Braves outfielder Justin Upton was named National League Player of the Week after hitting four home runs in his last four games.
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY Sports
Now that the Braves’ latest demolition of the Nationals is complete — sealed with a convincing 10-2 just hours after Washington general manager Mike Rizzo stood behind his franchise’s superiority over the defending NL East champs — there are many, many arguments to made. And, perhaps, even more questions to ask.
There’s an argument for the Braves being the most complete team in baseball after the first two weeks, give or take, of the 2014 season, as they rank among MLB’s best for wins above replacement in all three phases of the game: batting (2.5 WAR, 4th), starting rotation (1.1 WAR, 9th) and the bullpen (1.0 WAR, 3rd). Plus, they rank first in defensive runs saved.
There’s an argument for the preseason predictions — including the ones here in this space — once again getting too high on the Nationals’ World Series chances and glossing over an injured but still formidable Braves roster. And there’s an argument that this Atlanta team still stands to improve when the services of Mike Minor, Gavin Floyd and Jonny Venters re-enter the equation.
Twelve games into the season, there are numbers to defend each of those arguments. But the questions are probably more interesting.
Can the Braves continue this stretch of dominance over a talented Nationals team, particularly when they get fully healthy? Can the offense find a happy medium between this recent hot streak — spurred on by Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton, both of whom boast top-five individual offensive numbers thus far — and the early inconsistency? Just what is the ceiling for this Braves team once all of their pieces are in place? Is B.J. Upton back? Will Jason Heyward eventually his stride? What happens to the rotation, notably Alex Wood, David Hale and Aaron Harang, when the other starters return?
As good as the Braves look sitting atop the NL East standings with three series wins over the Brewers and Nationals — those two teams combined for a 17-0 record against all other opponents entering Monday’s games — it’s still early. It will be "early" for another couple of months. Our writers weigh in on the fast start, the Nats’ struggles, instant replay, new interpretations of MLB rules and more: