Monday, April 22, 2019

Good, Bad, and Ugly: Braves First 20ish Games

I like to recap the team after every 20 or so games because I think that provides a proper barometer on what we've seen so far. If you're taking in baseball in less than 20 game chunks, I think you're going to draw some insane conclusions based on the roller-coaster that is day-to-day baseball. In fact, 20 games is probably insane to draw conclusions from as well, since I think 40 might be more accurate, but I'm a blogger not the Farmer's Almanac. I don't think that far out.

THE GOOD:

  • The Offense - Wow, who saw this coming? Through 20-something games the Braves actually have the 5th ranked offense in the MLB per Fangraphs, and they 6th in total runs scored. That's a good sign for the mix of young and old that we have on the team. After all, offense is what gets you to the playoffs. However, pitching is what wins when you get there.
  • Ronald Acuna - Dude's not just good, he's en fuego. Acuna is hitting everything well, and the stats back it up. You want average? He's hitting .307. You want Slugging? He's slugging .600 on the year so far. Plate discipline? He has almost a 15% walk rate to a 25% K rate. Fangraphs has him 7th in WAR among hitters, and almost 90% of his balls are hit medium or harder. Acuna doesn't know what a weak contact bloop looks like. He's ripping stuff.
  • Max Fried - One of the only pitchers we can count on right now, Fried looks like the young stud we were all hoping for when we traded all the 2015 players for magic beans. Fried is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.38, a ground ball rate that's 5th in the league (ground balls don't leave the yard so that's good), and he's striking out over 6 guys every 9 innings. I like everything about the kid so far, and hope he can stay healthy long term.
THE BAD:
  • The Pitching - Pretty much everyone that's not Fried in the starting rotation isn't getting the job done well. Teheran has an ERA over 5.50 and we all know I think he should be shipped off to Siberia. Kyle Wright got blown up in his 3 starts, Sean Newcomb was so bad he was shipped off to AAA, and Kevin Gausman is functional but got shelled in his one game against a decent team (The Mets). Also Touki Toussaint looked good until he didn't and gave up 7 runs in Cleveland.
  • The Walks - The Braves are #1 in the league in giving up walks. That can be really bad news, but not always. In 2018, the teams that gave up the most walks were the White Sox, the Braves, and the Cubs. The White Sox lost 100 games. The Braves and the Cubs won 90+ each and made the playoffs. Why were the White Sox so bad while the Braves and Cubs were successful even giving up that many walks? Because the Braves and Cubs gave up less than 1 HR per 9 innings, and they stranded runners at a 74% or higher rate. The White Sox gave up 1.23 HR per 9 and stranded runners at a dead last 63%.
THE UGLY
  • Giving up Homers - Case in point about why the walks worry me, the Braves are giving up 1.31 HR/9 right now, and that's a cause for concern. If you walk tons of people and you're giving up more than a homer a game? You're giving up multiple run homers at that point, and that causes you to lose games in the long run.
  • Pitching Injuries - Folty is still hurt, Vizzy is hurt, Venters is "hurt" because he's terrible, and Darren O'Day is still hurt and hasn't even played a game yet. All of this is bad because we are desperate for decent pitching right now. Why? Because...
  • Bullpen - Good lord the bullpen is wretched. Terrible. Awful. Abysmal. I predicted bad, they went beyond bad and landed in some circle of bullpen Hell I wasn't aware had a zip code. How bad is it? In 80 innings, the bullpen has an ERA of 4.71, and that seems generous to how they look on TV. In 10 wins, the bullpen only has 3 saves, and 3 blown saves. They have a -0.5 WAR according to Fangraphs, which is 27th in the league. The bullpen gives up 5.5 walks per 9 innings, worst in the majors. They give up 1.57 HR/9, 7th worst in the majors. I could go on, but you have eyeballs and you've seen it.
What does this all mean? If we can score, score a ton. No lead is safe in my book. Let's just try to put 8 on the board every night and hope the bullpen can get it over the plate while keeping it in the yard. Also, can we please get Folty back? I need some more solace in my everyday starting rotation.

GO BRAVES!

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