Atlanta Braves had high hope after they boost their rotation and form a quality bullpen and aiming for division title. I always believed in them with their strong starting pitching, and reasonably high OBP, can get them somewhere in the division.
I predicted them to be at the first with at least 15 wins before May and riding the moment, they should be able to get passed the tough May and June with a very positive note to welcome Tim Hudson coming back or Tommy Hanson emerging. I was wrong.
Bad Luck Said It All!
I am really reluctant to blame team’s failure on luck but Braves is probably one of the most unlucky team in the baseball this year.
Almost every game I have seen, there are at least three or four plays were decided by bad luck such as hard hit ball been rubbed and slow rollers or bloopers being hit right on the money where no one can catch and every errors they have made has been crucial to the game (trust me, not that many errors are converted into runs on league average).
Those bad luck plays kill the flow and Braves has wasted enormous amount of scoring chances whilst they don’t have that many of them anyway.
Really Light Hitting
The Braves is in the bottom five in HR (surprisingly, it is better than the Mets but they have 12 triples to Braves’ five), below average in SLG and BA, around average in OBP. The SLG and OBP will get worse if not for the BB (No. 4) and 2B (No. 5).
There are very few of the BB and 2B are converting into runs because they only clutch when there are two outs and a lot of those clutching hits were coming from beginning of the season when they were winning.
Casey Kotchman has been hitting well but he still has not got his first home run yet and he is the clean up hitter facing the right hander. The most home runs hit by one player in the Braves are three. This Braves team is built around pitching, which one home run can decide the game outcome.
Braves has made 18 errors so far with .983 fielding percentage, which is at bottom 5 in NL. They stole four bases and caught four times, 50 percent caught stealing percentage and all dead last in the league. Bare all that in mind, here is an interesting stat; their defensive efficiency is the worst in the league with .676.
It presents the percentage of the balls in play are contributing to outs. Now, Braves is the second best in strike outs, which means there will be less outs in play, but .676 of the defence efficiency is just sad. Their catchers though are doing pretty well though with David Russ posting 40 percent caught stealing rate and caught stealing 8 times.
They failed to play successful small balls over and over again: failed to get the bunt down, fail to run the base correctly, impatient on the plate when the game is on the line. When they are thinking about getting the big bats going, they really need to get those things right first.
Big Innings Killed Starting Pitchers
I don’t know why and how to fixed it. Braves’ starting pitchers are losing games by giving up one big inning. They gave up 16 runs in fifth innings and 21 runs in sixth innings so far in the season.
You can argue that in seventh innings they gave up 18 runs, but eight runs are from one game, they are actually pretty good at holding opponent at the seventh inning which is usually the most dangerous one (thanks to Jeff Bennett and Peter Moylan).
Basically, if the starters can cut down the run scored to 10 in those innings (which is average), they actually saved 17 runs. It will lower their ERA by almost one run, which is huge considering Braves has been losing one run games.
There are a lot of fans posting in the Braves website about trades. I personally don’t think that is necessary. Considering so many one run games they were losing, they still keep the games close enough to win them.
It is just one hit or one play away to get those wins. Trade can solve some of the problem but the real solution lies in their way to play baseball games.
The solution is actually simple. First of all, there is nothing they can do with the bad luck but it will not always happen. The important thing is that keep doing what is right and try not to get frustrated and make things worse.
Secondly, trades can help with light hitting but I think I would rather concentrate on getting the swing right and patiently waiting for better pitches to hit. Once McCann comes back, he will provide some power as well.
Thirdly, they really need to improve their defence. They're supposed to have one of the best infield defence in the league with their range and experiences. Now they are one of the worst, especially with Chipper and his three errors in the early season.
In addition, four stolen bases in eight tries, they can run better than that. They should at least provide some threats to opposing pitchers and give them a little bit pressure. Finally, giving up runs in fifth and sixth inning means after the second time the hitters had seen the pitches, they know what to expect.
I noticed that Braves starting pitchers has been using a lot of breaking balls to get strike outs but their fastball has been hit really hard. Maybe they can think about their pitching sequence after a four innings.
I believe Braves has the potential to play well but I think Mets and Phillies have better potential to be even better. I hoped the easy schedule Braves had in April can help them to get a good head start over Mets and Phillies but they are in the bottom half of the standing now.
Now their only hope is to have a surprising record against those good teams they will meet in June and July including the mighty RedSox, otherwise it is safe to say lets put the hope in 2010 when Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Todd Redman, and Freddie Freeman are ready to play.