You say, ‘The Braves stink!’ I say, ‘Hold those horses, folks’

The first 10 games could have gone better for Fredi Gonzalez. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The first 10 games could have gone better for Fredi Gonzalez. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

I know what you’re thinking. And here’s where I, calling on my many years of being too hasty to judge, offer a piece of advice:

Stop thinking what you’re thinking.

The Braves are 4-6 and haven’t hit a lick. They lost Games 2 and 3 of a series against the Phillies and were outscored 13-2 and outhit 23-11. If the next 152 games track a similar course, Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez will have much explaining to do. But this team will hit harder and win more over those 152 games. And how do we know this?

Because we watched something similar happen in this very city only last year.

Through 10 games, the 2011 Braves are hitting .229, which is lousy.  The 2010 Braves were hitting .227 as April ended, and that was a larger sample set (23 games). The 2010 Braves were 9-14 after the season’s first month and looked as dead as a team can look. Four key players — Troy Glaus, Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz and Nate McLouth — carried averages under .200.

That team won 91 games and made the playoffs.

Did we learn nothing from our hand-wringing of spring 2010? Have our years of watching baseball taught us so little about the game itself? As Dan Uggla said after Sunday’s loss: “This is such a long season. There’s a lot of emphasis on the first few weeks, but you have to wait until mid-May and mid-June to see who has stepped up and is doing their thing — and then you see who’s going to be there in September.”

Baseball isn’t football. The season lasts six months, not 16 weeks. And an enduring truth of this sport is that a proven hitter will eventually hit. Uggla was imported from the Florida Marlins because he has a history of producing runs, but to date he has contributed far more at second base — and he has a history of not being much of a glover — than at the plate.

Dan Uggla is hitting .158 after 10 games. Dan Uggla will not be hitting .158 after 40 games. For all the wrong-headed predictions I’ve made in my so-called career, I have the utmost confidence that I’ll be right about this one.

If you liked the Braves when they left spring training, you should like them still. They’ve pitched well — even after being harnessed by Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels over the weekend, the Braves’ team ERA is still better than Philadelphia’s — and their defense looks superb. They’ve done everything except hit, but the hitting will come. Have a little faith.

After Sunday’s game, someone asked the new manager what concerned him. “Nothing concerns me,” Gonzalez said. “I’d just like to see some victories, but they’re going to come. And when they do, they’re going to come in bunches.”

We can’t yet know if the Braves will have enough to hang with Philly all summer. That said, there’s no reason to believe a lineup including Martin Prado, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Uggla will starve for runs. And the rookie Freddie Freeman should, given time, be just fine. (The lamentable McLouth could be another story, though. He looks as helpless as ever.)

The Braves’ three chances Sunday ended thusly: Jones swung at Hamels’ first pitch and grounded to third; Freeman swung at Hamels’ first pitch and grounded to second; facing reliever Ryan Madson, McLouth hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Yes, those were feeble swings, but Gonzalez had it right when he said: “When you run into a good pitcher, that’s what happens.”

At some point these Braves will need to invent ways to score against good pitching, if only enough to keep Derek Lowe from being the unluckiest pitcher this side of Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. (Lowe has an ERA of 1.45 and is 1-2.) But they’ll figure it out. They’ll hit enough to win 90 games, give or take, and maybe that will again book passage to the postseason.

Please note: As lackluster as this start has been, it’s a comparative skyrocket. These Braves have played 10 games and managed at least a hit in each. After their 11th game, the 2010 Braves couldn’t even say that much. On April 17, they were no-hit by Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez.

By Mark Bradley

285 comments Add your comment

WTGW5150

April 10th, 2011
5:58 pm

The BRAVES are not HITTING.
When given the chance the Braves are leaving runners on or swinging at crappy 1st pitches.

mark bradley

April 10th, 2011
5:58 pm

tony10

April 10th, 2011
6:00 pm

First! But seriously I think mcclouth needs to go! We need a proven and productive CF any ideas bradley?

Rico Party

April 10th, 2011
6:00 pm

I’ll agree with you Mark. Good article.

Rico Party

April 10th, 2011
6:01 pm

WTGW5150

April 10th, 2011
6:07 pm

The first month of the season tell you about your teams mindset. I am not that upset with the pitching. I am upset with the NO HITTING with some DUCKS on the pond. Hayward looked like crap Saturday with the Sacks Drunk with Braves and trailing by 1 run. Today Chipper I think swings at the first pitch with runners in scoring position to end the inning. Coaches all talk PITCH COUNTS and how much they matter, then why not try to work the PITCHERS deeper in the count starting from the first inning? The Braves went 3 and out Sat. & Sun. in the first 3 innings. If not very close and the pitch count both days couldn’t have been more 12 pitches/inning on average.

robdawg08

April 10th, 2011
6:09 pm

There’s also no guarantee that like last year that the Braves will rebound this year. Many teams are better this year like the Marlins & Mets. If you saw what I saw, the look on Derek Lowe’s face says it all. He looked embarassed to be answering toreporters why he pitched a great game (again) and had to explain why he lost. He wanted to say it was because our offense scored no runs.

If a Braves hitter hit a nuke button Fredi would say that it was the nukes fault not theirs…

Bill

April 10th, 2011
6:09 pm

Uggla doesn’t have the Braves to beat on when he wasn’t hitting well.I wonder what his stats looked like the last 3 years if you take away the times he played against Atlanta.

The defense has been good but how long will that hold up .

I’m willing to wait till June to make my final pronouncementRight now I am thinking .500

stuart

April 10th, 2011
6:10 pm

People just need to calm down, chill and not let their pee get hot. There’s far too much talent on this team for this to last. They’re just a little slow coming out of the gate, and that’s all. Period.

robdawg08

April 10th, 2011
6:11 pm

Phillies 7-2 without Utley. Braves 4-6. You do da math !

matt

April 10th, 2011
6:13 pm

Doooooooooooomed.

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:13 pm

43,000 fans deserve a refund today.

1991 braves

April 10th, 2011
6:14 pm

Experience should have also taught you that Jones will miss 60 or more games with a thumbnail here and there. Nate will not hit his weight, and will be a hugh liability at the plate. McLard will go in a funk, and he will be near the bottom of the league in throwing runners out, and passed balls. Freeman will struggle to make adjustments to major league pitching, and the middle relievers will stink the whole season. And lastly, one or two of the starters will spend alot of time if not the season on the d.l. Add it up, and this team want win 91 games this year. They want be able to pull wins out like 31 times in their last at bat this year. They were lucky to win 91 games last year, but that luck want continue. This team has no offense, and the defense will hurt them in the long run. 75-85 wins will get them no wildcard this year, and Cox’s pupil will see to that.

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:16 pm

I got a line of 100-1 that Hanson goes 0-3. Any takers ?

real braves fan

April 10th, 2011
6:17 pm

I am seriously sick of the Nate McClouth bashing. The man is a different hitter from last year. If you know anything about baseball you can tell his approach has changed and it is working. He is hitting the ball the other way with authority and that is impressive compared to the weak performances by some other guys (Alex Gonzalez and Freddie Freeman). I am just sick of people not giving the guy a chance and ESPECIALLY the fools saying that Schafer would be a better option. Come on people.

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:17 pm

1991, want you use “won’t” when its needed ?

Darryl Blackberry

April 10th, 2011
6:18 pm

Yes, Braves fans do need to relax. However, let’s hope that the players and the management don’t relax along with us; just because it happened last year — with different players and a different manager — doesn’t mean it’s a given for 2011. These wins and losses are important now, not just in August and September.

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:19 pm

Quoted from Mark Bradley : “(The lamentable McLouth could be another story, though. He looks as helpless as ever.)”

I think more than we bloggers question McOut !

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:21 pm

Exactly, a win/loss counts the exact same now as it does in September.

BBFan

April 10th, 2011
6:23 pm

Way too much optimism. These Braves are playing to their skill level. Can’t fault them for that. They just aren’t particularly good. With a few inevitable injuries, non-performers being sent down, and fatigue among the couple stars, they’ll be floundering in 4th place and trying to keep Washington at bay.

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:24 pm

Let’s face it. Nate should be replaced or be hitting 8th. Chipper has almost no power left and should be moved down. All of this matters not if Freeman & Uggla continue to be automatic outs.

There isn’t one bad apple to replace, the whole basket is rotten !

Steve

April 10th, 2011
6:26 pm

1991 Braves, what a loser you are. Can’t believe the negativity. Pretty cool though that you can see the future!

Mitchell

April 10th, 2011
6:27 pm

The Phillies didn’t have Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.

As a Braves fan it’s ingrained in me to say that they are overrated and suck and to not be impressed by their numbers but this just feels different from last year.

The Braves can’t coast on the unknown of Jason Heyward or whatever magic they had in their hat last year.

They have play like they have right to be on the same field as the Phillies or to be in the same sentence when it comes down to who wins the division.

Right now they don’t match up and frankly they haven’t shown that they will.

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:27 pm

Do you think a player change or linep change is needed Mark ? If so, what are your suggestions ?

Steve

April 10th, 2011
6:27 pm

BB Fan, you obviously don’t understand the sport of baseball. If you think the Braves will be on Washington’s level you are a moron. Were you negative people around also last year when the Braves lost 9 in a row? Geeeeeeeee, they ended up making the playoffs. They are 4-6, not 1-9.

Mitchell

April 10th, 2011
6:28 pm

The Phillies didn’t have Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.

Last year at this time is what I meant to say.

Confuscious

April 10th, 2011
6:28 pm

Mitchell, you must be drunk or 6 years-old ?

Busted Posey

April 10th, 2011
6:31 pm

Chipper’s looking like a real leader…

Busted Posey

April 10th, 2011
6:32 pm

How can a fat backup catcher like Ruiz own the Braves ?

Never Trade Young Pitching

April 10th, 2011
6:35 pm

My god it’s TEN games! Worst sports town in America.

playmeortrademe

April 10th, 2011
6:38 pm

The 2010 Braves also had 25 last at-bat wins and pulled an inordinate number of games out of their collective behinds to get 91 wins. The 2011 Braves have an unproven closer, and their #3 starter, #4 starter, and third baseman seem to have reservations for the DL. The 2011 Braves can’t waste 2 run and 1 run games that their ace gives them if they even hope to return to the playoffs.

MitchC

April 10th, 2011
6:39 pm

Mark Bradley being positive after a 4-6 start? Is this the same guy who predicted the Braves to finish third in 2010, and was wrong? (Sorry, had to throw that in there).

In all seriousness, we know the Braves haven’t hit. Additionally, this weekend, we just got beat by two very good pitchers, and the team that might well run away with the NL East.

I’m not saying the Phillies will run away with it. I’m just saying, they have the potential to do so. As we know, they have many injuries, and look at how they have played so far. Imagine if they had all their people healthy.

We’ve had other years when we haven’t started well, and then rebounded. Remember the horrible 1992 start? Last place and 7 games out in late May. Even 1995, we weren’t playing well into May in that year either, and ended up running away with the division by 21 games.

I’m not saying that will happen this year.. but.. .400 baseball after ten games isnt anything to be panicked about. The pitching has been there, for the most part, and the lineup should hit.

My bet: We will come around. Hopefully, as this homestand progresses, the good pitching will result in some wins.

Mark Bradley

April 10th, 2011
6:41 pm

Kudos to mark bradley for being first. Although that must be a different MB.

bill

April 10th, 2011
6:42 pm

fredi gonzalez is dumb if he keeps mclouth batting 2nd..period

WTGW5150

April 10th, 2011
6:44 pm

Mark
Where are my posts? I think I was at the top for sure.

Bag-o Bats

April 10th, 2011
6:47 pm

I’ll add my same comment to the previous blog. We, the Braves, have been in a hitting funk for 15 plus years and it’s not going to change anytime soon. The reason, known only to God Almighty, becomes abundantly clear once a player signs his contract, putting them on this payroll. We got very lucky once in the past 20 years and won ONE World Series and it was really due to luck on our part as we didn’t hit in that series either. A blind squirrel will find an acorn every now and then and that’s what happened in our ONE World Championship season. These current Braves are not going to come around as they are too complacent to put the time in learning or maybe relearning the art of hitting the baseball

WTGW5150

April 10th, 2011
6:47 pm

Braves don’t have a Lead-off hitter that can pick-up runners if they are on base or get on base with a SLAP hit through the infield. The Braves have not had a REAL LEAD-OFF HITTER in maybe 15 years.

JG

April 10th, 2011
6:48 pm

Phils in a familiar place. Look at those two rosters, and tell me the Braves are somehow better. What happens when Utley comes back? Sheesh. Who were the dopes who tried to claim the Braves have caught (or passed) the Phils?

Barry Bonds

April 10th, 2011
6:53 pm

Add me to your roster, Braves. I’ve got 30 dingers left in my bat just for ole Hammerin Hank to watch !

The A Bomb

April 10th, 2011
6:53 pm

This is all about non-selective hitting — 2-0, 3-1 counts have had AWFUL results and they need to fix this. Now we’re going to see what kind of hitting coach Larry Parish is.

They are definitely pressing for some reason.

Roy Halladay

April 10th, 2011
6:55 pm

You losers are lucky you missed me. I had a perfect game that I was going to treat your fans with !

:) Dawg

April 10th, 2011
6:57 pm

Mark is DOB like a under study of yours ?

Chuck

April 10th, 2011
7:00 pm

Wait til Julio Teheran carries this starting rotation. The kid is going to help us big time!

Braves, please call the kid up. He has amazing stuff and he can easily win 10 games a starter.

Utley Fan

April 10th, 2011
7:02 pm

I really thought your team was better than this. I was worried about the signing of Dan Uggla. But it appears I was worried about nothing. Your team is 3 1/2 games back already. I’m glad I’m a Phillies fan.

Baseball Wizard

April 10th, 2011
7:03 pm

AJC should ban Bradley from writing about baseball (and football for that matter). Everything he says about baseball ends up being wrong. Somebody please ship Bradley to Kansas City or some place similar.

Utley Fan

April 10th, 2011
7:04 pm

I’d like to point out that the Braves hitters also struggled against our relievers, not just our starters.

Legend of Len Barker

April 10th, 2011
7:04 pm

This team is a repeat of last year – if that good.

Two or three games with great hitting, followed by about five games in a row like this one.

No one tries to steal bases. No personalities allowed. Pitchers do the exact same thing when they hit with a man on base. McLouth. An unproven first baseman who starts off slow. No bench. Same managerial strategy.

My 1977 APBA set with Buzz Capra and Rod Gilbreath has more flavor and a better chance of consistently getting in the win column than this one.

Utley Fan

April 10th, 2011
7:07 pm

We’ve got our own pitching aces in the minors. Brody Colvin & Jarred Cosart will dominate soon.

Eric C.

April 10th, 2011
7:07 pm

real Braves fan, how many chances can you give McLouth???

Utley Fan

April 10th, 2011
7:09 pm

Why does your team operate on a shoestring budget ? Our owners let us get good players to compete with.