While I figure that not everybody is probably super interested in re-litigating the end of this season for the Atlanta Braves, for me it’s kind of like catharsis. It’s also a bit of a weird feeling since the good times from their World Series win in 2021 are still fresh in my mind. It’s also important to remember that with this elimination, there hasn’t been a repeat champion in Major League Baseball since the New York Yankees won their third straight title in 2000. That’s why I was so adamant back at the beginning of the season to just enjoy the ride, since repeating in baseball is such a large task.
Either way, the Braves have a lot to be proud of this season. Winning 101 games and a divisional title is nothing to sneeze at, especially when it comes to the Braves being the type of franchise that places a lot of value in those type of seasons. When you combine this with the fact that the Braves have a ton of young talent committed to staying in Atlanta for the foreseeable future, it’s obvious that this is not the end of the line for the Braves. They’re going to be in the Postseason/World Series conversation for many years going forward.
However, it’s time to talk about something that plagued the Braves this season and probably played a big role in how they were locked out. Now before I start this, I’m going to say that the Philadelphia Phillies absolutely deserved to advance. Their pitching was stout and their hitting core did exactly what they were built to do this season. This team was built to mash, they did just that when it counted the most and they deserve to be playing for a trip to the World Series. With that being said, this season’s Braves may have tripped up in the NLDS because they share something in common with vampires: They are a shell of themselves when the sun is out.
So, the Braves won 101 games this season. 77 of those wins were games that MLB ruled as night games. There was only one team that had more wins at night than the Braves, and that’s the Dodgers because of course it’s the Dodgers. So basic math means that the other 24 wins for the Braves came during the day. As it turns out, that was tied for the fewest day game wins in the National League with the Cincinnati Reds. That’s right: All but one team in the National League had more handshake lines during the day than the Braves did. For comparison’s sake, the Braves won 88 games during their title-winning season last year and they somehow managed to win one more day game (25-21) in 2021 than they did in 2022 (24-27).
While Atlanta’s day game record on its own wasn’t terrible, the way that they were losing these games was something to behold. The team’s batting slash line took a precipitous dip in the day (.238/.310/.415) when compared to what they were doing at night (.260/.321/.457). The 2022 Braves during the day had a team wRC+ of 102. That’s not terrible as it was good for 15th in all of baseball for day games, but it was a massive drop from their 4th-place mark of 115 wRC+ at night.
Braves pitchers also saw a marked dip in results when the sun was out. Atlanta’s pitching staff sported a 3.81 ERA and a 3.61 FIP in the day. This was after going with a 3.30 ERA and league-best 3.39 FIP at night. Those may not seem like large discrepancies but it’s the difference between being an elite pitching corps and being a middle-of-the-road squad.
That perfectly describes the drop-off between the 2022 Braves at night and the 2022 Braves when they were playing under the beaming sun. At night, this was an elite team that could probably go toe-to-toe with any team in baseball. In the day, this was a mediocre team. So if you were one of those people who cringed when you saw that all of Atlanta’s scheduled NLDS games started during the day, you had pretty good reason to do so! This was a different team depending on whether the sun or moon was out and it loomed large during their final series of 2022.
Now, this is once again where I have to give props to the Phillies for getting the job done. As much as I’ve talked about and we’ve watched how the Braves are a different team depending on what time the game starts, the Phillies were not exactly day game juggernauts, themselves. Philadelphia was only one game better than the Braves in day games (25-28) and as a matter of fact, the Phillies were worse all across the board in day games than the Braves were.
They had a higher day ERA (3.98), a higher day FIP (3.60), a worse team slash line (.246/.315/.396) and a lower team wRC+ (100) during the day. The point of this article is not to make excuses for the Braves since the Phillies themselves had just as rough of a time during the day as Atlanta did this season. They showed up for the NLDS while the Braves were a no-show for most of that series. It’s as simple as that.
This would usually be the point in the article where I come up with some kind of solution going forward, but I feel like there really wouldn’t be too much of a point in doing that. For all we know, this could end up being a blip on the radar and the Braves end up being day game monsters in 2023. It’s also a problem that is really hard to “fix” from the outside looking in in any specific manner. Maybe they need to figure out a new way of preparing for afternoon games? I really have no clue what could be done to fix this, especially when it’s not like I’m in the clubhouse watching what these guys are doing to get ready for day games compared to what happens before a night game.
I think the best way to approach this situation is honestly to shrug and just go “That’s baseball!” to yourself. This has also just been an insane Postseason in general and the Braves ended up being swept up in the chaos along with the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mets and even the Dodgers and possibly the Yankees as well. Sometimes baseball makes sense, but a lot of the time it doesn’t and this appears to be one of those cases where it really doesn’t make sense. The 2022 Braves were a great team that came up very short of where they wanted to be in the end and they’re also proof that vampires never win in the end.