The Braves won 104 games in the 2023 regular season, most in the Majors. Atlanta seemed poised to do damage in the MLB Postseason and make a run at another World Series title for much of the year. However, a great regular season was spoiled yet again in the NLDS. Here’s our recap of the Braves’ 2023 season.
The Offensive Numbers
The Braves offense finished the year with 307 home runs, tied with the 2019 Twins for most in a single season. It was a truly historic year on a number of fronts and it started with Ronald Acuna Jr.
Acuna Jr. became the fifth 40-40 player in MLB history and the first to hit at least 40 home runs and swipe at least 70 stolen bases. The Braves superstar hit almost 100 points better against fastballs in 2023 as compared to 2022, reached a level that baseball fans hadn’t seen to this point, and likely will be either the winner or runner-up for the NL MVP.
Aside from Acuna Jr., Matt Olson turned in a career year in his second season in Atlanta. Olson hit .283/.389/.604 with a league-high 54 home runs and he was one of three Braves to crack at least 40 homers. The other two were Acuna Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, who rebounded after a below-average 2022 campaign.
The Braves offense had nothing but depth up and down the lineup. From Acuna Jr. to Austin Riley to Orlando Arcia, who hit 17 home runs and turned into a solid replacement for Dansby Swanson, Atlanta’s offense proved to be a nightmare for opposing pitchers in the regular season.
On the pitching side of things, Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder both turned in relatively strong numbers despite less-than-stellar second halves. Strider led the MLB in strikeouts (281), while Bryce Elder went from Triple-A pitcher to NL All-Star in four months.
Left-hander Max Fried (2.55 ERA, 80:18 K:BB in 77.2 IP) also turned in excellent numbers, although a series of injuries did limit the Braves ace for much of the year.
In the bullpen, Raisel Iglesias did just fine in 2023 after he replaced Kenley Jansen as the team’s closer. Iglesias struck out 68 over 55.2 IP and notched 33 saves. Atlanta also received strong results from Joe Jimenez, Kirby Yates, Jesse Chavez, and Nick Anderson.
Even though the Braves pitching staff finished third in total strikeouts and Whiff%, Atlanta’s team ERA, opponent’s batting average, and wOBA (.398 – 16th) were middle of the pack.
A lot of that could be attributed to injuries, as Atlanta did not have Max Fried, Kyle Wright, and several relievers at various times throughout the year. Rookies Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd could not fill the void left behind by Fried and Wright early on in the year, nor could a returning Mike Soroka.
On the offensive side of things, one would look at Sean Murphy‘s numbers — .251/.365/.478, 21 HR, 68 RBI in 108 G — and not be critical of the ex-Athletics catcher’s stats. However, Murphy struggled badly in the second half.
Murphy hit just .159/.310/.275 in 168 plate appearances in the second half and posted one of the ten worst OPS figures in that span (min. 160 PA).
The veteran catcher did, however, go 2-for-7 (.286) in the NLDS against the Phillies.
What to Look For in 2024
The Braves once again have to reckon with what was yet another disappointing season. Atlanta’s offense on paper was better than in 2021 or 2022 and also had the starters needed to make it all the way back to the Fall Classic.
However, the Braves bats went cold in the playoffs for the second straight year. Atlanta scored just eight over the four games, five of which came during the Braves’ comeback victory in Game 2.
Heading into 2024, the Braves now will have to face several questions about their rotation. First off, the Braves won’t have SP Kyle Wright for likely all of 2024 after shoulder surgery. Then there’s Charlie Morton, who may or may not come back for his age-40 season. He did pitch well in 2023 and the Braves do have a 2024 $20 million team option for Morton.
The Braves will return virtually all of their offense, though, and Atlanta’s already begun to make moves to prepare for 2024. Atlanta re-signed reliever Pierce Johnson, who was acquired in the summer and pitched marvelously (.76 ERA, 32:5 K:BB ratio in 23.2 IP) in a Braves uniform.