The Braves took to the road this week against the Cardinals and the Giants, and they didn’t fare very well. If not for a comeback win on Sunday against the Cardinals, the Braves would have gone 1-5 on the week and fallen out of first place in the NL East. Luckily, Atlanta scraped out the 6-5 win that sealed a 2-4 road trip. That’s not going to make many people happy in Atlanta, but it’s also not going to send the city into a panic spiral. As I covered last week in Magic Numbers, Atlanta is in the toughest part of their schedule, and wins are going to come at a premium. The good news is that the Braves scored six runs on Sunday, the largest run total since April 19th.
The Braves are 6-10 in May so far. Left on the schedule in May is Milwaukee, Colorado, and Boston. The funny thing is that, if you go by record, Boston is actually the easiest series left. Yes, the reigning World Series champions. Really smooth month there, MLB Scheduling department! Somebody find out where Braves fans should be sending their hate mail. Taking that into account, the reason the Braves have been losing games is the offense. You would probably know that if you watched the Braves hitters flail like a Dutch windmill whenever a runner gets to second base.
If forced to guess, what would you say the Braves record is when they score 4 of more runs? The answer is that they are 15-3. That’s right, if the offense puts just 4 runs on the board, the Braves are winning over 83% of the time. Currently 16 teams in the MLB average better than 4 runs a game. That’s more than half the league. If the Braves could be just average in run production like the rest of the league, the team would have the best record in baseball. Instead, the Braves are only averaging slightly above 3 runs a game. That’s better than the Padres and…yeah. When even the Cubs are scoring better than your team, it’s time to consider a prayer chain, exorcism, or a potent form of voodoo.
Still, since I expect the Braves pitching staff to continue to play well, it’s a matter of time before the offense starts to catch up. One thing that will help the Braves hitters is capitalizing on some of their more dramatic stat splits. The three worst hitting starters right now are B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward, and Dan Uggla. As I’ve said before, I don’t think Dan is solvable (and he’s not playing regularly) so I’m not going to worry about him anymore. It’s a sad state of affairs when I can’t even pretend Dan might turn it around, but even Fredi Gonzalez won’t put him on the field regularly. The jig is up.
BJ has been very erratic, but one of his most bizarre splits is his OPS in day/night games. During the day games over 44 ABs, BJ is absolutely awful with an OPS of .350. At night in 99 ABs, BJ more than doubles his OPS to .710. The only reason that I believe this could be a relevant stat for BJ, instead of just a statistical anomaly, is due to the fact that BJ changed his vision. Perhaps he sees the ball better at night now with the new glasses. I’m not sure, but it’s something I’ll keep an eye on as the season progresses. Yes, that was a terrible pun. Sue me. Also, I think that BJ should be swinging at anything in the zone on the first pitch. When BJ puts the ball in play on the first pitch, he’s 7/16 with 2 doubles. It’s something I pointed out in my pre-season article about BJ, but it bears repeating. The first pitch may be the best pitch.
Jason Heyward is coming around nicely with his on-base percentage, but he’s still not fully back to form with his hitting. One thing I would try if I were playing the manager is giving Jason a day off against tough lefty starters. Over the last 3 years, Jason is only hitting .226 against lefties, and this year he’s hitting a paltry .147 against southpaws. There’s no way the Braves can keep rolling him out there if the starter happens to be Niese, Lee, or Bumgarner. Also, I really want Jason to move up on the plate. Where he stands right now in the batters box, his hot zone map is all on the inside part of the plate. That’s fine, except that pitchers are going away from Jason, and his cold zones on the outside part are icy. Basically, Jason is looking to a bash a pitch middle in, and if he doesn’t get it then pitchers are just beating him up on the outer half. Moving in a just a bit would help even him out in my mind, and help him go the other way.
We’re one week away from Memorial Day, and that’s the day when standings start to matter to me. Next week, I’ll cover a little about division leaders in at the end of May, and how the Braves schedule eases up in June. In the meantime, let’s cheer on the Braves to light up some fireworks at home against Milwaukee and Colorado.