It would be easy to look at Monday’s ugly 17-2 loss to the Padres and panic.
But, I won’t.
Every team over the course of a long 162-game season endures an embarrassing and lopsided loss.
It just happens.
There is often no rhyme or reason as to why, but on any given night a pitcher’s poor misfortune is an offense’s playground. For Jair Jurrjens and the Atlanta Braves, that night was Monday. They were such victims of the Padres shelling at Petco Park for San Diego’s home opener.
Personally, I am just happy the Braves got their whooping out of the way in April.
But, what’s more alarming to me is Atlanta’s proclaimed “improved” offense’s collective showing since their 16-run outburst on Opening Day against the Cubs.
I realize we are only seven games into the season, and it’s a tad early to raise the red flag, but warning signs are definitely already apparent in the Braves lineup.
Let’s take a closer look:
Lackluster at lead off : Melky Cabrera, Atlanta’s off-season “answer” for atop the batting order, is hitting a dismal .103.
If the Braves’ table setter isn’t getting on-base and creating scoring opportunities and subsequent mayhem on the base paths, the entire order is going to suffer considerably.
And so far, it has.
Middle-of-the-order misery : Free agent signee Troy Glaus, who has hit fifth in Atlanta’s order thus far, has yet to record an extra-base hit, while only batting .231.
If you factor in Glaus’s seven strikeouts and inability to produce with runners in scoring position, the magnitude of his struggles intensify.
Still in Spring Training mode : Nate McLouth had a very poor and public Spring Training.
His .118 average in Grapefruit League games warranted extra at-bats at the Minor League level while still in camp.
The season is now underway and McLouth is hitting .118 so far in games that matter.
It seems his Spring Training hiccups have transitioned into April.
So, while Atlanta exploded for 16 runs on Opening Day, they’ve managed just 19 runs in six games since.
In spite of those troublesome numbers, there have been a few positives for the Braves batting corps this season.
Martin Prado, I repeat, Martin Prado leads the National League in hitting.
Yes, that is correct. No typo here.
Brian McCann is quietly going about his usual business— boasting a .300 average.
And, Chipper Jones has produced when he’s been in the lineup.
The key word in that sentence is: when.
Jones has already battled a strained oblique and back in the early going this season, and his health and ability to stay in the lineup will figure prominently in the success of the Braves this season.
Following Tuesday’s off-day, the Braves are hitting just .230 as a team.
With the exception of Monday’s blowout loss, Atlanta has again enjoyed strong pitching from its starters.
It is easy to see many similarities and make comparisons between this year’s squad and last year’s group.
What the Braves have to do to prevent their lineup’s woes from snowballing over the course of the season is to make adjustments now and to regain the improved plate discipline that made headlines during Spring Training.
If the offense continues to sputter, Cox could look to juggle the batting order.
Glaus could be moved down and Escobar and Heyward could be moved up.
And, while I might disagree, I can’t imagine Cox putting his 20-year-old rookie into high pressured RBI situations so early into the season and his Major League career.
Only time will tell if the Braves are just getting off to their very typical April slow start, or if this lineup is in serious need of restructuring.
But, if the first week is any indication, it looks like Atlanta’s offense still has a problem.
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