Chipper Jones is mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, and it’s certainly no coincidence that the Braves’ offense as a whole is struggling mightily.
Because, well, in this case the whole has not been better than the sum of its parts. Entering today’s series finale against the Red Sox here at steamy Turner Field, the Braves have lost 12 of their past 17 games.
And scored two runs or fewer eight times in that dreadful stretch.
Oh, it’s bad.
They’ve lost nine of their past 14 at home, while averaging three runs in that stretch and scoring two runs or fewer eight times. Eight out of their past 14 home games, two runs or fewer, including three shutouts.
In case you missed it, I wrote in the comments section on the last blog that Tommy Hanson is going to try to pitch today despite battling a cold or flu bug or something nasty that’s had him feeling lousy for a few days.
Oh, and Yunel Escobar and Nate McLouth are both out of the lineup again, Escobar (hip flexor; doghous) healing and/or doing his sentence for p’ing off certain folks, and McLouth healing from a strained hammy (he’ll probably play Tuesday against Philly after the Monday off day, and I’d expect Escobar would, too, after he has another day to stew and think about being benched, etc.)
As for Hanson, Kris Medlen is ready to step in if he’s buddy can’t survive out there. Medlen would be pitching on two days rest since his last relief appearance.
Yes, it’s going to be up to either a sick rookie or a rookie on short rest to hold down the Red Sox enough so that the Braves’ lineup can do its thing against Brad Penny if they hope to avoid being swept.
And since doing its thing has meant scoring three runs or fewer most games lately … well, hey, I’ve been told by many pitchers that they’ve done their best work when sick, because they have to focus so hard and because they don’t try to overpitch like they might when they feel strong and rested.
Braves better hope that’s the case with Hanson and/or Medlen.
Anyway, back to Chipper and his persepective on his current slump.
He’s 10-for-60 (.167) in his past 16 games with three doubles, one RBI, 10 walks, eight strikeouts and a .499 OPS. He has as many errors (three) as extra-base hits in that stretch.
Like I said, it’s one of the worst stretches of his career. And Chipper had a perspective that I hadn’t really thought about.
”I’m a .310 lifetime hitter, and for the last few years I’ve hit .340,” said the 37-year-old third baseman, who was exactly right about his .310 career average (he has a .408 career OBP, .546 slugging, 416 homers, 1,406 RBI, etc.)
”The numbers have to average out sometimes.”
For the past three seasons (2006-2008), he did hit an absurd .342 with a .435 OBP and .592 slugging percentage in 372 games (average of 124 games per).
In the three previous seasons (2003-2005), he hit .283 with a .391 OBP and .516 slugging percentage in 399 games.
This season, Chipper has hit .290 with eight homers, 32 RBI, a .407 OBP and .471 slugging percentage in 65 games (he’s missed nine games).
When I mentioned to him that his slump would have to go on for quite a while for the “numbers to average out,” he said, “Let’s hope it’s not that long. But it’s not going good right now.”
Still, he’s not ready to call on his private hitting coach, Larry Jones (his dad). Because Chipper said his video study from yesterday’s 0-for-4 and some other recent games showed no obvious flaws in his swing or approach.
”Lot of it has to do with the way I’m being pitched,” he said, and reiterated that it’s not a result of those hitters who are behind him. “Guys are just flat-out making pitches on me. When they do, they’re going to get outs.
”It’s just a matter of being able to execute those pitches right now. We’ve run into some guys who are executing pitches well.
”I looked at tape yesterday after the game. There’s nothing wrong. I’m getting pitches to hit and missing them. That’s gonna happen from time to time.”
He said it can happen when a hitter’s tired, or just scuffling for whatever reason. He sounded tired as he described it, frankly.
”I’m not drifting [in his swing], the swing is fine, it’s on balance,” he said. “The margin for error at 95 miles an hour is small.”
By the way, going back to the 2002 season, I found three stretches that were almost, but not quite, as bad as this one for Chipper:
• In 2002, he went 4-for-40 with one extra-base hit (double) and no RBI in a 13-game span beginning in late June, with a .265 OBP and .125 slugging percentage.
• In 2004, he was 8-for-56 (.143) with five extra-base hits (two homers) and 11 RBI in a 17-game stretch at the end of the season (OK, that’s not nearly as bad as this one).
• In 2005, he was 6-for-47 (.128) with one RBI and a .212 OBP in a 14-game stretch in June and July that bridged a stint on the DL.
For those looking for positives, it’s worth noting that immediately after that 14-game slump, Chipper hit .463 (25-for-54) with seven doubles, five homers and 21 RBI in his next 16 games, with a .545 OBP and .870 slugging percentage.
OK, this game is starting, and Hanson is pitching. This should be interesting.
♦ Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Albert Pujols has as many homers in June (12) as any four Braves combined. No Brave has more than three this month.
♦ One more thing: not only do Braves outfielders have the second-fewest fewest homers (16) and the lowest slugging percentage (.356) and lowest OBP (.304) of any team in the majors, but Braves first basemen also have the fewest homers (three) and fewest RBI (30) in the majors and the second-lowest slugging percentage (.372).
“LIBRARIAN” by My Morning Jacket (Jim James)
Walk across the courtyard, towards the library.
I can hear the insects buzz and the leaves ‘neath my feet…
Ramble up the stairwell, into the hall of books…
Since we got the interweb these hardly get used.
Duck into the men’s room… combing thru my hair…
When god gave us mirrors he had no idea…
Looking for a lesson in the periodicals…
There I spy you listening to the AM radio…
Karen of the carpenters- singing in the rain…
Another lovely victim of the mirror’s evil way.
It’s not like you’re not trying, with a pencil in your har
To defy the beauty the good lord put in there…
Simple little bookworm, buried underneath…
Is the sexiest librarian… take off those glasses and let down your hair for me.
So I watch you thru the bookcase, imaging a scene:
You and I at dinner, spending time, then to sleep.
And what then would I say to you, lying there in bed?
These words, with a kiss, I would plant in your head:
“what is it inside our heads that makes us do the opposite?
Makes us do the opposite of what’s right for us?
Cause everything’d be grrreat… and everything’d be good…
If everybody gave… like everybody could.”
Sweetest little bookworm. hidden underneath…
Is the sexiest librarian…
Take off those glasses and let your hair down for me.
Take off those glasses and let your hair down for me.
Simple little beauty, heaven in your breath.
The simplest of pleasures, the world at it’s best.