Dreadful performances from the top of Braves lineup have become their Achilles' heel

Atlanta's offense continues to struggle and it starts with the guys at the top of the order.
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

Outside of Marcell Ozuna, it seems like the Braves have had no offensive consistency this season. However, a lot of the struggles can be blamed on the top of the lineup not producing like they need to. If they are not on base and making things happen, Ozuna, Olson, and Albies do not have a chance to drive runs in. The key to the Braves turning around their fortunes at the plate starts with the first two hitters in the lineup.

When Ronald Acuna Jr. went down with a season-ending injury, Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker had to reconstruct his entire lineup. In most games since losing their star outfielder, Michael Harris II has predominantly been the leadoff man but Ozzie Albies has led off a few times as well. Austin Riley has followed in the second spot and on paper, that looks like a deadly 1-2 punch but in reality, there hasn't been much to be excited about.

Brian Snitker couldn't have expected the offense to struggle as much as it has this year. Replacing a dynamic lead-off bat such as Acuna's isn't an easy task but there's no place for excuses. The team has to find a way to try and find someone to fill that massive void and that person needs to step up.

The top of Braves offense has become the team's Achilles' heel

We can still say it's too early in the season but the fact of the matter is that we have a large enough sample size to judge how players have performed so far in 2024. For Atlanta's current one and two spots in the lineup, things aren't going as expected.

Harris is batting .248 with five home runs and 20 runs batted in. Although his power numbers are about what we have come to expect from "Money Mike", his average is much lower than a season ago (.293) and his .647 OPS is alarming. Perhaps the most concerning of Harris' statistics is that his on-base percentage sits at .293. That's an unacceptable number from a player serving as a team's leadoff man.

There are signs Harris may be getting close to breaking out of his slump but it has been extremely tough to watch this season. He's struggled to lay off outside pitches and it's hurt his production drastically.

Austin Riley who has consistently had his name thrown into the MVP conversation over the last three seasons is also having an underwhelming 2024. He is currently hitting .230 with three, yes three, home runs and 20 runs batted in. Atlanta expects much more from a player they signed to a 10-year, $212 million contract in 2022.

Even worse, his OPS is .648 and that's shocking especially when his OPS at this point of the season in 2023 was .810. He also had 11 homers and 32 RBI. It has been incredibly difficult to see him struggle the way he has in 2024.

Riley had started to get things going in the right direction a few weeks ago but an injury put a quick damper on that. Unfortunately, he is once again struggling to find his footing.

For all of the super analytical fans, there is an alarming metric that exposes the struggles of Michael Harris II and Austin Riley: wRC+. wRC+ stands for "weighted runs created". Essentially this statistic takes extra factors into account such as the ballpark in which the player is playing in.

The league average for wRC+ is 100. Michael Harris and Austin Riley are both well below that mark. As of Monday, Harris has a wRC+ of 83 while Riley's stands at 86. This is well below the production fans have come to expect from two of their most talented bats. It could be time to explore different options to fill the lead off spot if this trend continues.

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