Atlanta Braves: The Foundation is Definitely There for Another NL East Run

Aaron Harang has stepped up for the Braves pitching staff so far this season. Photo: Sports Illustrated

The pitching, oh the pitching!

Well if there is one thing we can call a constant in Atlanta, it’s the pitching. The names change, but the results, remarkably, remain the same. This is a franchise that has finished in the Top 10, 10 times in the last 13 years—since 2009 they’ve finished no lower than fourth—so when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy were lost from the rotation for 2014, Mike Minor was set back almost a month due to offseason surgery, and names like Freddy Garcia and Aaron Harang were being thrown out as replacements, I was worried.

Even though I’ve seen this script before with John Burkett, Jaret Wright, Chuck James, etc., I was still skeptical.

All the Braves rotation has done is go out and lead the league in team ERA (2.40), starter’s ERA (1.54), starter’s WHIP (1.04), and have given up the fewest earned runs (44) in all of Major League Baseball.

In other words, they’ve picked up where they left off in 2013.

In fact, on Sunday, David Hale was the first Braves starter to give up two earned runs since April 11th. We are talking about eight days of exceptional pitching by the Braves starters.The bullpen, however, is another story; they need to sort out Kimbrel’s shoulder and guys slipping into a set role. Once they do, if the starters can maintain even a little bit of what they have been doing in April, the Braves should be in good position to finish first in the NL East again in 2014.

Bats heating up

Another positive sign for the Braves has been the offense awaking from its slumber. Freddie Freeman (5 HR, 14 RBI, .397 BA, .481 OBP) has established himself as a hands down superstar on this team. Justin Upton (5 HR, 12 RBI, .319 BA, .400 OBP) is starting to rake again as he did in 2013, and Evan Gattis (4 HR, 7 RBI, .286 BA) is coming around and starting to justify the Braves decision to allow Brian McCann to don pinstripes.

A pleasant surprise for the Braves (and the fan base) is BJ Upton getting on base (.367 OBP last seven days) and stealing bases (3 SB last seven days) again; that could do wonders for this Braves lineup—I’m still of the belief that Andrelton Simmons is better suited to bat behind Jason Heyward, but if BJ can get it going then that would be huge; Dan Uggla (2 HR, 5 RBI, .304 BA, .385 OBP last seven days) is also showing he might be ready to put his past woes behind him.

A guy they have to get going, though, is Heyward. He’s been scuffling quite a bit, and if he can’t be more selective and get his timing right in the leadoff spot, it could be a long season for him. I am confident he will put it together, but figuring it out sooner than later is beneficial because the pitching will even out, and the Braves offense really gets moving when Heyward is on his game.

The week to come 

The Braves are 12-6 (1st in the NL East) to start 2014 and have gone 5-1 against the Nationals, 2-1 against the Phillies, and 3-3 against the Mets.

The Braves are at home against the Marlins and Reds

Mike Minor is set to make his 2014 debut this Saturday against the Reds

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