By: Nick Wells
The Braves enter the All-Star break at 52-42, half a game behind the Phillies in the NL east standings. The season has been a huge refreshment for Braves fans, as we are finally starting to see the struggles and frustrations of the rebuild pay off ahead of schedule. There’s been some speed bumps along the way this year, but this team has proved its worth and can strengthen their weaknesses for the second stretch of the season.
All of the starters in the current rotation have winning records, with Mike Foltynewicz (7-5) having an All-Star awarded year. His 120 strikeouts lead the team and has been stellar throughout the season. He struggled to get into the 7th inning until late May but started June with a 2-hit complete game shutout against the Nats. Sean Newcomb has also had an incredible season in his first full year. He’s posted an 8-5 record with a 3.51 ERA, but his 52 walks lead the team. The pitching staff overall has had trouble giving up free bases, and has cost the team too many times, so hopefully the team can improve upon this going into the second half. The bullpen hasn’t exactly been the best at times, but Jesse Biddle has been a stable piece entering the late innings. He’s proved to be one of the more dependable relievers, along with Shane Carle and Dan Winkler. Arodys Vizcaino has been a good closer, but his shoulder trouble will allow AJ Minter to take the closing role until he can return. Minter has recorded 8 saves and 11 holds in his 15 save opportunities this year. Everyone has had a few mishaps over the season, but hopefully they can tighten up and cut down on the number of walks.
The Braves’ offense hasn’t been enough to win some games recently, but they definitely know how to score runs. Ozzie Albies has 20 HR going into the break and became the 3rd Braves player in history to record 50 extra base hits before the break. Hank Aaron is one of the other players to reach this feat, ever heard of him? Albies also leads the NL in total bases, runs scored, and is tied with RF Nick Markakis for the NL lead in doubles. Nick is finally going to the All-Star game for the first time in his career, and it’s well deserved as he’s constantly been a source of base hits for the Braves. Freddie Freeman is also putting together an NL MVP campaign with a .938 OPS so far and his power has earned him 16 HR. You can find him facing some Harper guy in the first round of the Home Run Derby on Tuesday, likely smoking baseballs into outer space. Young phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. has hit .212 at the plate since his return from the leg injury that sidelined him for almost the whole month of June. However, he’s racked up 4 doubles and homered twice in the 14 games since he’s been back. He didn’t quite get the All-Star nod this year, but I believe he should be able to hang out in the National League dugout with Ozzie, possibly as his dugout stool attendant.
The Braves defense has made a huge improvement since finishing 19th in the MLB in fielding percentage after the 2017 season. Currently the defense has a slightly above average .987 FP, good for 6th in the MLB, while recording only 44 errors. Ender Inciarte, who has recently struggled a little at the plate in the leadoff spot, has continued to show why he’s won two straight Gold Glove awards. The Braves’ third base position has defensively been the second best in the MLB, collectively posting a .974 FP with only 5 errors. Ron Washington has done great work with the infield on a daily basis, and it’s certainly been showing in each game.
The Braves will have to make some moves to bolster the bullpen to push for the postseason and adding a frontline starter obviously wouldn’t hurt the cause. New GM Alex Anthopoulos has been quiet, but I’m sure things will start to open up and maybe some prices will go down as July 31st approaches. One call can change everything, and I think AA will make the right decisions to put this club back in the postseason. We’re all just back seat drivers, so we need to trust the man with the keys.
All Stats Courtesy of Baseball-Reference
My Recent Blogs:
MLB Name Hall of Fame: Babe Towne
What's the Point of the Lifetime Ban?
Follow @Nosebleed_MLB for more!