The Good

The Atlanta baseball club is 9.5 games ahead in the standings, with a .656 winning percentage that is comfortably the best in baseball, ahead of the Rays who have one fewer win and six more losses.

Atlanta’s position in its division is considerably aided by the fact that its four rival clubs have mightily struggled all year to score more runs than they have yielded: the second-place Phillies, who currently occupy the third wild-card spot, have a narrowly positive run differential of +13 and a slender 0.5 game margin over the third-place Marlins (losers of five straight), who have a differential of -15, nearly identical to the -11 differential of the fourth-place Mets, who despite their offseason spending spree are 17.5 games out of the division lead and 8.0 games out of the Wild Card.

The Bad

The Braves are not playing their best ball at the moment, to put it mildly. In their micro-skid over the past 10 days, the team is 1-4 with 40 runs allowed and 32 runs scored. And of those 40 runs allowed, 14 were coughed up by Bryce Elder in six innings of work, and 6 were yielded by Kolby Allard in just 2 2/3. Speaking as a medical layman, I think I found your problem right there.

Nothing much to complain about on the offensive side of the ball, really –Austin Riley hit two homers and had seven RBI last night; Ronald Acuña hit two homers in the 6-5 loss to the White Sox on Saturday – but the pitching has left somewhat to be desired. (Not for nothing, but the disarray in the pitching staff coincides exactly with A.J. Minter being on the shelf. We’ve been missing Uncle Jesse, too.)

Oh Well Whatever Nevermind

As to the immediate questions raised by last night’s loss: some guys are hurt and we know about it. Some guys may be hurt and we’re about to find out about it. And some guys who have been hurt, hopefully, will be coming back soon. We’ve got enough cushion to be able to weather these kinds of rough patches, just like we did with Michael Harris’s injury and extended slump.

Keeping Travis For Good

Meanwhile, Alex Anthopoulos did something lovely that has nothing to do with the pitching staff: he re-signed Travis d’Arnaud. Travis gets an $8 million contract for 2024 and a club option for another $8 million in 2025. As Peanut points out, the dynamics of their relationship with d’Arnaud shifted a bit after his lengthly recovery from his most recent concussion, raising questions of how much longer Travis will don the tools of ignorance. But it’s hard to argue with the general plan of keeping him around for as long as possible. Every single person in the clubhouse loves him, and his performance is pretty extraordinary. Since 2000, his first year in an Atlanta uniform, here are the fWAR totals for MLB catchers, minimum of 500 PA:

  1. Sean Murphy, 13.8
  2. J.T. Realmuto, 13.8
  3. Will Smith, 12.9
  4. Willson Contreras, 8.5
  5. Adley Rutschman, 7.6
  6. Jonah Heim, 7.1
  7. Travis d’Arnaud, 7.1

(William Contreras is 12th, at 5.2.)

I wouldn’t mind if the Braves just kept him around forever and eventually hired him to work alongside Sal Fasano and Eddie Perez as a permanent coach.