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The Braves' Offense Is Balanced And Productive

Freddie Freeman's hot play of late has helped the Braves become the highest-scoring NL team through the season's first 13 games.
Freddie Freeman's hot play of late has helped the Braves become the highest-scoring NL team through the season's first 13 games.

After a slow start in which they scored just 10 runs in their first 4 games, the Braves' offense has roared to life. After scoring 9, 14, and 10 runs in their past 3 games*, the Braves lead the NL in runs per game, at 5.77. In the NL, only the Cardinals (5.62 runs/game) are within three-quarters of a run of the Braves' total. The NL average is 4.04 runs/game.

* This is the Braves' longest streak of 9+ runs scored since 2007, when they did it 4 games in a row. The franchise record is a 5-game streak in 2006.

Obviously, we can't expect the Braves to score nearly 6 runs per game all season, but the amazing part of the Braves' offensive surge is that of the 7 players with the most PAs on the team, only Jason Heyward is hitting beyond what you'd expect--and you could argue that his numbers aren't that far off from his true talent.

Michael Bourn, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann have done basically what they've always done; Martin Prado has been just OK; and Dan Uggla and Tyler Pastornicky seem likely to play better than they have. Sure, Chipper Jones and Juan Francisco won't keep slugging well above .600, and Matt Diaz seems unlikely to keep up his good work, but the team should continue to score a lot of runs as long as the key players stay healthy.

What's most interesting about the Braves' offensive performance so far is that it is so balanced. Ten different Braves have scored 4 runs or more--most in MLB. In addition, nine different Braves have driven in 4 or more--tied for most in MLB--and another four players have 3 RBIs.

This balance was most evident in Wednesday's series finale against the Mets, when 10 of the Braves' hitters had a hit and scored a run (the most for the Braves since June 10, 2010). Actually, all 8 of the Braves' starting position players had a hit, scored a run, AND struck out, which is the first time in franchise history that the Braves have done that.

That performance tied a major-league record for most players in a game with a H, R, and K. It had happened only 10 times previously:

Rk Tm Opp Date Result # w/ a H, R, & K
1 ATL NYM 2012-04-18 W, 14-6 8
2 TEX LAA 2008-07-10 L, 10-11 (11 inn.) 8
3 TEX OAK 2005-05-04 W, 16-7 8
4 NYY MIN 2002-05-17 W, 13-12 8
6 STL HOU 2001-07-18 L, 11-17 8
5 CIN SDP 2001-08-03 W, 9-2 8
7 TOR CLE 2000-05-05 W, 11-10 8
8 MIL OAK 1996-08-05 W, 13-3 8
9 MIN CLE 1995-09-26 W, 13-4 8
10 MIL CLE 1975-06-21 W, 11-9 8
11 HOU MON 1972-08-17 W, 17-5 8
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/19/2012.

The Braves are only the 4th NL team to have 8 players all get a hit, score a run, and strike out in the same game (the two Brewers games on the list came when the franchise was still in the AL). This feat is especially rare in the NL because pitchers are unlikely to get hits or score runs, and because players who enter the game late are unlikely to get the two plate appearances needed to both get a hit and strike out.

The strikeout part of the equation isn't exactly welcome, of course, but it does say something about the team that they were able to score 14 runs while striking out 12 times in just 8 innings. In other words, the Braves hit 28 fair balls in that game, and 16 of them went for hits. They had some good luck, for sure, but nearly everyone on the team had a couple hard-hit balls despite all the Ks. And given that the team's 19.1% strikeout rate is not particularly high (10th-highest in the NL), I don't see any cause for concern there.

If this team stays relatively healthy all season, I fully expect them to remain in the top tier of NL teams in runs scored. They'll have some slumps when they face tough pitching--especially Philadelphia's, I would think--but this lineup is solid 1 through (at least) 7, which is something not many other NL teams can claim.

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