Earlier in the season when the Atlanta Braves were hitting in the low .200′s with runners in scoring position, I made a note that these things tend to even out over time. In a perfect world, the RISP average should match the total team average. As the Braves headed into the game Sunday, their RISP average was .247 while the total team average was .244. That’s pretty close. Yet, you will STILL see fans on Twitter and forums complaining about the inability of the Braves to hit with runners in scoring position.
There are several early season perceptions that linger throughout the season in the minds of fans. They make up these ideas early, and they stick with that narrative even when the numbers change. As I pointed out last week, the Braves are scoring runs in the month of June, and the starting pitching has taken a sharp dive. However, many people still believe that the hitting is the major problem with this team. What if I told you that more than half the lineup is having a banner hitting month in June? Would that change the perception of the faults on this team?
Atlanta’s record is 8-11 heading into the game on Sunday as I write this piece (editor’s note: The Braves fell to 8-12 with a loss on Sunday). For a team that’s trying to hold on to first place, and has a very easy stretch of teams, that’s not good enough. So who is hot and who is not in the month of June?
- Evan Gattis – There’s nobody hotter on this team right now than Evan. He’s had 6 homers in June with 3 doubles, a ridiculous hitting streak, and an average over .380. His OPS puts him 4th in the MLB for the month amongst guys with 50+ plate appearances. I hesitate to think what this team would be like without Gattis. Since he’s responsible for over 17 runs this month, the answer would be 28th in runs instead of tied for 16th in June.
- Chris Johnson – His .340+ average in June has really turned things around for him after a terrible May. While Chris is still striking out at an absurd clip, he’s managing to pull out hits when the ball is in play.
- Tommy La Stella – Everyone is now wondering why we put up with Dan Uggla so long when this guy was in the wings. Tommy is a .300+ hitter in June, with a knack for extending ABs. He’s already managed to take over the leadoff spot for the Braves, which allows Jason Heyward to move to a higher run production spot.
- Jason Heyward – Jason’s had 3 homers on the month and an OPS over .800. He’s far and away the best hitting outfielder on the team in June. Also the move out of the leadoff spot seems to have helped him, since he’s notched double-digit RBI’s. I personally love having Jason hit later in the lineup, as I think he’s got far more power than La Stella, but not as much line to line pure hitting ability.
- Andrelton Simmons – Our shortstop has been very average at the plate in June, with a hair above .230 batting average, and only 4 runs scored. As a result, he’s been banished to the 8th slot in the order, which isn’t exactly improving his pitches seen. While Simmons has one homer in the month, I often think him hitting long balls ruins his stroke. Simmons thinks he can do everything, but he’s only a power guy in his own mind. When it goes wrong for him, you see months like June where his OPS dips under .600.
- B.J. Upton – Obviously, BJ is terrible at the plate. There has yet to be a month where I could move him off the “Not” list, and frankly I’m tired of him taking up space in my columns. He’s like a terrible Christmas gift from your grandmother that you can’t return. Except instead of only having to wear that gift when grandma is in town, Braves fans have to watch BJ’s inepitude on a daily basis at a key spot in the order. His days in the 2-hole can’t end soon enough. He’s struck out more than anybody on the team, his OBP is terrible for a guy in that slot, and he’s whining about strikes down the middle.
- Justin Upton – One of the biggest problems for this team is that Justin went completely ice cold in June. Justin is hitting less than .200 on the month, he only has one homer, and he was tied with Ryan Doumit at 4 RBIs until Sunday. When Justin is that far off his normal pace, it’s pretty obvious why the team went into a losing funk.
- Every Starter left on the Team – I say everyone left because Floyd blew out his elbow. The remaining four starters have ERA’s over 4.00 in June. Harang and Minor have ERA’s over 5.00. I covered it last week, but combined with Justin visiting the planet of Hoth, that’s why the Braves are where they are.
Heroes one month, dogs the next. That’s baseball, and that’s definitely the Braves this year. I can’t really predict who is going to be great and who is going to stumble month to month, but I do expect more than an average performance out of Freddie in July. I expect Justin to snap out of it eventually. I expect Even Gattis to cool off because those numbers aren’t sustainable. But mostly, I expect the Atlanta Braves to take care of business leading into the All-Star break against some sub-par clubs. If they do that, they’ll find themselves back in first place in no time.