The Braves finally found an ex-Brave they could beat, in the person of Andy “We Just Traded Bruce Chen for a Worse Pitcher” Ashby. Damian Moss — despite not pitching as well as he had his last few starts — finally got a win, 6-2. Gary Sheffield helped out with a three-run homer and really seems to have recovered; that will help a lot. The Braves are still a game under .500 but the Mets and Expos are playing terrible baseball right now and the Braves aren’t losing ground. The Marlins have won four in a row to take over first place; I tend to think they’re the team to beat, at least until the Braves fix the bottom of their batting order.
Why are the Braves struggling? Well, here’s the biggest reason:
Those are the on-base percentages of the normal 6-8 spots in the Braves’ batting order, Vinny Castilla, Wes Helms (who finally got his first walk of the season last night), and Javy Lopez. When Lopez doesn’t play, he’s replaced by Henry Blanco, at .255; when Castilla or Helms doesn’t play, Julio Franco, at .266, usually would get the start.
You can’t win in modern baseball with three everyday players like that, especially in the National League where the pitcher adds a fourth. (For that matter, Maddux has outhit all three of the above by OPS.) Unbelieveably, the Braves really miss BJ Surhoff and his .369 OBP. There aren’t any easy answers here. Giving Mark DeRosa the third base job and benching either Castilla or Helms is the only thing I can see, but I don’t think they will, especially since Castilla would probably be the victim and they’re paying him lots of money. Given a free hand, I’d probably move Chipper back to third, and try out Darren Bragg in left, but I know they won’t do that.