Chipper Jones goes on DL — can Braves win without him?

Chipper Jones has missed six starts since getting by a ground ball. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones missed his seventh straight start with calf injury suffered at Tampa Bay.

(Updated: 11:31 p.m.)

When the Braves returned home Friday night, they didn’t have the usual look of a team just one game out of first place.

Their egos: dented from being swept in a four-game series for the first time in three years. Chipper Jones’ left calf: a blistered-and-blood-engorged mess from taking a missile of a grounder just above the ankle. Freddie Freeman: still unsure whether to go with the new prescription goggles or new contacts for the dry eyes that caused blurry vision. Brian McCann and Matt Diaz: fluish (although Diaz strangely felt comforted that he was now coughing up “red and green” mucus).

But near the end of May, despite a five-game losing streak, the arrow still generally points north for a team that played 29 of its first 46 games on the road — except for one significant area. They’re not giving much of an impression they can win without Chipper Jones.

This is an important issue, and not because Jones missed the entire four-game series in Cincinnati, and the Braves were swept. Even before his injury and at a time when seemingly everybody else in the lineup was hitting, the team still struggled without Jones.

Jones went on the disabled list following Friday’s 7-4 loss to Washington. He still has significant pain in his left calf and the Braves decided it wasn’t worth it to force him back into the lineup this weekend. But this isn’t meant to be an examination of whether he is too brittle at the age of 40. What happened to him at Tampa Bay last week could’ve happened to a 20-year-old: He took a B.J. Upton ground ball off his calf and the leg swelled and mutated. (Jones said, “I’ve never been hit that hard, ever,” and he was told if his ankle area had not had not been “cushioned” by socks and his shoe, the grounder would’ve broken a bone.)

The issue is whether the Braves are too dependent on one player to be successful. They’ve now played 47 games. They’re 21-8 when Jones has started or made at least one plate appearance and 5-13 when he hasn’t played at all. Discounting late-game appearances, the Braves are 19-5 (.792) when Jones starts and 7-16 (.304) when he doesn’t.

A winning percentage drop-off without Jones would be expected. Just not 488 points.

Maybe the Braves are better equipped to manufacture runs with Michael Bourn’s speed at the top of the batting order. Maybe hitting coach Greg Walker has improved the club’s situational hitting. But the contrasting won-loss records are alarming, particularly since Jones is going to be out of the lineup every few games even when he’s “healthy,” just to protect his knees.

“When he comes back, I don’t think he’s going to miss six or seven games in a row again,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

But just in case, does the team still need to prove it can win without Jones?

“Yes. But I don’t think he’s going to miss six or seven in a row again,” Gonzalez said. “If he misses six, seven in a row, we’re in trouble. But any team is going to have a hard time surviving when a guy in the middle of their lineup misses [a number of] games. The Phillies, without [Ryan] Howard and [Chase] Utley, they’re kind of treading water.”

Players don’t seem overly concerned about the situation, although Bourn said, “You never want to depend on one guy, but Chipper is who he is, and we’re going to miss him when he’s not in there. After this year, you’re going to have to get used to it because he’s not going to be here.”

Jones is having a strong season. He is third on the club in batting average (.307) and RBIs (24). He believes his presence brings “a calming influence” to others.

But, he said, “If you’re asking me whether guys go up to the plate and think, ‘Chipper’s not in the game so I’ve got to step up,’ I don’t think that’s the case. I just think what’s happened lately is I’ve missed quite a few games, and some guys have kind of fallen out out of the trees that they were in offensively.”

He sat out Friday. He may be out again Saturday. The Braves need to start figuring out how to win without him.

By Jeff Schultz

274 comments Add your comment

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:24 pm

FIRST!

•Oswalt’s preference is to play for the Rangers, Cardinals, or Braves according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, but there’s no indication either St. Louis or Atlanta has interest. Stark hears that money is the most important factor, but Oswalt also doesn’t not want to be a major media storyline wherever he goes.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:28 pm

Stretch — Interesting note on Oswalt but I don’t see Braves pursuing a starting pitcher, at least not now.

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:31 pm

They better do something cause right now, after Huddy and Beachy they arent getting much. And on the offensive side of things, Hyde has shown up again plus the fact their “Big 3″ arent looking to healthy either.

Ronald Millsaps

May 25th, 2012
7:33 pm

If this team doesn’t start showing signs that Chipper is just a third baseman and not a babysitter also, 2013’s outlook doesn’t bode well.

Mike Minor isn’t showing signs of progress. I say call Julio Teheran back up. This rotation drops off pretty significantly after Hudson, Hanson, and Beachy. Minor was looking like Adam Wainwright; now he looks like Schuerholz’s idea of trading Wainwright.

Nice to see Uggla go deep; he needs to drive the ball for us. Don’t be hesitant to pull the ball every time, Dan. As I said last year, we don’t need you trying to hit like Edgar Renteria or Martin Prado. Your skill set and role are different than theirs, as you know.

Probably should’ve kept Derek Lowe since they’re paying 2/3 of his salary, anyway, though he clearly seems to prefer the AL.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:37 pm

I should’ve added that Braves won’t pursue a starting pitcher/Oswalt UNLESS some of the problems you’ve alluded to persist. But there are a number of guys (Minor, Teheran, Jurrjens) who can go in either direction.

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:38 pm

“Atlanta needs a back-of-the-rotation starter. The Jair Jurrjens experiment obviously didn’t work out, as he’s been demoted to Triple-A. Tim Hudson is holding up for now, but who knows how long that will last? He has a long and extensive injury history and isn’t getting any younger—he’ll be 37 in July.

As it stands, the Braves rank 20th in the league in team ERA, and Oswalt is far from a sure thing, but he’s a three-time All-Star and a guy who’s finished on the Cy Young spectrum six times in 11 seasons. You have to believe he’d help them out in a division that, at the moment, is very wide open.

This is a risky move, but it’s one the Braves should be willing to take. They need him.”

Jessisca Isner – Bleacher Report

Sonny Clusters

May 25th, 2012
7:41 pm

We have never seen so much hugging and fanny patting on a major league baseball team! What is wrong with these guys? And why are they hugging like that with a losing streak going?

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:41 pm

Okaaaay … not a good start by Hudson. Single-double follow strikeout and here comes . . . Adam Laroche.

FSUBrave

May 25th, 2012
7:42 pm

Time to see if the Brewers will trade Greinke…

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:43 pm

Sonny Clusters — Do people in the Clusters family not hug? Are you guys kinda stand-offish?

Sonny Clusters

May 25th, 2012
7:44 pm

It’s a good thing journalists don’t hug. Can you imagine looking up in the press box and seeing ‘em up there hugging and fanny patting and spitting seeds? Baseball is a very enjoyable game but too much hugging on a baseball field is to be discouraged.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:45 pm

He’s still Adam Laroche.

IceColdATLien

May 25th, 2012
7:45 pm

Great pitch by Huddy to get Roch

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:46 pm

But there’s 2 runs . . . Nats with early lead.

Sonny Clusters

May 25th, 2012
7:46 pm

Jeff, Clusters men mostly only hug beautiful women and we reserve all our fanny patting for women. Now, we know that sounds sexist but it’s the way of the Clusters. You’d think the Nationals would be the ones doing the hugging with the first 2 batters coming in to score.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:47 pm

Sonny Clusters — I heard there was no crying in baseball. Never heard about hugging. They even pat each other on hiney.

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:48 pm

An now Huddy is doing his best Derek Lowe imitation!

Nativebird

May 25th, 2012
7:49 pm

No. They can’t actually.

Sonny Clusters

May 25th, 2012
7:49 pm

Well, fanny patting is not something you want to do a lot of on the baseball field. When we was playing ball Coach didn’t want us hugging each other. Of course, nobody would want to hug Stinky Wintes.

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:50 pm

Impersonation!

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:51 pm

Hudson getting hammered — 2nd XB hit in inning, 4 runs, 4 hits, 29 pitches already.

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:51 pm

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:52 pm

Hudson threw 34 pitchers in the 1st inning. Not on pace for a long night.

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:53 pm

They start the game the way they werent supposed to start. Man i love and hate my Atlanta sports teams!@

Nativebird

May 25th, 2012
7:53 pm

And where’s your buddy Bradley yelling at the turnstiles….”everything’s ok, everything’s ok, really…go back inside and cheer some more”!.

FSUBrave

May 25th, 2012
7:53 pm

this team 9isses me off!! my goodness..can’t we please sign a bat? it is pretty sad that our entire team and season rely on the healty of a rickety old beat up 40 yr old….

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:54 pm

As a general rule, I never pat a guy on the hiney when he’s nicknamed Stinky.

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:54 pm

5 game losing streak while other teams show the Braves how to make contact, i know teams go in slumps, but this is ridiculous!

Sonny Clusters

May 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

Whoa! This is looking a lot like September. We didn’t want to say it but it does. Chip Caray keeps making excuses for the Braves. We was wondering if Bobby would do anything different than Fredi about now?

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

STRETCH: “BALL. GAME!”

<<< Should I leave now?

Sonny Clusters

May 25th, 2012
7:57 pm

All-Star break. Interim manager TP or EP or maybe the guy from AAA.

The Nature Boy

May 25th, 2012
7:57 pm

I’d pick my nose and exclaim “come on kid..”

STRETCH

May 25th, 2012
7:58 pm

FSUBrave,

they would depend on Dale Murphy if he was still wanting to play. Pitching mentality of Wren and this organization is going to finally bite them in the arse cause they still think they can pitch their way to a World Series.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
8:02 pm

Freeman wasn’t sure if he was going to go with contacts or goggles. He chose former.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
8:04 pm

Next at-bat: goggles.

iTiSi

May 25th, 2012
8:07 pm

Membership in the ABEOC(Atlanta Braves Eternal Optimists Club) just went down by 346 after the first inning, and it increased by the same number in the ABEPC(Atlanta Braves Eternal Pessimists Club). Strange how it always works out that way. Added to last night’s figures that’s minus 4K in the ABEOC and a plus 4K in the ABEPC. Better get in now why the gettin’s good as there could be a rush after tonight’s game.

annpelletier

May 25th, 2012
8:11 pm

we seem to be doing all the right things when we started the season what happened? love the Braves
but they are driving me crazy right now. can not even watch the highlights of the previous nights game . the nats are beating us right now.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
8:11 pm

From 4-run first to 1-2-3 second. That’ll save the arm (and maybe Braves).

Nativebird

May 25th, 2012
8:13 pm

I guess Freeman is testing both….I’m sure the franchise GM (accountant sitting in a cubicle at Liberty Media) will surely not allow the expense of both.

iTiSi

May 25th, 2012
8:16 pm

Detwiler may be joing the very elite “I OWN THE BRAVES TATTOO CLUB” after tonight’s game.

Nativebird

May 25th, 2012
8:16 pm

Jason Heyward. Oh yea…he’s turned this franchise around yes sir. Can you say “plateau”.

SOS Braves

May 25th, 2012
8:17 pm

OMG. This team is awful. Freeman is an 80% strikeout. Diaz is Mr. No-Clutch. Heyward stinks like last year. Jack Wilson = this year’s Greg Norton. Can we please bring up some guys so that we can sit down Heyward, Ross, Francisco, Diaz, etc.

iTiSi

May 25th, 2012
8:18 pm

JS, you don’t seriously expect the Braves to come back vs the Nats down 4-0 with this lineup do you?

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
8:20 pm

Braves just lost David Ross — on a walk. I guess groin.

Nativebird

May 25th, 2012
8:22 pm

Hey Gonzales, what ya gonna do now….your savior mr. Journeyman non-factor David Ross just pulled a groin taking a walk. What happened to the notion of “having your club ready to play”. Are you kidding me? Pulling a groin on a check swing? What is this…..church softball.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
8:25 pm

Braves have stranded 4 runners in 2 innings (3 in scoring position).

iTiSi

May 25th, 2012
8:25 pm

Joe Simpson just said BMac had been “under the weather”. Big difference in that and actually having the flu, as Dr. Gonzalez said. Now which is it? This team is full of “wimps and wussies”. Hope everyone heard the long list of Nats players that are out hurt at the start of the game. Yet, they are not making excuses like Dr. F Gonzalez has been doing after each loss. They have sucked it up and are now in first place. So who’s gonna catch now the “flu-ridden” BMac or Matt Diaz?

SOS Braves

May 25th, 2012
8:28 pm

JS. Nothing unusal about that.

D-bo

May 25th, 2012
8:31 pm

I think it might be time to move On from McDowell. Not getting the most of his pitchers.

What do you think?

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2012
8:32 pm

FYI — If McCann gets sick again, Matt Diaz is emergency No. 3 catcher. Or maybe it’s John Parker Wilson. I always forget.