By David Miller @DavidMillerRant on July 14, 2014
With the first half of the MLB season coming to an end, we have the chance to look closely at the performance of the Atlanta Braves thus far. It would be difficult to suggest that they have failed in any way since they are tied for first place in the National League East with the Washington Nationals. They have overcome terrible pitfalls while still not playing to their full potential. Here is a closer look at their first half report card.
This is a tough grading area for the Braves because it really depends on when you look. There have been times this season that they have played offensively like a flat F for weeks at a time. At the end of the first half however they were firing on all cylinders and doing well at knocking in runners in scoring position. This allows them to fall in the middle. Fewer strikeouts and improved run production overall would push this grade higher.
The Braves have some of the most promising defensive players on the diamond in a few places. Perennial Gold Glovers like Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward certainly are a plus here. They are weak in a few places but only average at worst most of the time. They generally do not make defensive mistakes to lose baseball games and tend to make the occasional superb play to save the game.
It seems crazy to think that the Braves could lose Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy during Spring Training yet still have an A starting staff but they do. They have the sixth best starter ERA in MLB and have compiled 600 innings pitched, the third most in MLB. Unbelievably, if Mike Minor and Ervin Santana can get more consistent in the second half, this could be the best starting five in the NL, if not all of baseball.
If the relief corps stopped with Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden and Shae Simmons, this would be an easy A to give. The struggles of Luis Avilan and to a lesser degree, David Carpenter have hurt this bunch a little bit however. They still have the best closer in MLB and an ever-emerging ice-man in Simmons as well as Walden. They would be tough in the playoffs for sure if they can work in one more reliable lefty into the bunch.
Fredi Gonzalez and staff takes criticism from all sides for all kinds of things but they are among the best in the game. Imagine the Nationals still not being able to pull away with the division even after the Braves had to piece together a starting rotation. Fredi has had to work through another flop of a season from his former second base starter and find the right line-up mix without a true leadoff man. He has done a great job again.
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