I became a baseball fan in the 1960’s. Ever since, my favorite kind of game is a low scoring pitcher’s duel. Friday’s Braves-Cub game at Wrigley Field made me feel like it was 1968 and I was back in elementary school (Except that I would have been in school for this afternoon game and been forced to sneak a listen on my pocket transistor radio—today I was able to watch this one on my computer.) Anyway, the Cubs broke a scoreless tie with a run in the 8th. A.J. Minter showed he is human when he walked the leadoff man. A sac bunt, steal of third, and sac fly brought home the only run of the game. The Braves loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but couldn’t score, giving the Cubs a 1-0 victory. 1960’s baseball!
Isn’t it a Pity that the Braves lost their opportunity to tie the all-time franchise record for consecutive wins? Maybe so, but My Sweet Lord, it’s been a fun June. And you know, the streak was going to end one day soon. Here’s the good news from today: the question that’s been on everyone’s mind lately is “What’s wrong with Charlie Morton?” Charlie’s answer: “Not a doggone thing.” Morton was brilliant, tossing seven scoreless, with 9 K’s, no walks and only 3 hits. Honestly, I’d rather have Morton show that he’s still got it and lose, than win the game with Morton walking a bunch of guys and struggling to get through five innings. As I said, the streak was going to end soon. But having a solid Morton going forward means this team is in even better shape than I thought they were. I’ll admit to being a big Morton fan. If Not For You, Charlie, the Braves would not have won the World Series last year.
And this team is in good shape indeed. Since Aragorn took over the fifth starter role, Morton had been the weakest link in the starting rotation. If he pitches like Charlie Morton the rest of the way, this is the strongest Braves’ rotation in years. The bullpen, notwithstanding A.J.’s hiccup today, has been the best in the league. This is a deep lineup that can hurt the other team from any spot in the order. They are, as Snitker said in the post-game, a team that relies on the long ball (they lead the league in homers by a substantial margin). On a day like today when the wind is blowing in at Wrigley, they struggled. At least four fly balls might have gone out under other conditions. But it is what it is. The offense will score a lot of runs. Don’t let today’s result get you down. Beware of Darkness, and don’t give me your Wah-Wah. There is every reason to expect great things from the 2022 Braves.
Do they have enough to catch the Mets? Of course they do; a five game lead in mid-June isn’t much. Will they? I think that depends on whether deGrom and/or Scherzer come back and pitch at something approaching their career norms. If that happens, it will be a helluva race. There are still 15 games left between the two, including a two week stretch in early August when they play each other nine (!) times. They also face each other over the last weekend of the regular season.
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While we are looking ahead, let’s look at the next several seasons. Rob posted today this list of some Braves and their FA years:
Matzek (2025) Minter (2025) Soroka (2025) Fried (2025) Riley (2026) Anderson (2027) Wright (2027) Strider (2028) Contreras (2028) Ozzie (2028) Acuña (2029) Olson (2031) Harris (2028+)
That is an incredible amount of talent that is under team control for a long time to come. Some of them will become pretty expensive, but at least you know you have this core if you want to keep it. This team ought to be excellent for the next several years.
That is the good news. Here’s the not so good news. Also earlier today, Ryan posted the link to the Braves Top Prospect list in Fangraphs: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/atlanta-braves-top-31-prospects-2022/
The top two on the list are Harris and Strider. Both are in the bigs to stay, and they are already showing they are at least as good as advertised. Beyond that, though, it is the weakest group by far the team has had since the rebuild. There is not much help coming from the farm. Suppose, as is likely, that Swanson leaves via free agency this offseason. The #3 prospect is shortstop Vaughn Grissom. I like what I hear about him, but they are a long way from being able to assume he is the shortstop of the future. The guy you would have hoped may replace Dansby, Braden Shewmake, has fallen to #19 (welp); Fangraphs really doesn’t think much of his future. Otherwise, there are some promising arms, but it’s far too early to get excited about anyone. I’m afraid this means that not only are there not players you can count on to replace anyone on the big league roster, it will be hard to put together a prospect package to trade for a star. But back to the good news: there won’t be a big need to fill in any gaps on the big league roster for at least three years.
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What is Life? I’m not sure about that, but I do know the Braves can get back to their winning ways behind Kyle Wright on Saturday afternoon. Let’s start a new streak.