FOX Sports South.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to get the latest on the Braves.
FOX SPORTS SOUTH: The Braves head into the All-Star break with a comfortable lead in the National League East. How would you summarize the first half of this season?
CHIP CARAY: I would say from what we’ve expected of this team, there have been no unexpected surprises.
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From an offensive standpoint, the first three months of the season this has been an all-or-nothing kind of offense, where they’ve hit a lot of home runs and they’ve struck out. They have scored runs in bunches and they’ve been shut out in bunches.
The concern that I think people had with this team is could they generate enough consistent offense to win a lot of games? I think the answer to that has been yes, but with an asterisk.
We’ve seen enough of a rise in strikeouts that if you think that if they put more balls in play, especially with two strikes and two outs, guys at second and third base, (etc.) that would consequently mean more runs and more wins for the club.
The thing that the team has always been about, to me, is pitching and you’ve got two nine-game winners in Mike Minor and Paul Maholm. Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen are both under .500 and have both pitched better than their record would indicate and Julio Teheran has pitched like the No. 1 pitching prospect in all of baseball.
The No. 1 surprise would have to be the bullpen.
When you lose two guys the quality of Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters setting up Craig Kimbrel, you wonder who is going to step up and fill those roles? Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan and Alex Woods have all stepped up and pitched meaningful innings. Anthony Varvaro has turned into a very important guy in that bullpen.
The Braves bullpen has the best ERA in baseball and I don’t think anybody would have expected that to continue with the losses of the two guys that I mentioned.
A lot of things have gone according to plan and some things that haven’t gone according to plan have been covered up by an offense that’s still very explosive. There’s nothing wrong with 50-plus wins before the All-Star break.
FSS: I think when we talked about the outfield this offseason we saw three guys with 20/20 potential if not 30/30 in Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton. Aside from that first month with Justin Upton, it hasn’t been what we anticipated. Do you think we put too high of expectations on this group?
CC: No, I don’t think so. If you look on the back of the bubblegum cards, that’s what you see. Within 10, 20 percent of their career averages, that was a realistic expectation.
Justin got off to the great start, has really struggled since. B.J. hasn’t got out of the gate yet and is now on the disabled list with a strained right adductor muscle and Jason Heyward started slowly and in the month of June, has swung the bat very well.
If you look at the big picture, I think if you asked those three guys, they would say their overall performance would be probably disappointing. But the beauty of baseball and probably the most intriguing thing is that those three guys really haven’t clicked together all year long. If and when they figure it out and if and when they get going, that has a chance to be one of the most explosive and dynamic outfields not just in the National League, but in all of baseball.
They’ve all show flashes of excitement and good play and brilliance, quite frankly, to make that a possibility in the second half.