We all thought the Atlanta Braves were going to acquire a power hitter before baseball’s trade deadline, but instead it was someone who can simply “create havoc.”
That was the phrase we heard Sunday after the trade that brought Michael Bourn to the Braves from Houston. Atlanta general manager Frank Wren used it. So did manager Fredi Gonzalez.
The Braves have been down this speed route before, relying on a fast runner who can “create havoc,” instead of simply waiting around for three-run home runs. They are hoping this strategy can make them better than the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants, the other two great teams in the NL.
Philadelphia and San Francisco went the other direction, getting power hitters instead of a speedster. The Phillies got Hunter Pence, while the Giants got Carlos Beltran. Those two could have helped the Braves, but if Bourn was a consolation prize, they might instead call him the best catch.
It’s arguable that Atlanta’s power problem has been solved by second baseman Dan Uggla waking up from his season-long slump. He’s on pace for 30 home runs, which is exactly what the Braves brought him in to do. And if the others around Uggla do their part, that need may not be as drastic as first thought.
And that’s where Bourn comes in. If he can get on base at the same clip he did in Houston, Bourn can be there when Uggla, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman hit their home runs. That might give the Atlanta pitchers some run support that has been sorely lacking at times in the first four months of the season.
If you think about it, the Braves really haven’t been the same since Rafael Furcal left as a free agent after the 2005 season. He was the last player they have had to “create havoc” on the base paths. Atlanta failed to it make the playoffs for four straight seasons after Furcal left before getting back there last October.
Historically, speed has always helped the teams in Atlanta. Remember in 1982, how Brett Butler made Joe Torre’s Braves much more dangerous? Sure, they had Dale Murphy and Bob Horner, the big boppers in the lineup, but Butler really made the offense go.
Butler was traded away in 1983, and the Braves didn’t win again until 1991. That, coincidentally, was the year the Braves got Otis Nixon in a trade in spring training. Nixon had 72 stolen bases that season, and he jump-started an offense by simply “creating havoc.”
Now that’s Bourn’s job. We saw how Jordan Schafer, who was part of the package to get Bourn, made an impact on the offense when he came up in late-May. Just having a threat on the bases made the team better, and Schafer didn’t get on base nearly as often as Bourn did in Houston.
The Braves are banking that when McCann gets back from the disabled list, and if Chipper Jones can return as well, they will have a well-rounded offense. It would also help if Jason Heyward would show more consistency. But Bourn now perhaps holds the key.
He has to get on base, so when the big power guys come up they can knock him in. That will happen more easily if Bourn is disrupting pitchers. If they have to concentrate on him, maybe they’ll slip up and make a bad pitch to Uggla or McCann or Chipper.
Atlanta is going to have the pitching to compete with the Giants and Phillies if it makes it to play in October. But if the Braves’ offense has a slump like they’ve had at times during this season, it’s going to be hard to score off those pitchers. Bourn, however, by using his speed, can make it much more challenging.
He’ll do that by “creating havoc,” and if that’s what it takes for the Braves’ offense to be dangerous, no one will complain.
Listen to The Bill Shanks Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM and online at www.foxsports1670.com.