Posts Tagged ‘Padres

14
Apr
10

Paging the Braves offense: We still have a problem

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.

Amen.

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.

Ouch.

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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04
Aug
09

Frank Wren… good for the Braves?

Braves General Manager Frank Wren

Braves General Manager Frank Wren

If there’s one thing for certain that Frank Wren has done for the Braves, it is he has gotten fans talking again.

Braves fans have often gained the reputation, fairly or unfairly, of being indifferent and not vocal.

Chalk it up to the unprecedented success that the team enjoyed in the 1990’s, or to the fact that the fans had grown accustomed to former General Manager John Schuerholz’s operations over the years.

Saavy. Professional. Tight-lipped.

Brilliant.

So, whether you are pro or anti-Wren and his personnel decisions, there is no question that the man had impossible shoes to fill.

Legendary shoes.

John Schuerholz was a visionary. A true architect who knew exactly the type of team he wanted to assemble.

He originated and then solidified the Atlanta Braves blueprint that turned a fumbling franchise into an iconic one.

Schuerholz targeted the same type of personalities and looked for a certain make-up in every player. He would never sign or trade for a player who he didn’t feel could fit into Bobby Cox’s clubhouse.

No egos. No attitudes. No drama.

The Atlanta Braves became a well-oiled machine, run with the utmost class and professionalism

Schuerholz’s model worked with precision. Under him, the Braves won fourteen consecutive division titles and a World Championship.

He stressed the importance of developing a strong farm system and as a result the Braves saw many homegrown products come up within the organization and become superstars.

So, the day Schuerholz announced he was leaving his duties as Braves General Manager and taking the reigns as president of the club, many were worried about who would be his successor, and how he would fare.

Enter Frank Wren.

Wren served as Assistant General Manager to John Schuerholz for almost eight years.

Fans had hoped for a seamless transition, assuming Schuerholz’s style and technique would carry over to Wren.

However, Wren’s early tenure as Braves GM has been met with very mixed reviews, and often a great deal of criticism.

Wren lost out on some prominent free agents this past off-season.

He failed to complete a trade for then-Padres ace Jake Peavy and then let A.J. Burnett slip through his fingers and sign with the New York Yankees.

Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Wren had come to terms with former Brave and fan favorite, Rafael Furcal. It turned ugly fast when Furcal apparently reneged on the deal and ended up re-signing with Los Angeles.

The Furcal saga humiliated the organization and Wren felt the brunt of the heat.

But, it didn’t end there.

Wren was then vilified in the media for his decision to let Braves icon John Smoltz leave the organization and sign with Boston and for releasing 300-game winner and 1995 World Series MVP Tom Glavine.

Two Braves legends were shown the door and both accused the Braves of handling the situation poorly and for being unprofessional.

Unprofessional and the Braves? These were two words that were never synonymous with each other.

So, the whispers began… John Schuerholz would never let this happen on his watch.

The witch hunt for Wren began to gain steam.

The Braves were all over the media, and getting negative publicity. Even Braves players, specifically Chipper Jones, were also critical of the organization’s handling of these personnel matters.

Wren appeared to be a marked man.

Yet, despite the controversy that surrounded these moves, Wren had quietly assembled a contending team on the field.

After losing out on Peavy and Burnett, he spent the off-season feverishly rebuilding a starting rotation that was plagued with injuries in 2008.

And, his acquisitions of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami have thus far paid dividends.

Wren addressed the team’s offensive woes by aggressively pursuing a bat –Nate McLouth– and acquiring him earlier then many expected this season.

He wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a Jeff Francoeur trade, signaling the end of the underachieving but talented right fielder’s time with Atlanta.

Then, on deadline day, he added another bat in Adam LaRoche, attempting to improve the team’s power at first base heading into the stretch drive.

As a result, Wren has rebuilt a team that had lost 90 games last season and has put them back on the map and in a position to make a run at a playoff berth.

How can one not be impressed by his tireless effort, dedication and desire to make the Braves relevant again — and to bring them back on top?

Right or wrong, the debate about Frank Wren will surely rage on as the season winds down.

Regardless of what side of the fence you stand on, I think there’s one thing about Wren all Braves fans have to learn to accept.

He is not John Schuerholz.

He never will be.

And, it is not fair to compare him to a man that has done and could do no wrong in the eyes of Braves Nation.

Wren is a different personality.

Fiery. Risky. Vocal.

And, not quite nostalgic.

The team has a different leader now, with a different voice and a different style.

Whether he’s the popular choice or not, and more importantly, his longevity with the team, will ultimately be determined by how his team fares in the end.

If the Braves become winners again… Wren will become the toast of the town.




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