Apr 1, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) hits a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. At left is Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (20). Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves Magic Numbers: Week One

The Atlanta Braves have wrapped up their first week of regular season play this Sunday, and I created Magic Numbers to take a weekly look at Braves statistics. I’m no Sabermetrics guy by any means, but I enjoy looking at how the team progresses week to week, and how they’ve changed from prior years. Sometimes we as fans forget things that happened earlier in the week, or we get blinded to the fact that some of our favorite players may be in a slump, while other players get overlooked. I will be using this piece to provide you, the avid Braves fan, deeper insight on the game through statistics, trends, and the all important eye-test.

I’ll start by going right after BJ Upton, as most of Twitter did this week. BJ went several ABs without a hit, scaring everyone in Braves Country beyond reason. In the first week, we can’t really say much about the hitters, other than the fact it usually takes them longer to catch up to Major League pitching than the other way around. So, lower numbers for a guy like BJ shouldn’t be all that shocking. Still, after 6 games, he’s 3-for-25 at the plate for a .120 batting average, and he has no walks to go along with 11 strikeouts. It’s not pretty to look at. If the season continued on this stretch, he’d strike out 132 times in 300 ABs, and likely get yanked. I don’t think that’s going to happen, as I’m already seeing signs of BJ making better contact in the last two games. In fact, if you just look at those last two games against the Nats, BJ went 2-for-9 with only 2 Ks. That’s a lot more contact than earlier in the week, and more contact will lead to better results.

BJ’s not the only one struggling though. Three other members of the Atlanta Braves are actually hitting under .200: Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, and Justin Upton. However, Gattis and Heyward already have a home run a piece between them, so I’m not too concerned about their early slump. Justin concerns me a little more because he’s already in the double digits in strikeouts, along with his brother. I get brotherly love, but there’s no reason to follow BJ down that rabbit hole. That way lies madness. Hopefully they can all shake off the early troubles and get cracking.

If the Uptons are the bad side of the week, Freddie Freeman is the awesome side. Freddie had a week that could go down as one of the best in the NL in terms of getting on base. In fact, Freeman’s on-base percentage for the week was .560, meaning more than half the time he came up, he was touching the bases. Freddie had 8 hits, 2 homers, and 6 walks in his 25 plate appearances. He’s so good at the plate, that opposing teams are making the decision to pitch around him rather than let Freddie beat them. While that’s a smart decision on their end, it also means Freddie is going to need some protection from Chris Johnson in order to get pitches to hit.

So far so good on that front with Chris Johnson, as he clocked in a .304 average on the week with a homer, 3 doubles, and 2 RBIs. Chris is picking up where he left off last season, hitting any mistakes that pitchers leave out over the plate. The only downside to CJ’s approach is that he’s not really drawing any walks to go along with his hits, and he’s already got the third most strikeouts on the team. What I’d like to see for Chris to improve over this season is his K/BB rate, which was 4.25 last season. That would lead to even more base runners, more production for CJ who is already a high BABIP guy since he’ll cut down on the K’s, and more runners in scoring position (RISP) opportunities for the lineup.

Speaking of RISP hitting, one of my major hopes for the season was that the Braves wouldn’t end up dead last in RISP average. Well, for the first week the Braves are actually 18th in the majors in that category, which is a big improvement. However, in the loss to the Nationals on Sunday, the Braves reverted to old form by going 1-9 with RISP. That cost them a game that was there for the taking. We can expect the Braves to struggle getting runners in occasionally, but it’s almost impossible to win a division twice when you finish dead last in the majors. With the Braves pitching, they will eventually need those runs.

The pitching was above and beyond expectations in week one, and I hope we don’t get spoiled as fans too early. This isn’t likely what we’ll see for the rest of the year, but for the time being, the Atlanta Braves sit at number 1 in ERA in the league, just like last year. Two pitchers really jump out at me this week, and that’s Aaron Harang and David Hale. Both haven’t allowed an earned run in a combined 11.2 innings pitched. Harang only allowed two hits in his start, and had a no-hitter going through 6 innings. Considering that’s the current 3 and 4 starters in the Braves rotation, the fact that Harang has a career ERA over 4.00, and the remembrance that David Hale is a rookie, I’m frankly astounded they pitched as well as they did. However, statistical trends tell us that the other shoe is bound to drop eventually, so don’t be surprised if things get shifted around when Mike Minor, Ervin Santana, and Gavin Floyd come back.

I’m looking at a few things for next week as the Atlanta Braves take on the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. How will Harang and Hale pitch coming off their great first game performances? How will the Mets pitch to Freeman coming off his recent success? Also, will Fredi Gonzalez continue to win every single replay challenge. I like the new system, especially since it saved us an inside the park home run after Justin Upton panicked. Hopefully, Fredi G will continue to use replay to his advantage, and the Braves will take advantage of both the Mets and Nats in their first home stand.

Tags: Atlanta Braves

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