I was cruising around on ESPN.com today and saw that they have released their MLB power rankings for the week with none other than the Atlanta Braves sitting at the #1 spot. Anyone can look good for a week (especially when they play a series against the Nationals), so I thought I'd take a closer look at how the Braves have done so far, and maybe break down some stats.
First, the offense...
- As of today, the Braves are 6th in the majors in plate appearances per home run (21.3). Of the 5 teams ahead of them, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Texas, and Chicago will probably be in the top 10 all season long, and I expect the Braves to fall back about 10 spots by June (they came in at #23 last year).
- The Braves rank 3rd in the majors in extra base hits with 29. I'd love to see them continue to hit the ball and rack up all these home runs and doubles, but last year they came in at number 19 in the country, and that was with Teixeira batting clean-up.
- As a team, the Braves have struck out 42 times and walked 21 times in 2009, which puts them at about 15th place in the majors.
- Atlanta currently has the highest team OPS in the majors, and is the only team above .900. In 2008 the Braves posted a team OPS of .753, suggesting that the offense is currently overproducing and will probably experience a huge collapse in the near future.
- For those interested in pitch counts, the Braves have just 2 hitters in the top 100 pitches per plate appearance category: Casey Kotchman (#48) and Jordan Schafer (#68).
- Of the 2 teams Atlanta has played against, Philadelphia's pitchers rank 12th in the nation with a WHIP of 1.36, and Washington's pitchers come in dead last with a collective WHIP of 1.86. The national average is 1.40.
And now the pitching...
- Atlanta's pitching staff ranks 14th in the nation with a collaborative ERA of 4.17. Last year they finished the year about 50 points higher with a mix of very ineffective pitchers, so as long as the starters stay healthy this year, a 4.20 ERA seems reasonable. That would put them inside the top 15.
- The bullpen has blown 3 saves this year, which ties them with Milwaukee for the worst bullpen in the country.
- Atlanta's pitching corp ranks 23rd in the nation in WHIP.
- Braves starters have provided 3 quality starts this year, which is on pace with the major league average.
- Philadelphia and Washington rank towards the middle to lower end of major league teams in most offensive categories.
The #1 ranking by ESPN seems a bit aggressive and ill-conceived, but as long as the Braves keep winning, I'll be happy. Overall, the Braves are looking good, and the rotation looks to be much more dependable than last year. However, the offensive production is likely to taper off, and once it does I think Atlanta will probably carry a winning percentage closer to .500 throughout the season. ...Read more