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Can Braves Batters Avoid Prolonged Slumps In 2012?

The Braves new approach to hitting coach will be a key to reversing the team's fortunes in 2012.
The Braves new approach to hitting coach will be a key to reversing the team's fortunes in 2012.

Three games does not make a season, nor does it mean a player is slumping or hitting well. Three games is a bad half-week, it's a great defensive play, or a new way that a batter is being pitched. It's easy, though possibly unwarranted, to panic over losing three games. But if the Braves can't escape Houston with at least a couple of wins, then panic is probably an appropriate response (especially from the fans).

Correcting the flawed swings of Braves batters is what could/should/hopefully be the difference between the Atlanta Braves 2011 season and the 2012 season. How the Braves batters respond to adversity this year will be altered by the tools and resources at their disposal, which will be much greater than last season.

Last year the Braves followed the traditional model of "hitting coach helps you with your hitting." We didn't hear a lot about Larry Parrish, he was just there looking on, and didn't seem to have much of an effect on players, at least not a quick effect. Dan Uggla struggled for half a season, Jason Heyward struggled the whole season, Brian McCann slumped the second half of the season, Alex Gonzalez didn't hit until September, no one in center field could hit, even Martin Prado and Chipper Jones succumbed to longer than normal dry periods.

But this year there is a new approach to "hitting coach."

While Greg Walker is the official hitting coach, and the guy in uniform in the dugout everyday, there is also a guy behind the scenes named Scott Fletcher, who is a hitting coach in his own right (and officially the assistant hitting coach). These two coaches combine the traditional hitting coach role with lots of video and other advanced media tools that are supposed to help coaches and players identify and correct hitters' flaws quicker than ever before.

This is going to be critical in keeping Braves batters from being an albatross on the lineup for months at a time. So many fans and media people are asking themselves how the Braves can compete with the same team they had last year, minus a veteran shortstop. The Braves probably asked themselves this question at the beginning of the off-season, and their answer must have been, "we have a good team, we just have to shorten the hitting slumps." And that's the biggest move they made this past off-season, replacing their hitting coach, but more than that, replacing their entire philosophy and approach to helping the Major League players with their hitting.

Like any new concept, it may take some time for every player to fully buy in, or to figure out how the new concept can benefit them. Certainly there should be some intense coaching sessions going on these next few days to identify flaws in swings, and correct them quickly. This will be the key to turning around the Braves offense in 2012.

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