We have reached the midway point in the 2018 season, which is nuts. It feels like just yesterday we watched Nick Markakis launch a game-winner into the right field seats against the Phillies on opening day.
Things have been as good as the Braves could’ve possible hoped for with a 48-34 record and three-game lead over Philadelphia (and six over Washington) in the NL East. Here’s a look back on the first half and a preview of what’s to come in the second.
MVP: Freddie Freeman
Not only has Freddie been the Braves’ MVP through the first three months, but he’s likely the frontrunner for National League MVP honors at this point. Even with his recent skid he’s still mashing to the tune of a .315/.407/.546 line and is atop the NL with a 3.4 WAR. A strong second half — and Atlanta staying in the playoff hunt — could bring the Braves their first league MVP since Chipper Jones won it in 1999.
Others in consideration: Nick Markakis, Ozzie Albies, Mike Foltynewicz
Cy Young: Mike Foltynewicz
The Braves remained patient with Foltynewicz as he took his lumps early in his career, and they’ve been rewarded greatly in 2018 as he’s been dominant with his fastball-slider combo. Through 16 starts he owns a 6-4 record, 2.02 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 10.82 K/9 and 4.04 BB/9. He likely won’t win Cy Young over Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom, but he’s going to be in the discussion if he keeps it up.
Others in consideration: Sean Newcomb
Biggest Surprise: Nick Markakis surging at age 34
What a start. After surviving the winter — I’d imagine he would’ve been traded if Alex Anthopoulos wasn't able to work out the Matt Kemp trade with Los Angeles — Markakis is on pace to have the second-best season of his 13-year career. He’s batting .323/.389/.488 and his fielding has improved with better positioning and front office analytics. He’s reached base safely in 73 of 82 games. He’s pacing the NL with 104 hits. He’s provided a great clubhouse presence for the young guys. He’s likely earned himself a multi-year deal as a free agent, whether it be with the Braves or someone else. I have no idea if he’ll continue hitting at this pace, but his first half was something to behold.
Others in consideration: Dan Winkler, Charlie Culberson, Anibal Sanchez
- Julio Teheran’s inconsistency: Appropriately, this is being written after he fired six shutout innings against the Cardinals in his most recent start. Teheran has been frustrating to watch from a start-to-start basis. He’s been un-hittable at times ... and he’s gotten pounded by the likes of San Diego, Miami and Baltimore. His 4.21 ERA isn’t terrible (and he’s always been a guy whose surface numbers are better than the advanced metrics) but a 5.10 FIP and poor strikeout and walk rates suggest there may be rough days ahead.
- Bullpen management: This has been discussed ad nauseam so I won’t beat the horse too much, but putting Peter Moylan, Sam Freeman and Lucas Sims in the most important spots of baseball games is not a recipe for success.
- Ender Inciarte’s struggles: Another topic with thousands of words already penned on it. Inciarte has not been good at the plate this year with a line of .248/.310/.343 and 79 wRC+. That’s a considerable drop-off from the perfectly-acceptable 99 wRC+ he posted during his first two years in Atlanta. Here’s hoping for a return to form soon, especially if he’s going to lead off.
2nd half storylines and questions:
- How active is Alex Anthopoulos at the trade deadline? Are bullpen reinforcements coming?
- Are Max Fried, Luiz Gohara, Mike Soroka or Kolby Allard able to make an impact on the pennant run?
- Can Ronald Acuña Jr. return to form after the scary knee injury and provide a boost to the middle of the order?
- Do the Braves make the playoffs for the first time since 2013?