If 33 games into the season someone told you the Braves would have a better winning percentage than the San Francisco Giants, would you believe them? Well, that happens to be the case, but it is far from an accomplishment. At 13-20 the Braves currently have the fourth worst record in the National League and fourth worst in the MLB. Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s been dreadful to watch at times. They were never expected to compete this season, but they were expected to be better than last season and at this point, there has been no improvement.
The pitching staff has been the biggest let down thus far into the season. SunTrust Park has shown itself to be a launching pad for hitters. Atlanta by far has the worst home ERA in the majors at 5.61. To put the into perspective, the Rockies come in second at 5.31. The ace of the staff Teheran has a treacherous home ERA of 8.31 and Colon has been hit hard in every start excluding his one hit wonder against a very poor Padres lineup. Garcia, Foltynewicz and Dickey have shown flashes of being serviceable, but all still have an ERA over 4.00. The staff all around (including the bullpen) has been bad. They’re on pace to give up 130 home runs in SunTrust, which is a huge leap from the most given up at Turner Field at 95. For there to be any chance of the team improving this year, the staff must pitch better and keep the ball in the park. Unfortunately, this is one of the growing pains of rebuilding a franchise around pitching. The Braves only have Teheran and Foltynewicz under contract next season, so a lot of hope is being put in that a few prospects will be ready to be plugged into the rotation. If not, trades and free agent signings will be in full effect come the offseason.
To go along with the pitching staff, the offense aside from Freeman and Kemp has been extremely streaky. The top of the lineup has struggled to consistently get on base in front of the two sluggers. Freeman’s MVP like start to the season is being wasted because there is no one on base for him to drive in. Before Wednesday’s loss to the Astros, Freeman only had 20 PA’s with RISP. That’s not good considering there are 214 active players with more AB’s with RISP than Freeman. The offense revolves around Freeman and Kemp, and if they are getting opportunities to drive runners in, than you can’t expect much from this lineup. Also, no other person in the league is having a worse time at the plate than Dansby Swanson. And no, that’s not a hyperbole. Statistically, Swanson is the worst hitter in the league. Hitting .169 with 2 HR 9 RBI and a .250 OBP, the sophomore slump is in full effect. With the enormous expectations and hype surrounding Swanson, it really looks like the Braves rushed him to the Majors before he was ready. Of course, after batting over .300 last season, no one expected this from him, but you have to wonder whether continuing to run him back onto the field everyday is better or worse for his confidence. Swanson plays a vital role in this organization and the Braves need to consider if he is ready for the Majors right now or not.
The Braves are struggling for an identity right now. They need to find consistency in the pitching staff and offense before they have a chance to turn the season around. If they continue to have these 5 game losing streaks at a time, then they will be unable to dig themselves from the hole they are in now. This team has too much veteran leadership and talent to continue to produce poorly. Everyone knows baseball is a strange game, that’s why it is always good to stay optimistic.