After a 2-6 start to the 2017 campaign, the Braves welcomed SunTrust Park with a four-game sweep of the San Diego Padres. They looked the part, offensively and defensively, that many Braves fans hoped they would going into the season. And with that showing, they picked themselves back up to a .500 record. Braves fans couldn’t help but to instantly show optimism that they haven’t felt in quite some time. Specifically on July 7, 2015, the last time the Braves held a .500 record. This optimism, however, came to quite a halt after suffering a sweep at home to the hands of the pesky Washington Nationals. They caught a Bryce Harper plague in game one and a grand slam ailment in game two, ultimately leading to a ten run loss in that second game. But at the end of the day, the lack of offense has to change if the Braves are going to be contenders in the NL East this season.
With the additions of R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon, and Jaime Garcia, the Braves were poised to have some veteran leadership and depth in the rotation. Especially with front man, Julio Teheran, leading the crew as the top starter. But as many Braves fans remember from the 2016 season, most of Teheran’s gems went without notice because of the offensive struggles. Run support seemed non-existent the majority of the time. They finished the 2016 season with the fewest HRs (122) and second-fewest RBIs (615) than any other team in baseball. Hardly a recipe for success.
But as they open the 2017 campaign, a light at the end of the tunnel is rearing its head. With Freddie Freeman and a HEALTHY Matt Kemp, both responsible for a combined 69 HRs last season, the offense has two impact players in the middle of the lineup to feed off of, but they must get support from up and comers like Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte. Much of the Braves success over the next few years will more than likely ride on the backs of those two youngsters. Currently, hitting a combined .182 from the plate through the first fifteen games, from the top two spots in the lineup, isn’t going to cut it. Although Inciarte has certainly shown some pop, belting 4 HRs in the first fifteen games of the year. With Freeman and Kemp tearing the cover off the ball, having Swanson and Inciarte on base is critical to offensive success. To shed some light on this point, Freeman is currently hitting .407 with 6 HRs, and he only has 8 RBIs to show for it. That’s a stat that can’t continue to trend in that direction. Don’t expect the world offensively from other veterans like Nick Markakis, Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki, Brandon Phillips etc., but do understand those guys can absolutely be a positive factor on offense, age aside. But like I referenced earlier, consistent offensive success will start at the top of the lineup.
With the top farm system in baseball and a new, state of the art facility, the future is without a doubt bright in Atlanta. And for the current state of the team, there is a lot to be optimistic about. They are getting close but are not there yet. With a rotation fully capable of pulling their weight and a fan base that needs to get more sleep at night, the one factor that must consistently improve is feet hitting the plate. Simple enough, right?