How the Atlanta Braves keep defying the odds

ATLANTA, GA SEPTEMBER 06: Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) watches his two run home run in the 7th inning during the MLB game between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves on September 6th, 2019 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA SEPTEMBER 06: Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) watches his two run home run in the 7th inning during the MLB game between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves on September 6th, 2019 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

In the age of analytics in MLB, we look at the Atlanta Braves and how they’re beating the spreadsheets to become one of the NL’s elite teams.

It’s not exactly a hot take anymore to say that the Atlanta Braves are good.  They are putting the finishing touches on another National League East title, within striking distance of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the senior circuit, and their field is occupied by one of the most exciting lineups in baseball today.

Whether Ronald Acuna is gliding across the outfield, Freddie Freeman is whipping a baseball into the Chop House, or Josh Donaldson is bringing his umbrella around the bases with him, this team is entertaining, and winning.

Look under the hood though, and the story begins to change a bit. Take a look at their “Expected” Win/Loss record, and your 93 win team with an ever-shrinking “magic number” suddenly becomes an 86 win team in a very competitive fight for their division.

Peel back another layer from that, and it becomes even more complicated.  Take their current season-long WAR ranks in key categories across the league:

  • Offense: 7th
  • Starting Pitching: 12th
  • Relief Pitching: 28th (gross)
  • Fielding: 7th

So are the Braves just a house of cards?  Is this a team that is simply playing over its head, destined to suffer a fate all too familiar to Atlanta fans?