We’re approaching the halfway point of the season and while the Braves aren’t exactly tearing the world up right now, they’re not dead yet! Granted, FanGraphs’ Playoff Odds tool still gives them a very minuscule shot at playing October baseball and I still think that they’ll be fortunate to finish the season at-or-around .500 but hey, that’s still better than what we figured they’d do, right?
Either way, this would be as good of a time as any to take a look back at something I wrote back in March as it pertains to a “miracle run” for the Braves. I listed a few things that needed to go right for the Braves in order for a run at the playoffs to happen. So, what’s happened between now and then?
Freddie Freeman has continued to play at an MVP level
Even though he’s missed nearly seven weeks with a broken wrist, Freddie Freeman has been excellent all season. There’s a decent chance that had he not taken a stray ball to the wrist, he would’ve been on track for another career year via fWAR. Still, if he can recover from his injuries without any sort of hangover or incident, then he’s still in line to have another great season. The face of the franchise has definitely pulled his weight for the Braves this year and has been a joy to watch when he’s been on the field.
If it turns out that he’s a decent-to-good third baseman as well, then that will only make the team even better and make him even more valuable to the franchise.
Julio Teheran has actually taken a step back
Unfortunately, there’s no two ways around it — Julio Teheran has been bad this season. He’s struggled mightily at SunTrust Park, and he hasn’t been too much better on the road, either. This is obviously a big disappointment, and it’s not even like he’s fighting through injuries or suffering through bad luck, either. He’s just been bad. His peripheral stats have been disappointing, and his ERA and FIP are sky high in comparison to what we’d normally see from Teheran.
He’ll still be given all the opportunities in the world to turn this around (if you’re expecting a Bartolo Colon-esque trip to the DL, that’s probably not going happen) but if the Braves were going to have serious hopes of making the Postseason, they needed Teheran to be great all year and that’s definitely not happening.
The Nats are the Nats, but the Mets have collapsed
The Nationals may have an extremely soft underbelly with their unreliable bullpen but other than that, they’ve been very good all season and odds are that they’ll cruise to the divisional title this year. Meanwhile, the Mets have been a mess. Injuries have hit them hard, and they’ve underachieved on the field to the pint where they’ve basically punted on this season and could be sellers at the trade deadline.
If the Braves were going to have a shot at this, one or both of those teams would need to collapse. So far, the Mets have been the one to fold like a lawn chair and while it’s still possible for the Nationals to go into a major slump, I don’t see it happening.
Nobody has “massively” overachieved
Well, you could say that Tyler Flowers has definitely taken a step up. He’s already been worth 1.7 fWAR for the Braves this season and his career high was 1.8 back in 2014, so he’s clearly in line for a career year. Combine that with what Kurt Suzuki has done whenever he’s been called upon for backstop duty and the Braves have actually received some extremely solid production at catcher so far this season.
However, nobody else has really broken out to the point where it’s been a huge eye-opener. While the production from players like Flowers, Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte, and Matt Adams has been pleasant, it hasn’t been the type of stuff that would carry a team to the postseason on its own. It’s been good enough to keep the Braves afloat, but that’s about it.
Health has been a bit of an issue
Well, there’s the elephant in the room that is Freddie Freeman’s wrist. Granted, the Braves have done well in his absence but the Braves have had their fair share of injuries. Matt Kemp hasn’t had anything super-serious come up, but that’s still going to be a concern as the season rolls on. Adonis Garcia suffered a serious injury. A couple of pitchers have had to spend time on the DL for various reasons.
The Braves haven’t had major health issues to the point where the team is unrecognizable at times, but they haven’t been completely immune of the injury bug. That will have to clear up if they’re going to take a real shot at October.
So, while the Braves have been playing some good baseball as of late, I’d still pump the brakes when it comes to playoff talk. The Nationals are still a very strong baseball team that has proven it can take care of business during the regular season at least, and the Braves are actually further away from a wild card spot than they are the division. Additionally, the Braves have benefited from a pretty soft schedule so far, and things are about to get very real in the month of July.
If you’re still hoping for the Braves to make a run at the playoffs, that’s fine! This is still sports and even though the Braves are still somewhat in the midst of a rebuilding process, you always want to root for your favorite team to be among the best — or at least just avoid being a complete embarrassment. The Braves have definitely avoided the latter part, but a postseason run is still very unlikely.
I will throw this out there for those of you who enjoy nostalgia from one year in particular — The Braves are currently 37-40, while the Nationals are 47-31. Back in ‘91 at around this time, the Braves were 39-38 while the Dodgers were also 47-31. Is it probable that we could see a repeat of that miracle run? Nope. Is it possible, though? Of course.
Once again, a lot has to go right for the Braves to make it back to the Postseason this year. Even if they miss out — which they probably will — it’s fine because the franchise is clearly on the right track. The return to October baseball will come soon, but I just doubt that it’ll come this season.