Notable Statistics for the Atlanta Braves Thus Far
The All-Star break may be seen as baseball's official halfway point, but the Atlanta Braves surpassed the mathematical midway mark of the 2013 season over the weekend.
There have been plenty of statistical trends and anomalies to analyze, for individual players and the team alike. Not all the surprises have been good, yet not all have been bad. Baseball has a way of reminding us to expect the unexpected over a 162-game season.
With that said, this slideshow presents a few of the most notable statistical stories thus far.
The Offensive Strikeout Total
When this roster was constructed in the offseason, its track record for piling up strikeouts became an immediate topic of conversation.
Going by 2012 totals alone, it appeared that this Braves team may have been on its way to setting a new club record for most punchouts in a season. Of course, all of those "unproductive outs" would be worth it if the lineup could produce enough runs to generate a championship.
Atlanta hitters have compiled the second-highest strikeout total in the major leagues, with 731 through 83 games. That is an average of 8.8 per night. Only the Houston Astros have struck out more, going down 784 times in 84 games.
The Braves are No. 4 in the National League with 357 runs scored through their first 83 games.
Due to some consistently outstanding pitching, which we will discuss shortly, Atlanta has turned in the second-best run differential in the NL and third best in MLB. The team has outscored opponents by 76 runs. Only the St. Louis Cardinals (108) and Boston Red Sox (83) have better marks.
Here is something fun: Would it surprise you to know that four of the five highest strikeout totals in all of baseball belong to current division leaders?
The Braves sit in second, while the Cleveland Indians (695) are third, the Pittsburgh Pirates (694) are fourth and the Red Sox (692) come in fifth in the highest offensive strikeout tallies this year.
That is a little bit of proof that a high strikeout total can belie a club's record, at least when it comes to the propensity for losing.
Perhaps further taking the edge off of all those strikeouts is Atlanta's ability to work walks. The Braves rank second in the NL and fourth in MLB with 299 bases on balls. Only the Oakland Athletics (319), Red Sox (319) and Reds (301) have drawn more.
Unlike those strikeout totals being somewhat deceptive, the top seven walk totals in baseball belong to clubs with winning records.
Home Runs Aplenty
Along with that high number of strikeouts, the home run ball was expected to be another distinctive feature of the Atlanta lineup.
The Braves have not disappointed in that category, belting 102 homers thus far.
All of that power has come in handy more times than not.
Look no further than Atlanta's 44-9 record when hitting at least one home run and its 5-25 mark when failing to connect.
Justin Upton supplied much of the Braves' power in April. He connected for 12 home runs in the season's first month, but he has hit just three since.
An unexpected surprise was the emergence of rookie catcher Evan Gattis, who is on the shelf with a strained oblique. He paces the club's home run rate, leaving the park once every 11.6 at-bats. Despite battling for playing time and a stint on the DL, Gattis still leads all big league rookies with 14 home runs and 37 RBI.
Overall Pitching Success
The Braves pitching staff faced some question marks coming into the season, but it has proven to be the team's most consistent strength throughout the first 83 games.
Some wondered if guys like Kris Medlen and Mike Minor could continue their successes from 2012. Others noted that Tim Hudson was going to turn 38 during the season. Still more people were curious as to why the Braves would opt to trade Randall Delgado instead of Julio Teheran to Arizona. And essentially everyone was looking forward to the midseason return of Brandon Beachy from Tommy John surgery.
Yet this group is second in all of baseball with a 3.18 ERA, and it held opposing hitters to a .242 average, the fourth-lowest in MLB.
Here is a more detailed breakdown:
Hudson and Medlen worked through some difficulties and have provided their share of quality efforts. The run support has not exactly benefited either man in the win column, but both have made their contributions.
Meanwhile, Minor has been great. Unlike 2012, the young left-hander did not have to deal with a disastrous start to his season. His 8-3 record and staff-best 2.98 ERA are proof that he is continuing to make great strides in his career.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the work of veteran lefty Paul Maholm, who reeled off a shutout streak to open the season and has piled up a team-leading nine wins.
Then, of course, there is Teheran. He is carving out a place among the best young arms in baseball. We'll discuss him in more detail later.
The questions that were floating around regarding the rotation were still very much in play, as various relievers began landing on the disabled list, some with season-ending injuries.
Losing Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters to Tommy John surgery was hardly part of the plan. It seemed that was around the same time that Craig Kimbrel battled through some struggles of his own. Thankfully for Atlanta, its closer's rough patch did not last long.
All things considered, guys like Cory Gearrin, Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro have come up big all season. Jordan Walden returned from the DL to serve as a viable late-inning arm once again. More recent additions David Carpenter and Alex Wood have also paid dividends.
Expect some reinforcements for the staff before the deadline passes, but this entire staff has done an excellent job.
The Enigmatic Outfield
The offensive ups and downs of the Atlanta outfielders have combined to make the vaunted trio fall well short of preseason expectations.
Justin Upton was great in April, but he has struggled since.
B.J. Upton was dreadful over the season's first two months, but he seemed to turn the corner in June.
Jason Heyward has been better since he returned from the DL following an emergency appendectomy in late April.
Rather than rehashing the first three months or even reciting each man's current statistics, I propose pooling the numbers to see just how far they are behind even last year's performance.
Here is what the three men have averaged together through July 2, 2013:
Here is what the three outfielders averaged in 2012:
Needless to say, there is a high degree of disappointment in the early returns.
This trio has at least two more years together, barring any transactions or injuries that change that plan. The fact remains, it is going to extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible, to reach their levels from just a season ago.
Unfortunately, that was the perceived floor of what the three could do together in 2013.
Dominance at Turner Field
The Braves have enjoyed playing at Turner Field this season, compiling a major league-leading 29-11 home record through July 2. That torrid pace has gone a long way toward helping Atlanta build the biggest lead in any division in baseball, standing seven games ahead of the Washington Nationals.
From year to year, teams can fluctuate when it comes to being better at home or away. Some teams are road warriors, building a large part of their success from stealing games in enemy territory. Others simply hold serve on the road and pile up victories at home.
Atlanta has done the latter, turning in a 20-23 away record thus far this season after finishing 11 games over .500 on the road last year.
Looking around baseball, only the Boston Red Sox (29-16) have as many home victories as Atlanta. In fact, the Braves have won only one less game at home than the Miami Marlins and the Houston Astros have won all season, both home and away.
One other interesting note: There are two entire divisions in which no team has a winning record on the road. Every team in the NL West is over .500 at home and below .500 away. All but one team in the American League Central is .500 at home, while all have turned in losing records on the road.
Freddie Freeman's Clutch Hitting
Freddie Freeman has shown the uncanny ability to come through with runners on base this season.
At just 23 years old, he is enjoying a breakout season as the driving force in the heart of the Atlanta lineup. One look at his .310/.384/.474 slash line shows that he has overcome the vision problem that plagued him in 2012.
Despite missing two weeks with a strained oblique in April, Freeman has a team-leading 54 RBI. While his home run total is not tops on the team, his nine homers and 15 doubles have helped him provide some consistency in an otherwise inconsistent lineup.
It all comes down to his work in key situations when the Braves have run-scoring opportunities.
Freeman is hitting .373/.444/.573 with runners on this season, compared to just .246/.322/.381 with the bases empty. It is as though he rises to meet the challenge. That is a great trait for a cleanup man to have.
He gets even better with runners in scoring position, boasting a .415/.513/.554 line with 39 RBI in 80 plate appearances.
Two outs and runners in scoring position? Even better. Freeman is .419/.514/.613 with 21 RBI in 37 plate appearances in such situations.
Keep sifting through the statistics, and more and more examples of Freeman's clutch hitting arise. For example, he is batting .354 with 23 RBI when he comes to bat and the game is tied.
Much of the damage he has inflicted on opposing pitchers has been done at home. Freeman is batting .338 with eight of his nine home runs and 36 of his 54 RBI at his home park.
Perhaps he is the Braves' not-so-secret weapon when it comes to winning at Turner Field.
Julio Teheran's Stellar Pitching
Following his run of success in May, I wrote that Teheran was transforming from top prospect to top starter. Some of the comments posted were fascinating.
Just look at the improvement that the young right-hander continues to make. Each month is better than the one before it.
Since giving up four or more runs in each of his first three starts of the season, Teheran has only allowed it to happen once in the 12 starting assignments since.
During his last 12 starts, he's compiled a 2.27 ERA in 79.1 IP. He fanned a career-high 11 batters over eight one-hit innings June 5 against Pittsburgh and closed the month with 10 more strikeouts in six shutout innings against Arizona June 28.
It is not simply the results Teheran has gotten, but also the way he has gone about his business that indicates that Atlanta was wise to hold on to him when it explored trades to bolster the roster last winter.
As I said in my piece from late May, Teheran has benefited immensely from adding pitches to his arsenal and also learning how to mix those offerings effectively. He's transitioned from a thrower who was good enough to get by minor league bats the first time through to a pitcher who can carve up a major league lineup.
And the best may be yet to come from all of those gentlemen.
Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Atlanta Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. You can follow Grant on Twitter.