Our “Into the 80s” series rolls on. The fourth team to join the 80-win-club is the Atlanta Braves. When Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies, most of the national media picked Philly to win the NL East. What the media didn’t say is that the Braves won the NL East last season. Harper may have made you forget about Ronald Acuña, Jr. and his team. At 80-53, they are behind the Dodgers, Astros, and the Yankees, but are still a force to be reckoned with.
In this edition of “Backtrax MLB”, we bring you the Braves, which, if you were a fan of them in the 80s, remind you of those times under Bobby Cox. Granted, Brian Snitker is not as fiery as Cox, he has the team playing like they were under Cox. Like our first three teams, we’ll start with…
These bats are unique. Not a single regular is batting over .300. However, Acuna and Freddie Freeman are batting at least .290. Freeman has 35 Home Runs and Acuna 36. Freeman also has 105 RBIs, with Acuna at 86. Not an amazing average, but they are slugging very well in Hot-lanta.
Unlike the Astros, who suffered multiple IL-stints since I wrote about them in my previous article, the Braves have had to mix and match different lineups to traverse around their injuries. With Brian McCann, Austin Riley, Nick Markakis, and Ender Inciarte on the mend signing Francisco Cervelli, Billy Hamilton proved to be the difference. Both are a combined 7-for-15 and have brought in bats when they seem to go cold.
Let’s also not forget about Josh Donaldson. The Braves once tried a Toronto-reject in Jose Bautista. (OK, not necessarily a “Toronto-reject”, but you get my point) That didn’t work as he hit below the Mendoza Line. Donaldson, however, has worked out. 32 Homers and a .262 average proves that this signing was worth it.
The bats have been decent, but not necessarily eye-popping. Now, we look at something eye-popping, and not always in the right way.
Has had its ups and downs, hasn’t it? Charles Dickens may have referred to two different cities, but perhaps his famous quote from his famed book referred to the Braves pitching. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”.
The starters, before going in-depth, have been “The best of times”. With a starting ERA of 3.85, it doesn’t feel like “The best of times”, but it’s not the worst in the Majors. Inconsistency has told the tale of this rotation. Mike Soroka will have a great start, then Julio Teheran might not. Mike Foltynewicz has had his share of shaky starts, but Max Fried keeps the sale of Fried food in the stands very high. The X-Factor? Signing Dallas Keuchel in June. In a park he’s never pitched at for a team he never pitched for, he’s kept his ERA (3.78) under the staff average. This has helped the Braves stay afloat in the storm of the Nationals’ hot streak.
The Bullpen, however, signals “The worst of times”. The average may only be 4.58, but it feels a lot worse than that. On July 31st, the Braves played the Nationals in DC during the day. The bullpen blew the game. The bats bailed them out in the 10th to win, 5-4. After the game, the front office made trades for Mark Melancon and Shane Greene to help fix this problem. With both pitchers having a 6.10 ERA since their trades, it seems as if the problem still hasn’t been fixed. This makes the 8th and 9th innings an adventure for Braves pitching and Braves fans alike. And, this could lead to their elimination earlier than they want.
Now, the losses are piling up for the 80-win teams about to join our club. We started looking at World Series contenders. Now, we look at teams that have a bigger mountain to climb to reach the Fall Classic. We look at more problems these teams have, instead of praising their grand accomplishments. Four teams down, at least six more to go. As Kid Kelly said on the radio, “Keep it right here for more Backtrax MLB!”
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