After an 0-9 start, the Atlanta Braves have played improved baseball, highlighted by a four-game winning streak that inspired some positive mojo surrounding the team. Losing nine consecutive games to begin a season is a sure-fire recipe for negativity, but most of that misery has seemingly been washed away, at least from the perspective of the fan base.
However, the offense put forth by the Braves has been nothing short of brutal.
It is no secret that Atlanta has struggled from a global perspective, but the numbers are shocking in their ineptitude. For example, the Braves currently rank dead last in MLB when it comes to hitting home runs. The team has produced three home runs on the season, with the Angels and Pirates holding a comfortable lead on Atlanta with seven home runs each.
The Rockies have 26 home runs.
Don't worry, there is more. The Braves also land in the basement of the league in slugging percentage with a comical .285 mark as a team, and that leads Atlanta to last place in OPS at just .587 over a 15-game sample. In addition, Atlanta has a woeful .066 ISO as a team this year, and that number would rank at or near the bottom of the league for any individual player under normal circumstances. It is certainly fair to point out that this is "only" 15 games, but given what has taken place, it also isn't crazy to think that this is the league's worst offense in 2016.
To make matters worse, it isn't an offense-only problem for Atlanta. FanGraphs pegs the Braves for a collective -1.6 fWAR (!!!) this season from its position players, which easily rates as the lowest mark of the league, "leading" the Phillies who present a mark of -0.8. Much of that has to do with what has been a bottom five defense in the league, but even FanGraphs' offensive-only statistic comes up with Atlanta as the worst of the worst.
Individually, there have been some positive performances, and they are worth noting. Nick Markakis has been tremendous, posting a .302/.413/.472 slash line with more walks than strikeouts, and he has exceeded any rational preseason expectation. Even Adonis Garcia has made positive offensive contributions, putting up a .379 OBP combined with a career-best 10.9% walk rate. Still, the great majority of individuals on this roster are scuffling in a mighty and troubling way.
The slumping squad is "led" by Freddie Freeman, who is operating in one of the worst stretches of his otherwise strong career. Freeman is walking at a 16.4% rate, but outside of that, his production (.245 slugging) has been woeful by any measure. The struggles of Erick Aybar (.394 OPS), A.J Pierzynski (.511 OPS) and Jace Peterson (.515 OPS) have been well-chronicled, but in the absence of stellar alternatives, each is receiving regular playing time into late April.
In the end, the 2016 Atlanta Braves will be an interesting experiment in many ways, but that won't stop them from being potentially historic in the area of offensive ineptitude. On the bright side, it's only 15 games and maybe, just maybe, things will improve in the (very) near future.