Obviously, 2019 has been a fun season for the Braves team as a whole with their second straight playoff appearance locked up and their second straight NL East division title likely being wrapped up over the next few days. The Braves success in the playoffs will ultimately determine how the 2019 season will be viewed in the future. However, this certainly has been a special year for everyone involved.
It seems every member of the Braves’ roster, regardless of expected role, has played a significant part at some point this season in helping the Braves get to this point. Beyond the success of the team, several Braves players are also potentially on the verge of joining exclusive clubs based on their individual performances.
Whether superior or inferior in perspective, Atlanta’s roster is full of players who could set statistical milestones in the next few weeks. Here are some of the most interesting ones to keep track of as the regular season winds down.
Chris Martin has been a fun case from a statistical point of view this year. In Texas, he sported a 3.08 ERA and a 4.01 FIP. In Atlanta, he has produced a 4.70 ERA and 1.91 FIP. While he has been a bit unlucky as a Brave, he has been quite impressive at times as well, especially with his ability to limit walks. On the season, Martin has 61 strikeouts and 5 walks in 53 1⁄3 innings pitched. If he were to continue his present pace, he would become just the 8th reliever in MLB history who has thrown more than 50 innings in a season while producing a SO/BB ratio higher than 12. Considering the journey that Martin and the Braves bullpen have both experienced in recent history, that would be quite an accomplishment.
Billy Hamilton has always been a success with steals, yet his career has been limited due to pitfalls at the plate. Unfortunately, this year has arguably been the worst offensive year in his career, to the point that it has been historic. In the unlikely event of a hot streak, Billy Hamilton will become the first player in MLB history to record 20 or mores stolen bases and 80 or more strikeouts in less than 350 plate appearances with an OPS under .600. While Hamilton’s speed will always be historic, he may be best utilized in his current role as a Brave if his career were to continue.
Luke Jackson has produced periods of both dominance and doubt this year. However, there have been plenty of instances in which he has contributed big pitches in big moments. As a team, the Braves bullpen ranks 15th in the majors in K/9 rate this year. Jackson currently sits at a K/9 rating of 12.64. If Jackson were to throw 2 1⁄3 more innings this year, he would be just the fourth Braves reliever in franchise history to pitch more than 70 innings and produce a K/9 rating above 12 in a season. The other three are Craig Kimbrel, Rafael Soriano, and John Rocker. If the Braves need a strikeout in a critical postseason scenario, Jackson may be the right guy for the job.
At this point, it is hard to argue that Josh Donaldson was one of, if not the, best free agent signings last offseason. While the idea of an extension will be at the forefront of the Braves decisions in a few months, the hope is that Donaldson can continue to make the Braves lineup one of the best in baseball through the playoffs. Though he may not be having the best offensive year of his career, Donaldson’s production in 2019 could put him in rare company. With one more strikeout and four more walks, Donaldson would become just the 10th player in MLB history to register 100 or walks, 150 or more strikeouts, 35 or more home runs, and an OPS of .900 or above in a season. Overall, the nine players to have accomplished that feat have done so 17 times. Aaron Judge is the only active player to have reached the mark.
Brian McCann may not be the player he once was due to age, but he has still added value offensively from the catcher position. McCann has hit 11 home runs this year, the 13th time he has reached that plateau in his career. He also has never struck out more than 100 times in a season. McCann would become just the fifth exclusive catcher in MLB history to have 13 seasons of 10 or more home runs and 100 or less strikeouts. The other four are Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra. All four currently reside in the Hall of Fame. McCann’s candidacy is a debate for another time, but the duration of his above average offensive production is becoming historic.
Before his heel injury, Dansby Swanson was enjoying a breakout year at the plate, one that created some debate for him to earn an All-Star election in the first half of 2019. While Swanson has cooled off in the second half, especially since returning from his injury, he is set to join some rare company by the end of the season. If Swanson were to produce less than 14 hits over the remainder of the 2019 regular season, he would become just the third shortstop to have multiple seasons of producing 40 or more extra base hits while having fewer than 125 hits in less than 500 plate appearances before the age of 26. The other two players in this group are Kahlil Greene and Paul Dejong. Though this statistic may not be as historic as some of the others mentioned, it could provide a glimpse as to the type of offensive profile Swanson is settling into as a player.
While Mike Soroka may not win a prestigious award for his outstanding rookie campaign in 2019, it should in no way diminish how historic his production has been this season. Over the past 40 years, only Brandon Webb in 2003 and Jose Fernandez in 2013 have produced more than 5.5 bWAR in their rookie years like Soroka has this season. In fact, Soroka could join Fernandez as the only rookie pitchers in baseball history who produced 5.5 or more bWAR with a Strike % of 65 or higher during their rookie years. It was debated that Fernandez had one of the best rookie seasons for a pitcher in baseball history in 2013, and rightfully so. The fact that Soroka has been nearly as effective this year as Fernandez was then should further verify how special this year has been.
Austin Riley’s first month in the majors was truly historic and was a big contributor to the turning point of the Braves season in the middle of May. While regression was expected, Riley has seen his fortunes completely change in the second half of the season. Both before and after his injury, Riley has struggled immensely at the plate. However, his 2019 season as a whole could, along with Joey Gallo, be a first in baseball history. If Riley were to produce one more extra base hit and one more strikeout, he would join Gallo as the only players in baseball history to produce 30 or more extra base hits and 100 or more strikeouts in less than 300 plate appearances in a season (Gallo was able to meet this feat due to an injury-shortened 2019.) While Riley has had his struggles and may continue to have them going forward, his power potential certainly will keep him a relevant part of the Braves’ future.
Max Fried has had a breakout campaign in 2019. While he has had his struggles, he also has produced some of his best performances in big moments. Many have astutely pointed out that his 2019 campaign arguably is the best season by a young Braves left hander since a southpaw named Tom Glavine toed the mound for the Braves. However, Fried’s performance carries historic value beyond the Braves. If Fried can earn one more win, it is likely that he will become the 10th left hander under the age of 26 to produce 17 or more wins, 160 or more strikeouts, and a K% at 24 or above in a season. This group includes such names as Sandy Koufax, Johan Santana, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, and Clayton Kershaw. Though likely not as talented or consistent as others on the list, Fried has truly shown top of the rotation potential this year.
Many were hoping that Sean Newcomb would be the one to take the step forward that Max Fried has in 2019. However, while that expectation did not pan out, Newcomb should be commended for the work he has done out of the bullpen. While he still has struggled at times, Newcomb has stepped into the role and evolved into a key reliever for the Braves. Newcomb’s ability to remain effective while assuming multiple roles in a season has been a rare occurrence over the past few decades. Newcomb has joined John Smoltz and Kris Medlen as the only Braves pitchers to make multiple starts, record a save, and produce a K% higher than 20 in a single season since 2000. While Newcomb may never reach the lofty potential many thought he possessed, he seems to have found a role that will allow him to be effective for many years to come.
Julio Teheran has enjoyed his best season in 2019 since he was an All-Star in 2016. Before his last start, Teheran had produced a 2.94 era over his previous 24 starts. While Teheran has been more effective this year than he has been in a while, his durability is as strong as ever. Teheran has started 30 or more games for seven straight seasons, and is one of only four players to have started at least 220 games since the start of 2013. Only Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana have started more games. While Teheran has not reached the ceiling of those pitchers, he has been one of the most durable pitchers in the majors during his career.
Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman could and have had multiple articles written about their season and career accomplishments, so I felt it would be fun to see what significant statistics other players could or have produced. While some of these are historic, circumstantial, or perhaps even less than positive, several Braves have already or likely will make history over the final few weeks of the season. With the division hopefully locked up this week, this just gives fans the chance to have a checklist to keep track of as the 2019 regular season concludes.
Lets Keep the Good Vibes rolling! If you have a statistical nugget regarding the team or a certain player, please include it in the comments below. It is always fun and enjoyable to learn just how much there is to know when it comes to this game we each love!