COMMENTARY | In 2005, the Atlanta Braves were undefeated in games in which I was in attendance.
This is, of course, was a coincidence. But being 19 years old, it was one that I bragged about to all my friends; I thought I was the Braves' talisman. So much so that a friend and I bought tickets to the first four games of the Division Series and planned to drive to Houston for the away games. I ended up selling the away tickets so that I could go to an Atlanta Falcons-New England Patriots game, and the Braves lost both games, including the famous 18-inning Game 4 to be eliminated from the playoffs.
I beat myself up over that for a while. So, every year, I keep track of how well the Braves do when I'm in the stadium, and can't help but let it affect how I feel about the season after the last game is played.
If you're similar to me in this regard, you probably ought to be headed out to Turner Field this season. A lot.As we approach the midway point of the season, the Braves have put together a 23-8 record at home, the best mark in the majors. No other team has lost fewer than 10 games at home and despite playing the fewest number of home games this season, Atlanta is third in the majors in home wins. The Braves have yet to lose a home series, which bodes well both for fans hoping to see a win when they come to the ballpark, as well as what will hopefully be a long run through the playoffs.
What is behind this home success? Look no further than the pitching. While Braves hitters have been slightly better at home, the pitching has been nearly unstoppable. Atlanta has a 2.32 ERA at home, a figure that leads the majors and is nearly a half run better than the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates. The Braves are the only team to allow fewer than 100 runs at home this season, and opponents' hitters are batting a paltry .213 at Turner Field. As a staff, Atlanta's pitchers have a home WHIP of 1.00. Contrast those figures with the middle-of-the-pack numbers away from home, and you can see what is making the difference for the Braves.Turner Field has traditionally played as a fairly average ballpark, perhaps favoring hitters very slightly. It doesn't have the wild advantages one way or the other like the stadiums in Denver or San Diego. The Braves were dealt a difficult first-half hand, schedule-wise, with the majority of their games played on the road and two very long road trips. It is entirely possible that Atlanta is a very good ballclub that hasn't played to its potential on the road yet. The second half of the season will help decide that.
The flip side of that coin, of course, is the possibility that Atlanta is an average team playing above its abilities at home. This seems unlikely, as the Braves have put together this stretch of success while battling injuries to key players in the lineup and bullpen, as well as seeing several players play below their abilities. This is a team that, on paper, should win a bunch of ballgames and as we go forward through the season, the games should bear that out.Improbably, the Braves are not undefeated in games that I've been to this season. I somehow managed to be at Turner Field for one of those eight losses. While I always dreamed of being the "good luck charm" a la Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Angels in the Outfield, unfortunately, that has not been the case. But short of divine intervention, it is clear that Atlanta is doing something right at home, and we'll just have to hope it continues.
In the meantime, Braves fans should be flocking to the Ted; you're likely to catch a win if you do.
Joe Thomas was raised and lives within shouting distance of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. He is the sports editor for The Sting, the student newspaper of Southern Polytechnic State University.
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