A week ago, the Braves’ lineup wasn’t fantastic, but they were at least hitting for power and posting a decent OPS. That’s no longer the case, so let’s take a look at the hitters and see what we have two weeks into the season. The following list is sorted by WPA.
McCann has cooled off a little bit and watched his OPS dip below 1.000. He’s really only slightly above zero in situation neutral WPA (WPA/LI), so most of his positive WPA has come from performing well in clutch situations. Indeed, his +.430 clutch leads the hitters by far.
Chipper and Renteria have both been solid, with Chipper playing at about his expected level of performance (.295/.426/.523) and Renteria perhaps playing a bit over his head (.304/.385/.478). Renteria leads the team in WPA/LI at +.368, and Chipper has +.283.
Below those three is a significant drop, and then we have Matt Diaz, who probably should be taking some at-bats away from Langerhans if the current stats hold true. Diaz is hitting .321/.333/.464 with an identical WPA and WPA/LI of +.089. His WPA/LI on a per-plate-appearance basis actually puts him ahead of McCann (0.30 to 0.16), but I wouldn’t put too much stock in that yet. First, we need to see him hit right-handed pitching a little more.
Thorman and Francoeur are successfully treading water in WPA, although the latter’s stat line of .256/.347/.465 looks better. Thorman’s performed better than his line of .182/.240/.409 suggests, and there’s reason to be excited about Francoeur, who has taken five walks so far. Sure, he has 11 strikeouts, but a .347 OBP from him is a very good sign.
After those two, we have Kelly Johnson, who is slightly on the wrong side of zero in WPA. His critics will probably point out the .150 batting average, which is certainly not good, but it’s not the end of the story for KJ. His OBP is still not good at .306, but it’s respectable if he starts hitting even a little. Nine walks will do that for your OBP, and he’s mostly been doing his job as a leadoff hitter. Obviously he needs to hit better, and hopefully that will come soon.
Craig Wilson, the supposed lefty killer, has killed no one in the early going, nor has he irritated anyone much at all. .182/.333/.182 with the second-worst WPA/LI on the team (-.159) is not good, but fortunately for him, Thorman has yet to take off. Unfortunately for him, Matt Diaz is hitting very well, so it’s likely that Wilson’s only chances to play will come at first base (and Diaz has even played some there).
Next, we have Andruw Jones, who will probably start hitting any time now (maybe after it warms up a little) and improve that .186/.314/.465 line. A few more hits would make that OBP and SLG more like normal for him, and I expect those hits to start falling soon. His WPA/LI is nothing to be particularly ashamed of (-.024), but he’ll need to reverse his performance in clutch situations, which has been pretty bad (-.258).
Ryan Langerhans is at the bottom of the Braves list, and he simply hasn’t hit at all. Hitting .098/.205/.098 isn’t good enough, no matter how good your defense is, and everyone’s pretty much aware of that. If he doesn’t pick things up a bit, it’s only a matter of time before Matt Diaz starts playing every day.
As a team, the Braves’s line of .230/.326/.404 (with a negative WPA) is a bit pathetic, and since it’s unlikely that the Braves will continue to have an ERA under 3 for very long, the bats will have to heat up. Perhaps the next two weeks will be warmer across the country and allow everyone to settle in a little more.