To say the least, it was a chaotic, unstable, and disappointing first half for the Atlanta Braves. They did not end the first half of the season with a winning record, let alone a .500 record. They entered the All-Star break with a losing record of 44-45.
Inconsistency was a big factor in that. Their pitching was all over the place – especially the bullpen. In their starting rotation, Charlie Morton was the only reliable one. And that is still somewhat true coming into this second half of the season. Drew Smyly has gotten more consistent, as well as Max Fried and Ian Anderson. But Atlanta’s bullpen was, and is, the main problem. Their bullpen couldn’t keep a Braves’ lead in a tight scoring game or keep the run differential close in a situation where the Braves were losing. Another problem that their pitching staff has is that they walk WAY too many batters. It seems almost every time pitchers walk a guy, they come back and score. Walks will always come back to haunt a pitcher. They’ve also had some closer problems: AJ Minter and Will Smith. They come on to pitch in the ninth inning, and it seems like they try to find a way to blow the game. They walk batters, give up home runs, allow hits and runs galore. This season they have given up almost 30 hits, 30 runs, and over 20 walks. They doesn’t pitch every single day, but those aren’t the numbers you want to see from your closers.
The Braves have also been tortured with injuries. The most significant of those would be the most recent: Ronald Acuña Jr. is out of the rest of the season. And, of course, his season-ending injury came against the Miami Marlins. In game two of the most recent series played with Miami (July 10th), Acuña was trying to field a well-hit ball at the warning track in right field. He ran full speed towards the baseball in mid-air and missed. He then fell and put all of his body weight on his right knee, which buckled under all the pressure. He then collapsed, and after being carted off the field, he was examined and he’d torn his right ACL. He had to have immediate surgery, and he will miss the rest of the 2021 season.
Atlanta will now have to finish their 2021 season without their young superstar. Obviously things will be different offensively and defensively, but I don’t think this takes them out of postseason chances. The Braves will just have to work harder and play a better. And if they do make it to the postseason, it will prove just how good this Atlanta Braves team really is.
Another injury- which turned into a shocking blow, came in the month of May. This came from Marcell Ozuna. On May 26th, against the Boston Red Sox, Ozuna fractured two fingers sliding into third base. He was sent to Atlanta for examination and treatment. Three days later, on May 29th an article was released that he had been arrested for domestic family violence. That was certainly a shocking and unexpected blow for the Braves. Not only is he hurt and won’t be able to play this season… but he was arrested, and got out of jail not too long ago. So he is definitely done for this season, if not for the rest of his career.
The Braves also lost Travis d’Arnaud to a torn left thumb ligament. He tore it on May 1st and has been on the injured list since. Hopefully he can come back in mid-August. He is such a good player, and it’s a shame for him to not be able to play.
The final injury that I’m going to discuss is that of Huascar Ynoa. Ynoa had pitched some with the Braves in relief during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, but his career as a starting pitcher really began this season. And boy, was he impressive! In fact, he was probably the best pitcher Atlanta had AND he could hit. In seventeen at-bats, he had six hits, and two home runs – one of witch was a grand slam. A GRAND SLAM!! He was beyond impressive at the plate and on the mound.
However, after a frustrating start on the mound for Huascar, he went into the Braves dugout and punched the bench. Nothing was said of it during the game in mid-May. But after his hand was evaluated, he had broken it. So disappointing. He was such an impressive young player and had (hopefully still has) such a great career ahead of him. He was, is, and will be missed by the Braves. Ynoa’s return date isn’t clear, but it is not expected until after the middle of August.
Although the Braves had many struggles and hard times in the first half of the season, they had shining moments that gave us hope that the Atlanta Braves we know and love are still with us!
Up to his season-ending injury, Ronald Acuña Jr. had an amazing season. He hit twenty-four home runs… TWENTY-FOUR! That is an insane amount. Multiple players across MLB don’t hit that many home runs in an entire 162-game season. He definitely had some sparks coming off his bat almost every time he was at the plate. Acuña was to make his second All-Star Game appearance as a starter this year, but obviously his injury robbed him of that great opportunity. He also led all of MLB players in All-Star votes. Wow!
Ozzie Albies had a great first half to his 2021 season. No, he hasn’t hit as many home runs as Acuña, nor is he the “face of the franchise,” but he is just as good – if not better than Acuña. He leads the Braves in RBI’s with 63, and he leads them in doubles with 27. Not only is Ozzie impressive at the plate, he is extremely impressive on the field. His defensive skills are through the roof! He may be smaller than everyone else… but he can run fast, field well, and make super hard plays look easy. My Ozzie is a consistent, reliable player that the Braves can count on. He was also voted into the All-Star game – and he got to play! It was his second appearance, and he wasn’t a starter, even though he should have been. Albies is such a fun player to watch, and I can’t wait to see what he continues to bring for Atlanta the rest of the season!
Freddie Freeman got off to a very, very slow first few weeks for Atlanta, but he finally started to heat up and look like the MVP Freddie we are used too. Coming into the break (and even now out of the break) his bat was hot. He was hitting extra base hits galore. Before his bat came to life, all he did was walk…or strikeout. Freeman was also awarded the honor of being in the All-Star game. It was his fifth All-Star appearance, and he was a starter.
There are SO MANY good things that have happened already for the Braves this season – even with them having a losing record and their struggles. However, with their two newly added players: outfielder Joc Pederson and catcher Stephen Vogt, I believe that Atlanta will hit a streak where everything starts to click and they will get to a winning record. They really need to put some major pressure on the first place Mets in the NL East.