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The Braves refused to throw in the towel… and it won them a World Series title

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

-Clint Manry

It’s already a fairly well-known fact about baseball, but the postseason is really nothing more than a crapshoot, and once you’re in, anything can happen. On Tuesday night the Braves proved that case perhaps more than any other team in recent memory as it beat the Astros 7-0 in Game 6 to take home its first World Series title in 26 years. Atlanta’s 2021 regular season was neither noteworthy nor was it even all that great – but it didn’t have to be. They got hot at the just the right time, and over three playoff series that spanned 16 games, the team played its best ball of the year. It wasn’t always pretty, and you could say they nearly spoiled it at the end when they failed to eliminate Houston at home last weekend. However, as Freddie Freeman caught the final out of last night’s victory, the team – as well its city – could finally breath again. Nothing that came before that moment mattered, because we did it, Braves Country. We won it all.

I probably don’t have to remind you just how bad things got this summer. As of July 23, the Braves were headed nowhere, especially not a World Series. The team was in third place – and six games back – at just 47-50, and according to FanGraphs, its playoff odds had hit a season-low 7%.

NL East playoff odds (as of July 23)
Graph from FanGraphs

As that graph vividly illustrates, Atlanta was very much a downward-trending team in late July. Although, really, save for the Mets, essentially the entire NL East division was treading water. But the special thing about the month of July is that at the very end there’s this lovely thing called the trade deadline. And thankfully, despite still playing below-.500 ball, the Braves went for it.

Thanks to the additions of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Richard Rodríguez (all acquired via trade), Atlanta finished the regular season with a 40-23 record following July 23, which featured a nine-game winning streak in mid-August and a dozen wins in the team’s final 14 games of the campaign. The Braves was the best team in baseball during the second-half, and remarkably, every deadline acquisition (save for Rodríguez) performed better once in Atlanta.

Joc Pederson.230 AVG, 90 wRC+, 0.1 WAR.249 AVG, 101 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
Eddie Rosario.254 AVG, 86 wRC+, 0.3 WAR.271 AVG, 133 wRC+, 0.6 WAR
Jorge Soler.192 AVG, 79 wRC+, -1.1 WAR.269 AVG, 132 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
Adam Duvall.229 AVG, 102 wRC+, 1.4 WAR.226 AVG, 106 wRC+, 1.0 WAR
Richard Rodríguez 2.82 ERA, 22.8 K%, 1.3 WAR3.12 ERA, 8.5 K%, -0.5 WAR
2021 Trade Deadline Additions — Before and After they were acquired by the Braves

GM Alex Anthopoulos didn’t have to go for it at the deadline. At 52-54 and five games out of first (while missing super stars Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mike Soroka, as well as the uncertainty regarding Marcell Ozuna), I believe there was a rather large portion of fans that actually expected the team to punt on July 31. But, and this should get way more attention than perhaps anything else, Anthopoulos did the right thing – he cashed in on a few prospects and brought in some much-needed reinforcements. And it worked like a charm.

It would’ve been one thing for those deadline adds to only provide a second-half surge. That alone would’ve been quite the story. But the contributions didn’t end there. Not only did Pederson, Rosario, Soler and Duvall deliver key performances at various times throughout the postseason, but other critical aspects of the team stepped up. The back-half of the bullpen completely dominated, the starters shoved more times than not, and even guys like Kyle Wright and Drew Smyly had their moments. It was as if each and every player was absolutely determined to be at their best when it mattered most. One guy steps us, then another… and so on and so on. That, in a nutshell, is exactly what a championship team does.

Now that the season has ended, there are several looming questions that will need to be dealt with. Will the Braves and Freeman work out a deal? Which of the deadline additions will remain with the team? However, there will be plenty of time for that later. Right now we should enjoy the win. Against all odds, and as one of the biggest underdogs of the postseason this year, Atlanta got the job done. They finally finished. And if there’s one takeaway from 2021 that should never be forgotten it’s that no matter how grim things may appear, NEVER throw in the towel.

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