Aug 3, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) points to catcher Evan Gattis (not pictured) after Gattis drove him in with a double during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves Magic Numbers: Week 18

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Let’s be honest, the Atlanta Braves have been playing terrible baseball all week. They’ve lost six in a row, they can’t hit with RISP, and they can’t seem to stop the worst offensive team in baseball from sweeping them. I’ve laid out how tough August is going to be for the team several times, so I’m not going to beat you over the head with it this week. If you read this feature regularly, you already realize the shark-infested waters this Braves ship is sailing. What I will do is point out the good, the bad, and the ugly for this team heading into the thick of a division race.

The Good:

  • Jason Heyward has an OPS over 1.000 since the All-Star break. He’s without a doubt the best hitter on the team right now, and he’s the only thing keeping the Braves in games along with…
  • Justin Upton, who is slugging .553 in the last 17 games. Justin has seven doubles and two homers, but only eight RBIs. Even though he’s smacking the ball around, the Braves aren’t putting people on base in front of him.
  • Tommy La Stella is a godsend at second base. He’s hitting .327 with RISP, and he’s amassed 24 RBIs in just 60 games.
  • The Braves are only 3.5 games back in the division, despite a 6-11 record in the second half of the season. The Nats could have run away with this thing, but they’ve struggled against teams like Miami and Philly.
  • Ervin Santana has been amazing in his last four starts. With a 1.93 ERA and 28 strikeouts in that stretch, Santana has notched three wins for the Braves and probably should have had four. He’s been the best starter post-break.

The Bad:

  • Craig Kimbrel has had issues after the break. He’s lost two of his last four games, both due to issues with command. Wild pitches and walks really hurt Craig and hurt the Braves, and his last outing was the worst yet with three free passes in one game.
  • Evan Gattis is stuck in a bad slump. He’s hitting .225 over 40 ABs, and he’s only hit a single homer. That kind of power drought doesn’t encompass just him, though.
  • The Braves as a team have hit exactly eight homers in their last 17 games. That’s 26th in the majors, but with the silver lining that Washington is dead last in the league with only five homers.
  • Since power is down, scoring is down too. The Braves have averaged 3.47 runs a game after the break, while the Nationals are averaging 4.43 runs a game. If you’re looking for a reason the Nats are extending a lead, that’s it.

The Ugly:

  • Mike Minor has an 8.59 ERA in his last three starts. His WHIP is over 2.00 as well in those games. When you’re allowing at least two runners an inning, the odds of winning drop astronomically. I don’t believe he should be in the rotation at this point, but it’s a sticking point amongst fans and analysts who think he has the potential to turn it around. Either way, the Braves are skipping his next start.
  • Shae Simmons had several bad outings and then we found out he’s hurt. He’s on the 15-day DL with a shoulder strain, so the Braves had to make a trade to get James Russell to fill in the depleted bullpen.
  • Andrelton Simmons can’t hit right now. He’s batting .148 post-break with a .437 OPS. That’s one of the lowest OPS numbers I’ve ever seen out of someone in a starting lineup. In fact, it’s 214th amongst all National League players after the break. That’s including pitchers and backups. If that doesn’t drive home how terrible Andrelton’s been lately, nothing will.
  • B.J. Upton is still being B.J. so that’s enough to always have him in the ugly list.
  • Freddie Freeman is hitting .209 after the break. That’s probably the biggest reason this team isn’t scoring runs. Freddie is supposed to be one of the best RBI guys, and right now he only has eight in the second half. Also, he’s struck out 17 times, just six short of the human windmill B.J.

What does this all mean for the Braves chances to make the playoffs and shore up the division? Frankly, if they can’t turn around the hitting, they are as doomed as B.J. in a 0-2 count. The good news is that I don’t think they will be this bad for the next two months. The Braves are in a terrible funk right now, but as the stats show it’s not been anything like this earlier in the year. Freeman and Gattis aren’t going to slump for another eight weeks. Simmons isn’t a sub-Mendoza player. Once they turn things around, this team will be a lot more formidable.

Here’s more good news: The Cardinals lost seven games in a row last year at the end of August. They still won 97 games, won their division, and ended up going to the World Series. Granted, the Cardinals were four games ahead of the Braves at that point in time, but a team is never out of it just because of a bad losing streak. They are only out of it if that losing streak comes in September when they are several games back in a division race. Also it helps to beat your division rival, and the Braves have been very successful against the Nationals this season with a 7-3 record.

So keep your heads up Braves fans. With a team this streaky it’s just a matter of time until they come out bats blazing again.

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