Despite some melancholy news coming to light yesterday surrounding Max Fried, the Braves took care of business on the diamond, racking up nine runs en route to their 25th win of the season. They are now the first NL team to reach that mark and are well on their way to eclipsing their 2021 win total of 101. The Braves are a buzzsaw–off to arguably their greatest start in franchise history–and there are a few key reasons why they’ve begun the season so strongly.
This may not be the case for much longer because of the injuries to Max Fried and Kyle Wright, but to this point, the Braves have arguably had the best rotation in baseball. Prior to the injury, Fried looked better than ever. Spencer Strider might be the leading candidate for the NL Cy Young award. Bryce Elder is among the league leaders in ERA, and Charlie Morton looks like the Charlie Morton of old. The Braves offense has been outstanding, but their starting rotation has been just as vital to their scorching hot start.
Two MVP Candidates
I could have put these two separate, but they’ve both been so good that I lumped them together. Ronald Acuña is back, and that might be an understatement. This is the best he has ever played, hitting .344 with six homers — good for a .994 OPS. Acuña also leads the NL in steals with 15. If he can go on a streak of home runs at some point this season, he’ll become the first player since Alfonso Soriano in 2006 to join the 40/40 club and only the fifth player all-time to accomplish the feat.
But as good as Acuña has been, Sean Murphy has been even better. He leads all catchers in every offensive category and is second in Major League Baseball in OPS. Murphy is racking up extra-base hits in bunches, and he’s doing so while being the best defensive catcher in the sport. If his offense can keep pace, the Braves might have another legitimate MVP candidate on their hands.
Remember when we all complained about Vaughn Grissom not beginning the season as the starting shortstop? Fun times. Arcia has been unbelievable in 2023, accruing 0.8 fWAR in just 15 games. His defense was expected to be above average, and he’s looked like a Gold Glover in the field, but it’s been his offense that has been even more impressive. Arcia currently boasts a 181 wRC+, and while regression is inevitable, it’s not ridiculous to assume he could be the Braves starting shortstop for all of 2023 and beyond.
Ozzie Albies Return
All the talk before the season was about the Braves getting back a healthy Ronald Acuña, which has been an incredible boost for the club, but what about a healthy Ozzie Albies? This is an All-Star that missed basically all of last season, and most people just forgot about him. I saw many outlets not even rank him inside the ten best second basemen in the league. They won’t be saying that anymore. Albies has been the best second baseman in baseball after a sluggish start. He’s now hitting .280 on the season with nine homers, good for an OPS of .847. Having him back in the lineup makes losing Dansby Swanson almost feel non-existent.
Every season, at least one of Alex Anthopoulos’ under the radar signings contributes in a big way. So far this year, it’s been Nick Anderson. He’s turned into one of the Braves most reliable set-up men in the matter of a month after only pitching six innings since 2021 coming into the season. Anderson was once a dominant force for the Rays, striking out guys at an incredible rate, and he looks like that pitcher again for the Braves. Through 14.2 innings, he owns an 11.0 K/9, 0.61 BB/9, and 1.96 FIP — good for 0.6 fWAR.
Photo: Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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