Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Braves June State of the Union

First blog post since the beginning of the season? Man I'm slipping in my old, married stage. I guess I can blame this one on the fact we are moving into a new house. In the future I plan to do at least 2-3 blogs a month once I'm moved in.

Today is June 13th, and the Braves are in solo first place with 38 wins. Does anybody know the last time that happened? If you guessed 2013, good for you. The Braves on June 13, 2013, 5 years ago, had 39 wins and a 5.5 game lead over the Nationals. They were actually tied for first place on June 13, 2014 a year later. The good news is that in 2013, they won the division outright with 96 wins.

It's a heck of a start for a team I though MIGHT average wins in the mid-70s. Anything can and will happen, but we can all agree that this team is outperforming expectations. The best part of how they are outperforming is on the offensive side of the ball. Last year the Braves averaged 4.52 runs per game, and to date they are averaging 5.00 runs per game. Over the course of a season, that's an extra 78 runs, and that would certainly vault the Braves from 20th place where they were last year to most likely a top 10 offensive team.

Another funny aspect of this team's offense is that the Braves have a top 10 home run hitter in MLB, and it's NOT Freddie Freeman. No, in fact it's Ozzie Albies, the 5'8' (on a really good day) 165 pound might mouse we have clubbing Grand Salami's as of last night. Quite an amazing feat for a player I saw years ago in AAA and seriously wondered how he would ever hit at the major league level. I had a reason back then to be concerned as his rather paltry .732 OPS in 2 seasons was like a lukewarm blanket. Now? He's hit more homers in 68 games than he hit his entire stint in the minor leagues! His MLB OPS is .807. That's a whopping turnaround at the highest levels.

Let us not forget what the Braves are supposed to be built on with all these prospect moves, the pitching. That's the aspect of this team that leaves me the most concerned, because it's the area I see a potential disaster looming if there is one. There are two really bright spots in the rotation, and those are Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz. Both are sub 3.00 ERAs, both have sub 3.50 FIP, both are allowing less than 7 hits per 9 innings, and both have 0.6 HR per 9 innings. In ranking pitchers, they are easily 2 of those top 30 starters in the league, and Mike Foltynewicz is probably top 10.

Then we have the rest of the rotation, which is where I see the disaster. Julio Teheran is awful, and he's been awful for a long time. I don't trust him as a starter, and frankly the only reason I think they put him on the DL for what is essentially a minor issue is because the club doesn't trust him either. He's the only pitcher on the team with a negative WAR according to Fangraphs. I'd be better off throwing some shlub on the mound than Teheran. Literally any replacement player is better. That's terrible.

Also there's Brandon McCarthy who I'm particularly hard on because he's a home run machine. Brandon gives up 1.59 HR/9, which ranks 75th amongst the 90 qualifying starters. The fact he's won any games is because he's managed to get some stellar offensive run support, and he's had some really good games coupled with some complete blowups that really upped his ERA over 5.00. He's basically a coinflip which would make him a fine 4th or 5th starter. Except he's not really that, he's probably the 3 in our rotation, which is bad.

Then the 5th guy is...uhhhh. Exactly, there is no 5th guy. We have a 5th guy by committee and they are all equally questionable. Probably the best option is Mike Soroka who just came back today from a shoulder issue and shut out the Mets 2-0. If he's the guy (he's young and looks like he's 12), then maybe he can be a #3 in the rotation, and push back McCarthy and Julio.

Still, that would make our 1-2-3 pitching staff a bunch of guys that are younger than 25. That's REALLY suspect from a playoff perspective because none of them have the experience yet in big games, and the playoffs are a completely different animal mentally. Ask a guy like Kris Medlen who looks lights out all year then suddenly hits the playoffs and gets beaten up for 5 runs each time.

Overall, we're moving in the right direction. I think if McCarthy can even out a bit, and Julio can be remotely functional along with Soroka possibly filling out the rotation? This team has a chance to get a division title. And that would be huge for this city after the years of crappy baseball.

GO BRAVES!