The Atlanta Braves Are The Best Team In The National League
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Jake Dal Porto (Baseball Writer) Follow @TheJakeMan24
At 11-1, the Atlanta Braves can seemingly do no wrong. Fresh off a sweep of the Washington Nationals, the Braves can make a very good case regarding their status as the best team in the NL.
That spot was occupied by the Nationals in the preseason chatter. And I wouldn’t blame the pundits who circled them as the NL’s best team.
After all, they fixed their leadoff spot woes with the addition of Denard Span, further improved their bullpen with Rafael Soriano and probably most importantly, started the season with an improved Bryce Harper. On paper, they had minuscule flaws.
The Brothers Upton Both HR to win the game!:
But lost in the mix of the Nationals’ admirers, were the Braves, who also made a handful of notable roster improvements this winter. They pried Justin Upton, who leads the NL in Home Runs and Slugging Percentage, away from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They signed his brother, B.J. Upton. They also traded for Jordan Walden, who has pitched four scoreless innings this year.
So far this year, the additions, combined with some internal improvements, have them sitting atop the NL.
Among those internal improvements: Mike Minor is 2-0 – with a 0.69 ERA.
Paul Maholm, who came over from the Chicago Cubs in July, is 3-0 (20.1 Innings) with a 0.00 ERA.
As a team, the numbers are even more impressive. They’re second in the NL in Home Runs (20), first in Bullpen ERA (1.30), have an outfield that sports an NL-leading 3.6 UZR and lastly, the Braves’ starters have the second-best ERA in league.
If I’m not mistaken, we’ve covered the four main areas – Defense, Hitting, Pitching and Bullpen. The Braves are, well, dominating in all four of those categories.
To put that into perspective, most prominent teams rank well in two to three categories while fading in the others. Atlanta hasn’t dropped off. The Nationals, for instance, have good Starting Pitching and a solid Lineup, but in 2013, their Bullpen has uncharacteristically struggled, posting a near-NL worst 5.90 ERA.
What the sweep really did was direct some spotlight on a team worthy of spotlight. What makes this Braves team even more scarier is the fact that they’re just getting started. Yes, at 11-1, they can still improve greatly. Not marginally, greatly.
Lost in the success is Jason Heyward. Heyward is hitting just .103 this year. There’s nothing truly deceiving about that mark except for the fact that he’s hitting .097 on balls in play, which is bound to see an uptick. His On-Base Percentage of .286 isn’t bad, nor is his 14.3 walk percentage, when it’s put into the context of his dreadful batting average, of course.
Still, Heyward’s struggles haven’t caused Manager Fredi Gonzalez to take immediate action. Despite his woes, he’s still batting No. 2 in the Braves’ deep lineup. After all, the season is only two weeks old, and Heyward isn’t the only one struggling.
B.J. Upton has also struggled in his first two weeks as Brave. He’s hitting just .143 – along with one home run and a Strikeout Percentage of 29.2. Really, nothing about Upton has changed. He’s still a low On-Base Percentage guy, and that’s due to his free-swinging habits. His batting average will improve, and he will hit 25-plus Home Runs, which is pretty much what the Braves expected.
Dan Uggla, who’s also struggling, is very similar to B.J. Upton in that he strikes out and hits Home Runs. Thus far in 2013, he has hit two Home Runs and has Strikeout Percentage of 30 percent. The only difference between him and Upton is that he gets on base.
So, Heyward, B.J. Upton and Uggla have all underachieved through 12 games. I want you to imagine how much more dangerous the Braves’ lineup is going to be when they start producing at their normal levels. I would presume that you’re seeing something pretty lethal. That’s what I’m seeing.
Additionally, Freddie Freeman is on the Disabled List, and he had seven hits in 19 at-bats before going on the DL. So he’s another big bat that will join a strong core.
Another big bat that’s on the shelf is McCann. Despite Slashing for .230/.300/.399 in 2012, he still hit 20 Home Runs. He’s definitely starting to decline, but 20 Home Runs isn’t too shabby for a Catcher. And for a Braves’ lineup that is power-filled, any additional pop is going to further deepen their offense.
In short, the Braves have a handful of players that are bound to start producing at more efficient. Add that with Justin Upton’s torrid start to the year, and Atlanta will be that much better, which is hard to imagine.
On the flip side, Maholm isn’t going to sustain a 0.00 ERA and Minor isn’t going to sustain his 0.69 ERA. But if Minor improves on his 2012 mark of 4.12 and Maholm maintains an ERA in the 3.00 to 3.50 range, the Braves rotation will be among the NL’s best.
The Braves are simply just clicking on all cylinders in all facets of the game. Thus, they are indeed the best team in the National League.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners.***
A big thank-you goes out to our Baseball Writer Jake Dal Porto for preparing today’s featured article. Jake is a student from the Bay Area. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work, as he thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @TheJakeMan24
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Posted on April 15, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged @TheJakeMan24 on twitter, Arizona Diamonbacks, Atlanta Braves, b.j. upton, brandon beachy, Brian McCann, bryce harper, dan uggla, denard span, evan gattis, freddie freeman, fredi gonzalez, jake dal porto, Jason Heywayd, justin upton, mike minor, NL east, washington nationals. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Atlanta Braves Are The Best Team In The National League.