Posted: 2:19 pm Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

After strong start, mostly mediocrity (or worse) from Braves 

By David O'Brien

If it feels like it’s been quite a tedious stretch of mediocrity from the Braves this season, well, there’s a reason. After their 17-7 start, when a patched-together pitching staff performed at an otherworldly level, the Braves have since gone 43-51 with a 3.77 ERA, .244 batting average and only 350 runs and 65 homers in their past 94 games, an average of 3.7 runs per game.

In their past 31 home games, the Braves are 15-16 with a 3.54 ERA. They’ve scored two or fewer runs in 10 of their past 24 home games.

Yep, that’s mediocrity. Or worse. In the eighth inning Monday night, far worse. Wild pitches, missed signals, a botched double play, a passed ball on a third strike … it was ugly in the eighth, no doubt.

It was that kind of night. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez shows his frustration during an ugly eighth inning as the Dodgers build a 6-1 lead Monday.

It was that kind of night. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez shows his frustration during an ugly eighth inning as the Dodgers build a 6-1 lead Monday.

And so, the Braves are 2-10 with a .237 batting average, 4.50 ERA and 31 runs scored in their past 12 games, including 0-4 with a 5.03 ERA and nine runs scored in four games against the Dodgers during that span. Fortunately, the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg came calling in the Braves’ first series after their 0-8 road trip.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the Nats were followed by the Dodgers, who are in town for three more games after winning 6-2 in Monday night’s series opener. The Braves are 0-4 with a 5.03 ERA in four games against the Dodgers this season, after going 1-3 with a .214 batting average and 5.82 ERA in the four-game division series last October.

After getting 12 hits in an 8-4 loss in a July 29 series opener at Dodger Stadium, the Braves in their their past three games against the Dodgers have hit .214 and scored a total of five runs.

Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward have been hitting recently, but seldom have all three produced in the same game. Meanwhile most other key members of the lineup have slumped. The story of the Braves’ season, really, when it comes to offense. They’ve almost never  had more than a couple of key guys hot at the same time, and even more rarely have they been able to produce multiple hits with runners in scoring position when they need them most.

The team had fashioned itself as having power up and down the lineup? They really don’t. At least that power hasn’t been present up and down lineups they’ve run out there most nights this season. Their bench has been unproductive, they frequently go several days or longer between homers, and they’re a poor situational hitting team.

But you all know that by now.

As much as B.J. Upton has been the primary target for criticism since Dan Uggla was released, the Braves have several other hitters, both lineup regulars and bench guys, struggling lately. For example:

Chris Johnson is 14-for-60 (.233) with no homers, three walks and 19 strikeouts in his past 15 games.

Evan Gattis is  8-for-43 (.186) with no homers, two walks and 14 strikeouts in his past 11 games.

Andrelton Simmons is expected back in the lineup Tuesday or Wednesday after recovering the sprained ankle he sustained at Seattle a week ago. He’s 7-for-51 (.137) in his past 16 games, with a .228 on-base percentage and .196 slugging percentage.

Ramiro Pena is 10-for-44 (.227) with no extra-base hits, no RBIs, five walks and 13 strikeouts in his past 28 games, and has four errors in his past 22 games.

Ryan Doumit is 4-for-30 (.133) with no extra-base hits, two RBIs, three walks and nine strikeouts in his past 23 games.

The aforementioned B.J. Upton is 30-for-134 with one homer, seven RBIs, 13 walks and 51 strikeouts in his past 34 games, and when he didn’t strike out Monday it was only the second game in which he didn’t have a strikeout in the past 33 games  in which he’s batted.

And as well as Heyward has played for the past couple of months, with the Dodgers in town it’ll be interesting to see if he can put together a good series, because no team has frustrated him quite as regularly as Dodger Blue.

In 28 career regular-season games against the Dodgers, Heyward has hit .158 (16-for-101) with three extra-base hits (no home runs), six RBIs, 33 strikeouts, a .259 OBP and a .198 slugging percentage.

He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Monday in his first game against them in 2014, after missing the series at Dodger Stadium with a strained back.

• Attendance decline: The Braves had consecutive nationally televised games on ESPN Sunday and Monday against the rival Nationals and the glitzy Dodgers, a pair of first-place opponents. For those games, the Braves drew 18,191 on Sunday and 20,053. Anyone tuning in on ESPN for most of Monday’s game heard what sounded like a library in the background. Or a mausoleum.

Average home attendance is down by more than 2,000 for the Braves in their first season as a sort of lame-duck Atlanta team. That is, in their first season since they announced in November a planned move north to Cobb County in 2017.

A disappointing overall team featuring a bland and frustrating offense is, in my opinion, even more responsible for the attendance decline than the pending move to Cobb. But I have no way of proving that. I just know what I see on the field and at the ballpark, and what I hear from fans.

Anyway, the Braves currently rank 17th in majors in average home attendance (29,160), which would be their lowest rank in more than a decade. They ranked 13th (31,465) in 2013, 15th (29,878) in 2012, 15th (30,037) in 2011, 13th (30,989) in 2010, 15th (29,304) in 2009, 14th (31,269) in 2008, 14th (33,891) in 2007, 14th (31,881) in 2006, 16th (31,514) in 2005 and 16th (29,399) in 2004.

As for those sparse crowds the past two nights, it shouldn’t have been too great s surprise, given the dreadful road trip coupled with the annual drop-off that occurs every year in Atlanta attendance for Sunday night through Thursday night games once the kids return to school — more so than any other town where I’ve noticed any similar pattern. Why is that?

I realize we have traffic as bad or worse than any city in America, but I don’t get why, for instance, a Sunday night game against the team’s biggest division rival draws such a smaller crowd here than it does in other cities.

I mean, kids go to school at the same time in Atlanta area schools as they do in other cities, right? Traffic getting to the ballpark on a Sunday scare people from coming? Atlantans just like to get to bed earlier on Sunday night than baseball fans in other cities? Honestly, I’m just asking, because I don’t get that one.

And this particular Sunday game followed a win against the Nats the night before, which had reduced Washington’s lead to 3 ½ games in the division. Again, I’m not arguing that the Braves should’ve packed the place. I know how badly they played on the road, as I was sitting in the pressbox watching each of those eight games.

And I know how annoying it must have been for those who sat through a 3-hour, 41-minute rain delay on Saturday before the first pitch, in a game that went extra innings and ended at 2:30 in the morning. Again, I was there, I know. (And I didn’t even have to sit outside in the rain; I commend you folks that stuck around all night, because I don’t know that I would’ve had the patience if I didn’t have to be there.)

But what’s the deal with the school-night drop-off in attendance in Atlanta every year? Why so much more extreme than other markets? That’s one I’ve always wondered about, even when I was covering the Marlins in the late ‘90s and would come to Atlanta and see the dramatic difference in crowd size for mid-week games.

• Tonight’s matchup: It’ll be two guys who’ve struggled mightily in recent weeks when Mike Minor faces the Dodgers’ Dan Haren, although Haren won last week when Minor was sitting around waiting to pitch again after having his rotation turn skipped.

Minor makes his first start since Aug. 1, after going 2-3 with a 7.33 ERA and .357 opponents’ average in his past 10 starts while allowing 12 homers in 54 innings. He has an 8.71 ERA and .400 opponents’ average in his past four starts, allowing 38 hits and 20 runs in 20 2/3 innings in that stretch including four homers in 11 2/3 innings over his past two starts.

The lefty has a 7.58 ERA and .409 opponents’ average in his past four home starts, with 38 hits allowed in 19 innings including six homers. He won his last home start against the Marlins on July 27, allowing eight hits and three runs including two homers.

The Braves and Minor are hoping his past performance against the Dodgers continues: He’s 1-1 with 2.32 ERA in five career regular-season starts against them, none this season. Minor also pitched well and got the win in the Braves’ only victory in the 2014 division series against the Dodgers, when he allowed eight hits and only one run in 6 1/3 innings.

Against Minor, A.J. Ellis is 4-for-10 with a homer, Adrian Gonzalez is 3-for-5 with a homer, Yasiel Puig is 1-for-3, and Matt Kemp is 2-for-11.

Haren is 1-5 with a 7.92 ERA and .300 opponents’ average in his past  six starts. He snapped a five-start skid Wednesday against the Angels when he allowed just three hits and one run with no walks in 7 1/3 innings. The right-hander had lasted between 4 and 5 1/3 innings in each of his previous five starts while allowing 36 total hits and 26 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings (10.03 ERA).

Haren is 5-6 with a 4.99 ERA in 13 road starts, nearly a run higher than his 4.09 ERA at home.

He was 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in three games  (two starts) against the Braves in 2013, when Haren was with the Nationals for one season. Those were his only games against the Braves since 2010, when he split the season with the Angels and Diamondbacks.

Against Haren, B.J. Upton is 10-for-36 with five homers and 13 strikeouts, Doumit is 3-for-14 with two homers, Justin Upton is 2-for-9, Gerald Laird is 1-for-12, Johnson is 1-for-7, and Gattis and Emilio Bonifacio are both 1-for-6. Heyward is 0-for-5.

Here’s one from a few years back by Alberta Cross. Good stuff. Listen to it  here.

“CITY WALLS” by Alberta Cross

Alberta Cross

Alberta Cross

Well all people hanging around
Well all people ghouling around
We were city ghosts
We just follow ’cause we are just people Yeah, city walls are growing
How will I find my way out?
We were wasted life’s in the city
Where a million people stole my way Where have we gone?
I’m staying around
Where have you gone?
I’m sticking around

I’m going inbound inside the city walls
Inbound, inside the city walls
It’s getting kinda mystic
Going inbound

Yeah, city walls are growing
How will I find my way out?
We were wasted life’s in the city
Where a million of people stole my way

Yeah, city walls are growing
How will I find my way out?
We were wasted life’s in the city
Where a million of people stole my way

1485 comments
Old_Man
Old_Man

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/change-is-the-name-of-the-game-in-mlbcoms-latest-top-100-prospects-list?ymd=20140727&content_id=86397474&vkey=news_mlb

Giving 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and so on down the line, below are the teams' ranks in terms of "prospect points."

Cubs/8/520

Twins/6/459

Pirates/7/345

Red Sox/6/332

Astros/6/254

Dodgers/3/249

Rockies/5/245

Mariners/3/201

Rangers/5/194

Mets/5/183

Marlins/3/182

D-backs/5/176

Padres/4/172

Phillies/3/158

Nationals/3/156

Orioles/2/151

Royals/5/149

Indians/2/148

Cardinals/2/143

Blue Jays/4/143

Reds/2/136

Braves/3/90

White Sox/2/90

Yankees/2/56

Giants/1/50

Brewers/1/48

Angels/1/11

A's/1/9

Tigers/0/0

Rays/0/0

DS1
DS1

Tony Stewart needs to go to prison for manslaughter.  Everybody else on the track saw/missed Ward and the only guy on the track that put him into the wall hits and kills him on the next lap around???

As they would say in the wild, wild west.  We'll have the trial tomorrow, and hang him the next day!

noleee
noleee

i don't know if it is a gator/noles thing but the guy has never made a comment to me that was not an out of the blue passive aggressive slam that had nothing to do with anything going on at the time


tony_austin
tony_austin

The last time the Braves were 1 game over .500 was June 22 (38-37), then they won 11 of 12 including 9 in a row.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

Anyone else note the irony of maggotman complaining about a guy who was complaining about the length of posts?

noleee
noleee

@noleeeThen you should love this Braves team ,they are making your preferred out at a record pace, I know by SABR Metrics a strikeout is preferred over a one pitch out , but I guess I don;t get the excitement of the strike out...Buschleague


see that is just crap, nowhere have I ever indicated it was my preferred out.and comments like that add nothing to a discussion

MFin04
MFin04

So 5.0 games back in the division. 2.5 games back in the much more crowded Wild Card.  So will this team make the playoffs?

noleee
noleee

hitting is its own thing that often defies logic

some awkward guys hit up a  storm, some smooth high contact guys are terrible

it defies athleticism, many of the most athletic players drafted never learn to hit

it is an art not a science

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Old_Man Kind of shows you do not need to keep prospects to be successful ,The A'S and Angels have the best records ,and the Cubs have the most prospects.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Old_Man Interesting.  I know it's not exactly scientific anyway, but it would be interesting to see what such a list would look like if, instead of prospects, they looked at players under 26 or something.  

pbond3
pbond3

@Rick_C 

Oakland is similar to Braves in that they've been to playoffs 7 times in that time frame, and been bounced out in 1st round 6 times. In spite of having best record in MLB this year, their dismal playoff record is what led BB to trade for Lester. Oakland looks like a championship team to me.

MFin04
MFin04

@DS1 Do we need to make a rule that says you can't get out of your car and run around the track, because you might be hit and killed by a car!?!

noleee
noleee

@DS1

i think that is ridiculous, guy walked out into the middle of a damn car race

car right in fron of tony barely missed him iirc

MFin04
MFin04

@DS1 Nah the dude who got out of the car is at fault. Just plain dumb. Suicided himself.

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

@noleee well, he turned into the proper writing police a few days ago and got pretty wacko about it. i think it's a meds issue. he needs to just keep it simple and do what i do. be negative and blame management when things don't go well.....all of this with minimal understanding of the game itself

Rick_C
Rick_C

This is about Devin Mesoraco, but enlightened me of something mildly interesting - Javy Lopez had the greatest offensive increase ever from one season to the next (by wRC+).  Pendleton also made the top 10.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@noleee Go back and read your post about 44 minutes ago, maybe I took your comment out of context.If so accept my apology for my crap comment.

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

How bout this--cause the Nats have agency in all this.

How many wins will it take to win the east?

MFin04
MFin04

@Rick_C This is still a team with a good deal of talent, and Simmons should be back in the lineup in the next day or two. It can’t be as bad as it’s been, because they’re playing like the worst team in baseball, and they aren’t the worst team in baseball. The NL East race isn’t “over” yet, since the Nationals and Braves still have six more head-to-head games, Washington hasn’t played particularly well either and Atlanta can’t keep playing this badly for the rest of the season. It’s close, though. It sure seems close.

MFin04
MFin04

@Rick_C Braves, right now, are basically a .500 team at 60-59. Their run differential is -3 after losing to the Dodgers 4-2 on Tuesday night. Do you know about Base Runs? You should know about Base Runs, which basically attempts to strip away some of the noise that can appear in actual run totals — things like sequencing, for example — to give a context-neutral accounting of expected performance. Base Runs pegged the Braves at 58-60 heading into Tuesday’s game, two games under .500. Pythagenpat has them at being .500. In reality, they are one game over .500. What this all says is that this isn’t really a performance that’s out of the realm of expectations. They look like an average team, and they’re playing like an average team.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@noleee Back too your article you shared about arm injuries, batters are facing pitchers who are throwing at higher velocities than in the past. One explanation for increase in strikeouts,and in some cases the increase in arm injuries to pitchers,

ncscoots
ncscoots

@noleee

That's difficult to get across, sometimes, even to folks who understand how hard it is to hit a baseball thrown in anger. Folks who don't understand even that, well, you got no chance to make that point.

"Just change your swing, dammit!" :-)

Double down
Double down

Early reports mentioned that TS accelerated past the guy and drivers know that type of race car fish tails a bit when goosed like that. Did TS intentionally induce some swerve to try to clip the guy? I don't know the merit of that argument, have not heard if it is part of the investigation.

_Murph_
_Murph_

@noleee @DS1 He'll lose millions in the civil suit brought by the family... not justice, but it'll sting.

noleee
noleee

@Buschleaguer @noleee

ok Busch, I apologize, I left out the word "fewer" and there is no way you could know that, so I see where you were coming from

Ido prefer fewer Ks, I just don't think they are as big a deal as many here seem to

noleee
noleee

@_Murph_ @noleee @DS1

no need for "justice"  aas far as i saw

thats the whole thing nowdays, everything is about cocooning folks from any dander and sueing someone else for your own stupidity

incredibly stupid , extremely dangerous thing he did

why should anybody else have to pay for his idiocy?

Scott is gonna carry that around with him till he dies  as it is

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

@_Murph_ @noleee @DS1 TS is a hothead and could have handled it differently. doubt they will justify any criminal charges but a judge will allow a civil suit to move forward

MFin04
MFin04

@HugoZHackenbush @MFin04 I dunno. I never understood what that discussion was all about. So maybe so. But that's what he was referencing.

MFin04
MFin04

@noleee @_Murph_ @DS1 The guy was walking on a dirt track pointing his fingers at racecars as they sped by. Not a bright move. If anyone should get in trouble it should be that guy...for endangering all the other drivers.

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Hotheads generally do stupid stuff that brings harm to themselves and others...like running after a race car.

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Always hated it, scoots. Preferred thowin'. Had my foot in the bucket and there ain't no tweaking that.

Quicherbichin
Quicherbichin

@ncscoots there's a reason that hitting a pitched ball is the single most difficult thing to do in all of sports, I'd think.

DS1
DS1

@MFin04 

And EVERYBODY missed him except for Tony, the hot head!  Manslaughter, I say! 

AND, it was on a caution lap. Everybody had slowed down.

Tony Stewart is an arse hole, and needs to pay for this crime.

ncscoots
ncscoots

@WoodyWoodward

High-school pheenom who hit like a girl in college. Don't be telling me about "lots of things harder". :-)

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Well if you're saying he hit him on purpose, why not charge him with murder?

MFin04
MFin04

@DS1 @MFin04 Why should he have to miss him!?! The dude shouldn't be running around on a car racing track!?! He had no reason to suspect that a dude would be running around on the track!!

DS1
DS1

@WoodyWoodward Minimally, it was reckless disregard for another's life.  It was not premeditated, and he was probably thinking I'll show that guy for pointing the finger at me by slinging dirt on him.  He got way closer than the other drivers did, and he's supposed to be the pro out there.

DS1
DS1

@MFin04 @DS1 Bullshyt, why did everyone else miss him then.

Quicherbichin
Quicherbichin

@noleee well.. there can only be one explanation for his comment... Clint said it best... " A man's got to know his limitations....."

_DAP_
_DAP_

@DS1 @MFin04 everyone else missed him, because he waited until stewart came around and ran out in front. there was a confrontation between a man and a car, and the man initiated it. there is no debating that fact. stewart maybe could have avoided him, but i dont think any of us can ever possibly know that for sure.

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Not like the guy was a potted plant on the track, Wayne. He was runnin around.

Quicherbichin
Quicherbichin

@DS1 so basically, Wayne... the issue is that you don't like Tony Stewart.

DS1
DS1

@Quicherbichin @DS1 That's beside the point.  He was the ONLY guy on the track that said he didn't see him.  He was the ONLY racer on the track that got up that close to him.  AND, he was the only guy out there that caused the accident to start with.

He's the pro, he should have been more careful.  And now, a 20 year old is dead because he's an arse hole.

_DAP_
_DAP_

@DS1 @Quicherbichin im sorry for the family, but the 20 year old is dead because of something HE did, not because of something somebody else did.