Offense Still a Problem for Braves? Nope.

Written by Kent on February 22, 2010 – 3:33 pm

As fall gave way to the holiday season last year, Braves fans had visions of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay dancing in their heads. It quickly became apparent, however, that those star outfielders couldn’t be squeezed into Atlanta’s budget any more than David Wells could fit into his high school uniform. Even Adam LaRoche, who provided such a lift after his return to Atlanta late last season, managed to price himself out of the Braves’ plans with his original asking price (reported to have been 10 million per year).

Other power bats, such as Washington’s Josh Willingham and Florida’s Dan Uggla, were rumored to have been on the Braves’ radar. In the end, however, the winter offensive additions were Troy Glaus, who missed most of last season due to injury, and part-time slugger, Eric Hinske.

Not quite what most Atlanta fans were hoping for, and it’s understandable if you’re a bit underwhelmed. That said, Braves faithful need not lose any winks. The ’10 Bravos will plate plenty of runs to support their outstanding pitching.

How can I be so sure? Because General Manager, Frank Wren, didn’t need to overhaul this lineup over the winter. Many fans have been waiting for the Braves to fix a problem that hasn’t existed since the middle of last season.

From June 28 until the last week of the season (a stretch of 82 games; more than half a season), Atlanta not only posted the best ERA and best record in the NL… they also led the league in runs scored.

It wasn’t a fluke that Atlanta began punishing opposing pitchers when they did. The offensive explosion began when the Braves dumped 3 tons of dead weight from the lineup in favor of highly productive hitters. Jordan Schafer – playing with a fractured wrist, as it turned out – was an automatic out through most of April and May. However, in June, he was replaced with ‘08 all-star Nate McLouth. A horribly slumping Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur gave way to Martin Prado and Matt Diaz, who each hit better than .300 and slugged in the upper .400’s.

Then of course, after filling the gaping potholes in the lineup, notorious late-season masher, Adam LaRoche, returned to Atlanta at the trade deadline in a swap for the light-hitting Casey Kotchman.

When the mid-season renovations were complete, Frank Wren and Co. had overhauled no less than HALF of his lineup. The Braves’ offense was modified more in the middle two months of the season than it was over the entire previous offseason.

But the Braves’ newfound offensive muscle was quite possibly the best kept secret in baseball. Many fans and national sports media types continued to talk as though this were still an offensively challenged team. It is a misconception that apparently refuses to die. For reasons I cannot fully get my arms around, fans and baseball talking heads continue to yawn in the general direction of the Atlanta lineup.

My best guess is that the Braves’ offense is underrated because it just isn’t flashy. No blazing speed; no Jose Reyes or Ichiro. No MVP candidates, such as Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols. There is no one here, with the possible exception of Jason Heyward, who will be scoring a Gatorade commercial in the near future. Nothing especially flamboyant… just a lineup full of guys who can hit.

This is a batting order stocked with hitters who, with a couple of exceptions, will likely all hit around .300. Atlanta will get at least 15 – or so – homers from EVERY position on the field, and 4 or 5 starters could launch 25 HR’s. Additionally, several Atlanta hitters could lead the league in doubles.

BOTTOM LINE: This is largely the same lineup that led the NL in runs from June 28th until the games stopped counting in late September. There have been two modifications: LaRoche and Garret Anderson give way to Troy Glaus and (in all likelihood) Jason Heyward. And I think you would be hard pressed to call that a downgrade.

So rest easy Braves nation. Contrary to popular – and ill informed – belief, offense isn’t a problem here. It hasn’t been a problem since last June. And given the strength of this pitching staff… unless Lady Luck is in a particularly bitchy mood this year, there’s a lot of fun to be had at The Ted in ’10.


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8 Responses to “Offense Still a Problem for Braves? Nope.”

  1. By Jonathan on Feb 23, 2010 | Reply

    I'm not 100% sold on the offense as of now, but I kind of find myself in that situation at the start of pretty much every season. We need a healthy Troy Glaus, I think a big portion of the offensive success hinges on that and otherwise, there's a lot of catch up and moving around to be played.

  2. By Kent C. on Feb 23, 2010 | Reply

    There is room for improvement on even the second half of last year. Frank Wren recognized that as well. But, this is an extremely balanced attack. Every single position 1-8 will hit with pop and drive in runs.

    Troy Glaus is important, no doubt. But if Glaus doesn't get it done, that production could just as easily come in the form of a rebound year from Chipper or a Ryan Braun-like rookie season from Heyward.

    If any ONE of those 3 guys (Glaus, Chippper, Heyward) comes through in a big way, we're in good shape. If at least 2 of those 3 guys come up big, this team will be machine. Here's hoping. In any event, I think the offense will be fine.

  3. By UsseryChris on Feb 24, 2010 | Reply

    with the offence..im feel pretty good..we do need glaus to have a big season, and i hope heyward can come out like chipper did his rookie season.. but overal..just not sure about glaus im very comfortable with the braves lineup..but hell..woudlnt it be nice to have the glaus of old for a season? lol

  4. By Kent C. on Feb 24, 2010 | Reply

    A big year from Glaus would be huge, obviously. It's just a question of health, and right now, that isn't even a question. The only thing is… will he STAY healthy all year. If he does, there should be great things in store for this offense.

    Again though, if Glaus doesn't stay healthy, there are a couple of things that could atone for that.

    The Braves led the NL in scoring for those 82 runs WITHOUT Chipper contributing much of anything. He did all his damage in the first half and was non-existent in the 2nd half. So a bounce-back year from Chipper would be just as meaningful as a big year from Glaus.

    Again, if either of those things happen, we're in good shape. If BOTH Glaus and Chipper come through, we're in GREAT shape. And Heyward is another guy who could wind up being an impact guy right off the bat (thinking of Ryan Braun's rookie season a few years ago).

  5. By LarryS on Feb 24, 2010 | Reply

    This offense is vastly improved from the beginning of '09. If they put up the production similar to the last few months of '09 this team could be deadly. We no longer have question marks in the back of the bullpen (Soriano and Gonzalez blew 11 saves). The bullpen and rotation may be the deepest in all of baseball this year. Decent run production could lead to a huge year and dare I say it, maybe a trip back to October.

  6. By doug on Feb 26, 2010 | Reply

    All things point to a great year. I to think we have improved our offense. The pitching looks great, We will miss Javy , but we gained some offense now, and pitching in the near future with this trade. Bring John Smoltz back!!! Back to the offense just think about it's great from top to bottom. Glaus from the start over Kotchman more experience at 2nd base, and what else can you say about Yunel he's great. Chipper will be back to his old form. The outfield is much improved any way you shake it. We have added speed and hitting. I agree I believe

  7. By Sports Casualties on Mar 2, 2010 | Reply

    I read the title of this post and thought it'd be two words long. "Jason Heyward." http://bit.ly/b01KcK
    I think I just got a lump in my pants.

    -SC

  8. By M Castro on Mar 3, 2010 | Reply

    Offense is fine. Addition by subtraction. Loved Andruw and Frenchy but they couldn't hit their way out of a paper bag.

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