Bradley’s Buzz: For these Braves, the hits don’t keep on coming

Atlanta Braves right fielder Adam Duvall reacts after striking out to end the game against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning at Truist Park, Tuesday, July 2, 2024, in Atlanta. The Braves lost to the Giants 5-3. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta Braves right fielder Adam Duvall reacts after striking out to end the game against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning at Truist Park, Tuesday, July 2, 2024, in Atlanta. The Braves lost to the Giants 5-3. (Jason Getz / AJC)

It was one of the “between” seasons – after the run of 14 consecutive division titles ended in 2005, before the return to playoff form in 2010. The Braves of that particular year were around the MLB average in runs and OPS. We media types were harping on their lack of offense when, for no real reason, they scored a dozen runs on a summer night.

I was standing by the batting cage the next day. I asked a Braves employee if that sudden surge indicated better hitting days were ahead.

“Off the record?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said. But I noted his words, and I remember them still. I offer them today on deep/delayed background.

He said that those Braves would, on occasion, have the occasional game when they scored big, and they’d take those as evidence they were fine. Then they’d revert to not hitting. Which was, over the long haul, exactly what happened.

Those Braves had only a few big boppers. The 2024 Braves were coming off a year of historic slugging. They’ve lost Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris II to injury. For the first part of the season, only Marcell Ozuna did much. Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies have begun to stir, but the most consistent hitter of late has been Jarred Kelenic, who began the season batting eighth or ninth in the order.

The Braves were 13-14 in May, 14-13 in June. They’re 0-1 in July, having lost Tuesday to San Francisco. That’s a serious run of mediocrity, though their pitching has been stellar. Over the past eight games, opponents have managed 22 runs – that’s 2.75 per game. The Braves lost five of those games.

The Braves are 18th in the majors in runs, 14th in homers and OPS. A year ago, they ranked first, first and first. A dropoff should have been expected, history not being apt to repeat itself. And yes, injuries – Sean Murphy missed two months; Riley and Albies each missed a week – haven’t helped. And yes, hitting is down across the sport. But still.

Nine Braves hit 17 or more homers in 2023; all save Eddie Rosario returned. This season just passed its halfway point with four Braves on pace to top 17 HRs, Kelenic among them. Matt Olson’s last homer came June 21. Don’t look now, but Ozuna has only one since June 15.

Even if Harris returns soonish, the state of this outfield remains rickety. Adam Duvall doesn’t have much left. As good as he has been, Kelenic hasn’t hit like this in the majors. His OPS is .781; over three years in Seattle, it was .656. Also: Shortstop has become a massive concern. Of 144 qualifying MLB hitters, Orlando Arcia ranks 143rd in OPS.

As we speak, buying and selling haven’t commenced, many clubs being unsure which to do. Twenty teams are within five games of a wild card. We know Alex Anthopoulos will do something. We don’t know what or when.

David Schoenfield of ESPN suggests a trade for Bo Bichette, the Toronto shortstop who’s having a terrible year. (He’s 139th in OPS among qualifying hitters.) Trouble is, Bichette is due to make $17.5 million next season, after which he can become a free agent, and the Blue Jays have long seen him as a foundational talent. Would the Braves pay a ton in prospects for a not-cheap 18-month rental?

Second question: Do the Braves have a ton of prospects?

In other news, Miami designated shortstop Tim Anderson for assignment. He’s 31. He has twice been an All-Star. He has won a batting title and a Silver Slugger. He can become a free agent at season’s end. Trouble is, he’d done nothing as a Marlin – 68 strikeouts against 50 hits. His OPS of .463 is way worse than Arcia’s.

Big-picture-wise, the Braves are OK. They hold a four-game lead – over the Mets, if you can believe that – for the final wild card. If the Braves finish 39-40, they’ll be 85-77. A year ago, the 84-win Marlins made the playoffs; the 84-win Diamondbacks reached the World Series. Assuming these top three starters stay healthy, the Braves would seem to have the sort of pitching that wins in October.

No pitcher, alas, has ever won a game 0-0. As constituted, the Braves don’t hit enough to trouble playoff-level pitchers. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, enough holes in a batting order can sink any ship. As much as the Braves would like to believe this will get better, it hasn’t yet. It might not.

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