Atlanta Braves magic numbers: “You hit, you play”


The Atlanta Braves won one game this week. One. Game. In a September where everything matters, the Braves have fallen on their faces. If there was ever a reason to believe in this team making the playoffs, it got up and walked away in Texas. Against the worst team in the league, the Braves got swept. Oh, and they didn’t just get swept, they lost the final game by giving up double digit runs.

So if you look at the wild card standings, the Braves are now down four games in the wild card hunt with thirteen to play. In terms of statistical chances at making the playoffs, it’s somewhere south of five percent. Basically, the Braves would have to win their next eight games in a row, and the other teams would have to go .500 or worse. Now, I can tell you that the other teams might play .500 baseball. I can’t with a good conscience tell you that this Braves team can reel off eight in a row the way they are hitting.

How bad is it? Let’s put it this way, in 2011 when the Braves had one of their worst collapses in history by missing the wild card, they were scoring more runs. The Braves scored 3.22 runs a game back in September of 2011 when they went 9-18 on the month. This month? The Braves are only scoring 2.55 runs a game, and their September record is 3-9. At their current pace the Braves would finish September 7-18, completely miss the playoffs, and have a final record of 79-83. That’s right, they would finish below .500 for the first time since 2008.

There’s only one thing that can save this team, and that’s scoring at least four runs a game the rest of the way. If the Braves had just scored four runs a game in September, their record would be at least 6-6, and the Braves would be one game back in the wild card standings. So who needs to pick it up? Well, for starters Christian Bethancourt should be given all opportunities to keep playing. He’s hitting .350 on the month and along with Freddie Freeman they are the only guys hitting .300+ in September.

Also, the Braves need to bench Chris Johnson and Emilio Bonafacio for the rest of the season. Both have an OPS less than .350 on the month, they can’t make contact, and they aren’t good enough fielding their positions to be defensive assets. Instead, and I realize this is shocking, the Braves should play B.J. Upton. I know, I know, I’m completely desperate at this point. BJ is slugging .500 on the month, and he’s got an on-base percentage over .300. At third, Phil Gosselin. Fredi put him into the Texas series, and he went 4-for-12 with a double.

The new policy for the Braves should be, “You hit, you play.” No positions are safe when the team is down by four games this late in the season. This is a MLB team, not a feelings factory. If Jason Heyward goes 0-4 tomorrow, he gets to sit while somebody else gets a shot. Why? Because only four players on the entire team are hitting over .700 OPS in September, and that’s unacceptable. Anybody should get a chance to finish this thing off, and Fredi should try anything he can to save his job.

Remember all the times people tell you not to panic in a baseball season? Now is time. You panic. You hit that panic button as hard as you can. Everything is possible and anything is permissable. Also, there’s no way I want the Washington Nationals coming into Turner Field this week and clinching the NL East on our field. No way. So, the Braves need to make sure that doesn’t happen. They need to hit. They need to dig deep and find some pride. Because getting swept by the worst team in baseball doesn’t strike me as something a team with boatloads of pride does very often.

I’ll never say this any other time than now, but the Braves have to sweep the Nationals. No more excuses, no more hedging, no more just winning series. It’s a sweep or the jig is up. The first and most pivotal game will be on Monday against Stephen Strasburg. There’s nothing more that Strasburg would love than to put the Braves to bed, especially given how many times we’ve roughed him up this year. Ervin Santana will oppose him on the mound, and he got blasted by the Nationals in his last outing in Washington.

Something has to give. Let’s just hope it’s not the Braves pitching.