1. Every preseason gamble on position players failed except the platoon in left field. Because the Braves spent the winter redoing the rotation, they took chances with their everyday eight. They hoped, perhaps against hope, that Jordan Schafer was ready and that Jeff Francoeur had recovered from his funk and that Kelly Johnson’s second-half surge in 2008 wasn’t an aberration and that Casey Kotchman could actually drive in some runs. Only one of those men is on the roster today, and the one (Johnson) lost his position to Martin Prado.
2. Chipper Jones began to show his age. He was hitting .335 before the game on June 10, at which point this correspondent proclaimed him “as splendid as he ever was.” He’s hitting .268 now. Moral of story: You never want ol’ MB to write something nice about you.
3. Derek Lowe wasn’t as good as the Braves hoped he’d be. He’s 13-9, which isn’t terrible. But his ERA is 4.34, which marks a career worst as a National League pitcher, and opponents are hitting .294 against him — nearly 50 percentage points higher than they hit last season.
4. Bobby Cox overused his bullpen. Three Braves relievers — Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty and Mike Gonzalez — rank among the league’s top seven in appearances. (And this for a team that has received 84 quality starts, second-most in the majors.) It would be one thing if all this work had resulted in a lockdown bullpen on the order of Hammond-Remlinger-Smoltz, but it hasn’t. The 2002 relief corps blew 11 saves. This one has 20 blown saves. The 20th came last night, as you doubtless know, Rafael Soriano wasting another strong Tommy Hanson start.
5. Nate McLouth didn’t deliver. Of the three major in-season trades Frank Wren made, this had the greatest potential of sparking the entire offense. But McLouth, who has had an iffy hamstring, has played in only 61 games over three-plus months as a Brave, and he’s hitting .263 with an on-base percentage of .351.
And, just for the heck of it: Greg Norton. Regarding the question, “Who’s the worst Brave ever?”, we have a new leader in the clubhouse.