The Atlanta Braves finished April at the top of the NL East largely because of an incredible month by their starting pitchers. Their starters lead the MLB in ERA, and the Braves currently lead the majors in overall ERA. Expectations for the starting rotation were extremely low at the start of the season because of injuries to many key pitchers, but they have resoundingly responded by surprising critics with incredible performances basically all month long. Mike Minor’s return on Friday night will give the Braves an added bonus that will boost an already elite rotation. The Braves’ offense has scored runs in many important games, and the recent improvements that B.J. Upton has recently helped the team out. However, their record could be even better if the hitters were able to improve on a very bad average of .217 with runners in scoring position.
Player of the Month
Freddie Freeman – As the true leader of the offense last year, Freeman is showing that he is capable of carrying this offense for many years to come by being the most consistent hitter on the team, so far. At the end of April, he had a batting average of .320 with 6 home runs and 17 RBI. Freeman is such a dangerous hitter in that he is able to hit the ball to any part of the field effectively, plus he seems to have developed more power in his swing over the offseason. It is increasingly becoming clear that Freddie is the official face of the franchise, which is a spot that has been vacant since Chipper Jones retired. Despite a recent slump that Freeman is struggling through, he was still the most impactful bat on the team for most of the month.
Pitcher of the Month
Julio Teheran – This is the toughest award to hand out — it is like asking, “Which of these 5 carat diamond rings is shiniest?” Of all the amazing performances by the Atlanta Braves pitchers, which have significantly contributed to them being on top of their division, Teheran’s has been the most dominant and reassuring. He has truly look like the ace of the staff, and he has dominated hitters with great command and devastating movement on his pitches. Tehran ended the month of April with a 2-1 record to go along with a 1.47 ERA in a team-leading 43 innings.
Justin Upton – Upton has absolutely torn it up in April for the Braves in his first two seasons with the ball club. For the month, he had a batting average of .326 to go along with 8 home runs and 18 RBI. However, throughout his career Upton has been known to be a very streaky hitter who is either killing the ball or struggling mightily at the plate. If he is able to keep a consistent pace that is similar to what he produced in April, he would then be a strong contender for the NL MVP race.
Dan Uggla – While he has shown some signs of progression at the plate, Uggla has still struggled as the Braves’ starting second baseman. He has not had a single RBI since he knocked in five runs on April 14 against the Phillies. Since that game, he has 8 hits in 48 at-bats with nothing to show besides four errors. An impressive hot streak, which Uggla has done before, would greatly help propel his statistics and overall standing as a starter, because Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky are itching for his everyday job.
Keys to Winning
April was a very good month for the Atlanta Braves, as their incredible pitching and powerful offense have put them at the top of the NL East. For success in moving forward this season, the Braves will need to find consistency in their offense. This means that the team should not solely rely on the home run and instead focus on advancing runners and timely hitting. With the recent sweep of the Braves by the Marlins, it showed that Atlanta’s pitching is not untouchable. It was inevitable that reality would come knocking, but the pitching should still be very solid for the rest of the season. If the starters are able to keep going 6+ innings for the majority of their starts, this would give the bullpen some valuable rest that could come in handy during the later parts of the season.
Commentary by Glen Parris
Guardian Liberty Voice Writer Covering the Atlanta Braves