On Wednesday, after sweeping the Yankees in a double header, the Braves have officially reached the halfway point of their season yesterday. The team is currently sitting at 18-12, with a 60% win percentage, which is a 162 game equivalent of 97-65, and a 60 game equivalent of 36-24 (my predicted record for the team), and are sitting in first place in the NL East, 2 games above the 14-12 Miami Marlins. While the team has some clear pieces to fix, its crucial to acknowledge the huge successes the Braves have had this season. Let’s get into the breakdown.
Team’s Success : Offense and Bullpen
The Braves are an offense heavy team, and it is no surprise that the team is top 10 in the MLB in majority team batting stats. The Braves sport a .259 team AVG (9th MLB, 5th NL), .325 OBP (15th MLB, 10th NL), .453 SLG (5th MLB, 3rd NL), .778 OPS (7th MLB, 5th NL), 152 Runs Scored (9th MLB, 5th NL), 5.07 Runs per Game (T-9th MLB, 5th NL), and 42 Homeruns (T-9th MLB, T-3rd NL). The team clearly has an offense, and it shows in the box scores. The offense is led by 5 key players: Ronald Acuña Jr, Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna, and Travis d’Arnaud. All of those players sport an OPS north of .900 (asides from Dansby who holds an .856 OPS) and combine for an average wRC+ of 145 (45% better than league average) Acuña, Ozuna and d’Arnaud all have a 0.7 WAR as of today, which is a 60 game equivalent of 1.4, which is a 162 game equivalent of 3.8. Freeman and Swanson hold a 1 WAR, which is a 60 game equivalent of 2, and a 162 game equivalent of 5.4. Sorry to throw a lot of stats in your face, but those are mighty impressive numbers, and those players are the main reason we are a top offense in baseball, and one of this team’s key strengths. Along with the offense, the bullpen has looked amazing this season, showing a 10-3 record, led by break through youngster AJ Minter, closer Mark Melancon, and many key veterans including Shane Greene, Chris Martin, Will Smith, and Darren O’Day. Luke Jackson hasn’t done great for the pen, but not much was expected of him. Tyler Matzek is a surprise stud in the pen, allowing 6 earned over 13 innings, 4.5 K/BB, and 0 HR or HBP. Josh Tomlin and Huascar Ynoa showed some great outings in the pen too, but Tomlin has now taken on a starting role, and so has Ynoa. The bullpen as a whole boasted a 2.27 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 9.15 K/9, 2.69 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9. The bullpen last season was a huge question mark, and now has proven it is one of the best in baseball. Side note: 7 of the 11 relievers are aged 30 or older, just thought I would throw that out there. Now that I have covered this team’s strengths, let’s cover the weaknesses.
Team’s Weakness : Starting Rotation
The Braves have a problem that can be recognized by any baseball fan. The starting rotation is just pure garbage. Max Fried has carried the rotation, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has a 2.5 WAR, highest in the MLB, and has many people’s Cy Young votes. Mike Soroka was doing similar before he tore his achilles, which left a HUGE gap in our rotation. Fried has a 5-0 record, 1.35 ERA, 2.31 FIP, .257 BABIP and a 0.95 WHIP. In short, he has been an elite, Cy Young type pitcher. After that though it gets rough. The Braves have tried out 8 different starters, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Robbie Eflin, Huascar Ynoa, Josh Tomlin, Ian Anderson, Mike Foltynewicz, and Sean Newcomb. Excluding Ian Anderson, who had an amazing debut yesterday, the rotation without Fried sports a 7.68 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 9 K/9, 4.37 BB/9, and a 2.65 HR/9. The rotation struggled horribly at the start of the season, but with the current rotation of Fried, Erlin, Tomlin, Anderson, and whoever else will fill in the role, the rotation is nowhere near as bad as it was with Newcomb, Foltynewicz, Toussaint and Wright. The rotation may be ok for now, but it is clear they need to trade for a starter or two before the deadline. This team at midseason looks like another division winner, but when it comes to postseason where pitching wins, it looks like we will once again be first round exits. Hopefully that can change soon though, for the sake of my sanity, and for the sanity of Braves Country.