The Braves are regressing badly

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The Braves were 12-1 after their victory over the Royals on April 16. They had just rattled off ten consecutive wins, due to an incredibly potent offense and unhittable pitching. The Braves hit three or more home runs in three of their first five games with Justin Upton hitting one just about every night. In fact, of their 29 games on the season, they have hit multiple home runs in 11 of them. Word quickly spread that the Braves were the presumptive heir to the slow-starting Nationals’ throne atop the NL East.

Problem was, it was never going to last. Justin was never going to continue his 97-homer pace. Paul Maholm, with a career 4.23 ERA, wasn’t going to go the whole season without giving up a run as he did in his first 26 innings. They weren’t going to avoid injuries all year. The struggles of Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons, and B.J. Upton couldn’t continue to be swept under the rug.

Since April 17, the Braves are 5-11. They’re still in first place, but tenuously so as they nurse a 2.5-game lead over the second-place Nationals. They have averaged 3.25 runs per game, scoring three or fewer runs nine times in 16 games while striking out 156 times in 590 plate appearances (26%).

The Braves have had the second-fewest opportunities with runners in scoring position (236 PA) in the National League. In those scant opportunities, they are hitting .230. Despite the team’s prodigious power, their .316 on-base percentage is only two points better than the NL average. They steal bases both infrequently and with poor efficiency, making them baseball’s fifth-worst base-stealing team according to Baseball Prospectus.

This isn’t to say the Braves are a sham, but they will sure look like one every time they enter their bust cycle shortly after the boom. They can pitch with the best of them, but their homer-reliant offense will make their hurlers a nonfactor in every drought. The good news, though, is that they play in the same division as the Marlins, Mets, and Phillies, so they’ll have plenty of opportunities to pick up cheap wins as they keep the Nationals in their crosshairs.

Congratulations Justin Turner!

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Baseball is a young man’s game. Whereas, a few short years ago, teams went into battle with a lot of guys with ten or twelve years of experience under their belt, these days such veterans are a dying breed. Whether you chalk it up to teams favoring youth because youth is less expensive, the game simply favoring younger, more athletic players, the decline in PED use among ballplayers or some combination of all three, the fact is that it’s better to be 23 in Major League Baseball these days than 33.

But Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner is an exception.

Turner is 33 — he turns 34 in November — yet he remains at or near the top of his game. It’s been a shorter season than usual for him due to an injury that cost him all of April and part of May, but his production when healthy remains at a near-MVP level. He’s hitting .318/.413/.525 on the year, and his return coincided with the Dodgers shaking off their early-season doldrums. Now, with his help, they are on the verge of yet another NL West title.

Not only that, but he’s doing that while holding down a second job!

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Way to hustle, Justin!