Coming for the NL East
Gabe Lacques/ usatoday.com
The Atlanta Braves have gone from looking like they had a World Series hangover to being one of the best teams in baseball during June. Including a 14-game win streak, moving into the top-10 in the power rankings, and as of the beginning of July, they are within 3-games of the NY Mets for the first time since APRIL!
What has happened in Hotlanta during June, and is it sustainable? Let's look at the offense, the pitching, and a few specific numbers for how they have done it. Lastly, we will end with an opinion on the Freeman free agency drama.
First is the offense. As a unit, they slashed .267/.326/.499 for a team OPS of .825, an elite offense. The Braves scored a 155R as a team off of 255H, 54HR. The power came from Duvall, Swanson, d'Arnaud, Riley, and Olson, who each had 6HR or more, and Duvall had 8. The RBIs came in bunches for the Braves, with Olson, Swanson, d'Arnaud, Riley, Harris II, and Duvall each having at least 15 RBIs while Olsen had 21. The Braves also showed up in the advanced metrics as a team posting a .301BABIP and 125wrc+. One narrative I am taking for the Braves is the difference Michael Harris II made for the Braves. When he debuted on 5/28/22, the Braves sat at 22-25. Since his debut and play on the field has helped the Braves go 24-8. Since his debut, he has posted a .388BABIP and a 135WRC+, a 1.4WAR which is 5th best on the team. I'm not saying that Harris has been an excellent replacement for Rosario, but he has contributed his fair share to this team since being called up.
The offense can win many games, but without a strong performance by the pitching staff, the last month wouldn't have brought the same results as it did. 4/5 teams' rotation posted an ERA of 3.52 or lower, with ace Max Fried posting a 2.16ERA. Ian Anderson was the odd man out during the month, posting a 6.91ERA over 28.2IP; however, he still managed a 3-2 record. The staff managed 13 quality starts, a 21-6 record over 245IP. The staff allowed 216H, 96ER, and 27HR, which had an insane ratio of 285K-70BB. Once again, outside of Anderson, the starting staff had an OBA of .259 or lower, while rookie standout Steven Strider had a .196OBA. While on the topic of Strider, the rookie was locked in during June with a 1-2 record over 25.0IP. He allowed 18H, 9ER(2nd lowest in the starting rotation), 35K-9BB, and a 3.24ERA.
The Braves have a remarkably balanced attack. The team slash is carried by slugging, which means they are getting on base and coming through when the opportunity presents itself, and the pitching keeps each game winnable. The pitching as a staff allowed 100R in June, and the offense scored 155R. The pitching staff isn't issuing free passes at a high rate, and the offense is getting on base. The team is getting difference-making performances from the rookies, and each player is doing their part to win games.
Lastly, as promised, we are going to talk about Freddie Freeman. The former Braves 1B recently visited Atlanta and was overcome with emotion during pressers, on the field, and while getting his World Series ring. He was welcomed back to a warm ovation as the organization and the city still loves MVFree. However, it came out that Freeman found out about the Braves' finals offer that was never told to him by his agent. Likely, according to those close to Freeman, he would have accepted this offer from the Braves had to know. Freeman then fired his agent over the matter. Freeman is now listed as self-represented and will look for new representation. However, it is likely he doesn't hire an agent and continues as self-represented after the portrayed betrayal of the former agent. I fall in a place where I have seen plenty of people coming to Casey Close side, saying that he isn't a wrong person, he is a good agent, and he would never do anything like this. Close said Braves and Freeman mischaracterized the situation, creating a false narrative. Lastly, Derek Jeter, a client of Close, did back the agent in the matter. Look, we don't know Close as a person; we can't judge him from a fan's perspective. Braves fan, if this all comes out as accurate, I am sorry as Freeman was indeed an Mt. Rushmore type of player for the organization and likely still is. I do not doubt that Freeman will be in the Braves Hall of Fame, and if he does ever make it into Cooperstown, it will be with a Braves loge on his statue.
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