Fatal flaw: Every MLB contender has a weak spot

Jun 13, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia (27) reacts as he talks to New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) on the mound during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia (27) reacts as he talks to New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) on the mound during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /
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Catchers have been a recurring problem in Atlanta. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Catchers have been a recurring problem in Atlanta. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Atlanta Braves

The Braves were expected to win the NL East, possibly in dominant fashion. Two-thirds of the way through the MLB season, they sit a shaky third, two games under .500, but a putative contender only because the teams ahead of them are also flawed.

One obvious problem has been in the outfield, where Marcell Ozuna, coming off a career season, was supposed to be an offensive force. Instead Ozuna started poorly, got injured, and then was suspended when an allegation of domestic abuse surfaced.

The Braves have never figures out how to replace the offensive punch they expected Ozuna to provide. With the loss of Ronald Acuna Jr. to injury, they’re also suffering at a second outfield position.

At -2.0 WAA, Atlanta ranks dead last among the 30 teams in left field production. At -1.6 games, they stand 29th in center field production, ahead of only the Cleveland Indians.

The Braves have a third serious flaw: behind the plate. The expected starter, Travis d’Arnaud, is injured, placing the backstop burden on rookie William Contreras and a bunch of fill-ins. Contreras, brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, is hitting just .204 with a .666 OPS. Fill-ins Stephan Vogt and Kevan Smith are the rostered catchers as of this moment, and neither is contributing.

As a group, Braves catchers have produced -2.4 WAA in 2021, the second worst showing in MLB at that position. Only Miami’s catchers have been a bigger burden to their team’s hopes of winning.