Sunday, May 05, 2013

Panic: Abandoning The Strategy or Staying the Course


Happily, the Atlanta Braves started the season 12-1. They began Sunday with a two-game lead in the National League East. During their hot start they displayed great pitching and tremendous home run hitting. Justin Upton leads the major leagues with 12 home runs.

However, since the 12-1 start, the Braves have lost 11 of 16 games. The fans are restless and the team is questioning itself. Many people have questioned the team's power-focused, home run-or-bust mentality. As the losing slump began, Atlanta had six straight games with double-digit strikeouts, including three games in Detroit in which they totaled 39. They lead in the N.L. in strikeouts (266) and are tied for first in home runs (40).

Using this approach, the Braves' hitters are striking out 9.2 times a game, which puts them on a pace to become the second team to strike out more than 1,400 times in a season. The Braves have won just one game in which they did not hit a home run. It is not as if the Braves are undisciplined free swingers. They draw their share of walks — they are tied for fourth in the N.L.

Those that support the Braves' exciting, yet frustrating strategy, point out the fact that six-time All-Star Brian McCann has not played since off-season shoulder surgery, Jason Heyward is on the disabled list after an appendectomy, and second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder B. J. Upton have not been hitting well at all. It is possible that when the team gets healthy, its hitting and power will reach new levels of efficiency and lead to more winning.

The team stands 17-12 with almost a fifth of the season gone. They have a .586 winning percentage.

Should the Atlanta Braves start panicking? Should they abandon the strategy upon which the team was built?

The Braves may not have another 12-1 streak in them this season. However, the organization built this team for power and pitching. They spent much time researching data, obtaining talent, and making the decision about their plan for the season. In preparation for this season, the team committed to this approach. If they built it, they should use it. It is entirely too early to change their strategy. They must show confidence in the strategy and the players they obtained to execute the strategy. The Braves should not panic.

There is a much greater risk in changing anything major at this point in the season. With this personnel, a shift in strategy is much more likely to jeopardize the entire season than would staying the course. Ride out the season. Keep the fans excitement high. Power, home runs and pitching will keep the fans coming. The challenge is in executing the plan. It is not time to abandon the strategy that plays to the strengths of the team. Keep the faith.

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