Coming into the 2011 season the Braves replaced half of their infield (the right side) and kept familiar faces Chipper Jones and Alex Gonzalez. The new additions of Dan Uggla (from the Marlins) and Freddie Freeman (from the minors) were brought in to help give the offense a boost.
The infield hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, as Uggla and Gonzalez have formed one of the worst offensive middle infields in the league. Chipper has stayed healthy for the majority of the year (although he now has hit the DL) and Freeman is living up to expectations after a slow start.
Overall though, the Braves infield has been one of the worst in the majors so far. None of their hitters has 1.0 fWAR and the group has combined to add less value than a number of individual players (including over 20 infielders) and hasn’t given the Braves the offensive support they expected in 2011.
First Base: Freddie Freeman
2011 Stats: .274/.347/.459, 13 HR, 43 RBI, .805 OPS, .352 wOBA, 0.9 fWAR
After winning International League Rookie of the Year and getting a September call-up in 2010, Freddie took over at first base for Atlanta in 2011. After a slow start to the season (which almost mirrored his slow start in AAA last year) Freeman has come on and been one of the Braves best hitters this year.
Since the middle of May Freeman has an .890 OPS while slugging .524. In the Braves recent four game sweep against the Rockies, Freeman hit four homeruns in his most impressive series of the year. At this point, Freeman is one of the top offensive candidates for Rookie of the Year and will likely be competing with a couple Braves pitchers for the award.
Second Base: Dan Uggla
2011 Stats: .185/.257/.365, 15 HR, 34 RBI, .621 OPS, .273 wOBA, -0.1 fWAR
When the Braves acquired Dan Uggla from the Florida Marlins, they expected to get a powerful right-handed bat to stick in the middle of their lineup. Instead, they got a guy who managed to make 2010 Nate McLouth look good. While he has 15 homers, Uggla has had one of the worst offensive seasons of any players in the Majors and has a negative fWAR at the All-Star break.
There may be hope for Braves fans though, as Uggla has started to show signs of life over the past few weeks. Over his past 15 games, Uggla has a .923 OPS and hit five homeruns. Uggla has six extra base hits in his last six games and played a big part in the Braves only win over the Phillies just before the break. His OPS so far is almost 200 points below his career average, and the Braves offense will become a lot better if Uggla plays like his old self in the second half.
Third Base: Chipper Jones
2011 Stats: .259/.340/.428, 8 HR, 46 RBI, .768 OPS, .330 wOBA, 0.8 fWAR
The biggest question on Chipper is always health, and he played a surprising 77 game before the All-Star break. Of course, Chipper is now headed to the DL but shouldn’t miss too much time. While his overall stats don’t look that impressive, Chipper is second on the team in RBI and leading Braves infielders in fWAR.
Going into the second half, the Braves need Chipper to return to health and play the majority of the games down the stretch. Chipper no longer produces like in the past but should continue his current pace and keep driving in runs.
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez
2011 Stats: .231/.263/.343, 7 HR, 27 RBI, .607 OPS, .269 wOBA, 0.7 fWAR
Gonzalez has been unable to live up to his impressive offensive totals from the 2010 season. In return for his decreased offense, Fredi Gonzalez has decided that Gonzalez should hit second and handicap the Braves offense. However, Gonzalez has provided some value to the Braves with some stellar defense.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Gonzalez has been worth 1.1 WAR on defense. Gonzalez has been battling a horrible slump lately but was able to come through in the clutch against the Phillies in the Braves only win. In the second half the Braves will hopefully get more production out of Gonzalez (his career norms would be an improvement) and continue to see spectacular defense at shortstop.