The Braves used to be able to hit. What the heck happened?

A sight seldom seen of late: The Braves scoring a run. (AP photo by John Amis)

A sight seldom seen of late: The Atlanta Braves scoring a run. (AP photo by John Amis)

We begin by saying that no one regular-season series tells anything approaching the whole story. Remember when the Braves were swept by the Yankees here in June? Remember how that series seemed an example of boys against men? Well, if you check today, you’ll find that the Braves have a better record than the Bronx Bombers. (Only a half-game better, but still.)

That said, it was nonetheless chilling that the Braves could go the final three games of a four-game set against Colorado and not score a single earned run. The Rockies have the worst team ERA in the big leagues, and here, after a 6-1 victory on Labor Day, is how the Braves fared: Shut out on Tuesday, won 1-0 on a run scored via a bad throw on Wednesday, won 1-0 on a run scored on a flubbed return catcher’s toss by the pitcher, which might have happened in the big leagues twice in the past two decades.

For the first half of the season, the Braves hit better than they pitched. Indeed, they were fourth in the National League in runs scored at the All-Star break. Here are their numbers since: Ninth in runs, 10th in on-base percentage, 14th in batting average, 12th in slugging percentage. They hit .232 as a team in August; they’ve hit .230 in September.

The good news is that they’ve pitched superbly. (Their team ERA is the league’s best since the All-Star break.) The bad news is that they’ve had to pitch superbly, and much of that pitching has been done against lesser opposition. (Since the break, only 17 of the Braves’ 53 games have been against teams currently above .500.)

This is worrisome not because the Braves are apt to play themselves out of the postseason — with 24 games remaining, they still hold a five-game lead over Pittsburgh and Los Angeles for the second wild card — but because they won’t be facing substandard teams once there. There’s no reason this lineup shouldn’t hit better than it has the past month. This same lineup, give or take, hit rather well for the season’s first half. But now it isn’t, and that’s troubling.

By Mark Bradley

115 comments Add your comment

ChopAttack

September 7th, 2012
11:33 am

McCann and Simmons got hurt and Uggla is a bust. Pretty simple really.

Carlos Collazo

September 7th, 2012
11:38 am

I guess the best part is that we can’t really hit any worse. I am not expecting Simmons to come in and revive the offense either, he’s a rookie and we shouldn’t expect what he brought earlier in the season offensively. Sure he’s better than Janish/Wilson/Pastornicky but he’s not a silver slugger. Brian McCann and Uggla on the other hand….

ChopAttack

September 7th, 2012
11:40 am

When a third of your lineup can’t hit (McCann, Uggla, Janish) plus the pitcher it puts a lot of pressure on the other 5 guys to produce every day. I don’t think McCann’s shoulder is going to get better. Uggla might be a lost cause. Simmons is a rookie.

Weyman C Wanamaker Jr, (A Great American)

September 7th, 2012
11:59 am

Which hitting coach do we throw under this bus this time?

Sonny Clusters

September 7th, 2012
11:59 am

Not to worry, light hitting Dan Uggla is about to break out of it and become somewhat light hitting Dan Uggla. Did you hear Fredi praise light hitting Dan Uggla for hitting a ball to the right side? We was thinking that maybe light hitting Dan Uggla is not such a big threat to break out as Fredi seems to think and what we are seeing may be what light hitting Dan Uggla has become now that he is being paid like an All-Star and is cavorting with pornn stars and thinking the team is where it is because of all his great walks. Having this huge hole in the lineup has hurt the Braves time and again and it looks like light hitting Dan Uggla has regained his starting position with that ball he hit to the right side. Sad.

Weyman C Wanamaker Jr, (A Great American)

September 7th, 2012
12:00 pm

And the sad thing is that the run that is shown scoring in the picture was an un-earned run.

Tana

September 7th, 2012
12:01 pm

Braves still are hitting. They had bases loaded multiple times. They still won their games. It means more at this time to be able to pitch and win games 1-0. If you’re pitching is imploding like in New York then you won’t be able to hold any leads. You’re all idiots for trying to say they aren’t hitting.

Tana

September 7th, 2012
12:05 pm

10 hits in both games. 10 walks in both games. Look beyond the 1-0 VICTORY and actually read a box score. Best ERA since the All Star break with maybe best pitcher in the league right now in Medlen.

Tana

September 7th, 2012
12:06 pm

9 hits in shut out on Tuesday. Quit trying to make the team fall apart. If you aren’t wanting to see them win you can go watch Georgia Tech football.

Mark Bradley

September 7th, 2012
12:09 pm

Twenty-five hits and eight runs in 33 innings against the worst pitching staff in the big leagues. That’s some hitting.

Hillbilly D

September 7th, 2012
12:09 pm

Which hitting coach do we throw under this bus this time?

The current one. You’d think after the third one in three years, folks might catch on that it’s the guys in the batter’s box and not the coaches.

As Tana posted, LOB is where the problem is. The last two games 8 and 9.

al

September 7th, 2012
12:13 pm

Bad write up. Just another way to bring the fan’s morale down. Look at statistics. Just saying. Braves are doing what needs to be done. Quit bashing the hometown team Bradley

Danny O

September 7th, 2012
12:22 pm

al, Bradley makes a lot of sense here. The Bravos can’t hit, period. If the truth hurts that’s because it’s supposed to. 1-5 spots are fine, and Ross can swing a good stick. But McCann, Uggla, and Janish aren’t cuttin it. We could stand one of those guys to be dragging, but not all three. Might make sense to put Prado at 2nd more often so that Reed Johnson or Constanza can play in LF.

Felix

September 7th, 2012
12:23 pm

Well, we don’t have Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz anymore, so banking on a lot of 1-0 wins is probably not a good idea. Right now, it’s Medlen and Hudson and pray for rain….

Sonny Clusters

September 7th, 2012
12:24 pm

Let’s say you was a Clusters and you was able to hit a curve ball 450 feet and most fast balls further than that and you was working second shift while some of the Braves players are not hitting and earning major league pay plus they can’t pay for their own drinks (except maybe Hanson) anywhere in town. Let’s say Fredi Gonzalez called you one day and said, “You know what? I’d like to run you out there for a few games and see what happens.” What would you do?

Sonny Clusters

September 7th, 2012
12:28 pm

We’re not saying Fredi has called us, and we’re not saying he hasn’t. All we’re saying is that Coach never complained about us with runners on base because when we hit the ball we ran to the occupied base and the runners ahead of us would score. That’s simplifying the game but some of the bloggers on here might find simplifying helpful – and we’re not being mean because there is not a mean bone in a Clusters body. Clusters have always been truthful and clean living and never spit seeds or scratched on television or nose picked either. This team needs some Clusterization and we are standing by our phone now.

Bryan G.

September 7th, 2012
12:29 pm

Bourn isn’t hitting either…has no one noticed that?

Sonny Clusters

September 7th, 2012
12:34 pm

Let’s say the Braves got Clusterized in the last few weeks of the season and everybody started hitting the ball and hitting behind runners and taking an extra base and throwing to the cutoff man and bunting the runners over and then bringing them in when small ball was called for. Let’s say they ran a Clusters out there for a few games and you know what? A Clusters made a difference in winning and losing a few games and then they offered us a big contract making $60 million over 5 years and wanted us to play second base and bat around .265 or more and hit about 30-35 home runs and drive in 100. That shouldn’t be a problem for that kind of money and we would still be able to make second shift most days when we was in town and not in places like New York where they are today.

Sonny Clusters

September 7th, 2012
12:38 pm

When we was playing ball at Parkview one of the things we liked best was hitting the ball out of the park and hitting some cars parked out in front of some nearby houses. Sometimes the alarms would go off and sometimes you’d just hear glass breaking. There’s no noises when the Braves bat because popups and strikeouts and ground balls to second base just sound normal at the Ted. What this team needs is some glass busting ball players and some cars damaged in the parking lot. Now, we are off to second shift while you think about it.

FIRE FREDI GONZALEZ

September 7th, 2012
12:40 pm

JUST WIN BABY.

I don’t care if we have a no-hitter thrown on us as long as we win. If you don’t give up a run then you don’t lose. You mention the worst pitching but failed to mention the Rockies can bash the ball. They got 3 ER in 4 games.

Jdawg010

September 7th, 2012
12:48 pm

Hate to place all the blame at the feet of any one player, but the way Dan Uggla looks at the plate is the most distrubing. His bat is the lynchpin for the entire batting order. He needs to take two weeks off to clear his head….maybe a phantom muscle strain.

Redbull

September 7th, 2012
12:49 pm

“What the heck happened”
It’s obvious? September happened!!

Redbull

September 7th, 2012
12:50 pm

Btw, the previous article is up on the front sports page so no one will see this article

Mr. October

September 7th, 2012
12:55 pm

It’s the same thing that happens every year: everyone slumps all at once. But at least they’ve won a few games.

BravesFanInBama

September 7th, 2012
12:59 pm

Uggla not hitting is not something new…..McCann, on the other hand, that is a HUGE bat to have lost for almost this entire season…I can’t decide who has killed more rallys lately: McCann or Janish?

bighittas

September 7th, 2012
12:59 pm

It’s called ‘always swinging for the fences.’

Ostrich Racer

September 7th, 2012
1:07 pm

Fredi also offered high praise for McCann: “If Francisco doesn’t score on that error, McCann’s fly ball would’ve been a sacrifice!” And he was serious.

Mud

September 7th, 2012
1:10 pm

Thank goodness for Medlin, Hudson, and Minor. They have turned it up in the rotation just have the bats appear to have begun hybernation for winter. The Braves always struggled with winning the games that they are very favored to win. Let’s hope the bats will awaken and the pitching will continue at their current pace. Think there’ll be a market for Hanson, Uggla, McCann and company? Wild card bound!

TNS

September 7th, 2012
1:21 pm

Its called TNS = Tight Nut Syndrome! They are so tight they gripping the bat trying to be the man instead of putting the ball in play!

J T Ellenwood

September 7th, 2012
1:23 pm

Fredi was forced to put Dan Uggla back in the lineup. That is too much money to have him sitting on the bench.Micheal Bourn is a free agent and we want to sign him.

BravesFan79

September 7th, 2012
1:30 pm

Im happy to get the wild card and to keep winning any way we can!
Hopefully Gonzalez dosent go by the book like Bobby Cox did by starting Mike (not a big game pitcher) Hampton over Smoltz (in the bullpen at the time) in a do or die game. I can still remember screaming at the tv as Hampton (who never should of been a Brave and the Braves cheaper replacement of Glavine)… of course blew the game by the 4th inning as the greatest postseason starter ever sat in the bullpen wondering why in the world Bobby chose FU Hampton over him.

We must start Medlen over Hudson! It seems Hudson is more likely to give up 2 or 3 runs, and gets shutouts based on luck and good fielding. Medlen on the other hand, is the hot hand, and were suprised when he gives up 2 or 3 runs.

dean

September 7th, 2012
1:32 pm

It was written in hieroglyphics that if an Atlanta team is involved then there must be turmoil and heart-break.

Stinger 2

September 7th, 2012
1:32 pm

Clusters: You need to work overtime and quit contaminating the AJC blogs. Try working the first and second shifts for a while. That way you will not have time to post so much nonsense and garbage. What a pitiful excuse for a so called Braves fan.

Bruce Bochy

September 7th, 2012
1:36 pm

Still can believe that Melky was on dope. I would have never guessed it.

G-Dawg

September 7th, 2012
1:37 pm

Preoccupied with college football season!!

UKUGA

September 7th, 2012
1:37 pm

Agree with the first poster. McCann is key in this. Ross is a superb back-up catcher, but not an everyday force.

Simmon’s return will be a spark.

Sonny Clusters

September 7th, 2012
1:39 pm

Stinger2, you remind us of a little old lady that is suffering some cramps and stays grumpy all the time. We are a fan that likes good baseball and you are a true fan that likes being nosy and minding other people’s business. That makes us a match and we are proud to call you our best buddy. Now, soak in a hot tub and calm down so you can be rested for tonight’s game. We will look forward to more dialogue with you as your mature.

FIRE FREDI GONZALEZ

September 7th, 2012
1:39 pm

“Fredi also offered high praise for McCann: “If Francisco doesn’t score on that error, McCann’s fly ball would’ve been a sacrifice!” And he was serious.”

There’s no way. It barely got over the SS.

Sonny Clusters

September 7th, 2012
1:44 pm

Our feelings are hurt and we are going home. Goodby cruel world.

andrew

September 7th, 2012
1:44 pm

It’s simple the Braves have a ton of talent on their team, but they can not play talented baseball. They are a So/So team. They play just good enough to keep you watching and then they blow it! It happens year after year! I am soooooooo tried of being a Braves fan! I think it is a curse that is on all of Georgia ’s sporting teams!

Fiddlin John Carson

September 7th, 2012
1:54 pm

Signing Uggla was an affront to the baseball gods. Prado had just came off a monster year at 2nd….the braves were scoring runs by the bucketfull…just not alot of HR’s. It was a move motivated by ticket sales…not improving the team.

Idiots.

Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame

September 7th, 2012
1:54 pm

Somebody put a curse on all their bats. We need a live rooster…

Heisenberg

September 7th, 2012
1:55 pm

A lot of Braves hitters have the pitchers philosophy of hitting – swing hard just in case you do make contact. Did none of them hear Chipper mention he backed off his swing on the tater of Papelbon? Is Frenchy the double-secret hitting coach? No need for adjustments, just try harder!

Mike Jay

September 7th, 2012
1:56 pm

Chipper needs to call one of his patented closed door, player only meetings. I think Simmons will provide a spark and hopefully terrorize the base paths. Two guys with speed at the top of the order might cause guys to get better pitches. Still have to hit them but maybe it will help. Plus Chipper in NY! He could go on one of his binges up there and light the offense on fire.

Heisenberg

September 7th, 2012
2:00 pm

Typical Braves at bat:
1) take strike 1 on a fastball down the middle
2) swing at breaking ball low and away
3) foul off a few pitches while working the count to 2-2 or 3-2
4) strike out swing at breaking ball in the dirt
5) listen to announcers talk about battling and not giving away at bats while getting opposing pitchers pitch count up

But at least they go up there with a plan.

Ostrich Racer

September 7th, 2012
2:15 pm

I should probably go to confession over the impure thoughts I’ve been having: I’m beginning to wonder whether re-signing McCann would be a good idea . . . .

bulldogbubba

September 7th, 2012
2:20 pm

Clusters – Keep telling the truth.I can not believe that so-called fans would watch “light hitting” ballplayers come to the plate time after time and swing at pitches way outside and think that is “positive” ball playing. Crazy!!! People this team has been lucky to win the last two games because of pitching. I remember Kimbrel giving up a homerun ball to someone in relief this week. You think Washington will go easy on us if we make the playoffs.They just played the Cubs and scored an average of 9 runs a game.I believe Atlanta’s average was 2 over 4 games. Sing your praises “Stinker2″. When the season is over and we don’t make the play-offs all you goody goodies can get together and stare at your Uggla and Chipper posters and sing Cumbaya.Have a swell day!

Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame

September 7th, 2012
2:21 pm

Agree with ya Heisenberg. Hearing Joe Simpson say “he really had some good cuts his last at bat” has really gotten old.

Alaska Braves Fan

September 7th, 2012
2:26 pm

What factors have contributed to the dearth of runs? Everyone on these blogs sees pretty clearly that, as ChopAttack wrote, the situations with Uggla, McCann, and Simmons have been critical. It’s true, too, that McCann’s shoulder is highly unlikely to get better without surgery, and even then there is some likelihood that it never will be as it was.

So, what to do now? Make a couple of relatively simple changes.

Lineup against lefties:

Bourne, CF
Prado, 2B
Chipper, 3B
Heyward, RF
Freeman, 1B
Johnson, LF
Ross, C
Janish, SS
Pitcher

Lineup against righties:

Bourne, CF
Prado, 2B
Heyward, RF
Freeman, 1B
Constanza, LF
McCann, C
Francisco, 3B
Janish, SS
Pitcher

When Simmons gets back, he probably should go right into the eight hole, replacing Janish. As a rookie who has been rusting in rehap for so long, he probably won’t burn up the base paths right off. (Let’s hope he surprises!) Just leave Uggla out of it, except to pinch hit from time to time, unless he actually does get hot. I do like the idea of having two set lineups so people are not being shuffled too much.

ABF

Mister Frisky

September 7th, 2012
2:39 pm

McCann blind and Fat.Uggla is just plain pathetic.Janish couldn’t hit his weight if he were a starving kid in Africa.First pitch Freddie too inconsistent.Heyward not ready forthe 3 hole.Throw in the pitcher it’s like a three man line up.