Let’s put the Braves offense in perspective

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Last year, the Braves were dismantled by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. The Dodgers’ depth, from one to eight in the lineup, extending to their bench was far too much for Atlanta. The Braves had an above average offense, but not one that struck fear into every pitcher they faced. I wasn’t positive they would be able to reach that level in one year, but here we are in June, and Atlanta has the best offense in the National League.

Before we get into the numbers, let’s take a step back and see how the Braves got to this point. It comes down to three reasons: Continued development of their talented youth, splendid free agent signings, and patience.

All the young pieces the Braves have, are on pace to smash their 2018 numbers. Ronald Acuña is finally getting hot again and is on course to hit over .300 with close to 40 home runs. Ozzie Albies seems to have figured out his left-handed stroke and is well on his way to his second All-Star appearance in a row. Austin Riley has emerged from AAA and looked like a superstar with eleven home runs in his first month. All three of these players are 22 years old or younger – two of them will likely be in the All-Star Game, and the other (Austin Riley), will only be left out because of his late call-up. The future is bright.

The offseason is kind of like a book; it can never be judged by its cover. “Baseball experts” around the industry were in love with all the aggressive moves the Phillies made and disgusted by the Braves lack of action. Now, the roles are reversed. Bryce Harper was an overpay, David Robertson’s injuries have held him back, Andrew McCutchen is out for the season with a torn ACL, and nobody on the Phillies pitching staff can be relied on.

Meanwhile, the Braves lack of moves allowed Austin Riley to come up and play a substantial role. Josh Donaldson started slow but is beginning to catch fire and is still posting a WAR of 2.0 already. Brian McCann has better numbers at the plate than J.T. Realmuto, and McCann cost 2 million dollars and no prospects. Nick Markakis wasn’t a sexy signing, but his team-friendly deal allowed the Braves to allocate money for Dallas Keuchel and upcoming moves at the trade deadline. Anthopoulos has nailed every one of these, allowing Atlanta to take the next step.

Lastly, there is patience. It had to be impossible for Anthopoulos not to feel the pressure from the fan base, but he did what successful GMs do and stuck to his plan. The Braves did not rush into a blockbuster trade and give up on the blue chip prospects that are now leading this team. Anthopoulos stuck with players like Swanson, who is having an All-Star caliber season in his fourth year. He didn’t trade Austin Riley for J.T. Realmuto. Because of this, the Braves are now an offensive juggernaut and beginning to put up historic numbers.

Right now Atlanta is second in the NL in runs scored, seven behind the Colorado Rockies – which isn’t a fair comparison given the Rockies offensive advantage at home. Regardless, Atlanta is well on their way to taking that crown in a matter of days. The Braves are first in OPS at .804 – a hair ahead of the Dodgers for now, but that number is 30 points better than the NL leader in OPS from 2018 (Dodgers, .774) and would be the highest NL OPS since the Phillies in 2007 (.812). Atlanta is also second in OBP, second in slugging, and second in batting average. However, at their current rate, they will blow by all the teams in each category. Since Austin Riley has been called up, the Braves lead the majors in both OPS an home runs.

There isn’t a player on this team that isn’t raking right now. Here are some notable stats from the last week:

Ozzie Albies: .433, 2 home runs, 5 doubles, 11 RBIs

Josh Donaldson: .375, 4 home runs, 2 doubles, 8 RBIs

Freddie Freeman: .333, 1 home runs, 1 double, 1 triple, 9 RBIs

Austin Riley: .333, 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 6 RBIs

Brian McCann: .500, 4 home runs, 9 RBIs

Ronald Acuña: .485, 2 home runs, 3 doubles, 4 RBIs

 

That’s six of the Braves eight batters hitting .333 or better over the past seven days. The other two are Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis, and they have each hit over .250.

As a result, Atlanta has put up a gaudy 75 runs on opponents in their last eight games. Over the previous four contests, they have scored 41 runs. This is an offense – from top to bottom – that gives pitchers nightmares; which is what you should expect from a team that has an All-Star from 2018 (Ozzie Albies) hitting eighth.

I remember thinking a few years back when the Braves played the Astros in the regular season, “Damn, this team is loaded. How does anybody beat them?” They went on to win the World Series. That is the feeling the Braves are giving to opponents right now. Every player can change the game with one swing of the bat, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun to watch when it is your guys doing it.

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