The last week has given us some ugly baseball from the Braves. Despite playing against two of the weaker teams in the National League, the Mets and Brewers, the Braves lost five of their last seven games.
The offense continues to struggle with consistency and the defense, which has been very strong, has broken down in some key moments for the club. The current stretch has some fans wondering if this is just a temporary struggle or if it’s a sign of things to come that could derail Atlanta’s postseason chances.
It’s looking more and more like the Braves are bound to be a streaky lineup. When things are going well, Atlanta is capable of lighting up the scoreboard and eating into another team’s bullpen, which is critical in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, when things aren’t going well, the Atlanta lineup is capable of making an ordinary pitcher look like Cy Young.
When one player starts to get hot (B.J. Upton), another gets cold (Justin Upton). When one player starts to get healthy (Jason Heyward), another goes to the DL (Evan Gattis). If the Braves can get everyone healthy and clicking at the plate at the same time, they’ll become a tough out against any opponent.
However, if they continue to struggle with strikeouts and guys being ice-cold, they become very vulnerable, particularly when managers shorten their rotations and only use their best starting pitchers.
On a positive note, Atlanta’s starting pitching has stayed strong during this current slump. They lead the league in ERA at 3.21 and the combination of Mike Minor and Kris Medlen gives the team a legitimate duo that can keep them in games. And with other options like Tim Hudson, Julio Teheran, and a possibly healthy Brandon Beachy as an option for the third and fourth starters, Atlanta should have good depth in its starting rotation
Starting pitching will be key for the Braves because of the crippling injuries to the bullpen. Normally, the strength of the bullpen would give Atlanta a tremendous advantage in the postseason. Now, with Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters out for the season, Fredi Gonzalez is having to depend on young and inexperienced players to get the job done. They have arguably the best closer in baseball in Craig Kimbrel, but the challenge will be getting the ball to Kimbrel with the lead and much of that responsibility will fall on the starters.
If Medlen and Minor can continue to be strong and the big bats in the lineup can get hot at the same time, the Braves are one of the favorites to win the World Series. If not, it could be another long offseason in Atlanta.