So the Braves have scored one run in three days. The denizens are rightly restless for some semblance of offense…(Sure, there was the rainout Sunday, but didn’t that wait after a 12-0 loss Saturday just serve to stir up the masses and stretch out this offensive malaise even more?)
The Braves managed only 12 hits in the last two games against the Rockies and Diamondbacks and 11 of them were singles. The lone extra-base hit was a double by Yunel Escobar on Saturday night.
Doesn’t it make it worse when you consider Mark Teixeira homered from both sides of the plate last night for the Yankees? Is it really that easy?
The Braves and their 28 homers are ranked 26th in the majors, ahead of only the Mets, Pirates, A’s, and Giants. Their .395 slugging percentage is ranked 24th in the majors ahead of only the Padres, White Sox, Mariners, Marlins, Giants and A’s.
What can I tell you? Maybe the best news of the day this Tuesday is that there’s a wind advisory in effect today until 8 p.m. Maybe the Braves can catch one of those 35 mph gusts in the early innings and get some balls to leave the yard, or find some gaps in the outfield anyway.
Chilly weather is not a good combination, though, for a fanbase that trickled down to 15,364 last night – the lowest paid attendance in the 13-year history at Turner Field.
The theory among some blogging here is that fans are speaking about what they see on the field. There’s got to be truth to that, yes, but still more fans than 15,364 managed to put their rear-ends in the seats last August when all was lost on the season. This team is still, perhaps amazingly, only 2.5 games back in the NL East with an 18-19 record, and can run a starter out there like Derek Lowe who pitched eight dominant innings last night despite the loss.
Anyway, to me, it says a lot about the economy and the apprehension people have about spending what money they do have. I’m not looking to turn this into a blog about economic times – too depressing – and maybe a great deal of it does have to do with the baseball side and a lack of excitement there, but to me, just looking around at the stadium it’s a vivid reminder of the times we’re living in right now. I don’t think you can blame it all on the ole lame Atlanta fans right now.
So how about some alarming home stats to perk you right up? The Braves are 6-11 at Turner Field with a 4.56 ERA. They’re batting .252 and averaging 3.4 runs a game.
Some road stats to make you scratch your head? The Braves are 12-8 on the road with a 3.87 ERA. They’re batting .265 and averaging 4.95 runs a game.
It’s pretty obvious they’re getting hurt the most at three spots in the order right now, and it all starts with, as is how it goes, the leadoff spot. Kelly Johnson is hitting only .191 (18-for-94) in the leadoff spot with a .262 on-base percentage. Goodness.
Jeff Francoeur is in a full-out slump. On May 9 in Philadelphia, he had hit in his 10th game in a row, was batting .283 in his first 30 games and had four doubles, two triples, three home runs and 18 RBIs. In seven games since then, Francoeur has hit .077 (2-for-26) with no extra-base hits and one RBI. He has seven strikeouts in seven games after having only 12 in the first 30.
Then there’s Jordan Schafer, who it hitting .215 and is fourth in the majors with 45 strikeouts. There is some better news there, if you’re looking at baby steps. From May 2 to May 8, Schafer had multi-strikeout games in five of the seven games. Since then he hasn’t had any multi-strikeout games in the last eight games.
So when one-third of your lineup is scuffling, and you don’t hit for power or have much speed. This is what you get. Yes, I know, obvious.
So I’ve got to solve the problems as well as point them out? I do think there’s validity to getting Omar Infante back at the top of the lineup, where he’s hitting .367 with a .409 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot. He’s been starting only against left-handers. Who’s to say his numbers will stay that high when he’s seeing more right-handers, but maybe worth a try for a few days to jumpstart things at home.
Kelly hit one pretty good to straightaway center field last night for a loud out in the eighth. He lined out to right in the third. He also got a key hit Wednesday in New York coming off the bench. So he’s shown some signs too. But I think it’s clear he’s comfortable batting lower in the order. Trouble is, if you move Johnson lower in the order, who do you have hit leadoff then because Infante won’t be playing second base?
I’ll let you guys continue to debate the merits of moves there and take a second to tell you about Hudson.
Tim Hudson sounded really, really excited yesterday about how he’s progressing in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. So much so, that he said: “I honestly feel like my best years are ahead of me. I’m not just saying that. That’s really how I feel about it.”
Now he knows he couldn’t have said that five months ago, or even probably a month ago, when he took some time off coming out of spring training to rest a little soreness in his arm. But that built-in break in his rehabilitation has got him feeling strong and confident.
A lot of it comes, I think, from the work he’s done strengthening his shoulder, while he’s worked on rehabbing his elbow.
“My shoulder – it’s the best it’s felt probably in my whole career,” Hudson said. “It’s as strong as it’s ever been. And my elbow is making strides like it’s supposed to. I think it’ll be better than it was. I honestly feel like the better years are ahead of me.”
The Braves will have an intriguing decision to make, when the time comes, whether to pick up his $12 million option for next year. Honestly, if things goes well in Hudson’s return – which is projected to be some time in August – I can’t see them letting him walk. If they end up trading a Javier Vazquez or a Charlie Morton at the deadline, and Tom Glavine retires, the rotation isn’t as crowded as it seems now.
Hudson, who turns 34 in July, wants to stay, but he’s trying not to get wrapped up in what if’s.
“I’ll cross that bridge when it comes,” Hudson said. “I’d love to stay here. But I’ve been around a long time. I know how the business is. It’s something I can’t control. I hope I’m here as long as Chipper. I feel like I’m going to come back and help us win. I hoping to make it a hard, but a good decision for them.”
He’s already told Roger McDowell and Bobby Cox that if the rotation is doing well and they have a bigger need in the bullpen come August, he’ll go to the bullpen. He could get back faster that way because he wouldn’t need as much time in the minor leagues building up pitch volume.
“I hope all five guys are pitching lights out,” Hudson said. “If I come out of the pen – that’s where I’m needed – that’s fine.”
That’ll be an interesting decision. You have to think the Braves would rather get him in the rotation, where he can use his fullest potential over six-seven innings. And maybe pitching every fifth day helps him recover better. But it also might be tempting to get him back quicker. We’ll have to see.
And I’ll have to stop rambling. On to your comments.