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The Mendoza Braves

How long can we tolerate this many regulars hitting below the Mendoza line (sub-.200 batting average for the novice baseball fan)? Is this a metric of how streaky some of our batters are, or is it a true indication that some of these guys are overmatched in the big leagues? I'm not so worried about Andruw Jones (.188 BA), as he's proven with his past performance that he should come around. The ones I'm worried about are these guys:

Langerhans - .080 (which is closer to Hudson's 0.86 ERA than the Mendoza line)
Thorman - .154
Wilson - .174

That's a lot of slumping batters to plug into a lineup. Add to that the average that Kelly Johnson was sporting heading into Tuesday evening - .150 - and our lineup should scare no one. Combine that with how many times we've stuck out as a team (99, T-4th in ML) and our record on the season looks like a gift.

This just underscores the basic fact that our lineup is not hitting; at least not hitting like a first place team. We are 25th in the majors in batting average. Compare that with Florida and New York who are number one and two, and it looks like we are woefully overmatched, especially in our division.

Are we doing anything right as a team? Well, we're hitting homeruns. Half (31) of our 60 runs scored have come via the homerun, and we are second in the majors in team homeruns. We're also second in walks with 60 - that's over four and a half walks per game. Oh, and we're in first place and have been for a week and half - so somehow we must be doing many of the little things needed to win.

There are many writers and bloggers who are worried about this team in the early part of the season, but because of these underperformances it seems difficult to get a handle on how good they are or what kind of team they will be (that's assuming this is not a true indication of their ability). As I alluded to above, Kelly Johnson raised his average from .150 to .222 in one game, so it's still early enough in the season when averages can change dramatically from one game to the next. Compare Johnson to the Giles of last year and we see that Kelly's .352 on-base percentage is higher than Giles' .341 mark. So while we have a leadoff hitter hovering around the Mendoza line, we may actually have an improvement over last year in getting on base.

That's not the case at every position. The real concern for Braves fans is left field and first base. Those have been the offensive voids which occupy the 7th and 8th spots in the lineup. Save for Matt Diaz, whom the team seems to have a reluctance to play on a regular basis, the trio of Langerhans, Thorman, and Wilson are a combined 10-for-74, which equates to a paltry .135 batting average. They have only 3 combined runs and 4 RBIs, and have accounted for one fourth (24) of the team's 99 strikeouts. That's a lack of production not even Jeff Francoeur would dream of.

(By the way, Adam LaRoche is not doing much better; he has a .116 BA and 16 SO.)

Another factor to consider is the weather. Players never like to blame Mother Nature for their prolonged slumps, but it could be that we have a lot of warm weather players on our team. It seems that the weather is most readily affecting Andruw Jones, but it may also be impacting Langerhans and Wilson. Though, I can't see how it would be affecting the Canadian-born Thorman.

So what kind of team will we be if and when these guys begin to hit? What kind of team will we be when the weather turns warmer? The fact that we are in first and winning games with basically zero contribution from two to three spots in the lineup might be an indication of the true potential of this team. Of course, it could be that our luck will eventually catch up to us and the holes in our lineup will begin to slowly bleed the team's winning ways dry.

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