Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Atlanta Braves Hitters and the Mendoza Line

posted by Jon Williams


By Ben Hargrove

The Atlanta Braves have the biggest lead of any division leader and they’ve done it with three of their main hitters unable to cross the Mendoza Line for much of the season. On June 10, B.J. Upton was hitting .158, Dan Uggla was hitting .193 and Jason Heyward was at .200 exactly, the first time since April 3 he had gotten his batting average out of the .100s. As of press time, Upton was hitting .178, Uggla .203, and Heyward .227, not exactly great numbers for those who play weekly fantasy baseball.

The Braves success this season stems from their 3.20 staff ERA, an earned run average that is currently second in the majors. But they are also 13th in runs despite being 22th in batting average, thanks to their 99 homers, which is fourth in the majors. 

Even if the Braves were not having so much success despite their low batting averages, contract considerations would likely keep Uggla and Upton in the lineup. They are the two highest-paid Braves, with Upton making $75 million for five years and Uggla getting $62 million for five years.  (B.J. Upton’s brother Justin has a six-year, $50 million deal.)  

Uggla is still a slugger
Uggla at least is hitting homers. He has 13, second-best among second basemen behind the Yankees’ Robinson Cano. Uggla, hit 30 homers for five straight seasons from 2007 to 2011 before hitting 19 last year.
But Uggla has also hit for a poor average since coming to Atlanta -.233 in 2011 and .220 in 2012. In his five seasons with the Marlins, Uggla hit below .250 twice. 

Upton showing some signs of life
B.J. Upton has not hit above .250 since 2008 and he has at least 150 strikeouts in five of the last six seasons.  But Upton also has five straight seasons of 30 or more steals and has averaged 23 homers per year over the last three seasons.  This season, Upton has just six steals along with four caught stealing. He has eight homers. 

Upton has shown signs of life in June, hitting .244 with four homers and 11 RBI in the month.  He has 15 walks along with 21 strikeouts after fanning 63 times with 16 walks in April and May.

Heyward’s power numbers are still poor
Heyward has also looked better in June, hitting .308 for the month after entering the month at .146. Heyward was hitting just .121 in April when he underwent an appendectomy and was out almost a month. After he returned in mid-May, Heyward hit .178 for the rest of May.  Heyward’s career April batting average is.231 and his May mark is .225, but his marks for the next three months are all .270 or above. But after hitting 27 homers with 21 steals in 2012, Heyward has just six homers and one steal this season.    

Ben Hargrove writes on a variety of season-long, daily and weekly fantasy baseball topics for DraftStreet.          

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