Throughout the grind of a 162 game regular season each MLB team’s front office will face numerous important decisions. Despite their abundance of success in 2023, the Atlanta Braves are no different from every other team.
All statistics and records reflect status at the time of writing on morning of September 27th.
Atlanta currently has the most wins in baseball, and their magic number for home-field advantage through the World Series sits at two. A lot of different things have to happen to put together the season the Braves have. On top of that, many key decisions have to made both before the season and during it for a successful year to follow. Below we take a look at the 5 most impactful decisions that led to the Braves success in 2023.
1. Acquiring Sean Murphy despite having a good catcher already
Not often in an offseason does a team decide to upgrade a position that isn’t considered a need. The Braves talent at other positions granted them this luxury. Atlanta could’ve rolled out the catching tandem of Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras just as they did in 2022, and the entire fanbase would’ve been estatic.
However, when Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos saw an opportunity to add another talented player, he didn’t let the position he played stop him. On December 12th, 2022 Anthopoulos acquired catcher Sean Murphy in a three-team trade with the A’s and the Brewers. This didn’t come without cost as the Braves sent Freddy Tarnok and Kyle Muller to Oakland, as well as William Contreras to Milwaukee.
AA quickly got Murphy signed to an extension and the Braves now had two of the top 15 catchers in baseball. The recent struggles of Murphy may make this impact a bit murky to some fans, but how quickly we forget how amazing he was in the first half.
In fact, Sean Murphy was leading all of baseball in fWAR at one point this season. The defense was every bit as advertised and when he is hot with the bat, it really lengthens this lineup. Despite his recent struggles, Murphy is still has already set career highs (or is on pace to) in OBP .367, homers 21, RBI 68, and slugging .486.
2. Handing the shortstop keys to Orlando Arcia
One of the major storylines coming into Braves spring training was the competition for the starting shortstop gig. Vaughn Grissom was the early favorite due to his upside and the flashes he showed in 2022. Later in spring Braden Shewmake’s name began to be floated around as another potential option.
However, just a few days before the season began the Braves named Orlando Arcia the starting shortstop and gave him a three year extension. It was shocking to many fans as Grissom was hitting well in spring and Arcia had primarily been the versatile backup infielder since Atlanta acquired him.
We found out quickly that Braves’ brass questioned Grissom’s defense (rightfully so) and the security Arica provided in that area was enough to hand him the keys to the position. All Arica has done is produce since opening day.
In the midst of the best season of his eight-year career, Arcia has been a steady positive at near the bottom of the Braves lineup. He has a career high 17 home runs, 103 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR, and ranks in the 84th percentile in OAA. All of that production on top of providing some of the best vibes and keeping the clubhouse loose is more than the Braves could have ever hoped for.
3. Keeping Marcell Ozuna on the roster
Coming into this season, Marcell Ozuna was already among the most unpopular of Braves players based on his off the field incidents and his lack of on-field production since 2020. Things reached a peak at the end of April when Ozuna had a batting average of .085 and was receiving a chorus of boos nightly from the Atlanta crowd.
It’s been said many times on the broadcast, but Ozuna truly might have been one bad week of baseball from being DFA’d by the Braves. However, during the Braves early May trip to Miami, Ozuna went 6-13 with three homers in that three game series against his former team and took off from there.
If not for Acuña Jr. and Olson’s historic season there would be an argument to be had that Ozuna has been the Braves best hitter since May. Regardless, the return of 2020 Marcell Ozuna has not only helped the Braves, but also possibly saved Ozuna’s career.
On the year Ozuna has a .268/.340/.532 slash line, 132 wRC+, 36 home runs, 91 RBIs, and .369 wOBA. Some really good numbers for a guy who was in danger of being released.