The Deadline

The trade deadline came and went yesterday, and the teams in the NL East more or less acted according to what the standings said they should do:

Our boys slightly upgraded by getting two relievers (Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand) and a backup infielder, Nicky Lopez.

The Phillies slightly upgraded by getting Michael Lorenzen.

The Marlins modestly upgraded by getting Josh Bell, Ryan Weathers, Jake Burger, and David Robertson.

The Mets sold. Hard. They got rid of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Robertson, Mark Canha, and Tommy Pham, and a boatload of cash, and got some prospects back. It was the “right” thing to do.

The Nats traded Jeimer Candelario and didn’t do much else.

The Marlins and Phillies are a bit better on paper, the Mets are a lot worse on paper, and the division basically looks about the same today as it did yesterday.

The Game

Yesterday’s game was almost the platonic ideal of a 2023 Braves game: Spencer Strider struck out nine men and allowed just one run, and the 8th and 9th hitters hit three homers. That’s almost the entire game story: there were only four other hits beyond Arcia’s two-run blast in the seventh and Harris’s solo shots in the 5th and 7th. Immediately after a leadoff walk to open the game, Ronald got picked off, which isn’t great. But A.J. Minter and Raisel Iglesias worked a scoreless 8th and 9th, which is.

As Craig Calcaterra summarized:

Spencer Strider struck out nine batters and allowed just one run while pitching into the seventh. He passed the 200-strikeout mark for the season in this one as well. He did it in 123.1 innings pitched. That gives him the record for the fewest innings required to get to 200 Ks in a season since the mound was moved to 60’6” from home plate back in 1893. The record he broke: his own record of 130 IP, set last season.

The Season So Far

Over the past month or so, these Braves have often been referred to as “the best team in baseball. This is because, on a per-game basis, the Braves have the most wins, best winning percentage, and best run differential in baseball, with the second-most runs scored and sixth-fewest runs allowed.

The Fangraphs rest-of-year projections are suitably persuaded by this performance; for the final 57 games of the season, on a per-game basis, Fangraphs expects the Braves to continue to have the highest winning percentage, the best run differential, the most runs scored, and the seventh-fewest runs allowed.

This is despite the fact that the Braves will undoubtedly continue to, as the system fully expects, have quite a few games started by farmhouse frequent fliers like Mike Soroka, A.J. Smith-Shawver, Jared Shuster, Yonny Chirinos, Allen Winans, and others.

Max Fried is expected to provide good value in his subsequent starts, though not quite to his usual rate stat standard, which would make sense as he’s been away from game action for several months now. Strider, Morton, and Elder are all looking broadly positive, as well.

Elder is essentially viewed as league-average, with the 77th-best rest-of-season projections among all ML starting pitchers, virtually identical to those of new Phillie Michael Lorenzen. Morton’s projection is 41st-best, right in between Marcus Stroman and Lance Lynn. Fried is 15th-best, right between Verlander and Joe Musgrove. And Strider’s second in baseball, just behind Zach Wheeler and just ahead of Gerrit Cole.

(Kyle Wright is expected to make a few starts too, but he is not expected to move the needle much as he won’t be back before September.)

The Bottom Line

This club is fairly well-rounded, though it’s not equally strong at everything. Its power is extraordinary, and by every measure – HardHit%, Barrels, EV, MaxEV – is the class of the major leagues. For whatever reason, the projections systems see our defense as mediocre to middling, slightly worse than average. The starting rotation has been slightly better than average, and that likely will improve upon Fried’s return. The bullpen has been a strength, with the third-most WAR and best WPA/LI in baseball.

If you were to be the kind of relentless pessimist who cannot see the good side of having the most wins and best offense in baseball, you might quote Yogi Berra and point out that good pitching beats good hitting.

However, as Yogi also said:

“And vice versa.”