It's time to wonder if the Braves are simply a bad team without Strider and Acuña Jr.

Losing your best players will hurt any team, but it felt like the Braves were better equipped to handle this tough situation more so than others. Has this past month of poor baseball proven that thought to be naive?
Oakland Athletics v Atlanta Braves
Oakland Athletics v Atlanta Braves / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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Things couldn't be much worse right now for the Atlanta Braves. You may think that's a crazy statement for a team with a 35-28 record. However, when you lose three out of four games to a rebuilding Washington Nationals ball club TWICE in two weeks, you can start to see where the sad vibes come from.

It's likely you'd have to go all the way back to July of 2021 when the mood was this blue in Braves country. Today, the Braves hope to find a spark and recapture some of the swagger they have carried for the last two-plus years.

As of right now, Atlanta sits nine games back of the NL East leading Philadelphia Phillies. With each frustrating game that passes, Braves country feel more and more confused. Since April 27th the team is 17-22 with a -17 run differential. For a team with juggernaut expectations entering the season, a long stretch of bad baseball was never thought to be possible.

That begs the question, "Are the Braves simply not as good as we thought they were going to be?" There are many layers to how we got here, and even more when trying to answer that question. Let's take a moment to break them down and come to some sort of conclusion.

Injuries have taken a toll

Ronald Acuña Jr.
Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages

We get that injuries happen to all 30 MLB teams, so we're not going to pin all the Braves problems in this section alone. However, no team in baseball can say they have had players this impactful get hit with devastating injuries. In fact, in a recent article from The Athletic (subscription required) it was revealed that no team has lost the reigning MVP and a 20-game winner in the same season for this extended length of time EVER.

That of course is the case with the 2024 Braves, who will play over 100 games without superstars Ronald Acuña Jr. and Spencer Strider. Those two big losses are enough to hamper any team for a stretch.

Then you couple those big losses with the fact that primary catcher Sean Murphy missed essentially two months, and middle of the order bat Austin Riley was sidelined for a couple weeks as well.

On top of that, Atlanta has seen several bullpen arms spend time on the injured list, and their top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver get sidelined with a grade two oblique strain after one start. All of those injuries have certainly contributed to the current state of the Atlanta Braves.

Some guys had career years in 2023

Orlando Arcia
Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

One big reason the Braves aren't as good as we expected them to be is simply because of the season in which they are coming off of. They became the first team with a slugging percentage of .500 and tied the MLB record for home runs in a season. Whenever you set multiple team offensive records, and bring back essentially the same guys it's easy to expect the same results.

Sadly, those results have been far from the same in 2024. But quite frankly 2023 was more of the outlier than this season. Many Braves hitters have pretty much just came back down to earth this season.

For example, Orlando Arica enjoyed career highs in home runs, slugging percentage, and wRC+ in seasons with at least 250 plate appearances. This season Arcia has reverted back to his career offensive numbers and ranks in the lowest percentile in Batting Run Value according to Baseball Savant.

To a lesser extent this is the case for one of the Braves main thumpers as well. Matt Olson finished fourth in NL MVP voting last year, and led all of baseball in home runs. This season Olson has a .239/.323/.427 slash line, and has seen his slugging percentage drop nearly .200 points off of last years pace.

I'm not saying Olson is a bad hitter, but instead perhaps last season was one of those were everything went right for the Braves first baseman. Thus is the case with numerous Atlanta Braves hitters in 2024 as you can imagine. However, regardless of the regression from some of these players, luck hasn't been so kind to the Braves either...