Pair of Braves Hall of Famers confident in club’s World Series chances

MLB: OCT 02 Tigers at Braves

Wherever you look, the Braves are the favorites to raise the Commissioner’s trophy at the end of the year.

FanGraphs gives Atlanta a 25.4% chance, with the next closest being the Rays at 13.3%. FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars, PointsBet, and DraftKings all have the Braves as World Series favorites, ranging anywhere from +350 to +375.

It’s not hard to see why as they go for their 11th straight series win against the Rays this weekend. The club features the most dominant lineup in baseball. The offense is seemingly breaking league and franchise records every day, powered by Ronald Acuna Jr., who is doing things we’ve never seen before.

But the pitching staff is no slouch. The starting rotation owns a 3.74 ERA, which ranks fifth in all of baseball and first in the National League, while the relief core boasts a 3.45 ERA, ranking third in the MLB and first in the NL.

What’s even crazier? The Braves haven’t been fully healthy all year. Max Fried and Kyle Wright have missed the most time, but critical pieces like Raisel Iglesias, Collin McHugh, Jesse Chavez, Orlando Arcia, Michael Harris II, Dylan Lee, Travis d’Arnaud, and others have all missed games.

The only thing that can stop this team is itself, and a pair of Braves Hall of Famers said just that. Jeff Schultz of The Athletic did an awesome piece (subscription required)¬†talking to John Smoltz and Tom Glavine about why the club is built for a title. It came down to four reasons — Ronald Acuna Jr., speed and power to go with ‘new’ baseball, lower strikeout rates, and pitching depth.

What can I say about the Venezuelan superstar that hasn’t already been said? He’s on pace to not only reach 30 home runs and 60 steals, which has never been done before but also eclipse 40 home runs and 70 steals. Nobody in the sport’s history has reached 20 long balls and 40 steals before the All-Star break, and he’s at 21/41 at the time of this writing.

Moreover, he’s leading the league in steals, runs, OPS, and slugging. Acuna could potentially swipe 70+ bags while sporting an OPS north of 1.000, which has also never been done before. It all starts at the top with RAJ; he’s the single most important player for the Braves.

Speed and power: The Braves lead all of baseball in the home run department by a mile. Every player can change a game with one swing. Acuna leads the league in steals, and the club boasts the fifth-most in the NL.

The lowered strikeout rate is something I’ve talked about extensively. Not only are most Braves swinging and missing less often, but Acuna has cut his strikeout rate in half. The game is slowing down for him mentally, and he’s reaping the benefits.

The pitching depth is obvious. Without Kyle Wright and Max Fried, the Braves have still one of the most productive rotations in baseball because of guys like Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder, and Charlie Morton holding it down as the club cycles through players like Michael Soroka, Jared Shuster, Dylan Dodd, Kolby Allard, and A.J. Smith-Shawver. It is an embarrassment of riches.

The best team in baseball rarely wins the World Series. It’s all about who is playing the best baseball in October, but it’s championship or bust for the Atlanta Braves.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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