Where Swanson, Wright and Braves stand 81 games in

July 5th, 2022

ATLANTA --  Halfway through this season, Dansby Swanson is a National League MVP candidate, Kyle Wright can still aim for 20 wins and the Braves seem primed to make a run at a fifth consecutive National League East title.  

Swanson tallied two key doubles and the Braves produced a five-run second inning during a 6-3 win over the Cardinals on Monday night at Truist Park. Wright tossed four solid innings, but a two-hour, 37-minute rain delay denied his bid to join the Astros’ Justin Verlander and the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin as the only MLB pitchers with 10 wins.  

With the Braves halfway through their 162-game season, here is a look at where they stand and the numbers some players might reach if they maintain their current pace:  

The Braves have improved to 47-34 after winning 24 of their past 30 games.  They sit 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets in the NL East and they currently sit in the first of the NL’s three Wild Card spots. Atlanta was 40-41 and 3 1/2 back in the division race through 81 games last year.  

“I like where we’re at and I think we can continue to get better, honestly,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

MVP credentials
Swanson doubled and scored in Monday’s first inning and then tallied a three-run double off Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson in the second. The Braves shortstop went hitless during last week’s three-game series in Philadelphia. But he has produced a multi-hit performance in three of the four games that followed.

Swanson entered Monday ranked fourth among NL players with a 3.8 fWAR (Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement Model). The only players ranked ahead of him were the Padres’ Manny Machado (4.2), Paul Goldschmidt (4.1) and Nolan Arenado (4.0).

“He's been huge for us this year,” Wright said. “I definitely don't think we would be in the position we are without him. He deserves all his success. He’s going to keep doing it because that’s the kind of person and player that he is. It’s been a ton of fun to watch this year.”

There’s no doubt Swanson was the Braves’ first-half MVP. He hit .143 with a .432 OPS through his first 14 games, which carried through April 20. Going back to April 22, he has hit .335 with 14 homers and a .950 OPS. He ranks third among NL players in batting average and fourth in OPS within this span.

“It’s not a small sample size anymore,” Snitker said. “He’s figured it out.”

Tough luck
Wright recorded two strikeouts in a nine-pitch first, pitched around trouble in the second and nearly did again in the fourth.

The right-hander ended up allowing three hits and one run over four innings. Had rain not prevented him from getting three more outs while maintaining the Braves’ lead, he would have become the first Braves pitcher since Tommy Hanson in 2012 to win 10 games before the All-Star break. Wright should get two more chances to gain this distinction.

Wright has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises as he has posted a 2.91 ERA through his first 16 starts. The 26-year-old spent most of last year at the Triple-A level, but he now is a strong candidate to gain his first career All-Star selection.

Max Fried entered Monday tied with the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara for the lead in fWAR (3.0) among NL pitchers. Wright ranked ninth with a 2.1 mark.

“I feel like I’m back to who I believe I can be,” Wright said. “I feel like I can still be better.”

Extra-base value
Matt Olson leads the Majors with 31 doubles and ranks fourth with 43 extra-base hits. If he maintains his pace, he would become the first MLB player to hit at least 60 doubles since 1936. Hugh Duffy set the franchise record when he hit 51 doubles in 1894. Marcus Giles set the club’s modern era record with 49 doubles in 2003.

Olson is also on pace for 86 extra-base hits, which would match Eddie Mathews (1953) for the third-highest total in franchise history. The only players with higher totals were Hank Aaron (92 in 1959) and Chipper Jones (87 in 1999).