Thursday, May 25, 2006

Offense frustrating but hardly awful

Yeah, it’s maddeningly inconsistent. Yet for all the bitching and moaning – including some from this blog -- and even after an anemic series in Arizona and first two games in San Diego, the Braves’ offense is fourth in the National League in runs scored.

They trail only the Dodgers, Reds and Diamondbacks, in order. The Bravos are averaging 5.2 runs a game, which should generally be enough to win. The club is fifth in team batting average, at .267. Where the Braves lag offensively, no surprise, is in strikeouts and walks. The club is 10th in walks, with 160, and has struck out more than all NL teams but the Marlins and Brewers.

LA and Cincy are 1-2 in walks and runs, which is probably not a coincidence. The home team averages 7.3 strikeouts a game, and just 3.4 walks, or 2.1 Ks for every BB. The best offensive K-to-BB ratios in the league are the Cardinals and Dodgers, who strike out about 1.3 times for each walk they draw. The Redbirds, who own the league’s best record, rank just behind the Braves in runs – 246 to 244.

Of course you don’t have to score scads of runs to win. The 1995 Series champions hit just .250 and scored 4.5 runs a game. The difference, of course, is pitching -- a 3.44 team ERA compared to 4.32 right now. So unlike their predecessors, the 2006 Braves must hit to win.

So far, OK. I think they’ll improve, mainly because the leadoff hitter is hitting 51 points below his career average. You have to think Giles will heat up. To wind up at .280, he’ll need to hit about .300 the rest of the way. That’s certainly feasible.

And Chipper, while he’s at .315, is on a pace to hit only 14 home runs and drive in 86, vs. career norms of 30 and 101. He might not match those power numbers, but he’s a good bet to come close, which would mean much clutch power hitting to come.

-- CD

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