The State of the Braves

The Braves’ season is 38% complete. They’re currently tied with Washington for the division lead in the East, and they enter in a stretch of the season against Dodgers, Mets, Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Reds, so the schedule will be manageable for them through June. They’re 16-12 at home and 20-14 on the road. With the favorable home schedule coming up, you’d expect the home record to improve a little bit.

The offense has carried the team. They’re 4th in MLB behind position player WAR behind only the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees. Great company. It’s a well-rounded offense: 7th in wRC+, 5th in wOBA, 5th in BABIP, 4th-lowest K%, 13th-highest BB%, 6th in SBs, and 11th in HRs. All that to say that there isn’t an area where they are in an extreme. Overall, they’ve just been a very solid offense.

Top-third in defense as well. 9th in defense WAR, 8th in UZR, and 8th in DRS. There’s the possibility we could see better defense, but this has worked perfectly fine for us as well.

The pitching is a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, we are 17th in pitching WAR — 15th in starting pitcher WAR and 17th in relief WAR. FIP and ERA show us similar rankings to the relievers, but the Braves are 4th in starter ERA and 10th in FIP. The gap in WAR could be attributed to being 14th in starter innings pitched and 25th in BB/9. But they’re 5th-best in keeping the ball in the ballpark, and they’re 13th in BABIP. Overall, I think WAR is a little misleading, and the staff is better than WAR is suggesting.

Going forward, one must assume the pitching will get a little better. Julio Teheran has a 5.62 FIP in 13 starts. He’s on the DL, and he probably won’t be in a position to continue to pitch the way he’s been, whether that’s abrupted by a long DL stint, trade, or demotion to the pen. If the Braves find themselves in a pennant race, they may have to make that hard decision. Anibal Sanchez has a shiny ERA (2.45), but his FIP is similarly problematic (4.84) due to a low walk rate and high home run rate in his 4 starts. Put it this way: Mike Soroka, Matt Wisler, Luiz Gohara, and Max Fried have accumulate more WAR in less than half of the starts of Anibal and JT. One would think the team will listen to that.

The pen could receive some reinforcements as soon as now. Evan Phillips and Josh Ravin are both lighting it up in AAA, and we could see a trade to bolster the bullpen. It’s hard to see, though, who they would jettison as the pen currently on the active roster is 8th in WAR compared to other teams’ current active rosters.

The offense may not need much of a tweak. The bench could improve, but a .235/.301/.400 line as pinch-hitter may be difficult to beat. Ender Inciarte continues to struggle, and the team lacks a true lead-off hitter. The top two lineup spots have produced the worst OBPs in baseball. The Braves continue to try several combinations, but while Freddie Freeman leads the league in average with runners in scoring position, he hasn’t been given as many opportunities to drive in runs. If that flame can be fanned, you could see a real blaze.

But what’s not to love? The team is on pace for 94 wins. We weren’t supposed to be here. This was the last rebuilding year, and then great things were ahead. But this team doesn’t buy it, and they have far exceeded expectations. I said it in April, I said it in May, and I’ll continue to say it until the season ends in whatever fashion unfolds: enjoy it. We’re not guaranteed a World Series win at some later time. We’re not guaranteed the years of success the rebuild was meant to produce. But we are guaranteed that we currently have a really fun, exciting, young, and solid team. Let’s enjoy it.

55 thoughts on “The State of the Braves”

  1. You failed to point out that since May 1, Ozzie Albies has been hitting .237/.282/.395, mostly out of the leadoff spot. He’s the millstone around the neck of the offense, which has fallen from most runs in the NL by eight runs, on May 1, to most runs in the NL by just seven runs.

  2. A disturbing and perplexing decline in run production. They should consider forfeiting the season.

  3. nice recap summary, thank you Rob.

    Donny…better understood, thanks

    Sam…when we were kids we got into the habit of taking three cats up to the top of the roof but only two cat parachutes. Demonic said the Magistrate. We made them draw straws and fitted out the two winners and sent them off in a slow, lazy parabola towards earth.Here comes the nasty part. We made it perfectly clear to the third cat his only chance of survival lay in crash landing on top of one of the floaters towards which we then propelled him. What a sight it was to see if he pulled it off!

    Bourdain RIP, why we wonder. Seems to be catching on.

  4. Inciarte is an overrated hollow player. I would LOVE to see him be part of a package trade.

  5. I said this about Ender at the beginning of the year:

    But with his skill set, he doesn’t have much room athletically before he falls behind the pack. Losing a step on defense or at the plate could prove catastrophic for his value.

    He’s been a little unlucky. But we definitely need more offensively out of him or he loses a lot of value.

  6. I don’t think Inciarte has lost anything athletically. His defense is still good and he seems just as fast as a base runner (if overaggressive). He just hasn’t hit. I think he was hitting over his head last year.

  7. Rob,

    You are right. “You aren’t not guaranteed a World Series win at some later time. We’re not guaranteed the years of success the rebuild was meant to produce.”

    Which is why I think we should add a starter and a third baseman.

  8. I like a lineup of

    Albies
    Cakes
    Freeman
    Eduardo Escobar
    Acuna
    Flowers/Suzuki
    Inciarte
    Swanson

  9. I’m probably going to be arrested for dressing up as a cat and throwing people off of roofs, so maybe line up a new Tuesday guy or something…

  10. @13 Sam

    They have found a new Coltrane album that was recorded in ’63. 7 new tracks, one of which i had planned to start my recap with tomorrow. If you approve.

  11. @8

    Yes, I agree it’s not a physical issue. The overall point was that he doesn’t have much margin for error. If his bat or his defense suffers, he loses a lot of his value to the point where you may not be able to play him. Of course, it’s kind of obvious statement to say that if a 3 WAR player becomes a 2 WAR player, you’re going to be looking to upgrade him. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening with Ender, but his bat is sorely missed.

  12. I think this is what we see for a mid-season top ten list:

    1) Soroka
    2) Wright
    3) Riley
    4) Allard
    5) Touki
    6) Wilson
    7) Anderson
    8) Wentz
    9) Pache
    10) Muller

    Waters, Contreras, and Stewart would be really close to top 10. Acuna, Gohara, Fried, and Minter graduate. What gets tough is the bottom of a top 20. You could be looking at the bottom 5 being all Grade C+ prospects using Sickels’ grades, which is not nearly as impressive as years past. Of course, we’ve graduated the aforementioned 3, plus Albies, Swanson, and Newcomb. Blair was once a top 5 prospect, and Maitan was in just about everyone’s top 10 before he departed.

    Of this list, 8 of them will probably appear in top 100’s as everybody through Wentz did in pre-season, and Touki will now shoot up the rankings. Maybe Pache, but he was 162 on Sickels’ rankings.

  13. I do not know Wood Burning Savages, but if it’s positively referenced off of an IDLES mention, I will certainly go give it a try…

    And that was a good idea. Thanks!

  14. Perhaps only slightly less uncomfortable conversation for us all…

    The Mets are reportedly willing to trade DeGrom and Syndergaard if they fall out of it. Which of our prospects would you have face us for the next however-many years for the privilege?

  15. I was so close to YouTube TV as the permanent solution for cable. It’s got DVR. It’s got MLB Network. It has an app on my smart TV. But no HGTV. Wife axed it. So close.

  16. @20

    I was talking to a Mets fan last week about whether the Mets would/could “rebuild” and trade off DeGrom or Syndergaard. I said the Mets would be back and better than ever in about 2 years with their payroll if they traded both. I’d hate for that to be us.

    But I’ll bite. Gohara, Fried, Wilson, and Burrows for Syndergaard. I feel nauseous.

    But with Folty and Newcomb emerging, do we really need to trade for an ace now? And where will things be even a short month from now after Gohara distances himself from his recent tragedies and injuries and Soroka from his injury? Every day, it seems, we move closer to 4+ SPs with 4+ WAR 2019 outlook.

  17. @20, 22 That’s a highly intriguing possibility. I feel like I know the asking price will be high even though I feel like all of their guys have ticking time bombs for arms…..

  18. Yeah… choose between the future careers of Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher. Choose wisely, grasshopper.

  19. But with Folty and Newcomb emerging, do we really need to trade for an ace now?

    If I don’t respond to this by telling you they don’t have track records and are overperforming their peripherals, then the baseball gods will see to it that they both get injured.

    OTOH if I really lay into Folty and Newcomb, then they’re going to show me up in their next starts. That’s just how it works.

    They’re all bums!

    (I genuinely don’t think Gohara will feel any better in a month, and I don’t think he’s what he was last year. If you can’t take Folty and Newcomb to the bank, then you really really can’t take Soroka to the bank.)

  20. Yeah… choose between the future careers of Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher. Choose wisely, grasshopper.

    Even if he alternates 150 and 200 IP seasons, it doesn’t get more legit than DeGrom.

    If you think Newcomb and Folty are emerging aces, feast your eyes on his stat lines the past few seasons.

  21. If you stick with the kids, you’re flipping a coin on injury or failure to develop. If you trade for Thor or DeGrom, you’re flipping a coin on injury. As long as they don’t move Soroka or Wright, I’d entertain the proposal at least.

    Just pulled down four UK punk/indie albums from 2018: The Wood Burning Savages, Stability; Shame, “Songs of Praise; Idles, Joy as an Act of Resistance; Cabbage, Nihilistic Glamour Shots.

    Haven’t seen a summer this stacked with stupid great UK releases like this since 2005 or so. Whatever year the Futureheads broke…

  22. Syndergaard just wants build muscle and throw hard. He’ll go BLAMMO! pretty soon. De Grom, on the other hand, knows how to pace himself. He knows how to pitch.

    Somebody on the Mets’ medical/training staff needs to get fired. Too high a body count in recent years.

  23. @28

    Your first and second paragraphs relate to each other, I think. Someone needs to tell Syndergaard that his body and regimen are the property of the baseball club. While it was unfortunate what happened to Minor, Beachy, Medlen, and Venters within such a short period of time, we have been fortunate with so many pitchers to avoid the big injuries, knock on wood. Syndergaard needs to fall in line, but the team needs to take the wheel, and the Mets don’t seem to be qualified in doing that.

    @25

    It seems like you’re not really wanting to bet against Newcomb and/or Folty either. But I think it’s a pool risk mentality with the upper minors/major league pitchers. There’s an ace in there somewhere, and based on the information that you have, do you trade the farm when you feel pretty good about Folty and Newcomb? Not saying they will, but they do minimize the risk of the pool.

  24. “Gohara, Fried, Wilson, and Burrows for Syndergaard. I feel nauseous.”

    That would make you feel nauseous? The guy that mentioned your affinity for prospects……..

    A fat guy with issues(not of his making I grant), a guy that’s had a few chances already, a try hard guy that’s short and someone that most Braves fans have never heard of. For even 25 starts of Syndergaard would be a no brainer.

  25. Apparently Washington is interested in Realmuto. While that would really help them this year, I would love to see a simultaneous continued weakening of Miami and another farm-gutting trade for the Nationals. If the Mets sell off, Miami is Miami, and Washington’s run of dominance ends, you could have two 100+ game winners in the East next year.

    It would also be cool to know that the Braves’ great first third of the season forced Washington to go nuts to make it happen this year. And they still won’t win a playoff series.

  26. In spite of the age difference, I would much rather trade for deGrom than Synderblock. I think it could be a high reward move to trade some of the farm (not including Soroka or Wright) to get a guy like deGrom.

    Only do it if he’ll sign long term, of course.

  27. It seems like you’re not really wanting to bet against Newcomb and/or Folty either.

    I’m not saying we should trade them or anything. And it’s not betting against them to bump them down a spot in the rotation. It’s betting on the Braves to make the playoffs if we add an ace.

    I mean, I can’t put it any better than this: “We’re not guaranteed a World Series win at some later time. We’re not guaranteed the years of success the rebuild was meant to produce.”

  28. I think Adam R is stating it best. If there’s a possibility of acquiring a staff ace (and he will resign with the team), they would be wise to do it. There may be no better shot at a championship than the season right in front of you.

  29. @15 blazon,

    I saw (and listened) to that last night. An unreleased record from that quartet in it’s furious prime may be the best music news I’ve ever heard.

  30. I’ll be darned … the blind squirrel umpiring at first found the acorn.

  31. And on the other hand..

  32. One thing this team does a ton of is swing early in the count. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight would be a good night to make this guy work and we are letting him off the hook with bad contact

  33. Would be nice if Kemp were to be as generous and helpful to his former employer as McCarthy is.

  34. I can’t believe these guys can’t even try to manufacture a run. Kurt on second and no outs. Why not have Inciarte bunt for a hit? If he makes it then even a DP scores a run. If not, a man on 3rd with 1 out. A second bunt and you have a run. Instead, we have a fly out, pop out, and strikeout.

  35. If McCarthy has another bad start or two, they will have to consider putting someone else in the rotation.

  36. I guess solo shots are not very damaging ….. unless you give up a dozen in a game. 6 hits and 4 HRs so far.

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