We’re back for the second edition of the Braves Projection Update! If you missed the first week, this is a bi-weekly feature where we compare what our expectations for the Braves were at the beginning of the season and compare them to our current expectations, both at the team level and the player level. Follow the link above for the more in depth introduction, then let’s jump right into it.
The good news is our offense appears to be much better than we originally thought. The bad news is our pitching appears to be much worse than we originally thought. Despite seeing our runs per game expectation go from around 3.7 to 4.0 runs per game, we’re only projected to win three additional games. After 31 games our playoff chances sit at a measly 1.6%, so if there are people out there who still have some sort of blind optimism, I’d recommend letting that go. Let’s break things down by batters.
Andrelton Simmons has been hitting better than expected in every way imaginable. His walks and power are up, his strikeouts are down, and he seems to be doing a better job at making consistent contact to get his average up. If he can develop a better-than-average bat then he’s going to be a premier player for years to come. Freddie continues to be the player we expect him to be. It’s actually pretty remarkable how consistent he’s become, and it’ll be fun to see him and Simmons compete for our most valuable player.
Cameron Maybin deserves more playing time. I’ve got some more in depth stuff on this coming soon, but suffice it to say that the kid is hitting way better than expected, and it doesn’t seem to just be luck. He’s hitting the ball hard and has shown a pretty good eye, as well. I’m starting to think he’ll prove to be a solid addition to the club for the next couple seasons. Also, AJ Pierzynski continues to be a stud. While he’s certainly cooled down from his start of the season, he’s still proving to be more than a mere clubhouse guy and mentor for Bethancourt.
Speaking of Christian Bethancourt, he’s not been playing too well. At all. I know there wasn’t supposed to be much faith in his hitting abilities, but this is pretty abysmal. I seriously doubt he’s ever going to be anything more than a one-tool player, and we’re going to have to start thinking of who we want behind the dish in a couple years.
Kelly Johnson and Nick Markakis have been hitting a little better than anticipated, but the defensive statistics haven’t liked what they’ve been doing with their gloves. Markakis has always been a guy to get more love from the eye-testers than the numbers, but I think that’s been an issue of the eyes overrating, rather than the numbers underrating. The rest of the team just looks mediocre, projecting to be roughly the replacement-level AAAA guys we thought they were.
I’m not gonna spend anytime talking about the relievers, as their performance is so volatile that drawing anything resembling what might be misconstrued as a half-assed attempt at a conclusion about their value going forward is an exercise in futility. Alex Wood hasn’t gotten much love from defense and sequencing this year, but overall he’s been the starting pitcher we hoped for him to be and will likely finish the year as our most valuable guy off the mound. Shelby Miller, on the other hand, has gotten considerable love from his defense and sequencing and has an ERA that’s making him look much better than he actually he is. That’s not to say he’s been bad, just that he’s not the elite guy his 1.66 ERA suggests. He’s been striking guys out and walking them at his usual rates, but the sinker he added to his repertoire this year has helped him reach career highs in both his ground ball rate and soft contact rate. One of the biggest knocks on him previously was his contact management, so this is a pretty substantial development that hopefully will carry on for the rest of the year.
I don’t want to talk about Teheran. It’s painful to watch. His ERA is in the bottom 30 for all of baseball, and his FIP is the third worst. Eric freaking Stults has been better than him. His command has been horrendous, and he’s been serving up home run pitches on a platter. The only positive has been that he’s still striking guys out, but that’s like complimenting the wallpaper in a burning building.