commentary by Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier sports editor
Major League Baseball’s postseason is currently underway, which means that it is one of the most exciting times of year to be a baseball fan. As an avid baseball fan, the postseason is always an exciting time of year for me. It is even more exciting when my team, the Atlanta Braves, is in the postseason, which is the case this year for the second year in a row.
Much like last season, the Braves are considered to be ahead of schedule by many baseball experts who did not anticipate the Braves being a postseason contender until at least 2020.
RotoChamp, a fantasy baseball app, predicted the Braves to finish fourth in the National League’s eastern division with an overall season record of 83-79. The Braves proved RotoChamp’s predictions wrong after clinching the National League’s eastern division on Sept. 20 and posting a 97-65 overall record this season.
When I saw the preseason predictions this year, I was shocked. After the Braves clinched the National League eastern division last year, I thought that experts would rank the Braves higher this season.
I, however, believed in this team from day one this season, based mainly on the team’s previous successes, especially the success that they had last year.
Being a season ticket holder at the Rome Braves, Single-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, I have seen firsthand many of these current Atlanta Braves come through Rome on their way to Atlanta and the talent that they have.
With the addition of a few new players last offseason, there was already a great mix of promising young talent and veteran players from last season’s team that were returning this year that made me have high expectations for this season.
My expectations proved to be true as both the returning young and veteran players contributed in big ways during the 2019 season, which ultimately helped lead the Braves to the postseason this year.
Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who will turn 22 in December, is often viewed as one of the best young players to play baseball. He is in his second year at the major league level after he made his debut with Atlanta in 2018. In the 2019 regular season, Acuña had a .280 batting average with 101 runs batted in (RBI), 41 home runs and 37 stolen bases.
Second baseman Ozzie Albies is another young player who contributed in big ways for the Braves this season. The 22-year-old is in his third year at the major league level. He made his Atlanta debut in 2017. Albies posted a .295 average during the regular season and had 86 RBI, 24 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
Veterans like Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis also helped lead the Braves to the postseason this year. Freeman ended the 2019 regular season with a .295 average while Markakis, who spent some time of the injured list (IL) this season, ended with a .285 average.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson, an off-season pickup for the Braves, has also had a significant impact on the success of the team this season. Donaldson ended the regular season with a .259 average and 37 home runs.
Hitting has not been the only strong aspect of this year’s Braves team. Strong starting pitching has been a significant factor in the success as well.
After being drafted in 2015 and spending only a few years in the minor leagues, right handed pitcher (RHP) Mike Soroka made his MLB debut last season but spent most of last season injured. This year, the 22-year-old has been lights-out for the Braves.
During the 2019 regular season starting in 29 games, Soroka posted a 2.68 earned run average (ERA) and had 13-4 record with 142 strikeouts.
Left handed pitcher (LHP) Max Fried has also been noteworthy this season. Fried had a 4.02 ERA this season with a 17-6 record and 173 strikeouts.
LHP Dallas Keuchel, who the Braves picked up in June, has also helped lead the Braves to success this season. He posted a 3.75 ERA during the regular season and had 91 strikeouts.
While all of the stats listed above may be overwhelming if the person reading them is not a baseball fan, the point that I am trying to make is that the Braves had one heck of a season.
As stated above, their success has led them to clinching the National League’s eastern division, which in turn led the team to a divisional series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
At the Campus Carrier’s publication deadline on Oct. 9, the best of five series with the Cardinals was tied 2-2. Updates will be provided on vikingfusion.com.
Elsewhere around the baseball postseason at publication deadline, in the other National League divisional series, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals series was tied 2-2.
In the American League, the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays were tied 2-2. The only team who has advanced to their league’s championship series so far is the New York Yankees who swept the Minnesota Twins in its best of five series.
It will be interesting to see how the postseason continues to progress as we will soon know what teams will be playing in the National League and American League championship series.