Ten MLB games is the first real measuring bundle of usable data we get in a baseball season. The reason for this mathematically is the Law of Large numbers’ reliance on sample sizes of populations needing to be at least 30 for the averages within the data sample to be normally distributed around the averages of what will eventually be the entire population (season). Ten games gives everyday players roughly 30 ABs. It also gives SPs a chance to make two starts, and thus face that many batters.
Ten games of a baseball season also creates parity between one game of a football season. Both represent roughly 1/16th of the season.
That being said, let’s take a look at the averages of this first 10 game sample.
Ronald Acuña Jr. has an OPS of .896. This is about 130 points higher than last year, but still about 100 points lower than his ’20 and ’21 seasons pre-acl tear. To my eyes, the swing plane isn’t quite where it was pre-injury just yet, robbing him of some line drive home runs.
Matt Olson‘s spring stats and mechanical adjustments have carried over into the regular season. He has a 1.147 OPS and has been worth two league average hitters. His career OPS is .850, and season-high is .911 so it will be interesting to see if the changes turn a perennial all-star candidate into an MVP candidate.
Orlando Arcia being given the SS role drew the ire of many Braves fans who wished to see one of the young prospects (Vaughn Grissom, Braden Shewmake) given the chance. But early results couldn’t be more in favor of the team’s choice. Through ten games, Arcia has been worth as much WAR as Acuña (0.5). Dansby Swanson, earning roughly 6x more than Arcia, has been worth 0.6 WAR. Arcia has a .892 OPS, more than 150 pts higher than his previous season-high. So it’ll be interesting how long he can maintain this pace.
If the past couple years are any indication, Marcell Ozuna may be a common feature in this section. Braves Twitter even frequently plays games regarding what they’d trade for Ozuna (hemorrhoids, stomach flu, etc.). And recently fans have floated mass mailing $1 each GoFundMe style to the front office to ease the burden of his contract, which will have roughly $37m left through the ’24 season. Ozuna has currently been worth -0.4 WAR. He has an unsightly .515 OPS, which is ~150 pts lower than his last two subpar seasons.
Much was made coming out of camp about the two quickly rising LHP prospects vying for the fifth starter job. Injuries allowed both to receive two starts over the first 10 games. The Braves went 1-3 in those starts and 5-1 in the others. Jared Shuster has already been optioned for the second time this season. Dylan Dodd, while thus far better than his peer, will have to show a much more sharp and consistent slider than he had in his recent start against the Padres if he wants to stick around.
It may be time to begin worrying about Ozzie Albies. Not because he has an abysmal .556 OPS and -0.1 WAR through the first ten games. But because fans seem to forget that before his injuries last season (broken finger and foot) he played 60 games healthy and was still a slightly below average hitter: .703 OPS, 95 OPS+. For his entire 7 yearr career, he has an OPS of .788, giving him an OPS+ of 105, or in other words he’s been a 5% better than league average hitter for his career. Players of his size often regress quickly. The value of his contract means he doesn’t need to reach career highs, but if he can’t turn around the downward trend, the Braves might be trying new faces at the keystone sooner than anyone anticipated.
The Ugly: Injuries
The Braves lost Max Fried, Travis D’Arnaud, Colin McHugh, and Michael Harris II to the IL in the first 10 games, and that makes 5 unexpectedly out if you count Raisel Iglesias . The good news is that right now there’s no reason to believe any of them will miss more than a month.
The Braves handled business in DC, going 2-1 against the rebuilding Nats. Then they swept the playoff aspiring Cardinals, in StL 3-0. And were finally brought down to earth, and subsequently punched in the mouth by the powerhouse Padres in Atl, losing the series 1-3.
If this were a football game, it’d feel like a team jumped out to a big first half lead, only for the game to get uncomfortably close at the end. But a win is a win. And starting out 6-4 with the outright division lead is a start any Braves fan would have happily agreed to before the season began.
Over the next ten games the Braves will play 3 at home against the Reds (4-4). After an off day they’ll have a 6-game road trip to the Royals (3-7) Padres (6-4). Finally another off day to come back home and start the first of 3 games against the Astros (4-6).
The next ten games will likely see the returns of Kyle Wright and Michael Harris II from the IL.
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