The Atlanta Braves were 31-58 at the All-Star break. They're 34-34 since. In sports, nothing is unbelievable -- but this is, kind of.
We worried in April they might lose 120 games. They cannot lose even 100. (T hey also cannot secure the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, and they've fallen below Tampa Bay for No. 2. And Arizona is sinking fast. Wouldn't it be a hoot if the Braves, who were no better than the second-worst team in baseball through mid-August, would wind up picking fourth?)
(Actually, I'm not sure "hoot" would be the word John Coppolella would choose.)
Know who feels semi-clever about this? Yours truly. I picked the Braves to go 71-91. Figuratively speaking, I wadded up that prediction and tossed it toward yonder trashcan 10 days into the season. Well, they're 65-92. If they win their final four games -- they probably won't, seeing that Detroit arrives Friday and is still chasing a wild card -- they'd be 69-92. I'd have missed by 1 1/2 games. I'd take that.
Another true confession: In our emailed Q&A with Coppolella over the All-Star break, he suggested the Braves might still better last season's 67-95. I read that and thought, "No chance." But looky here: If the split these four, they'll be 67-94. That'd be better!
Of all the dizzying numbers regarding this surge, here (again) are the ones that utterly stump the band: The Braves were last in batting average and runs at the break; they're first in BA and fifth in runs since. If they'd pitched just a bit better the second half, they might have wound up 75-87, which would make them the all-time champion in a category that doesn't exist: Best-ever record by a tanking team.
One thing more: Many of you see this turnaround as the reason Brian Snitker should/must be named permanent -- well, permanent for a while -- manager. I'm not sure about that. I have a longtime distrust of interim results. But I give the man credit: With this team, he has done a splendid job.