Posted: 8:18 am Monday, May 19th, 2014

How can the Braves spike this punchless offense? 

By Mark Bradley

Here's one guy you can't fault. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Here’s one guy you can’t fault. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

The good news was that the Atlanta Braves scored six runs against the Cardinals on Sunday and fashioned a winning rally off one of the best young closers in the business. Never mind that the rally constituted a single, a double, two walks (one intentional) and a wild pitch. This punchless team will gladly take runs wherever and whenever it can find them, and it hasn’t found many.

We’re within sight of Memorial Day, the first checkpoint of the six-month season, and these are the unhappy totals: The Braves are last in baseball in runs, next-to-last in on-base percentage and next-to-next-to-last in batting average. We’ve all seen them go through stretches where they haven’t hit, but it has been a long time since they’ve not hit like this.

They’re in first place because their pitching has been the best in baseball, but their recent struggles against the Giants and the Cardinals — they went 3-9 against playoff-caliber pitching — serve to underscore what we already know: This isn’t going to work over 162 games. They have to hit better because their pitching cannot possibly be this good for much longer. (Well, can it?)

So now we ask: What to do? They’ve already tried having the pitcher bat eighth, to no effect. And I’m not sure benching Dan Uggla is a real answer, seeing as how that has already happened. His start Sunday marked the first in 11 days. He went 0-for-3 and saw his batting average dip to .178, which is a percentage point worse than last year’s, which is both hard and easy to believe.

B.J. Upton didn’t start Sunday, thereby denying him the chance to pad his major-league-leading strikeout total, which is holding at 56. He’s on pace to whiff 216 times, which would mark the third-highest total in baseball annals. He’s hitting .203 with an on-base percentage of .272; those totals aren’t quite as awful as last season’s .184 and .268, but they’re getting there.

It would be a surprise to me — not a total shock but a surprise — if Uggla is on this roster come Memorial Day. The elder Upton will be here only because the Braves can’t buy out every underperforming hitter. (They’d go bankrupt if they did.) But will releasing/trading Uggla have any tangible effect? He hasn’t had much of a part in the non-hitting of the past two weeks. Beyond that, what? Bench B.J. Upton and go with Jordan Schafer, who drew a tying walk Sunday but who’s hitting .115? Make Ryan Doumit, who’s hitting .217, the everyday left fielder and move Jason Heyward, who’s hitting .215, to center and Justin Upton to right? (If memory serves, that was how last season ended — with a nominal catcher playing the outfield. Didn’t work then, either.)

And what of the time-honored tactic of firing the hitting coach? (The Braves would have to fire two — Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher are a tandem.) There’s no real evidence that such a move actually works beyond changing the batting-cage dynamic, and I’m not convinced that Walker/Fletcher are entirely culpable. They’ve been handed a batting order based around the home run, and the Braves aren’t hitting as many of them. They hit 181 in 162 games last season; they’ve hit 40 in 42 games this time.

So I ask again: What to do? I’ll hang up and listen to your answers. And there’s also a handy (if unscientific) poll for your clicking pleasure.

From myajc.com: How did the Braves’ offense get this bad? Glad you asked.

159 comments
scarroll
scarroll

Sit the entire starting lineup for three games. Field the bench players for a while.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Did we cork some bats?

RONMERIDIAN
RONMERIDIAN

You trade for Emilio Bonafacio and bring up La Stella. This is then your lineup:

Bonafacio. CF

C. Johnson. 3rd

Freeman. 1st

J. Upton LF

Heyward. RF

Simmons. SS

Gattis C

La Stella 2nd

Bench: Laird, Duomit, Pastornicky, Pena ,B.J.

Uggla and Schafer gone.

9awebb
9awebb

You can't teach a man in his mid 20's how to hit. Period. A hitting coach can watch film and pick out bad habits due to fatigue, bumps and bruises, etc. But if a guy has lost it, it's gone. Tell me another player that lost 100 to 150 pts off his average for two or three straight years and suddenly got it back. Very short list at best. 

Intruder
Intruder

In this era of home run or strikeout, baseball has become boring. It has become a game of catch between pitcher and catcher. I have almost got to the point that I would rather sit and listen to my wife talk about relationships. Almost.

tsmiff
tsmiff

Also, I guess people have forgotten that Schafer has had a chance to play everyday and he was cut from the worst team in baseball after putting up a 211/294/297 line (astros 2012). He is also not a better defender than upton, contrary to what a lot of people think.

rogerpellerin
rogerpellerin

I can't believe it. Fredi has B.J. in  the lineup tonite. He's hoping he only strikes out  3 times instead of 4.

Tommy Holmes (Boston Braves 1942-1952) Lifetime average .302 - in 4992 times at bat struck out 122 times

or 12 times per year. How did he do it? Choke up on the bat, know the strike zone, and hit the ball to all fields.

Why can't today's player do that? I think the problem is between their ears.

Intruder
Intruder

Some would cut Wren some slack considering the payroll he is working with. Not here. All the more reason to make wise decisions. Giving huge contracts to strikeout kings has not proven to be wise.

oldmaninatlanta
oldmaninatlanta

1 thing is for sure.There is no help offensively at Gwinnett,cuz you know how Wren is crazy about drafting pitchers.Look at one of his famous home-grown pics in Heyward,I dont know why so many people adore this guy...his career numbers are like  33 ROUND PICK,NOT A 1.and Wren offered him a long term deal...thank goodness Heyward turned it down

tsmiff
tsmiff

I just don't understand how this many people can be on the fire Frank Wren bandwagon. This team won 96 games a year ago, and last time I checked we are still in first (though dwindling); all this with a middle of the pack payroll. Not every move is going to pan out and you have to take chances if you want to compete with a middle of the pack payroll.

Necromancer
Necromancer

Maybe a new stadium will bring new owners.  One can only hope, right?

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

Bradley. you left out the biggest problem of all.............


Frank Wren. He built this team, structured it around the long ball. This is his fault more than any other person in the organization, period.


Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians.

TomGaff
TomGaff

I'm not sure Schafer is not the answer in CF just yet? He has about 25 AB's in spot duty and PH(which is very difficult task to perform well, especially for a young player). Yes, he has a low BA, but brings much more excitement to the game when he plays.than BJ.  He needs about 3-4 weeks of daily playing for us to get a good read of him? If I remember correctly, last season when he was playing regularly, wasn't he hitting around .275 before his injury? Stealing bases, bunting well and making things happen? I like the kid's hustle but the spot duty and PH is not a good fit for him?

cafeej
cafeej

From an ATL Nationals fan - um......are not the Braves still in first place?  I mean for all that is bad going on with the team's performance, the NL East is mediocre and certainly during this long season the Braves will get hot.  


Until my boys get the stones to play the Braves as men, the division is the Braves to lose.

58Supersports
58Supersports

How about adding to poll  .1  fire Wren  2. Fire Fredi

PhilUnderwood
PhilUnderwood

Uggla is done. BJ is done here.  Someone, somewhere will believe they can fix him.

Hitting coaches never really make a difference.  Something large MUST be done.

wbdiet
wbdiet

trade some farm for Prado to come back or Bonofacio.  some one who can hit at a .270 + clip and get on base

58Supersports
58Supersports

Not a fair poll....should be able to pick one or two without picking all three..  Release Uggla or trade if they can.. YES!....  Bench BJ=YES!  Fire hitting coaches=hell no!  Fire Fredi=YES! Fire Wren= YES!

Its not hitting coaches fault for what Wren gave them to work with. WREN is to blame or all the problems as he put this team together. Fire Fredi and put G WALKER in charge and you will see a big improvement in this team.

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Release Uggla, bench BJ. Move Simmons to the lead off hitter and drop Hayword to 7th. Beg Chipper to come and be the hitting coach at least for this season.

MikeS777
MikeS777

I think for Dan Uggla, the best thing for him is to be released and put the Braves behind him.  Get released, then get picked up for cheap by another team and get a shot to revive your career.  Nate McLouth did well for himself in Baltimore after leaving here.  I just don't think the Braves under Freddie Gonzalez have a clue how to manage the hitters.

MikeS777
MikeS777

To me the issue is either hitting coaching or just Wren grabbing the wrong players for the team.  Bottom line is, they come here and stop hitting.  As you pointed out, Mark, the replacements aren't hitting either.  Pena replaced Uggla in the lineup and is hitting .190.  Go look at the stats page on ESPN for the Braves.  Its reads like a joke.  Only 4 position players hitting above .250, only 5 above .220:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/stats/batting/_/name/atl/atlanta-braves

You can't point a finger at the Braves players when there are this many struggling so bad at the plate.   Its much easier to swap out hitting coaches than it is 75% of your every day lineup.  The post game show the other day had a trivia nugget..  At this point in the season, the Braves have the fewest hits since 1988.

Really this has been coming on for a while now.  Every year they have dropped in batting average.  They keep letting good veteran hitters go and then Chipper retired.  Bottom line is their young talent coming up from AAA isn't getting the job done.  Escobar dropped off sharply before being traded.  Heyward has completely fizzled out past his first season.  Gattis hasn't hit well past the first couple of months last year filling in for McCann.  Liberty Media won't give them the money to go get better hitters.

The last Braves teams to hit well were the 2009 and 2010 Braves which included names like Garrett Anderson, Adam Laroche, Martin Prado, Omar Infante, Melky Cabrera, Derek Lee, Casey Kotchman, Brian McCann, and Chipper Jones.  In addition they had players like Diaz, Ross, and Henske hitting well off the bench.

Now we have Justin Upton, Freeman, Simmons, Johnson, maybe Gattis, and a bunch of guys who can't hit.  Better to say they have somehow forgotten how to hit, because most have much better numbers outside a Braves uniform.  No bench help at all either.

waynelamar
waynelamar

As I watch the Braves play, it is obvious that Uggla and Blow-J aren't going to recapture their past success. They contribute absolutely nothing to the braves offensively. The only smart thing to do is cut the losses and move on and put someone in the lineup that has a chance to contribute something. This lineup cannot succeed over the entire season. Right now the pitching staff has sufficient grounds to sue for non-support. This comes from a person who likes uggla and thinks he is a fine guy. The pitching coaches had the off season to correct the faults these two players had and failed totally, so they should go also.

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

BJ AND Uggla wouldn't hit anything if our atmosphere wasn't filled with air!!!!!!!!!They are each batting over .775 if you would consider that hitting air counts

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Yeah Mark.................youv'e got the answer............some player needs to SPIKE BJ'S ANKLE WITH THEIR CLEATS.................Is there a series with the Mets coming up anytime soon???????How about asking Braun to come in front of the Brave's on-deck batter's area when BJ is on deck???....................just kidding I hate to see anyone get hurt.............it's time to release Uggla and bring up either Gosselin or LaStella and bench BJ and release Schafer if he doesn't do any better in his place and bring up Todd Cunningham or Terdoslavich or Constanza if Schafer proves to be washed up also!

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Give Heyward a wooden bat to use.  That holographic bat he uses never hits anything.  He does look better  than Uggly and BJ when he strikes out.  Can we get Shaffer one of those Donald Stirling girlfriend-ho's visors to wear, instead of regular shades?  If he gets use to fly ball hitting him during practice, maybe he can figure out how to open his glove so one might accidentally land there?  Shaffer worked a 7-ball-walk by swinging and missing two ball fours, and then fouling one ball four off the umpire.  Can we not use a 3rd base coach (like the one who sends Heyward to die at home, only to have angels fly down and make the catcher miss the tag (he got bored waiting for him to get there)?  We could use a system that has Freddie shout out, "Take the pitch dangit!"  That works in PeeWee ball.  Perhaps we could pinch hit for batters who fail to take a walk with the bases loaded, by swinging at ball fours?  We could send up a ball boy or midget who knows the pitcher is wild, so not to swing?  I do like the play that guarantees a base stealer is not thrown out, by giving the other team a sure out at first.  It is courteous coaching that tells a batter to bunt when the base is already stolen.  Is there any way that a lineup that has Pastornicky, Shaffer, Heyward, and any rookie pitcher be deemed by the league as temporarily sub-pro?  Maybe we can get spotted some handicap runs, just to make it fair competition?  They do that in bowling leagues.

extremus
extremus

I'd respond to the poll above but frankly there aren't enough selections before the "All of the above" one.  Uggla and BJ Upton are only the two weakest links in an overall inept (and poorly coached) lineup.  Heyward will never be the superstar he was projected to be.  Almost everyone outside of Simmons and Freeman are strikeout victims every single game (often multiple times).  You can't have essentially three-plus innings every single game where nobody puts the ball in play (the average number of strikeouts per game divided by three) and hope to score runs and make even productive outs, let alone be in the Win column at the end of the day.


For a first-place team, the 2014 Atlanta Braves are as close to a complete rebuilding project as perhaps has ever been seen in MLB.  And that's on both Frank Wren and Freddi Gonzalez (whose handling of the lineup is getting even less out of these players that could be the case).


Heads need to roll.  Give it a few more months of this, and they assuredly will.

MisterNeutron
MisterNeutron

Mr. Bradley, I believe your poll is what's called a false choice fallacy.  None of those are the answer.  


The problem is that Frank Wren had X millions of dollars to spend and he has spent them.  The benevolent owners at Liberty Media will give him no more until 2018 -- and *that* assumes the new ballpark starts throwing off buckets of cash.


The only practical choice left, then, is to trade somebody out of our bizarre six-man rotation for someone who can hit.

BSNBC
BSNBC

There will be a lot of empty seats this year! Trade Heywood too!

BSNBC
BSNBC

There will be a lot of empty seats this year!

JSW73
JSW73

The question is who do you trade? A lot of opinions concerning a trade. The only tradable piece in the lone up is Heyward. He is the only one that still has potential, and a tradable contract. If you trade a pitcher , how do you make room for a positional player without eating a huge contract such as an Uggla or a BJ? If it ias a priority trade, how do you afford such a contract with the 2 who will be sitting on the bench?


Mark, I don't think there is an answer other than the line up hitting their career .avgs. The team has to hit, simple as that. I don't see how they can make a deal at the "dead line" with all the long term contracts they have given out. Freeman. Uggla, Simmons, Johnson, Uptons X 2 all locked up. Gattis and Heyward are the only tradable pieces. Would ATL trade Gattis after letting McCann walk?

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

All of the following is premised upon whether the Braves want to become a real MLB power and start setting higher goals than winning their division. It is not really clear that as a team, they look beyond the division. They certainly don't manage and play like they do. 


I voted to Bench BJ Upton.  But, actually, I would send him to the Gwinnett, and Uggla too,  and keep them there until  they learn to hit again, if they can. 


Schafer was doing well last year until he got injured. If he played as regular, and was assured that he would get a reasonable amount of time and a real shot at the CF position, I think his numbers would improve dramatically. If not, then sit him down and call up a good prospect from the minors. 


And Wren needs to order Fredi to scrap his horrible "morale building" methods and let everyone know that in view of the team's current dire circumstances, everyone will get a reasonable shot.  The fact that in times like these the manager permanently categorizes players as "starters" and "subs" -- regardless of how completely awful the millionaires are doing -- is just a morale killer.  If Schafer had played well yesterday, got a couple of hits, made some plays instead of a big dumb error, Fredi would still be sitting him down today in favor of a guy who clearly needs to be sent down to the minors.  I can't imagine what it must be like on the Braves with this kind of atmosphere and management style. 


And finally. Some apparently long forgotten Little League basics and fundamentals. Did Schafer have sun glasses on? I sure hope so. Absolutely no excuse if didn't. Learned that in Little League. No on on the team can bunt except Tehran. Learned that in Little League. They need a clinic on bunting wit h required attendance beginning TODAY. Calling out loudly and continuously for fly balls. Learned that in Little League. But, Heyward just promised that he would start doing that . . . . from now on?!  


No wonder things are the way they are. 

JAWJADAWG
JAWJADAWG

@oldmaninatlanta Wren did not draft Heyward, it was done under the prior GM and I thought, but I could be wrong) that John also offered the extension.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@TomGaff  He never started all that regularly last year until August, which was after the injury.  He played in 33 games after that, starting 25 of them, and hit 170/248/208.

Back when he was a starter in 2009, and then 2011-12, he hit 221/305/301.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

@58Supersports agreed.....Wren said this was the best outfield in baseball.....lol. I think we all know why he brought the Uptons in, and it was for all the wrong reasons

Necromancer
Necromancer

@PhilUnderwood   I was thinking the second coming of Christ might do it, but that was just a long shot!  ;)

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

@wbdiet  Bonifacio the last five years: .271 BA, .331 OBP, 121 Stolen bases. Not outstanding but respectable and a whole lot better than what we have leading off at the moment.

Quicherbichin
Quicherbichin

@Barves_Loss_Agian but the manager has the best winning percentage in major league baseball since he was hired, therefore, he is no longer a loosing managar... of course, I would not expect you to understand this because basic math is required.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@MisterNeutron agree the monkey is on WREN, he has cost Braves  millions in wasted $$$ for zero returns. Needs to be fired asp....

Birdhair
Birdhair

Wren has his fingerprints and hands all over this organization. It's disgusting. I would be ashamed to say I worked for this clown. Are all of the front office staff "yes" men who are afraid to speak up? What a joke. It's clear that wren is on the phone w fredi calling the lineup shots daily. Wren won't allow FG to sit uggla and Bj on the same day. Fredi is a smart guy but unfortunately he has to walk a very fine line and obey or he will be the next scapegoat fired. I feel really bad for the guy but he needs to really stand up to wren now. Imagine if cox managed. Bj and uggla would play nearly every day. You know it.

Clown has his hand in the draft too. picked his own son and gave him 800k. This organization from schuerholz to clown to mcjerk is a complete joke. It's past time for a complete overhaul in Atlanta.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@Rick_C @TomGaffChecked the Atl Braves website, just to get the clear facts! In 2013(with Braves), Schafer played in 94 games, had 231 AB's, 57 hits, 22 SB's and his BA was .247 .This included spot duty, PH duty , and regular playing time. If BJ did this, he would be given the keys to the City, as one other poster said!! These are not great numbers but better than 2 of our 3 OF guys?

Quicherbichin
Quicherbichin

@58Supersports posting privileges for 58Supersports need to be denied immediately... the delusional have no place on the blogs.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair  As usual, you pull assumptions out your butt and show how clueless you are about major league front offices.  You know what they say when you assume?

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