Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Middle of the order is a problem for the Braves

The Braves are 2-4 in September, after going 18-11 in August.  Their pitching is fine (6th best team ERA in September), but their lineup isn't producing any runs.  They finished August strong, winning their last 4 games (outscoring opponents 37-14 in the process), but they've only hit 1 HR as a team in September. 

If they don't come out of their team-wide power slump soon, it's hard to see how they hold off the Phillies (.5 game lead, down from 3 games at the beginning of September.

When you look at their lineup, the problems are obvious, especially the middle of the order.  As an example, I'll use their 3-1 loss to the Pirates on Monday, September 6th:
  • #3 Martin Prado
    • He's having a good year (.313, 13 HR, 61 RBI) and he is a reliable .300 hitter.  He's not a prototypcial #3 hitter, and for most of the year he's hit either #1 or #2 in the lineup. 
    • They are obviously missing Chipper Jones a lot, who has owned the 3 spot in the Braves lineup for many years.  It seems like it would make more sense to put Jason Heyward at #3, but he's only 21, and his power has been erratic.
  • #4 Derrek Lee
    • Lee is a great hitter, but he's having a down year, and he has not hit a HR since he was traded to the Braves on August 19th.  Troy Glaus put up good numbers early in the season playing first, but struggled and was sent to the minors. 
    • When Glaus a few days ago, he got a chance to start at first because Lee needed a day off to rest.  It seems unlikely that either of their aging veterans will give them a lot of power between now and the end of the season.
  • #5 Matt Diaz
    • Diaz has played sporatically this season, and is hitting .240 with 7 HR and 28 RBI.
In fairness, Brian McCann was getting the day off, and he usually would be hitting in the middle of the lineup.  He is a solid, consistent hitter that they can count on, but he's not in the lineup every day.  He was the cleanup hitter most of the year, though, and it might make sense to move him back there.  They have other players who can get hot and produce runs (Jason Heyward, Alex Gonzalez), but the middle of their lineup is weak right now.

They've also tried out Eric Hinske at #5, who is also not ideal.  If Derrek Lee starts hitting, everything could fall into place, but they are in trouble if they can't get any production out of the clean-up spot.  

Their schedule is manageable for the rest of the year, with 13 of their final 22 games at home (they're 49-19 at home vs. 30-40 on the road), including their last 6 games (final series of the year is against the Phillies). 

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