Grading the Atlanta Braves at the All-Star Break
The Atlanta Braves (54-41) head to the All-Star break holding a six-game lead in the National League East and the third-best record in the National League behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. The erratic club got off to a hot 12-1 start to the season, but has since played roughly .500 baseball. It’s time to recap and grade the first half of the 2013 MLB season for the Braves.
The offense has done what most fans envisioned entering the season — hit a lot of home runs and strike out a lot. The Braves lead the NL in both categories as they’ve hit 114 home runs while striking out 826 times. The formula has worked for the most part with the Braves ranking third in runs scored. Patience at the plate has helped the Braves record the second-most walks and a top-five on-base percentage. The Braves also rank in the top five in both slugging and OPS, but sit at ninth with a .250 team batting average. The biggest disappointment for the offense has been only stealing 31 bases. General manager Frank Wren made it obvious he wanted to get faster and more athletic this offseason, but this hasn’t translated into stolen bases.
Overall, the offensive output is good despite some ugly performances along the way.
The pitching in the first half was excellent. The Braves rank second in the NL with a 3.29 ERA and fourth in opponent batting average at .245. Starters have the fifth best ERA in the NL at 3.59 and have produced the second-most quality starts (59). Meanwhile, the bullpen has been better, posting a 2.62 ERA to lead the entire league. They trail just the Pittsburgh Pirates with a .213 opponent batting average and have the fewest losses of any MLB team with seven. All of this while dealing with multiple injuries.
Pitching has been the backbone of the Braves team, which tends to be true for most playoff worthy teams.
It’s hard to argue with where the Braves have positioned themselves at the break. However, much of that could be labeled as a weak division rather than great play from the Braves. Still, the goal of baseball is to score runs and keep your opponent from scoring — both of which the Braves rank at or near the top in the NL. This has came against a schedule that appears front-loaded with more home games after the All-Star break.
Considering the numbers, schedule and injuries, I’d give the Braves a solid B. While it hasn’t always been pretty, the results as a whole are above average with some clear room for improvement.