Rotation Behind Best Record
It’s always nice to write a piece detailing why a certain player is going to regain his power stroke and then see that player go out and smash six homers in the first week of the season. Behind Justin Upton’s fantastic start and stellar pitching, the Braves jumped out to the best record in baseball.
While Justin Upton has looked like an MVP candidate, the rest of the offense has actually struggled, especially Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton. The Braves record is thanks to phenomenal pitching performances from the starters.
Atlanta leads the league in ERA, at 2.13, and the starters have been pitching deep into games. Not counting rookie Julio Teheran’s rocky debut, Paul Maholm, Tim Hudson, Mike Minor, and Kris Medlen averaged more than six IP per start across seven starts in the first week.
While the Braves pitching looks to be strong, it likely won’t be this good all year. The Braves staff has the second-highest LOB percentage in the majors, at 83.6 percent. (LOB percentage represents the percentage of runners that Braves pitchers manage to strand on base.) This is well above the league average 70-72 percent and will almost definitely regress. In general, pitchers are unable to sustain very high LOB percentages, with a very few exceptions (Jeremy Hellickson for instance). For an entire staff to maintain such a great strand rate would be amazing and historic.
Gattis What You Give
With Freddie Freeman on the DL with a strained oblique, and Heyward scuffling, rookie catcher Evan Gattis has provided the offense with a bit of a lift in the form of two home runs.
Gattis has been splitting time with Gerald Laird, but offensively looks to be the superior player. He put up excellent power numbers at every stop in the minors, and was ranked the Braves’ eighth-best prospect by Baseball America after the 2012 season. Despite his power stroke, Gattis displayed an excellent approach at the plate in the Braves weekend series with the Cubs, shooting line drives all over the field.
When Brian McCann comes back, Gattis will see his playing time dip, especially since the Braves will be making a serious push for the division title. But his emergence could make McCann expendable at the end of the year, when he becomes a free agent.