As baseball prepares to convene in Nashville for next week's winter meetings, the offseason action has been sporadic so far. That could change at any moment, but let's take advantage of the slow start for our first snapshot of how things stack up this hot stove season.
In addition to the 2024 projections, we'll take a quick look back at the season that concluded at the beginning of this month by noting one thing that defined the 2023 campaign for each team. Then we'll make some suggestions for how the team might repeat or avoid that fate, depending on how desirable it was.
Sim wins: 100.8 (Final 2023 rating: 100.4)
Probabilities: 77% (division), 97% (playoffs), 27% (title)
2023 season defined by: Dingers, dingers and more dingers
How 2024 could be better: Only the 2019 Twins homered as often as the 2023 Braves, whose 307 long balls made them just the third team top 300 in a season. That was 58 more than the second-place Dodgers on the leaderboard. Nearly 52% of Atlanta's MLB-leading runs came via homers, a figure that ranks fifth among all teams during the division era (since 1969). Atlanta also led all teams in the postseason by scoring 62.5% of its runs on home runs. The problem was that the Braves did little else on offense, scoring just eight runs in their four-game loss to the Phillies in the NLDS. While home runs are never a bad thing, Atlanta's level of reliance on them for scoring has generally not translated to World Series trophies, at least among other teams over the years that get at least half their scoring from homers.
The Braves are likely to run back virtually all of their 2023 starting lineup, with only left field a little murky to foresee. And why not? Atlanta projects to lead the majors in everything: homers, runs, all three slash categories. The Braves even top the charts in baserunning metrics. Really, this may be a matter of instilling a new mindset among the Braves' hitters, because at least some regression in homers seems likely. You can't really ask Ronald Acuna Jr., Matt Olson & Co. to try to hit fewer homers. But you can ask for more situational balance so that when Atlanta reaches October again next fall (and that looks like a strong likelihood) they have as many tools in their kit as possible.