COMMENTARY | Despite having their ten-game winning streak snapped by the Kansas City Royals, the Atlanta Braves still boast the best record in all of baseball. When a team is having the level of success that the Braves are enjoying in 2013, the record books had better start cowering in fear. Atlanta is currently on pace to rewrite many of their franchise's all-time marks, some of which have been standing for over four decades.
Team: 235 in 2003
In 2003, Javy Lopez, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Chipper Jones, Marcus Giles and Vinny Castilla all hit over 20 home runs for the Braves. No surprise that their efforts resulted in the season during which a franchise record 235 balls left the yard. But, if the start of the 2013 season foreshadows accurately, this Braves' club has an opportunity to leave that total far in their rearview mirror.
With 25 home runs in just 14 games this season, the Braves are ranked No. 1 in all of baseball. Currently, Atlanta is set to hit 289 bombs this year. The scary part of this equation is that some of the power hitters the Braves thought to rely on heavily for their homers have not even really pulled out the big stick yet.
B.J. Upton has only gone deep one time, as has the injured Freddie Freeman. While every single starter does have at least one jack this season, Justin Upton (8) and Evan Gattis (4) have combined for almost half of their total. If the other power hitters begin to emerge, 289 might be on the low end of what the Braves will look to shoot for in 2013.
Individual: Andruw Jones, 51 in 2005
Who would have guessed the all-time home-run record for the Braves was held by someone other than Hank Aaron? Even though Hammerin' Hank ended his career with 755 homers, the most he ever hit in any season was the 47 he belted in 1971.
While I'm not sure Justin Upton will reach the 92 home runs he is currently on pace for, the start to the 2013 season clearly indicates that Jones' record of 51 might be in jeopardy. Upton's career high is only 31, but at just 25-years-old, the Braves' newest slugger may just now be entering his prime.
Team: 1,169 in 2006
Thanks to the Braves starting 2013 by striking out more than the Harvard chess team on Lady's Night, Atlanta is currently at risk of destroying their dubious punch-out record. At just under nine Ks per game, the Braves would finish with umpires having politely asked them to go sit down 1,400 times.
Individual: Dan Uggla, 168 in 2012
Uggla is entering his third season with Atlanta, yet the power-hitting second baseman has already broken the Braves' individual strikeout record twice. He set a new mark in 2011 when he struck out 156 times, and then he chose to one-up himself in 2012 by moving that record to 168.
Unfortunately, Uggla's record might not be safe. Both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton are on pace to add over 170 strikeouts to their 2013 resumes. But, if Uggla is going to lose his record, he is going to "go down swinging." With 18 strikeouts in the first 14 games, he is set to eclipse the franchise record for a third time. He is currently on a trajectory which would have him ending the season with 208 whiffs.
The infamous Golden Sombrero denotes a player who strikeouts four times in a single game, but, with the 2013 Atlanta Braves, a new term may need to be coined. Perhaps the "Plaid Trucker's Cap" would work for a five or six strikeout game. Here is hoping none of the Braves' players will have to don that unfortunate piece of headwear this season.
Team: 2.92 in 1968
On a pitching staff which included Phil Niekro and Milt Pappas, Ken Johnson had the highest ERA of any starter at just 3.47. In the 1968 season, three of the five regular rotation starters had a sub-3.00 ERA. The staff as a whole gave up just 549 runs all season (478 earned).
While the 2013 season has just started, the Braves' staff has been all-time great. Atlanta currently leads baseball with a 1.77 ERA, and three of their five starters have a sub-2.00 ERA. The Braves have only allowed 27 runs to score this season. The second-lowest National League total is the 53 runs the St. Louis Cardinals have coughed up to opposing teams.
Individual Greg Maddux, 1.56 in 1994
The 1994 season was one for the ages for Greg Maddux. He won his third consecutive Cy Young Award and tallied a Braves' record 1.56 ERA. Surprisingly, "The Professor" was even better on the road in 1994, as he recorded a miniscule 1.37 ERA in opposing ballparks. And just to prove he wasn't a one-trick ERA pony, Maddux came back in 1995 and picked up another Cy Young Award for tossing a 1.63 ERA. Since 2001, no starting pitcher has finished the season with a sub-2.00 ERA.
Paul Maholm is currently blanking opposing teams, as he has started his second season with Atlanta by posting a 3-0 record with a 0.00 ERA. It may be very early for Maholm, but the 14-game winning streak and 24 total wins by John Smoltz in 1996 is also a couple of records to keep in mind.
But Maholm isn't the only Braves' pitcher with eyes on Maddux's ERA mark. Mike Minor's 0.95 and Kris Medlen's 1.42 ERAs are impressive in their own rights. Still, history says that diving below the 2.00 level simply does not happen in today's MLB.
It may be a pipe dream to think any of these Braves' records will fall, but in the game of baseball, every season is a new opportunity to be great, and so far, the 2013 Atlanta Braves have been just that.
Other Records In Jeopardy
Saves: John Smoltz, 55 in 2002
Home Runs by a Rookie: Earl Williams, 33 in 1971
RBIs: Gary Sheffield, 132 in 2003
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter based in "Braves Country." He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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