With one month of the season in the books…I have been asked many times…”what have we learned about the 2013 Atlanta Braves?” Well, to steal Dennis Green’s infamous line, “they are who we thought they were.” This is a team with a huge power potential. It’s also a ball club that’s going to have more than its fair share of strikeouts. Through the first month of the season, the Braves 246 strikeouts were second in the Majors to only Houston’s 254. However, they lead all of baseball with 36 home runs, 12 of which came off the bat of Justin Upton.
That leads me to the big question. Where would this team be on May 1st if Frank Wren wasn’t able to pull off the Justin Upton trade? Instead of being a 17-9 team, they could very well be 9-17. Don’t just take into consideration what Justin Upton brings to this team, because having Chris Johnson is as big an addition as the powerful left fielder. In 22 games in April, Johnson hit .369 with 2 homers and 9 RBI. He not only gave Fredi Gonzalez a viable option at first base when Freddie Freeman went down with an oblique injury, but he also has the versatility to hit basically anywhere in the lineup.
If you want to go strictly by the numbers, Justin Upton is the team’s MVP to this point. However, it’s also important to give honorable mention to Chris Johnson, Evan Gattis and Craig Kimbrel. Gattis’ story has been an interesting one. He’s certainly made the most of his playing time with Brian McCann still on the mend. And when it comes to Craig Kimbrel, yes, he’s human afterall. However, with 9 saves through the first month, I think those who were panicking about his velocity and command during Spring Training can sleep a little easier now. All in all, Atlanta opened the first month with 17 victories, meaning they’re on pace to win 102 games this season. 102 wins certainly seems like that would be enough to give the Braves their first NL East crown since 2005.
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