The Atlanta Braves may have finished in last place in the National League East Division in 2016, but in September they were one of baseball’s hottest teams.
On August 28, the Braves were sitting with a 48-83 record. That 35 games below the .500 mark left them with the worst record in baseball. In the National League, the nearest team was seven games above them.
Then something suddenly changed. The Braves suddenly got…good. They reeled off six straight wins en route to a 20-10 finish over the season’s final six weeks.
The Braves were able to get out of the NL basement, finishing ahead of two teams.
They also got within 2.5 games of the fourth place Philadelphia Phillies before running out of season.
When that hot stretch began the Braves had trailed the Phils by 12.5 in the NL East standings.
BRAVES 2016 STATS AND PERFORMANCE LEADERS
The club did not generate much in the way off offense this season. 25-year old Center fielder Ender Inciarte won a Gold Glove Award while hitting .291 with a .351 on-base percentage. He stole 16 bases and scored 85 runs.
Veteran right fielder Nick Markakis was second on the team with 89 RBI, 38 doubles, and 161 hits. Third baseman Adonis Garcia hit .273 with 14 homers and 29 doubles. Almost all of his damage came after the start of June.
Two late additions, veteran Matt Kempwho came via trade with San Diego, and rookie shortstop promotee Dansby Swanson, completely turned the lineup around after entering joining the Braves in August.
25-year old Julio Teheran led the rotation with 30 starts over which he allowed just 157 hits in 188 innings. He produced a 167/41 K:BB ratio, as well as a 3.21 ERA and 1.053 WHIP. Veteran Jim Johnson and 22-year old rookie Mauricio Cabrera led the bullpen.
FREEMAN IS THE BRAVES TOP PLAYER
It wasn’t even a contest in selecting the team’s 2016 Player of the Year. First baseman Freddie Freeman finished sixth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting. He was also named as the first baseman on The Sporting News NL All-Star team.
The 26-year old Freeman hit for a .302/.400/.569 slash line with 34 home runs, 43 doubles, 91 RBI, and 102 runs scored. He did all of that with virtually no lineup protection for the majority of the season.
Braves rookie outfielder Mallex Smith was quoted on Freeman by David O’Brien with The Atlanta-Journal Constitution as the season was winding down, perfectly capturing the first baseman’s value to the team.
“Freddie? He’s amazing,” Smith said per O’Brien. “That is a professional hitter, everybody. He’s the man. You just kind of stay out of his way and watch. In a lot of ways, I’m still a fan of guys in the clubhouse, because I watched them (in the past). You know, like I’m just getting up here, so it’s still kind of, like, fun to see them play.
“Freddie Freeman been locking down first base since he was, what, 21? 20? It’s just nice to see a professional just do his thing. It’s the same thing every day, he carries himself the same way, doesn’t get too high, don’t get too low and just takes care of his business. He’s a true professional. He’s fun to watch and be around.”
A true professional who is fun to watch, and who does his thing every day. That is Freddie Freeman, and it all adds up to the 2016 Atlanta Braves Player of the Year.