The not-great-but-not-awful Braves keep us hanging on

Cameron Maybin, shown here in a lesser moment. (AP Photo/Jon Barash)

Atlanta Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin (25) throws his bat after striking out in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday, July 5, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Jon Barash)

Can the Braves give us a finish? Maybin, maybe not. (AP Photo/Jon Barash)

Just after Memorial Day, we noted that the Atlanta Braves’ schedule over the next month-plus would be most testing. Our conclusion: “If the Braves are still at .500 on the Fourth of July, there should be a parade down Peachtree.”

The Braves weren’t at .500 on the Fourth, but they were darn close. They beat Philadelphia that night, which made them 40-41 at the season’s actual midpoint. For those among us who believed these Braves might lose 100 games, seeing them on pace to finish 80-82 came as a major surprise.

To say the Braves have been tearing up the proverbial pea patch would be incorrect: From May 25 through June 28, they won one of 10 — or 11, depending how you count the home-and-home against Boston — series. On June 30, they were five games below .500, marking a nadir. Then they won four straight, which is the story of the season.

The Braves haven’t been good enough to make us believe they’re capable of anything great. They’re 22nd in the majors in runs scored — losing Freddie Freeman has taken its toll — and 17th in ERA. The pitching has begun to stabilize, even the much-derided bullpen. (Once the worst in baseball, this relief corps has risen to being only fourth-worst.)

If we go by the “expected” win total — a function of run differential; the Braves have been outscored by 27 runs over 82 games — this team should be 38-44. That it’s two games better than that should serve as a rejoinder to those who blame everything on Fredi Gonzalez.

Glass-half-full: The schedule has eased. The Braves come off a three-game set with Philadelphia, the worst team in baseball, to embark on a road swing against Milwaukee, the worst team in the NL Central, and Colorado, the worst in the NL West. There’s a real chance the Braves could hit the All-Star break above .500.

Glass-half-empty: Beyond the break, the Braves will play the Cubs, then the Dodgers, then the Cardinals. Bobby Cox used to say that if a team’s around .500 at the break, anything can happen, but both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs assess the Braves’ playoff odds at 2.5 percent. Only five teams in baseball — the Marlins, the Phillies, the Reds, the Brewers and the Rockies — are given less of a chance to play beyond the 162nd game.

If you believed this season was essentially a dry run for 2017, you have to be relieved that the in-flux Braves have been this competitive. (In flux? After Sunday’s loss, they reconfigured their bullpen yet again.) If you were hoping that a roster that resembles a departure lounge might pull the biggest Braves’ shocker since the worst-to-first of 1991, you’re probably wishing on a falling star. Then again …

After 82 games, the ’91 Braves were in third place, seven games behind the Dodgers and 1 1/2 back of the second-place Reds. After 82 games, these Braves were in third place, six games behind the Nationals and 1 1/2 back of the second-place Mets. Just sayin’.

Reader Comments 1

48 comments
SkokieDog
SkokieDog

"That it’s two games better than that should serve as a rejoinder to those who blame everything on Fredi Gonzalez." 


MB: Even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut.

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

This team reminds me when Gru built the prototype rocket to impress his mom; a second of wonder and then meh.

RoswellDickie
RoswellDickie

Gotta leave Freddie alone. He ain't making the roster. Hart has put together a team that should win 70 games. If they do better than that it's not so bad. I think they stay within 4-6 games out all season, making noise every now and then, but generally playing spoiler down the stretch. The real question is what will Hart do to start making the team better in 2016 so he can sell tix for 2017.

Bogey
Bogey

@RoswellDickie  Are you serious???  Hart's already done tons of work to improve the Braves for next year, and it's very reasonable to assume that by '17 the Braves could win the NL East.


At the end of '14, the Braves had two (2) MLB caliber starting pitchers in the ENTIRE organization:  Teheran and Wood.  Minor was hurt with nothing but questions, Harang and Santana not to be resigned - and nobody ready from the minors.  No chance of outbidding anyone for FA's.  Keith Law ranked the Braves farm system at 29th out of 30 teams!!


Now look at them in only 1 off-season of work:  Law ranked them 6th in farm systems, we now have over 10 top prospects to be ready by '17 at the latest (look at Banuelos, Wisler, Folty, Perez already proven themselves, with Fried, Sanchez, Jenkins and Touissant coming).  BTW they say Touissant may be the best of the lot, and that's saying something.


Right now, I'd argue that Hart/Coppy have won every deal they did: JUp for Jace, Fried, Dustin P and M Smith; JHey/Walden for Shelby and T Jenkins (looks good now, in a year or so a slam dunk); Folty alone will surpass anything Gattis would've given us; Wisler at the price of Kimbrel BUT got rid of BJ at no cost!!!


Wake up - Hart is doing exactly what Scheurholz/Wren couldn't or wouldn't do.....build a sustainable program.

reckingball
reckingball

@Bogey @RoswellDickie I would have to agree that H/C have come out on top on almost all of their trades. But,.....I can't imagine an argument that could make the Cahill trade sound like a "win". Not only is that one a fail, but factor into the argument, that they released Wandy Rodriquez to make room for Cahill, and that they are still paying Cahill.

Mike
Mike

A Yankee fan once told me... "The Braves are exactly who we need them to be."

BiCurious_Barack
BiCurious_Barack

RE: "After 82 games, the ’91 Braves were in third place, seven games behind the Dodgers and 1 1/2 back of the second-place Reds."




The 1991 Braves  had Ted Turner and Bobby Cox.   




The 2015 Braves have Liberty Media and Fredi Gonzalez.





Any questions?


Polskidawg
Polskidawg

This season is NOT about making the playoffs – its about setting the entire organization on a path to continual success, starting in 2017. All of the John's have essentially said this, beginning in the Fall of 2014.


This season has been a tryout for everyone in the SP rotation, the bullpen and the starting 8. Only Freddie, Markakis and Simmons are locks for 2017. Peterson is making a good run at being part of 2017. 


Ultimately, the record is immaterial in 2015. 

NormanWhite
NormanWhite

@Bogey @The Real Atlantan @Polskidawg Amen to that.  If the Braves were 6 games out in front, these people would still be criticizing Gonzalez and telling us "oh, they haven't beaten anyone yet."  These folks are never satisfied, and can't really seem to enjoy life.  It's just a baseball game, you made the CHOICE to buy the full price ticket.  The games are on TV every night, you don't have to go to the stadium.  What a bunch of whiners!

hipdawg
hipdawg

Wow, comparing this squad to the '91 team is comical.(yes they have similar records right now).....I'm concerned about the 2 year plan.This team has more holes than Bonnie & Clydes car. I mean if you can build the team through trades and free agency before hand, it would be better to give them time to gel. And it will be safe to say the Nats and NY will be better in two years also....It would be the most shocking story in the history of man if this team caught lighting in a bottle this year w/ this line-up and manager.

Bogey
Bogey

@hipdawg  I disagree with your assessment of the Nats and the Mets.  Most of the time, teams have about a 5-6 year window to take advantage of a talented roster (some bigger market teams do continue to buy their teams thru FA, but the Braves aren't one of those). 


The Phillies are 2-3 years behind schedule on rebuilding; the Marlins are lost and underachieving; the Mets are the Mets; and the Nats are in yr 3 of their window - if they don't win it all soon they'll decline by losing key players, injured pitchers, etc.


Braves will likely win the East by '17, '18 at the latest and sustain the run from there.  Hart IS recreating the 90's.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@Bogey ...AND Mark Richt has the U.Ga. football team right where he wants it: just around the corner from a national championship. 

Ersatz
Ersatz

The only thing worse than the barves hanging on for dear life is hanging around the 29-story Applebee's in barvesworld during another barves shutout loss.  The barves front office hogs and cobb political fat cats took all the stools when they bellied up to the bar to stuff their fat faces with all the unlimited brewskis, tater skins, and babyback ribs they could eat, all paid in full by cobb taxpayers.  At this rate, all the extra inning losses will keep the bartenders and cooks busy, but the truck delivering the extra Buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks is still stuck on 285 behind all the die-hard barves fans scurrying away from barvesworld in the bottom of the 4th.

PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@Ersatz  ^^^ butthurt.  So cute how you spell "braves".  Your husband must be proud.

AtlantaSportsVictory
AtlantaSportsVictory

All we need is a warm body in Left Field, someone other than a discard at 3rd, and a real starting Catcher so AJ can go back to the role he was brought in for. It would be easier to swallow a rebuild year if we also saw prospects in the field (not just pitching), instead of trotting out these veterans that have no future with us. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

We still got Fredi... enough said.

Thanks Mark...

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Conceding the Hart stance on movement I think the Braves will get offers for Grilli that are too good to pass...That said I STILL think they'll hang around and even pass the Mets.

PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@ChefTimDix  Yeah, don't go out and buy a Grilli tshirt.  The Blue Jays and Orioles among others will bid for his services.  Jim Johnson and possibly Avilan will be gone, too.  The REAL question is will someone give us an offer too good to pass up on Maybin.  Not a better time to sell him, should we choose to do so.

Bogey
Bogey

@PalmBeachFalcon @ChefTimDix  One of the reasons Hart brought in several veterans was IF they were playing well in the first half to trade them at the deadline.  Grilli, Jim Johnson, Gomes (believe it or not, but other teams see value in him for a playoff run), and likely AJ could ALL be gone, bringing back several good young prospects.


I don't believe KJ or Uribe have much trade value.  And I would hold onto Maybin....IF Mallex Smith does turn out to be the real deal, you could move Cam to RF and move Markakis to LF.  OR trade Maybin in the off-season, packaging him up with CJohnson.

BiCurious_Barack
BiCurious_Barack


RE:  "After 82 games, the ’91 Braves were in third place, seven games behind the Dodgers and 1 1/2 back of the second-place Reds."





The beloved 1991 Braves didn't have to overcome the adversity that is Fredi Gonzalez, did they?



DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Seems like Wren was more of an all-in kind of guy going for the big splashy moves, where Hart is more of a process guy who wants multiple options with a cast and string of players competing for jobs.  In the end the players have to play and produce; too many of Wren's big-ticket players either weren't producing or were destined to go free agent, and he wasn't coming up with the Maybins and Petersons and Uribes to plug gaping holes. I don't think the 2015 Braves under Wren would have held up in the pitching department, either, without spending a ton of money he didn't have.


I would be shocked if this team made the playoffs. Hope they do, but I'm pretty much there with the 2.5. I do find it interesting to contemplate where the 2013-14 Braves might have gone with the 2015 versions of Maybin and Peterson in the lineup every day, but that is pure fantasy.



monty1
monty1

Hamels was Hamels yesterday. I didn't see the ending of the game but I would have bunted with Ciriaco, also.. Team is "funner" to watch than last years. Love Jace, AJ is a grinder at 38, Maybin has been a real find. I liked Banuelos' stuff(nasty) and Wisler has some competitive fire in him. If FF can come back and be FF then it will be fun to watch and we won't have to get sick over a Sept. collapse.

Archangel
Archangel

He was there for the last two September collapses

.

rightupouralley
rightupouralley

I think last night's loss is on Freddie.  1st and 3rd with one out.  Ciriaco can bunt.  At least try a safety squeeze with AJ P at third.  He gets the bunt down on a pure squeeze and the game is over.  


As far as the playoffs, anything can happen.  One thing is for sure, this team is 10X more fun to watch than last year's. 


And, we actually have a center fielder who can play the game at the major league level.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@rightupouralley  agree and if he got put out at home you still would have had runner in scoring position with two outs.....

The Real Atlantan
The Real Atlantan

@rightupouralley

The runner at 3rd is not a good runner for a squeeze.

The batter has to get the ball in the air.

That is not on Fredi. 

And we are not a good 2 out hitting team.

Thanks Liberty! 

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

@rightupouralley I am as big a Freddi opponent as anyone; HOWEVER, I cannot put that blame on him.  A major league ball player should be able to hit a fly ball to win the game in that situation, period.  I didn't watch the whole game and I'm sure there were other questionable moves/non-moves (like pulling Shelby when he did), but I cant put this one on him.

candlin14
candlin14

What infuriates me about John Hart and all of you Braves fans is the fact that all of you are willing to concede another season of baseball. This city loses year in and year out in every sport. I am tired of "re-building". The decisions made by Hart to rebuild did not need to happen. We under-evaluated the bull pen and it has cost us dearly. I am amazed that so many of you are ok with "wait until next year" attitude.

The Real Atlantan
The Real Atlantan

@stgp @candlin14

10 times more fun to watch?

Can you actually tell me the lineup for tonight's game right now?

I guess you like watching sub 500 baseball

stgp
stgp

@The Real Atlantan @stgp @candlin14 "real" Atlantan is challenging my Braves Manhood. Not biting. Full disclosure, I have no financial stake in these guys, Go to games when I want and enjoy a game of baseball. Yes they are 10x more watchable than last years strike-out, no hustle group, that's all reasonable folks expected at seasons start. If your that angry, donate tix/ turn off TV --I suggest  gardening or woodworking might ease the soul


PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@The Real Atlantan @stgp @candlin14  Quoting a lineup doesn't make a team more or less enjoyable.  I don't have to see a lineup card or know who the hitter is to enjoy a game.  I've seen plenty of games in which my team won, yet the game dragged and wasn't enjoyable.  If you only enjoy a team when they're winning, you're not much of a fan.  Braves have been battling for playoffs for a quarter of a century.  There comes a time when you have to rebuild.

stgp
stgp

@candlin14 Anger issues? Agree this team is 10x more fun to watch. Yes bullpen makes me nauseated but last years team 100% needed to be blown up. these guys deserve some loyal support for their fighting nature. Then again I grew up with Biff Pocaroba, Ralph Garr and Rick Mahler, so I never expect too much-- makes life more livable.

KevinE
KevinE

The 1991 Braves had Ron Gant (32 HR's, 105 RBI), David Justice (21 HR's, 87 RBI), and Terry Pendleton (22 HR, 86 RBI, .319 BA, MVP) in the order most nights.  They could score.  Reserves Brian Hunter and Jeff Blauser each had over 50 RBI.  Otis Nixon hit .297 and stole 72 bases.  

I'm glad the 2015 Braves are competitive, but they don't compare to the 1991 Braves.  And as someone already mentioned, they don't have Glavine's 20 W's, Avery's 18, Leibrandt's 15, and Smotz's 14.  Those 4 guys started ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY ONE GAMES (141).  

MikeY1959
MikeY1959

It is interesting to look at how much money frees up for next year. Uggla, Cahill, Quentin, and Russell money comes off the payroll, over $27M. Then there are free agents that come off: Uribe, Jim Johnson, Kelly Johnson, AJ, Aardsma. This totals over $10M. Braves will need to make a decision on Minor, I think they non-tender him, saving another $6M or so. Arroyo, another decision; Braves can pay him $4.5M to go away or $11M to stay and pitch. His recovery success will have a lot to do with that decision. Now, the Braves will have some contractual and arb raises to give. Net is that the Braves will have $35M or more to spend in the free agent market, and can work on C, 3B. LF, and the bullpen.Playoffs in 2015 looks unlikely (though I watch every day and hope, the tough series against LA, Chi, St L, Baltimore after the break are going to be telling). But 2016: I have a LOT of optimism for 2016.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Most nights, the team just battles. That's fun to watch, and then the 'pen kills it. The revolving door at Gwinnett has to keep revolving until something clicks, and I believe it will click.

Big difference in '91 and '15 is the starters. The '91 Braves had several youngsters who had been around three years or so and took a step up after the All Star break. Tehran's been up long enough that it's time for him to step up if he's ever going to. Wood may be a season away. Miller is the ace and the lineup ought be horsewhipped for not giving him run support. Maddux had the same problem several different seasons here, else he'd have won 400 games.

Wisler and Banuelos look like real deals, and hopefully in a year, probably two, they'll figure out how to battle on nights you don't have your best stuff.

It's possible, but a repeat of '91 looks like a remote possibility.

BarrowCountyShawty
BarrowCountyShawty

Two games under .500 and the bullpen has blown 15-20 games. If you have even half of those blown losses you may be a division leader. Going into the season without a scintilla of relief has made it so that even if the starters and hitters do overperform, it's all for naught.

MichaelProcton
MichaelProcton

@BarrowCountyShawty To be fair, they went into the season (or very close to it) expecting Outman, Vizcaino, McKirihan, and (to a lesser extent) Kimbrel available. 

joedavis
joedavis

No one can predict how they'll end up.  Sports Illustrated said in March they'd finish 68-94, but thankfully some of the veterans and kids have stepped up, and Cameron Maybin has been very, very good.


Thanks to the horrible Phillies and the surprisingly bad Marlins, they'll finish no lower than 3rd, and depending on how the Mets recover from injuries, they might have a shot at 2nd.


But this much we know.  If they're intending to compete for a wild card, they can't do it with this roster.  The Braves have a competent catcher, but he's 38. I can't see him picking up much steam during the next three months.


Freddie Freeman may or may not be back right after the break, and when will he be 100%?  The offense is not very good without him.


3rd base is a mess too.  Uribe is a good part-time stopgap, but he's (at least) 36, and despite what the announcers keep saying, his defense is not what it once was.


Left field is a revolving door of AAA players.


Right field is manned by a decent, .300 singles hitter, who is no RBI threat.


If Simmons, Peterson or Maybin get hurt for any extended period, the 2015 Braves are toast.  Their defense, and in some cases their bats, have kept the team afloat, along with a better-than-average rotation and 2 or 3 good relievers.

(Julio Teheran, by the way, better find his road game.  What good is a starting pitcher who struggles in every start on the road?)


So, if there's any hope, or intention of a good 2015 finish, this roster can't do it.  There's a reason so many teams have discarded Kelly Johnson and Jonny Gomes.  There's a reason the Braves can't find a taker for Chris Johnson.  There's a reason Terdoslavich, Cunningham and Ciriaco have been AAA players for many years.


If there's any realistic expectation of playing beyond 162 games, some pitching prospects will have to be dealt for a bat or two.


Personally, I don't think that will happen.  I think management is thrilled that 2015 hasn't been a major disaster, and they're still focused on 2017.



Already_Older
Already_Older

@joedavis I agree with you for the most part, except for third base.  I think Uribe has done a tremendous job.  I agree he is no longer the Simmons of 3rd basemen, but I have been pleased with him.  He is 36 and isn't going to resign here, so we do need a 3rd baseman moving forward.  But you were addressing this year.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

First. Great game yesterday until the end.

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  1. […] We on the outside wouldn’t like it, but for long-range-planning purposes it would make sense. Thing is, the Braves haven’t stunk. They’ve been competitive. As much as Johns Hart and Coppolella have plunged into rebuilding, […]