April 29, 2014

Feel the Power

On Sunday, Buster Olney tweeted his weekly power rankings, and you’ll never guess who nabbed the top spot. Here’s his top ten:

1) Atlanta Braves

2) Milwaukee Brewers

3) Oakland Athletics

4) San Fransisco Giants

5) Texas Rangers

6) Los Angeles Dodgers

7) New York Yankees

8) Washington Nationals

9) Detroit Tigers

10) Baltimore Orioles

It’s nice when your team gets a little bit of attention from the mainstream media. I consider it the sports fan equivalent of a stranger complimenting your new haircut. Just a small acknowledgement that you exist and matter. And although plenty of people will tell you otherwise, Buster knows his baseball. Plus, Atlanta also came in at the top of the SI.com and MLB.com power rankings. So how much can we read into this? Are party hats and confetti appropriate? Are the Braves the best team in baseball?

Short answer: Yes.

Only the Brew Crew have a better winning percentage, and, as of this morning, the Braves are the only team with a winning record against Milwaukee. Our league-best team ERA is .52 points lower than Milwaukee’s. We’ve held opponents to a .211 BA, also tops in baseball, and our 58 runs allowed is best by a whopping 24 runs. Our defense has saved more runs than any other, shortening games and keeping pitch counts down for our starters. Clutch hitting and a great bullpen anchored by Kimbrel makes us very difficult to beat in close games. Our record is 11-5 in games decided by two runs or less. We are now not only the favorites in the East, but the favorites in the NL.

Still, there’s no denying room for improvement. You could park a bulldozer in our room for improvement. There’s a big, gaping hole on the right side of second base and in the bottom half of our lineup, and his name is Dan Uggla. But the Struggs isn’t the only issue. Our team as a whole ranks 20th in BA (.245) and 23rd in OBP (.304). We’ve scored a mere 89 runs in 24 games, 27th in the MLB. To put that in perspective, that’s just one more run than the last-place 8-16 Cubs. The third-place Gnats have scored 115.

What are power rankings, anyway? It’s far from science. The formula seems to be a mix of statistics, speculation, conjecture, insider trading, and coin flipping. There’s something very arbitrary about it all. It’s not like the analysts don’t see our offensive numbers. They can’t be ignored. But with the Braves topping three of these lists, here’s what I take away from it: excellent pitching and serviceable batting can be a recipe for success.

I guess I was surprised by these rankings because “Power” implies dominance. The Braves haven’t been playing like a dominant team, just a winning team. Only 6 of our wins have been decided by more than 2 runs. But when you get down to it, a win by 1 run counts the same as a win by 10.



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