Bradford Doolittle of ESPN recently did his “stock watch” for all 30 teams and also gave each organization a team MVP, along with a runner-up, for the first half of the season. Here’s what he said about the Braves (subscription required).
Sim wins: 105.4 (change from June: +7.5)
Probabilities: 99% (division), 100% (playoffs), 24% (title)
First-half MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr. (150 AXE). You don’t need advanced metrics to know Acuna is having a historic season, one that has him firmly in the driver’s seat at midseason in the NL MVP race. He’s on pace to top 40 homers and 70 steals. With his 40th stolen base Monday night, he became the first Brave to reach that mark before the All-Star break since Otis Nixon in 1991. And sure, we kind of suspected that these were the kind of homer and steal numbers we might get from peak Acuna. But a .335 batting average to boot? It’s ridiculous. Runner-up: Sean Murphy (128 AXE).
The Braves MVP might be the least surprising aspect of this piece. Everyone is well aware that Ronald Acuña Jr is on a historic pace. He’s the leading candidate in the clubhouse for the NL MVP, and frankly, it isn’t close, so I’m going to focus on the rest of what Doolittle said.
Firstly, the Braves are projected to win 105 games, which would be one shy of the franchise record, set back in 1998. I think 105 is a little low for this group. Sure, they can’t remain this hot for the entire season, but they are on pace for about 110 wins, and I think they can challenge that mark. At the very least, I expect them to break the franchise record of 106 wins. The Braves are also given the best World Series odds of any team at 24%. The next best team is the Rays at 21%
Sean Murphy was also the team’s runner-up for NL MVP. That trade continues to look better by the day. He’s not only the best defensive catcher in baseball, but Murphy is also fourth in the league in OPS and over 100 points ahead of the next closest catcher. He’s been the Braves second-best player this season, but I want to give an honorable mention to Matt Olson, who leads the National League in homers with 29 and is just two behind Shohei Ohtani for the major-league lead. The franchise record for home runs by a Braves player in a season is 51, set by Andruw Jones back in 2005. Olson is well on pace to pass that number, which is not too shabby for a player that has been scrutinized by many fans (myself included) for not filling the shoes of his predecessor.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire