It’s just past the unofficial halfway point in the baseball season, and most teams are deciding whether or not they have what it takes to make a run at the postseason before the trade deadline at the end of the month.
For the next part of this first half review, I will look at the performance the Braves received from the outfield on the season. All stat lines will be AVG/OBP/SLG/HR/RBI/SB, and include only stats before the All-Star break.
The outfield has been the biggest area of concern for the Braves. Two of three starting outfielders are already gone from the team (one in the minors, one traded to our biggest rival) and the other has battled injuries.
For the Braves to make a run at the division title they will need better production from their group of outfielders in the second half.
Garret Anderson: .272/.304/.397/5/32/1
After the Braves missed on Ken Griffey Jr., they went out and signed Anderson to be the starting left fielder. Despite not having tremendous power, Anderson had been a consistent run producer throughout his 15 year career with the Angels.
After battling through injuries and a slow start, Anderson hit .286 in May and followed that up by hitting over .300 in June.
Anderson’s defense leaves a lot to be desired, and it would be nice to see his slugging percentage rise, but through the first half of 2009 Anderson was the most consistent of the original starters in the Outfield.
Mid-Season Grade: C
Jordan Schafer: .204/.313/.287/2/8/2
After an impressive spring training, Schafer won the starting centerfield job and prompted the Braves to trade Josh Anderson to Detroit.
Schafer started his major league career off with a boom, hitting a home run in his first at-bat.
However, Schafer quickly fell back to earth and looked over matched by big league pitching. Although he kept his on-base percentage over .300, Schafer’s first taste of big league action was rather forgettable.
Schafer was terrific on defense, but that wasn’t enough to save him from the mounting strikeout totals he was posting as the starting centerfielder.
By the beginning of June, Schafer was on his way back to the minors and the Braves were searching for a new centerfielder.
Mid-Season Grade: D
Jeff Francoeur: .250/.282/.352/5/35/5 (with Atlanta)
When some notable Braves writers and I participated in a round-table discussion before the baseball season started, we predicted that Francoeur would hit .274 with 24 home runs and 98 RBI, seemingly modest numbers for a kid who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as “The Natural” when he was only a rookie.
However, Francoeur was unable to rebound from his terrible 2008 and seemed to stay locked in the slump that had frustrated so many Braves fans just a year ago.
His rifle arm in the outfield was great, but his pathetic production prompted the Braves to trade him for an outfielder who is 5 years older, has a career high of 15 home runs, and plays for the Braves biggest rival.
Mid-Season Grade: F
Nate McLouth: .288/.349/.500/5/15/4 (with Atlanta)
After Jordan Schafer proved incapable of handling the everyday centerfield duties, the Braves opted to trade for the Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder, Nate McLouth to bolster their struggling offense.
Hitting better in Atlanta than he did in Pittsburgh, McLouth gives the Braves an added shot of power and speed that they surely needed.
Currently being used in the leadoff spot, McLouth has crossed home plate many times and should be consistent run producer and upgrade in the outfield for the next few years.
Mid-Season Grade: A
Matt Diaz: .301/.375/.462/4/22/4
When Diaz has gotten chances to play this year, he has continued to hit the way that would have made him an everyday player last year had he not been injured.
With the addition of Ryan Church, Diaz looks like he will platoon in right field and continue to occasionally spell Garret Anderson in left.
Since coming to Atlanta in 2006, Diaz has hit .315 in 950 at bats, while providing a decent amount of power from one of the corner outfield spots.
With potential for double digit home runs and even stolen bases despite only being a part time player, Diaz’s continued success could be huge for the Braves in the second half of the season.
Mid-Season Grade: A
Ryan Church: .274/.324/.365/2/36/6 (with New York and Atlanta)
Church, who was acquired for Jeff Francoeur, could be a big boost to Atlanta’s offense, not because of what he adds, but because of what he takes away.
By hitting for a solid average, Church should help fill the void in the Braves lineup previously known as Jeff Francoeur. Although he is only 1-9 in his games with Atlanta before the All-Star break, the move away from Citi field should help the outfielder raise his offensive numbers.
Church didn’t get along well with Mets management, so the move to the Braves seems like it will benefit both Church and the Braves greatly.
Mid-Season Grade: Incomplete
Gregor Blanco, Brandon Jones and Brian Barton
These players all had less than 50 at-bats with the Braves in the first half of 2009 and were in Atlanta for only a short period of time.
Blanco struggled, hitting only .186 while filling in for an injured Nate McLouth and getting some playing time after Jordan Schafer was demoted.
Brandon Jones performed the best of the three, hitting .308 in 13 at-bats, although all of his hits were singles.
Brian Barton, acquired from St. Louis for Blaine Boyer, only got in 1 game with the Braves and was caught stealing. He has no at-bats on the season.