FOX Sports South caught up with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to get his insight on the Braves.
FOX SPORTS SOUTH: The Braves’ bats primarily went flat in Pittsburgh and they had the one game against the Royals in which they were shut out. What do you think is going on with this team offensively?
CHIP CARAY: The offense we are seeing is the offense that was put together as advertised: they’re going to hit a lot of home runs and they’re going to strikeout a lot.
When the home runs are coming this is a very potent, dynamic and explosive offense 1-8 in the lineup. But when those home runs don’t come, you have a lot of guys that are part of this era of Major League Baseball that sacrifice strikeouts for power.
We’ve said it a couple of times on the broadcast, but one important stat to follow as this season goes along is how often the Braves are simply playing ABC baseball. Get a runner in from third with two out.
In my humble opinion, strikeouts are the only unproductive out there are in a Major League Baseball game. Hitting a ground ball to second with a runner on second with nobody out can get that runner to third or a fly ball could score you a run.
Frankly, I haven’t seen evidence of that over the first 2 ½ weeks of the season. That’s not to say it won’t change and it’s something they’re all aware of and right now they’re in a run where they’ve run into good pitching.
Let’s give the Pirates their due. They’re a much-improved pitching staff and this is a much-improved bullpen. This is a ball club that everybody forgot was in playoff contention the first half of both of the last two seasons and they’ve done a great job of changing their culture and they have a shutdown bullpen just like the Braves.
So let’s tip our cap to them, as well as Kansas City. However, if you’re going to make the playoffs you’re going to face some real good pitching and some real good relief work and you still have to do the fundamental and ABC things in playoff games or regular season allow you to score runs without the home run.
FOX SPORTS SOUTH: Some help looks to be on the way with the return of Freddie Freeman from the disabled list. He was hot before the injury and has been hot with Triple-A Gwinnett. Do you expect him to pick up where he left of?
CC: I hope so. Anytime you can add another accomplished bat to the lineup, that’s outstanding.
I think one of the big surprises for this team this year, is if you think of Braves teams in the past couple of years, how left handed-dominant they were against left-hand starting pitching and they’ve had troubles hitting lefties.
The Braves have added (right-handers) Justin Upton and B.J. Upton and they’ve added Evan Gattis to the lineup and they’ve added Gerald Laird to the lineup. But still they’re really struggling to hit left-handed pitching.
Freddie is historically is a guy who has hit them pretty well. He always hits well in Coors Field in Denver and so any kind of guy who can come in and is swinging a hot bat at this time in the year is going to be a welcome sight, not to mention his good work defensively at first base.
The Braves have a couple of guys who are swinging the bat pretty well and some guys are starting to cool off right now. They just need a couple of people to step up and maybe Freddie will be just the tonic to start the offense as this road trip continues.
FOX SPORTS SOUTH: One of those guys who is swinging the bat well right now is Chris Johnson. He was seen as a throw-in in the Justin Upton deal but is leading the National League in batting. What have been your impressions of him?
CC: He’s a guy who really knows how to hit. From my eyes a very uncomplicated, easy swing and he takes the ball up the middle, hits the ball where it’s pitched. He’s a better defender than I thought he’d be at first and third base.
He’s one of those guys when I look at the Braves lineup, is someone that maybe people overlook a little bit because there’s so much attention on the Uptons and Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman.
He can kind of be a ninja in the middle of that line up and do a whole lot of serious damage. With all the left-handed pitchers the Braves have been seeing, he’s a guy that can neutralize some of that for Fredi Gonzalez’s offense.