Midseason Review

The Braves have reached the halfway point in the season. To start, a few team numbers. The Braves have a record of 48-34, which places them 3rd in the National League and in a tie for 4th in all of baseball in record. They currently hold a 6 1/2 game lead on first place in the NL East, the largest lead of any division in all of baseball. The pitching has allowed the second least runs in baseball, and the offense is 4th in the National League in total runs scored. It’s hard to say it’s been a rough start, but at times it does feel like it has been rough with the team’s veteran starter, Tim Hudson, finally showing signs of age and hitters like B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, and Jason Heyward coming out of the gate so poorly. That said, as guys who started hot (Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Ramiro Pena) have come back to Earth somewhat, those aforementioned three hitters have seemingly come to life. The team has done all this while having the second-youngest hitters in the league and the third-youngest pitching staff in the league! Let’s look back on how the team has performed in the first half of the season:

 

Catcher – Brian McCann has been rather streaky since his return, Evan Gattis has been nothing short of a revelation, and Gerald Laird has hit well as well as being excellent behind the plate. Not a ton to review here!

Production: .244/.326/.446 with 15 home runs

 

First BaseFreddie Freeman has matured to the player we all thought he could be, despite missing some time due to a fairly controversial DL stint. His fill-ins during his absence, Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis, handled the position well offensively, but Freddie’s defense was notably missed.

Production: .316/.389/.465 with 9 home runs

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

 

Second Base – Dan Uggla has experienced a revelation since his recent visit to the eye doctor. He may have to have LASIK in the offseason, and hopefully this was not the issue for the last 2.5 years and no one thought to address it! Ramiro Pena has played the position exceptionally well, but he was recently lost for the season. Tyler Pastornicky is the only other person to play a game at the position, but that will likely change with defensive wizard Paul Janish taking in Pena’s role and hopefully sparking late-inning defensive wizardry with Simba.

Production: .219/.332/.403 with 13 home runs

 

Third Base – The Braves started with a platoon at third, but they decided that Juan Francisco‘s bat was not enough to keep Chris Johnson off the field. Johnson’s bat has been very solid, but his glove has been nothing short of scary. The position is the most visited of all positions for the Braves as well, with 5 players having taken a turn at the hot corner this season. This seems to be the one position that the Braves could reasonably find an upgrade for in the daily lineup, but the guys who are rumored to be out there aren’t exactly great pickings. Luis Valbuena? Don’t trust it’s real. Trevor Plouffe? Let’s just keep the better hitter in Johnson if we’re going for putrid defense at the position. Alberto Callaspo? While I don’t bet on the Angels selling, I could see the contact-driven Callaspo being one of the few possible options that would make some sense for the Braves.

Production: .275/.323/.449 with 11 home runs

 

ShortstopAndrelton Simmons has been up and down this whole season, and sadly some of that has been defensively as well. He is absolutely amazing to watch at shortstop, but he has gone through a couple stretches of a few games where he bobbled a number of plays. Granted, he still leads all of the major leagues in defensive bWAR, but he may have seen his hitting suffer some from being miscast as a leadoff hitter for this team.

Production: .249/.289/.347 with 7 home runs and 5 stolen bases

Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Left Field – Justin Upton was nothing short of amazing the first month of the season. He’s been nothing short of frustrating ever since. Justin has offered very good fielding with some minor lapses in his transition from one corner to the other of the outfield. His power in April was evident, and he’s flashed speed as well, rating second on the team in stolen bases with 6, only being caught once. He has a reputation as a streaky player, and he just as easily could replicate April in the second half and be an easy MVP candidate.

Production: .235/.335/.433 with 16 home runs and 7 stolen bases

 

Center Field – B.J. Upton has spent exactly 0 days above a .180 batting average this season. I’m not saying batting average is the only measure of a hitter or even a great statistic, but that is startling. His defense has been tremendous, but even that fielding has combined with his hitting to make him below replacement level (Fangraphs and Baseball Reference differ in their value of his defense, with Fangraphs having BJ with a 0.0 fWAR and Baseball Reference giving him a -0.7 bWAR). Jordan Schafer has been a revelation and has played more and more in BJ’s place as of late, giving the Braves a solid leadoff presence with good defense in center field.

Production: .208/.297/.356 with 9 home runs and 7 stolen bases

 

Right Field – Jason Heyward had an emergency appendectomy while the team was suffering through below-freezing weather in Colorado, and it has taken him until June to really hit his stride. Schafer was able to fill in for Heyward while he was out and show that his former top prospect status may still have a glimmer of hope. However, if Heyward keeps hitting with a .308/.368/.500 line as he did in June, Schafer may be only getting his reps at center.

Production: .246/.352/.384 with 7 home runs and 5 stolen bases

 

Bench – This has been the Braves’ biggest strength this season. You have Evan Gattis with 14 home runs, Jordan Schafer with a near-.400 on-base percentage. You have Ramiro Pena producing a 110 OPS+ while playing around the infield with a great glove. Even the “worst” of the Braves bench this season, Reed Johnson, has had multiple big-game moments this season. The non-statistical thing that I have loved while watching this team is the random comments you can catch on the air from the dugout as a player is hitting. The Braves were concerned about losing the leadership of Eric Hinske and David Ross from the bench, but the new bench has not only done the job, but they’ve arguably been the best bench unit in the entire game!

Production combined between PH/DH: .281/.353/.552 with 9 home runs

 

Starting pitching – The Braves starters have been extremely solid this season, outside of an inconsistent performance from elder statesman Tim Hudson, who has still given the Braves multiple runs of excellence already this season. Mike Minor seems to be knocking on the door of “ace-dom”, Julio Teheran has been tremendous after a rocky first few starts, Paul Maholm has pitched to exactly what you were expecting from him, and Kris Medlen has overcome early hittability to put up the second best ERA among the staff. Even Hudson’s season, which has been frustrating at times, has led to a 4.22 ERA, and he still gives the team 6 innings per game nearly every time out. In fact, with the youth on the staff, that has been one surprising statistic, beyond the fact that only a doubleheader start by Alex Wood stands between the Braves having every game started by their opening day starting 5 this season, that the staff has given their manager an AVERAGE of 6 1/3 innings every time out. While we may be frustrated with the use of some relievers, the fact is that the quality pitching from the rotation has not one single pitcher on pace for 80 innings or 80 appearances this season.

Production: 3.42 ERA, 1.198 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.30 K/BB

Relief pitching – Arguably the best bullpen in all of baseball, the Braves have had great performances from nearly every regular member of the bullpen. Cory Gearrin’s 3.30 ERA is the HIGHEST of any regular member of the bullpen this season. The Braves have been very solid in their bullpen and have even seen 2012 draftee Alex wood sport a Kimbrel-esque 12.5 K/9 from the left side. Most have noted the bullpen as a place that requires a trade for another piece, but the Braves have certainly had no issues with quality production from their bullpen this season.

Production: 2.70 ERA, 1.152 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 2.38 K/BB

All in all, the Braves have had a very good first half, as frustrating as they can be at times. The offense has been inconsistent, but it still rates as one of the more productive in all the game, and the pitching has been stellar. Here’s to a second half that is as good or even better than the first half!

Topics: Braves, FanSided, Tomahawk Take

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  • cheadrick

    I always say it’s rare to have all eight, or even 6 of the eight hitters in a lineup all clicking at the same time. Your point about how early on it was Justin, Evan, Ramiro raking, and now others’ are stepping is so true, and I think quite normal. Braves’ fans get angry when anyone slumps, but that’s baseball. I’m just glad that whether it’s this 3, or that 2, or those 4, we have hitters that throughout the season have been producing. Not going to have a division lead without that. Nice read.

    • Benjamin Chase

      I agree, and it’s interesting that the complaints about streaky hitting are so prominent among the fan base, considering the age numbers. Only Houston has a younger lineup than Atlanta, and it’s just barely younger, by 0.2 years on average. Young hitters are often streaky, so that is a lot of what I expected this summer. The length of some of the down and up times is more what’s been startling. McCann has hit around the Mendoza line since June 1, BJ Upton has been miserable until the last few weeks, ditto Dan Uggla, but once again, McCann was brilliant in May when Justin Upton was fading and Heyward was out. When McCann was fading, Justin was heating up. The thing I could see as a need for the team is a contact guy along with Simmons who can keep rallies going. That’s why I’m interested in Callaspo, not that the Angels will be in any rush to trade him.

      • cheadrick

        Yeah, and I know it may be somewhat risky based on previous numbers, but aside from Schafer’s ankle issues now, which should be minor, he just needs to be in the lineup IMO, come hook or crook, at least until we procure a better leadoff, or give Jordan enough serious play time to see if he could develop into an every day player. Most say he won’t or can’t, but I’m not sure I agree. I think with Jordan, it was never his talent, but just his attitude. Reportedly, that has improved, so if given the chance, he could well be an every day player on any team.

    • Jeff Schafer

      Usually teams that win the World Series are all clicking at the same time. I’d be perfectly OK if B.J. finally finds his stride in October and no time before

  • fireboss

    I’d disagree that BJ has been tremendous in CF. He’s shown he can be but he’s also shown the concentration lapses that dotted his time in Tampa. He had a really good 14 game stretch .271/.340/.479 but has cooled since then. He will likely get hot and finish with close to 240/325/415 but he costs way too much for so little production.

    I’ve felt for a while that Justin is carrying part of BJ’s burden. Everyone talking about his early success and highlighting his older brother’s issues has ti have a mental affect.

    Jason’s June was what we expected his season to be. In an odd way I think Justin’s slump and Freddie stepping forward took pressure off of Jason. He’s no longer being over shadowed in his house by the new guy and Freddie has slipped in front of the fans as the go to guy allowing Jason to be Jason.

    Maholm is throwing way over what i expected. His FIP says he should be about 1/4 run a game worse but that’s a negligible number. His strikeouts are up and walks are down reflecting more aggressive hitters and what I think is an increased tendency to go after hitters instead of nibbling. That’s also reflected in his home run % back to 12% + which also supports that theory. I’m happy he’s doing so well and hope he keeps it up.

    My orthopedic surgeon and rehab therapists (D1 Sports) tell me that even with intense rehab a should isn’t back to full strength for a year so I’m happy with McCann so far and expect him to get better as the year goes on.

    One thing we must remember in all of this is that we have such a large lead in great part to the stumbling of the Nationals lineup. Their big 3 have ERAs of 2.28 Zimmermann, 2.41 Strasburg and 3.09 Gonzalez for the season and in June 2.06, 1.89 and 1.79.

    Our top 3 have Minor .298, Medlen 3.02, Teheran 3.12 for the year. In June Minor jumped to 4.20 but Medlen is at 2.14 and Teheran at 1.95 while Huddy in spite of stumbling is 2.45.

    If the Nats lineup gets healthy they have a run in them and as streaky as we’ve been, 6.5 games could vanish in a week.

    On that cheery note I’ll go fix a hot water heater :)

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