Bradley’s Buzz: The Braves could stand to have another huge June

Atlanta Braves' Sean Murphy, left, and designated hitter Marcell Ozuna (20) celebrate after defeating the Oakland Athletics in a baseball game Sunday, June 2, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Sean Murphy, left, and designated hitter Marcell Ozuna (20) celebrate after defeating the Oakland Athletics in a baseball game Sunday, June 2, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Since April 28, the Braves are 14-17. They’ve lost five of their past 10 series. They’ve gone from leading the NL East by 1-1/2 games to trailing Philadelphia by 6-1/2.

They just completed a 10-game stretch against Pittsburgh, Washington and Oakland, three teams with losing records. They went 4-6. They were outscored 48-39. Their three victories over the Nationals and A’s came by scores of 2-0, 4-2 and 3-1.

Over a full season, a 10-game sample is no big deal. That said, the Braves were 13-15 in May. Unless you count the 0-1 of October 2023, it marked this club’s first sub-.500 month since May 2022. For the record, those Braves went 21-6 in June and 78-34 the rest of the way.

Also for the record: The Braves are 42-10 over the past two Junes.

So maybe I should shut up. Maybe we should wait until July to have this conversation. Honesty, however, compels me to note: These Braves are without their most gifted position player and starting pitcher, both lost to surgery. Honesty prompts this observation: These Braves seem to lack the separation gear of their immediate predecessors.

The 2022 Braves averaged 4.9 runs and 1.5 homers per game. The 2023 Braves averaged 5.8 runs and 1.9 homers. The 2024 edition averages 4.5 runs and 1.03 homers. Five Braves hit 20-plus home runs in 2022. Seven Braves topped 20 last year. Only two – Marcell Ozuna and Matt Olson – are on pace to top 20 homers this time.

Yes, injuries have compromised this batting order: Ronald Acuña Jr. tore an ACL; Sean Murphy only just returned from a tweaked oblique. Yes, hitting is down across baseball: League-average OPS was .734 last season; it’s .698 now. But the Braves’ OPS year-over-year hasn’t just slipped; it has plunged from .845 to .725. Nobody saw this coming.

The Braves’ past two Junes have been blissful. This June includes six road games against the Orioles and Yankees. (The Yanks have a better record than the Phillies; the O’s have a better record than the Dodgers.) Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Braves need to show what they – minus Strider and Acuña – can do against October-type competition.

Yeah, yeah. There’s no predicting October baseball. Still, this is the sort of competition the Braves can expect to see there. Over the past four weeks, they faced one team – San Diego – now above .500; they lost three of four to the Padres and were outscored 18-10.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we don’t know what these Braves can do. We know what we thought we, and they, thought they’d do – World Series or bust, remember? – but they awoke Monday with MLB’s eighth-best record. They’re on track to win a rounded-up 94 games, which would mark their second-lowest yield over a full season since 2018.

(Boilerplate disclaimer: The 88 wins of 2021 brought a World Series title.)

We can assume GM Alex Anthopoulos has settled into his June mode of watchful waiting. He’s not one to overreact, but he’s not one to sit on his hands, either. His offseason mission – find starting pitching – has met with the desired results. He must now decide if this lineup as currently constituted is apt to hit against the sort of pitching it will see in October.

The trade deadline arrives July 30. We know Anthopoulos will do something, maybe many things, by then. Another tepid month could prompt a major move sooner than later. But June, it must be said, hasn’t come in like a lion.

The Braves scored nine runs Saturday against the soon-to-exit-Oakland club, which exists mostly to furnish Anthopoulos with All-Star add-ons, and managed to lose. On Sunday, Charlie Morton held the A’s, who were 9-19 in May, to one hit over six innings, and still the game was tied in the seventh.

The winning hit, such as it was, came on Murphy’s pop-fly double that carried an expected batting average of .010. (Murphy’s an A’s alum, as is Matt Olson, who had four RBIs over the weekend.) We say again: no separation gear.

Recent history teaches us that doubting the Braves is a fool’s errand. It’s possible that, four weeks from now, they’ll have stormed through another June and delivered the message: “There’s your separation gear.” As ever, we await developments.

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