680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – As Saturday’s game came to a close, so did the first quarter of the 2020 season. So far, so good for the two-time defending National League East champion Braves have won nine of their first 15 games in this shortened season. While the club still has room for improvement, let’s take a look back at the good and bad for the 2020 Braves through one quarter of the sprint.
Bullpen – Entering Sunday’s doubleheader in Philly, the Atlanta pen has been far and away the team’s biggest strength in 2020. Through the first fifteen games of the year, the Atlanta relief corps has posted a collective 2.74 ERA. However, if you take into consideration those relievers currently in the Atlanta pen, their ERA is a tick shy of 1.00 (0.99). Outings from Touki Toussaint and Jhoulys Chacin have contributed to the collective team ERA, which is still the fifth best in the Majors, third in the National League. The pen has been led by some unlikely heroes this season, including southpaws AJ Minter and Tyler Matzek. Speaking of lefties, Will Smith returned after missing most of Summer Camp after testing positive for COVID-19. Josh Tomlin has picked up right where he left off last season, serving as the team’s Swiss Army knife, and Mark Melancon remains perfect in save opportunities since joining the team at the 2019 Trade Deadline.
Offense – While the Braves have played good ball of late, including a recent 7-2 homestand against the Rays, Mets and Jays, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Ronald Acuña Jr. has historically been a slow starter, Ozzie Albies is on the IL with a wrist injury and Freddie Freeman is still trying to get his timing after a serious bout of Coronavirus that led him to miss the majority of camp. There’s no question this lineup is deep, especially with the addition of Travis d’Arnaud and Adam Duvall, who has been one of the biggest surprises from the offense. Dansby Swanson, who has gotten off to hot starts in years past, has worked his way up to the second spot in the order with the switch hitting Ozzie Albies sidelined for at least a couple of weeks.
Rotation – If there was one glaring weakness for this club, it’s the rotation. Cole Hamels remains on the IL with a triceps issue, while Mike Foltynewicz was designated for assignment after just two starts. Felix Hernandez opted out at the beginning of Summer Camp and Mike Soroka’s season is over after rupturing his Achilles in his last start. Max Fried has been the brightest spot in the rotation, while Touki Toussaint showed some major strides forward. But, if the team wants to get to where they want to be at the end of the regular season, it’s clear that they’ll need to add at least one reliable veteran to the mix.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet