Yesterday marked the Braves 60th game of the season. There have been some rocky moments, particularly in May, but the vibe around this team feels much better following back-to-back come from behind victories over the Diamondbacks and Mets.
With a 36-24 record and a three-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East, there isn’t too much to complain about. It certainly could be better, but the Braves have been notoriously slow starters over the years, so having a little cushion in June is a rather pleasant feeling.
What’s Been Good
The Braves rotation has been absolutely lights out, which was expected to start the season. However, nobody would have predicted that had I told you Max Fried and Kyle Wright would make a combined ten starts through 60 games. Charlie Morton, who toes the mound tonight against the Mets, looks much more like the pre-2022 version of himself. Spencer Strider continues to be the most dominant pitcher in baseball, but the real surprise has been Bryce Elder, who entered last night as the major-league leader in ERA. We will get our first glance of 20-year-old rookie AJ Smith-Shawver in the rotation this weekend, but if he shoves, Braves fans might not be able to hold in their excitement. This rotation is one of the most talented and probably the deepest in all of baseball.
The top of the lineup
The Braves offense as a whole hasn’t started cooking like they are capable, but it’s to no fault of the top of the lineup. Ronald Acuña has been the best player in baseball. Sean Murphy has come even better than advertised, particularly offensively. Matt Olson is on pace for over 40 homers, and Ozzie Albies isn’t far behind. Now, Austin Riley has begun to heat up after a slow start. There are a lot of potent top of the lineups, but when the Braves are rolling, there isn’t one better.
If you had told me back in March that Orlando Arcia would be the starting shortstop for the Braves in June, hitting over .300 with an OPS north of .800, I might have told you to find a rehab center, but that’s exactly what’s happened. He’s always been a plus-defender, but Arcia has been one of the Braves all-around best players through the team’s first 60 games and is deserving of some praise.
What’s Been Bad
I really can’t think of many bad aspects to talk about through the team’s first 60 games. The bullpen has been better than people think, especially given all of the injuries the pitching staff has suffered. Marcell Ozuna has been on fire after a poor first month, and Eddie Rosario seems to be catching up as well. The only player that really deserves to be in this section is Michael Harris II, which I hate to say because he might be my favorite player on the entire team.
Harris has been his typical stellar self in center field, but offensively, it has been an eye sore. He’s hitting well below the Mendoza Line at .163 with an OPS of just .490. Beyond that, the eye test doesn’t suggest he’s been much better. Harris has been way too pull happy at times and has produced several uncompetitive at-bats in crucial moments. He’s only 22-years-old and one of the most talented young players in the game. There’s no doubt in my mind he will figure it out, but to this point, he’s been the one glaring weak spot in the lineup.
Grade — B+
The Braves are exactly where I imagined they would be through 60 games, sitting comfortably atop the NL East with a three game lead. And the crazy part is, it doesn’t even feel like they’ve hit their stride. This team can play much better baseball, but I don’t want to take the success they’ve had early in the season for granted, which is why they still receive a B+ for their performance.
Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire