ESPN gives Braves middling grade for April

MLB: APR 26 Guardians at Braves

David Schoenfield of ESPN recently handed out performance grades for the first month of the season, and somewhat surprisingly, the Braves didn’t receive the highest marks.

Atlanta Braves: B

Record: 19-8

Well, let’s see: Spencer Strider is out for the season, Max Fried isn’t pitching the best ball of his life, Ronald Acuna Jr. has one home run, and Matt Olson and Austin Riley haven’t gotten going, at least compared to last season. And the Braves still have the best record in the National League. Yes, they’ve taken advantage of an easy schedule with 11 games against the so-far horrible Marlins, Astros and White Sox, but they also won series against the Phillies, Rangers and Guardians and swept the Diamondbacks. It’s a little scary to think how many wins they might rack up once Acuna, Olson and Riley heat up.

Six teams received a better grade than the Braves, which is pretty unbelievable, given Atlanta holds the best record in baseball. It just goes to show how high the bar is set for them compared to other teams.

However, I have a bone to pick with Schoenfield’s analysis of the Braves. Spencer Strider going down for the season is undoubtedly a blow, but are we docking the Braves points for injuries? Seems pretty ridiculous.

Schoenfield’s take on Fried is also lazy. Fried didn’t get off to the best of starts, but he’s tossed 15 straight scoreless innings. One being a complete game shutout, and the other being six no-hit innings against the Seattle Mariners. Fried will tell you himself it wasn’t the best month for him, but things are trending in a very positive direction.

But what irks me more is Schoenfield didn’t even mention all of the positives when it comes to the Braves rotation. They haven’t missed a beat without Spencer Strider for a reason. Reynaldo Lopez has been a revelation as a starting pitcher, Chris Sale looks as healthy as ever, and Charlie Morton continues to age like a fine wine. The Braves rotation has exceeded most people’s expectations through one month of the season, even with Spencer Strider going down for the year and Max Fried‘s early season struggles.

Schoenfield’s take on Acuña, Riley, and Olson is spot on. It is scary to think what this Braves team is capable of when their three-headed monster at the top of the lineup gets going. Which is why this team probably deserves a better grade for having the best record in baseball with their ace on the shelf and three best offensive players producing at a league average rate through the first month of the season.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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