Atlanta Braves' Batting Analysis

Richard NiehContributor IApril 3, 2009

After my pitching analysis for 2009 Braves, I hold a very high hope for the Braves rotation. If Braves can have any kind of surprising record in toughest division in National League, it is because of their pitching.


However, no baseball teams can win games without scoring runs and nowadays and microscopic analysis from team scouts and improved batting training facilities, pitching in modern baseball is getting harder and harder. Therefore, a well balanced lineup is just as important as any aspects for a baseball team.


I consider that the Atlanta Braves’ lineup is their weakest link. The question is how bad it is. Can their pitching carry their weak offense in playoffs?



Jordan Schafer


He had a great spring and can certainly hit very well. I am glad he is very possibly to win the starting centre field position for the Braves.


He has all the tools, he is a kind of player that if he does not have a feel of a pitch facing tough pitching, he will slap on it and make it a blooper and put it in play. If he can handle the pitch, he is going to have a good swing.


He has some power (but still need development) and above average speed. I expect him to be a Rollins type of lead-off man but not yet to put up the same number.


His career minor league number is 270/339/447. It proves that he has ability to hit extra bases but need to work on his discipline. I don’t think he can put up the same slugging percentage facing big league pitchers but I think he can have the same BA and OBP.


I hope he can have a number on 270/350/420, which is a certain upgrade than Gregory Blanco and Josh Anderson or any of other guys leading off last season.



Yunel Escobar


He was involved with Peavy trade and it was almost a done deal. I am one of the guy supporting the deal because I think Braves has the prospect to take that position in the future and Braves could acquire a temporary short stop and waiting for the prospect to be ready and getting one of the premier pitcher in the league.


Anyway, that is something old, Lets talk about Yunel.


There is no question about Yunel’s talent. His open stance makes him less vulnerable to outside pitchers and his bat speed is fast enough to foul off/blooper inside pitches. That makes him very tough to pitch to because most of pitchers’ comfort zone is away from hitters.


His career number is 303/373/420, which is very good. He strike out 106 times in two seasons but walked only 86 times. He is an aggressive guy who likes to put the ball in play but his walk total can be improved. Even though he is aggressive but his open stance makes him having a longer reach, thus low strike out ratio.


Pretty good all-around hitter with slightly above average speed but aggressive runner. So far he looks great in every way and no apparent concern like Jeff Francoeur. He should put up the same number as his career number in 2009.


Chipper Jones


Everyone in baseball is probably familiar with him already. I think there is no point to do any analysis for him. His career number is 310/408/548, I don’t see him hitting with the same slugging percentage but I think he will hit 330/420/480 with ease.


One of the main problems is injuries for Jones. In the past five years, he played 137, 109, 110, 134, 128 games each year. The number is actually improving because he is trying to take care of himself.


This result is showing he is not swinging the bat with full strength and his home run number is dropping from 30 per year to around 25 per year. I see his power number will be worse every year until the end of his career.



Brian McCann


He is considered one of the best hitting catcher in baseball. His bigger frame and slightly open stance (well, just his head probably) make him very selective to outside pitches. He is also very disciplined to inside pitches and has good inside power.


A lot of pitchers eventually give up on him by walking him because it takes so many pitches to get him out and there is no consistent support after him in the line-up anyway.


His career number is 297/358/501. So far, he is showing the same power number as Jones and slightly worse hitter than Jones. However, Bobby always provides Jones plenty of protection but Brian was basically on his own. Therefore, I believe Brian is just as good as Jones.


Note that I am comparing him to one of the best hitting third baseman and switch hitter in the history of baseball. That is how good Brian is. I expect Brian to hit 300/400/480. His OBP should improve vastly because I think everyone would like to pitch to Jeff Francoeur rather than him.



Jeff Francoeur


I have already mentioned his name twice before I even write an analysis on him, which is how important his bat is. He has the tools to be good. He has an average speed and it is actually very good considering his size. He has a very long reach of the pitches and you would think he should be less vulnerable to outside pitches.


In 2007, indeed he was not vulnerable to outside STRIKES, but by the end of 2007 season, he becomes vulnerable to outside BALLs. He can swing at a pitch two feet outside of the plate and got confused in later at bat and get strike out by outside strikes.


That is how he earns his 111 SO even though his walk total improved.


There is no point to see his career average numbers because it has been very inconsistent. Based on his spring training, he has shortened his swing and lower his eye sights a bit to see the breaking pitch, not like Andruw Jones' style, but he is recognising the breaking pitches a bit better for now.


It is all about the mind set in the end because pitchers is going to adjust again to his new stance so it is important for Jeff to keep adjusting as well. I would call a 270/350/400 with around 20 home run season a success.


Of course, if he can do better, he will be a huge impact because he is going to see a lot of pitches and he can easily get 100 RBIs because everyone in front of him has high OBP.


Casey Kotchman


I got frustrated after Braves trade away Tex and having a terrible second half, so I did not watch too many games so I am not very familiar with Casey and he had his problem with his personal life as well, so his performance was also quite miserable.


His career number, he is 269/336/413 career hitter who has a below average speed. He has SO/BB ratio of 124/118. Considering Braves’ 1023/618, he is actually a very good addition to improve the discipline of the Braves’ lineup. For his patience, I hope he improve his career number in 2009. That is 280/350/420.



Kelly Johnson


If not for all the Francoeur hype, he is probably the most curious case of the entire Braves’ young players. Like all the left-hand hitter, he has a very fluent, beautiful swing.


However, it seems to be he is always lost in translation every season. Sometimes he is one of the best hitter in national league and some days he is Ryan Howard with no power.


He had over 100 strikeouts in previous two seasons but he had only 75 strike outs in his first season. In the beginning of his career, he is considered to be one of the more patient hitter in Braves line-up but was told not aggressive enough and then he becomes one of the least patient hitter in the lineup.


The positive note is his BA is steadily climbing. It is because his good streak is getting more frequent and longer. I expect good things from him this season and put up about the same number as Yunel Escobar which is about 290/350/440.



Garret Anderson


I don’t really follow Angel’s games so I am not familiar with him either. All I know is he is an accomplished hitter on decline. NL East is a tougher place to hit than AL West because there are more better pitchers in NL East.


His career number is 296/327/469 and SO/BB is 1117/397. That is a bit more strike out I want to see, probably the result of low OBP. 22 career home run averages per year is nice but he has not hit more than 20 home runs for four seasons. His BA is around 290 for the last four seasons so I believe he can still hit.


I predict him to hit 290/330/420 in 2009. It is still on decline but not too bad.


Matt Diaz


I believe he is one of the most underrate hitter in baseball. His career number is 309/344/448 which is terrific. Many scouts really hate his batting style but hey, as long as he is hitting, I don’t care how ugly his swing is. Somehow he sees lefty’s pitches very clear.


There are hardly and lefty can fool him. He will hit outside fastball to opposite field and foul out breaking 1 foot outside of the plate. Sometimes he will swing and miss the breaking ball more than 1 foot of the plate but actually it happens less than you think but you remember it because the strikeout look so ugly.


His SO/BB is 168/36 for five seasons. The SO total is not high but he rarely walks. That means he consistently put the balls in play, which is fine. His power is limited and has average speed but one thing I like about him is he hustles all the time.


Last year Bobby gave him a chance to play the left field full time, but he blew it because of injuries. He had a great spring though. I think he will be great platoon with Garret



Omar Infante


Once again, his main playing time is in the second half and I am a bit confused him with Martin Prado (how lame of me :P) so I am not very familiar with him but based on his performance last year, he is certainly a great asset to have. His career number is 260/304/391, which is far from spectacular but last season he hits 293/338/416.


His SO/BB is 350/122, which is pretty bad but last year he had 44/22 in 96 games, which is slightly better than his normal ratio and less than 80 strikes per 162 games. Still, he does not walk much. He does not have much power so walks are important to him because he should mainly concentrate on BA and OBP.


His BA was very good but his OBP should be better.



Martin Prado


He is a good hitter, plain and simple. He uses all field and he try to hit corners so he can earn his doubles so his slugging percentage is decent. His SO/BB is 29/21, which is very good and that is why he also have a decent OBP. He did not play much before 2008 so I will only consider his 2008 number, which is 320/377/461.


You know what I am talking about when you see those numbers. He had only two home runs but he is not asked to anyway. He, Omar and Matt will be the best bench in National League.


I am going to stop here because I don’t think other player will make big enough impact to this lineup. You guys can argue about Gregory Blanco but I consider him as a back-up to only to Schafer.


Matt Diaz is not a backup to Garret, I think he is just as important as Garret. Both Omar and Martin can play multiple positions so they will make bigger impact than Gregory.


I am not going to talk about other backup guys because I don’t think I am familiar enough with them.





The following is my projected opening day line-up against the Phillies’ right-hander Brett Myers and based on that lineup, I predict their performance of the season:




Jordan Schafer          270/339/447                         

Kelly Johnson            290/350/440             

Chipper Jones           330/420/480             

Brian McCann           300/400/480             

Garret Anderson       290/330/420 

Jeff Francoeur           270/350/400             

Yunel Escobar           303/373/420             

Casey Kotchman      280/350/420             

Derek Lowe



Matt Diaz                    300/330/400             

Omar Infante              290/330/390             

Martin Prado              300/380/410             


In conclusion, I don’t expect anyone to hit less than 270 in the line-up and everyone is hitting around 300 from the bench. Even with the pitchers hitting in the national league, I still predict Braves hitting about 275-285 range. The best BA team in 2008 was the Cards, which is at 281.


The famous World Series champion was batting 255 in 2008. Braves will probably only hit 130 home runs as a team but this team consists of six players with average or above average speed, so they will get their doubles.


KJ and Jeff was the only members to get strike out consistently but the rest of the lineup does not strike out too often and based on spring training, they are both improving in discipline. I think it is going to be a team to hit a lot of singles and doubles and getting four to six runs in order to win.


The most important issue for this kind of team is to have a chain of hits so it is very important for everyone to contribute. Therefore, Jeff Francoeur is one of the most important guys in the lineup because he will often be positioned at No. 5 and he will be bridge to continue the chain alive.


To answer the most important question, can this lineup provide enough support to this terrific rotation? I say they can, Braves always possess a good runs score and runs allow ratio until second half of the 2008.


They are never good at one run game after 2006 but I believe this is a year things will turn around. I would not say this is a better hitting team than before because Braves always has a decent hitting lineup but nobody noticed it until they check the stats because they kept losing.


If you say the Mets is that much better because the improvement in their bullpen (In fact, I think it is only four games better, but those four games will get them into playoffs), I would say the Braves new rotation will provide the improvement more than 20 games because it has been the bigger hole than any other holes in any other teams.



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