While there have been plenty ups and downs so far in Atlanta, the Braves are 29-25, on pace for 87 wins, fairly close to their expected win total. Their path to 29 wins has also been a lot different than expected. The offense has been slightly above average, the defense, especially in the outfield, has been good, and the pitching has been iffy. I’ll be looking at some team and individual totals that could show some perspective on why players are doing as well/poorly as they have been.
So far, the Braves have outscored their opponents 254-237, leaving them with a matching 29-25 Pythagorean record. Since they are exactly one-third of the way through the season, the season’s totals extrapolate to 762-711, much higher than the 641-605 totals from last year. The difference is only 15 runs, or 1.5 wins, but we sadly know how important 1.5 wins can be. Also, the ability to over/underperform your Pythagorean record is usually linked to the bullpen, so the Braves should be able to win a couple more games than expected with Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters excelling in high-leverage situations.
The offense does not have one standout player, with seven of the eight starters hitting at an average level. Martin Prado has been the best hitter, posting a .327/.401/.482 line. Again, the power has been good at the team level, 3rd in the NL with 53 HR, but no one has more than 8 individually. Shortstop has been the blackhole, with Tyler Pastornicky and Jack Wilson costing the team about 2 wins. Andrelton Simmons should hopefully be able to provide above replacement level production the rest of the season, helping the team immensely.
The defense was a sore spot last year, but it has been a strength so far this year. The outfield has posted a combined UZR over 20 runs, with everyone else, besides Pastornicky, hovering around average. Tyler rated horribly at SS, costing the team a full win with his defense alone. Defense is Simmons’ strength, already displaying his skills this past weekend. I don’t know if Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla can remain average defensively throughout the season, but that would give the Braves about another win more than expected.
The pitching is basically the complete opposite of the hitting. Brandon Beachy has carried the staff, posting a 1.87 ERA so far, though his 3.33 FIP and 3.89 SIERA show that his skills are unlikely to maintain such dominance, especially since he’s on pace for 217 IP. On the other end, Mike Minor and Jair Jurrjens have canceled out Beachy’s success, posting ERAs of 6.98 and 9.37 respectively. This has left the rotation thin, prompting Kris Medlen to get stretched out to help out the starters. This is such a stark contrast to past years and even this year’s perception among most people.
It is amazing how much the team has changed, despite the fact that very few players are new. Overall, the Braves have nearly the same WAR breakdown as Boston, linking them once again. I think the offense can maintain their level of performance, with improvements by Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann offsetting the slides of Prado and Michael Bourn. The defense is bound to come down a bit, even with the insertion of Simmons into the lineup. The pitching should be able to pick up the slack, and even more, once the bullpen settles down a bit and we can find five manageable starters. After all of this craziness, I still expect 90 wins and a wild card spot at the end of the season.