Baseball is a game of consistency. You have to beat the teams you are better than and hope to split with the teams you are not better than. That is the recipe for a 90+ win ball club. Nothing is more frustrating than a .500 baseball team. Those are the types of squads that will win five out of seven games — and then turn around and lose six in a row. This type of performance will lead to an 80 win season.
The Atlanta Braves are currently infuriating to watch because they are precisely that — a .500 ball club. Nothing will make a fan question their existence more than choosing to love a team that will win three in a row, lose four in a row, and then win three in a row. Rooting for a .500 baseball team is risking your health — an emotional roller coaster filled with peaks and valleys.
The ten-game scenario above is what the Braves just did on their recent road trip. They swept the terrible Marlins — then got smacked around by the Dodgers — and then took 3-4 games in Arizona. No rocket scientists are needed to figure out why the team can’t burst past the .500 mark. The Braves have not started gelling yet. Their offense, defense, and pitching staff are not complimenting each other.
The bats have been very good at getting on base, but not so good at getting runners home. According to mlb.com, the Braves are currently 3rd in hits (365), 3rd in batting average (.261), and 6th in on-base percentage (.335). However, they rank 14th in runs scored (196) thanks to leaving 3.73 runners in scoring position on base per contest (27th in the league). If the Braves are to be a contender in the N.L. East, then they will have to hit better in these situations.
Surprisingly, the defense has been average at best. The Braves rank 13th in fielding percentage (.985) and 14th in errors (22). This is out of the ordinary due to the caliber of defender at each position. There were three Gold Glove winners in 2018 (Inciarte, Freeman, Markakis) and another who also could have won in Ozzie Albies. All four players have returned, and there are GG-caliber players at shortstop (Swanson) and left field (Acuna) as well. Everyone has bad days, and this is an area that can be misleading, but the Braves need to be stout on defense if they wish to help their youthful pitching staff.
Everyone knows how inconsistent the Braves bullpen has been to date. As a whole, the starters have not been much better. The Braves pitching staff currently ranks 17th in ERA (4.38), 17th in batting average against (.247), and — to no one’s surprise, 1st in walks (168). The bullpen ranks 20th in ERA (4.34), 19th in BAA (.245), and 2nd in walks (83). The starting rotation currently ranks 18th in ERA (4.40), 18th in BAA (.249), 18th in innings pitched (212.2), and 4th in walks (85). These numbers are all middle of the road, to awful, and that is the biggest reason the Braves are playing .500 baseball.
There are arguments for this play not to continue — as there have been multiple changes in the bullpen and rotation. The offense features many statistics that are grounds for optimism. There will be transactions made — possibly in the form of a ginger flamethrower — or via the trade market that will bolster the bullpen or starting rotation. Austin Riley is murdering baseballs in AAA and could be a run-producer in Atlanta before season’s end. Once this team gels completely, they will be a contender in the East, and Braves’ fans will need their anxiety medications due to playoff baseball – rather than a 162-game season filled with peaks and valleys.