While mid-April is a tad bit early to be handing out World Series invitations, the Atlanta Braves are certainly off to a phenomenal start to the season.
|Photo by: John Amis
Let that sink in for a minute. In every game the Braves have scored, they've won. And the scary part is, they can actually get better.
Brian McCann, their All-Star catcher, has been on the DL the entire year. Freddie Freeman, their exceptional hitting first baseman, has been on it for more than half the season. B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons are all off to slow starts offensively, each hitting under .200.
So how exactly is this team winning? Two words -- power and pitching.
Oh, and bench players who are playing out of their minds and providing late-inning heroics. A number of Atlanta's games have been come-from-behind thrillers.
Justin Upton, who came over from the Diamondbacks in the deal that sent Martin Prado to Arizona, has hit 9 home runs in the team's first 15 games. Catcher Evan Gattis, who has made the most of McCann's absence, has hit 5 bombs. The team has 29 dingers in 15 games, the most of any club in the live-ball era (beginning in 1921) in that time frame.
Chris Johnson, who came over with the younger Upton from the Diamondbacks, was originally going to platoon at third base and mostly only bat against left-handers. He was forced into full-time duty when Freeman got hurt. Johnson now has 7 multi-hit games in the first 15, and is batting over .400. Chipper who?
And did I mention pitching?
Paul Maholm is 3-0 and hasn't given up a single run this season. Mike Minor is 2-1 with a 0.95 ERA, allowing just 2 runs in 19 innings of work, while only walking 1. Closer Craig Kimbrel hasn't allowed a run in relief and is a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities. The bullpen as a whole has the best ERA in baseball, surrendering only 2 runs in 35+ innings.
The team ERA is a minuscule 1.83, and their WHIP is at 1.000. That means they are giving up just 1 runner per inning, and only 1-3/4 runs per game.
Simply put, it's hard to lose with numbers like those.
Granted, it would be unrealistic to think the Braves can keep up this pace, but as some of the players that are on fire right now start to cool off, perhaps those guys who are currently struggling will find their groove.
If they do, Atlanta's red-hot start could carry over deep into the summer...and beyond.