With the Braves splitting a home series with the Mets, the season is around 10% done. The race that we thought there would be is on. The Mets, Phillies, and Braves are within a half game with the Nationals 2 games back of the lead. So no one has come out of the gate red hot, and no one has disappointed, other than maybe the .500 Nationals.
But how it’s happening might be a shock. First in hitting fWAR, wRC+, wOBA, and even home runs? That’d be your Braves. Yep, even in home runs. And perhaps more importantly, we’re 3rd in MLB in wOBA and 5th in wRC+. The team’s doing an incredible job of producing runs. Yesterday’s home run outburst is what put us one ahead of the Nationals, by the way. More of the same with defense; the Braves’ 4.2 defensive WAR outpaces the next best team, the Phillies, handedly (2.5 defensive WAR). The Nationals and Mets, so far, have been smoldering dumpster fires defensively, but well into the negative territory in calculation. That’s the one neglected thing about the Nats and Mets; they have old teams that just aren’t going to sling the leather.
On the pitching side, it’s more the reverse. The Nationals lead in pitching WAR, though their ERA is second-worst amongst the East contenders. They’ve probably been a little unlucky in short sample with earned runs, but they’re towards the top in K/9, BB/9, HR/9, etc., hence the higher WAR total. The Braves actually lead in ERA, but they have — shocker — the second-worst BB/9 in baseball. So far, the Braves have gotten worse since last year in the walk department. If we’re looking at FIP as an indicator of future performance, the Braves having the worst FIP amongst the contenders tells me that we’re going to need to see improvements from the staff. The starters are 21st in WAR, ahead of only the Phillies, and the relievers are 22nd, ahead of only the Mets. That’s not the way to draw it up.
Last night, Julio Teheran outdueled Jacob deGrom. Of course. Through 4 starts, he has the highest strike out rate of his career, and second-highest walk rate of his career, second only to last year. His BABIP is also his highest of his career, so maybe he’ll see more good luck going forward. Nick Markakis and Josh Donaldson, both for the second night in a row, hit home runs. Hopefully that means Donaldson is starting to get hot. Charlie Culberson also went yard. Johan Camargo got the start at SS. After playing sparingly in the first week, Camargo’s playing time has increased. I would expect him to have about 80% of the PAs of the “regulars” come May.