The Athletic gives Braves one reason for optimism and one for pessimism

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The Braves might be 20-9, which is currently the best record in baseball, but they are 20-9 with some concerns.

Ronald Acuña Jr, Matt Olson, and Austin Riley — three legitimate NL MVP candidates coming into the season — have frankly been below average players through the first month, and it’s been far worse of late. The Braves have also dealt with a bevy of injuries. Sean Murphy has yet to return from an oblique injury that he suffered on Opening Day, and Spencer Strider is out for the season with a torn UCL.

The latter of which is the Braves one reason for pessimism looking ahead this season, according to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden. 

Reason for pessimism: They lost their ace, Spencer Strider, the oddsmakers’ early favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, to season-ending elbow surgery. Although his absence shouldn’t stop the Braves from making the playoffs, it hurts their chances of defending their NL East title (they’ve won six in a row) — and more importantly, their chances of winning another World Series.

Not sure anybody can argue this. Any team that loses its ace less than two weeks into the season is going to be left scrambling, especially when it’s Spencer Strider, the odds on preseason favorite to win the NL Cy Young.

With that being said, the Braves have handled it remarkably well. Max Fried has bounced back brilliantly from a rocky first few starts. The veterans — Chris Sale and Charlie Morton — look like spring chickens, and Reynaldo Lopez is proving to be one of the best acquisitions of any team this past offseason. Every starting pitcher in the Braves rotation has an ERA+ of 103 or better, and the highest FIP among the group is 3.64.

As for the Braves reason for optimism, of course, it’s the offense. 

Reason for optimism: The Braves have the best lineup in baseball one to nine, with athleticism, power and speed. They have a plus defender at every position and the depth to withstand injuries across the diamond. Ronald Acuña Jr., the reigning National League MVP, has only one home run, Matt Olson has hit .202, Austin Riley has hit .226 and yet Atlanta still sits in first place in the NL East at the start of May.

The offense has been in a funk as of late, but some of that can be attributed to some fantastic pitching staffs in Cleveland and Seattle. This is still the best offense in baseball, which they’ve illustrated through the first month of the season. The back of the lineup is more than capable of picking up the front, and when the front gets going, and they will get going, good luck.

Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire


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