Bradley’s Buzz: After further review, the Braves haven’t been so awful

Atlanta Braves' Chadwick Tromp celebrates after scoring on a single from Ozzie Albies during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Chadwick Tromp celebrates after scoring on a single from Ozzie Albies during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

These Braves have underwhelmed us. They have baseball’s seventh-best record; we assumed they’d be no worse than second-best. They’re six games out of first place in the NL East, the division they’ve won every year since 2017.

This team is 29-18. Know how many times over the past six seasons the Braves won more than 29 of their first 47?


They were 29-18 in 2018, when they finished 90-72. They were 29-18 last year, when they finished 104-58. This team is on pace to win a rounded-up 100.

Deeper dive. Know how many times in Atlanta annals – the club moved here in 1966 – the Braves have won more than 29 of their first 47?

Five. They were 34-13 in 1998, 32-15 in 2000 and 2003, 31-16 in 1997 and 30-17 in 1983.

Deeper still. How’d those five teams turn out?

Four won division titles, the exception being the ‘83 team, which led the Dodgers by 6-1/2 games Aug. 13 – the night of Bob Watson’s walk-off homer, though “walk-off” wasn’t part of the jargon, against Steve Howe – but collapsed in September. Three won 100-plus games. Not one reached the World Series.

So how, after 47 games, were the Braves teams that won the World Series? The 1995 bunch was 27-20, two games behind the Phillies in the East. (It would win the division by 21 games.) The 2021 crew was 23-24, tying it for the 16th-best record in MLB.

As much as we treat baseball as a micro sport – in our defense, teams can only play one game at a time, and rarely do they play more than once in a day – it isn’t. It’s a macro thing. (At least until October, when it absolutely becomes a micro thing.)

It’s hard to get excited about the Braves when the Phillies are 37-14, a start no team has bettered since the 2001 Mariners, who won 116 games. If Philly wins 116 – it won’t, but play along – the Braves will finish a distant second. Which will, in the grand scheme, mean squat.

Over the past two regular seasons, the Braves finished an aggregate 28 games ahead of Philadelphia. Meeting in consecutive Octobers, the Phillies won six times in eight. As Philly manager Rob Thomson asked reporters this week, referring to Seattle ‘01: “What did they do at the end?”

Answer: lost the ALCS to the 95-win Yankees in five games.

Enough with the October stuff. Today’s theme, such as it is, involves perception. Last year’s Braves finished with baseball’s best record and were among the most entertaining teams this franchise has fielded. They started 29-18. This year’s team has the same record but has dazzled nobody.

The offense, as has been voluminously noted, has slipped from last year’s record highs. Still, if these Braves ever hit the way they can, this would become a better-rounded team than last season’s. The 2023 Braves finished 15th in ERA; the 2024 edition ranks fourth. Last year’s starters had an ERA of 4.36; this year’s rotation sits at 3.33.

You wanted better pitching? This is better pitching.

We’ve mentioned Philadelphia’s schedule, which does defy belief: Of its first 51 games, only six – the most recent was April 28 – came against teams now above .500. (Note: Had the Padres not climbed to 27-26 by winning Thursday, the total would be three games, none since March 31.)

The Phillies haven’t seen the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Guardians or Mariners. The Braves have faced all the above. Against plus-.500 teams, the Braves are 12-11. That’s not great, but it’s a larger sample size than the Phillies’ 4-2.

But this isn’t really about the Phillies, either. This is about the 2024 Braves, who wouldn’t seem to be much like the 2023 Braves except for being 29-18. I don’t know why only Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud have an OPS above .800. I don’t know how Matt Olson and Ronald Acuna, who combined for 95 homers last year, have 10. Here’s the best I’ve got, and I warn you that it’s not much:

That’s baseball.

I expected the Braves to be better, though I say that after noting that, 47 games in, they’re exactly where they were a year ago – though the Phillies weren’t 37-14 then. At 29-18, the 2023 Braves had a 4-1/2-game lead. They’d soon embark on a 21-4 June. Just sayin’.

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