2 questions the Braves already answered in 2024, 1 that still lingers

The Braves are still awesome, but have they answered their preseason questions so far?
Atlanta Braves v Seattle Mariners
Atlanta Braves v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves entered the season as prohibitive favorites to be among the best teams in MLB once again. They were returning essentially all of the position players that were responsible for the Braves being the best offense in baseball in 2023, had a rotation headlined by two Cy Young candidates, and the bullpen looked strong and deep once again. Good times were expected by most everyone.

However, that didn't mean there weren't some question marks coming into the season. Some of those questions were merely based on the weight of expectations that were going to be very difficult to reach while others centered around some new player acquisitions and how other teams are going to look comparatively. It isn't enough to have a great team on paper. You have to go and execute on the field. Just go ask the 2024 Astros how much it matters that almost everyone pencilled them in to make the ALCS before the season started.

We are in the first week of May now and we are starting to get some answers to these questions. These answers are far from final as there is still a lot of baseball left to be played, but here is what we have learned about this Braves team so far in 2024.

Yep, the Braves' rotation is going to be just fine this season

The Braves' rotation was looking very speculative heading into the 2024. Spencer Strider was widely considered to be a top NL Cy Young candidate (more on him in a second), but Max Fried was hurt for a large portion of last season and was entering his contract year and the rest of the rotation was going to be comprised of new additions Chris Sale and Reynaldo Lopez as well as an aging Charlie Morton who may be entering his final season with the team.

The Braves had a level of difficulty added to this question when Strider was lost for the season due to a very unfortunate Tommy John surgery. However, it appears as though the Braves' starters are in a pretty good spot at the moment as the group has a very respectable 3.85 ERA despite Bryce Elder getting absolutely rocked by the Dodgers on Saturday. Max Fried had a rough start to the season, but has looked much like himself his last four starts. As for Sale and Lopez, they have the Braves' best two starters this season and appear to be absolute bargains especially Lopez who has been great since being converted back to being a starter.

Injuries could obviously change the picture dramatically the rest of the way, but things are looking very good for the rotation overall right now.

No, the Braves' offense won't be as good as their record-setting group last year

Atlanta's offense set an impossible standard in 2023. Ronald Acuna Jr. had one of the best offensive seasons the game of baseball has ever season last year when he created the 40/70 season while basically halving his strikeout rate. Matt Olson set the franchise single season home run record and multiple other bats had career years last year.

This Braves offense doesn't look like they will reach those heights in 2024 and that isn't a knock on the offense at all. They are still, despite their recent slump, a top 5 offense in the league this year despite playing in the least amount of games this season due to early season weather nonsense. Ronald Acuna Jr. has looked human, Matt Olson has a 95 wRC+, and Austin Riley has only been pretty good. That is just going to make a difference through a month's worth of games.

There have been some bright spots as Marcell Ozuna has been absolutely been crushing the ball and Travis d'Arnaud went wild for a bit and the offense is still very good. However, Braves fans hoping that Atlanta was just going to bash everyone into submission in 2024 may want to temper their expectations a bit.

Can the Braves overcome the Phillies and Dodgers in 2024?

One of the biggest questions heading into this season had less to do with anything the Braves did or didn't do over the offseason and more to do with who their chief competition in the National League was going to be in 2024. The Dodgers have been one of the NL end bosses for years now and they went out and added Shohei Ohtani, Tyler Glasnow, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason. Meanwhile, the pesky Phillies had eliminated the Braves from the playoffs the last two seasons and were set to be good yet again.

So far, the Braves have mostly kept pace with those two teams. The Braves find themselves in second place in the NL East at the moment because of a tough west coast trip while the Phillies have basically refused to lose. The Dodgers have had some ups and downs of their own and Philadelphia just lost Trea Turner to a hamstring injury. None of these teams have truly separated themselves from each other and all are still among the class of the NL this season.

How it will all shake out is anyone's guess and it could all come down to how each team navigates the trade deadline and stretch run. One key injury here and one well-timed trade there could literally be the difference in 2024. That bodes well for the Braves have they have typically been among the best teams at closing out the regular season in recent years, but being well-rested, healthy, and playing well ahead of the playoffs is going to probably be what decides whether Atlanta can make another deep postseason run this season.

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