Many preseason prognostications had the Atlanta Braves as the team that would challenge the Phillies in the NL East, and this blog wasn’t an exception. Well, almost a month into the season and Bobby Cox’s final season isn’t going as he had hoped. The Braves are in the middle of a nine-game skid, are dead last in the division and at 8-14 are actually the worst team record-wise in the National League.

So what’s wrong with this team? Well for starters they aren’t hitting at all. They are last in the National League with a putrid .228 team batting average and third to last in runs scored. What’s even worse is the production or lack thereof from the top of the order. Through 17 games, the leadoff hitters were a combined .081. That is beyond bad. Nate McLouth originally started the season as the leadoff hitter, but now they are trying Melky Cabrera at the spot. Neither have worked to this date as McLouth owns a .148 average and Cabrera’s sporting a .189 average. Another big disappointment has been Yunel Escobar, who was also batting under .200 until his two hits tonight. Escobar is in his fourth season and had high hopes going into this year as he’s improved his average and home run total each year. Not only is he hurting the Braves, but he’s killing my fantasy team!

The Jason Heyward show has also cooled off since his storybook start to his career. Despite hitting in the .230 range, Heyward still leads the team in homers with five. Heyward is good, but relying on a rookie to lead your team in production is not a great sign for Atlanta. The sluggers that should be leading this team, Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus and Brian McCann, are not getting the job done. Chipper looks like his down year last year wasn’t a fluke and age might have finally caught up to him. McCann is hitting just .250, but still is getting on-base at a .405 clip, and the Glaus pickup is just looking like a bad signing.

Pitching has been middle of the pack with a 4.34 ERA, good for 10th in the NL, but the defense has been atrocious. With an error tonight, the Braves have made 21 errors with a .974 fielding percentage. Both are tied for last in the National League. McCann had 12 errors last year and nine the year before, but already has made four errors this year.

No hitting and bad defense is a quick recipe for not being successful. The Braves definitely still have time to turn things around with 140 games and five months remaining, but they sure have not looked good throughout April. They need to shore up the defense and hitting needs to come around soon or Cox will start wishing he called it quits after last season.