What happened to the Atlanta Braves' defense?
By Chase Owens
During the Atlanta Braves recent run of division titles, each team has possessed a few common qualities. Alex Anthopoulos has sought to build a team that: hits the baseball hard, has a deep bullpen, and is among the best fielding teams in the league. However, so far this season the Braves aren’t ranking near the top in several defensive categories like they normally do. In fact they are ranking among the worst.
According to Fangraphs, the Braves are dead last in OAA (-20), UZR (-11.3), RAA (-16), rank 28th in total defensive fWAR (-10.4), and only the Giants (36) have more errors than Atlanta (34). Why do these numbers matter? The Braves currently sit with a 31-19 record, so the defense hasn’t been an extreme hindrance on winning ballgames. After all the Phillies did make it to the World Series last year while ranking near the bottom of these same defensive metrics.
As we know playoff baseball is another sport in itself, so the idea of giving teams extra outs isn’t the soundest of strategies. Being a team with as few holes as possible in every facet of the game is the best approach toward not only winning playoff series’, but winning enough games to secure another division title. So let’s take a look at how the Braves got here with their defense, and if they are destined to stay this bad for the remainder of the season.
Looking at the Braves major league rankings in these three defensive categories, a few things jump out. Firstly, you may have noticed I have excluded catcher. Well the reason for that is simple, Sean Murphy is awesome. Murphy ranks first in MLB in framing (5.4) and definsive fWAR (10.2). I absolutely expect that to continue so there was no need to lump Murphy in with the other disappointing defensive performances thus far from the Braves.
Next you may have noticed that the Braves rank near the bottom of each of these metrics outside of LF and CF. Let’s dive into each player that takes the field in those poorly rated positions and find out what we can expect going forward.