The Atlanta Braves and Their Andrelton Simmons Problem

Todd Salem@@sportspinataContributor IIIJuly 31, 2014

Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (19) is shown during a baseball game against the Miami Marlins  Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Atlanta. (AP Photo)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves have a problem this season that will not be solved with a trade before Thursday's non-waiver deadline. It is also not a problem that will be solved in August.

The Braves offense currently ranks 24th in runs scored, 23rd in OPS, 23rd in total bases and 26th in strikeouts. Atlanta is simply a team that has a number of highly talented pieces who do a few things well but struggle mightily with others; call it the Andrelton Simmons problem.

Simmons was one of the better players in baseball last season. According to Baseball-Reference's defensive WAR, he actually had the best defensive season in the history of baseball! So that's something.

He was also reasonably OK with the bat. Although he didn't get on base often enough, he hit well (.692 OPS) and managed to tally 50 extra-base hits in his 150 total hits. He also managed to score 76 runs with that on-base percentage hovering around .300.

This season, though, Simmons' bat has regressed to essentially replacement level. The main difference is the power has dropped. He has registered just five home runs for the season and just 22 extra-base hits.

His glove, still great, has also slipped a bit, according to advanced stats. These things have combined to bring Simmons from a 6.9-win player in 2013 to a 2.5-win player heading into August of 2014, and he is now someone who is almost a liability in the lineup.

With the way the Braves are currently constructed, this is a huge problem. Simmons is not the only player with these "good, but" caveats.

Jason Heyward is having a similar season. He's a plus-plus defender and good runner who has been a huge minus at the plate. With Simmons, it was somewhat expected; for Heyward, his putrid year of batting is so demoralizing because of how unexpected it has been.

Although he's picked up his batting average (.260) since a horrible start to the season, the power is still not there (9 HRs). His .379 slugging percentage puts him 113th in the league among qualified hitters, behind the likes of Dioner Navarro and Adam Eaton.

B.J. Upton is yet another Brave currently falling under the invented category of unwell-rounded. He runs well and still plays competent defense. His bat is the worst of the three, though, as evidenced by his .215/.282/.333 slash line and league-leading 134 strikeouts.

Braves fans have been clamoring for a change in center field, but that wouldn't really solve this team's problem. It's an epidemic more than an infiltration.

Teams built on pitching and defense can win championships. That is not up for debate. However, because Atlanta is so poor at getting on base and scoring runs, it puts added pressure on players to be elite in other categories.

This worked out for Simmons last year; he was well worth playing every day. It no longer seems like that formula is weighted in Atlanta's favor, and it may be time for the Braves to overhaul this roster with players who can help across the board.