One week into the Major League Baseball season and there's a lot to digest about this year's Atlanta Braves team. Some of it will leave you with an upset tummy and ready to turn the television to NBA 'Bubble' action or your favorite reruns on Hulu. Some of it will leave you content and thinking this team is World Series material.
One of the biggest disappointing takeaways is, beyond Mike Soroka and Max Fried, the Braves' starting rotation is absolutely awful.
Sean Newcomb continues to not deliver despite being given numerous opportunities to do so. In Friday night's tilt with the New York Mets, the lefty surrendered six runs on six hits in just 4 1/3 innings. That followed his first start where he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed three hits, two walks and one run.
Maybe the biggest disappointment and most surprising development was with Mike Foltynewicz, a one-time all-star who still appears scarred from what happened in last year's Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. In his 2020 debut, Foltynewicz lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed four hits, three homers, four walks and six runs and was immediately designated for assignment.
As of now, the Braves have little to offer in the way of starting pitching after their two studs at the top of the rotation, which means the Braves will have to outslug and outscore teams, much like Friday's game when they overcame an 8-2 deficit to win 11-10. The lack of major league ready arms is surprising since that was the essence of their trades they made not too long ago when they unloaded veterans in their massive rebuild. Either these guys weren't the real deal or the Braves have disappointed in developing their young arms.
The other notable struggle are the increasing strikeouts at the plate. The Braves are striking out at an alarming rate. In the first eight games, the Braves struck out 93 times, which is an average of 11.6 per game, last in baseball. It's had an impact on their batting average, a microscopic .235. It's either all or nothing right now as the Braves were among the league leaders in runs per game. Of course, 25 runs came in two games against the Mets, so that might be the answer to that anomaly.
But they need Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman to start hitting at the top of the lineup like they're capable. They started out a combined 18-for-92 with 33 srikeouts. It's not what you expect from your 1-3 hitters and all-stars, especially with a team that has championship aspirations.
If we get to that point.
At the rate the sport is going, baseball fans better enjoy it while they can. After what happened to the Miami Marlins after the first weekend where so many tested positive for COVID-19 and forced to cancel games for a whole week, it wouldn't shock me to see commissioner Rob Manfred stop the season. He threatened the Players Union on Friday that the season may be halted.
Positive cases are spiking everywhere and baseball is just the pandemic's latest victim.