The Braves have had so many success stories this season that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. From Ronald Acuña Jr. to the under-the-radar guys like Marcell Ozuna, Bryce Elder, and Orlando Arcia who have had unexpected stellar campaigns, there are so many directions one could go, so Bradford Doolittle of ESPN didn’t focus on the individuals. Instead, his biggest success story for the Braves: “ball go far.”
Biggest success: Ball go far. Atlanta remains on pace to establish a single-season team record for homers. Matt Olson has already topped 50, but four others are over 30 and three of them might get to 40 by season’s end. Ten different Braves have double-digit dingers. Homers have accounted for 53.1% of Atlanta’s scoring. According to Statcast, the Braves have barrels on 8.3% of their plate appearances. Second place: Minnesota, at 6.5%. You get the idea: The longball has defined the Braves’ season.
That’s the best way to put it. The entire Atlanta offense, not just Ronald Acuña Jr., is historic. They will likely end the season with the most home runs of any team ever, and the only other teams in the conversation are from 2019 when the balls were notably juiced and home run records were broken across the board. The Braves have put together the most powerful offense of all time, but it goes even further than that. They’ve also cut their strikeout numbers across the board. This very well may be the best offense in the history of baseball.
For the Braves biggest failure, Doolittle went with the Braves’ bullpen.
Biggest failure: Establishing bullpen dominance. We are nitpicking a bit here, as you kind of have to do when assigning “failure” to a team on pace to win 104 games. The concern is real, however. Closer Raisel Iglesias has been solid, but has had a poor September. Overall, the Atlanta bullpen ranks 29th in the majors with a 6.42 ERA this month. When the Braves hit the postseason, that’s got to flip in a significant way, or all those home runs aren’t going to matter.
There’s nothing I can disagree with here. Adding to the bullpen, whether it’s through free agency or at the trade deadline, is one of the easier things for a GM to accomplish. The Braves could have done more, and while the group has still been one of the better units throughout the year, there are a couple of reasons for concern as October approaches.
High-powered arms generally play come the playoffs. The Braves don’t have many of those throughout their bullpen. Atlanta’s relief core is also beginning to look a little thin as October approaches because of injuries. Alex Anthopoulos couldn’t have possibly predicted that four of their top guys would suffer significant injuries, but he could have done more to ensure this bullpen was one of the best in baseball. Now, they’ll enter October hoping their relievers hold up instead of knowing they have several guys they can rely on in any situation if one of their starters struggles early.
Photographer: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire