Braves doomed by lack of offense

sports@macon.comOctober 8, 2013 

NLDS Braves Dodgers Baseball

MARK J. TERRILL/ASSOCIATED PRESSLos Angeles Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe drops his bat and raises his arms after hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning, in front of Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann and home plate umpire Bill Miller, during Game 4 in the National League baseball division series, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won 4-3 and advanced to the NL championship series.

MARK J. TERRILL — AP

It’s unfortunate that not many people are shocked the Atlanta Braves lost the NLDS to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not many fans actually believed in the first place they were going to do well when the playoffs rolled around.

The fears most had about the Braves came true, as the team was simply unable to produce much offense. Atlanta scored only 14 runs in the four games against Los Angeles, and that’s not going to win many series, regardless of how the pitchers do to limit the opposition.

Sure, the Braves’ pitching could have been better. Two of the four starters, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran, did not pitch very well. And the dominant bullpen was somewhat ordinary. But that’s what happens when a team doesn’t have much offense. The pitching has to be perfect, and that’s unrealistic against a team like the Dodgers that has players who can swing the bat.

Going into the series, the Braves had to have offensive production from players not named Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman, the two who had been the most consistent performers in the regular season. It was almost a given those two would do something at the plate, and they did, hitting a combined .375 (12-for-32) against the Dodgers.

The other six regulars in the Atlanta lineup hit a combined .165 (14-for-85). Brian McCann didn’t even get a hit in 13 at-bats in what looks like were his final days as a Braves player. Take away Evan Gattis’ five hits, and the other five players had only nine hits in four games.

That’s why the Braves lost. Pure and simple -- no deep analysis really needed. If you can’t hit in the playoffs, you’re not going to win.

The argument could be made that this series also showed the Braves need a legit No. 1 ace pitcher. Medlen, Teheran and Mike Minor are good starters, but does anybody really consider any of them an ace? And even if Tim Hudson had been healthy, would he fit into that category at 38 years old?

Hudson would have helped. How much better would it have been to have had the veteran start Game 3 on the road in Los Angeles instead of Teheran, who looked frightened? Teheran simply might have done better at home for his first playoff start, especially since he was more successful at Turner Field this year than on the road. Teheran might develop into an ace, but he’s not there yet.

But the Braves players are cleaning out their lockers because they just didn’t have the offensive firepower to advance. This was a home run-hitting team. It led the NL with 181 home runs in the regular season. Yet Atlanta had only one in the series, and that was a Jason Heyward two-run blast in the ninth inning Sunday when the Dodgers were already up by nine runs.

So forget about wondering if the Braves could play small ball to complement what they did best. They couldn’t even do what they did best against a team that has great starting pitchers.

Who gets the blame for this? Fredi Gonzalez, just because he’s the manager and should always get blamed? No. Greg Walker? He’s the hitting coach. Certainly he could have done something to avoid this, right? But he’s absolutely not the one to blame.

Blame Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, the two regulars on the Atlanta team who could not even hit .200 in the regular season and the two players who made a combined $25.45 million this season but were not even good enough to be in the starting lineup for the most important series of the year.

The Braves were right to leave Uggla off the roster. Who cares if Elliot Johnson, his replacement at second base, hit only .071 (1-for-14) in the series? Do you really think Uggla would have done any better?

Upton proved how horrible he was by striking out in all three plate appearances in the series. It’s Upton’s fault the Braves had to have a catcher (Gattis) play left field.

If those two had even been average this season, there’s no way the Braves would be going home early.

But they are, and for a team that won 96 games and showed flashes of brilliance at times, it’s hard to accept. Unfortunately, it’s just not a surprise.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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