Hackneyed as it is, this team does show more fight and effort than many previous Braves clubs. The team is limited, especially offensively, and especially without Freeman, but it’s very likable and rare is the torpid play we became accustomed to from BJ and scattered others.
Individual grades at the midway point:
Jace Peterson: B-. A couple weeks ago, this would have been an A. But since June 21, he’s struck out more than he’s reached base (17 Ks, 9 hits+walks in 12 games). His OBP and batting average have both slid 30 points in that span. Yes, he’s looked a little tired. Oddly, though, his slide began June 23, after a day off. Defensively, he’s been good, especially making nice progress on turning double plays. It’s probably still unclear whether Peterson is a long-term answer at second base. After all, this is his first season as a big league regular. I think he’ll end up sticking every day. Maybe flipping him and Maybin in the order would help, or maybe not.
Cameron Maybin, A. Maybin started as, “Well, he’ll be better than BJ.” Now he’s the only NL center fielder among the top 5 at the position in batting average, on base percentage and stolen bases. He’s played so well he’s created a dilemma for Hart and Coppolella, who sounds like his voice is about to change. Move him at the deadline for a nice haul of prospects? Or keep him because if he continues this kind of play, he’s a bargain next season at $8 million, and he’s only 28. Not only has he been a revelation on the field, but listen to him for 10 seconds and you figure he’s a guy you wouldn’t mind hanging out with. BJ always sounded barely awake and disinterested. Defensively, some of the “advanced metrics” suggest he’s below average among MLB center fielders. I don’t see it. He’s flubbed a play here and there, but overall he’s been not just better than BJ but pretty good.
Freddie, A. Ho, hum. He’s leading the team in homers, RBI and OPS. More than all that, the struggle to score runs in his absence underlines just how much he means to this club. If ever there were a team MVP, it’s Freddie. Come back, soon, pal. We need you. And he’s played his usual solid defense.
Nick Markakis, B-. The guy has been as consistent as summer heat. Since the first week or so, his batting average hasn’t dipped below .292 and his OBP has not gone under .384. He also has zero homers and just 26 RBI hitting third and fourth all season. And he’s hitting .319 with runners in scoring position. Kinda odd. He’s fourth among NL outfielders with 19 doubles. So there’s plenty to like, but the Belliardian home run total is a problem for a middle-of-the-order hitter. Defensively, he has been excellent, solid as can be.
A.J. Pierzynski, B+. Given what was expected, you could argue he deserves an A, maybe A+ He’s been a stalwart behind the dish and more than adequate at it. Yeah, he doesn’t walk much and hasn’t hit for a whole lot of power. But for a 38-year-old who came over to back up and tutor our supposed “catcher of the future,” Pierzynski has significantly overachieved. And word has it he’s actually not nearly the jack ass conventional wisdom says.
Juan Uribe, A. Similar story to Pierzynski. Of course, Uribe came over to play, not to help Chris Johnson learn the ropes. But Uribe has been far better than we had a right to expect. Yeah, his glove has turned to stone a couple time. But he leads the club with a .305 BA, is second on the club in OPS, and over the past 30 games he leads the Braves in homers, OPS, and is second to Maybin in batting average.
KJ, B+. Yet another pleasant surprise. The grade is based on what was expected of him. He’s fourth on the club in OPS and tied for second in homers, granted with just 7. He’s not much with the glove in the outfield, bus is passable at the corner infield positions.
Andrelton, B+. His glove, as usual, has been impeccable. He has 3 errors in 380 total chances, but of course that doesn’t do him justice. Plays like the whirling relay throw to second a few days back against the Phillies are the kind of game-turners he makes almost routinely. Offensively, he’s been better than last season but still falls into spells where he swings from his heels too often.
Gomes, D. Yeah, he’s gritty and I do love that. He’s popped four homers in limited ABs. But he’s hitting below .200. I suppose he has value as a righty pinch hitter and because of his excellent clubhouse presence.
Chris Johnson, D. Not much happening with this guy this season. Limited range defensively and little power with the stick. He is hitting .366 against lefties, but the Braves haven’t seen many southpaws.
Ciriaco, Eury Perez, B. They’ve been solid since coming up.