|Posted by theprincipality on June 27, 2015 at 1:20 AM|
When the 2015 season began, we knew the Braves would struggle. The fact they are flirting with .500 at nearly the half way point and somewhat in contention in a weak NL East has been a pleasant surprise. They haven't been all that fun to watch, but they have been able to grind out wins with enough regularity to ensure nobody refers to them as the second worst team in baseball again.
It is hard to pinpoint the reason the Braves have, so far, kept their heads above water. Starting pitching has been patchy and only really Shelby Miller has stood out on a consistent basis. Offensively, nobody is on pace for 20 homers, let alone the 60 a healthy Giancarlo Stanton might accumulate. Averages are OK without being spectacular and the bullpen has been a hotch-potch of random faces, constantly moving along the conveyor belt and through the revolving doors.
I for one have lost track of not only how many changes have been made to the 'pen this year, but who in fact makes it up. It is indeed strange when we have been used to the familiarity of the late innings of recent years. All the stalwarts are gone: Eric O'Flaherty, Peter Moylan, Jonny Venters, David Carpenter and of course Craig Kimbrel. What remains barely constitutes a bullpen, revolving around Jason Grilli, who to be fair has done a pretty good job filling in for Kimbrel.
Money has been wasted this year. It irks me that Craig Kimbrel was essentially offloaded just because the Padres were willing to pay the rest of BJ Upton's toxic contract. Fine, we shifted $15m a year from the payroll that was bringing no return. Then we go and get $15m in toxic contracts from Arizona to replace them in Trevor Cahill and Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo can't even pitch this year and is older than most players Dads.
Naturally, we return to the point that will be repeated ad infinitum over the next 18 months. Sacrifice now for future return and trust in Hart's long term plan. I really do trust in Hart, but wish it hadn't come at the expense of Kimbrel for the sake of a few dollars. We would be right up there right now were it not for the bullpen's continual habit of blowing games late. Grilli setting up for Kimbrel, now that would have been nice.
But of course I digress. This blog was looking at the surprise element of a competitive Braves team. I have tried to mention the tangible elements, but there is no reason there. Therefore the success must be on the intangibles, namely a clubhouse full of the leaders it has lacked in recent years. Pierzynski, Gomes, Markakis. All new faces who have experience and charisma enough to buoy a flagging clubhouse through 162 games, instead of the more recent trend of 120. There have too been young guys who have stepped up. Jace Peterson looks like an excellent acquisition, Andrelton Simmons continues his masterful glovework and the revolving door to the rotation has shown that the future could indeed be bright with Wisler, Foltynewicz and Perez all impressing.
Look for the Braves to continue to compete this year. They won't win the division, unless the Nationals completely choke, but I think .500 and 2nd place should be the goal. Whatever happens, it has been a pleasant first half of the season and proof that no matter what, you cannot ever write off the Braves.