Jun 11, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) during a break in the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves magic numbers: Week eleven

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Having just completed Father’s Day weekend, I hope many of you got the chance to spend some time with your dads like I did. Nothing really brings together fathers and sons like baseball, and some of my earliest memories are with my Dad at Braves games. Speaking of which, the Atlanta Braves are, once again, playing some pretty uneven baseball.

I fully expected that they would struggle against the Rockies and the Angels, as I pointed out in last week’s Magic Numbers. What I didn’t expect is that the Braves would take the first two games in Colorado, then fall in a split, or that they would win game one against the Angels before dropping a 13 inning affair on Saturday night. The good news is that they won Sunday night in rousing fashion.

I haven’t picked on the starting pitching much because, let’s face it, the pitching has been keeping the Braves from drowning in a sea of stranded runners. However, things have taken a turn in June, and far be it from me to let sleeping dogs lie. The fact that Atlanta has been terrible at scoring runs is well documented. They’ve recently crawled from 2nd worst in the league to 3rd worst in a league, and the team had a small celebration with punch and pie. In keeping with current trends, Dan Uggla was not invited. What many people may not realize is that in the month of June, the Braves are in the top half of MLB in runs scored for the month. That’s a dramatic improvement!

If the Braves are scoring more runs in June, shouldn’t they be winning most of their games now? In fact, no. The Braves are 6-7 in June, even though their offense has been much better. That’s a scary point that nobody seems willing to discuss yet. The fact is that our pitching can’t carry the team forever, and a bad month was coming. I’ve warned about this since the unbelievable statistical pitching month in April. Well it’s blowing through like a gale force wind now in June, and the offense has to bail this squad out against inferior opponents in June.

So what’s changed? To begin with, Mike Minor has not been particularly effective this year. In the interests of full disclosure, I have never believed that Mike Minor is an answer as a #2 starter or even an Ace for this team. Some people do, especially after last season. I believe he’s too much of a headcase, he doesn’t manage mistakes well, and he gives up entirely too many home runs. That being said, his 3 games in June included 7 innings with 1 run, 4 innings with 8 runs, and 5 innings with 3 runs. In typical reverse psychology fashion, the Braves won the 8-run disaster, lost the 1-run effort, and won the 3-run game. Why? Because they hate easy wins.

Minor has the worst ERA on the team (4.42, with over 7.00 in June) as a starter, and the Braves have a 4-5 team record in his starts. Essentially, it’s been more bad than good when Minor has taken the mound, and if you were assigning playoff roles right now, he would, by performance only, be the fifth starter that didn’t get to pitch. Santana is second worst with a 4.03 ERA, and the Braves have a 6-6 team record in his starts. Those two guys are your problem children on the starters roster, as the next worst ERA is Aaron Harang down at 3.20 ERA on the season. So, there’s a sizable gap between Santana, Minor, and the rest of the Braves starting rotation from a production standpoint.

Even though Julio Teheran and Gavin Floyd have season ERA’s in below 3.00, there’s been some consternation among the Braves fans about Floyd in particular. Meanwhile, Teheran doesn’t get near the scrutiny. That doesn’t make sense to me from a numbers standpoint. I am very much a fan of Julio Teheran, and I believe he’s the Ace of the future. I’ve believed that even when I was writing my personal blog two years ago. However, Julio shouldn’t be immune from criticism, and Floyd shouldn’t be the whipping boy because he’s brand new to the team.

Julio had an awful game this month, and while it’s a blip on the radar, it’s cost the Braves a chance to win the Colorado series. We can’t ignore that simply because he’s been solid the rest of the year. Those games matter, and an “ace” shouldn’t allow 7 earned runs in any ballpark. Still, the Braves are 10-4 in Julio’s starts, so he’s far and away the most effective starter they have on the team. Floyd can’t seem to buy a win, regardless of his ERA. Floyd has pitched in 8 games, in which the Braves have gone 4-4, but he’s only collected one win to his name. Even though Floyd’s ERA for the season is 2.98.

The difference is obviously run support. Ervin Santana has received the most support on the team at 4.58 runs per game. Then Minor at just over 4 runs. The other two starters get over 3.50 runs a game, while Floyd is dead last at 3.38 runs per game. So ask yourself the following question: who is doing their job? Santana and Minor have the most runs support of any pitchers on the team, yet their combined team record is 9-11. Meanwhile, guys like Floyd and Harang are getting less than 4 runs a game, but somehow they have a combined team record of 12-10. Basically, Harang and Floyd are doing more with less than Santana or Minor, yet I hear more complaints about the former pitchers. The fact is if I were making up a three man rotation for a 5-game series right now, statistically, I wouldn’t want Minor or Santana on that roster.

The upside is there is still plenty of time for these guys to work things out. Minor can turn it around and get rid of his mistakes that really exploded on him in three of his starts. Santana can continue to battle and get his ERA back down by eliminating one bad inning. Harang can continue to defy all logic the way he’s pitching, and Floyd can hopefully get some run support. As long as Teheran doesn’t pitch in Colorado again, I think he’ll be fine. All in all, the Braves rotation isn’t set to pull anybody yet or shake things up short of injury, despite the catcalls from the peanut gallery.

Next week starts what I think will be a very promising latter half of the month for the Braves. The schedule sets up nicely for the team if they continue to hit, and the starters can keep the ball in the park. I’ll be heading down there Tuesday for Greg Maddux Bobblehead Night. I hope to see plenty of my fellow Braves fans out in force as well!

 

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