Suppose that you have emerged from a cave this week after a month-long separation from the civilized(?) world. As a baseball fan, you’d immediately demand to know the fate of your beloved Atlanta Braves.
Your helpful debriefing agent begins by noting the pain and agony this team has been through over the past month, noting Injured List visits for Kyle Wright, Raisel Iglesias, Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Collin McHugh, Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Harris II, and Orlando Arcia.
That’s nearly a third of their major league roster, including 3 starting position players, 2 top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers, and two key bullpen arms. Even Mike Soroka was held back thanks to… eh, three years of time off has really been the culprit as much as anything else.
The agent continues:
–Marcell Ozuna has the 3rd-worst WAR in baseball among those… well, among everybody.
–Because of the rotation, two rookies had to make their MLB debuts — and start multiple times, at that. 17 games into the season,
–Max Fried and Kyle Wright have combined to throw just 17 innings, leading to a starters’ ERA of 4.13.
After the month-long isolation, this report is the last thing you want to hear. Depression is setting in. You suddenly feel the urge to crawl back into that cave.
Then a wry smile appears on your torturer’s face as he reports: “but then again, the Braves are an NL-best 13-4 with a 7-game win streak going.” You hope that the punch you just threw won’t leave a lasting mark.
While the story lines might have been delivered better, all of those things are nonetheless true: the upshot is that the Braves have been winning despite their various plights.
You might attribute the good results to a couple of things — the schedule (Washington, Cincy, and the Royals have been involved) and the offense (2nd-best OPS in the NL), but a sweep of the well-regarded Cardinals shouldn’t be ignored.
Sure: the Padres took 3 of 4 games last week, but 2 of those contests involved the rookie pitchers being thrown to the wolves (one of those games nonetheless ending as a 5-4 squeaker).
Atlanta’s offense has been carrying much of the load over this stretch with six players sporting OPS numbers above .900 (Arcia is one of those on the list).
What’s the point here? The team is winning despite all things working against them. Just imagine what might happen once a few more starters (position players or pitchers) start to re-enter the lineup.
Important Stretch Coming Up
It’s not too early to be thinking about October baseball. After dropping the series in Atlanta, the Braves are already in the midst of their last meeting with San Diego for the regular season. If they want to own a potential tie-breaker with the Padres, they need to sweep the series in San Diego.
That’s clearly a tall order, but step one is complete as Max Fried came back to show how to induce weak contact and awkward swings. Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton follow as the starters are lined up much better for the Braves this time around.
After this California excursion, though, things continue to be challenging: 3 games hosting the Astros, 4 with the Marlins, and then a trip to Queens to meet the Mets as we flip the calendar into May.
By that point, we should have a good feel about just how good this club really is, but the short answer is this: they’re already battle-tested and things are looking very good… especially if they can get everybody healthy from here.