Even though the Atlanta Braves had a disappointing loss to the Marlins, they are still doing a fantastic job so far this season. Not only are the Braves doing well in the win-loss column, they are doing very well on paper.
There are many different ways to evaluate performance, and none of them are a perfect science. However, over the years, being able to evaluate performance outside of just wins and losses has become a way to tell if a team has over-performed or underperformed. This can be important because we have seen time and again that a team can start out hot and fade away, or vice versa.
So, to look at the Braves, let’s set a parameter. In this writing, let’s focus on fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement). Of course, WAR is not a perfect measurement. However, it does do a good job of getting a high level view of how a player or team is doing in their overall game. It encompasses all facets of the game to include base running, and defense with positional adjustments.
As already stated, it is not perfect, and it would take an entire article to explain it, but Fangraphs does a good job in explaining WAR if you are unfamiliar. In a nutshell, it looks to show how many wins a player adds to their teams in comparison to a replacement level player (essentially a fringe MLBer).
So, how are the Atlanta Braves in terms of fWAR?
Let’s break it down by offensive players and pitching.
Starting with offensive players and remembering that fWAR encompasses defense and base running along with hitting, the Braves are tied for 1st in the National League with the Mets with overall non-pitching fWAR. Only the Tampa Bay Rays have more non-pitching fWAR than the Braves.
Now that we know this, let’s brake it down by position.
Ah yes, the infamous position that plagued the Braves last season where they were 29th in all of MLB in fWAR. This year has seen quite a mixture of players in LF. We have seen Marcell Ozuna, Sam Hilliard, Kevin Pillar, and Eddie Rosario.
So far this year, thanks to mostly Hilliard, the Braves are doing much better in LF so far. They are currently ranked 18th in MLB and 10th in the NL with 0.2 fWAR at the position. Of course, 18th is not ideal, but it is a lot better than 29th.
It is safe to say with Michael Harris being hurt for part of the season that we already knew that the fWAR from this position was not going to be at the top of the pack. In fact, it is right in the middle at 15th in MLB and 8th in the NL with 0.6 fWAR. Good thing is MHII is back, and we should see an increase in this department fairly easily.
Considering Ronald Acuña Jr. leads all position players in MLB in fWAR, it could as no shock the Atlanta Braves lead all teams in MLB and the NL in fWAR at the position at 1.8. The second closest team is the Tampa Bay Rays at 1.6.
Some fans have been complaining about Matt Olson recently due to his high strikeout rate. However, you have to give credit where it is due. Atlanta is tied for 3rd in MLB in fWAR (1.0) at the first base position behind only the Rays and Cardinals. Once Olson heats up, watch out MLB. This is an important example that when looking at a player, don’t just look at them in a vacuum. Look and see how they are doing in comparison to their peers.
Ozzie Albies has been on an offensive tear as of late. However, his defense has been subpar from his standards and it has really hurt his overall output. In terms of fWAR, Atlanta is 18th in MLB at the position and 10th in the NL with 0.2 fWAR. This is a good example that offense is not everything, especially since the second base position has produced an offensive output of wRC+ of 112 (12 percent higher than average).
With 0.5 fWAR, it could be said that the output from third base has been a bit disappointing so far. Austin Riley is by no means been a disaster, but it is safe to say we were hoping his contributions would help the third base positon output to be higher than 14th in MLB and 6th in the NL. Of course, defense has never been Riley’s strong point, so he his fWAR has a ceiling.
After losing Dansby Swanson to free agency, it is safe to say not many expected Atlanta to lead many categories from the shortstop position. Arcia came out where he left off in 2022 swing the bat well, but he has been injured, and Grissom is continuing to show he still need defensive development if he is going to man shortstop at the MLB level. The Braves currently are 17th in MLB in fWAR with 0.3 and 9th in the NL.
In a shock to literally no one, the Braves are 1st in MLB in fWAR at the catcher position. Maybe the only shock is that they are currently tied with the Brewers and Rangers. Sean Murphy leads MLB in fWAR per game (not overall, but per game) among all position players, and even with d’Arnaud out, the catcher position is performing at an elite level.
The DH position is a little bit weird in terms of fWAR since they don’t play defense, and it only accounts for the defensive adjustment. So, let’s just look at offensive output. This will be the only position we do this. Of course, by looking at wRC+, we are not factoring in base running. But, with the bat, only two teams have a lower wRC+ than Atlanta (59), and they are the Royals and the Mariniers.
Let’s look at pitching
Even though the Braves have had some implosions, we need to remember that other teams have them too. That is, again, why it is important to look at how the rest of the league is doing. The Braves overall in the pitching department are doing very well. They are 1st in the NL in fWAR with 4.1, and 3rd in MLB behind the Mariners and Twins. With Robbie Ray out for the season, you have to feel for the Mariners.
Believe it or not, the Braves are actually 8th in MLB in fWAR for their rotation with 2.6 fWAR. This places them 2nd in the NL. This is interesting because over the past few decades it seems like the NL always had the pitching and the AL had the offense. This year the AL has 6 of the top 8 teams in fWAR for rotations.
Of course, the Braves also were short Kyle Wright and Max Fried for parts of this season so far, so we could see them climb these rankings pretty easily.
It seems to just be human nature that it is easier to remember the bad moments over the good. Relief pitching is a perfect example of that. Across social media, you will see many fans complaining about relief pitching. It almost seems as the certainties of life are death, taxes, and someone complaining about the bullpen. The fact of the matter is, the Braves still have an elite bullpen, even with the occasional meltdown.
The Braves are 3rd in MLB in fWAR among relievers, and 2nd in the NL. For reference, the bullpen has 1.5 fWAR. The 10th best team has 1.0. The Braves have 50.0 percent more fWAR than a team that is in the top third of MLB.
All-in-all, the Atlanta Braves are doing very well beyond just the win loss column. They could use some improvements at DH, second base, and left field positions. However, when you are able to pinpoint a small number of areas for improvement, your team is in a good spot.