Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Atlanta Braves have collapsed in the second half and, more specifically, in the month of September. While other clubs are gearing up for their October runs, the Braves are looking back to see where it all went wrong. It went wrong multiple places.
I’m not sure you can pick out one single area that it went wrong more than others, but the bottom line is they didn’t get it done. The calendar turned to August and September and the team bottomed out, and it’s not the first time. I could probably turn this into a top 10 list, but I’ll just focus my attention on the top 3 reasons why the Braves collapsed again.
- Offense – If I could only pick one reason on why the Atlanta Braves collapsed, it would be the offense. It was putrid. It got to the point that when the opponents scored 1-2 runs, it felt like a million. It didn’t matter if Stephen Strasburg was on the mound or Brad Hand; the Braves weren’t scoring any runs. The Braves currently sit 29th in the majors in runs scored (only in front of the Padres). In the month of September, the Braves splits are .204/.267/.557. Excuse the pun, but those numbers are offensive. There are too many leaks in this lineup and no one left to plug them. That leads me to point #2, the extreme lack of depth.
- Depth – The Braves don’t have any. Atlanta has used the fewest number of players (39) in MLB in games this year. This is a category that isn’t good to be first or last. If you lead the league in players played, then you either have major injury concerns or your team is so far out of it that you are bringing prospects up to get some playing time. It can be okay to be last (fewest played), but only if your team is contending and you have a solid lineup with few injuries. The Braves do not fall into that category. We’ve only had 39 players play because we have very few players on the bench or in the minors who are close to being major league ready. The Atlanta bench has been awful. Ryan Doumit had the most AB’s in high leverage spots, and he’s been below average at best. He has 13 hits in 66 AB’s and those come with PHlev of 1.29 (anything over 1 is considered high leverage). There isn’t another bench player with more than 4 hits on the rest of the team. Those numbers can’t happen if you want to contend for division titles or even wild-card spots.
- Defense – If we exclude Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons from this category, the rest of the Braves defense has been terrible. Simmons and Heyward have a combined 58 defensive runs saved this season. If not for those two, the Braves would be several games under .500 just due to defense alone. But as good as those two have been, the rest of the lineup has been equally bad. The rest of our infield (with LaStella at 2B) comes in at -28. The Upton brothers come in slightly better at -8 with Justin being +2 and B.J at -10. The Braves have two of the best defensive players in MLB, and yet, they are dead middle of the pack in overall team defense. Evan Gattis is a disaster behind the plate. He is last in the majors at RPP (Passed Pitch Runs) at -4.3. RPP measures how good a catcher is at blocking pitches in the dirt. Overall, the Braves just aren’t very good with the glove and that needs to change if the team wants to contend.
Frank Wren is going to have a busy off-season and it should probably start in his office. Fredi Gonzalez isn’t the best X’s and O’s manager around (editor’s note: this puts it mildly), but Frank Wren has made it hard to succeed with the product on the field. A second-half collapse happens in baseball. It’s part of the up’s and down’s that go with a 162-game season. The problem becomes when it happens twice in three years. Changes need to be made.