The Atlanta Braves are looking great for a second consecutive playoff appearance this 2011 season, but they must add an outfield bat in order to make a postseason run.
I, like most of you, am a lifelong Braves fan and am a frequent visitor of the Braves' section of this great site. I've seen a handful of well-written but fundamentally flawed articles on Atlanta's need (or lack thereof) for a hitter.
The flaws that I've noticed are three that will be revealed to you as you read through this article.
If these three myths were actually facts, then I'd be on the No-Trade Bandwagon, too, but we live in the real world, folks.
For all of the hype and excitement surrounding him, outfielder Jordan Schafer has been a huge bust for Atlanta. In 191 at-bats this season, he sports a .236 average (actually good for Schafer, a career .221 hitter), one home run, and seven RBI.
Those stats are nothing short of pitiful. Multiplying those numbers out for an entire season (approximately 550 at-bats), Schafer is on pace to hit 2.9 homers and 20 RBI. Laughable doesn't even describe it.
He does, however, have 15 steals, a respectable total, and 32 runs, also a fine number. Those two stats multiply out to 43 steals and 92 runs for a season.
So, let me get this straight. At his current pace, Jordan Schafer would hit .221, have 92 runs, three home runs, 20 RBIs, and 43 steals. Is that even possible?
I'm afraid that his awful batting average would slow his on-base percentage over the long haul and his only two redeeming stats (stolen bases and runs) would slow as well.
The bottom line is that he's not even close to getting the job done as a lead-off hitter.
The former Pittsburgh Pirate found his stride in 2008, hitting 26 home runs and 94 RBI. Those numbers are solid for a power hitter, but McLouth, a first or second hitter, added 23 steals that season.
When the Braves traded for him in 2009, he was a solid performer, hitting 11 home runs, 36 RBI, and stealing 12 bases in 84 games. It seemed as though we had our center fielder for years to come.
But then came the 2010 season. A consistent .260 hitter fell to .190, and his other stats fell right along with it during his half season shortened by injury. That trend has continued in 2011, and it's time for it to stop.
His .225 average, four home runs, 16 RBI, and three steals is worse than even Schafer's. He too is unworthy to start in center field for a playoff team.
Thus far, I hope that if you held one of the flawed assumptions, you no longer do. The Atlanta Braves need an outfielder to take the place of Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth.
But now I'm going to test your patience, your loyalty, your basis of all things shaped like a Tomahawk.
I'm going to tell you that it's time for Chipper Jones to step aside.
The Atlanta Braves would not be where they are without their star third baseman, Chipper Jones.
He's a first ballot Hall of Famer, the second best switch-hitter of all-time behind only Mickey Mantle, a stalwart defensive player, and the face of the franchise since he was drafted first overall by Atlanta in 1990.
I hope I've made it very clear how much I like, appreciate, and respect the Braves legend. Now on to the reality of baseball in 2011.
Jones is 39 years old and hasn't played 150 games in a season since 2003 due to a myriad of injuries. His batting average dating back to the end of the 2008 season is just .263, 40 points off his .304 career average.
He's on pace to hit 14 home runs, but only if he gets 500 at-bats, which he hasn't done since 2007. I could go on and on down each stat and show you how his skills have clearly (and understandably) deteriorated.
Jones is done contributing at a major level for the Atlanta Braves.
Fans who think his return from the DL this weekend will yield a style of play that is reminiscent of the old Chipper are going to be disappointed.
It's imperative that the Atlanta Braves trade for a hitter, specifically an outfielder, if they hope to contest the best of the National League in the postseason.
There's no use in waiting for Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth to "come around" as lead-off center fielders. Schafer has never shown that ability on the major league level and McLouth is more comfortable playing for a non-contender.
Chipper Jones is no longer the steady force in the middle of the lineup that can be counted on. A possible NLCS game that matched Chase Utley up with Chipper Jones at the third spot in the batting order isn't one that bodes well for the Braves.
If GM Frank Wren also accepts these two truths, he'll make a move for Carlos Beltran, Josh Willingham, or best-case scenario Michael Bourn to help Atlanta get the type of hitting they need.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez would leave Martin Prado at third base, opening up center or left field for the newly acquired player.
I would support moving a top prospect if the player was a long-term fix. Otherwise, there is no sense in losing a future star for a two-month rental player like is being currently rumored.
Atlanta is the second-best team in the NL. With the addition of a solid hitter, they could become the best.