After starting the season 31 games over .500 (60-29) and sending 8 players to the All-Star Game, the Atlanta Braves are ready to get the second half of the season underway tomorrow when they welcome the White Sox to town.
While the Braves are sitting 8.5 games ahead of the Marlins in the NL East and 4 games above the Tampa Bay Rays for the best team in the majors, the month of July may answer any questions that Braves doubters (if there are any out there) may have.
Once the weekend set against the White Sox (38-54) is complete, the Braves will then face an opponent with a winning record for 11 straight games. In years past, a stretch like this against teams above .500 would be scary, but this 2023 Braves team has a different feel to it and they are more than ready for the challenge.
Everything seems to be clicking for this team heading into the last 73 games of the season, but it seems to be the consistent power threat of the entire lineup that has lifted the Braves to the top spot in baseball. To put into perspective how absurd the Braves' power surge has been so far, take a look at these numbers.
Home runs for everyone!
Braves infielders (Travis d'Arnuad, Sean Murphy, Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies, Orlando Arcia, and Austin Riley) have combined for 99 home runs to this point. That is more than the following teams as a whole: Miami Marlins (87), Boston Red Sox (94), Washington Nationals (78), Cincinnati Reds (98), Colorado Rockies (81), Cleveland Guardians (60), Chicago Cubs (96), Pittsburgh Pirates (81), Milwaukee Brewers (97), Kansas City Royals (78), Detroit Tigers (82), and Oakland A's (85).
That insane number doesn't even include Ronald Acuna (21 HR), Marcell Ozuna (17 HR), or Eddie Rosario (14 HR).
The Braves as a team have hit a total of 169 home runs. the most in baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers are next in line at 149 home runs. Atlanta is on pace to break the MLB team home run record set by the 2019 Minnesota Twins who hit 307. The current pace Atlanta is on has them on track to hit 313 homers.
Normally, you would think that there was no way a team could keep this kind of pace over a 162-game season, but what makes this Braves team so different is the fact that everyone is contributing. It seems to never fail that if the top of the order is struggling on any particular night, the bottom of the lineup picks them up, and vice versa. There are just no holes in this lineup that pitchers can look for outs.
They can't be good at both hitting and pitching, right? Right?!
The scariest part for the rest of the MLB is that the Braves are still not even fully healthy. They have Max Fried, an ace, and Kyle Wright, a 21-game winner a season ago, inching closer to returning to join Cy Young Award candidate Spencer Strider in the starting rotation.
Guys like Jared Shuster, Dylan Dodd, AJ Smith-Shawver, Kolby Allard, and Michael Soroka have done a great job to fill in the gaps and keep giving this team chances to win but a lot of their starts have just been placeholders to buy time for Fried and Wright to get healthy. It will be interesting to see who has earned the opportunity to stay in the rotation once these two arms are back, but this is a good problem to have if you are Brian Snitker.
Will it be difficult for the Atlanta Braves to stay as hot as they were before the break? Absolutely. Is it possible for them to keep this pace? Also, yes! This team just has too many weapons 1-9 at the plate, an infield full of all-stars (literally), a gold-glove caliber center fielder in Michael Harris II, the MVP front-runner in Ronald Acuna Jr, a solid starting rotation, and a reliable bullpen that has the third-best ERA in baseball. So, as the second half of the season begins tomorrow, look for more of the same from the Atlanta Braves!