The Braves Ill-Timed Offensive Collapse

You might not have known it from their NLDS performance, but the Braves had one of the NL’s best offenses in 2010. They certainly bookended it in the wrong way, scoring 3.7 runs per game in April and 3.4 runs per game in September/October. But from May through August they absolutely crushed the ball, scoring 5.03 runs per game during those 109. Unfortunately for them, it was the April and September versions that showed up in October. That resulted in just runs in four postseason games, forcing a first-round exit. It wasn’t hard to see coming.

Looking at the Braves’ runs per game throughout the season, it might appear that they were a decently consistent team. After overcoming their poor start they stayed between 4.5 and 5.0 runs per game, normally trending towards the 4.5 side. Had they scored those 4.5 runs per game against San Francisco we would have had a different series. But that, of course, is a fallacious mode of thought.

As Matt wrote before the postseason began, 2010 is not a constant. Many things change during the course of a six-month, 162-game season. That renders teams completely different at the start than at the finish. For some teams this is a good thing; the Phillies, for instance, went from a team that couldn’t buy a hit into one of the top offensive teams. The Braves went in the opposite direction. The reasons for this are pretty clear.

When the team went on its four-month tear it had its best hitters in prime lineup spots. Here’s how the top hitters fared in those torrid months.

There were ups and downs for sure, but there was always another guy to pick up the slack when another one slumped. When Troy Glaus went into his free fall, the team picked up Derrek Lee to fill the void. Yet that didn’t help much. Chipper Jones got injured. Martin Prado limped through September. The team just wasn’t clicking as it did earlier in the season. The September performances, while in the heat of a playoff race, were not at all impressive.

When the infield crumbled, so did the team. Omar Infante did a good job replacing Jones at first, but fell hard in September. Prado didn’t help matters by playing hurt. That left Brooks Conrad to fill in. He had a good season as a utility guy, but he gets exposed in regular duty. At first it was his arm strength, which necessitated a move to second. Then it was his Game 3 performance. Lee did his best, but he simply could not carry so many ineffective and injured players.

The final point against the Braves was the pitching they faced. They might have averaged those 4.56 runs per game during the season, and their peak might have suggested an even better performance was possible. But that all changes when facing Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner. Those four allow far fewer runs than the average pitcher the Braves faced during the regular season. So it wasn’t only injuries and ineffectiveness that halted the Braves’ season. It also had something to do with running into a string of excellent starting pitchers.

As we’ve seen so many times in the past, the Braves became exposed when injuries arose. Maybe September would have been different had Prado and Jones been around. Maybe the team would have fared better against the Giants with those two in the lineup rather than Conrad and a slumping Infante. But injuries happen. The Braves just didn’t have the depth to overcome all of them. It certainly was a sad ending to a very good season.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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Trevor
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Trevor
5 years 7 months ago

Yeah, it was pretty disappointing, because the team showed so much heart. The outfield, besides Heyward, was also a black hole for most of the season, which didn’t help things. Things I’m looking forward to next season:

Heyward’s emergence as one of the best players in the game
Freddie Freeman’s rookie year
Mike Minor joining the rotation

and other things. It’s still a good time to be a Braves fan.

Trevor
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Trevor
5 years 7 months ago

One more thing I’m looking forward to: Melky Cabrera being non-tendered. Dude pretty much screwed us over all season.

Anon21
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Anon21
5 years 7 months ago

Damn, I wish they would call a live press conference to non-tender Melky. It would be the media event of the offseason!

bowie
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bowie
5 years 7 months ago

“Screwed us over” — are you implying Cabrera was not trying to play well?

When a player doesn’t play very well, and nobody was really expecting him too, it makes more sense to blame the management for feelings of screwedness, no?

Captain
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Captain
5 years 7 months ago

yea i dont think Melky himself screwed you guys over, more like whoever expected him to contribute

Creek Johnson
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Creek Johnson
5 years 7 months ago

I can’t wait for this nontender!

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
5 years 7 months ago

Bowie, I had exceptionally low expectations from Melky Cabrera entering the year, and he still somehow underperformed them all. I thought he’d be a semi-regular who performed at a below average pace. Instead, he was nearly a full-time starter who performed a below REPLACEMENT level pace. I’m sure the Braves expected something closer to the Melky Cabrera from 2009 than the 2008 version, perhaps even better since he only turned 26 during the season.

I’d say his sub-par play was perhaps a bigger problem for the Braves than the injuries to Chipper Jones and Martin Prado.

phoenix
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phoenix
5 years 7 months ago

that trade was terrible for both sides. vasquez fell to pieces for the yankees and melky collapsed for the braves. management fail all around…

glassSheets
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glassSheets
5 years 7 months ago

The Braves did prety well in the minor league portion of the trade. Melky was hardly the centerpiece return for the Braves.

Jeff Reese
Member
5 years 7 months ago

Yep. If anything, Melky was a throw-in; Arodys Vizcaino was the primary piece.

stratobill
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

“management fail all around”….. Huh?

How exactly is the Yankee management responsible for Javier Vazquez going from great in 2009 to lousy in 2010? And how is the Braves management responsible for Cabrera going from an OPS of .752 to .671 in 2010?

Sounds more like a couple of players who had difficult years than management screwing up, though I did think the Braves were crazy for trading Vazquez last winter. As it turns out, they were smarter than me.
(surprise!)

B N
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B N
5 years 7 months ago

Well, was still a bit of a management fail. Ignoring the hindsight issue, the Braves would have been smarter to target a guy like Mike Cameron and if they were going to trade Vasquez they could have gotten better prospects (maybe Montero even, potentially). Though if that had happened, Cameron would have randomly broken down and they miss the postseason. But whatever. Process vs results.

ABravesFan
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ABravesFan
5 years 7 months ago

Mike Dunn looks to be a decent part of the bullpen (or trade cheap) for years. Arodys Vizcaino is of course the main haul for Vasquez. Melky had some moments with his patented bloop hits but neither his bat nor defense impressed me. It’s almost no doubt that he will be non-tendered. I do hope the Braves hold down to Matt Diaz, however.

Z2
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Z2
5 years 7 months ago

Depends how you define decent. Dunn had what 17 BB in 18 IP? 5.7 BB9 down in the minors? That won’t cut it.

Phantom Stranger
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Phantom Stranger
5 years 7 months ago

It was apparent early in the season that Melky was toast and should have been cut. I have a feeling the Braves were unwilling to recognize him as a sunk cost and release him. He got very fat after being traded and was not even an asset in the field.

vin
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vin
5 years 7 months ago

As someone who has watched him his entire career, I can tell you Melky was fat before he ever got to Atlanta.

Phantom Stranger
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Phantom Stranger
5 years 7 months ago

He actually got fatter from his Yankee days. He was never a svelte man, but he easily gained 20 pounds of fat since his halcyon days in Yankee Stadium. That does not sound like much, but at the top professional sport levels that is the equivalent of going on a bender.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
5 years 7 months ago

Frank Wren needs to adjust his paradigm for acquiring players. During the best offensive months for the Braves, they were anchored by patient hitters, who drew a lot of walks and forced the opposition to throw a lot of pitches.

Trading for Alex Gonzalez and Rick Ankiel added a .291 and a .324 OBP to the line-up, sending out guys who have decent career OBPs (.364 for Escobar, .358 for Gregor Blanco). The Braves’ power deficiency certainly did inhibit their run scoring, but they were still able to score at a solid pace by avoiding making outs. Obviously, losing Chipper’s .381 OBP and Prado’s .350 OBP really hurt too, but the Braves found ways to make themselves worse over the course of the season.

Jason B
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Jason B
5 years 7 months ago

Yeah, the bottom of that lineup (a mish-mash of Gonzalez, Ankiel, Conrad, McLouth, and the pitcher slot) is pretty execrable. Not that Timmy, Cain, and Sanchez are bad pitchers in the least, but that half-a-lineup can make even an ordinary pitcher look awfully good.

(Fully realizing that injuries played a key role in how that poor lineup took shape, of course.)

ToastyFire
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ToastyFire
5 years 7 months ago

You might have a point if Escobar did anything offensively for the team this year. He was almost -7 runs. And Blanco hardly played enough to really do anything. Ankiel was replacing McLouth/Melky, not Blanco.

Those two trades had no impact on the Braves scoring less runs. Losing one of their best hitters and the others slumping at the end is why they scored less.

Nitram Odarp
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Nitram Odarp
5 years 7 months ago

Yunel was actually only -1.4 runs offensively for the Blue Jays, while Gonzalez was a dismal -6.4 for the Braves.

Phantom Stranger
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Phantom Stranger
5 years 7 months ago

I think the pressure of the pennant race really affected Gonzalez once he got on the Braves. He was very comfortable in Toronto just playing for his own stats as the Jays are never in serious contention. Even his fielding got worse once he was on the Braves, as he made several errors he normally does not make.

bstar
Member
bstar
5 years 7 months ago

The Braves need to stop thinking they can solve their obvious offensive woes by going thru the drive-thru and ordering off the dollar menu. Garret Anderson, Ankiel, Melky, for God’s sakes…remember how hard they tried to sign the rotting corpse of Ken Griffey, Jr.? Suck it up and make an investment in a proven offensive weapon in the outfield and fix one of the holes in the offense.

B N
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B N
5 years 7 months ago

The issue is not that they’re going for the value menu. They just manage to pick all the wrong items. There are cheap players that are far more useful than the ones they end up with.

Steve
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Steve
5 years 7 months ago

After watching a season of Giants baseball I thought the Braves were actually a pretty good offense … all the Gmen pitchers were on except Romo and the Braves were only shut out once. I thought considering the injuries and the bad calls and Brooks they played gutsy baseball and refused to fade.

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