Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: Big Hitters, Big Traffic, and MVPs

Sep 19, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Atlanta Braves pitcher Aaron Blair (36) New York Mets pitches in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Offensive Machine that is the Atlanta Braves was still in full operation last night, pounding out another 13 hits and 7 runs while annoying Mets fans who thought this was more of the easy part of their schedule.

There are a lot of people who are tracing this offensive outburst from the Atlanta Braves back to the trade for Matt Kemp.  That’s actually a bit coincidental, as Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, Adonis Garcia, and Nick Markakis had all already started a resurgence of their own.

Adding Kemp (.296/.851 OPS), however, hasn’t hurt a bit.  Neither did swapping out Erick Aybar (.250 with Detroit/.685 OPS) in favor Dansby Swanson (.305/.780).  Nor the return of Tyler Flowers (.319/.831 since being reinstated).

Here’s the team hitting lines over this stunning streak:  13 hits (last night), 12, 13, 9, 9, 9, 17, 11, 8, 11, 13, 11, 11, 8, 9, 13, 11, 12, 12.

The last pitcher to hold the Braves below 8 hits was Madison Bumgarner (6) of the Giants.  The day before that, Albert Suarez and a busload of relievers held Atlanta to 7 hits (and the Braves won that game).

Even so, this streak – now at 19 games – has seen Atlanta hit well despite a bunch of well-regarded pitchers:  Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg (though he didn’t last), Gio Gonzalez, Jose Fernandez, Vince Velasquez, Noah Syndergaard, and Bartolo Colon among them.

The next step, of course, is to win most of these games.  And that requires most consistent pitching so that the team doesn’t give up 8+ hits along the way.

8 happens to be the magic number of hits accrued by the Mets last night, though starter Aaron Blair allowed only 4 of those – with 1 walk – over 6 strong innings while getting his first major league win.  It was a really great start for him to build on, and something that we hope will stick with him for the upcoming off-season.

Blair will have a chance for perhaps 2 more starts to finish the year (Marlins and Tigers, if projections hold) so it would clearly be good to be able to repeat this outing and give the Braves front office an even tougher decision about what to do with the rotation for 2017.

But between Freeman (4 hits, 3 RBI), Swanson (3 hits, 3 RBI) and Blair (6 innings, 2 runs), the Mets were stymied in their attempts to gain pace in the Wild Card race… which makes their fans all the more anxious for tonight’s game against Julio Teheran.

Here’s your box:

Oct 30, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Traffic backs up outside of Quicken Loans Arena where a new LeBron James mural was installed. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

New Atlanta Braves stadium traffic to be topic of Sandy Springs forum

GEOFFREY A. COOPER / AJC.COM

An upcoming public forum in Sandy Springs will focus on the Atlanta Braves’ imminent relocation to Cobb County, and the rush of traffic slated to come with it.

The forum will take place at Riverwood International Charter School on Sept. 21, featuring presentations from Sandy Springs lawmakers and public officials with Cobb County and the Georgia Department of Transportation. The traffic forum is being hosted by the Riverside Homeowners Association.

Riverside and Powers Ferry Landing areas sit on the western tail of Sandy Springs, and is an area where SunTrust Park traffic will peak.

Minutes southwest of the Riverside subdivision lies I-285 and I-75, where traffic regularly swells because of early morning and late evening work commutes.

[ Ed. note:  I don’t really mean to disrespect the resident’s concerns here, but please re-read the last paragraph of the excerpt we’ve included above.  Now allow me to ask this is this kind of like buying a house near an airport and then complaining about the noisy takeoffs and landings?

Granted, this stadium wasn’t on their radar, but certainly the local traffic already was.  The impact will probably extend the congestion of the local commutes for an additional hour during weekday game evenings (maybe 60 dates a year), but shouldn’t be that horrible otherwise for them unless there’s a need to run an errand when a game ends.

Long-term, there admittedly needs to be some sort of dedicated access road or exit to support stadium traffic, but that’s one area in which County planners may have dropped the ball. ]

Sep 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) smiles to the bench after hitting a triple and driving in a run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This season could re-ignite an on-going and unresolvable debate:  does the Most Valuable Player have to be on a winning/playoff-contending team?

The National League’s debate about the Most Valuable Player should actually be fairly cut-and-dried at this point:  Kris Bryant:

  • 37 homers
  • 115 runs scored
  • 96 RBI – will easily best 100 in the next 2 weeks
  • Hitting .293 and OPS’ing .945

With the Cubs flying high, he should be the MVP.  At least, that’s what the voters will likely say.

Oddly enough, the Cubs themselves may be muddying the waters a bit, but touting 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo for the award.

That not only opens the door for the Nationals to say “Hey! Daniel Murphy is better!” (5.6 fWAR vs. Rizzo’s 4.9), but it also brings someone else into the conversation.

Freddie Freeman.

Freeman has quietly (since no one is paying attention to the Braves) burst onto the scene with a break-out year of his own:  31 homers, 93 runs scored, 83 RBI on a (previously) bad offensive team, .302 and .963 OPS… better than Bryant, better than Rizzo (.940), within 3 points of Joey Votto, and within shouting distance of Murphy (.989).

Freeman won’t win, because voters will choose one of the Nationals (Murphy or Scherzer – probably Murphy), plus one of the Cubs (Bryant or Rizzo), and then relegate a 5th or 6th place vote to Freeman or Votto.

But it does beg the question (again) about what it means to be a “Most Valuable” player.

Mike Trout is easily the best player in baseball again:  .990 OPS and 8.6 fWAR.  But the Angels are in last place and there are a bunch of Northeastern-based baseball writers who will be chomping at the bit to give Big Papi the crown with his 4.2 fWAR… and 1.034 OPS.  For a DH.

Would Boston be in first place without him?  Interesting question, that.  Probably not, but they’d still be in the race.  Meanwhile, where would the Angels be without Trout?  Pushing 110 losses, probably.

Imagine this:  if Daniel Murphy was still a Met, how would that have changed the NL East this year?  Right.  He’s been the one piece for the Nationals that picked up the slack from Bryce Harper‘s Spring and Summer malaise.

Is it the best player or the most valuable?  Is is the most valuable or the best player on a really good team?

The voting will probably be close in both leagues.  I expect it will be David Ortiz and Kris Bryant – the latter barely edging Daniel Murphy (who should win it, IMHO).

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