That Braves offense that led the charge to the top of the standings during a 20-win month of May has seemingly been relieved of command.
Going back to the All-Star break, the Braves are 7-9 since Brian McCann roped a bases-clearing double in the NL's 3-1 win in the Mid-summer Classic.
News flash—the Braves only have won one series since then.
These are not the Braves that many Atlanta fans came to recognize during a two-month span that took them from last place to a 7.0 game lead in the NL East.
The offense was at one time atop the NL in runs scored. Now, the Braves sit seventh out of 16 teams. While holding the best team on-base percentage, they're still only seventh in on-base plus slugging.
What this means: They're still getting on base, but not with quality or timely at-bats.
Let's just look at this most recent road trip.
The Braves' three wins came one in each series. Jason Heyward had a big part in two of those wins, as he stole home against the Nationals, and doubled in the winning runs against the Reds on Friday.
Brooks Conrad delivered the big blow with a pinch-hit grand slam against the Marlins a week ago.
Brian McCann had two big games on the trip, and has generally been pretty consistent since the break. Matt Diaz's bat has been somewhat inexplicably relegated to part-time duty.
Oh, Melky, Alex, Chipper, Troy, Eric. Care to give these guys a hand now that Prado's out for a week or two???
Let's go player by player and analyze (OBP/SLG/OPS) the peaks (and valleys) of the recent past.
The All-Star has looked the part, as July was his best month of the season. He hit .321 for the month with five HRs and 20 RBI for a line that reads .409/.543/.952. His passed ball might have cost the Braves a win, but he was the only one to drive in runs that game for the Braves it seemed, so it's hard to complain too much.
When Glaus hit a walk-off HR against Kansas City on June 19, he was hitting .280 with a .372/.496/.868 line, with 14 HR and 55 RBI. As of today, his averaged has dropped to .244 with a line that now reads .354/.410/.764 and upped his RBI total to 61.
Six weeks has produced six RBI. Yes, you read that right.
The month of July was "highlighted" with one multi-hit game, and an average of .182. His OPS line reads something that Tim Hudson would be embarrassed with: .310/.234/.546.
He's done nothing for six weeks, and somehow Bobby Cox still puts him in the four or five slot. It's likely time to bench him, and call up Freddie Freeman.
Hinske's July swoon hasn't been as sharp as that of Troy Glaus. Three HRs and nine RBI in 52 at-bats doesn't seem too bad, but he's been inconsistent. After hitting above .300 in both April and July, Hinske's average dipped to .260 in June and .212 in July. His .300/.442/.742 line for July means that he's been clutch at times, cold at others.
Fans all over Braves country cringed when they saw Prado slide home on Friday and immediately scream in pain as his right wrist got caught underneath him.
He's come down after being well above .330 for most of the season. He powered six HRs during July, but for the month, only hit .257. When men were on base, he couldn't come through for the big hit—if they were on base for him. Of his nine RBI in July, six of those times he drove in himself. Leadoff homeruns are great, but he can produce more RBI with some baserunners in front of him. His 22 RBI in May demonstrated that.
Prado's likely fill-in until the pinky is healed, Infante hit .429 during the month of July in 63 at-bats. His one HR and eight RBI during that span doesn't jump out, but the .455/.492/.947 numbers probably should. The Braves need him to minimize the loss of Prado for a while, and maintain a hot bat in the middle infield to get the Braves on track.
Gonzo has been feeling under the weather the past few days, and that followed a five-game stretch where he didn't get a hit. He hasn't really been the run producer the Braves had hoped since coming over from Toronto. Perhaps that's because no one's on base for him to drive in. Nevertheless, the first 10 games after coming over—hitting .360 is something the Braves would love. Even .280 with some more clutch RBI the Atlanta fans and players would be thrilled with.
Chipper's been consistent most of the season. Consistently not producing enough for a No. 3 hitter. His high RBI month is 15 (May), and he's yet to hit more than two HRs in any month this season, or more than .270. Sorry, but a .329/.378/.708 line for the month of July for your "best" hitter is not going to cut it.
This is the one position the Braves don't have an answer for. Based on his numbers, Jones should be hitting seventh in the lineup. Perhaps whatever retirement talk was going on earlier this season wasn't exactly premature. I'm sure Jones, who's as intelligent and studious a hitter as there ever will be, is not satisfied with what he's been doing at the plate. I know Braves fans—like him or not—aren't happy with the performance either.
A lot of people stated the Braves didn't get much for Javier Vazquez. Pretty sad when you consider the best part of the trade is a minor leaguer who might be dominant in the majors in a few years (Arodys Vizcaino).
July was Melky's best month of the season. You might be laughing, but it was. Sort of.
Hitting .289 with a line of .353/.461/.813 is pretty respectable from a lower in the order guy. It was the first month this year the Melk Man had an OPS over .750
One HR and three RBI and looking slow in the outfield is not.
I have one request for Bobby Cox. Please put this man in the lineup just about every day?
Since Diaz came off the DL in late June, he's arguably been the best run-producer for the Braves. In only 53 AB in July, Diaz smacked five HRs and knocked in 14 runs, while hitting .340.
Bobby, he's healthy, and he can hit. Please let him do that. If you need any more information please look at the next line.
Guys with a month-long OPS of over 1.000 should not be playing half the time.
Yes, he's a lefty-killer, hitting .369 over the previous three seasons against lefties. But .265 with 10 HR and 59 RBI over the same period against righties isn't that bad. If he played against all lefties and a good number of righties, he'd project to be a .300+ hitter and smack 15-20 HR.
OK. Enough said.
Heyward's not in the right spot in the lineup. Since his return from the DL, he's hit .356 with a line that reads .457/.458/.915. But he hasn't homered since I saw him blast one off James Shields in mid-June and only has six RBI.
The first six weeks of the season, when Heyward was healthy, he was driving the ball all over the place and driving in runs. He and McCann are the most dangerous hitters in the Braves lineup right now. Diaz has been more productive, but still isn't quite in the category of Heyward and McCann.
So with the recent addition of Rick Ankiel (who could be good, and could be so-so), here's how I would make out the Braves lineup (once Prado returns)
- 2B - Prado
- 3B - Jones
- RF - Heyward
- LF - Diaz
- C - McCann
- SS - Gonzalez
- 1B - Glaus
- CF - Cabrera/Infante
- 2B - Prado
- 3B - Jones
- RF - Heyward
- C - McCann
- LF - Diaz
- CF - Ankiel
- SS - Gonzalez
- 1B - Glaus (or Freeman?)
Looking ahead a bit. There are two potential moves the Braves should make later this season or in the offseason to balance their lineup.
If Troy Glaus' slump continues, perhaps calling up Freddie Freeman, or trading (again) for Adam LaRoche if the Diamondbacks wouldn't want too much in return, might be necessary. Glaus has become a major hole in that lineup.
Right now, the Braves' lineup is a bit left-heavy. They're looking for a power bat, a right-handed one who would play the outfield, center if possible.
The free-agent market this year expects to include Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. I can completely understand why the Braves couldn't or wouldn't get him in a trade (the Phillies aren't going to trade a bat like that against their main competitor in the same division). However, next year, the Phillies seem to think that Domonic Brown will be manning right field, with Ibanez again in left and Victorino in center.
The Braves would be wise to give serious consideration to bringing in Werth to play between Diaz and Heyward and hit right before or after Brian McCann in the lineup.
Unless the Braves snap out of their offensive funk, the 2010 season may be over sooner than expected.