When it’s all said and done, the 2023 Braves will go down as one of the best teams of all time.
They have a chance at breaking the franchise record for wins in a season, set by the 1998 Braves, who won 106 games. They are right on pace to make MLB history for most home runs in a season, set by the 2019 Twins, who hit 307 long balls. But again, that was during the juiced ball era. The top four spots for the single-season team home run record are all held by teams from the year 2019, so they should be taken with a grain of salt. The 2023 Braves have blasted 263 homers, good for seventh all-time.
The Braves also have a legitimate shot at having both the NL MVP and NL Cy Young at the end of the season with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Spencer Strider. It’s only happened four times since the league expanded in 1998, and a panel over at ESPN predicts it will happen again in 2023.
The panel consisted of 17 people, and expectedly, they were split on who will take home the NL MVP. Nine votes went to Ronald Acuna Jr, with seven going to Mookie Betts, and one going to Freddie Freeman.
I’m a numbers guy, and while this MVP race has three amazing candidates, Acuna’s numbers are simply historic and impossible to overlook, and that’s beyond just being the first 30/60 player. He has started every single Braves game out of the leadoff spot, with these paces:
- 147 runs: Other than Ted Williams in 1949 and Jeff Bagwell in 2000, this hasn’t been done since World War II.
- 75 stolen bases: Other than Jose Reyes in 2007, this hasn’t been done since before the 1994 strike.
- 219 hits: This hasn’t been done since Jose Altuve in 2014 and would be only the ninth instance this century.
Acuna is also pacing for 37 homers, and while we all talk about the Luis Arraez-Freddie Freeman prospective batting title race, Acuna is very much also in that mix. It’ll be tough for voters to ignore those statistical accomplishments. — Tristan Cockcroft
Acuna Jr., Betts, and Freeman are all deserving of the MVP award in the National League. Like ESPN, I believe most of the first-place votes will go to Acuna Jr. and Betts. It really depends on what flavor the voter prefers.
Betts might lead the league in fWAR because of his defense and ability to play multiple positions. However, Acuna Jr. has already made history, has been arguably the most consistent player in all of baseball from start to finish, and is the best player on the best team. Not to mention, the three MVP candidates went head to head in a critical September series, and Acuna Jr. was undoubtedly the most valuable player on the field. That’s going to be hard for voters to overlook when it comes down to making a decision.
As close as the call was between the panelists for the NL MVP award, there was even more controversy among the candidates for the NL Cy Young. Spencer Strider received the most first-place votes with six, followed closely by Blake Snell with five and Justin Steele with four. Zac Gallen also received two first-place votes.
Wins and strikeouts aren’t everything, but when someone these days actually approaches 20 of the former and 300 of the latter — and for baseball’s best team — we notice. Strider won’t win the ERA title, but it’s not like anyone has a Bob Gibson-1968 ERA, either. I go with Strider. — Eric Karabell
Again, this will come down to which flavor the voters prefer at the end of the season. Strider has had his ERA spiked because of a few starts, but the Braves have been dominant when he toes the rubber. He’s going to come close to winning 20 games and striking out 300 batters. Strider also leads the league in FIP and WHIP. His current 3.56 ERA would be extraordinarily high for a Cy Young award winner in today’s game, but given there aren’t any other clear-cut candidates, he seems to have as good of a shot as anybody with a strong finish to the season.
World Series titles are what will be remembered forever; anything less than that will be a disappointing end to a spectacular season for the Braves. However, if they can win the title and sweep the two primary awards in the National League, along with setting numerous other records in the process, the 2023 Braves have the potential to go down as one of the greatest teams to ever take the field together.
Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire