Third baseman says Royals showed that teams don't need to rely on home runs
By Adam Berry
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves third baseman Chris Johnson looks back at last year's Royals team and sees inspiration, but perhaps not in the way you might expect.
The Royals made it all the way to the World Series, sure. They did so on the strength of their lights-out bullpen, a strong rotation and great defense. They also did so while hitting only 95 home runs during the regular season, the only team in baseball to not reach triple digits.
The Braves weren't exactly the most powerful team last season. They went deep 123 times, more than only four of the 15 teams in the National League. Then they traded away Justin Upton (29 homers), Evan Gattis (22) and Jason Heyward (11).
Some of their replacements will at least somewhat make up for those losses, but if the Braves are going to score enough runs to be competitive this year, they're likely going to have to play some small ball.
"I think [the Royals] showed everybody last year that you can win and not hit a bunch of home runs. You can manufacture runs and wear out good pitching," Johnson said. "Hopefully our offense will get going, we'll learn how to manufacture runs and ride the coattails of the pitching staff."
Freddie Freeman has the most thump of anyone returning to the Braves' lineup, having averaged about 21 homers per season since 2011. Nick Markakis has put up double-digit home run totals every season in his career.
Johnson went deep 10 times in 153 games last season. Despite batting just .208, Melvin Upton Jr. hit 12 homers in 141 games. And shortstop Andrelton Simmons is only a year removed from a 17-homer campaign.
Johnson hoped that a different approach as a team would also result in individual improvements.
"I think everyone can benefit from the approach. I don't think the approach is going to stop guys from hitting home runs," he said. "Freddie Freeman is going to hit his home runs. I just think it's a lot better mindset to make us a lot more consistent."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.