The Braves are on a mission to capture their sixth straight division title, and it begins on Thursday against the Washington Nationals. They are fresh off a 101-win campaign and are the considered the favorites in a loaded NL East, even after losing Dansby Swanson in free agency. The oddsmakers in Vegas currently have the Braves win total set at 95.5, which is tied with the Astros for the second-highest in the league and behind only the Dodgers at 96.5. So what’s the bet? Over or under?
The Braves were relatively quiet this offseason. They watched Dansby Swanson and Kenley Jansen walk for nothing and signed next to no free agents, but they did swing a blockbuster trade that netted them Sean Murphy. Murphy is one of the best backstops in the game, particularly defensively, which should play an even more pivotal role moving forward because of MLB’s latest rule changes that encourage runners to swipe bags due to the limited amount of pickoff attempts allowed as well as the larger bases. However, in that deal, they also lost an All-Star of their own in William Contreras.
So how much better did the Braves get this offseason? Strictly basing it off acquisitions, I would say they got slightly worse. Orlando Arcia is a steep drop off from Dansby Swanson, the loss of Jansen also stings, and Murphy by himself isn’t enough to make up for it. With that being said, there is still reason to believe the Braves could be a significantly better team in 2023 than they were last year.
The primary reason for that is they can reasonably expect better performances from several players that were already on their roster. Ronald Acuña Jr. had the worst season of his career in 2022 following a torn ACL in 2021. With a full and healthy offseason behind him, most expect him to look much more like the MVP candidate he was before the injury.
Ozzie Albies also returns after only playing in 64 games a year ago. The Braves get full seasons of Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II as well. Those should all lead to more wins, and it’s fair to assume Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna will be much more productive this year than they were in 2022 after being two of the worst starters in baseball.
Now, that still doesn’t mean they are a lock to win more than 100 games as they did a year ago. A lot of luck has to take place for a season like that to happen. There’s a reason why, as great as the Braves have been over the years, it was the first time they’ve eclipsed the 100-win mark since 2003. If a major injury or two strikes, it will be very difficult for them to win 96 games, let alone 101.
With that being said, I don’t make bets counting on players to get injured. If this team is healthy, they should eclipse the 95.5 win threshold that Vegas has set for them. I also think it will help them playing a schedule that doesn’t include as many divisional games this year, and the fact that they know they are going to have to win at least 95 games to capture the NL East for the sixth consecutive year. The Mets and Phillies are going to be on their heels all season, which should provide the Braves a since of urgency out of the gate. I like them to win 96; although, there are probably other bets on the board that provide better value.
What do you think of the Braves win total?
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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