This year's version of the Atlanta Braves is nothing short of an enigma, but they still have the National League East lead heading into the second half of the season.
After a red hot 13-2 start, the Braves have gone 41-39 in truly erratic fashion. They have truly lived and died with the longball, hitting 97 home runs in their 54 wins while only clubbing 17 homers in 41 losses on their way to a six-game lead over the Washington Nationals.
The Braves have been sub-par with runners in scoring position; their .243 average is the ninth best mark in the NL, but their 114 homers ranks best in the league and their 415 runs is third best.
That's by no help from their strikeout total, which is far and away the highest in the NL and second in the majors only to the Houston Astros.
But at the same time, Atlanta leads the NL with 29 comeback wins.
All these offensive abnormalities include B.J. Upton, who is batting a Major League-worst .177 heading into the break. Dan Uggla is carrying an even .200 average into the break, though he leads the team with 18 homers. And speaking of homers, Justin Upton has only hit four since his 12-homer outburst in April.
In fairness, Upton has hit .319 in July, which is about what Freddie Freeman has hit all year at .308, but even that doesn't compare to the ridiculous .330 clip at which Chris Johnson has hit. Jason Heyward has also shown signs of life after his horrific start.
Of course, the Braves have always been about the pitching. Their 3.29 ERA is second best in the bigs, and their 2.63 bullpen ERA is the best in the Majors, even with the loss of Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and Cristhian Martinez for the season. The likes of Anthony Varvaro and Jordan Walden have seriously stepped up their game, and Craig Kimbrel has simply been himself to help the Braves shut down opponents late in games.
But the Braves' starting pitching has been a true stability this year. They've only had six pitchers start in games, and the Alex Wood's only start was in a doubleheader. Julio Teheran and Mike Minor have both been very nice surprises, and Minor leads the team with 115 strikeouts and 122 innings pitched.
One can easily see how the Braves can make someone pull out his hair this year. They've been terribly solid in terms of pitching, but the offense, as high powered as it is, has been incredibly inconsistent.
If the Braves can come back from the break with everyone healthy and just half the lineup clicking, the Braves may run away with the division.
Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Baseball, Craig Kimbrel, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Mike Minor, MLB
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