It’s easy to be frustrated when watching the Atlanta Braves take their turns at the plate. Freddie Freeman is the only regular player hitting over .290, and the three Braves outfielders have combined for 36 more strikeouts than hits. The few times the Atlanta hitters have been reaching base, however, they are doing everything they can on the basepaths to try and generate some runs.
As a team, the Braves only have 21 steals so far this season, which ranks them 11th in the NL. Part of the reason why they rank so low is that their hitters who have good speed, like B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward, aren’t getting on base very often. Still, the Braves outfielders have combined for 17 stolen bases and have only been caught three times. Even guys who don’t run particularly well, like Freeman and Chris Johnson, have attempted steals this year.
Being aggressive on the bases was a key factor in the Braves victory against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night. After Heyward reached on a single to start the top of the sixth, he wisely tagged up and went to second on a deep fly ball hit by Justin Upton. Freeman followed with a sharp single to right field, and Heyward was sent home to try and score.
Even though Heyward looked to be out by a mile, he avoided the tag from Buster Posey and scored the second run of the game.
Even though sending Heyward seemed to be ill-advised, the Braves’ struggles with RISP made it worth the risk. When the Braves get a chance to score without hitting the ball over the fence, they have to pounce on it. Andrelton Simmons singled later in the inning to left field, and B.J. Upton went from first to third to draw a throw and allow Johnson to score ahead of him. They aren’t moves that show up on the score sheet, but they make a big difference for a team struggling on offense.
This kind of aggressiveness wouldn’t be advisable for a more consistent hitting team, but it’s exactly what the Braves need. Unless the bats start to heat up, they should continue to take chances on the basepaths to generate more runs.