Monday, August 10, 2015

What is a realistic goal for this Braves team?

If we're looking at simple math, the Braves currently have a .455 winning percentage as we stand today. That means on a 162 game season, the Braves would have 73-74 wins, which is pretty much exactly what Vegas had them projected to be at the beginning of the season. I believe the exact number was 73.5 which is uncanny. Those casinos aren't build by people winning a ton of money.

But is that winning percentage indicative of how the Braves are playing with all the trades and changes they've made? I don't think so. I'm going to use the Alex Wood trade as the dividing line because at that point in time, the Braves were essentially waving the white flag. They've since moved Chris Johnson for Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, so the team has improved from the very poor hitting club they were before. However, Freddie is banged up again, so we're likely not going to see him for a while either.

On July 30th, the Alex Wood traded happened. It's been about 11 days since then, and we've played 10 games. The Braves are 5-5 in that stretch, a .500 record. Let's assume that without any other changes, that's what the Braves are for the rest of the year, a .500 ball team. With 50 games left, they would finish with 76 wins instead of 73-74. So really, being just average isn't a huge bump.

But what if my goal is winning 81 games? That's a .500 record on the season. Why would I want to get there? A few reasons. One, I think it provides the team a big boost that they maintained a "winning" record even with all the craziness going on in this year. Two, it validates that John Hart is taking this rebuild in the right direction, and that the younger pitching is started to hold its own. Three, it's fun to spit in the eye of all those analysts who said the Braves would have 90+ losses this year and a non-functional offense.

What's it going to take to get to 81 wins? A 30-20 record. Or a .600 winning percentage. It's damn near impossible, but remember that the Braves schedule for the rest of the August only has 2 really tough teams on it, the Yankees and the Cubs. If the Braves can finish the month 12-7, I think they are in a really good position to finish strong. Now, for that to happen they are going to have to score more runs, and the bullpen is going to have to stop giving it away late.

As for the scoring, the Braves are 5th in total runs scored in the month of August so far, which is way up from the horrific scoring month they had in July when they finished dead last. It's quite the turnaround. The bullpen is still a question mark. The Braves dumped Avilan in a trade (thank heavens), and the bullpen now has names like Ross Detwiler, Andrew McKirahan, Jake Brigham, Matt Marksberry, Ryan Kelly, Arodys Vizcaino, and David Aardsma. And I can see things improving for guys like Aardsma (who had two really bad games), and Vizcaino and Marksberry. I need to see more out of Detwiler, Brigham, Kelly, and McKirahan, and I suspect we will.

What's realistic for the Braves to finish? I'm thinking anything between 70-78 wins is reasonable. I'm hoping for 80+ but it's going to take a never-say-die attitude out of these guys, and the Mets/Nats tanking a bit. Will we win the division? Absolutely not, nor the wild card, nor anything of the sort. For that to happen, the Braves would have to win 15 in a row, and that's insanity reserved for the completely delusional. In all liklihood with the Met and Nats beating each other up, the Braves get eliminated from the playoffs by Labor Day.

Mainly what I want to see for the rest of the season is how the young starters and bullpen develop, how Michael Bourn looks in the outfield along with Cameron Maybin, and if the Braves decide to ever bring Christian Bethancourt back this season, or if he's finally banished to AAA until they can unload him in a trade. But mostly I'm looking for fun moments like this weekend when we beat up on the Marlins and I got a replica world series ring!


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