The Atlanta Braves have a lot to be happy about. They sit 28 games over .500 and hold a more-than-comfortable (OK, downright gaudy) 15.5 game lead in the NL East as we head towards September.
The Tomahawk Chop playoff version is coming to Atlanta come October (g-d help us). That;s not to say there are no potential chinks in their armor. The Bravos have had health issues and that was before this afternoon’s ugly and costly injury to Jason Heyward.
It’s their pitching, with a staff ERA that ranks second in baseball at 3.18 (Pittsburgh’s staff is just ahead at 3.16) that has been the biggest ingredient in their recipe for success. But the bats are going to have to come alive a bit more for Atlanta to make a deep postseason run. And that will mean more from two former young “stars” that are both — which I had to triple-check to believe — still lingering under the Mendoza line nearly 130 games into the season.
Granted, Dan Uggla and BJ Upton have never been huge average guys. But they’ve never been this bad for this long. Uggla, who’s propensity to strikeout has seemed to coincide with a consistent and precipitous drop in average in recent seasons is reaching new lows this year. In fact, among the top 150 players in MLB in terms of plate appearances, Uggla ranks dead last in batting average. He’s the only one in MLB with as many at-bats and an average below .200. He’s hitting .186. That’s after 112 games and 460 plate appearances.
One might consider it slightly worriesome to have that kind of average in your lineup from a regular. But it’s even crazier when you consider that he’s not alone. While BJ Upton has accrued less plate appearances due to injury and, more recently time on the pine, he’s chasing Uggla. In 93 games, Upton is at .183. Back in 2007 in Tampa Bay, BJ finished the year at .300 while playing in 129 games.
The notion of both these guys STILL hitting under the Mendoza line is really kind of unbelievable. Or maybe it’s very believable for Braves fans. But it takes this Mets fan a few games from the visiting Bravess at Citi to be reminded that those stats are real. The question now is whether either will reach that magical .200 mark before season’s end. While the stat may be meaningless (aside from the embarrassment of a final season average that starts with a “1″), the bigger concern is whether such a liability will pell doom for a Braves team with championship aspirations. The race is on.