The 2021 Braves season should be broken into two parts. In the first half, the Braves were decimated by injuries, terrible luck, and an abundance of close losses. However, the second half had very little resemblance to that painful portion of the season. Atlanta would hold onto the NL East crown in the end thanks to resilience and a near perfect trade deadline.
Before the trade deadline, this Braves team would continuously hit a roadblock when near the .500 mark. They even entered the trade deadline with a 51-52 record. Keep in mind, this team had serious World Series aspirations to begin the year.
Other than Ronald AcuÃ±a Jr, everyone was underperforming in the beginning. Things would get worse as we would later learn Mike Soroka wouldnâ€™t even throw a pitch this entire season. AcuÃ±a would have a season ending ACL injury in the middle of a potentially historical campaign. Marcell Ozuna suffered a hand injury. Ozuna would miss nearly the entire season due to a domestic violence case. Travis dâ€™Arnaud missed a large portion of the season following a bang bang play at the plate where he injured his thumb.
Charlie Morton struggled in the beginning and had naysayers calling him â€œCole Hamels 2.0â€. Drew Smyly was not building off of what the Braves were intrigued by at the end of last year. The bullpen was blowing close games. The offense couldnâ€™t score late in games. Borderline reserve players were getting more playing time than you could ever have imagined in April. If you owned a catchers mitt, you could have suited up behind the plate.
The Atlanta Braves would ultimately win the NL East for a 4th consecutive season. Obviously, things changed at some point to turn around what could have very easily been a disappointing year. This change was kickstarted by the acquisition of Joc Pederson.
Alex Anthopolous would respond to the AcuÃ±a news quickly acquiring Joc and Stephen Vogt. Joc gave the team an edge they had been missing and had plenty of big moments the second half of the season. The entire time the rest of the division had struggled to take advantage of the poor start. This would prove fatal as the trade deadline would be the turning point for Atlanta this year.
The Braves would go on a near 100 win pace extrapolated across a full season after acquiring several pieces at the deadline. Jorge Soler would turn his season around in Atlanta and become a monster lead off man. Adam Duvall would continue raking at Truist Park and would lead the league in runs batted in. Eddie Rosario would contribute late, providing big time games including a cycle. Richard Rodriguez briefly solidified the bullpen during a period where the bullpen had been struggling mightily.
Meanwhile, Austin Riley would go from questionable future to a legitimate MVP candidate. Freddie Freeman would return to form and provide production weâ€™ve been accustomed to seeing in recent years. Charlie Morton proved he still had big game Charlie still in him. Max Fried had as good of a second half of a season as anyone in baseball. Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson would provide stellar defense up the middle to go with some unexpected pop. The bullpen would still give us plenty of scares, but pull it out more times than not.
4th in a Row, Just as Sweet
This was another season to be remembered. I donâ€™t recall seeing a Braves team go through as much adversity as this team has this season. Despite the woes, they still managed to come out the other side reclaiming the division for a 4th straight year. They’re playing as well as they have all season and they know thereâ€™s still work to do. Go Braves.
We’ve got a lot of content and it seems like everyone wants to write! Good stuff. Tomorrow, we’ll get my roster prediction then Thursday, a piece from Rusty!
Wanted to get a pulse check on Braves Journal and how happy you are with the direction we’ve went. The only thing that we’ve changed is more content. It feels like we are getting a good amount of comments and the regulars are mixing well with the newbies, especially Bill Edwards.
Is there anything you’d like to see that we are not already doing? And no, one of them cannot be less content!
Well done, Drake. Thank you. What a strange season!
Very nice recap of the season.
There have been several teams that ran a hot streak through to winning the WS (Giants and Nats). Let’s hope it’s us this year and not the lousy Cardinals again.
AA should get consideration for executive of the year for what he did at the trade deadline. The only thing AA does that I really dislike is putting those young starting pitchers on the AAA shuttle. Otherwise, he has done a tremendous job with this team.
25 of 27 fangraphs writers picked the Brewers over Atlanta in the LDS, that seems….a bit harsh. To me this is a very even matchup and I slightly favor Atlanta, but only about 55/45.
I think the Kyle Wright situation is a lot like the Camargo situation td brought up in the last thread. I don’t think it’s so much that Snitker lost faith in Camargo (or Wright) as that the whole organization did. They both have absolutely gotten lapped in the organizational depth chart and I think that’s as much AA’s responsibility as anyone else’s.
The Brewers were definitely a better team than we were, as far as the full season is concerned. And I’m certainly not sanguine about our pitching — I think Fried/Morton/Anderson is a decent top three, but if anything it’s probably below average among playoff teams; our offense is great but streaky, and our bullpen is okay but streaky. I think we absolutely have the ability to catch a horseshoe up our butts and beat any and all comers, like we did in August, but I can understand the case for voting chalk on this one.
Honestly, the flawed nature of the season has made it even easier to root for these second-half Braves. This team is fun as hell and I would love to see them keep overachieving all the way to the last game of the season. As Kinky Friedman said: “Why the Hell Not?”
3 – To piggyback on your comment about the AAA shuttle, my biggest complaint was using bullpen games late in the season over giving another look to Muller or Wright (who finished on a 23 inning scoreless streak I think). It would help to have a capable 4th starter (or at least a backup plan to Ynoa).
Perhaps it was strategic, not wanting major league scouts to get a look at those 2 in case we would use them in the playoffs, but I doubt we will see either one.
@4, that’s no surprise. Last year, 16 of 20 FanGraphs writers picked the Reds over Atlanta in the first round despite Atlanta’s record being 4 games better (out of 60). This year they at least have the excuse that the Brewers’ record was 6-1/2 games better.
Good to know, mid all the hoo ha, there are major league players who also care enough about other things.
@4 I have lost a lot of faith in fangraph writers over the last 2 – 3 years. I still like their stats but I rarely read their articles now. fwiw, most of the mlb network people picked the Braves over the Brewers. A couple picked them to go to the series.
@6 Yeah, I really don’t get giving Strider a shot over Muller, who has paid his dues for this team. Maybe they already know what Muller can do and just wanted to see what the new kid could do against major leaguers. Ryan touched on Wright in the last thread ….maybe they are re-building his trade value.
This team entered the season with serious WS aspirations, then in a matter of weeks, looked like it’d need every win just to make the playoffs even in a weak division.
Either way, this was never going to be the season for extended auditions, learning on the job, etc. If you’re an emerging young pitcher and you want to stick with either the championship contender incarnation of this team or the version that has to scratch and claw for a playoff spot, then be like Ian Anderson and show that you’re too good to ride the shuttle.
I wonder if, on some Dodgers blog, after a season where every day must’ve felt like a must-win struggle to chase down the Giants, people are like, “I fault the front office for not giving several quasi-prospects more playing time! You know, so we can see what we got.”
It’s probably the exact opposite, right? If anything, I’d hope it’s more like, “I thought we were supposed to be this deep, invincible monster. We already spent and traded away so much. Why didn’t we trade/spend just a little more so that we didn’t have to give Zach McKinstry 150 at-bats?”
Also fwiw (and to my surprise), 538 has the Braves at 54-46 favorites over the Brewers.
@11 I’m sure you’re right, Dodgers fans are probably not asking why the team didn’t have a more open mind about giving tryouts down the stretch. The thing is though, our situation is not remotely comparable to the Dodgers. The Dodgers are LOADED, with a deep roster, and they were 1 win away from a tiebreaker for the division. Conversely, the Braves have a conspicuous absence of reliable arms once you get past Morton and Fried and Anderson, and we were playing with a reasonably large divisional lead for most of September. In short, the Braves had more need to take a look at their internal options than the Dodgers, and the opportunity cost to the Braves for doing so was less than for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers winning 106 games and not winning their division is unreal.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer team. Now may they get dumped out of the playoffs by the Cards. Unlikely, but one can dream.
Dammit Matt you woke me up.
The two highest payrolls were… wild card teams.
Three out of the top five payrolls were… wild card teams.
It’s true that only one out of the top 5 payrolls missed the playoffs altogether… ahem… lolMets,
but to spend all that money for a win-or-go-home single game (which I think everyone acknowledges is a crapshoot) seems like another dagger in the “money is destiny” philosophy. That, and Tampa Bay.
I hated the 1 game wildcard playoff when the Braves went through it and I still hate it. With games starting on Thursday and Friday there is no reason you can’t do a best 2 out of 3. I would even prefer an opening game then a doubleheader to what is going on now. It would definitely deplete the pitching staff, but wildcard teams should have it a little harder imo. The one game playoff is terrible.
All that money, and Gerrit Cole can’t deliver.
@17, yeah, it’s nice to see the richest teams not having the absolute best records, but money is still a huge advantage. LA, which had won its division the previous 8 years, being a wild card this year is a freak occurrence, and to me the 106 wins are stronger evidence in favor of money being destiny than the wild card is evidence that money isn’t destiny. Similarly, the last time the Yankees had a winning percentage below .519 (84-78), Sid Bream was still sliding. That’s 29 straight years of being at least somewhat competitive. Both teams are well-run, but if they were relatively poor, they’d be like the Rays or the As or maybe the Giants, with much shorter periods of excellence and lower ceilings.
This year’s Mets, on the other hand, show what your floor is if you spend a ton of money but have really poor management and bad luck – a little below .500. If they didn’t have all that money, they’d be the Rockies. Even not always being a top-5 spender, it’s been 18 years since they’ve won fewer than 70 games (or the 2020 equivalent).
@18, it would be tight. Say you have a makeup game like the Braves & Rockies might have needed on Monday. Or a tiebreaker of some sort, especially a 3-way tie that would require 2 days to break.
Nice to see the Evil Empire lose. I hope the Dodgers lose tomorrow but I doubt that I watch the game. I cannot stand the Cardinals so I can’t actively root for them.
@20: I agree with you. If I were writing up a piece on this (and I still might) the lesson is that money can make you win games (if you don’t squander it) but winning enough games to ensure a playoff spot is still tough. And I certainly agree that the success coming even from huge payrolls is a multiyear phenomenon and means very little in any particular year. Money can paper over in-season problems, as LA showed this year.
I see Yankees-Red Sox as being like a fight between Cruella De Vil and the Grand High Witch. At least one of them is out of the playoffs already. Here’s hoping the other one loses soon!
JonathanF, fair to say that money is likely to raise the floor more than the ceiling?
For some unknown reason I was a big Red Sox fan when I was a kid. That World Series loss to the Reds still stings. I still have a fondness for them so I am ok with them winning. Would love to see the White Sox go to the series though, they are the parent club to my Charlotte Knights.
I was thinking of that on the drive to work this morning. AA as executive of the year surey has more traction than Riley for MVP, and I don’t recall hearing even a murmur until your post
@24: that’s how I see Cardinals-Dodgers, as well.