Last week was a short week for the Braves due to the All-Star break, and as a result, this week’s edition of Magic Numbers is going to be a little more abbreviated as well. One thing I’ve noticed about Braves Country this season is that our fans really seem to enjoy complaining about the team. They worry about the hitting (especially with runners in scoring position), the bullpen, certain starters, the manager, and the list just goes on and on. Yet, when you look at the standings on Monday morning, you’ll notice something interesting. The Braves are tied at 54 wins with several other teams for the National League lead. Despite the fact that the Braves are 28th in runs, 18th in RISP average, and the pitching ERA is 17th in July, the team is still in a tie for first place.
Could things be better? Absolutely. My life could be better if I stopped eating so many carbs, exercised an hour a day, and invented that hose on TV that extends and contacts when you turn on the water. Seriously, have you seen that hose? It looks amazing. Anyway, the point is that while things can always get better, the Braves are still in the lead and that’s encouraging. The offense is continuing to turn things around which was evident in this first series against the Phillies. While the Braves did have one game where they struggled to score, they managed to plate 14 runs combined in the games they won.
The team finally released Dan Uggla this week, closing an ugly chapter of Braves contract history. From this point forward, Dan will be known as He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-But-Loved-Baby-Tees-To-Show-Off-The-Guns. However, Tommy La Stella has stepped in, and he’s racked up 20 RBIs since June. That’s double what Baby-Tees had this season before he got benched. B.J. Upton is hitting .259 in the lead-off spot this season, while his OBP is approaching .300 as well. It’s been a huge change in his production given that managerial move, and it’s a move we all questioned as fans when Fredi Gonzalez made it. At the time, moving B.J. into the lead-off spot seemed completely crazy, but it’s obviously changed his plate discipline.
Yet, I don’t hear much from Braves fans giving Fredi G credit for that. Instead, I hear a lot of complaining about the bullpen management, substitutions, and match-ups. While there have been some questionable decisions by Fredi this year, overall you don’t end up tied for the NL lead when your manager is a moron. Frankly, I think the reason I think the fans give the manager so much grief instead of the players is that they honestly believe they could do his job. They don’t honestly believe they could hit a 96 mph fastball.
The Braves may have two starters with ERAs over 4.00 in Mike Minor and Ervin Santana, but they also have Julio Teheran with a sub-3.00, and Alex Wood and Aaron Harang in the low 3.00′s. Luis Avilan struggled and was sent back down to the Minors, but Shae Simmons, Jordan Walden, and Anthony Varvaro have been very solid in their bullpen roles. The point is that while the Braves do have a few things that went wrong during the season, so does everybody else. The Braves are actually bouncing back from their injuries and errors very well.
In the coming week, Atlanta will face the Marlins and the Padres in Turner Field. Both teams are completely awful on the road with a combined 33 games under .500. The Braves should take advantage of two 4-game series in a row in the friendly confines of the Ted. If they don’t, they’ll be sorry when the schedule takes a hard left turn towards Tough Town in August. If you haven’t taken a look at the August schedule for the Braves,allow me to tell you who is on it. The Nationals, Dodgers, A’s, Pirates, Reds, Mariners, Padres, Mets, and Marlins. Six of those teams already have 50+ wins as well.
That’s why I want the Braves to take the next 8 games and really establish a lead. Anything less than a 5-3 record against these teams is going to be a failure for this Braves team heading into that August schedule. The Atlanta Braves just need to stay on top of opposing hitters with their tough pitching, and if the lineup can continue to produce the way they did in the Phillies series? The sky is the limit for this team.
Tags: Atlanta Braves