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The Moonshot: Why the Atlanta Braves might be even better than last season

Well, we believe in exit velocity, bat flips, launch angles, stealing home, the hanging curveball, Big League Chew, sausage races, and that unwritten rules of any kind are self-indulgent, overrated crap. We believe Greg Maddux was an actual wizard. We believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment protecting minor league baseball and that pitch framing is both an art and a science. We believe in the sweet spot, making WARP not war, letting your closer chase a two-inning save, and we believe love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.

Welcome to The Moonshot.

The Atlanta Braves might be even better than last season

There’s a strong argument to be made that the Atlanta Braves are better this year than they were last year when they won the World Series.

And they’re the team that no one, not even the 110-win Los Angeles Dodgers, wants to face in the postseason.

Of course, the Braves still have Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, Charlie Morton and Max Fried. They lost Freddie Freeman, Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler. But let’s take a look at what they gained: Matt Olson, Kenley Jansen, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Harris II, Vaughn Grissom and Collin McHugh. Oh, and that’s not to mention that Ronald Acuna Jr. is fully recovered after missing most of last season with an ACL tear.

The year the Braves won the World Series, they had 88 wins. They ranked eighth in OPS (.754) and runs (790) and eighth in ERA (3.88). This year’s team has 100 wins with two games remaining while ranking second in OPS (.761), third in runs (778) and having the fifth-best ERA in baseball (3.41). Not to mention the experience from last season’s postseason run to guide them through the gauntlet of the NL, featuring the Dodgers and New York Mets, among others.

But this team can beat anyone. Just look at what the Braves did to the Mets in Atlanta. Against Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt, the Braves scored 11 runs and recorded 17 hits in 14.1 innings. They swept the series and took control of the NL East — and made their path to a World Series drastically easier.

In the NLDS, the Braves would face the winner of the Philadelphia Phillies — St. Louis Cardinals series. The Mets, meanwhile, would have to play a three-game wild card series against the San Diego Padres. Should they advance, they’d fly straight to Los Angeles for a series against the Dodgers, with Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco likely to start Games 1 and 2.

Ouch.

The series against the Mets underscored just how good this Braves team is. And they’re a team that no one wants to face, and the team that has a legitimate chance at once again representing the NL in the World Series.

— Robert Murray

Aaron Judge has it too easy

If you ask me, the pitchers in this Aaron Judge chase could’ve learned a thing or two from Roger Maris’ pursuit of 61. That’s only if you ask me, though. Did you ask me? Oh, good!

These pitchers today. You know, back then, they used to go right at Maris. It was a point of pride to attack him. They’d rear back and throw as hard as they could: 82 miles per hour, see what you can do with it! These days, pitchers are scared. That’s the only difference between today and back in the day, the only one.

You know they oughtta have a separate record in the record book. Maris is the real home run king, unless Judge passes him. Then Judge is. Barry Bonds should be the super home run king. Mark McGwire should be second place on the super home run king list, and not even mentioned on the real home run king list. This is how I think books should work.

Oh, and back in ’61? Maris was so stressed his hair was fallin’ out. Nowadays? They’ve got a product called Keeps. That’s another big difference. Very successful startup.

Nowadays, nobody wants to be in the record books givin’ up Judge’s 62nd. Probably because the record books are getting so damn weird, according to me! Multiple records, what have you. Would be a confusing book to be in!

Back then, there were no DH rest days. The manager penciled you into the lineup, and you just erased yourself if you were feelin’ bad! That was the main advantage of the pencil part. But if he caught you erasin’? Well, then you’d just pop a handful of little green pep pills and go out there and take the pitcher’s best shot: which, again, was 82. And if you got an arm injury, you retired or died. Yup. The Golden Era.

Hey, real quick, I heard it when I said it out loud, are little green pep pills drugs?

— Adam Weinrib

The latest episode of The Baseball Insiders

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X-nRubqfKA

Oswaldo Cabrera could be the breakout star of the postseason

MLB was graced with a ton of rookie talent in 2022. As for playoff teams, the Braves boasted three in Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider and Vaughn Grissom. The Mariners had two of their own in Julio Rodriguez (likely AL ROY winner) and George Kirby. The Astros replaced Carlos Correa swiftly with Jeremy Peña. The Cardinals have a surprise ascender in Brendan Donovan. The Dodgers have a wild card in Miguel Vargas who might make their postseason roster.

But we have a late arrival to the party. Oswaldo Cabrera of the New York Yankees won’t be in the running to get many (if any) rookie of the year votes, but he could have the biggest postseason impact out of anyone else here. He has a distinct set of skills that very well may set him apart from the rest when on the biggest stage.

Cabrera’s numbers won’t wow you in the early going, but his versatility on the defensive end as well as his sweet swing from both sides of the plate offer the Yankees an advantage they haven’t had since Luis Sojo was the team’s utility player.

Many casual baseball fans may no realize, but Cabrera, despite debuting on Aug. 17, is slated to be a playoff starter for the Bombers once the ALDS begins. He’s become an essential part of their fabric, logging reps at first base, second base, shortstop, third base, left field and right field (with most of his games coming there).

In 43 games he has accrued a 1.4 bWAR, with 0.9 of that coming on the defensive end. He’s made just one error, registered seven Defensive Runs Saved across all the positions he’s played and has been good for one Out Above Average. That might not sound awfully impressive, but when you learn he’s played just FOUR total games in right and left field in the minor leagues, with most of his experience coming at second and third, perhaps you’ll take his emergence more seriously.

And because of his defensive prowess, he’s been awarded more time to get his bat acclimated to major league pitching. In 144 at-bats, the 23-year-old is hitting .243 with a .725 OPS, 105 OPS+, 20 runs scored, eight doubles, five homers and 18 RBI. Nearly all that production has come since the beginning of September too, as he worked out the kinks through his 14 games in August.

Though the competition will get tougher, Cabrera is afforded the luxury of being surrounded by some of the game’s best hitters and could very well craft an out-of-nowhere October many might’ve been expecting from a guy like Harris II, who’s enjoying the same advantage toward the bottom of the Braves lineup while exuding his defensive expertise in center field.

Cabrera might not be “there,” just yet, but he’s slowly been progressing over the last month and a half. He’s shown a penchant to deliver in big moments too, so October baseball might be where “his dream” continues.

— Thomas Carannante



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