Braves season overview

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.

Hayden Flinn, Sports Editor

Atlanta Braves baseball is back. 

The 2023 MLB season is officially underway after opening day took place last Thursday, March 30. 

The Braves had a tremendous year a season ago. They recorded their first 100-win season since 2003 and won their fifth straight division title. 

Despite their 100-win season, many Braves fans felt the team did not play to their best potential after their World Series victory in 2021. A couple of injuries to some key players came back to haunt the Braves in the playoffs.

“A lot of players underperformed last season and we were still able to win 101 games, so I’d expect the Braves to pass this mark this season,” said senior marketing major Jacob Revell. “As long as the team can stay healthy, the Braves look poised to make a run at the World Series.”

Coming into the season, the Braves had the second-best odds, at +800, to win the 2023 World Series behind the Houston Astros. 

The Braves had one of the best offenses in all of baseball a year ago. They were second in the league in homeruns, and they were third in total runs scored. 

The team returns eight of their nine hitters from that lineup a season ago. The only departures include shortstop Dansby Swanson, who held the third-highest batting average for the Braves, and catcher William Contreras, who rotated in with Travis d’Arnaud every other game.

“I think the biggest struggle for the Braves this year is figuring out who’s going to be their long-term solution at shortstop,” said senior management major Mitch Ledford. “We extended Orlando Arcia for three years, but I think he will just end up being a role player. I think Braeden Shewmake or Vaughn Grissom will end up being the answer for the future.”

The Braves have already played their first series of the season against the Washington Nationals. They took the series two games to one, winning on Thursday, 7-2, and winning on Saturday, 7-1. They came up short in game three of the series, 4-1.

Through the first three games, some players have already shown some improvement from a year ago. In recent history, the Braves have been known to start off slow and heat up in the second half of the season. This was not the case in this first series, as players like Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, d’Arnaud, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley all tallied multiple hits throughout the series.

“I think the Braves are going to have another solid showing this year,” said senior public health major Jack Beers. “They came out hot with the bats in the first two games, although they dropped the final one to Washington. This may not mean much, as Washington is one of the worst teams in baseball this year, but hopefully it was a sign of what is to come this season.”

Last year was a disappointment for superstar Acuña Jr. The former top-five player in baseball returned to the diamond in 2022 after tearing his ACL in the second half of the 2021 championship season. Acuña Jr. severely underperformed at the plate compared to his previous years, when he was in the running for MVP.

In 2022, Acuña Jr. batted .266, hit 15 home runs, drove in 50 runs and stole 29 bags. The years prior to his injury, through two seasons, Acuña Jr. hit for an average of .286 and averaged 33 home runs per season, 82 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. He also came extremely close to putting up the first 40-40 — 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases — season since Alfonso Soriano in 2006. He was only three stolen bases away.

This year, he will be looking to rechannel his superstar potential and make a strong case for MVP to help lead the Braves back to the World Series.

The Braves will face a number of challenges throughout the year, especially with the pieces that other NL East teams picked up this offseason. 

The New York Mets added former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to their already dangerous pitching rotation, and the Philadelphia Phillies added All-Star shortstop Trea Turner to their lineup after coming up just short to the Astros in the 2022 World Series.

The NL East will be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, but for the Braves, the biggest challenge will be remaining healthy through 162 games. 

The Braves are back in action this week, as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game road series, and are looking to better their record throughout the course of the season.