May 2013

Braves Notebook: A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Braves have not been able to sustain the success they enjoyed over the first two weeks of the season. It’s perfectly understandable that a 10-game winning streak right out of the gate would have a way of raising the overall expectations on a team.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, there have been individual slow starts, injuries and overall inconsistencies that have kept the team from being able to settle into a rhythm over the past four weeks.

A series of unfortunate events…

Atlanta is 9-14 since starting off the season 13-2. Despite a rough stretch of baseball that began after the 10-game winning streak (from April 4 – April 13), the Braves have only lost three series this season. The most recent was dropping 3-of-4 to the Giants. Atlanta was swept by the Detroit Tigers to close out a prior 10-game road trip – one which began with losing 3-of-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Additionally, since their season long winning streak was snapped, the Braves have won back-to-back games just four times in their last 25 contests.

With all of that said, the Braves are still on pace to go 94-68 in 2013.

No team in Major League Baseball has played more road games than the Braves (24) this season, and only six teams in the entire National League have even played 20 or more away games through May 13.

Of those six NL teams, only two teams – the St. Louis Cardinals (14-7) and Pittsburgh Pirates (11-9)  – have better road records than Atlanta (13-11). The Phillies (10-11), Rockies (9-11) and  Marlins (6-16) are the other clubs to play 20 or more games away from home thus far in 2013.

It’s also worth noting that the Braves will have a slight home field advantage in the second half, with 35 of those 67 games taking place at Turner Field. This includes the final seven contests (3 vs. Brewers & 4 vs. Phillies) to close out the regular season.

What do these strikeouts mean, really?

Manager Fredi Gonzalez has gone on record as saying he is not worried about the quantity of the strikeouts his offense is piling up, but rather the situation in which they are occurring.

The general tone when answering the incessant questions about strikeouts will likely reach a higher level of frustration for both Gonzalez and the players as the season rolls on.

However, the strikeouts simply aren’t going to go away. And neither are the questions.

Atlanta has struck out 351 times, a total that is second only to Houston (389) in all of baseball. The offense has 16 contests in which it has fanned 10 or more times and  is averaging 9.2 SO/G this season.

Let’s take this a step further and look at the strikeout numbers in key situations. After all, this is what Gonzalez is stressing.

How many of these strikeouts are taking place when the Braves have run scoring opportunities?

Through 38 games this season, the Braves have struck out 79 times in 255 at-bats with runners in scoring position. That is the highest strikeout total with RISP in the National League.

As a result, Atlanta (104) has produced the fourth fewest amount of runs scored by any NL team with RISP. Only the Dodgers (98), Pirates (98), Cubs (95) and Marlins (86) have cashed in fewer times with RISP. In case you’re wondering, league average is 112.

It gets a little worse with two outs and RISP. Ranking them against just their 14 Nation League opponents, the Braves are hitting .180 (14th) with 34 runs (12th) with 46 strikeouts – the most in the league.

Even if one was looking solely at the situational stats when it comes to strikeouts, it leaves Atlanta hitters with some work to do.