Today’s AJC offered a look at the Atlanta Braves as of Memorial Day, which dawned with them above .500. (If only just. They were 22-21. They’re 22-22 after Monday’s loss in L.A.) Given that the Braves were expected to be terrible, the season’s first quarter has been something of an accomplishment.
But here we note: Memorial Day 2014 dawned with the Braves at 28-21, holders of a three-game lead in the National League East. They would finish 79-83, 17 games behind the Washington Nationals. With its lousy offense, those Braves couldn’t hold up. The offense is better this season — the Braves have scored the 19th-most runs in the majors, up from the 29th of 2014 — but it still isn’t good. (They’ve gotten skilled at not striking out; they’ve also gotten skilled at not hitting home runs.)
The difference is, the Braves’ pitching has become mediocre. They hold the 20th-best ERA in the majors and are tied for 18th in quality starts. (A year ago they led all MLB teams in the latter category.) Even as we credit the Braves for holding it together this long, we have to ask: How much can we reasonably expect of a team that ranks in the bottom half in both hitting and pitching?
The Braves got a break from their early schedule. They’ve played only 15 games against teams that currently hold winning records; they’re 4-11 in those. June will be a much more testing month. If the Braves are still at .500 on the Fourth of July, there should be a parade down Peachtree.