Atlanta Braves Second Half Preview: Offense
Going into the second half of this season, the Atlanta Braves, at 52-36 are in a great position to make a run to the playoffs. This record is not only good for a four game lead on the New York Mets at the top of the standings in the NL East, but it is also enough to give the Braves a one game lead over the surprising San Diego Padres for the best record in the National League.
So, will they be able to keep this up? To determine this, let’s take a look at the players on this league-leading team, starting with the offense.
I remember watching Glaus at the beginning of this season and being convinced that he would strike out every at bat. During the funk at the beginning of the season, rooms were filled with collective groans whenever he came up to the plate. But my oh my has he turned this season around.
Glaus has slugged his way to a .254 average at the break with 14 home runs. These numbers look pretty much in line with what we should see over the rest of the regular season. Glaus’ batting average on balls in play, or BABIP (a stat used to show luck based on batted balls finding gaps in the field), is almost identical to his career average and the percentage of fly balls ending up going over the fence is (HR/FB%) is only slightly under his career average as well.
So Glaus is for real and we should expect a batting average of .250-.260 with about 15 home runs in the second half of the season.
The All-Star catcher has been great for the Braves so far this season, and now the entire National League has his three run double to thank for their home field advantage in the World Series this year.
Just like Glaus’ numbers, McCann’s are very much supported by the sabermatric analysis. His .267 average and 10 home runs through the first half should end up as a .270 average with 20 home runs at the end of the season.
If McCann can cut down on the strikeouts just a little bit, he’ll be an invaluable piece in the Braves’ puzzle.
Where did this guy come from?!? Martin Prado has been a revelation for the Braves this season. Fans hold their breaths whenever he comes to the plate and normally breathe easily after he swings the bat and is safely on the basepaths. No player on the Braves was more deserving of an All Star roster spot than Prado was this season.
Batting .325 so far with 10 home runs does mean that Prado is playing slightly over his head. His average should level out at about .315 by the season and the power may drop off a bit. But that said, Prado will continue to play like All Star the rest of the season.
Gonzalez has contributed absolutely nothing to the Braves thus far, but that is only because he just now joined the squad. Due to the addition of his powerful bat to the lineup, opposing pitchers will have no choice but to fear the Brave’s lineup even more than they already did. The trade of Yunel Escobar will not help the Braves in the future as Escobar is a young, established shortstop having an off year, but Gonzalez will without a doubt help for the time being.
So Braves fans, what can you expect from the new acquisition? You’ll most likely be looking at a similar player to Troy Glaus. Expect around a .260 batting average with 10-12 more home runs. Gonzalez has 17 home runs so far this season but his 12.9 HR/FB% is much higher that his career 8.2% so be happy if he ends up at 30 home runs.
The Atlanta cult hero, Chipper Jones has been embroiled in retirement talks throughout the season, but since he dismissed them he has produced.
Jones has been unlucky so far this year, but with his advancing age and diminishing health, he should only be able to raise his average a little bit. Similarly, his power numbers figure to go up by the end of the season. But unfortunately, I don’t have high hopes because the name Chipper Jones has become synonymous with nagging injuries. If he can stay healthy he should produce, just not at the level he used to.
Keep in mind that is a big if.
Infante has been a great utility man for the Braves this season, as he can literally fill in for everyone.
To this point in the season, he has performed admirably, but just like his All Star status, the stats create a kind of mirage. His .332 average is boosted greatly by his inflated .391 BABIP, well above his career mark of .311. So once the average dips down and normalizes, Infante does not have much left to offer to the Braves besides the ability to give regular starters the necessary days off. With only 10 extra base hits, the Braves should not expect much power either.
Conrad remains a hero in Atlanta thanks to his walk-off grand slam that completed a seven run comeback against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning. Even he couldn’t believe it when the ball went over the fence and provided baseball fans with one of the most memorable moments of this still-young season.
But, how will he help the Braves in the second half of the season? In his limited appearances, Conrad should continue what he’s done so far: reach base at a fairly reasonable clip and provide brief sparks of power off the bench.
The ex-Cincinnati Reds catcher has performed alright when he’s been caused upon to replace McCann in the lineup.
This may not keep up because Ross is another player with an inflated BABIP and he has not provided any power. There’s a reason he’s the backup.
So far, the Braves rookie infielder has received very little playing time and has no hits through 6 plate appearances. He doesn’t seem to be in the Braves immediate plans, so I won’t waste your time by writing about him right now.
So far this season, the Braves’ Hinske, another utility man of sorts, has played quite well, even inspiring his own fan club,: Hinske’s Hillbillies. He’s batted .274 with 6 home runs and batted in 34 runs, but what has really been remarkable about Hinske thus far is that of his 48 hits, 23 have been for extra bases.
In the second half of the season, Braves fans should expect a slight decline in average and a slight uptick in the power department as more of Hinske’s doubles should find their way over the fences.
Despite owning one of the most interesting names on the Braves team, Melky has been a rather uninteresting player. What you see so far is what you’re going to get.
Expect a batting average around .260 with another 4 or 5 home runs and about the same number of stolen bases. Cabrera is by no means an extraordinary player, but he is useful as an everyday outfielder.
This Braves outfielder has been one of the few disappointing spots on the team. Diaz is batting at a .227 clip so far this season, well below his career average of .304. This is thanks to a BABIP that is currently sitting almost 70 points below his normal mark. When he receives more at bats and this normalizes, Diaz should regain his hitting mojo and become the player that Braves fans have come to know and love: a high average, low power, lower tier outfielder.
Through his 63 pre-All Star break plate appearances, Blanco has hit for a surprisingly high average. Simply put, this will not be sustained. As Blanco’s BABIP drops the nearly 80 points to become more in line with his career mark, his .327 average will plunge as well, down to as low as .270. Fortunately for the Braves, the next player in this analysis will be back soon to relieve him.
The savior. The one who will lead the franchise to the promised land. The slugger who busted car windshields before he had his first real at bat and forced the Braves to install new nets at their facilities. The rookie who launched a three run blast in his first at bat. It’s all been said about Heyward and it’s legitimate hype.
So far this season, Heyward has seen his incredible rookie campaign derailed by a thumb injury but he is still batting .251 with 11 home runs. He should finish the season with an average around .260 and a home run total close to 20.
This is not quite what Braves fans are expecting, but temper the expectations a little. The J-Hey Kid is only 21.
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