The pitching staff for the Atlanta Braves has been fantastic so far this year. In the team’s 13 wins, they have allowed just under 2.5 runs per game. Even in the team’s six losses, they have given up just 3.16 runs per game. The only thing keeping the Braves from being further ahead in the NL East is an inconsistent offense.
The offensive disparity between the team’s wins and losses is palpable. In the Braves’ 13 wins, they’ve averaged just over 5.2 runs and 1.76 homers per game. In their six losses, they’ve averaged just 1.3 runs per game and have just two home runs total (both hit by Justin Upton in the same game). The offense only averages about 2.5 more hits per game when they win, so it’s not as if they aren’t getting men on base. They just aren’t hitting the long balls.
The reason the Braves are so reliant on home runs is that they struggle to get hits with runners on base. They are hitting .218 as a team with RISP. With a runner on third and two outs, the Braves are 2-for-30 so far this season. Of the Braves’ eight regular starters, only Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla are hitting over .250 with runners in scoring position.
Monday night’s game against the Miami Marlins stayed true to the numbers. Julio Teheran continued his dominance on the mound, holding the Marlins to just a solo homer in seven innings of work. Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis hit the two obligatory home runs (to be fair, Jason Heyward did actually drive in a run with a base hit), but the Braves still left eleven men on base, seven of those in scoring position.
Just one more hit in the second, seventh or ninth, and the extra inning would not have been necessary.
You could argue that the season is only 19 games old, but the Braves’ offense did the same thing last year. Freeman and Chris Johnson were the only regulars to hit over .250 with runners in scoring position. They did lead the NL with 181 home runs, and that was good enough to win the Braves 96 games last season. When the home runs stopped coming in the NLDS, however, the Braves came up short.
It’s unlikely that the Braves’ pitching staff will continue to be this dominant throughout the season. Pitching is covering up Atlanta’s deficiencies on offense just like it did last season when Atlanta led MLB with a 3.18 ERA. If the Braves don’t start finding other ways to score outside of hitting the ball over the fence, it’s going to come back to hurt them eventually, just like it did last October.