|Jason Heyward still has issues reaching for breaking balls|
Then again, that entire game just smacks of last September. Stellar pitching, good defense, and not a bit of timely hitting to be found. Just in innings 5-7 the Braves stranded six runners...five of them in scoring position. Not good.
But it's only one game out of 162. I keep telling myself that, and then I remind myself that just one game would have been the difference in going to the playoffs last year...or at least a one game playoff with St. Louis.
I don't want to be the negative voice out here, I really don't. I'm still picking the Braves to win the division, but scoring chances - especially in the late innings - have to be capitalized on if they are going to do that. If you have a runner at third with nobody out, and you can't even manage a sacrifice fly to push him over, then that's an issue.
If you have the bases loaded against a pitcher who is clearly getting fatigued and losing his control, and you can't manage to be patient enough to wait for a good pitch to hit...or a walk...than that's an issue.
These are the kind of issues the Braves were having last fall, and the hiring of a new hitting coach was supposed to stop that bleeding. Or...was it? Did we really make an improvement in that area?
Last year the Braves ranked 22nd in the league in team batting. Here are the numbers:
- .243 avg.
- .308 on base pct.
- .387 slg. pct.
- .695 ops.
- .252 avg.
- .319 on base pct.
- .388 slg. pct.
- .706 ops.
The concern for any fan in looking at hitting stats should be one thing, the percentage of base-runners who actually score. And that stat doesn't necessarily translate into RBI's. This can be via sacrifices, walks, errors or hits. Last year the Braves had 3552 base-runners, and only 460 them scored. That means 13% of all the men the Braves put on base actually crossed home plate.
In comparison, the White Sox had 3763 base-runners, and 485 of them scored. Which translates to...13% of their base-runners crossing home plate.
The league average is 15% in that category, so both the Braves and White Sox were below average by two full percentage points.
All things considered, it would look from appearances that the Braves have traded apples for apples,
But again, as I opened with, it's only one loss. The Braves have 161 more games to get it right, and I honestly think they can. But it's going to take more than phantom swings at tailing breaking balls from Jason Heyward, and more than warning track power from the rest of the guys in the middle of that lineup to get it done.
I just hope in September I'm not writing a column about how the Braves missed the playoffs by just one game.