The last time the Braves won the World Series, I had just begun a job at Blockbuster Video making $4.25 an hour. The night of Game 6 I was scheduled to work from 5-close which was usually around 1am. I had set the VCR to record the game and hoped to avoid hearing the news until I got home, but one of my coworkers let it slip that the Braves had won. So for $34 before taxes, I missed what I had been hoping my whole life to see. Granted I was one day shy of turning 18, so the wait was minimal compared to some of you, but I had lived and died with every at bat from Glenn Hubbard and Ken Oberkfell, and every pitch from Zane Smith and Rick Mahler, right up to the miracle and the heartbreak of ‘91 and the subsequent agonies of ‘92 and ‘93. Times have certainly changed and I got to watch every bit of this one. Here are your World Series MVPs and LVPs for the 2021 Atlanta Braves:
1) Jorge Soler (0.48 WPA, +23.1% cWPA) – This one wasn’t even close. Soler hit 3 go-ahead HRs in the series and Atlanta won each of those games. Soler had nothing but quality at bats all series and all of that culminated in one of the longest HR’s you will ever see. That 3-run HR off Garcia turned out to be all the Braves needed to clinch the series.
2) Austin Riley (0.28 WPA, +9.8% cWPA) – Actually didn’t have a fantastic series, but made his hits count driving in key runs in Games 3 and 4. Only 4 Braves hitters had positive cWPA for the series, so it was key to get those timely hits in a 2-0 and 3-2 game.
3) Ian Anderson (0.30 WPA, +10.3% cWPA) – The next few slots will go to pitchers and it’s really splitting hairs to rank them. Anderson gave his best performance of the postseason when it was needed most. Five hitless innings in what was at the time a 1-0 game, really put Atlanta in charge of the series. Anderson is clearly a big game pitcher.
4) Will Smith (0.28 WPA, +9.7% cWPA) – Was asked to close out all 4 wins and did so in the drama-free fashion we have come to expect from Will. Gave up zero runs the entire postseason. Just a remarkable turn around and Snit’s faith in Will was rewarded big time.
5) Max Fried (-0.09 WPA, +3.5 cWPA) – Diverging from cWPA a bit here. His dismal Game 2 pulls the numbers down, but Max delivered his best performance of the year (at least by xwOBA) in the biggest game of the year. He left the Astros feeling hopeless even at just 3-0, even when they had just come back from 4-0 the game before.
6) Tyler Matzek (0.21 WPA, +8.0% cWPA) – It’s really hard to separate the members of the Night Shift as they all were excellent. Even if the Astors thought they had a glimmer of hope when Fried came out of Game 6, Matzek was quick to remind them how unhittable he has been this entire postseason.
7) Luke Jackson (0.30 WPA, +10.3% cWPA) – Hard to put him this low, as you could argue for as high as 2nd, but he didn’t see the field after Game 4. 3.2 innings of 1 hit ball to help the Braves to a commanding 3-1 lead shouldn’t be overlooked though.
8) Dansby Swanson (0.10 WPA, +6.2% cWPA) – Was really in a funk this whole postseason, but hit 2 key homers in the series, one to tie Game 4 and one to put the game out of reach in Game 6.
9) Kyle Wright (0.13 WPA, +5.2 cWPA) – We may not be celebrating, were it not for the performance turned in by Kyle in Game 4. He kept Atlanta close enough for the late comeback and probably earned the inside track to the 5th starter spot in 2022.
10) Freddie Freeman (0.04 WPA, +1.4 cWPA) – Had a really good series, just did most of his damage in losing efforts or when the game was already out of reach. Intangibly, probably helped motivate the entire team to rally around Freddie and help him win a championship.
Brian Snitker – Currently reading “One Shot at Forever” on the recommendation of ValD Brave and it is excellent. His life really needs to be turned into a movie someday. Pushed most of the right buttons, never panicked and always trusted his guys, which has had an enormous impact on their success.
Charlie Morton – (0.11 WPA, +3.8% cWPA) – Braves probably win in 5 without Morton’s leg being broken. Actually, they may have won Game 5 if he pitched on the broken leg given how he pitched after the injury. Looked really solid early in Game 1 and allowed Atlanta to get the series lead.
Chris Martin – (0.12 WPA, +4.1% cWPA) – Wasn’t used a ton but was effective in 2.1 innings. Allowed no runs.
1) Joc Pederson- (-0.16 WPA, -5.9% cWPA) – Joctober actually must’ve ended on the 19th because after that Joc was just 2-25. Had a rough series, but not sure they make out of the NLDS without him.
2) Tucker Davidson – (-0.15 WPA, -3.5% cWPA) – I was a bit surprised cWPA wasn’t lower as he took a 4-0 lead and gave it back to Houston. Tough spot to be in and probably shouldn’t have seen the 3rd inning (Dansby’s error didn’t help either) but the results are what they are.
3) Travis d’Arnaud – (-0.10 WPA, -7.1% cWPA) – Not a horrible series but had the worst cWPA on the team. Went 7-24 with 2 solo homers, one of which added a nice insurance run for Game 3. Called a great series as well, just had several key opportunities and didn’t deliver.
4) Dylan Lee – (-0.11 WPA, -4.2% cWPA) – Again, he was put in a rough spot and the umps tight zone made things worse, but he dug a big hole that luckily Wright bailed him out of. May still have a future as a Grant Dayton type, but as he said post game “Now I know that I am a reliever.”
5) Drew Smyly – (-0.09 WPA, -2.8% cWPA) – Smyly did eat some valuable innings in Game 5 and saved the bullpen a bit so that is not nothing, but he never looked comfortable against Houston. 4IP, 3R though 1 run shouldn’t have scored as Altuve, just like Posey before him, was out.
I’m stopping the list at 5 instead of 10 as we just won the World Series, hard to dwell on the negative and anyone I list had key moments to help win the series. Albies (-4.4% cWPA) scored the winning run in Game 6 and looked much better in the 7th spot, Minter (-5.5% cWPA) saved the Braves bacon in Game 1 filling in for the injured Morton and though Rosario (-2.0% cWPA) came back to earth a bit, he had a key walk ahead of Soler’s homer in Game 6 and had a tremendous catch in Game 4 to help preserve the one run lead.
Next up I will take a look at the MVPs and LVPs for the postseason as a whole.