The Braves may be the worst situational hitting team in baseball by the All-Star break unless something good happens. We stand one point above Pittsburgh at .225 with RISP average. If we continue to struggle in that category I have no doubt we'll be the dead last in a couple of weeks. Has a dead last RISP team made the playoffs recently? Let's find out! The Cubs didn't in 2012. The Giants didn't in 2011. The Mariners didn't in 2010 or 2009. The Reds didn't in 2008. The White Sox didn't in 2007. The Rays didn't in 2006. The Dbacks didn't in 2005. The Brewers didn't in 2004. The Tigers didn't in 2003. NOPE! Nobody in a decade has finished dead last in RISP hitting and ever made the playoffs.
People will tell you not to worry. They will tell you to just look at the standings. They will tell you that everything will be fine, that it's June, and that we will just have to let this thing play out. They are living with their heads in the sand. I don't ever advocate panic, but I do think that ignoring statistics midway through the season is a fool's play. We absolutely should be concerned about this team not hitting. A team that can't hit with RISP is a team that can't win in September and October when the games mean the most against the best pitching. That became evident yesterday against the Royals, when the Braves put 2 men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out, and they fail to score a run. Or when the Braves had a runner on 2nd with one out in the 5th, and failed to even get him to 3rd. Or hitting into an inning killing double play in the 10th with one out and 2 men on base. These things all led to the Braves losing that game yesterday, and they are just a small sample of a long series of RISP failures.
What's keeping us together as a team? The pitching. While the RISP hitting is a dank cave, the pitching has been the roaring fire at the entrance. If the Braves didn't simply have one of the top 3 pitching staffs in baseball, this team wouldn't be over .500. For the most part, they've kept scores reasonable so the Braves can have some comeback wins. The bullpen has done a great job of holding onto leads late in the game as well. Right now Atlanta has the 2nd best ERA in the MLB. It's been pitching and homers. You can look to the Pirates ahead of the Braves as an almost mirror image of the Braves successes and failures. Both teams find themselves several games above .500, both teams have major issues with RISP, both teams are best in the league in pitching. The question for both teams right now is how that will hold up over dog days of summer?
So, the Braves come back after another losing road trip. After winning 7 road games in a row to open the season, they have since gone 13-23 away from Turner Field. Every time we head on the road, I think fans start to wring their hands. I think I'm as guilty of it as anyone, but even in the wins I've been noting our RISP numbers with a frown. I think it comes from simply having too many holes in the lineup right now. BJ, Simmons, Uggla, and Justin have been great places to go for strikeouts to get pitchers out of trouble with men on base. You can't work around everybody, but when half the lineup can get punched out or popped up? It's hard to get good movement of runners.
The day off will do everyone some good. We're still 5 games up in the standings, but we have another division leader coming into town on Friday. I want to make sure we show them a rough time, and give Chipper Jones his due in the process. Retirement ceremony tomorrow, along with the series weekend preview.