With Thursday night’s loss to the Mets and Colorado’s subsequent choking against Philly, the Braves NL East lead has been shortened to two games right as we enter the home stretch here in September. While I am still fairly positive about the Braves postseason chances, we saw some of the same recurring Braves struggles tonight. Those struggles primarily being a lack of consistent offense and poor fielding. The Braves rank 3rd from the bottom of MLB with 103 errors and it is a trend that has persisted throughout the season. The biggest problem with the offense remains a lack of consistent power from the three-four-and five spots in the lineup. Brian McCann is a power-hitter by catcher’s standards, but it is not a good thing that he leads the team with 20 HR’s with 28 games left in the season. First base remains a black hole for production as Derrek Lee has failed to produce anything resembling power numbers since joining the team and Troy Glaus has been miserable, save for his tear from May to mid-June. Freddie Freeman likely won’t have an impact until next season, although he may be forced to if these veterans keep slumping. The biggest problem is that it seems the Phillies have finally started playing like they’re capable of, with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley hitting bombs recently, and Shane Victorino finding a hot streak
What I’m really trying to emphasize is the Braves’ offense has to pick up, as the pitchers can’t win game by themselves. The bullpen has clearly fatigued, with a noticeable decline in the performance of Johnny Venters and Peter Moylan, and the starters aren’t showing the consistency of previous months. The offense may not need to step up to make the postseason but they’re going to have to pick it up if this team really wants to make a run come October, which they are capable of doing. Most importantly, if the Braves are going to rely on pitching to determine their outcome the rest of the year, THEY HAVE TO START PLAYING BETTER DEFENSE. This is a team stacked with veterans who have “been there” before, but the veteran players have had too many mental lapses with fielding the whole season and ultimately, this will be the Braves’ great undoing if they don’t clean up the fielding.
I only say this because I know that I, as well as the rest of the Braves nation, would like to see Bobby Cox go out on top. This Braves team has a special aura to it, leading the MLB in walk-offs and comeback wins, but they could have another few wins this season if they had better fielding. With the Phillies getting hot, the Braves have to fix this issue to really cap this season off like they are capable of and doing so could be key in the Braves’ chances at a pennant.
Until next time,