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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Braves are scuffling, however Atlanta should not panic with 99 video games remaining

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It’s June 10, and on Sunday the Atlanta Braves did one thing they didn’t do till July 4 final season: They misplaced their twenty eighth sport. Sunday’s loss to the Washington Nationals (WAS 8, ATL 5) dropped Atlanta to 35-28 in 2024. A superb report, to make sure, although the Braves are actually 9-15 of their final 24 video games, and 17-22 of their final 39 video games. One thing’s amiss.

“We’re in a tricky stretch proper now, however we might win 12 in a row, 20 in a row beginning (Tuesday),” outfielder Jarred Kelenic mentioned after Sunday’s loss (through the Atlanta Journal-Structure). “I do not suppose we’re actually caught up in all that stuff. I would say that we’re actually specializing in transferring ahead and the way we are able to get higher, as a result of we bought to play higher baseball on each side of the ball. So I believe that our primary focus proper now could be getting higher and we bought an off day tomorrow, and exhibiting up on Tuesday and going to work.”

The Braves discover themselves 9 video games behind the Philadelphia Phillies within the NL East heading into Monday’s off-day. The Phillies have the most important division lead in baseball and that is the primary time the Braves are so far as 9 video games again since June 2, 2022. Atlanta after all rallied to win the NL East that 12 months. That is an excellent reminder loads of season stays to show issues round.

Shedding Spencer Strider and reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. to season-ending accidents is a tricky blow, little question about it. These two are near irreplaceable. That mentioned, the Braves did win the World Collection after dropping Acuña to a torn ACL in 2021, and nearly all of the core that gained 104 video games final season and the final six NL East titles stays intact. The expertise is there.

Listed below are three causes to be optimistic concerning the Braves transferring ahead regardless of their present prolonged stoop and vital deficit within the NL East.

1. They are a digital lock for the postseason

Let’s name a spade a spade: The Nationwide League stinks. 4 if the 15 NL groups — 4! — have a successful report: Braves (35-28), Phillies (45-20), Los Angeles Dodgers (41-26), and Milwaukee Brewers (38-27). Six different NL groups are inside three video games of .500, however all of them have dropping information. It is a very, very top-heavy league, and the Braves are amongst these groups on the prime.

The Braves are 9-15 of their final 24 video games and 17-22 of their final 39 video games and, based on FanGraphs, their postseason odds have dipped from near 100% to merely 91.2%. Solely the Dodgers and Phillies have higher odds within the NL.

Atlanta’s prolonged stoop has barely put a dent of their postseason odds.

There are six postseason spots per league now, 4 of which can be found to the Braves (they’re good, however they are not going to win the NL Central or NL West), and the competitors is weak. The Braves cannot relaxation on their laurels, they have not clinched something but, however the NL’s widespread mediocrity provides them a simple path to October and thus the posh of time to determine issues out.

2. Olson and Riley might be higher… proper?

A 12 months in the past the Braves hit 307 house runs, tying the single-season report, they usually slugged .501 as a group. A person hitter with a .501 slugging proportion had an important season. A complete group doing it’s really insane. The 2019 Houston Astros beforehand held the American/Nationwide League report with a .495 slugging proportion. Atlanta shattered that.

Offense has not been as simple to return by this season and that is not totally sudden, the Braves had been by no means going to slug .501 once more, although the drop off has been extra vital than anticipated. Aside from Marcell Ozuna, who’s been on a rampage since final Could, gamers up and down the roster are underperforming. Listed below are the adjusted-OPS numbers:

Even Acuña had appear his efficiency slip earlier than his harm: 169 OPS+ in 2023 to 105 OPS+. With a participant that gifted, it might click on at any second although. Aaron Choose was hitting .197/.331/.393 as lately as Could 2. He is now hitting .305/.436/.703. It might flip round quick and loud for elite skills like Acuña and Choose. Nonetheless, Acuña was not MVP-like earlier than his harm.

Albies handled some accidents earlier this 12 months, so we are able to reduce him slack. Arcia has by no means been a lot of a hitter exterior the second half of 2022 and first half of 2023, and in idea the Braves ought to have the ability to carry him as a glove-only shortstop on the backside of the lineup. Harris has lengthy had swing-and-miss and strategy issues. These have popped again up this 12 months and held him again.

The Braves really feel the offensive underperformance most with Olson and Riley. Olson set the franchise’s single-season report with 54 house runs final season and he is gotten caught pulling the ball an excessive amount of this 12 months. He has a lot energy that he would not have to promote out to get to it, but he is promoting out anyway. Olson hasn’t been unhealthy, however that 112 OPS+ is nicely south of his profession 135 OPS+.

Riley is way more worrisome. He has been such a harmful and full hitter the previous few seasons and all of it has fully collapsed in 2024. Each time he is strung a couple of good video games collectively, it shortly got here aside. It has been a struggle all 12 months and Riley will not be doing almost as a lot injury when he swings. This warmth map is worrisome:

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Austin Riley’s skill to drive the ball hasn’t been there this season.
TruMedia/CBS Sports activities

Anticipated slugging proportion, which is calculated utilizing exit velocity and launch angle and the like, is an efficient measure of how nicely a batter is hitting the ball greater than a definitive “his slugging proportion must be precisely this” metric. Final 12 months, and actually for the final a number of years, Riley might punish pitches in all elements of the strike zone. This season he is doing something however.

Riley missed 14 days with an intercostal harm final month — the Braves by no means put him on the injured record, which was frankly absurd — and the hope is he’ll get again to being himself as he will get additional away from the harm. That mentioned, Riley was hitting .245/.319/.388 the day he bought damage. It isn’t like he was mashing, bought damage, and has been looking for it since. It has been a grind all 12 months.

I am unable to lie, I believed it could be simpler to clarify the explanations to be optimistic about Olson and Riley transferring ahead. Olson seems to have some timing points — “level of contact” points, as the children say at this time — which have led to him catching the ball too far out in entrance of the plate, resulting in too many balls pulled to proper subject. Ready again a bit longer is a simple repair, in idea.

Riley is way more worrisome as a result of the hard-hit skill is not there and there’s an harm concerned. The very best cause to be ok with him figuring issues out is his monitor report, which is excellent, and his age. Riley is simply 27. This is not a veteran in his mid-30s attempting to rediscover his previous glory. Riley is in his prime. The Braves have 99 video games to play and expertise normally wins out.

Backside line, Olson and Riley have been MVP-caliber performers the previous few years, and it isn’t ridiculous to count on them to proper the ship sooner or later given their expertise degree and age. It has occurred, but it surely’s not typically gamers this good and this younger go from being high-end performers one 12 months to so-so or worse the subsequent. Olson and Riley might be higher (proper?). 

3. Anthopoulos might be lively on the deadline

Do I do know this for a truth? No. Does historical past strongly counsel this would be the case? Completely. Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos is likely one of the most aggressive GMs within the sport and there’s no cause to imagine this commerce deadline might be any totally different. Acuña and Strider are performed for the season and reinforcements are required. Historical past says Anthopoulos will improve his roster this summer time.

The largest distinction between this 12 months’s Acuña (and Strider) harm and his 2021 harm is timing. In 2021, Acuña tore his ACL on  July 10, three weeks earlier than the commerce deadline. Anthopoulos acted shortly to strengthen his outfield as a result of the upcoming deadline necessitated fast motion, and that led him to Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Soler. These had been A+ strikes.

This 12 months Acuña tore his ACL on Could 26. The commerce deadline remains to be weeks away and the commerce market has but to essentially take form. Anthopoulos will be affected person, let the market develop, see how his inner choices carry out (not good, up to now), then act. It hasn’t occurred but however it should. There’s simply no manner Anthopoulos will let the deadline go with out getting assist.

The schedule does the Braves no favors. They will start a three-game collection with the Orioles in Baltimore on Tuesday, then subsequent weekend they’re going to be in New York to play the Yankees. The hardest stretch of Atlanta’s interleague schedule arrives at a time after they’re attempting to get their season again on the rails. That is baseball although. There aren’t any shortcuts.

Anthopoulos will get his group assist earlier than the commerce deadline, I am certain of it, and the NL wild-card race will not be precisely a gauntlet. Atlanta has a pleasant leg up already and time to determine issues out. Olson and Riley (and Albies, Harris, et al)? Eh, there are purple flags there, although it could be untimely to write down them off 63 video games into the season. They should flip issues round although, particularly with Acuña and Strider out. Exhausting to see Atlanta making a run with out these two being vital contributors.

“Maintain grinding,” Braves supervisor Brian Snitker mentioned Sunday (through the Atlanta Journal-Structure). “Maintain preventing the struggle, that is what we do … Enthusiastic about going there and enjoying.”

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