• Exclusives

    Here’s the GOOD news, Braves fans…

    Jason Heyward boasts a 1.136 OPS over his last 14 games.

    If you’re a Braves fan, there’s plenty of bad news to go around. They’re in 3rd place. They’ve struggled somewhat of late, just 3-7 in their last 10 games. The bullpen hasn’t been the dominant force it was expected to be. Jurrjens struggled so badly in April that he’s spent the remainder of the season up ‘til now at AAA. Young lefty starter Mike Minor has an ERA over 6.00. Brian McCann is hitting .234 with a .721 OPS. Freddie Freeman’s hitting .247 with a .295 OBP and a .733 OPS. And of course, they just lost their young ace Brandon Beachy to a season-ending elbow injury.

    But for those who prefer to focus on the positive, there’s plenty of good news as well.

    •  First of all, despite all that has gone wrong, they’re still 5 games over .500, just 3.5 games out of first place in the NL East and only a half-game behind the Mets for one of the two NL Wild Card slots.

    •  The Braves are 3rd in the NL in runs scored, and a Jason Heyward surge, coupled with the arrival of Andrelton Simmons, seems to be breathing new life into this offense.

    •  Beachy’s injury occurred BEFORE the non-waiver trade deadline, giving the Braves an opportunity to explore external replacements.

    •  Mike Minor has looked much better of late. He’s posted a 2.50 ERA over his last 3 starts. That’s a small sample, but that’s also a start, right?

    •  Johnny Venters has allowed an earned run in just 1 of his last 11 appearances.

    And ya know, the Braves might just find encouragement from an unlikely source: The 2011 St Louis Cardinals. Ironic, huh? The ’11 Cards were the team that took advantage of the Braves’ late season collapse to steal the NL Wild Card berth from Atlanta. They, of course, rode that momentum all the way to a World Series victory. They did that despite quite a bit having gone wrong, starting with losing their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the entire year before the season ever began. So their success could be an inspiration to the ’12 Braves.

    There’s hope. The Braves offense has been good, but it’s capable of being even better if Freddie Freeman and/or Brian McCann bounce back with a strong second half. Atlanta is 8th in the NL in team ERA (4.01). The pitching staff as a whole has underachieved thus far, and even without Beachy, they may be capable of improving on that team ERA.

    The loss of Brandon Beachy is a huge blow to this Braves ballclub, but there are still plenty of reasons to remain hopeful if you’re a Braves fan.