Braves by the numbers as playoffs approach

September 18th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

There’s plenty of time for the Braves to make all the necessary plans and preparations for the postseason. As things currently stand, they would open the National League Division Series against either the Phillies or D-backs on Oct. 7 at Truist Park.

The Cubs, Marlins and Reds are all threatening the D-backs for the No. 2 Wild Card slot, so the potential opponent could change. But the date and location won’t. Yeah, the Braves haven’t yet secured one of the top two seeds for the NL playoffs. But they will, barring a monumental collapse. And before you say it, the lingering effects of the Falcons' 28-3 Super Bowl debacle died during the Braves' World Series run in Joctober 2021.

As you wait to see who the Braves’ Division Series opponent will be, here are some numbers and trends to follow over the regular season’s final 13 games.

Three games
The Braves’ lead over the Orioles in the battle for MLB’s best record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

4.5 games
The Braves’ lead over the Dodgers in the battle for the NL’s best record and home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs entering Monday. Atlanta went 2-1 against Baltimore and 4-3 against Los Angeles during the regular season. So, the tiebreaker has been earned against both clubs.

Ronald Acuña Jr.’s pursuit of history was delayed after he missed Saturday and Sunday’s games because of right calf tightness that developed during the latter part of Friday’s game in Miami. He could return to the lineup Monday or maybe later this week. There is absolutely no reason to rush him until it’s clear this won’t be a lingering issue.

If Acuña does return within the next few days, there’s still a realistic chance he could open the 40-70 club. He has 37 homers and 66 steals. He’s already the only person to have more than 52 stolen bases during a 30-homer season. His season will be historic and incredible if he doesn’t homer or steal another base.

But if Acuña is healthy, it would certainly be cool to see him hit the three homers he needs to complete the fifth 40-40 season recorded. And given how close he is, it would certainly be cool to see the 40-homer season include 70-plus steals. 

But what would really be cool is to see him at full strength showing off his tremendous skills with the baseball world watching throughout the playoffs.

The Braves have already reached this total in home runs. Can they hit 20 more to break the MLB record set by the 2019 Twins? Well, they are on pace for 313 homers, six more than the record. They also hit 44 home runs over their past 20 games. It would be cool to see the record-setting homer hit by Eddie Rosario, who hit 32 homers for that Twins team.

Marcell Ozuna’s home run on Sunday was historic. The Braves became the first team to have four players with at least 35 homers in a season. The Braves had accounted for three of the previous 17 times a team had three players reach 35-plus homers. Those Braves trios are:

1973: Hank Aaron, Davey Johnson, Darrell Evans
2003: Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez
2019: Acuña, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson

Aaron, Johnson and Evans are one of just three trios -- the only one to not have the home-field benefit of Coors Field -- to hit 40-plus homers in the same season. Acuña (37), Austin Riley (36) and Ozuna (35) all have a shot to hit 40.

The Braves are four wins away from their eighth 100-win season of the modern era. This would be the first time they tallied a triple-digit win total in consecutive years since 2002 and ’03. They also did it three straight seasons from 1997-99. It should be noted that the '99 club was the only Braves team to win 100-plus games and go to the World Series since 1900. Just throwing this out there in case you are really worried about this past weekend’s series in Miami.

It's an incredible accomplishment to win 100-plus game in the regular season. Finding consistent success over six months is more challenging than getting on a roll over three weeks of the playoffs. But there’s only one conclusion that allows a player, coach, executive or fan to enter the offseason feeling fully satisfied.

Winning 11-plus games in the postseason is far more memorable than winning 100 games during the regular season.

30 and 90
Riley has already joined Jones (five times), Eddie Mathews (five times) and Aaron (four times) as one of four players in Braves history to hit 30-plus homers and drive in at least 90 runs over at least three seasons at 26 or younger.