The Mets and Braves enter May about where they where before their April series in Atlanta. The Braves have inched just a half game closer and are now 1.5 games back. The NL East has somewhat surprisingly been one of the most competitive divisions, and if the first month of the season was any indication, it will likely remain interesting throughout the next five months. One of the reasons for the Braves’ solid start has been contributions from their young core. Atlanta has only added to their youth since the last time these two clubs faced off, an addition that has the potential to shake up the division.
Acuña’s Arrival: Ronald Acuña Jr.’s call up to the big leagues was anticipated by a wide range of baseball fans, just perhaps not those of the other four NL East teams. Acuña Jr. has hit the ground running, as he has been worth nearly half a win in his first five games. What seems to be one of his unique abilities is to make adjustments while learning the ropes. Through three minor league levels last year, his strikeout rates were as follows: A-31.7%, AA-23%, AAA-19.8%. If Acuña Jr. is able to continue this trend and build on his fast start in the majors, he will be a thorn in the side of Mets players and fans alike.
Teheran’s Trapezius: Julio Teheran, a rotation mainstay for the Braves the last half decade, left his Friday start after just three innings due to tightness in his back. What was especially concerning is Teheran’s velocity. His fastball has only averaged 89.8 mph this season, down from past years, but on Friday, his fastball sat just 87.2 mph. The drop was worrisome enough for the Braves to remove Teheran from the game, but after a few days to assess the injury, Teheran is still scheduled to make his start on Wednesday. Watch Teheran’s velocity, because if it does not rebound quickly, Atlanta may pull him early again.
Inciarte’s Wheels: Ender Inciarte has been known for his quick jumps and good reads in the outfield, as he has won the NL version of the Gold Glove for the outfield each of the last two seasons. He is not really known for his speed, though; he’s not slow, but he is not known as a speed demon either. Through the first month of the season, however, he leads the majors in stolen bases with 13 (the Mets have five guys tied at two). His career steals total before this season: 78. His current 2018 pace: 78. Inciarte’s previous career high was last season with 22, so perhaps he is making a more concerted effort to be more aggressive on the base paths, something the Mets are focusing on too.
The Good: The Braves have three position players already above one WARP through the first month: Freddie Freeman (1.3), Ozzie Albies (1.2), and Nick Markakis (1.0). The Mets have two: Cabrera-1.4 and Frazier-1.3.
The Bad: After starting off as the two batting leaders in the NL, Ryan Flaherty and Dansby Swanson have hit a combined 12-69 (.174) and struck out 24 times (31%) over the last three series.
The Ugly: Braves relievers are walking 6.3 batters per nine innings.
After one month of baseball, the Mets’ playoff odds, according to BP, are sitting at 42.8%. This is tied for first in the NL East (Nationals), but only sixth in the NL (Dbacks – 88.5%, Cubs – 74.4%, Dodgers – 58.2%, and Cardinals – 44.4%).
Photo credit: David Kohl – USA Today Sports