Chopcast: Braves lineup inconsistent, good enough for fast start

The Atlanta Braves have scored 89 runs this season, tying them for the fourth-lowest mark in the majors.

David Goldman/AP

There are two MLB teams vying for the bragging rights to the best 1-2 offensive punch in baseball through the first 20-plus games of the season: the Colorado Rockies and the Atlanta Braves.

Really, no other team, aside from perhaps the Angels (Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are playing quite well), has a seat at the table. And certainly no other National League team. The Rockies’ and Braves’ lineups feature baseball’s top four offensive players in terms of weighted runs created and four frontrunners for the NL Player of the Month award: Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and (surprise) outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Justin Upton.

Blackmon leads the majors in weighted runs created (203) after hitting a scorching .402/.454/.657 with five home runs to start the season. Freeman and Upton bring up the Nos. 2 and 3 spots on the list, combining for a 2.6 WAR and 13 home runs already. Tulowitzki brings up the caboose, the fourth spot, thanks to one of the best all-around offensive lines in the game right now. So, if it matters, which is better? If we’re using simple addition, the Rockies duo holds an eight-point edge in the runs created department, but the Freeman-Upton combo seems a bit more sustainable — if only due to Blackmon’s limited (though impressive) track record.

All the same, the team results to date could hardly be more disparate.

Behind Tulowitzki and Blackmon, the Rockies have scored more runs than any team not named "White Sox." On the flip side, the Braves rank 26th in runs scored thanks to an inconsistent lineup that has yet to hit its full stride. Colorado is among the league’s best offensive units, as one would assume with two of the hottest bats around, while Atlanta has been fairly average, which has led to its involvement in more 1-0 games than other team since 1952. (All hail the surprisingly dominant rotation of the decade.) 

If this has been cause for frustration, it isn’t showing yet. The Braves feature the second-best record (17-7) despite their inefficiencies on the offensive end, so if any combination of factors takes place — Jason Heyward rebounds from a slow start at the top of the order, B.J. Upton keeps up his marked improvement, Chris Johnson regains some of his ’13 form, Dan Uggla ditches his traditional slow start and at least provides power and on-base potential; all assuming Upton, Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis can keep up the good work at the plate — then look out. Just how good can they be if the offense puts it all together for an extended stretch? Our writers discuss: