I bet you thought that the 10 for 10’s series was over, eh? Like Jose Constanza stealing at-bats from Jason Heyward, we are going to steal your attention for 5 more segments. In the next week (or so), we will be covering the best of the 10’s at each position. The pieces will be split into the following categories: Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching, Infield, Outfield, Bench.
In determining who’s the best, we followed a simple criteria. If there was one player that had a great outlying year that supersedes other players, that player gets the nod. If a player has 1 great year that’s slightly better than another player who sustained success for multiple years, the latter gets the nod. And of course, if we get it wrong, please feel free to Pee Wee Herman us to death in the comments.
Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: First Base
Chris Johnson…I kid. Freddie Freeman-No player in the organization collected more fWAR in the 10’s than Freddie Freeman. At 34.6, he finished 12.1 points above Brian McCann, who’s fWAR took a huge leap when framing was factored into the equation. Unfortunately for Freddie, no metric has been able to quantify stretches for a first baseman, and he’s the best in the business at getting extra outs by getting his glove 6-7 feet out in front of the base.
Freddie received 24 PAs in 2010, one of which was quite memorable as he connected for his first career home run off of Roy Halladay. From 2011 on, Freddie has been a steady presence in the lineup, replacing Chipper Jones in the 3-hole. While he’s been much better against RHP for his career (.926 OPS), he’s no slouch against LHPs (.789 OPS). Even with 2 injuries that sidelined him for 50ish games/each, on average, he’s been a 4.5 WAR player these past 7 years. If he can stay healthy, I think he’s got another 4…at least. Believe it, y’all. Don’t be a Hader.
Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Second Base
Ozzie Albies: Ozzie’s been with the Braves roughly 2.4 years and ranked 5th in overall WAR for position players for the 10’s. When he first became a Major Leaguer, he was a talented yet flawed player. He was a bit of a free swinger and lacked pop from the LH side. This could’ve been lingering effects from a broken elbow that occurred just 1 year prior. While it seemed worrisome at the time, Braves fans were quickly relieved of that worry in 2019 as his numbers greatly improved against RHP. Adding to that, he continued his absolute dominance from the right side of the plate. With plus defense, an insatiable desire to get stronger and better, and the fact that he’ll be here for 8 more years, he’s likely going to just keep getting better.
Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Shortstop
Andrelton Simmons: Admit it. As a fan of the Andrelton era, we were spoiled. However, as a Braves fan we can now fully admit to ourselves that we got to see, live, and 160 games a year, 2 players in Andrelton and Andruw Jones do what no one’s done in the game’s history (spare me your Ozzie Smith and Willie Mays rebuttals).
The Braves version of Andrelton was a great, yet frustrating player as he was other-worldly in the field. Unfortunately, at the plate he was impatient and apparently allergic to walks, despite being one of the hardest players to strike out in the entire league. And while I feel like Dansby Swanson has another gear and should be ready for the breakout we’ve all been waiting for, make no mistake it would’ve been pretty awesome to redo the Sean Newcomb trade and have Andrelton for one more year in 2020. However, the Angels called no takesies backsies and we have to follow the playground code. In case you miss him as much as I do, here’s 12 minutes of brilliance (you might wanna stop around 10, as the last 2 might make one vomit).
Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Third Base
Chris Johnson…kidding, again. Josh Donaldson: It’s weird to put Josh Donaldson’s name up here for the 10’s, as Chipper Jones was still a thing in the early 10’s. However, at that point, Chipper was known around these parts as “Zombie Chipper”, and was essentially a 2ish WAR player that still carried an OPS over .800 at ages 38-40.
After Chipper, it was good Chris Johnson followed by stupidly-extended horrible Chris Johnson. Next it was surprisingly not awful Adonis Garcia followed by awful Adonis Garcia x2. Finally in 2018, Johan Camargo brought justice back to the 3B position and put up the first 3 WAR season since Chris Johnson BABIP’d himself 21 million dollars. Rather than sticking with Camargo for 2020, AA, true to his philosophy on players, grabbed Donaldson on a 1 year deal and moved Camargo to a super-utility role that wasn’t ever really utilized.
But Donaldson was great and his signing felt like the Braves were finally bringing an end to “The Braves Way” and that it was okay to have fun playing the game. Not only that, but Donaldson with his high spirits, sometimes outrageous personality, accompanied by a pair of brass balls, made the Braves feel like the Bad Boys of 2019 and oddly, it felt pretty damn good. He finished the season with a .900 OPS, 37 HRsM, and a 4.9 fWAR that was supported by some pretty great defense.
The cherry on top for Donaldson’s 1 year stint in Atlanta was a celebration that flaunted that “We are here to have fun” mentality, and I’ll miss this just as much as I’ll miss him.
Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Catcher
Brian McCann: Did we as fans ever appreciate Brian McCann as much as he deserved? I truly don’t think so. After framing was added to Fangraphs formula (honestly, I think they overdid it), McCann had 4 remarkable seasons that no catcher has touched since: From 2008-2011, McCann put up 28.5 WAR, nearly ½ of what catchers are expected to have to get HoF consideration. Yes…that’s an average of 7.1 WAR/year. 43.1 of his total 54.5 WAR came in a Braves uniform. I’m glad he was able to come back to the Braves for his final year, and I do think we as fans got it right the 2nd go around and gave him the applause he deserved.
And this? The best.
Thanks for reading our 10 for 10’s piece on the best Atlanta Braves Infield! If you enjoyed this piece, check out our entire 10 for 10’s series here.