We are officially 1/3 of the way through this 60 game MLB regular season. The Atlanta Braves have the most wins in the National League East, but are currently 2nd in the division standings, which are determined by win percentage. With a record of 11-9, Atlanta has a win% of .550; second to Miami’s .667 win percentage & 8-4 record. Atlanta is currently trailed by the defending World Series Champion Nationals who sit at 6-8 with a .429 win percentage.
This roller coaster of a season for Atlanta’s roster would’ve derailed lesser teams from their playoff path. The Braves definitely have some “unknowns”, but here’s what we do know…
Max Fried is an Ace
Fried paced the Braves big league ball club in wins last season with 17. This season he was projected to be one of Atlanta’s starting young guns as a part of what looked to be one of the National League’s best rotations. That was before Soroka was lost for the year, Felix Hernandez opted out, Cole Hamels was sent to the IL, & Folty fell apart and was demoted. After all that, Fried is now the Braves ace, and it suits him just fine. Overshadowed by Soroka’s masterful performances last year, Fried is every bit the pitcher that Soroka is. It’s hard to imagine a healthy Soroka outdueling what Fried has done in 2020. He’s been electric.
Atlanta Needs Starting Pitchers
Past Fried, the Braves starting rotation has been a steady diet of plug-and-play guys, with little consistency & even less production. Atlanta can’t write in playoffs with ink until the front office addresses their abyss of quality starters. Trades are still an option to fill that void, but the consensus around Braves Country is that it’s time for Ian Anderson & Tucker Davidson to toe the rubber in the NL East. And at this point, why not?
Marcell Ozuna Was Worth Every Penny
He’s tied for 1st on the Braves roster in games played, homeruns, & doubles. He’s only 19 points below Swanson for batting average, behind Swanson & Freddie for RBI’s leader, he’s slugging .500, Onbase percentage of .361, & an OPS of .861. He also tied the ballgame with a big fly in the 9th inning against the Mets with two outs & two strikes, a game that Atlanta won in extra innings. He’s the prototypical DH, which is why he’s perfect for the Braves going forward. The DH is here this year, will be gone next year, but is expected to be included in the following year’s CBA.
Swanson is Streaky
Dansby Swanson can look like the worst hitting shortstop in baseball at times, AND THEN HE GOES ON A TEAR. He’s currently leading the Braves in: batting average, RBI’s, stolen bases, hits, doubles, games played, & at-bats. His defense always has been & always will be elite. He has speed for days. And when he’s hot, HE’S SCORCHING.
Atlanta’s Bullpen is DOMINANT
If an entire position group was eligible for the All-Star game, the Braves bullpen would be unanimously voted in. It’s a who’s-who of middle to late inning aces & all-stars. When the bullpen takes over, the other team stops scoring, most of the time they don’t even get into scoring position. Bullpens like this one are rare in today’s game, and it should be cherished for the treasure that it is.
No Spring Training Hurt
It’s no secret that Acuña Jr & Ozzie Albies, to name a couple haven’t looked like themselves at the plate for most of 2020. These two are key to Atlanta’s offense reaching its full potential. So far in 2020 they’re hitting a combined .208 with only 24 hits. Most of those struggles appear to be from timing, simple as that. They’re missing fastballs, FASTBALLS, right down the middle. Those two THRIVE off of fastballs in the zone, but the regular season so far has taken the place of Spring Training in years past. They haven’t been pretty so far, but I’d bet my life that they both turn it around, and it won’t be long…
It’s Pache Time
Pache injured his ankle earlier in camp, but has been playing every day & doing what he does; which is playing baseball at a level most only dream of. He’s a legitimate five-tool player. He’s an every day player. He plays Center Field. Pache in Major League Baseball means the Braves could roll out an outfield like this: Acuña in Right, Pache in Center, Duvall/Riley in Left, & Ozuna as the DH. OH MY GOD, can you imagine that lineup?! Please Anthopoulos, PLEASE. It’s Pache Time.