Wow, what a week it has been for the Atlanta Braves and all of their fans. Actually, what a season it has been, for the most part. Yes, the Braves are just a half-game out of first place in the NL East, even though they have struggled mightily to score runs on a regular basis and pitch well out of the bullpen for a really, really long time. I understand that the team just now lost the division lead, but the lineup is becoming stale and some of the decisions coming from Fredi Gonzalez are beyond questionable.
Before you all tear me to shreds for “bashing” Fredi, hear me out. I’m not going as far as some of the extremists out there to call for his head just yet. However, as someone who has seen all but maybe five games this season, some of the decisions that have come from the manager are just, plain and simple, bad. Just the other night against the Philadelphia Phillies in a 1-1 game, following a Freddie Freeman triple and Evan Gattis walk, Gonzalez took the team’s hottest bat (Gattis) out of the game for a pinch runner. Granted, Jordan Schafer has incredible speed and could have stolen second base to avoid a double play. Guess what! Schafer never attempted to steal second, and the run that mattered (Freeman) didn’t touch home plate, all while Gattis is taken out of the game for good. Other questionable managing decisions mostly include the way that he has handled his bullpen. Yes, they have struggled on their own, but his decisions to bring guys out when they are struggling badly is just wrong.
Gonzalez isn’t the only problem with this team, however. Out of the 15 National League teams, the Braves are towards the bottom of the group in a lot of offensive categories: 13th in runs (251), 13th in RBI (238), 10th in batting average (.244) and 11th in on-base percentage (.306). In those categories, the only teams you find lower than the Braves are teams that aren’t even close to competing in their respective divisions. Let’s not forget the Braves now have two hitting coaches in Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher, something that is becoming more popular in the major leagues. Yet, with that extra coach, the team has shown very little improvement in the team’s hitting since the 2013 team that was honestly bad offensively. While B.J. Upton has brought his average above the .200 line, most of the other players are hitting similarly as they were last season.
The last problem, though, is the pitching out of the bullpen. Now I have done my share of complaining about how the bullpen needs help, but these guys keep getting put out there and most of them keep getting hit. Luis Avilan and David Carpenter have been nothing like the Braves hoped they would after awesome 2013 seasons. With injuries to staff members and a lack of left-handed pitchers, there are moves that the team needs to make — and the sooner the better.