Braves around .500 at quarter mark

Jace Peterson has been one of the positive stories for the Braves so far.

We are right at the one-quarter mark of the 2015 baseball season. The Braves are 20-21, so they are right where most people thought they would be – near .500.

The Braves are doing better offensively as a team. They are sixth in the National League in runs scored, averaging 4.24 runs per game. Last season the Braves were next to last in the NL and averaged only 3.54 runs per game.

The pitching has not been as strong, as the staff ERA is 4.15, ninth best in the NL. Last season the team ERA was 3.38, which was third best in the NL.

Let’s focus on the pitching first. There have been 20 pitchers so far, with 13 of those pitching out of the bullpen. Shelby Miller has been the best story, as he is 5-1 and is one of the best pitchers in the game so far this season. He’s on pace for a tremendous season that might approach a career high 20 wins.

Julio Teheran has not been as strong as he has been the last two seasons, but he’s still 4-1 with a 3.91 ERA in his first nine starts. Alex Wood’s numbers are also a bit down from the past two years, but he’s still got a 3.83 ERA in his first eight starts.

The revolving door in the rotation has been with the last two spots, as Trevor Cahill and Eric Stults didn’t last too long. Now we get to watch two kids, as Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez, who both started the season in the Triple-A Gwinnett rotation, have settled into the rotation.

It’s hard to complain about the closer situation, as Jason Grilli has 12 saves with only one blown opportunity. Jim Johnson has calmed down after a rocky couple of appearances and is doing well. Luis Avilan has bounced back from a rocky 2014 season and has done nicely so far with a 2.76 ERA.

As for the rookies, Brandon Cunniff and Cody Martin have both been impressive. Cunniff has a 1.93 ERA in 16 games, while Martin is back in Triple-A as the Braves figure out what to do with Cahill and Stults. The Braves have to be hopeful veteran Nick Masset, who was signed on Wednesday, can be effective in the bullpen.

Offensively there are several very good stories. Jace Peterson has been solid as the second baseman, with a .260 batting average and a .336 OBP. Peterson is on pace for four home runs and 68 RBI. How about Cameron Maybin, brought over from the Padres in the other trade with San Diego? Maybin is hitting .258 with a .357 OBP. He’s on pace for 16 home runs, 68 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

Freddie Freeman needs to step it up. Yes, he’s hitting .302 and has a .366 OBP. Overall, Freeman has five home runs and 21 RBI, so that puts him on pace for 20 home runs and 84 RBI. He is on pace for 60 doubles, which would be a good stat considering the Braves’ overall lack of power. But Freeman needs to have more runs batted in. Perhaps if the manager settles on a lineup Freeman will have more opportunities for RBI.

Andrelton Simmons is on pace for 12 home runs 68 RBI. His average is down to .247 and a .304 on base percentage, so those numbers need to pick up.

Kelly Johnson was doing very well before straining his oblique muscle. Johnson is hitting .259 with a .310 OBP, but he was on pace for 26 home runs and 72 RBI. The Braves need him to pick up that pace when he returns from his injury.

A.J. Pierzynski’s numbers are coming back down to Earth. He’s at .295 now with a .330 on base percentage. Pierzynski is on pace for 12 home runs and 64 RBI, but it’s unlikely he’ll reach those numbers if Christian Bethancourt receives more playing time.

Jonny Gomes, another veteran position player brought in to provide leadership, has struggled. He’s hitting only .206 with a .291 OBP. Gomes is hitting only .151 against right-handed pitchers (in 53 at bats), while he’s hit .400 against left-handers. But Gomes has shown the leadership the Braves wanted as he’s made an impact on the young players in the clubhouse.

Nick Markakis is hitting. He’s just not hitting home runs. He has failed to hit a home run so far in 174 plate appearances. Markakis’ batting average is .303 and his OBP is .391. Markakis has done well considering how much time he missed in spring training due to his neck surgery last offseason. Perhaps that has changed his strength impacting his ability to hit home runs.

Atlanta’s third basemen are not doing well collectively. Chris Johnson has been out most of the first quarter of the season. He’s due back maybe later this week. But the overall group has hit .230 with a .302 OBP, two home runs and 15 RBI. It’s the worst production from any position on the team.

The Braves need more from Alberto Callaspo, who has hit only .204 so far this season. If the manager provides Bethancourt with more at bats, he needs to be more productive to earn additional playing time, especially if Pierzynski continues to tail off.

Overall, the Braves have had ups and downs, particularly after starting the season 5-0. But since they are around .500, that should be considered a positive in a transitional year for the franchise.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.


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