Friday, August 21, 2015

Why are the Atlanta Braves so bad on the road?

Well, it finally happened. I no longer want to watch this Braves team when they head out on the road. If you're watching, and judging by the TV numbers you aren't, the Braves have the worst road record by losses in baseball at 44, tied with the Phillies. Even worse, the entire NL East has a losing record on the road and the best of those is 8 games under .500 when they leave their home confines.

I expected better than this mess, and we all would have seen better if the Braves hadn't given up mid-season and traded away everyone. I get really frustrated as I'm watching a Mets team who is frankly terrible everywhere except New York, and they are likely going to win a terrible division over a tanking Washington Nationals team. There's no reason the Braves couldn't have competed in this division and won it if they actually rolled the dice now instead of stocking the farm system for a possible future that may never come to pass. Rational people will disagree, but offense wasn't the problem with the pieces we had. The issue was we were unwilling to improve the biggest problem on the team, which was the bullpen. We may not even fix it next season when the team is a year from the new stadium. This bothers me as a fan.

I don't expect to win every year. I really don't. I understand the need for a rebuild. But there's aspects to this rebuild that don't make sense to me, and one of them is the need for bullpen arms and decent hitting. The Braves have offloaded both in these trades, and gotten back a slew of unproven minor league "talent" that may or may not have any impact at the MLB level. This shows up in numerous ways, but the most obvious is road record.

Having a losing road record in baseball is common. Of the 30 teams in baseball, exactly 7 have a winning road record right now. That's about 24%. So, losing on the road and making up your wins at home is indeed the norm. It's one of the reasons that baseball has a huge home field advantage. Here's an article with some data that breaks down home field advantage in baseball over the last 5 years:

The basic conclusion of that article is that home teams are winning almost 54% of the games. To most people that sounds small, but an advantage like that over 5 years equals almost 900 wins. Divided out by teams that's an advantage of nearly 6 wins per team per season that they get because they are playing at home.

So going into this season, if we take into account that an average team will win only 46% of their road games, it stands to reason that the Braves would have a losing record on the road. Here's the problem, the Braves winning percentage on the road is only 33%. That 13% below the average is worth almost 9 wins, which if you move 9 from the loss column and put them in the win column for the Braves, guess what? The Braves would be 62-59, 3.5 games back of the Mets and ahead of the Nationals for the Division title race. And we'd probably all feel better about ourselves and the team.

But the problem is the pitching for the Braves on the road is awful, a 4.57 staff ERA that's 24th in the league. You can't win games when you are giving up 4-5 runs every time you leave Atlanta. It just won't work. Compare that to the Braves team that last made the playoffs in 2013, whose road record was 40-41. That team won 96 games and had a staff ERA on the road of 3.68, which was almost a full run better than now. That's our difference, plain and simple. Scoring or not scoring, when your pitchers cross that 4.50 barrier on the road, it's a recipe for disaster. The current teams worse than that are Minnesota, Boston, Detroit, Seattle, Colorado, and Philly. Guess how many games back those teams are in their divisions? 13.5, 12.5, 14, 9.5, 17.5, and 17.5 games back. The Braves are 11.5 back. You can't win with that kind of pitching on the road. Nobody can.

So I am firmly in the camp that this organization sold us fans down the river, and I have no idea when the fast moving currents are going to stop. I'm looking at a team that obviously has no answers this season, and I'm wondering if they'll have answers in 2017, let along 2016. We've been stockpiling pitching, but somebody has to man up in the bullpen, and somebody else has to start slugging the ball besides Freddie Freeman and old AJ Pierzynski. But if you can't at least put up a fight on the road, you aren't even going to be relevant by August. Just like we see now.

Keep an eye on that minor league talent we have now and the young arms we got in these trades. In the immortal words of Star Wars, "You're our only hope!"

Make sure to click an ad this week if you haven't already since it supports the blog, and hopefully this team can make things more watchable when we head back home against the Yankees.


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