The remaining July schedule carries great significance for when and how the Braves will make moves.
With the All-Star Game now over, the Atlanta Braves are enjoying a couple of days off before the second half of the 2019 season begins. At 54-37, the Braves currently hold a 6.0 game lead in the NL East. Per Fangraphs, Atlanta currently has the fifth-highest odds to make the playoffs and win the World Series at 96.4% and 7.1%, respectively. While the Braves’ first half has been better than many expected, the remaining July schedule could quickly change Atlanta’s outlook significantly.
Overall, the Braves have 18 games remaining in July. The schedule breakdown is as follows:
- Three Games in San Diego
- Three Games in Milwaukee
- Four Games versus the Nationals in Atlanta
- Two Games versus the Royals in Atlanta
- Three Games in Philadelphia
- Three Games in Washington
The significance of this stretch of games immediately jumps off the page. Of the 18 remaining games this month, 13 will come against current NL playoff contenders, nine of which are on the road. Furthermore, 10 of those 13 games are against the Nationals and Phillies, six of which will be on the road.
The brutal schedule remaining in July puts emphasis on a few important factors. For one, the Braves must take care of business against the Padres and the Royals. Over the past few years, that philosophy has not worked so well when Atlanta visits San Diego. The Braves are 9-21 in San Diego this decade. While the roster has changed, the results have not. It is very important the Braves start off the second half with at least a series win.
The series against the Royals carries significance because the games against Kansas City are clearly the most winnable games the Braves have left in July, and that two-game series is bookended with off days. Depending on how Atlanta fares against the Brewers and Nationals, this could be a chance to get a regular or two multiple days off before the big road trip to Washington and Philadelphia at the end of the month.
The other main factor that must be addressed is the starting pitching. Max Fried dazzled in April, and Julio Teheran and Mike Soroka were amazing in May, but since then the Braves’ starters have been a liability. Since June 1st, Atlanta is 23rd in ERA, 25th in K/9, and 27th in BABIP in terms of starting pitchers. Some factors impacting this certainly are bad luck and a defense that has regressed compared to last year. However, if more balls are being put in play, that increases the chance of negative outcomes. Overall, the Braves’ rotation was 20th in fWAR and 25th in RA9-WAR in June.
Beyond several members of the staff regressing in their performance over the past six weeks, other factors make it a necessity to address the starters sooner rather than later. Both Fried and Soroka will continue to push beyond their previous innings highs, so their usage will need to be managed. While Dallas Keuchel has certainly been a positive addition to the staff, another significant addition would be ideal.
The combination of the remaining July schedule and the recent struggles of the starting staff make a trade sooner rather than later a logical idea. Many are focusing on potential moves the Braves need to make to have a chance against the Dodgers in the postseason. However, they first need to make moves that will help ensure they will actually make the postseason. Mark Bowman pointed out that while the Braves have struggled to get value out of their starters, the Nationals’ starting staff has been the best in baseball. They have emerged as the primary threat to the Braves in the NL East, making the seven head-to-head games in July critical.
It is likely Atlanta will make a move before July 31, as they should. However, I feel it would be unwise not to make the move over the next few days when the new players have the best chance to add direct value. The Braves will be involved in 10 games over the next three weeks that will result in a full game swing in the NL East standings. There is also a good chance they could face Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Aaron Nola over that stretch, including a few of the Nationals’ pitchers multiple times.
The debate as to which players the Braves should target and what packages they should give up will likely fill social media over the next weeks. My personal hope is that speculation will be replaced by satisfaction from the Braves making a proactive move that will help them grab a stronger hold on the NL East lead as well as making Atlanta a bigger threat in the playoffs.