One thing is certain after one month of Atlanta Braves baseball; they’re not going to set any offensive records anytime soon.
It has been a comedy of errors for this struggling offense.
The ’09 version of the Braves offense has seen injuries to key contributors, continued streaky hitting at the leadoff spot, terrible base-running mistakes, and a lineup that changes daily.
With that said, here’s my Braves-lineup Report Card:
Kelly Johnson – He has continued his streaky career to start the season. Does anyone remember when he first came up to Atlanta in 2004? He was 0-for-his first 25 AB’s. Then he went on a tear for about a month.
That has been his game since he came up. He finished last season hot and started this season hot for about a week. He then hit rock bottom and has since been replaced as the leadoff hitter.
I argued in the offseason that he should have been traded while he had some value. No he has virtually no value and Atlanta is stuck with him.
Johnson’s Grade: D-
Omar Infante– Infante has taken over the leadoff spot for now. He has hit .412 in 34 AB’s at the leadoff spot and is hitting .358 in 22 AB’s when leading off an inning.
When you take into account that he is at least 10-times better than Johnson defensively you have to give him the full-time 2B and leadoff job.
Infante’s Grade: A
Yunel Escobar– The Cuban phenom has started fairly hot. He’s currently hitting .308 with 2 HR’s and 13 RBI. He is definitely at his best with runners in scoring position though. In 27 AB’s with RISP he’s hitting .519. That is tremendous. It could be a recipe for success if Infante continues getting on at the top of the order.
Unfortunately Escobar is hitting only .229 with no one on base. His clutch hitting and fielding is enough to give him a high grade though.
Escobar’s Grade: B
Chipper Jones – Chipper is still Chipper. When healthy he’s still one of the best hitter’s in the game. He’s had some bad luck and has hit some balls right at people. But his current .280 average is sure to go up as long as he stays in the lineup.
The Braves still go as Chipper goes. Whether Tony LaRussa is scared to pitch to him or not, he’s still a huge presence in Atlanta’s lineup.
Chipper’s Grade: B-
Brian McCann– McCann’s been hampered by eye-trouble most of this season. He’s been on the DL for the last two weeks. When in the lineup he’s a top-hitter. He only started out hitting .200, but not seeing the ball has contributed to that greatly.
McCann’s Grade: Incomplete
Casey Kotchman– In 35 AB’s at cleanup, Kotchman has hit .314. Not a bad mark for the first-baseman. The only problem is he only has double’s power. Sure that can be clutch, but we need more power from this spot.
Kotchman’s Grade: C+
Garrett Anderson – Another injury-plagued beginning to the season. Once he gets in the swing of things he’ll be an asset in this spot.
Anderson’s Grade: Incomplete
Matt Diaz– Diaz has been serviceable in the lineup this season. He’s only hitting .230 overall. But in 18 AB’s with RISP he’s hitting .333. He’s still a fourth outfielder.
Diaz’ Grade: C-
Jeff Francoeur– Frenchy has played great to start the season when compared to last year. He’s shared batting cleanup, fifth, and sixth with Diaz and Anderson. Hitting .280, Francoeur has changed his batting stance and seems determined to put last year out of its misery.
He’s also been great in the clutch; hitting .400 in 20 AB’s with RISP.
Francoeur’s Grade: B-
Jordan Schafer – The rookie certainly came out of the gate on fire. But as is the cast with many rookies, the scouting report got out and when pitchers started going high and inside on him he’s virtually a strikeout waiting to happen.
He has to make some adjustments and soon. He’s hitting .238 and has 34 K’s in 84 AB’s. That’s unacceptable even for a rookie. Some have said he’s the leadoff hitter of the future. I say no way unless he cuts down on the strike-outs.
Schafer’s Grade: D+
Part-Timers David Ross and Martin Prado have been adequate in filling in for injured or tired players. Hitting .282 and .333 respectively both have manned their role-player slots with moderate success.
When Ross starts and bats eighth he’s hitting .318 in 22 AB’s. Not bad for someone filling in for an injured star.
Prado has played in 15 games and is just a pure hitter. He has been clutch with runners-on (.385) and with RISP (.400) with a total of 23 AB’s in those situations.
Part-Timers Grade: B-
The Braves overall lineup grade: C
Look, the Braves have battled injuries and lineup inconsistency all season long. But once McCann and Anderson are at full strength this offense has the potential to be special.
Jordan Schafer has to cut down on the strike outs. Chipper and Garret Anderson need to stay healthy. McCann needs to come back strong. Francoeur needs to continue where he’s at. Omar Infante needs to be the permanent leadoff hitter/2B.
Once those things happen the sky is the limit for this lineup.