Originally posted on Bloguin Best  |  Last updated 5/23/12

Atlanta Braves
Hitters: A. The Braves team OPS has risen from .695 last year under old hitting coach Larry Parrish to .737 this year under brand new hitting coach Greg Walker. The major improvements include Michael Bourn, in a career year, posting an .815 OPS with three homers and 13 stolen bases, and Martin Prado, fully healthy this year and OPSing .864 behind Bourn at the top of the order. Chipper Jones has been an offensive force while healthy, with an .857 OPS and five homers in just 28 games. The only below average regular on offense is rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, who has a .643 OPS primarily out of the eight-hole.

Pitching: B-. Typically a huge strength for the Braves, their pitching staff this year has struggled outside of Brandon Beachy, who has a 1.77 ERA to stabilize the rotation. Beachy's strikeout rate is down 3.5 batters per nine innings this year though, as he's pitching more to contact. Tim Hudson has been his usual solid self in five starts (3.03 ERA), and Tommy Hanson has pitched well in nine starts (3.31 ERA). The rest of the rotation hasn't been great though, as Jair Jurrjens was demoted to AAA (where he's getting clobbered) after posting a 9.37 ERA and walking more hitters than he struck out in four starts. Mike Minor hasn't been as on point as he was this spring, and currently has a 6.96 ERA. And then, there's rookie Randall Delgado, thoroughly uninspiring at the back of the rotation. The bullpen hasn't been as good either. Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are still dominant, and Kris Medlen has thrived despite a 4.88 strikeout rate, but Eric O'Flaherty has been a disappointment, and Chad Durbin has just been flat-out bad.

Intangibles: B. Fredi Gonzalez isn't a very good in-game manager at all, but I can't think of him specifically costing the Braves any games this year. The Braves have also been a very healthy team this year, only using 13 pitchers and 14 hitters this year.

Overall: A-. This team has been clicking on all cylinders so far this season. They've won series in St Louis, Los Angeles, and Tampa Bay, and they really look like the best team in the NL East this season.

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