FanGraphs: “Yeah, the Braves are ridiculous”

MLB: OCT 09 NLDS Phillies at Braves

In one week, pitchers and catchers will start reporting around the country. Baseball season has arrived, and it’s the best time of the year for people who support the Atlanta Braves, who are once again the best team in the league, and it’s not particularly close.

“Yeah, the Braves are ridiculous,” Ben Clemens writes for FanGraphs. “We think they’re the best team in baseball by a wide margin. Their offense is ludicrous, of course. They lit the majors on fire in 2023. But their pitching should be better this year with a full season of Max Fried and some valuable innings from Chris Sale. They even shored up their bullpen, which now ranks among the best in baseball. Last year was no fluke; this team is just stacked across the board.”

There isn’t an area of the Atlanta Braves that has a weakness. Last year’s offense was arguably the best in Major League Baseball history. They became the first club ever to slug over .500 as a team, and they tied the 2019 record set by the Minnesota Twins for the most home runs ever in a single season, blasting 307 long balls. It’s also important to note that the Twins record took place during the juiced ball era. Like Hank Aaron, the 2023 Braves are the true home run kings.

Last year’s squad won 104 games, and they did it with a rag-tag bunch of starting pitchers. Max Fried missed most of the season, and Kyle Wright essentially didn’t pitch. Bryce Elder stepped up for the Braves big time in the first half, but this was a team that had a revolving door of starters in their fourth and fifth slots. That won’t be the case in 2024.

Fried is healthy and ready to go as he enters a contract year. Spencer Strider is the favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award. Charlie Morton is back for one last ride, and they’ve added a seven-time All-Star in Chris Sale. That’s the most talented 1-4 in the league, and to round out the group, they have a guy that was named an NL All-Star last season in Bryce Elder.

The Braves bullpen has also been bolstered significantly. They brought back Pierce Johnson and Joe Jiménez as well as added Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo Lopez. Tyler Matzek, Dylan Lee, and Huascar Ynoa are also returning from injury. The Braves legitimately have a bullpen that’s potentially 12 deep, and they only need eight guys.

It’s an embarrassment of riches in Atlanta. To say they are the favorites to win the NL East is a gross understatement.

“No one else is realistically playing for first in the NL East,” Clemens continues. “That’s not because the Phillies are awful; we think they’re more likely than not to make the playoffs thanks to a top 10 offense. But they’re just not the equal of Atlanta, at least in the regular season.”

The Braves are talented enough to sleepwalk through the regular season and win the NL East by 10 games, which is a wild thing to say about a division with a lot of good teams. The Phillies are a World Series contender. The Mets and Marlins are nothing to scoff at, and the Nationals are a team on the rise.

There are plenty of tantalizing storylines to look forward to in the NL East, but the division winner isn’t one of them. The Braves making it seven division titles in a row is more a formality than it is a race. It’s just a matter of when they clinch rather than if.

Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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