Heading into play this weekend, the Atlanta Braves are pacing the field in the NL East, sporting a 45-34 record, a five-game lead in the loss column on the Washington Nationals and a plus-55 run differential that profiles as second best in the National League.
Despite their place in the standings and a deep, talented roster that should compete all season for a spot in October, the Braves have been two different teams this season: a dominant (25-11) outfit at Turner Field, but a (20-23) porous group away from home.
While owning the best home record in the National League should be enough to keep Atlanta around the top of the division all summer long, the team is only one of two division-leading clubs, along with the Detroit Tigers, to playing losing baseball away from its home building.
Much of the blame for Atlanta's inconsistency this season has been placed upon an offense that can perform as feat or famine. Simply put, when the Braves hit home runs, they win baseball games at a very high clip. When they fail to hit the ball over the wall, scoring any runs becomes a difficult task.
Yet, the reason for home-road splits can't be placed upon the offense. Instead, look to a pitching staff that has lost its way when leaving the confines of Turner Field.
After acknowledging that Atlanta has played seven more games on the road (43) than at home (36) thus far in 2013, the discrepancy in runs scored versus runs allowed is startling.
At home, Atlanta has allowed just 103 total runs for the season in their building. On the road, that number jumps to 168.
Placing the blame on the pitching, rather than the hit or miss offense, is put into context when looking at Atlanta's home-road run differential.
Through 36 home games, the Braves own a plus-55 run differential at home, giving credence to their stellar record.
Through 43 road games, the Braves own a run differential of exactly even (168-168), which actually makes their 20-23 record on the road actually look like they've suffered from a bit of bad luck.
As a collective pitching staff, the team is allowing 3.91 runs per game on the road, but only 2.86 runs per game allowed away from home.
In assessing the five-man starting pitching staff, four of five members of the group have been better at Turner Field, but two veterans, Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson, stand out as egregious offenders of the home versus road conundrum.
The following are the home ERAs for each of the Braves five starters (Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson and Julio Teheran, respectively): 3.33, 1.80, 2.63, 2.22, 2.52.
The following are the road ERA's for each of the Braves five starters, respectively: 2.63, 5.09, 3.40, 5.71, 3.96.
Outside of Mike Minor, the Braves rotation has been much, much more effective at home, setting the stage for a team that is dominant at Turner Field, but mediocre away.
Considering that Kris Meden and Julio Teheran's numbers jump from great to merely good, neither look like big issues moving forward this summer.
The issues and splits of Maholm (1.80 vs. 5.09) and Hudson (2.22 vs. 5.71), however, should give Braves fans some trepidation moving forward, especially if one of their turns is due on the road during a postseason series or a potential big NL East battle in Washington down the stretch of September.
Many teams struggle with home-road splits, but the diagnosis for Atlanta is easy to understand.
Of course, unless the Braves make a change in their rotation, it's hard to actually fix.
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