The 2014 Atlanta Braves, a team with numerous injuries and poor play from players with large contracts, should not be in contention for a division title. Yet, somehow, the Braves find themselves in a battle for first place in the NL East with the Washington Nationals.
The Braves’ pitching staff has been decimated with injuries so far this season, with Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Gavin Floyd all out for 2014, and Mike Minor greatly under-performing. If players hadn’t stepped up, the Braves would already be out of the division race. But they aren’t. Alex Wood and David Hale have both been huge for the Braves, providing the team with quality starts and filling up innings out of the bullpen when needed. Wood has won six games and has a 3.14 ERA to go along with 76 strikeouts over 80.1 innings. Hale has been equally important, usually out of the bullpen, posting a solid 3.02 ERA over 53.2 innings. If not for Hale and Wood, the Braves would already be looking toward next season.
Injuries to the pitching rotation aren’t the only thing that has plagued Atlanta. Dan Uggla has been massively disappointing at second base, so much so that Tommy La Stella is the new everyday second baseman and Uggla rarely sees the field anymore. La Stella has been impressive for the Braves thus far, posting a batting average just over .290 in 134 at-bats. Even Braves star Evan Gattis hasn’t been able to stay on the field all season, but Christian Bethancourt has filled in admirably.
The Braves are a model organization in that the team has one of the youngest rosters in baseball, but still manage to remain competitive with homegrown talent. When bad things happen, the Braves just seem to roll with the punches. When important players fall victim to injury, Atlanta keeps a next-man-up attitude. The resiliency of the Braves speaks volumes about the team’s management and front office, and it is a major reason that Atlanta will always be in the hunt for a division crown. No matter the circumstances.