Atlanta Braves lineup divide hurts but they remain in the race

Kyle Muller of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the second inning against the New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Kyle Muller of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the second inning against the New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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The Atlanta Braves starting nine are a lineup of two distinct parts. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Braves: A Lineup in two parts

The position that the Braves’ lineup as a whole has good numbers when compared to the league holds; since June 1, it sits in the middle of the NL. Looking at it as two distinct parts paints a different picture.  I used Fangraphs’ splits leaderboard to look at the lineup top to bottom, from 1-4 and 5-8.

9 .248 .327 .421 .748 .173 .303 .323 100 1 to 9
4 .287 .365 .513 .878 .226 .333 .374 133 1 to 4
13 .228 .307 .367 .675 .140 .282 .294 81 5 to 8

The lineup top-to-bottom ranks ninth and is dead league average at 100 wRC+, but it’s clear that stat line is supporting the bottom half of the lineup.  Every team does this to some extent, but the 13th rank for spots 5 – 8 shows a genuine weakness in the roster,

The differences are more pronounced when looking at the last third of the game.

11 .235 .319 .378 .697 .143 .295 .304 87 1 to 9
5 .278 .364 .486 .850 .208 .336 .361 125 1 to 4
14 .208 .286 .285 .571 .077 .281 .257 57 5 to 8

The whole lineup drops a couple of spots to 11th, and the top four batters slip to fifth, but the 5 to 8 spots in the order rank 14th, ahead of only the Marlins.

The roster was built like this.

Team’s win divisions because their role players pick up the slack when the stars struggle; the Atlanta Braves paid lip service to role players.

The team projected unrealistic seasons on players without the track record to support it. Even after signing Ozuna, it was clear the lineup was a bat short, but from the day Spring Training started, it was clear they weren’t going to add one.

When a team waits that late to fill a critical need, they are rarely successful, The remaining roster spots went to the least bad pitchers in camp and bench players who added no threat when they popped out of the dugout in the late innings.

The Atlanta Braves were lucky that Heredia and Almonte exceeded expectations, but as well as they’ve played, neither player is capable of carrying a team for a week or two. I respect what they’ve done for us, and Heredia deserves a spot on the bench, but neither player should start as often as they do.

Speaking of the bench, our unofficial team mascot, Pablo Sandoval, must go. Panda hugs are cute, but since May 26, he’s batting .034/.200/.034/.234.  Our pitchers hit better, and Panda doesn’t play the field, and there’s no DH, so the bench is a player short.

That’s a wrap

Any changes the Atlanta Braves make in the next couple of days are unlikely to move the needle towards a World Series. Winning the division remains possible because the other teams continue to trip over their shoelaces, but that could change quickly.

Fixing the bottom of the lineup midseason is unlikely, but an outfielder and a replacement for Panda – Travis Demeritte perhaps – isn’t impossible. I expect the team will add a reliever or two; we know the GM has Baltimore on speed dial, and they have a couple.

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