Once again, the Braves will try to get back to .500 baseball today against a team they’ve struggled to beat. Hopefully, the Braves can take the series and be above .500 for the first time in 2021. There have been some good news that’s come in the last 48 hours that will help with this biggest area of need for this team.
Chris Martin has been the Braves best reliever for the last 1.5 years with an ERA of 2.40, a BB-rate of 1.2 and K-rate of 10.4. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be the catalyst that takes the hard innings in the 7th or 8th innings.
Ok…this is a real deal for the Braves. Unfortunately for the team, they’ve had to endure Nate Jones, Carl Edwards Jr. and a handful of ne’er do wells that see the sunset in Atlanta then withdraw back to Gwinnett under the moon’s light. While Shane Greene isn’t THE answer, he’s AN answer, and provides late inning options for Snitker, especially of the RH variety. My guess is Greene is in the bigs in 2-3 weeks.
For now, Jay Flaa goes under the ne’er do well’s category, but I admittedly know very little. Apparently, he’s a guy that has a pretty decent spin rate to go with a 93-95 MPH fastball.
The Austin Riley Dilemma
Many are claiming 2021 as Austin Riley’s breakout, and rightfully so. The kid has a .790 OPS and has played an average-to-good 3rd base. However, I’m pulling a Chief and pumping the brakes on this breakout a bit. When Frank Wren was at the helm, Chris Johnson had a breakout year in 2013 and was rewarded with a 3 year/$23MM contract, of which the Braves immediately regretted as the regression was very real in 2014. The reason? Chris Johnson, who was known for his bat to ball skills, had an outlier year even for his standards, as he BABIP’d .394. To put that into perspective, the BABIP average for the league is normally ~.295. This means that Chris Johnson’s balls in play landed for hits 10% more than league average. Doing the simple math, if Johnson were to have had a league average BABIP, he’d have lost 15 hits, which would’ve dropped his .292 batting average down to .237. Holy Jose Constanza!
The reason I speak of this is Austin Riley, in a remarkably small sample, has BABIP’d .382. That wouldn’t be concerning IF it came with a good hard-hit rate. It doesn’t. It’s in the 50th percentile. However, that wouldn’t be concerning if it came with a good barrel rate, chase rate, whiff rate, or outs above average rate. It doesn’t. He’s in the bottom 1/3 of the league in all categories. Essentially, Austin Riley has traded hard contact for a better walk rate…and that’s about it. Everything else in his game has suffered. For me, if this is just an adjustment and the power comes back, that’s wonderful. If not, his hit tool is going to regress and Riley will be dwelling in the land of mediocrity. If the power isn’t back by July, I’ll be worried.