Originally written on BravesWire  |  Last updated 11/19/14
Mlb_jun_01_725c

By Kent Covington

OF Michael Bourn is putting up all-star numbers in'12.

The first-place Atlanta Braves are currently 23-14, having played.622 baseball to this point. Projected over a 162 games, that equates to a 101-61 record.

And at 22-14 (.611), the second-place Washing Nationals are on track to post a 99-63 record.

Could either or both of these teams really win 100 games–or something close to it?  Glad you asked.

When you ask that question, what you’re really asking is “Have the Braves and/or the Nationals overachieved thus far?” That’s a good question. Let’s tackle it.

The Braves are second in the NL in runs scored. They’re scoring approximately 5.3 runs per game. To put that in context, last year the St. Louis Cardinals led the league in scoring with 4.7 runs per game. The Braves have a loaded lineup and a solid bench, so their offensive success is no fluke.

Jason Heyward and Martin Prado appear to be rebounding nicely from their disappointing ’11 seasons and the team is benefiting greatly from a full season of Michael Bourn at the top of the lineup. However, it is unlikely that they will continue to score well over 5 runs per game. I would estimate that their run production will drop by about 10-12% between now and the end of the season. So it would be fair to say the Braves have performed slightly above their heads, offensively.

On the other hand, Atlanta is just 13th in the NL in team ERA (4.09). Given the quality and depth of this pitching staff, it is reasonable to assume it has fallen short of its potential so far this season. Jair Jurrjens, who struggled mightily in April (since demoted to triple-A Gwinnett), has been replaced veteran Ace Tim Hudson, who started his season late after rehabbing from offseason back surgery. That represents a huge upgrade in the starting rotation.

Also, Mike Minor’s stratospheric 6.59 ERA is bound to come down considerably as will, one would think, the ERA’s of relievers Eric O’Flaherty (5.14) and Chad Durbin (7.62). Conversely, the white-hot Brandon Beachy cannot possibly maintain a 1.60 ERA over 30+ starts. But overall, it appears the Braves’ pitching staff has underachieved in the run prevention category. I estimate a 12-15% improvement in Atlanta’s team ERA, inching closer to the 3.48 earned run average the Atlanta staff posted last year.

To summarize, the Braves run production is likely to drop 10-12%. However their ERA should improve 12-15%. Therefore, on balance, it is hard to make a strong case that the Braves have overachieved to this point. I see no reason to believe their success is not sustainable.  A win total in the mid-90’s or better appears well within reach.

Okay, so what about the Nats?

The Washington Nationals have struggled to score runs so far in 2012. They score 3.6 runs per game and are 14th in the NL in run production. That’s not entirely surprising. This is a flawed lineup. However, it is reasonable to expect the power numbers of OF Jayson Werth (3 HR) and 3B Ryan Zimmerman (1 HR) to improve. The Nats are also awaiting the return of 1B/OF slugger Michael Morse. On the flip side, Adam LaRoche, who boasts a .325 avg and a .975 OPS is likely fall back to earth in the not-too-distant future. Ultimately, I believe the Nats will score more runs, but they will remain a middle-of-the-pack ballclub, offensively. I look for a 12-13% increase in run production.

Former Brave, 1B Adam LaRoche is carrying the Nats' offense

Pitching is the Nationals’ strength. They lead the NL with a 2.86 team ERA, and there’s nothing phony about Washington’s pitching prowess. Their rotation is formidable and their bullpen is solid. But while their pitching success is legitimate, it’s also inflated. At the end of April, the Nats’ ERA stood at an impressive 2.33. That ERA has jumped up by a half-run over the past couple of weeks, and not coincidentally, they are just 5-5 over their last 10 games. They are where they are in the standings because, through the first month of the season, their pitching staff performed roughly 50% better than it can possible perform over the course of 162 games.

In short, while the Nats’ offense is likely to improve a bit, their team ERA is on the rise, and it still has at least another half-run or so to climb before reaching a sustainable level.  The Nationals aren’t likely to stick the Braves into late September. However, they could cross the 90-win threshold for the first time since relocating to Washington, which would certainly be a proud accomplishment for the former division laughingstock.

Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

LeBron's triple-double leads Cavs to win in OT thriller

Report: Adrian Peterson will skip Vikings first OTAs

Corey Brewer: We got our butt kicked, it was embarrassing

Brian Kelly hints Notre Dame will have fast offense

John Madden: Last play of Super Bowl will 'torment' Pete Carroll

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cristiano Ronaldo nets hat trick, sets career high for goals

WATCH: Cormier tells Jones to get his s-- together

Fans holding 'Free Tom Brady Rally' at Gillette Stadium

Josh Hamilton to be activated by Rangers

WATCH: Top CB recruit makes insane catch doing backflip

Biggest surprises of the MLB season

Most valuable non-QB for each NFL team

Federer unhappy with security after fan comes on court

WATCH: LeBron throws down ferocious dunk in traffic

WATCH: Al Horford ejected for elbowing Matthew Dellavedova

Seahawks fan starts GoFundMe for Russell Wilson's contract

Billy Donovan thanks Florida fans with full-page ad

WATCH: Daniel Cormier gets into it with Ryan Bader

Jim Harbaugh compares his driving to Jeff Gordon's

WATCH: High school seals win with perfect hidden ball trick

Warriors crush Rockets in Houston to take 3-0 series lead

WATCH: D'Angelo Russell whiffs on horrible golf swing

Brian Matusz ejected for having foreign substance on arm

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Most valuable non-QB for each NFL team

WATCH: LeBron's ferocious dunk in traffic

Kelly drops hint about ND offense

John Madden: Last SB play will 'torment' Carroll

Eight biggest surprises of the MLB season

Bryan Price ejected before first pitch

Vin Scully narrates marriage proposal

Pats fan's obituary defends Brady

Marlins players skip own charity event

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.