Posted: 10:15 am Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

You tell me: Are the Braves really in trouble? 

By Mark Bradley

A sight seldom seen: B.J. Upton scores a run. (Chris Schneider/AP)

A sight seldom seen: B.J. Upton scores. (Chris Schneider/AP)

Having been doing this a while now, I know full well how it works. If I write that a team looks really good, it loses its next 10 games. (Or, in football, its next three.) If I write that a team is in trouble, it wins the next 10. (Or three, or whatever.) That’s because I’m a jinx or a reverse jinx or a bad analyst or … something.

But, as recently averred, I really do believe the Atlanta Braves are in trouble. (That particular effort ran in today’s AJC and is available online via myajc.com.) On cue, the Braves went out and won 3-1 in Denver last night. If history holds, they should expect to win the next nine as well.

Except that I’m not sure history will hold. The Colorado Rockies are a good team to get well against. They’ve lost 10 of 11 and 14 of 17, and no wonder. They’re missing three injured members of their everyday eight — Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Nolan Arenado. Their starting pitcher Monday was a call-up, and Wednesday’s is scheduled to be likewise. (This from a pitching staff that was already the worst in the majors, though some of that has to do with Coors Field.)

But the Braves didn’t exactly batter the rookie Christian Bergman on Monday. They managed five hits and two earned runs in six innings against him, which is pretty much in keeping with what the 2014 do against most every pitcher. I’ve already gone on too long about how I’d reconfigure this lineup, but after all  that verbiage I’m not sure it would make much difference.

The Braves have played 62 games — only 100 to go! — and that’s long enough for a pattern to have revealed itself. Their starting pitching is great. Their hitting is lousy. Given that pitching is 75 percent (or 90 percent; estimates vary) of baseball, that still might be enough to carry them into the postseason. But I’m feeling less confident with every week.

48 comments
Wilbo
Wilbo

Trouble? It sucks the City of Atlanta is stuck w this gutless useless October-flopping baseball team.  And this high school level paper and the creepy dimwits who write for it.

ColdSplash
ColdSplash

As long as f. The joke Gonzalez is managing this team, they will win nothing.

LostGoat
LostGoat

braves--weakest division in baseball--they will  make the playoffs easily and hopefully pull an upset in round 1

sowhatif
sowhatif

You will recall I told you two weeks ago that the Braves were in trouble and  wouldn't watch any more games until the Uptons were gone. Well--I did watch and I was right about the "in trouble" part.  I'm 79 and had reasons to watch baseball 75 of these years.  Just write off the Uptons and Uggla and let the boys that can,  play.  There are many older female Braves fans.  We are in the stands or watch TV every game.  We know when it's going wrong.

DrPhill
DrPhill

The Braves are in trouble because Fredi and Wren are stupid.  Stupid is as stupid does. I'm just wondering if BJ will still be starting games in September.  I think the answer is yes and batting about .150.

UncleTom
UncleTom

If you define "trouble" as meaning are they in good shape for October?  The answer is an unqualified YES.  We have no lead-off hitter and The Big Joke is sucking up our oxygen in center field.  Other than that, things aren't really so bad.

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

Im farly new here 2 these blogs but I do have 2 say untill they fire the loosing managar they R domed 2 anoter loosing season

cspecial
cspecial

mark why would you even try to start negative talk about the braves? the last time I checked, they were in first place.if they were in last and were 9 or more games out then I would start a story about them.you like so many haters and wannabees in Atlanta are like vultures, you sit hoping the braves, falcons and hawks have bad seasons so you can lash on to them. sorry, this won"t happen.maybe if you move to boston or new York, you can do these kind of stories on  regular bases

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Braves at 33-29, with Nationals at 33-29 at the "top" of the division. 

Marlins at 33-30, which pretty much makes it a three-way at the top (ha!).

The Mets are just a good series or two away at 28-35. 


So: Big Picture, barely over .500 means YES: in trouble!

Weak division means: NO: not in trouble!


Gman84
Gman84

No consistency against good pitching...not much against bad pitching either. They either get better or sink.

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Well, let's see - 


Of the 14 everyday players that have taken a swing this year, 10 are hitting 260 or less, 7 of the 10 are 230 or less, and 6 of the 7 are essentially 200 or less.


I don't think you can field a team that hits this bad if you tried and yet somehow Wren has done it.


In trouble, you bet.

seminoleking
seminoleking

been following ALL atlanta teams for over 40 years. i judge them now by CHAMPIONSHIPS.  been there, done that, with the playoff appearances and no championships. my point is, if you think the braves are gonna win a championship anytime soon, nope. same with all atlanta teams. hawks, falcons. they not winning any chips..........


people THINK its just the offense with the braves. no. they have only TWO defensive players you can count on. simmons and heyward. the bullpen blows leads. the bench is OK. not very good. OK. i dont like managerial decisions either.  the only bright spot is a starting rotation that is better than expected.....

highfive
highfive

Braves are in trouble unless they are willing to change managers while releasing BJ and Uggla and trading Justin.  The money has already been committed to BJ and Uggla, so you lose with them or improve your chances of winning by filling their spots with better players. Justin, just seems to hit when there is no pressure and he certainly isn't a defensive star. The Braves can unload him and likely get a serviceable player(s) in return. Last but not least Fredi's decision making can be second guessed almost every game plus he seems to have no ability to light a fire under his players. If there is a better manager available then the Braves need to go get him, not wait until 2015.  Lets not forget Wren, the architect of this mess. He is just as responsible for their play as is Fredi and accordingly should be held accountable for the results. 

WSP
WSP

Fredi Gonzalez is the issue. Why carry 3 catchers are not use Gattis as a PH. For example on Sunday bases loaded. Gattis and Doumit on the bench. Laird up to bat. Why not use Gattis?

THEBITTERTRUTH
THEBITTERTRUTH

Realistically the only possible change the Braves could consider based on commitments is 2nd base. Can they find a good hitting second baseman somewhere? It is true that BJ stinks but I think we are stuck with him for at least another year.

FatherofFive
FatherofFive

The Braves are not paying BJ 75M.  They already paid it.  That's what Wren decided it was worth to get him (although he could've signed for half that, or we couldn't kept Bourne for a fraction of that . . . but I digress).  The money is sunk cost.  Gone.  Starting today, decide what you need to do to get better.  It is not hard to find a CF who is willing to get his uniform dirty on defense and won't strike out every third at-bat.  Do that, and the Braves improve right away.

The biggest problem is Wren.  Drafted Gilmartin in the first round, then unloaded him for 3rd string catcher.  Paid millions to Kawakami, Lowe, Uggla, BJ, . . .  NOT TO PLAY.  In BJ's case, his negative WAR actually makes it more likely that the Braves lose with him on the roster (offensively and defensively).  Don't look at what you've paid -- just make the right decision today and cut him loose.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Yes. They are in trouble, and it is hard to put your finger on it. It's like there is nothing there. The manager is the go along, get along type. He needs to light them up, push them, challenge them, nag them, berate them when it is necessary. And be  ruthless in substituting pitchers and guys who screw up during the games, or who are playing badly, e.g. I didn't want to watch you strike out again in this game, that;s why. But it would embarrass them professionally -- exactly what some of them need -- but that's not going to happen with the ever respectful, sympathetic, empathetic and "Your Friend at the Helm" Fredi Gonzalez. . 


On top of that, no one has replaced Chipper as  the team leader. It could be Freddie Freeman, the obvious choice, but he doesn't have that type of personality. Then who? Heyward? Again, not the right personality. Not Johnson, not Simmons. La Stella, too young, too new and unproven. Justin Upton or Gattis - no wa - not the right guys for the job. So that is hurting the team too. Just a bunch of equals with a go along, get along manager. 


Uggla is out now, and with good results (hard not to be based on what it was).  Same needs to happen with BJ, but if he is being protected by St. Hank, the Aaron, BJ will stay in center field and bat .200 or less for the next three years if the Braves keep winning their Division.  If Schafer was given the opportunity to play regularly, I think he could legitimately win the job. Of course, if Wren and Fredi feel the same way about protecting BJ as St. Hank does, then Schafer will never get that opportunity. And really, all that they they have to win to keep the top brass happy.  As far as I can see, there is never much thinking beyond the Division in the Braves' organization. 


To sum up. They are loaded with talent and should be well above .500 with their starting pitching, if not in the .600's. But they lack a tough manager, which is made worse because they don't yet have a real leader to  replace Chipper on the field. They don't display any urgency, click, energy, excitement, etc. Watching them at bat is like watching the paint dry. Mediocrity and less than mediocrity may be getting political protection. Sticking people int o set and unchangeable "roles"  who might excel  and really help the team if given a real opportunity cannot be good for morale. They need a shake up, and some leadership.  But who? They are in trouble. 

RangeRover
RangeRover

This team has also grossly mismanaged Jordan Schafer's career.  Yes, this kid is only hitting .200, and he's had a few chances, but there's not a doubt in my mind they screwed up his confidence first when they traded him to Houston for Bourne and since he's never been afforded a solid chance to see what he can do.

I'll put it this way.  Look at how many at bats have been afford the pathetic looking swings of Uggla and Upton the past 2-3 seasons.  Give Schafer just have this at bats and there's not a doubt in my mind we'er looking at a .270 or above hitter that is just a perfect fit in the lead-off spot.

What was Marquis Grissom's batting average as their leadoff hitter when the Braves won the World Series in 1995?  .258

So, it's not just their average that makes a great leadoff hitter, it is attitude, situational and circumstantial hitting, the ability to bunt, hit & run and make things happen when on base.  Clearly Schafer has the tools to do all of these things if given a chance...a real chance!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

If the Braves are all-in with their long-term veteran signees, yes, they may well be facing trouble this year, and beyond for that matter.

What is the point of keeping Uggla around? BJ? The Braves would be better off on paper paying these guys to play for the Nats or Marlins. They do need to find a replacement center fielder before they dump BJ.

If it weren't for their salary levels both of these guys would be gone already. So, at this point the Braves are paying Dan to keep a potentially productive player off the bench and paying BJ to keep a potentially productive player out of the lineup. Paying them millions. Makes no sense to me, I'd pay them to play for the opponents.

rockinreel
rockinreel

If the Braves management found a way to buck-up and bench Uggla, then what is the problem with benching BJ?  Hank Aaron is the problem with benching BJ.  Well known issue. This is Aaron's outfield.

moboman
moboman

Braves hitters making too many pitchers look like ACES.  When  the postseason comes, thats all they will hit against.  They need the one huge bat that changes the whole lineup.  That bat needs to be a contact hitter that a must REPLACE a constant strikeout that doesn't put the ball in play and advance runners.

ERM016
ERM016

I think part of the problem is that everyone seems so focused on hitting a HR, instead of playing small ball. Get a single here, single there, leg out a double. Then the rest falls into place. Personally, I'm not overly impressed with the Hitting Coaches, but at the end of the day, they're not the ones executing at the plate. Or not executing in our case.


I like the lineup idea as linked to the article, it could work. I don't mind Freeman 5th. I'm not really a big fan of the L/R/L/R argument. But, I'm not the coach. 

Heyward is not wasted in the leadoff role. Stats prove he does best there. period. 

Everyone just needs to stop Uggla'ing and learn to make contact. Freeman is the best at this.

Waredawg
Waredawg

Depends on your definition of trouble; if you will be satisfied with making the playoffs (as the weakest div. winner or wildcard), then another 1st rd. exit, there is a faint reason for optimism, weak division and good pitching may get us there. If you are expecting or demanding more, forget about it; offense and  everyday lineup are too flawed.


Where to start -

1) No leadoff hitter; HEYWARD IS WASTED IN THAT ROLE!

2) No contact hitters

3) Too much reliance on homerun

4) WAY, WAY TOO MANY K's

5) No ability to manufacture runs

6) Terrible bench, why 3 catchers?, no utility player

7) Misuse of what we do have; more Schaeffer, please

8) BJ - enough said - worst and most overpaid starting CF in NL


Is it fixable? Probably not, but the effort needs to be made; WREN NEEDS TO MAKE SOME DEALS!

We have 1-2 too many starters, too many catchers, at least 3 starters that someone might really covet;

J-Up, Heyward, or Gattis (I might cry if he's traded). No  one would touch BJ. Need some contact hitters, hopefully someone who could  hit leadoff and replace BJ (two birds with one stone). Trade Laird

or Doumit (if 3 catchers needed promote Bethancourt - need to see if he's the real deal) for a more versatile bench player. Release Uggla or trade for anything. Promote Terd or best other outfield prospect.


Don't think fixing pen is answer. Walden is about to return. Wood and Hale need to be starting or traded to improve lineup or bench. We have serviceable arms in minors, probably as good as anything we could trade for. Start scoring runs and give the pen some margin of error, and the pen will look a whole lot better. The constant pressure on these guys to be perfect takes a toll.


This will not be our year. Too much to fix. If pitching holds up 85-88 wins, unlikely any better, and if we don't get some offensive help, maybe worse. This team could fold really quickly if they get on a losing streak. Freddi G. is nice guy, ok manager, but not the "guy" to get us to next level. These guys need a fire started under their rears. GO BRAVES!

zingy789
zingy789

Yes, the Braves need hitting and relief pitching. In terms of relief pitching, Walden will help, but he gets injured too often. Simmons has been a breath of fresh air. But the Braves need better relief pitching including a solid LH relief pitcher. Also, Wood needs to go back into the starting rotation (trade Floyd). 


I'm glad management decided to go with LaStella at 2B and go away from Uggla; now they need to cut ties with B.J. B.J. is a definite cancer on the team (and for the fans to watch). At the minimum, let Schafer play against RHPs. I would prefer for the Braves to bite the bullet and let B.J. go (and let Uggla go). If Schafer cannot be the everyday CF, then trade for a RH CF with good defense. 

just wanted to say
just wanted to say

Sure, they've got some things to work out - solidify the bullpen & continue to get better at the plate - but it's nothing that can't work out over a long MLB season. Peaking at the right time will be the key to getting to the post season & performing well there!

GeorgeStein
GeorgeStein

No, the Braves aren't in trouble.  The expectations of dominance are no longer realistic, and it's showing across the league.   Outside of the northern California, most of the division leaders are either playing above their heads  - I'm looking at you, Milwaukee - or have a record around what the Braves have.   Parity is the new reality in baseball, which means we're just gonna have to sit tight for a few months and see what happens.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

I would trade Justin for any mirror fogging left fielder, simply becuase you can't move his brother with a tug boat. Lighten the load cut the misery in half have a better defensive outfield.

JackClemens
JackClemens

The Braves have too many players who aren't injured playing like they are hurt badly.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

How do you spell cancer with 5 letters? Upton

DawgNole
DawgNole

@cspecial

ONE championship in 159 seasons of pro sports competition covering 48 years, and you're whining about people being negative???

Are you just stupid?!

seminoleking
seminoleking

@Ficklefan  lot of haterism in  your post. st hank?? what is that?? hank aaron is the ONLY the biggest atlanta sports icon ever, and you hate on him and bj by implying that hank aaron has something to do with bj being in the starting lineup.  then you said chipper jones was a leader. laughable. chipper wasnt no leader. chipper never was a leader in the cubhouse.in fact, chipper really didnt wanna play baseball his last few years, just went thru the motions. brain mccann was a leader. if they miss ANYBODY, its brain mccann.....

sergeantgallaher
sergeantgallaher

@RangeRover  was that before or after his 50 game suspension for ped use and since hasn't been anywhere near the player he was before. The Braves did give him his chance and the kid blew it, that was why he was traded to Houston.

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

@ERM016  Jason Heyward is wasted at leadoff


7 HR with 22 RBI


Is a Joke.


You need to replace BJ at center field and started Constanza or Schafer and let them leadoff, changes must be made specially when rank at bottom in the League in scoring.


GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

@Waredawg  Schaeffer is a CAREER .200 hitter people...not sure he's the answer in center.  This is a position that we could go get a hustling, leadoff/contact hitter and slot him in there.  Then you would have options with the rest of the lineup.

Joemac48
Joemac48

@Waredawg  you forgot about no leader on the field or in the dugout, and that they have one of the worst game managers in MLB. Moreover, this trainwreck of a team can be blamed on our astute GM Frank Wren, who has locked up all those underachievers with long term contracts, and made several of them untradeable.

kevkat
kevkat

Yea, trade your best homerun hitter on the team. Why not trade Gattis while you're at it.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@DawgNole @cspecial Yes, he is! Oh, I thought you meant the braindead writer of this insipid article 

Waredawg
Waredawg

@CowbellHell @Waredawg Posted yesterday that I don't think Schaeffer is the answer in CF, just a potentially better option than BJ, with current roster. That's why I stated (since last winter) that we had to acquire a viable option to BJ that could bat leadoff. That 1 move could have a huge ripple effect on the whole lineup,

Bench BJ, plug in a replacement leadoff guy (via trade), move Heyward into a power slot and see if it doesn't make a huge difference. Even if we put Schaeffer in CF, I wouldn't bat him 1st, at least until he's shown he could be productive. I think that would be too much pressure on him.


And if we have to trade Wood or Hale in package to acquire an outfielder that could bat leadoff (doesn't have to be a CF - we could shift Heyward), I do it in a heartbeat. If we can't score runs we are going nowhere. I hate to give up a young arm, but Wood doesn't want to be in the pen and either Meds or Beachy might

reinforce us next year.


Consider this reconstructed lineup:


CF (via trade)

J-up

Heyward

Freeman

Gattis 

Johnson

Simmons

La Strella

Pitcher


Ability to create runs at top and bottom of lineup.




Waredawg
Waredawg

@Joemac48 @Waredawg 

I've been griping about Freddi for two years, preaching to the choir. I figure his game decisions cost us at minimum 5 wins a year. Calling Chipper or he doesn't want it, give TP a shot. I guarantee the eyerolling and bad behavior of certain players will be a thing of the past.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

@kevkat Oh you're right averages one a game, two on Sundays...strikeouts that is.