The Atlanta Braves, viewed as co-favorites to fight for the National League East division alongside the New York Mets, are currently third with a losing 30-33 record.
Several things have happened that weren’t expected.
The team, clearly, hasn’t been able to recover and are currently five games behind the Mets.
These three Braves are to blame for the early-season struggles.
3. Freddie Freeman
It’s not that Freddie Freeman has been bad in 2021; that hasn’t been the case at all.
It’s just that more is expected from the reigning NL MVP.
As of Monday morning, Freeman is batting .237/.354/.461 with 15 home runs.
Those numbers aren’t bad at all, but the Braves will need more from Freeman if they are going to try and catch the Mets in the East.
Last season he was incredible, hitting .341/.462/.640 with a 1.102 OPS, carrying the Braves into the playoffs in the short campaign.
His current .815 OPS would be his lowest mark since his 2012.
Freeman is talented enough that his full-season numbers will likely pick up when all is said and done, but it needs to happen for the team to start piling up more wins.
There is hope for him, as he is still hitting the ball as hard as ever.
Freddie Freeman still ranks top-10 in the National League in hard-hit rate and average exit velocity. pic.twitter.com/aO46qQmena
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) June 13, 2021
2. Drew Smyly
Drew Smyly was signed over the offseason to provide some stability and upside to the Braves’ rotation.
He had a fantastic 2020 campaign, but this year, he has been bad, to put it kindly.
The left-hander has a 5.63 ERA in 56 frames.
Other run-prevention metrics, such as ERA and FIP, agree that he hasn’t been effective, with 6.01 and 4.91, respectively.
According to FanGraphs, Smyly has been a below replacement player, with a -0.4 Wins Above Replacement or WAR.
Home runs have been a notorious issue for the southpaw in 2021, as he has allowed 2.41 per nine innings.
For the Braves to start winning more games, they need their rotation to be better, especially Smyly.
1. Marcell Ozuna
Marcell Ozuna is on this list for both sport-related and off-the-field reasons.
On the field, he is well off his 2020 pace, hitting .213 with 21 runs, seven home runs, 26 RBI, and a bad .644 OPS.
Of course, last season was a contract year for him, and he slashed .338/.431/.636 with 18 dingers and a 1.067 OPS in 60 games.
The performance landed him a four-year, $65 million deal.
But he struggled to open 2021, then fractured two fingers, and on top of that, he was involved in an ugly domestic violence incident.
Ozuna was arrested on two counts in May after an incident with his wife, Genesis, that was witnessed by the police.
The Braves outfielder was charged with aggravated assault strangulation and misdemeanor battery – family violence.
Major League Baseball is expected to open an investigation into Marcell Ozuna following his arrest, sources tell ESPN. He could be subject to the league’s domestic-violence policy and faces a potential suspension.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 30, 2021
He was released on bond but faces potential legal consequences and, regardless of the legal outcome, a suspension from MLB.
The Braves will likely not be able to void his contract, but they would if they could.
Ozuna’s poor performance, injuries, and legal issues make him the easiest Brave to blame in 2021.