Thursday, July 13, 2017

Braves at the Half-Way Point

Standard disclaimer, I realize I don't write as much as I used to, and that's because my new job and new FIANCE (WOOOO!) keep me very busy in the summertime. But that's not an excuse to do less than an article a month, so I'm logging in today to talk about several things we've witnessed over the last 30 days.

Bartolo is finally gone, and it happened way too late. I said back on May 6th, well over 2 months ago that he was basically done in my mind. He was done then, and he went on to pitch 7 more games, where the Braves lost 5 of them. His ERA was 8.14 when he was finally cut from the team in July, and that was after spending a fake stint on the DL. It was a terrible move that didn't work out and cost us $12M in the interim. But sunk money is sunk money and they needed to realize it faster. I think we easily could have won 3 of the games he lost at the end, and we'd be sitting at .500 right now.

The Braves are 42-45, three games under .500, and about 10 games back of the Washington Nationals for the division. The Nationals are not what I would call a strong team. They have massive bullpen problems, and I think their manager puts entirely too much stress on the starting staff, which will be an issue come playoff time. However, do I think the Braves can win this division? No. Our starting pitching and bullpen depth isn't good enough to make up a 10 game deficit in 75 days. Nor do I think we should chase that division by trading for people at the deadline. We are not buyers, we should be sellers to set up the 2018 season where I think we'll really have a chance to compete for the first time in a long time. I've said that the whole way down. You stick to the plan and don't do something stupid.

Freddie Freeman is back and looks like he hasn't missed a step at all. The man was out for 6 weeks with a broken wrist injury most doctors said would take 10 weeks to heal. He's a freak of nature when it comes to wanting to get on the field, which I love from somebody making over $100M on his contract. Freddie has already hit 2 homers in just 6 games back, with a .385 average in July and slugging over .700 for the month. He's insane. I can't get over how fast he came back and how well he's playing off an injury that might cost many guys the season and all their momentum.

Johan Camargo is a bigtime surprise that's caught the eye of many Braves fans. In 40 games, Camargo is hitting .327/.355/.500 slash line with 14 RBIs. The only thing I want Camargo to improve is his on-base, which is lower due to his 5BBs/24Ks. I would like to see the walks increase to at least get to a 1/2 BB/K ratio. However, it's not just at the plate for Camargo, it's in the field. He's had only one error in all his games played, which goes to show he can play the up the middle positions very competently.

Dansby Swanson is having some issues, and it's not pretty to watch. In the exact opposite version of Camargo, Swanson is struggling hard at both the plate and in the field. Not only does Dansby have the most errors on the team at SS with a whopping 14, but he also has the 2nd most errors in the major leagues. That would still be an issue if he was hitting well, but he's not. Dansby's OPS is .620 in an era where anything under .700 is awful. There's hope on the horizon if he can hit well through the later half of July, but if not he's going to be pressed by Camargo and Albies for the up the middle spots on this team.

Sean Newcomb looks like he might be an answer on the mound, even as he struggles with some early growing pains. When I see a pitcher have 4 games that are quality starts, and then two games that are implosions against two of the best teams in baseball right now? That's normal. He's 24 and he's not ready to take on the best lineups in baseball. He is finding his place against the average MLB team, which is all I want right now. I'm interested to watch all of his starts, because I love how he can work his way out of damage with his strikeout stuff.

Lastly, Ronald Acuna is getting promoted to AAA today, and Acuna is a kid that even Chipper Jones himself compared to Andruw Jones. Acuna was promoted out of AA in about 60 games hitting over .300 with a massive pile of doubles under his belt. The kid can hit, and apparently he can play every position in the outfield, which would be a huge boon when the club trades or runs out of contract on Kemp and Markakis. I look forward to seeing him get some playing time in 2018 at some point.

That's it for now. More to come at the end of July when we're looking at the final two months of the season. I can only hope that like THE FREEZE, the Braves can narrow the gap on the Nationals big lead.


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