Braves Secret to Success 75 Games In

(Photo by Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images)

The 2024 Atlanta Braves are described by their lack of success in many aspects of the game by fans, pundits, and even players alike. A quick start ended just as quickly with poor offensive metrics and performances. The Braves could not find their footing to start the season. New York Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay described their bats during Sunday’s game in a touch of young slang, “As the kids would say, very mid.”

The Falloff of Offense

In Kay’s defense, what he said is completely correct about this year’s team. Of course, the season ending injury to Ronald Acuna Jr. hurts, but it doesn’t change too much about the metrics. The Braves’ 2023 metrics rank as one of the best seasons in baseball history. They ranked first in these major statistical categories: At-bats (5,597), runs (947), hits (1,543), home runs (307), RBI (916), total bases (2,803), batting average (.276), OBP (.346), SLG (.501), and OPS (.845).

In 2024, the Braves are right in the middle of the pack. They rank eighth in SLG (.410), 13th in home runs (85), average (.245), and OPS (.719). They rank 18th in OBP (.309), a surprising stat below the middle of the pack. Star players such as Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Michael Harris II struggled to open up the season. Supporting pieces such as Orlando Arcia and Adam Duvall have decreased their production from previous seasons. Sean Murphy‘s injury hindered the catcher position and still is trying to bring up his averages.

Overall, the Braves’ bats have frustrated fans and pressured Brian Snitker to call a team meeting back in mid June. The Braves had a lack of success amid their first  five-game skid since 2017. However, Snitker declined the idea, “These guys are driven, they’re professional, they enjoy the work,” Snitker said. “They don’t like going through this; nobody does. But it’s just one of those things, you have to handle it. I always say when you handle rough spots, there’s always something good on the other side. And these guys handle it. They’re working through it.”

The Obvious Explanation

The bats aren’t the same. The Braves sits 43-32, the fourth best team in the National League and seventh overall. They top the wild card, and sit 5.5 games above the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves took two out of three against the Yankees in New York, the best team in the American League. Everyone knows the offensive struggles of Atlanta, however the pitching rotation’s impact is undeniable.

The Top Two Treats

Max Fried in his contract year is having great success for the Braves with a 3.00 ERA and 1.067 WHIP. In his 15 starts, “Maximus” posts a 7–3 record, including two complete games and one shutout. Out of their pitching staff, Fried’s 90.0 innings this season is the most on the team and his .211 opponent batting average is 15th in the majors.

Chris Sale is on track to win NL’s Comeback Player of the Year with ease. Sale’s impressive work ranks in fourth in ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor almost halfway through the season. Sale’s 10 wins are tied for most in the majors, and posts only two losses in 14 starts. He has an ERA of 2.91 and WHIP of 0.935 while fanning 107 batters in 86.2 innings. The lefty’s first season in Atlanta has propelled himself back into the Cy Young conversation.

Under The Radar Pitching

Reynaldo López‘s change from reliever to starter is one of the Braves’ big changes this season with success. Although López is not qualified for league leaders, his 1.57 ERA mixed with 1.076 WHIP gives Atlanta a huge boost to win important ballgames. His fastball and breaking combo terrorizes batters. Statcast ranks López in the 100th percentile in Pitching Run Value, the highest grade a player can receive. His fastball value ranks in the 98th percentile, while his breaking ranks in the 99th percentile.

Charlie Morton is not near his prime, nor could expect him to be. Uncle Charlie’s 17th season in the majors isn’t supposed to be Cy Young level, but his production for a 40-year-old is favorable. An ERA of 4.20 and WHIP of 1.298 isn’t amazing, but Morton’s ability to keep the Braves in the game helps. If Morton finds his command, he could lower his ERA back to a number in the three’s.

With the 5th spot in the rotation handed to the best available, players such as Spencer Schwellenbach, Bryce Elder, Hurston Waldrep, Ray Kerr, or Darius Vines have stepped up to try and replace a looming spot with Spencer Strider‘s season ending injury. Through all of these players, Atlanta’s bounced back and forth to find the right guy.

In Totality

Through all of the struggles of the fifth spot in the rotation, and beauty of Fried, Sale, and López, the Braves rank 12th in starter ERA at 3.79 and ninth in innings with 418.1. Some cause of concern with the fifth spot dragging down the ERA can be true, but through it all, every pitcher is graded the same. Their starting pitching carried the team through some tough spots…

The Forgotten Piece

Through the ups and downs of the Braves’ season, whether it be the bats or starting pitching. Going hot or cold, going games without scoring, or mashing. Starting pitching throwing gems or throwing eggs, their season full of perplexing inconsistencies has worried many. However, the most forgotten important piece of baseball is the bullpen. When your starter pitches well and you need to hold the lead, you call the bullpen. When you need to keep the game close, the bullpen helps. The late innings can switch a teams momentum and to hold close games can veer the train towards the playoffs.

The bullpen had some changes after last season, where general manager Alex Anthopoulos focused on adding some velocity. Aaron Bummer highlighted a key addition to the bullpen, and for the six qualified on Atlanta, he starts at the bottom. However, their 3.25 ERA in the bullpen ranks third in the majors and second in the NL. Of the six qualified relievers, Bummer and Pierce Johnson‘s ERA rank below team average. Bummer posts a 3.86 and Johnson holds a 3.55. Of the other four qualified relievers, Joe Jimenez, Raisel Iglesias, Dylan Lee and Jesse Chavez post lower than the team average. Jimenez posts a 2.70, Iglesias holds a 2.51, Lee owns a 2.27, and Chavez with an outstanding 1.37 ERA.

No Stars, All Good

In Evan Thompson’s Reliever Roundup & Bullpen, The Braves ranked as the second best bullpen and won Relief Corps of the Month, despite only Joe Jimenez as the only reliever to be ranked top 10 in their position in their respective league. The bullpen sticks together perfectly and does not have one outstanding player, but rather key relievers to close the game. Key pieces in their bullpen aren’t considered the fire power that top end relief corps have.

Closer Raisel Iglesias has posted 20 saves so far, and he is on pace for 40 saves or more this season. Iglesias career high is 34 in 2019 and 2021. His two blown saves this season is second best for closers with 20 or more saves this season. The bullpen doesn’t have the big name flare like Emmanuel Clase, Evan Phillips, Josh Hader, or Mason Miller, yet still holds to be a true weapon for them this season.


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Brooks Thomason

As a up and coming writer, Brooks has been born and raised as an Atlanta Braves fan. Going through the years of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Brian McCann as a kid, to Freddie Freeman, and Acuña, Brooks has seen Braves stars come and go. However, his fandom always remains with Braves Country.

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