feeling Booger is really Frank Wren.

JanicePhoenix
JanicePhoenix

maybe its just the Braves being the Braves, you know the organization with 14 straight East Title and 1 WS Title to show for it?

drumminduck
drumminduck

Heres my lineup:

1. Simmons

2. Heyward

3. J. Upton

4. Freeman

5. Gattis

6. Johnson

7. Uggla

8. B.J

Danili
Danili

Mr. Bradley, good article.  You sure have some passionate readers.  A question:   Do you pen the title on your opinion pieces or does the editor?   Regardless, this one is great!   

JackClemens
JackClemens

Too early to panic, but not to early to try some new lineups.

LADawg
LADawg

A lineup that has 7 and 8 hitters batting 1 and 2 is going to have trouble scoring! Don't give me the excuse that Heyward is making a sacrifice batting leadoff and should be in the middle of the lineup. When the back of the lineup gets on, he does nothing with the opportunity to drive in runs. He is a big .240 hitter with very little pop.

It's pathetic watching Heyward, BJ, and, Uggla repeatedly take their carnival routine to the batter's box. Obviously, they are uncoachable.

Bogey
Bogey

OK, all you guys done whining and pointing out the obvious? If my dog could type, he could do what all of you are doing.

These are the players we have. If you think firing Wren or Fredi right now is the solution...think again.

How about addressing the actual point Bradley was asking: is it time to tweak the lineup and how?

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

This is the team Frank Wren built and both he and Fredi have said many times they are OK  with the strikeouts, periods of low run support  and depending on the home run to score runs.  This same thing happened a few times last year so I'm not sure why everyone is screaming now.  Wait it out and the next thing you know the Braves will run off 10 out of 12 wins and all the sports writers  will be writing articles about the great Braves hitters.  


Unless someone within the division goes on some crazy winning streak this team is good enough to stay close to the top  and maybe even win the division but this kind of feast or famine approach rarely wins league titles or World Series championships.  

chrisbeyer
chrisbeyer

@shitlipps  Yes, one has to wonder why Freddi started Uggla a couple of nights ago after Pena had performed well the game before that.    The result...two wimpy popups and a strike out and another zero for --- game.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@dawgfacedboy  Once again, refer to my posts about Heyward and BJ as of late.  The top of the order is the only part doing its job right now.

forexbomb
forexbomb

@Stinger2  lol...    The problems are all in the lineup...  My 14 year old could take the talent we have and hit them in the right position....  He could also take the NON producers and put them on the bench where they belong...  This is baseball, not rocket science.. lol

RickyBobby
RickyBobby

@Stinger2

Some of the homers who deny reality need to pay for our vacations. 

RickyBobby
RickyBobby

@Jack_Republican

Uggla would be riding the pine on my men's softball team

Hammerman
Hammerman

5 through 9 are awful, go back to the drawing board Fredi Jr.

TampGator1
TampGator1

@drumminduck '


That is three straight outs at the bottom of your lineup....including the pitcher.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@LADawg  As pointed out many times now, Heyward and BJ are arguably the only guys hitting at all right now.

RickyBobby
RickyBobby

@Bogey

Who cares what Bradley asked Booger.  I's a free country - at least for the next few months I think.  Time to BLOW IT UP BABY!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@Bogey Thought that's what I did, below. Cut Uggla (today?), bring up LaStella for a look, trade a pitcher and perhaps an outfielder to get a legitimate top-of-the-order guy in here.

ComaToes
ComaToes

@Bogey  Yes, do something, even if it's wrong.  "Status Quo"  is not working so try anything. Turn the lineup upside down for instance. AND, sit people down when they do something really stupid, like sliding headfirst into first base, or not running out grounders and popups !

RickyBobby
RickyBobby

@BRAVES2143

Scary thing is that 4 games was their longest losing streak last season  How many more will this one go?

ComaToes
ComaToes

@BRAVES2143    OR as "Doofus Fredi" said yesterday,  "in a few days we will have a 2-3 week period in which we will score 10 runs per game".   Can't wait to see that !  

LADawg
LADawg

@Rick_C @LADawg Over the course of a season, Heyward will hit . 235 to .245 with a sub .300 OBP with 12 to 15 HRs. BJ, if all the stars align, will hit .200 to .210 with a sub .275 OBP with zero ability to bunt and no desire to give himself up to move a runner.

These are the guys you want at the top of your lineup regardless of what they have done the past week?

To say they are "...the only guys hitting at all right now." is a gross overstatement. Other guys are hitting, but no one is getting timely hits, Heyward and BJ included.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@LADawg Why should we expect Heyward to put up an OBP 20+ points lower than he's put up in any season?

Yes, until someone emerges as a better candidate, I don't see the need for a change.

Seriously, no one else is hitting right now.  Here's the starting lineup's OPS over the last 7 days:

Heyward 906

BJ 736

Simmons 573

Justin 535

Gattis 492

CJ 467

Freeman 392

Uggla 259