The Braves are two weeks into their season and to say they've struggled at times would be an understatement. Regardless of whether it's from a poorly constructed lineup, inconsistent performances from the pitching staff, or some plain old bad luck, a few things need to be addressed. One of the concerning trends has to do with one of our bench players.
Why the heck isn't David Ross being utilized more often?
Through thirteen games, David Ross has appeared one time. He made a start in place of Brian McCann on April 4th against the Milwaukee Brewers, a game which the Braves won 2-1. Ross recorded a hit and drew a walk, and (like always) did a great job of handling Brandon Beachy on the mound. He hasn't played behind the plate or even made a trip to the batter's box since the fourth game of the season. That's just not right.
Ross became a full-time back-up catcher in the Major Leagues in 2005, and he's posted a stat line of .244/.349/.458 in that time. Since joining the Braves in 2009, he's hit .282/.388/.492 in 299 at-bats. If you need further convincing of his ability at the plate, his wOBA of .385 and wRC+ of 137 with Atlanta are both well-above the league averages. He also hits righties better than lefties, and his OPS of .887 in the last three years against right-handed pitchers shows he shouldn't be brought in just to face a lefty.
That's pretty damn impressive for anyone, let alone a back-up catcher who has a rocket arm behind the plate.
For the first few games of the season it was understandable to not give Ross many opportunities to make an impact. He was, after all, our one and only back-up catcher. Fredi Gonzalez could have given him the chance to pinch-hit, but you run the risk of not having a true catcher on your bench should Brian McCann need to leave the game. While a manager always like to have a backup plan, the odds of a team needing their emergency catcher are slim-to-none and giving Ross a pinch-hit opportunity is well worth the risk.
There's an even bigger issue, though. David Ross isn't the only catcher on our bench, and he hasn't been for a week now. J.C. Boscan has been with the club since last Friday as our third catcher, but for one reason or another, David Ross still hasn't been utilized off the bench as a much needed right-handed pinch hitter. What is the purpose of having Boscan on the roster if we're not going to use Ross to help bolster our offense? We might as well just carry an extra relief pitcher.
This is Fredi Gonzalez's fault and no one else's. And while batting Jason Heyward sixth or using George Sherrill in a crucial situation is at least (*ahem) defensible, there is absolutely no reason to not use David Ross off the bench as one of our primary pinch hitters and as an occasional replacement for Brian McCann.
We're paying the man two million dollars and he's the best back-up catcher in baseball. Utilizing him on a nightly basis would probably go a long way in helping the Braves win a few extra games this season.