Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It's hard to overstate how disappointing Aybar's been

Four reasons the Braves actually thought their offense would be improved this season: healthy Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis in the middle of the order, newcomers Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar at the top of the order.

Well, only one of those guys, Markakis, is doing anything. And that, along with the disappointment on and off the field of Hector Olivera, goes a long way in explaining the struggles of this punchless offense.

Inciarte pulled a hamstring in the second game of the season and is still on the DL.

Freeman has been alarmingly unproductive, batting .177 with a puny .258 slugging percentage, and since homering in the first inning on Opening Day he’s had just two extra-base hits, both doubles.

And Aybar? The shortstop whom we were told wouldn’t be much of a dropoff from Andrelton Simmons because Aybar would be better offensively? Well, he’s been an unmitigated disaster so far, even worse at the plate than he’s been in the field.

In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say Aybar has been arguably the worst position player in all of baseball this season. He was out of the lineup for a second consecutive game Monday as manager Fredi Gonzalez rested him in light of his current struggles and bad career numbers against Red Sox righty Rick Porcello.

Among those with enough plate appearances to qualify, Aybar has a majors-worst .159 on-base percentage, a National League-worst .136 batting average, an NL-worst .182 slugging percentage, and a majors-worst .341 OPS. (Tampa Bay’s Brad Miller, at .409, is the only other hitter within 100 points of him).

That about covers it. But wait, there’s more with Aybar. Consider: With runners on base, Markakis is 14-for-26 (.538), second-best in the majors, while Aybar is a National League-worst 2-for-32 (.063) with one walk and five grounded-into-double-plays.

And with runners in scoring position, Markakis’ .588 (10-for-17) is tied for third-best in the majors, while Aybar is tied with four other qualifiers for worst in the majors at 0-for-13, including three GIDPs.

When a left-hander is pitching, the Braves thus far would have been better off if Aybar had stayed home:  He’s 1-for-22 with no walks and two GIDPs against lefties.

The good news: Aybar is only signed through this season, and the Braves’ two best position-player prospects are shortstops Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, both having strong seasons in high-A and Double-A, respectively, and one of whom will replace Aybar -- perhaps a lot sooner than initially expected.

The bad news: Aybar is making $8.5 million and the Braves really needed him to get off to at least a decent start to entice trade offers before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Unless he ramps up the performance significantly, it might be tough to dump any part of that salary.

And I mean, how much dead money can the Braves possibly eat this season? They’ve already taken big hits after dumping Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn and with Olivera’s situation – out on bond after being charged with assault and battery, currently on leave from MLB per its domestic violence policy – leaving some doubt whether he’ll be traded or released. He was and is owed $32.5 million by the Braves through 2020.

Braves to use platoons in LF, CF and 3B

Did we mention the Braves are 4-14 and have hit three homers all season, once since Opening Day and none in the past 13 games, tying the longest such drought for the franchise since a 13-game outage in May 1983?

There are 50 players with more home runs than the Braves have as a team.

Obviously it’s a very small sample size – just one-ninth of the season has been played – and surely isn’t a sustainably awful rate in either category, but it’s still worth noting the Braves are currently on pace to hit a total of 27 home runs and finish with a 36-126 record.

• Woeful vs. rivals: What makes the Braves’ ongoing struggles even a little more painful is how little resisistence they’re putting up against the teams that have been their recent NL East rivals, the Nationals and Mets.

After being swept in their weekend series against New York, the Braves are 6-14 with only 67 runs scored in their past 20 games against the Mets, and 2-8 against them since the All-Star break including seven consecutive losses at Turner Field.

Against the Nationals, the Braves are 5-20 with a 5.13 ERA and only 69 runs since the beginning of the 2015 season, including 0-6 this season.

• Let's close  with this one from Sturgill Simpson's latest album, A Sailor's Guide to Earth, the third consecutive terrific album from one of the finest artists recording today.

"BRACE FOR IMP ACT (LIVE A LITTLE)" by Sturgill Simpson

And this life will be over

Every party must break up

For burdens to shoulder

We're dying to live

Living to die

No matter what you believe

And all of us cry

For the ones we must leaveSo go and live a little

Bone turns brittle

And skin withers before your eyes

Make sure you give a little

Before you go to the great unknown in the skySome will beg for forgiveness

From someone above

For something they did

To someone they love

Some scream like a baby

Some go out crying

Some bid the world goodbye

And welcome to dieGo out and live a little

Bone turns brittle

And skin withers before your eyes

Make sure you give a little

Before you go to the great unknown in the sky

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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.