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The Braves are walking on sunshine in 2023

Remember when the Braves struggled mightily during day games last season? Well, things have changed dramatically here in 2023.

San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

I’m well aware of the fact that writing an article like this after we just saw the Atlanta Braves lose a day game yesterday is a bit awkward. Indeed, the memory of Kirby Yates basically escorting the winning run for the Giants all the way from the batter’s box back to home plate to score is still freshly implanted in my memory and the thought of that same scenario playing out in October is enough to give me ample nightmare fuel going forward.

With that being said, obviously I’m not here to talk about Kirby Yates. Instead, it’s time to do a bit of a follow-up on my immediate postmortem article following Atlanta’s shocking exit from last year’s postseason. Did you know that the Braves have already won more day games this season than they did all of last season? Not only that, they’ve already cleared last season’s day game win total by four games and that’s with at least nine day games left to play on their schedule going forward. Indeed, the Braves are now 28-15 in games that have been played with the sun beaming down on everybody and this is after they managed to win 101 games last season while somehow sleepwalking through day games in 2022 with a 24-27 record.

Let’s start doing some comparisons (with the small caveat being that all of the 2023 stats don’t include yesterday’s game). Last season, the Braves had a slash line as a team of .238/.310/.415 with a wRC+ of 102 and a wOBA of .317 in games that started during the day. This year, the Braves have been hitting at a .265/.333/.488 clip during day games with a wRC+ of 117 and a wOBA of .349. They’ve also had an Isolated Power number of .223 in day games this season, which is in stark contrast to last season’s .178 number which indicated that their power died out when the sun was out. There has been no such power outage in the current season.

The pitching during day games has actually been somewhat similar to what they did in 2022, which is when they finished with an ERA of 3.81 and a FIP of 3.61 during day games last season. This season, that mark is at 3.84 for their ERA and their FIP is at 4.02. Part of that can be explained by the fact that Atlanta’s rotation hasn’t exactly been operating at full strength this season but that ERA mark is particularly interesting since 3.84 is good enough to put the Braves in fourth-place overall for pitching staffs during day games this season. The Astros led last season’s day game ERA leaderboard with a mark of 2.35 but this season, the Mariners are leading baseball with 3.65 day ERA. Times have changed, clearly.

So while the numbers for Atlanta’s pitching staff during day games aren’t looking much better than what the 2022 Vampire Braves had going on, it’s better within the context of what’s been going on in day games across baseball this season. Combine that with the clear improvement that the offense has made playing in day games this season when compared to last season and it’s definitely easy to see why this team has fared much better with the sun out this season than they did in 2022.

So how is it happening? The article I wrote last season ended on a bit of an ambiguous note since I couldn’t really figure out or explain what was going on unless I was able to be a fly on the wall of the Braves clubhouse during their preparation for day games. My best guess is that Brian Snitker and the coaching staff must’ve realized that this was a running theme of frustration for the Braves last season and ultimately ended up being part of their undoing in 2022 (among other, more important reasons) as their postseason exit coincided with all but one game of that NLDS being played during the day.

Maybe the coaching staff and management decided to figure out a way to nip that strange weakness in the bud? Maybe they’re just doing the same thing that they did last season and are simply just getting better bounces or are just benefiting from being a better overall team this season than what they were last year? Either way, it’s still one of those things that’s less of an exact science and more of a nebulous thing to figure out. Baseball’s a game where everything is tracked and counted and yet factors like luck, other intangibles and the forever-present human element still makes this sport such an exciting one to follow on a daily basis.

So once again, I’ve got no type of solutions for you other than “baseball is weird.” Sometimes you spend a season playing like you’re terrified of the sun and sometimes you spend a season playing like the entire team ate their Wheaties for breakfast. This is indeed a weird sport that we’re all fans of but at least we can go into the postseason knowing that this team can actually handle a full series of day games again? Who knows.

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