Can These Braves Keep It Up?

Can These Braves Keep It Up?

Staying power. For a team off to a good start, it’s an important factor in how far that good start may take them. The Atlanta Braves are off to a surprising beginning to their 2018 campaign, winning 26 of their first 42 games. Granted, it’d be closer to 30 if the Replay System baseball has made any sense, but ten games over .500 is an accomplishment many didn’t think the Braves capable of at any point in 2018.

But will that success remain? Will the Braves continue to perform like a first-place team and challenge for a playoff spot? Let’s take a look.

Catcher – 0.9 fWAR, .318 wOBA, 100 wRC+

Tyler Flowers‘ injury led to 38 PA going to Chris Stewart and Carlos Perez. Hardly a great option for the Braves. With Flowers back in the mix and Kurt Suzuki performing well to this point, things are looking up. Suzuki is off to a .341 wOBA start despite a BABIP 26 points below last year’s pace. The flyball rate that boomed last year and sustained and he’s pulling the ball more than ever, leading to a bit better contact. His home run rate is down, though it may have been a bit inflated last year at 17%. He’s slowed down of late, but that’s part of the ebb-and-flow of a season. As for Flowers, it’s hard to put much into his numbers because he only has 34 PA. Though, it is fun for stat porn purposes to look at his BABIP and wOBA and see an identical .400.

Replicating last year’s 5.1 fWAR is a bit much to ask for, but I think the early Steamer projection of 2.0 fWAR from behind the plate is also too low. Provided Suzuki and Flowers stay in the lineup, I think this position has staying power and likely a bit more with Flowers rounding into form.

First Base – 2.0 fWAR, .420 wOBA, 169 wRC+

I mean…the only concern about Freddie Freeman is that his batting stance and style makes him vulnerable to the high inside pitches. The Braves already had one scary moment with Freeman this year. If he should miss any significant time, it’s hard to imagine the Braves competing in 2018. But if he avoids any possible injury – which is quite possible – first base not only has the staying power but then some. Freeman is only now rounding into form as MVP Freeman. Over the first half of this season, he was hitting .293/.438/.480. Tremendous numbers, but not Super Freeman yet. Since April 24, he’s hitting .354/.432/.646. That’s superstar level. That’s what we expect out of Freeman.

Second Base – 1.9 fWAR, .384 wOBA, 144 wRC+

That is almost all Ozzie Albies, who has missed just three innings at second base so far. The defensive value has been muted by some early season issues in the data but it is climbing. The bat just hasn’t gone away and sure, maybe a .315 ISO is destined to decline a touch. But do we really believe his .285 BABIP won’t also climb? And yeah, it’d be great if he upped his walk rate, but these things will come with time.

The bigger question for me is how Albies will continue to adjust to a league that is finding spots to attack. Just like Freeman, pitchers know where to try to get Albies out. Not every pitcher can pitch up-and-away against Albies, but those that can are finding some success. That’s an adjustment Albies will have to make. It’s also an adjustment I see no reason to believe he won’t make.

Shortstop – 0.9 fWAR, .306 wOBA, 92 wRC+
Dansby Swanson | Jeff Morris @JeffMorrisAB

This position was looking better before Dansby Swanson went down. To be fair, Swanson was also scuffling – possibly due to his wrist. Camargo has struggled as a fill-in, though he’s walking at an absurd rate. Charlie Culberson has provided very little as well. Swanson is expected to return shortly and he was off to a .330 wOBA/108 wRC+ start before hitting the DL. That was a massive improvement, though his .388 BABIP is concerning. As is a walk rate that is nearly half of what it was in 2017. You’d also like to see him elevate the ball a bit more.

That said, he’s making much better contact, playing great defense, and looking carefree. All of these things were missing in 2017. I think the staying power is there from a value standpoint, though how far he regresses once the BABIP comes down is a question.

Third Base – 0.4 fWAR, .302 wOBA, 89 wRC+

Welcome to another year of third base being a weakness for the Braves. Many are still pushing for Ryan Flaherty to receive more at-bats, though he’s hitting just .227/.310/.320 since April 9 (84 PA). His defense has been wonderful, though. Camargo and Culberson again aren’t hitting – through Camargo is walking! And then, there is Jose Bautista. Through eleven games, he has 0.0 fWAR. A .158 BABIP is destined to improve and he’s flashed some pop. There may still be value here, but it may not be as a starter.

The Braves aren’t pressed to make a move here yet. With Swanson coming back, they have three guys they can move in-and-out of the lineup while trying to find a hot bat. Austin Riley is off to a great start in Triple-A, though the Braves may want to avoid counting on yet another kid to fill out the lineup. A trade could help here. As far as staying power, Flaherty’s continued regression should be combatted some by Bautista not being woefully unlucky. But even if that does happen, how much more can the Braves really expect here?

Camargo could be the key if an outside move isn’t made, but he’s going to have to prove he can hit right-hand pitching. He currently has a .299 wOBA against them in the majors.

Left Field – 0.6 fWAR, .329 wOBA, 107 wRC+

Ronald Acuña Jr. is far from a finished product and early defensive metrics aren’t a huge fan, but he’s up to a .365 wOBA and 132 wRC+ through his first 89 PA. That gives this position quite a boost over what Preston Tucker and the occasional appearance from Lane Adams or Peter Bourjos. This is another position that not only has staying power but should only improve moving forward.

Center Field – 1.0 fWAR, .306 wOBA, 91 wRC+

Overall, the Braves are in 13th place in fWAR largely because Ender Inciarte‘s offensive value gets a boost when you look at just center fielders and, oh, he provides excellent defense. Of course, the Braves are hoping for more than what they have received to this point. Because Inciarte is all about contact, when his BABIP slumps, he struggles more than a player with a double-digit walk rate or extra pop. The silver lining here is that the BABIP should improve from its current .294 rate. That’s about 30 points under his career average and close to 40 points below where it’s been the last three years. While I’m not a fan of Inciarte hitting high in the order – I still prefer him ninth – he’s better than we have seen so far.

Right Field – 1.8 fWAR, .393 wOBA, 150 wRC+

If you saw this coming, you’re a liar. Nick Markakis has a .397 wOBA and a 153 wRC+ to this point. That not only makes his production over the first three years of his contract with the Braves look microscopic, it would be easily his best season at the plate. Much like Suzuki last year, Markakis worked with Kevin Seitzer to tweak his swing. That has led to more fly balls and line drives and, logically, fewer grounders. Markakis isn’t really hitting the ball that much out of his career norms – he’s simply adding launch angle. As a result, statcast predicts a .397 wOBA. Which matches exactly his current rate.

For more on Markakis’s chances to sustain these improvements, check out yesterday’s article from our friend Chris Jervis of Outfield Fly Rule. My perspective…if these adjustments hold, there is a good chance Markakis will continue to produce at a high rate. I’m a little skeptical of the power. I predict a few less home runs, dropping his 14.6% HR/FB rate, and more doubles. But as long as his launch angle and exit velocity stats don’t suffer much regression, he just might have the staying power to finish with just the second 5-win season of his career.

Starting Rotation – 2.9 fWAR, 3.41 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 3.95 xFIP

If you would have told me on opening day that through the first quarter of the season, the Braves would be 12th in starter fWAR, I would have been shocked. Sean Newcomb has been tremendous, pacing the staff with a 2.51 ERA and 3.08 FIP. Mike Foltynewicz continues to give up a bit too much hard contact for my tastes but is second on the team with 0.9 fWAR. Mike Soroka has been unlucky to this point, saddled with a .408 BABIP. That will regress. Julio Teheran, who always out-pitches his FIP, has shaken off some early season struggles, while Brandon McCarthy looked decent two days ago after getting beat around for a couple of starts.

Sean Newcomb | Jeff Morris @Jeff MorrisAB

Will it continue, though? Let’s start with Newcomb. One of the biggest developments this season is Newk’s change-up. This was something I mentioned back in February in my “Five Pitches That Could Decide the Braves’ Fate in 2018.” Newcomb didn’t use the change-up much in 2017 and when he did, it got blasted. This season, hitters are only hitting .267 off it with two extra-base hits out of the 36 times they’ve put it in play. He’s not really throwing more strikes – he’s simply throwing better ones. As a result, hitters are barreling up just 3.5% of the batted balls. I believe his staying power is high.

Like I said, I’ve never been a big believer in guys who get hit hard and Foltynewicz gets hit hard. His xWOBA is currently 22 points higher than the actual wOBA he’s given up. That implies regression. On the bright side, his xWOBA is down 22 points from 2017, which implies improvement. I’m not ready to believe Folty is back on track, but he’s certainly showing something to watch.

Mike Soroka, as I mentioned, will get better simply by his BABIP coming back down to Earth. With his control, pitchability, and swing-and-miss stuff, Soroka should be fine moving forward. Of course, the Braves scared the hell out of the fanbase by placing him on the DL yesterday with a shoulder strain. It seems, however, that it’s a precautionary move (or a way to manipulate the DL for innings reasons) and Soroka will be fine.

As for Julio Teheran…yeah, I’m not buying this one. The only things that really stand out are a LOB% rate that is 7% above his career norm and a BABIP that 50 points under his career norm. These two will regress back to their norms. Much was made this spring about Teheran’s re-worked slider, but it was his changeup I wanted him to develop further. I believe that could be the missing link for a guy who needs to keep batters off-balanced. I wish I could believe he’s back, but I can’t buy into Teheran rounding back into his 2016 form just yet.

Brandon McCarthy has been massively unlucky. A .361 BABIP and a 21.2% HR/FB? These things will correct themselves. That’s why his xFIP is 3.77 – comparable to his career totals. Honestly, I like the chances that he finishes the season, if healthy (and that’s a big if), with better numbers than Teheran.

All told, the Braves starting staff will go as far as the youngsters take them. If even one of the Newk/Folty/Soroka mix falters, we could see Kolby Allard or Kyle Wright try to fill in. This may be a position Alex Anthopoulos tries to fix via a trade. Perhaps not an “ace,” but a good established starter. If the Jays fall out of contention, a guy like J.A. Happ could be a fit.

Bullpen – 1.5 fWAR, 3.35 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 4.41 xFIP

To be fair to the pen, most of the group that is currently in the pen are helping those metrics versus guys who have been sent back to Gwinnett. Neither Shane Carle or Dan Winkler should be counted on to sustain a sub-1.00 ERA, but both have a solid metrics that indicate that further success is forthcoming. A.J. Minter is a wild card because the walk rate is so damn high, driving up his xFIP to 4.90. Sam Freeman has founded into form while Jesse Biddle has looked pretty impressive. Peter Moylan…well, he’s a nice guy. And then, there is Arodys Vizcaino. We’ll get back to him.

Like I said, Carle and Winkler are both rolling. Carle’s xFIP is closer to 4 than it is 3 and his LOB% is a touch too high, but he’s a guy that metrics may not love. That happens when you don’t have a high strikeout rate. Winkler does have that kind of rate and has other elite metrics to support his start. Winkler is the better bet, but both should be counted on moving forward.

It’s taken awhile, but Freeman is finally shaking off the cobwebs and is back on track. After giving up six runs – five earned – and recording just one out over two outings, Freeman got a few days off in late-April. Since then, Freeman has not been scored upon over his last eight games with two walks and ten K’s. His numbers should continue to improve moving forward. As for Biddle, he’s a groundball machine so far. That will regress some, but as will the .345 BABIP hitters have against him. I like Biddle to continue to improve and settle into the low-leverage, multiple-inning guy the Braves had with Cristhian Martinez.

Now…Minter. The strangest thing about Minter to this point is the walks. It’s not that Minter struggled with control in the minors and he certainly didn’t in his 15-inning cameo with the Braves last summer. There are two big problems here. Minter’s stuff is downright sick, but he’s starting a lot of counts with a ball. Last year, he threw a first-pitch strike 63.3% of the time. This year, it’s 10% lower. Subsequently, it’s nearly 7% below the league average. The other thing is that because he was pitching ahead, Minter got a lot of swings outside the strike zone last year. This year, hitters can afford to wait on Minter getting the ball in the zone rather than protect themselves.

His stuff is so good that he’s still not going to give up a lot of hits, but walks will kill you in high-leverage situations. This may be a simple mechanical adjustment. Either way, I think he’ll be fine but perhaps shouldn’t be counted on to be mini-Craig Kimbrel just yet.

As for Vizcaino, the biggest issue with Vizzy is that people still want to see the 100 mph flamethrower with a world of potential. Truth be told, he’s a 27-year-old reliever with a career 1.9 fWAR in 184 games. Since the beginning of 2016, Vizcaino has a 3.74 FIP and a 4.22 xFIP. He’s going to get his K’s, but his inability to consistently hit the strike zone with quality pitches will continue to hamstring Atlanta’s ability to rely on him in high leverage situations. Case in point – his last two games. A Dumpster fire followed by a no-drama inning. You never know what you’re going to get. He’s essentially a poor man’s Fernando Rodney.

Overall, the bullpen needs help. You can expect some regression here and there and I believe Minter will bounce back, but the pen could definitely benefit from at least one established arm. Shameless plug, but Ryan Cothran mentioned a few relievers that could be fits yesterday here at the blog.

Other Things to Consider
Ronald Acuna Jr. | Jeff Morris @JeffMorrisAB

Projection systems will still push the Braves down because they factor in conservative projections. For instance, the four projection systems Fangraphs use believe Markakis will have between a 94 and 97 wRC+ for the rest of the year. They are coming to that conclusion based on data from recent years. What these data points don’t consider is radical adjustments. Going from a near 50% groundball hitter to a 40% one in one year is pretty radical.

It’s near impossible to gauge a manager’s effectiveness outside of subjective opinion. I can’t say I am a huge fan of Brian Snitker, though I do believe he has improved. Whatever you do believe about Snitker, the fact is that players love him. Does this matter? Well, we’re talking about staying power and having a manager capable of keeping the team moving in the right direction certainly helps. Does it outweigh any possible mistakes with utilizing the roster and in-game decisions? It’s possible.

With yesterday’s rainout, the Braves have played 17 games at home. They have 17 wins on the road (also, eight losses). As a result, the Braves have only one more three-stop road trip left on the schedule. More home games should benefit the Braves moving into the summer.

That aforementioned road trip, by the way, might be circled in pencil by Alex Anthopoulos as one that might decide just how aggressive he wants to be on the trade market. Atlanta visits St. Louis, the Bronx, and then Milwaukee for four games to close it out. Ten games, ten days, three cities. It might help define just how good the Braves really are. That begins on June 29.

Atlanta leads baseball in players used to this point (40) and pitchers used (23). That’s certainly not ideal, but if you have followed my Transaction Tuesday series, you may see a pattern in which the Braves are making fewer moves now than they did in early-to-mid April. Some of that is health-related as fewer players are hitting the DL. But the bigger takeaway is Atlanta is landing more on a roster of players they feel comfortable with.

To Sum Up…

Are the Braves for real? Obviously, injuries and things we can’t foresee will change things, but it looks increasingly like Atlanta is very much for real. They could use some help – especially on the mound and at third base. Some of that may come from the farm system. Some may come from trades. They aren’t a perfect club, but they are a good one that will compete for the NL East.

Of course, what’s truly amazing about that is the fact that they are ahead of schedule. This was not supposed to be the year. Certainly, the surprising play of Markakis is playing a pivotal role, but Albies wasn’t supposed to flirt with a .900 OPS at the age of 21. While I have been a fan of Newcomb for a few years now, even I have been surprised by his play so far. And Carle and Winkler…nobody saw that coming.

The Braves will be better next year and the year beyond. Guys who are just pups right now will become established players in the majors. More of the farm system will arrive, bringing increased depth. We’re seeing only the early beginnings of what could be a dynasty. The fact that it’s coming at least a year earlier is truly amazing to watch.

Do these Braves have staying power? You better believe it. I can’t tell you the future, but this team is just scratching the surface on how good it can truly be.

9 Comments

Excellent article. I love this kind of analysis being done periodically (quarterly?), especially as it lets you step back from the daily stats. I was really concerned about the catching tandem with Flowers injury and then initial slow start and have been greatly relieved to see him going on a run. With that, we may be able to hit 3-4 fWAR at catcher which would be plenty good enough. If we believe defensive statistics, we may be underestimating the work Carlos Perez did as a fill in.

I don’t think we should or need to count on Dansby for high value. Maybe he starts hitting again, hopefully he’ll be at least average. If he can stay our best defender and hit just a little then that would be also plenty good enough.

I know it sounds stupid to ask for Acuna to do better but there is so much potential that it seems like he has a real chance to still explode especially when he is not yet matching his defensive reputation and he hits 108mph ground balls. Steamer didn’t give him much (like 1.0 fWAR) and he seems certain to surpass that and I guess that is really the most we can expect.

Markakis is the big question mark right now. Oddly, as his career has been defined by consistency, I would think he can sustain his gains. Watching him hit two GIDPs in one game the other day was not encouraging. Nick has not had a lot of chances to win and this seems like a big one for him so I’m guessing he’ll put every ounce of energy he has into making this a winning year.

I think we are seeing the Camargo that everyone expected to see (as opposed to who we wanted him to be). Honestly, he may be a younger and slightly more talented Ryan Flaherty. Both will give you stretches of decent hitting or at least OBP and will provide steady if not excellent defense. The team needs a 3B upgrade to get over the top. Maybe Riley can be it. Assuming he doesn’t suddenly turn into Rio Ruiz, he won’t make the position worse. He needs to be out there for at least a month before the Braves try to swing a rental deal. After that, he can go back to develop or he can stay up depending upon his performance.

As for SP, I think good with a little great mixed in is just fine for this year. I cannot be too unhappy with any of them this year as they are consistently keeping us in games. There is so much additional potential beyond the current five if you throw in Anibal, Fried, Gohara, Allard, etc… (I don’t think Wright makes an appearance this year). Someone’s going to perform and stick. In my opinion, the starting pitching is “good enough”.

I agree with everything you said about the relievers. What’s left is what is sticking and why the number of moves is decreasing. The Braves have so many arms in the pipeline that we need to keep a roster spot available to rotate fresh arms and continue to give young guys new chances. That being said one more arm is necessary likely at the expense of Peter Moylan. There is one potential name from the farm that could be the answer – Elian Leyva. Outside of that, the relief prospects are all at Miss or below and don’t seem quite ready yet and what’s left at Gwinett is not inspiring. That’s where a rental comes in this year.

Why does it seem that Winkler’s performance is unexpected? Seems to me he’s performed at this level every chance he’s had especially late last year. I guess the unexpected part is his staying healthy. And Minter’s issue is not command. When he misses, it’s by fractions of an inch. Also, he pitches almost exclusively at the bottom of the zone and some hitters are starting to expect that (that’s what happened on the double he gave up a couple of days ago). He needs to hone his idea of the strike zone to match the umpires and challenge hitters with high heat on occasion and mix in a changeup with at least 10mph separation from his other pitches. He flashed that changeup for a swinging strike the other day – needs to use it more often. This year is really the first time he has not been excellent and he just needs a few tweaks to get back there. Right now, it looks like he’s trying to force his way through rather than making subtle adjustments – needs to some good coaching.

This team is already a borderline playoff team. Fangraphs is projecting a tie for the second wild card even though they expect lesser performance from the team going forward. The more they perform; the more they will be a true playoff team and potentially a division challenger. When they hit their first slump is when the FO will be challenged to find a way to give them a boost.

Tommy….GREAT article!

I am not surprised at how The Starting Pitching nor The Bullpen has performed (late in Spring Training, I posted that I felt that both would perform decent/get better as the season wears on). While I feel that both are good/sustainable for the rest of the season (barring injuries)….when it comes to playoff projections both The Rotation and Bullpen have OBVIOUS weaknesses!

1. The Starting 5 lacks a true ace (and even a really, really good #2). Come playoff time, is it realistic to expect Teheran (or any of the other 4 starters) to ‘put fear’ into whoever the opposition is? Same can be said for Game 2!

Sure, The Rotation is a work in progress (come 2019 and beyond, I only see Newcomb, Folty and Soroka as ‘long term possibilities. However, all three are still ‘works in progress’). While The Braves have 7-8 high upside Starting Pitching prospects in The Minors getting closer to earning a promotion to Atlanta…it’s going to take some time (another year or two) for The Starting 5 to round into form!

I’d like to see McCarthy (and possibly Teheran) traded by The Trade Deadline….which would open spots for BOTH Gohara and Kolby Allard (dude is dealing in AAA..and with another 7-8 starts by The Trade Deadline, should show our GM, AA, that he is more than ready for a promotion to Atlanta). While a Starting 5 of Folty, Newcomb, Soroka, Gohara and Allard ‘may’ end up falling short of a 2018 playoff spot….the experience that all 5 would get by competing this summer/fall…would be INVALUABLE when it comes to their readiness for 2019! All 5 of those guys have ‘swing and miss’ stuff….in addition to the ability to consistently pitch 6-7 innings a start!

With the other young prospects coming up (Tooki, Wright, Bryce Wilson, Joey Wentz, Ian Anderson..even Patrick Weigel)..The Braves will have an opportunity to either DEVELOP a true ace AND hella good #2…OR….use any combo of those prospects AND/OR one from the above starting 5…to trade for an ace (someone younger/has controllable years…NOT signing someone like Kershaw who is on the WRONG SIDE of 30). Very seldom does a Greg Maddux (who was only 26 when he became a Free Agent) come available via Free Agency who is on ‘the right side of 30’!

2. The Bullpen simply lacks a HAMMER/LOCK DOWN closer! Vizcaino IS NOT someone who any legit playoff team wants closing games! Given the exorbitant prices of LOCKDOWN closers via The Trade Market (just look at what Chapman and Miller got The Yankees in trades)…I’d rather see The Braves simply wait until The 2018 Free Agent Offseason (by signing Kimbrel) before addressing that need. Vizcaino will more than likely be traded this offseason (no way does he accept a demotion to ‘set up man’….no way does Atlanta pay him what he’s going to get awarded via arbitration this offseason, to just be a setup man).

Regardless, the bullpen has some really nice pieces that Tommy touched upon. The only upgrades I’d like to see..is Annibal Sanchez activated (giving The Bullpen another multi-inning arm)..as well as Kyle Wright added sometime this summer (as another multi-inning arm who can throw some serious heat). That would mean that either Biddle/Fried (gets demoted) and Moylan (released/traded) gets replaced.

A bullpen of the following would be potentially ‘serviceable’ for the rest of 2018 (however come 2019, it could be LETHAL simply by replacing Vizcaino with Kimbrel).

1. Vizcaino
2. Minter
3. Winkler
4. Carle
5. Freeman
6. Sanchez
7. Wright
8. Fried/Biddle (assuming that Gohara gets inserted into The Rotation)

3. The middle of The Braves lineup simply needs another power bat (especially from the right side of the plate)! Even if Markakis is able to sustain his ‘MVP-like’ performance throughout the rest of The 2018 Season (which is a big question mark)….I’m not a big fan of having Freeman/Markakis both hitting 3-4! Last thing I want to see..is a tough lefty reliever being brought in to face them (without fearing having to face a right handed power hitter in between Freeman and Markakis).

Even though Acuna is off to a decent start..he has yet to really go on ‘a tear’! I expect that to change in the not too distant future. While I feel that Acuna is suited to the #2 spot of the order long term…I feel that if he starts hitting with consistent power…perhaps a drop to #4 for the rest of The 2018 Season..would help The Braves lineup! A move like that would only make sense..if Dansby Swanson comes back and shows that what he did in the 1st month of 2018 was no fluke! A lineup of the following would give The Braves hella lefty-righty balance for the rest of 2018:

1. Albies…2nd
2. Swanson…SS
3. Freeman…1st
4. Acuna…LF
5. Markakis…RF
6. Flowers/Suzuki..C
7. Inciarte…CF
8. Bautista/Flaherty…3rd

HOWEVER, if Austin Riley continues to rake at AAA when mid-July rolls around (that’s 2 months from now..another 50 MILB games), then an aggressive promotion to Atlanta for Riley should be highly considered! Then I would go with the following lineup for the rest of 2018:

1. Albies….2nd
2. Acuna…LF
3. Freeman…1st
4. Riley…3rd
5. Markakis…LF
6. Flowers/Suzuki…C
7. Inciarte….CF
8. Swanson…SS

I know, putting ‘a rookie’ into The Cleanup Spot ‘right away’…is not what ‘The Book’ says! SCREW THE BOOK! Riley can flat out hit…WITH POWER! This lineup is HELLA GOOD….The Braves wouldnt need Riley to ‘carry them’…just ‘do his thing’ (which is HIT HOMERS)!

Lastly, I’d like to close by saying that I hope that The Braves offer BOTH Flowers/Suzuki an extension (something like 2 years each/with a 3rd year team option). I feel that an argument can be made that by having both ‘share’ the catching duties (where one plays 85-90 games a year..the other catches 70-75 games a season)…their careers can each be extended by a couple of years (because NEITHER would be subjected to the wear and tear/grinding of having to catch 110-120 games a season). Both are more productive..when they SHARE the catching duties.

Sure, both of them are approaching their mid-30’s. However that doesnt mean that with proper care of their bodies…they cant still be productive for the next few years (2 years is not a huge investment should either/both suddenly ‘flame out). Having both under contract for the next 2 years (with a team option for a 3rd season) would bide time for Wilson Contraras (who I feel is the one Braves catching prospect that is legit MLB material) to work his way to Atlanta!

TRad….while I dont see this team winning 90 plus games..I do feel that this Braves team is capable of winning 85-89 games in 2018. Unless we get ravished by some brutal injuries…this team has talent (in other words, The Braves are not solely relying on Freddie Freeman)!

If we suffer injuries to our pitching staff, we have some high upside prospects who can come in and pitch halfway decent!

Late in Spring Training..I felt that The Braves were capable of winning 86 games in 2018 (after thinking that we’d SUCK for most of the offseason…I ‘saw something’ during the last 2 weeks of Spring Training..that led me to believe that IF The Braves could make it through the 1st 15 games of the season with a halfway decent record..which we did…The Braves would only ‘get better’ as the season wore on…with the addition of young prospects with some serious upside talent to The Braves Roster).

Absolutely. I’m almost sure they will be much better than preseason projection. I just don’t think they will be able to keep playing at this level. EVERYTHING is breaking right. Everybody’s overperforming. Unsustainable IMO.

But with a small trade to strengthen bullpen and timely Riley’s promotion – they could make a good fight for a wild card.

TRad…I dont feel that The Braves ‘should’ make any trades..OTHER than to be Sellers at The July Trade Deadline: like trading McCarthy, and possibly Teheran (if The Braves get a decent offer for him).

The Nationals are going to go ‘all in’ and sacrifice part of their future at The Trade Deadline. The Braves and Phillies are good enough to ‘not go away’..forcing Washington to be buyers at The Deadline.

After trading McCarthy and Teheran..I’d go with a rotation of 1. Folty…2. Newcomb….3. Soroka…4. Gohara..5. Allard.

When it comes to addressing The Bullpen..I’d like to see AA call up Kyle Wright to fill a multi-inning/high leverage role….maybe even Tooki Tousiant (provided both make progress in the next 2 months of the season at Double A). No need to overpay for what could very well end up being ‘so-so middle relievers’!

I must say…I’m a little ‘confused’ as to what Braves Management’s ‘thinking’ is…when it comes to the past few days (regarding ‘DLing’ Soroka….bringing up Fried to start what ended up being last night’s rainout….then calling up Wisler to start in place of Fried today).

1. I have my doubts regarding the ‘severity’ of Soroka’s ‘injured’ shoulder. I can only hope that it’s an ‘innings manipulation effort’ by our GM, AA. However, isnt it kind of ‘early’ in the season to do that?

2. Calling up Fried to start last night’s game..would have made sense…IF Wisler wasnt called up today to replace Fried. Not sure what’s going on with that move.

Newcomb was supposed to start today on his regular 4 days rest turn in the rotation. However with Wisler starting tonight’s game…that will push back all 4 starters, giving each of them 5 days of rest in their next turn on the mound.

If our starters were routinely going 7-8 innings a start/throwing over 100 pitches a start…I’d understand the need to give all 4 of them an extra day of rest. However, 2 out of 42 starts so far in 2018..have resulted in a starting pitcher going 7 innings (one each by Teheran and Newcomb).

One thing not being talked about..is how The Braves have been the beneficiary of a number of rainouts so far in 2018 (which have resulted in extra unscheduled days off ALREADY…not only giving our starting 5 SEVERAL ‘5 days of rest’ between starts…BUT ALSO giving our OVERWORKED bullpen some much needed days off with the rainouts). Losing scheduled days off later in the season..in order to make up those rainouts…could very well come back to ‘haunt’ The Braves.

I dont understand why The Braves didnt at least let McCarthy pitch to one batter in the top of the 7th inning during Wednesday night’s game (The Braves were up 1-0 at the time…McCarthy had only thrown 85 pitches up to that point. After walking the leadoff batter in the top of the 6th, he struck out the next hitter, then induced a double play to end the inning). An extra inning by McCarthy there…would have helped limit the bullpen to 2 innings of usage on Wednesday.

I’m all for saber metrics stats being used to enhance the product that The Braves put forth on the field….however, I cant help but fear that The Braves bullpen is going to be either worn out or at risk of being plagued by injuries during the summer.

Sure, some will say that The Braves can get ‘reinforcements’ via a trade’…however given the competition come The July Trade Deadline from other teams..the price for quality middle relievers is going to be “THROUGH THE ROOF”!

Somehow, The Braves made Dan Straily look like Cy Freaking Young tonight, lol! This guy (with the ERA over 6 going into tonight) threw 7 SHUTOUT INNINGS tonight…in Atlanta!

Those 7 innings that he threw tonight..represents ONE HALF of the number of times a Braves Starter has thrown 7 innings in a start so far in 2018.

One bright spot from tonight’s game…Luiz Gohara looked good in his 1 2/3rds innings (only 1 run given up in 3 appearances that total 6 1/3 innings). I really want to see him crack The Braves Rotation SOON! He’s a starting pitcher who has the potential to be A FREAKING WORKHORSE who can go 7-8 innings. He goes after hitters…WHICH I LOVE! When you have the kind of stuff he has…you dont DICK AROUND by nibbling at the plate! Perhaps some of his ‘going after hitters’..will rub off on our other young guns with great stuff!

Assuming that Soroka isnt bumped from The Rotation when he’s eligible to come off The 10 Day DL (Gohara, from what I hear, is in line to start on Wednesday against The Phillies)….it looks like ‘someone’ may have to be bumped from The Rotation..UNLESS The Braves decide to go with a 6 man rotation (what…they’re going to go with a 14 man Pitching Staff (6 starters, 8 in the bullpen)..which would leave a 3 man bench?

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