Nobody move. Nobody change underwear. Keep eating whatever you’ve been eating the past two months. Take the same paths to and from work. As I write this the Braves are 7.5 games up on the Phillies and 8 games up on the third-place Nationals. The Braves are 37-22. They have the run differential of a 37-22 team. No other team in the NL East has a positive run differential or a record over .500.
B.J. Upton has an OPS+ of 42. Jason Heyward has an OPS+ of 61. Dan Uggla is hitting like the Braves’ version of Dan Uggla, with a 91 OPS+. (Actually that’s not all that horrible.) The Braves’ regular leadoff hitter this season, Andrelton Simmons, has an OPS+ of 82. Tim Hudson has an ERA+ of 81. The Braves haven’t had Jonny Venters all season. Eric O’Flaherty is out for the rest of the season. Jordan Walden was on the DL for a time.
It’s true Chris Johnson, Jordan Schafer and Ramiro Pena probably aren’t really as good as they’ve been. Evan Gattis may not be as good as he’s been (or maybe he is or maybe he’s superhuman). But these are players the Braves were counting on merely as backups, fill-ins. Even if they get worse, you figure the group of B.J., Heyward and Hudson will get better. Lighting Rod Heyward is the type player that could be one of the best in the league starting at any point of the season.
I still can’t get over the fact that the Atlanta Braves got Justin Upton, when he’s still just 25. The Braves just don’t get those players. Wren went for the homerun (pun intended) this past offseason, taking risks on the Brothers Upton, athletic studs. B.J. hasn’t worked out so far and, while Just has struggles lately, the Braves wouldn’t be in the position they are in without his contributions early on.
You have to figure the Nationals are bound to get healthier and play better, or maybe not with the news that Bryce Harper is suffering what seems to be a serious knee injury. But the Braves now have an 8-game head-start. The Phillies were expected to play around .500 ball, at best. But we lived through 2011. We know it’s way too early to print playoff tickets. But life is good.