So why are the Braves hanging around .500 after two months of the season when most people thought they would be horrible? Well, don’t give manager Fredi Gonzalez credit. That would be a waste of time.
It’s really not that difficult. The Braves are getting very solid starting pitching, but the bullpen has been shaky. But the difference in this year’s team and last year’s crew? It’s all about two positions.
We knew it would not take much to have an improvement at second base. Last year the Braves cut ties with the disappointing Dan Uggla, but it did not save the team from having awful production at the position for the entire 2014 season.
Last year the players who played at second base hit a collective .224 with five home runs, 50 RBI, three stolen bases and a .295 on base percentage. Of course, Uggla was a bit part of those struggles, as he hit only .162 in 145 plate appearances before being released in June.
This year rookie Jace Peterson has been outstanding. Some thought he was just a throw-in from San Diego in the Justin Upton trade. But instead, he is making the Braves wonder if top prospect Jose Peraza might play outfield in the big leagues.
Peterson is hitting .269 with one home run, 21 RBI, six stolen bases and a .335 on base percentage. With the Braves nearing the one-third mark of the season, Peterson is on pace for three home runs, 63 RBI and 18 stolen bases.
In the month of May, Peterson hit .291 with 15 RBI and a .360 on base percentage. As the leadoff man, Peterson is now hitting .246 with 12 RBI and three stolen bases.
So obviously, Peterson has been a significant upgrade so far from what the Braves got last season at second base.
Then you look at center field and the improvement is almost comical. Last year the players who played center field for the Braves hit a collective .204 with 13 home runs, 39 RBI, 30 stolen bases and a .283 on base percentage.
Melvin Upton was the primary problem, as he hit just .208 with 12 home runs, 35 RBI, 20 stolen bases and a .287 on base percentage. The Braves convinced the Padres to take Upton off their hands in the Craig Kimbrel trade right before the season started.
The name that was in the trade coming to Atlanta that was not really focused on much was Cameron Maybin, but we are learning more about him day by day. Maybin made an outstanding catch in center field Sunday in San Francisco that gave the Braves a chance to come back in the ninth inning and win it.
Maybin has also been doing the job at the plate. He’s hitting .256 on the season – 48 points higher than Upton did last season – with five home runs, 22 RBI, seven stolen bases and an on base percentage of .344. That puts Maybin on pace for 15 home runs, 66 RBI and 21 stolen bases, with his batting average and OBP light years better than what Upton provided.
In the month of May, Maybin hit .290 with two home runs, 17 RBI and five stolen bases. He has taken over the position in center field and the Braves are much better for it.
So that’s it. Those two positions being better are the main reasons the Braves have been able to stick around .500 so far through the first two months. Uggla and Upton were historically bad, but to have upgrades at those positions has the lineup better and has given the Braves to be more competitive.
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 email@example.com.
Give the credit to Peterson and Maybin
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