The Atlanta Braves have a history problem. The teams and legends of their past often dwarf the successes of their more recent counterparts. How can today’s team compete with that of the 1990’s roster of Chipper, Maddux, Glavine, McGriff, Andruw, and Smoltz?
Well, the good news for Braves fans is that this current young core out in Cobb County might give “America’s Team of the 90s” a run for their money.
The Atlanta Braves
2020: Record: 35 – 25
2020 Finish: 1st in the NL East, 3rd in the National League
Surprises in 2020
Let’s start with something that isn’t so much a surprise, but something we all knew was coming. Freddie Freeman finished the season in second place for the following categories for both the National League and in some cases for the entire MLB.
- .341 Batting Average (NL Only)
- .462 On-Base Percentage (Both)
- .640 Slugging (Both)
- 1.102 OPS (Both)
- 2.9 bWAR for Position Players (Both)
In regards to bWAR, Mookie Betts beat him out for the top spot, but we’ll get to that later. In every other category in the National League, Freeman was beaten out by Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals. Why is that important? Sample size. Soto played 47 games, while Freddie played in all 60 for the Braves.
All of this to say that, offensively Freddie Freeman was the top bat across the board in baseball for the 2020 season. It’s that simple. And in regards to his OPS, no other MVP since Bryce Harper in 2015 has had a higher OPS than Freddie Freeman. Not Mike Trout, not Christian Yelich, not Giancarlo Stanton, not even Mookie Betts.
Yes, this is a small sample size situation, but the fact that Freddie kept his numbers up from the first pitch to the last still holds weight. Freddie Freeman fought back from Covid and went on to win the 2020 NL MVP. That’s legendary in my book.
Equally exciting, and more surprising than Freddie’s year, was the one from Max Fried. After Soroka’s injury, Fried took on the mantle of the Braves de-facto Ace in 2020.
Coming off his first full season in the majors, Fried was immaculate, going 7-0, with a 2.25 ERA, a 1.089 WHIP, a 6.8 H/9, finishing the season with an ERA+ of 212. Fried was outstanding, and as Mike Soroka comes back in 2021, and the Braves look to run it back in the NL East, he’ll be a fantastic #2 in this rotation.
Disappointments in 2020
If there’s one thing for the Braves to be disappointed with, it’s how badly injuries stunted their roster. Losing Mike Soroka after he tore his ACL in an early season outing against the Mets was the first blow. The next were wrist inuries to Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña, Jr. And yet, the Braves persisted, rallied around each other and pushed onwards.
It feels like a cop out to keep writing this throughout the 30 in 30 series, but it’s never been more true than the it is with the Braves. There’s nothing to truly be disappointed about. Yes, a World Series appearance would have been nice, but an NLCS appearance is nothing to be upset about either.
Looking Ahead to 2021
The Braves are the team to beat in the NL East, and while the competition is beginning to heat up, there’s no need to worry in Atlanta. The Braves issue in 2020 was their rotation, which they’ve already made moves to sure up. Taking a chance on Drew Smyly is a good call, but signing Charlie Morton is even better.
The core of this Braves lineup isn’t going anywhere soon, that’s the best news. As the rest of the NL East scrambles to get themselves together, the Braves can coast to another divisional banner, all the Braves have to do is coast. It’s that simple.
Projected 2021 Finish: 98 – 64, 1st in the NL East
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