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MLB Atlanta Braves

An Optimistic View of the Atlanta Braves’ Second Half

Jason Heyward Atlanta Braves

Peter G. Aiken-USA Today Sports

This 2013 Atlanta Braves team can excite and let down fans like very few teams in MLB. The boom-or-bust mentality of this team has lead to some incredibly dramatic moments as well as huge disappointments in the first half. However, there are signs that point to the Braves having increased success after the All-Star break.

For example, the schedule looks much more favorable after the break. The Braves played 10 series against teams with a winning record compared to just six in the second half, and three of those are against the Washington Nationals, who sit just one game over .500.

They made three separate trips on the west coast, with two different road trips lasting 10 or more games. In the second half, they will make zero trips to the west coast and their longest road trip is just seven games. The month of September has three games against the Nationals, and no other team with a winning record.

The Braves have played the toughest stretches of their schedule and can now look to take advantage of their weaker schedule in the second half.

In looking at the roster, the Braves have just three starters in their everyday lineup hitting above .260 (Chris Johnson, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann). Two regular starters (Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton) are hitting .200 or below. Their leadoff hitter (Andrelton Simmons) and no. 2 hitter (Jason Heyward) have failed to hit higher than .250.

Despite those low averages, the Braves have still scored the third-highest number of runs in the National League — suggesting the ceiling for this Braves offense has not come close to being reached. Maybe that ceiling won’t be reached this season, but it’s at least reasonable to expect some improvement from a number of key spots in the lineup.

Meanwhile, the main competition for the Braves in the NL East don’t look to be huge factors at this point. The Philadelphia Phillies have came on lately but recently lost Ben Revere and Ryan Howard to significant injuries, which will likely hinder their progress. They are currently in limbo as to whether to be buyers or sellers at the July 31 trade deadline.

In Washington, the Nationals have a healthy lineup but can’t score. They are second-last in runs scored with 357, only ahead of the lowly Miami Marlins. Young phenom Bryce Harper did miss over a month due to injury, but the Nationals were just 7-7 in July upon his return. Their starting rotation is solid, but they can’t score enough runs to win on a consistent basis.

The Braves are far from a perfect team, but fans should be excited about the possibilities of returning to the postseason in 2013.