Bradley’s Buzz: The Braves’ flaws were exposed by Houston

Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter (33) hands the ball to Braves manager Brian Snitker (43) after giving up the go-ahead two-run during the top of the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Truist Park, Sunday, April 23, 2023, in Atlanta.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter (33) hands the ball to Braves manager Brian Snitker (43) after giving up the go-ahead two-run during the top of the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Truist Park, Sunday, April 23, 2023, in Atlanta. Miguel Martinez /

The Braves scored four runs in the first inning of their series against Houston. They scored five over the remaining 26 innings. The Astros can pitch.

Of the Braves’ 81 outs over three games, 37 were strikeouts. (Braves pitchers managed 26 Ks.) Matt Olson went 1-for-11 in the series; he struck out six times, walking twice.

Braves starters yielded three earned runs, all by Kyle Wright, over 17-2/3 innings. That’s an ERA of 1.53.

Braves relievers yielded 11 earned runs, five by A.J. Minter, over 8-1/3 innings. That’s an ERA of 11.88. The Astros can hit, Yordan Alvarez especially.

Minter before the weekend: one win, four saves, one blown save. Minter over the weekend: two losses, one blown save.

The Braves’ designated hitters over three games – 1-for-12, four strikeouts. Going by FanGraphs, these DHs have amassed a seasonal WAR of minus-0.8. That’s the worst in the majors. Their WRC+ (weighted runs created plus) is 38, second-worst among MLB teams; league average is 100.

The Braves’ left fielders have a WRC+ of 37, third-worst in the majors.

The Braves made five errors over three games, two by Vaughn Grissom. The Astros made one.

The Braves led in each game. They lost all three. We can fault the bullpen, but we note that, even after a rough weekend, these relievers rank third in the majors in FanGraphs WAR. Their starters rank ninth, which isn’t bad, either. Max Fried has returned from injury. Kyle Wright is rounding into form. Bryce Elder has been terrific. The rotation’s fine.

There’s nothing wrong with the bullpen Raisel Iglesias can’t fix. He’s recovering from shoulder inflammation. He’s scheduled to throw batting practice today. Minter has been a stellar reliever for a while, but his best work has been as a seventh- or eighth-inning guy. Iglesias is a closer.

Minus Michael Harris, Travis d’Arnaud and Orlando Arcia, a balanced lineup popped out of plumb. Having d’Arnaud back should help address the DH issue – on nights he doesn’t catch, he can still hit; the same goes for Sean Murphy – but left field remains a concern. Eddie Rosario’s WAR is minus-0.3. Marcell Ozuna’s is minus-0.7, the worst in MLB among hitters with 20 plate appearances. Which brings us to Grissom.

He has made three errors since being summoned to replace the injured Arcia. Grissom is 22. There was a reason the Braves opted to make Arcia their shortstop coming out of spring training. They believe he’s capable of being a starting shortstop, and they handed him a three-year contract extension as proof of their faith. Which brings us … back to Grissom.

He’s hitting. He’s a hitter. He’s 9-for-33 with three RBIs since his recall. One reason the Braves sent him to Gwinnett was because, at 22, they prefer him to play every day, and they’d rather him not be a DH just yet. (That’s a better fit for the catcher who’s not catching.) There’s nothing else to say regarding Ozuna except “goodbye.” Still, Rosario’s OPS is .484, only slightly better than Ozuna’s.

Kevin Pillar can play anywhere in the outfield, but there’s a reason he has worked for six different teams since 2019. He can’t hit. The Braves’ LF issue might be solved – at least the hitting part – by moving Grissom there, but does an organization want to give a prized prospect yet another position to learn?

It’s not as if the Braves are in last place. (Not that it matters much yet, but they’re still in first.) They’ve lost four in a row, more than they lost at any time last season. The losses came against San Diego, which might be good, and Houston, your reigning World Series champ.

The Marlins are up next, and the Fish – who are 12-10 – are usually good for what ails you. Then the Braves head to New York for a weekend with the Mets, who just went 7-3 on a Western swing.

The Braves started 14-4. They were due a dip. The Astros can make an imbalanced lineup look flimsy. The Houston bullpen worked 9-1/3 innings without yielding a hit, let alone a run.

The Braves aren’t scheduled to see the Astros again this season. It would be no surprise if they run into each other in October. Guessing the Braves will have a left fielder by then.

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