The 2009 Braves were undone because their batting order went soft. Of the eight non-pitching spots, half — Jordan Schafer, Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur and Casey Kotchman — were substandard by major-league specifications.
Two of those (Francoeur and Kotchman) were traded before the season was done. Schafer was sent to Gwinnett in June. Johnson was dislodged by Martin Prado and left as a free agent at year’s end. And after the 2010 Braves scored 16 runs against the Cubs on Opening Day, Chipper Jones was moved to say: “We’ve got Jason Heyward hitting seventh and an All-Star [Nate McLouth] batting eighth. We’ve got a lineup that can turn over in a hurry.”
We stipulate by saying that the Braves have played only seven games, which isn’t a representative sampling. But the purportedly iron-clad lineup is already looking peaked.
Melky Cabrera is hitting .103. Troy Glaus is hitting .231 and hasn’t had an extra-base hit. And McLouth, who hit .118 in spring training, is hitting .118 in real games.
Yes, there are bright spots. Prado leads the league in hitting. Heyward has hit three home runs with nine RBIs. Brian McCann is hitting .300. Yunel Escobar hasn’t hit much since Opening Day, but he’s almost a given. Chipper Jones figures to hit, provided he stays healthy.
But the lineup that mustered 16 runs in its first game has managed 19 in the six games since, and the Braves are hitting .230 as a team. It’s not yet time to fret, but it is time to take note. This batting order hasn’t been turning over in a hurry. For the past week, it hasn’t done much of anything.