May 19, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (24) congratulates first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) after a home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Top 5 Things to Expect From the Atlanta Braves in the Second Half


In terms of games, the first half of the season actually passed over a week ago, but the All-Star Break marks the midway point for MLB and it’s a natural time to evaluate where the team stands going into the second half of the season. The Braves finished tied for first with the Nationals at the break, but it was nothing short of a struggle in the weakest division in MLB to get there.

The Braves have a lot of work left to do to win the NL East and get to the postseason.  Atlanta also needs to improve in a number of areas if they are to have a chance if/when they do make it to the playoffs. So, what are the top five things to expect to see from the Braves in the second half of the season? My picks follow…

5. Getting RISPy

The Braves were downright awful in the first half with runners in scoring position (RISP). They hit .243 and were 26th in MLB in producing an RBI with RISP. With 2-outs and RISP, it was worse. Atlanta hit .183 in those situations — good for 28th in MLB — and only produced 87 RBIs as a team in those situations.

To go along with those sparkling numbers the Braves were second worst in MLB in striking out with RISP (212) and were tied for first — worst first — in striking out with 2-out and RISP (113). The Braves starting rotation has been good enough to get the Braves well out in front of the NL East at this point of the season, but the offense hasn’t done their part to support all of the quality starts the rotation has produced.

Bottom line, the Braves need clutch hits in the second half of the season if they plan on making the post-season, whether it be by winning the NL East or the Wild Card. And if they do somehow make the post-season without improving those stats, well, you can’t win if you don’t score.

4. More Records for Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel leads the NL in saves at the All-Star Break with 29. With 11 more saves, Kimbrel will have his fourth consecutive season with 40 saves tying Trevor Hoffman and Francisco Rodriguez as the only men to accomplish the feat. Kimbrel set the Braves record earlier this season for career saves and is on the verge of joining some elite company if he makes the 40 mark again. His teammates just need to get him the opportunities.

Craig Kimbrel has 29 saves at the All-Star Break.   Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

3. Trade Winds

A bat or an arm? What will Frank Wren do to help this team go from mediocre to ‘a little better than mediocre’? If the Braves bring in a starter, will he fair any better than the current arms in the rotation have, considering the team doesn’t score many runs?

If it’s a reliever, is that more of an indication that management is happy — or stuck — with the lineup the way it is? If it’s a bat, what position does that fill and who moves out of the lineup to make room? *Cough*BJ*Cough*

The biggest question within rumor mill is how long will the Braves wait to make a move? If they wait too long to get a cheaper price, will someone they really want be gone before Frankie can pull the trigger? Will they have to settle for their second or third choice? Or, not make a move at all if it costs them too much in top tier prospects?

Just two weeks to go until the trade deadline…stay tuned.

2. The Uggla Soap Opera

Will he stay? Will he play? Will Frankie finally give him his DFA?

Will he finally be let go? Will his forearms continue to grow?

Will he get an at-bat? Will Fredi-G continue to wonder, “where is he at?”

These are the questions that cause many a sleepless night in Braves country. Yes, Uggs got suspended one game

How long will the Dan Uggla drama continue in Atlanta? Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

before the all-star break for being late to the park, but can you really blame him? First of all, Chicago is an hour behind, so he probably thought he was two hours early. Does anyone really understand central time?

Second, The wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field all weekend long. Did anyone stop and think that Danny might just have been late because he was daydreaming of a pinch-hit opportunity? Visualizing one of his pop-ups to third carrying over the left field fence? Anyone? Obviously Fredi-G wasn’t thinking out of the box.

It’s only a month-and-a-half away from expanding active rosters to 40 and by keeping Uggla around, the Braves appear to be satisfied with playing against the rest of the league with 24 guys instead of 25 until then. If the Braves don’t part with Uggs before then, he will drop from 25th to 40th on the depth chart and the month of September becomes a little more reasonable for the Braves, but the real question is can they hold out that long a man short and stay in the race for the NL East?

1. Frustrating Losses

The first half of the season was an exercise in frustration for Atlanta fans. The Braves were swept by the Phillies, Red Sox, Mariners and Marlins and had series losses to the Diamondbacks, Giants twice, Cardinals, and Mets. Three of the four teams that swept the Braves have losing records on the season.

On the flip side, the Braves swept the Reds, Marlins, Nationals, Mets, and Phillies. With the way the Atlanta offense struggles to hit with RISP you never know what you’re going to get on a night-in, night-out basis and it’s certainly safe to say that Braves fans should keep their favorite stress relieving elixir stocked in the pantry.

Pirates? Padres? Phillies? Rangers? All have losing records, all are on the schedule in the second half and all more than capable of imploding the Braves corner of the Twitter-verse if Atlanta plays down to it’s competition. If the first half of the season is any indication, Braves nation may be in store for a few more unanticipated valleys before the season ends. Let’s just hope one of those doesn’t cost them a chance to play in October.

Follow me on twitter @robbieu007 to share your thoughts or give some feedback in the comments below.

**Stats from mlb.com and yahoosports.com

 

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  • Lee Trocinski

    The RISP numbers are a bit misleading, as the Braves have had the most PA by pitchers with RISP, which is compounded by the fact that they have the 2nd fewest RISP PAs overall. Actual hitters are hitting .258/.333/.412, which is alright, and their K% is “only” 20.3%.

    Hopefully Uggla gets DFA’d and we pick the right bench bat and LH reliever. I don’t see any major upgrade coming with the lack of elite prospects. I don’t think they will win the division, but 90 wins and a wild card spot should be expected.

  • fireboss

    Dan just figured no one would notice he wasn’t there.

    Gattis’ bat hopefully returning after the break will lift the lineup. What became obvious with his injury was exactly how valuable he is in the 4 spot. He’s much more of a threat than JUP because he makes contact and will take the ball the other way.. Justin is too streaky and looks better in the 6 hole – at least to me,

    The thing no one says is that the Braves are one injury away from collapsing in a heap. Consider the rotation without Teheran,r the bullpen with out Kimbrel or the lineup and infield missing they go get Jobu something to drink

    • Sealift67

      By same token Braves are one rehab or return to quality away from a
      better 2nd half: Carpenter, Walden, Avilan. Minor finding his groove.
      Hope does spring eternal.

  • Matt Talbert

    I think that if you consider Gosselin, Kubitza, Northcutt, Martin, M-Cab2, Constanza (upgrade over BJ and maybe a push with Schafer), Peraza, Bethancourt (already in majors), Bello (will be fast-tracked as C/OF), Thomas, Schlosser, Hale, Jaime (we have pieces in case injuries happen) – so much to the point I’m proud of our ‘depleted’ farm system. Adding a bat comes from within. However, I am confident that birdbrain will go out and pick up Andrew Miller and maybe even another starter to upgrade our rotation. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we made both Miller and Price priorities. I believe we could upgrade our pitching staff from outside (situationally) and our bench/lineup from within with pieces already with team by changing some parts (to FA) etc. Dan Uggla – and Phil Gosselin + would automatically give us a decent hitting UTL player…

    • Lee Trocinski

      You are severely over-rating our minor league system. Gosselin had a .400 BABIP-fueled first half and calling him a good hitter, when he really is no better than Ramiro Pena. Constanza can’t even get the ball out of the infield in AAA, plus he’s not a CF, so he’s of no help. Kubitza is interesting, though a .421 BABIP has really fueled his great line this year. I don’t know if his contact ability is good enough to be consistent in the majors. Bello is already 29 years old and not much more than a backup catcher most likely. Peraza, Bethancourt, and maybe Sims are the only guys I’d put a 50% chance on for being a MLB average player. Cabrera is young enough to develop into a useful piece but he’s a long ways away. All the other pitchers are at least 24 already, so they’re not exactly bursting with potential. It’s not a horrific system, but it is well below-average.