In the month of August, the Braves are tops in all of baseball in pitching fWAR, 5th in ERA, 5th in FIP, 10th in GB% (get the ball on the ground, Newk, Folty, and Teheran!), and are otherwise towards the top in all categories. The new acquisitions, Brach, Venters, and Gausman, are 1st, 4th, and 5th on the staff in groundball percentage. Anibal is tops amongst starters in groundballs, so it shouldn’t shock you that he’s had a career resurgence once that is considered. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves decide to sell on Newcomb in the offseason to get a starter with a better groundball propensity if the infield stays intact. The acquisitions at the deadline telegraph that the Braves like pitchers who pitch to the strength of the team: its defense.
Starters are 3rd in fWAR; relievers are 2nd. Amongst teams that don’t employ a reliever to start 1/5 of their teams games, the Braves are #1 in reliever fWAR. The pitching is showing up and showing out, smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy. And it’s only going to get better. At worst, the Braves are due to get at least some more depth in the staff when Brandon McCarthy, Peter Moylan, Shane Carle, and Arodys Vizcaino return from injury. But Kyle Wright threw an inning in relief on Saturday, so it’s possible he could join our pen, and we should see Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, and even Luiz Gohara return to the team when rosters expand. If you count them up, that’s 15 pitchers with major league talent for just the pen, with only Moylan and McCarthy being debatable.
The offensive side of the ball hasn’t been quite as impressive, though not the glaring problem it’s appeared to be at times. They’re 10th in MLB in runs scored in August, well ahead of Philly at 24th. With all of the work the Phils have done to improve their offense (they also claimed Jose Bautista off waivers today), the Braves are still a much better offensive show than their rival. What’s helping them is their 6th in MLB ranking in high leverage situations and marked improvement vs. lefties (3rd in wRC+ in August).
They are 10th in home runs in August but only have 13 stolen bases this month, less than half of the top teams in that category. But you can perhaps blame some of the cooling off of the offense on their lack of “luck” on balls in play. They rank 22nd in August in BABIP, down from being 7th in the league year-to-date. For the month, that means about 10-11 hits have not fallen. That may not seem like much, but with the close, frustrating losses to Miami and Colorado the last couple weeks, those hits falling may have made an impact on an outcome.
The defensive side of the ball has been tremendous. We’re 4th in MLB in defensive runs saved, 8th in UZR, 8th in fielding percentage, and 8th in total errors. We’ve discussed at length how much the defense has helped our new acquisitions and pretty much every pitcher who can keep the ball in the ballpark, and the numbers say no different.
Going into September, this roster is as talented as any in the East, especially with the reinforcements. At worst, it’s going to be fun.