Braves thrive with RISP, but homerless past 10 games

Let’s start by saying I’m at the front of the line in saying a team doesn’t need to hit a ton of home runs to have a very productive offense. Getting on base, timely hits, good situational hitting, hits with runners in scoring position – do all of those things well and you can have middle-of-the-road power and still be a strong offensive team.

But the Braves’ power outage is something else entirely. It’s gone from extreme to absurd.

They hit two homers on Opening Day, and do you know how many the Braves have  hit since? One. Yes, one.

They’ve scored just 51 runs in 14 games after Opening Day, but 51 is almost impressive when you consider the Braves have hit just .225 with one homer among their 105 hits in those 14 games.

And they open a home series Friday against the Mets, who been on a homer binge after starting the season in a power drought similar to the Braves. The Mets a staggering 19 home runs in the first six games of their current three-city trip, including 12 homers in a three-game series at Philadelphia that ended Wednesday.

To repeat, there’s been one home run for the Braves in 13 games (467 at-bats) since Opening Day. Drew Stubbs accounted for that one, on April 10 against the Cardinals.

The Braves are last in the majors with three homers, while no other team has fewer than seven homers, 17 teams have at least 15 homers, and 32 players have four or more. The Braves were last in the majors with 100 home runs last season when no other team had fewer than 120.

They’ve got one apiece from Freddie Freeman and Adonis Garcia, the two hitters the Braves hoped would combined for perhaps 35-40 homers. Freeman and Garcia each homered on Opening Day and not since.

The Braves haven’t hit a homer in their past 10 games, and they’ve still gone 4-6 with a 3.64 ERA in that span while batting .228 with 37 runs – 26 runs in four wins, 11 runs in six losses.

The thing that’s kept the offense afloat has been stringing together hits in several innings and, most importantly, getting plenty of hits with runners in scoring position in the games they’ve won.

Because while Atlanta are tied with the White Sox for next-to-last in the majors with a .218 average (ahead of only the Phillies’ .214), the Braves lead the majors with a .311 average with runners in scoring position.

Think about that. That’s a pretty startling disparity and surely not sustainable, meaning the Braves had best get their average up in situations when runners aren’t in scoring position if they hope to maintain something like that kind of pace when there are, as they say, ducks on the pond. These things always even out, at least a bit.

The Braves are last in the majors with a .184 average (53-for-288) with bases empty, and first in the majors with that .311 average (37-for-119) with runners in scoring position. That includes a majors-best .333 average (21-for-63) with RISP and two outs, with Colorado (.327) the only other team above .305.

On Friday the Braves will face a pitcher, the Mets’ Matt Harvey, who has struggled mightily with runners on base this year. Harvey’s disparity is even more severe than that of Braves’ hitters with runners on and bases empty: He’s limited hitters to .189 (7-for-37) with bases empty, but been torched at a .464 (13-for-28) clip with runners on, including .538 (7-for-13) with runners in scoring position.

Nick Markakis and Tyler Flowers have paced the Braves in both RISP categories, each batting .571 with runners in scoring position.  Markakis is 8-for-14 with runners in scoring position including 5-for-10 with RISP and two outs. Flowers is 4-for-7 with RISP including 3-for-4 in two-out situations.

A.J. Pierzynski is also 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position and prospect Mallex Smith is 3-for-10.

Plenty of other Braves have done plenty in fewer opportunities with runners in scoring position, guys such as rookie Daniel Castro (2-for-4), Drew Stubbs (2-for-4), Gordon Beckham (2-for-6).

Meanwhile, the Braves have the majors’ best RISP team average while three of their hitters who rank among the top four on the team in number of RISP at-bats are getting pitched around a lot in those plate appearances and haven’t done much when they haven’t been walked.

Freddie Freeman is 3-for-13 RISP, with four walks, two hit-by-pitches and five strikeouts, and Adonis Garcia is 3-for-14 with five walks and six strikeouts.

And then there’s Erick Aybar, who’s been arguably the worst overall hitter in the majors so far this season. He’s 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, with no walks and three strikeouts.

• I’ll close with this one from a guy who was a bona fide musical genius, arguably the greatest pop-culture icon of the past 35 years, and an artist who had a profound affect on my falling deeply in love with music of all kinds. One of my heroes, and I don’t mind saying I got misty-eyed last night listening to his music after the shocking news of his death. The one, the only, Prince Rogers Nelson. RIP, Prince.

“PURPLE RAIN” by Prince

Rest in peace, Prince.

Rest in peace, Prince.

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
I only wanted to see you
Bathing in the purple rain

I never wanted to be your weekend lover
I only wanted to be some kind of friend
Baby, I could never steal you from another
It’s such a shame our friendship had to end

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
I only wanted to see you
Underneath the purple rain

Honey, I know, I know
I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out
For something new, that means you too

You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind
I think you better close it
And let me guide you to the purple rain

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
If you know what I’m singing about up here
C’mon, raise your hand

Purple rain, purple rain
I only want to see you
Only want to see you
In the purple rain


View Comments 0