The Braves' offense fell off a cliff in May with no easy answers as to why

The Atlanta Braves won’t be sorry to see May end because very little went right. While Max Fried returned to his old self and Chris Sale pitched to a 0.56 ERA, the vaunted Braves offense was nowhere to be seen.
Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley was slumping before his injury and is struggling to find his form since returning.
Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley was slumping before his injury and is struggling to find his form since returning. / John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to overstate had poorly the Braves offense performed in May., and to add insult to injury, they lost Ronald Acuña Jr. for the season. He was struggling like everyone else as baseball's number two offense in March/April, dropped to 10th in the NL and 21st in MLB. The numbers aren't pretty. (Bold indicates the largest drop in MLB.)

  • Team BA dropped 41 points
  • Team OBP dropped 49 points
  • Team Slugging % dropped 61 points
  • Team OPS dropped 110 points

Of the nine active players with at least 100 PA, the Braves have:

  • Two with an OPS over .800
  • Two with an OPS of .748-.799
  • One with a .697 OPS,
  • Two with an OPS between .664 and .667,
  • Two with an OPS under .649

Everyone’s (Not) Doing It

Lineup peripherals are…confusing. In April, walk and K-rates moved in the wrong direction by 1% each, and Statcast gives us these nuggets.

  • Hard-Hit %: March / April 45.7% – May 42.1%
  • Exit Velocity: March / April 90.6 – May 90.0%
  • Launch Angle: March / April 12 degrees – May 14 degrees
  • Home Runs: March / April 29 – May 28

Yet OBP dropped across the board in May, a fact validated by the 50-point drop is BABIP. The good news is that BABIP will rebound, and those unflattering numbers will improve.

As long as Duvall stays healthy, he’ll run into the occasional homer and play above-average defense, and Kelenic has shown he can hit some lefties now and then. However, his offense is much like that of Arcia, making the massive cash investment to acquire him look…problematic.

The good news is that d’Arnaud is still playing well, Albies is a smarter leadoff hitter than in the past, and Olson, Riley, and Murphy will eventually remember how to hit and balls will start dropping in again.

When that happens, I suspect we’ll see something closer to the Rookie of the Year version of Harris, and Arcia can return to the lower third of the lineup where his streaky bat is more at home, and we can say, Ah, yes, but his glove.

The Braves don't need to force change

I want to remind everyone screaming that Seitzer must be fired, that he was the hitting coach last year when the players performed pretty well, and everyone’s answer to who can fix any hitter – Chipper Jones – is already part of the process.

The same logic applies to replacing the pitching coach because pitchers aren’t performing well and the manager who led the team to six consecutive division titles and a World Series title because the roster he has and didn't create isn’t built to fill gaps that appear.

Be patient Braves fans

The Atlanta Braves aren’t alone in their misery. Offense is down across the league, Enos Sarris wrote that pulled balls with the same EV and launch angle are traveling three feet less this year. That report immediately begs the question, has MLB fiddled with the baseballs again? (Of course they have.) It doesn’t matter because everyone is using the same baseballs (yes, they are, the alternative is too hard to implement), and everyone keeps them in a humidor.

One thing fans say that I kind of – sort of- almost agree with is that the players seem flat and uninspired. I do not agree that they should be punching water coolers or trying to break a bat across their knee, but showing a little passion isn’t a bad thing. 

I see Olson mad as a hornet when he misses a pitch, but Matt’s a quiet guy and not someone I expect to call a team meeting. Travis d’Arnaud has the voice of experience in a still young room to get them together and politely say it’s time to stop sitting on their ears, but will he? I don’t know, but somebody needs to, and soon.

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