Hard work begins with season now over

John Hart will take the first steps in getting the Braves back on track.

The Braves got hot a little too late in the 2014 season. They won two games to finish the regular season over the weekend in Philadelphia, including a 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon.

Atlanta got a solo home run by Emilio Bonifacio to start the game and five relievers combined to shut down the Phillies, who got their only run in the 8th inning off David Carpenter.

The season ends with Atlanta sporting a final record of 79-83, four games under .500. The team was 7-18 in September, 27-40 after the All-Star Break and 62-76 after the tremendous 17-7 start in April.

This is the first time in Fredi Gonzalez’s four seasons as manager the Braves have finished with a losing record. It’s only the third time since 1991 (24 seasons) the Braves finished under the .500 mark.

Atlanta finished 17 games back of the NL East champion Washington Nationals and nine games back of the second-place wildcard team, the San Francisco Giants. The Braves had the same record as the New York Mets, who were 15-10 in September and 34-33 after the All-Star Break.

Next June the Braves will have the 16th pick in the 2015 first-year player draft. It will be their highest draft pick since 2009, when they took Vanderbilt left-hander Mike Minor with the seventh pick in the first round.

The Mets will pick one spot up at 15, based on the fact they had the worst record between the two teams in the previous season.

The offensive woes, of course, is the reason for the disappointing record. The Braves were shut out 16 times this season. Surprisingly, the Braves were actually shut out 17 times in the 2013 season. But here is where things get dangerous. Atlanta scored one run in a game 25 times this season. They were 4-21 in those games. So in 41 games, practically one-quarter of the season, the Braves scored less than two runs and were 4-37 in those games.

It gets worse. The Braves scored only two runs in a game 23 times. They were 5-18 in those games. So the team scored less than three runs in 64 of the 162 games (39.5 % of the season) and were 9-55 in those low-scoring performances.

The Braves finished with a .241 team batting average, fifth-worst in baseball. The team on base percentage was .305, seventh-worst in the game. The slugging percentage was .360, second-worst in baseball behind the San Diego Padres (.342).

Atlanta tied with Boston with 123 home runs, with is the eighth-worst total for the season. And the most important number is runs scored. The Braves scored 573 runs this season, second-worst behind San Diego (535). That’s only 3.54 runs per game.

Last season the Braves scored 688 runs, 115 more than this season. That’s 4.25 runs per game. Of course, the scary thing is these differences came with basically the same lineup from a year ago. Only Brian McCann, who left last year as a free agent, was the big change.

And here is the one stat the summarizes the entire season. The Braves starting rotation led all of baseball with 110 quality starts (six or more innings pitched with less than four earned runs allowed). So the starting pitchers did their job.

The pitching staff finished with a 3.38 team ERA, fifth-best in baseball. The rotation also had the fifth-best team ERA with a mark of 3.42, while the bullpen finished 11th with a 3.31 earned run average.

And now, the hard work begins to repair what was obviously broken. Interim general manager John Hart said Sunday he will meet soon with manager Fredi Gonzalez and determine his fate. Then Hart will either keep the GM job or another one will be selected, but it did seem that Hart will decide whether Gonzalez will remain as the Atlanta manager.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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