Sorry it’s taken a while to get to this. Work, kid, bike riding, etc., etc.
The Braves offense has been middle-of-the pack this season. It’s been better in May, though: first in the NL in OBP, third in batting average, but a middling 8th in runs. Hitting has helped the club go 10-5 in the past 15, after starting May 1-7. That’s impressive considering Freddie hasn’t played the past nine games.
On to individual grades.
Ender Inciarte, B. Ender is a bellwether for the club so far. After hitting .230 in April, the superb defensive center fielder is batting .337 in May, with a .391 OBP. He’s streaky for a leadoff guy, and he’s been caught stealing 4 times in 13 attempts, not awful but not great. Ender could also be more selective: he has just one more walk, 14, than Jace Peterson in double the plate appearances.
Brandon Phillips, B+. The metro Atlanta native has been better than I expected, at .307/.358/.791. Those numbers are all substantially better than league average. He’s only struck out once every 7.5 ABs, vs the NL norm of once every 4.2. He’s also stolen 7 bags and only been caught twice.
Freddie, A+. We all know how great Freddie was before the friggin Canadians (Jays probably don’t have an actual Canada native on the roster) hurt him. But ponder: in late and close situations, admittedly a small sample, Freddie is hitting .412 with a 1.722 OPS. That’s not a misprint. And though he has played 13 fewer games than the leader, and 7 fewer than the guy just ahead of him, Freddie remains fourth in the NL in WAR among position players. That’s a cumulative stat, like home runs or hits, so it’s easy to get left behind.
Matt Kemp, A. He’s hit only 2 homers in May but batted .344. He’s hit in the clutch. One criticism is he’s only walked 9 times. Hitting behind Freddie may have something to do with that, but that’s a really low walk total. It’d be nice to see that number rise, but even in his MVP-caliber year in 2011 he drew only 74 bases on balls.
Nick Markakis, B. He has defined solid — Markakis has not gone two straight games without a hit this season. He hasn’t hit for much power and looks like he won’t.
Adonis Garcia, D. His on-base percentage is 44 points below the league average. Truth is Adonis has not been good in any offensive category. He could be a passable reserve, especially with the anemic bench of the ’17 Bravos. Let’s hope that’s what he is the rest of the season.
Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki, A. Flowers has been shockingly good, and Suzuki has gotten a few huge hits. Combined they are hitting .316 with a .400-plus OBP.
Dansby Swanson, D. Dansby is picking it up. He has a .371 OBP in May. He’s drawing his walks — second on the team to Freddie. On the other hand he’s leading the team with 48 strikeouts. Dansby is on pace to fan a Kingman/Deer-like 180 times. Need to cut the Ks and he should be fine.
Jace Peterson, D. Jace draws walks but does little else. He can play different positions, but if you hit .200 and get on base just 30 percent of the time, so what?
Emilio Bonifacio, F. Emilio has made nearly $14 million in the big leagues. He should be fine. Let him go, Coppy, let him go. The Braves’ primary pinch hitter so far this season has fewer RBI and a lower OBP than R.A. Dickey.
Brian Snitker, C+.
Snit is an affable chap and comes across as a little more thoughtful than Fredi. But his in-game strategy lacks imagination. He bunts too much, for one. He keeps using Bonifacio, for two. He has a chance to improve his standing here by playing Ruiz regularly and putting Adonis on the pine, and by relegating Colon to the pen. Sims has tailed off a bit, but what the hey? Let him pitch and see what you’ve got. If he sucks, then so be it. For now, Colon’s starts are automatic losses. I think Snit has done a pretty good job handling the pen.
Front office, B.
The Adams pickup was shrewd. Keeping Bonifacio around is decidedly not. Handling the rotation will be a tad tricky. If Colon has another horrific start or two, there is no choice but to delete the rotund righty from the starting five. There is no sure-fire replacement, but in a season when you aren’t likely to contend there is no risk in giving Sims a look.
You’ve heard our rants about those guys.
SunTrust Park experience, B-.
It’s a pleasant day at the yard, for sure. But it still just doesn’t quite feel right.