Revisiting the Braves through 60 games last season

Braves manager Brian Snitker looks on while Ronald Acuna Jr. takes batting practice in CoolToday Park at spring training on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in North Port.  Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Braves manager Brian Snitker looks on while Ronald Acuna Jr. takes batting practice in CoolToday Park at spring training on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in North Port. Curtis Compton

Major League Baseball will play a 60-game season beginning in late July, the first time it's played a shortened campaign since 1995. You likely recall how that season ended.

If the Braves win their second World Series title this season, it will be the second that occurred after a truncated season. These 60 games are much shorter than the 144 of 1995, however.

Regardless of how one feels about the circumstances - including no fans in home ballparks and playing during a pandemic - this provides the opportunity to observe baseball again.

For the Braves, it’s a chance at a third consecutive National League East title, an additional opportunity to capitalize during the team’s window. These openings always seem primed to last longer than how they turn out.

Through 60 games last season, the Braves had recovered from a mediocre start and were 33-27, a half-game back of first place. Their over/under win total for this odd campaign is set at 33-1/2, per Bet Online. That’s the same total as the Nationals, a win higher than the Mets and two wins higher than the Phillies

A quick look at some numbers from the team’s first 60 games last season:

 Freddie Freeman will be an MVP candidate again if he replicates his 2019 numbers through 60 games. He hit .310/.394/.578 with 15 homers, 15 doubles and 37 RBIs in 59 games.

 Mike Soroka, who missed the beginning of the season, was through nine starts. He had a 1.41 ERA, 51 strikeouts, 15 walks and held opponents to a .180 batting average in 57-1/3 innings. If he does something similar this year, he'll have a strong case for the Cy Young (if there will still be awards).

 Ronald Acuna played in 59 of the Braves' first 60 games. He hit .281/.367/.465 with 11 homers, seven doubles and 34 RBIs in 228 at-bats. Note that he was only 22 games back into the leadoff spot during that stretch, which is where he took off for a second consecutive season. He'll start 2020 as the team's leadoff man.

 Lefty Max Fried made 14 appearances (12 starts) and owned a 3.68 ERA. He had a 59:18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66 innings. Fried will try to take the next step in 2020.

 Ozzie Albies hit .261 with a .725 OPS. He had seven homers, 10 doubles and a pair of triples. 
He also had scored 33 runs and knocked in 25. His final numbers: a .295 average, .852 OPS, 43 doubles, eight triples and 24 homers. He scored 102 runs and had 86 RBIs.

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 In a true game of fun with sample sizes, Austin Riley played only 18 games before the 60 mark. He was remarkably productive upon promotion, hitting .324 with a 1.101 OPS in that time. Obviously, that was a unique situation, but it's example of how skewed numbers can be in smaller samples.

On a similar note, Johan Camargo had a tough early 2019. Through that span, he'd hit .221/.267/.345 while playing sparingly in 46 games (23 starts). The designated hitter, which will be used in the NL for at least this season, should help the Braves give Riley and Camargo ample playing time.

 Under a shorter season, Mike Foltynewicz wouldn't have had the opportunity for his second-half rebound. He had a 6.10 ERA with 32 strikeouts against eight walks in his first seven starts. He allowed 13 homers in 38-1/3 innings.

Foltynewicz eventually was demoted to Triple-A. When he returned, his final 10 starts resembled his All-Star form of 2018. He had a 2.65 ERA with 55 strikeouts against 17 walks in 57-2/3 innings.

He’s another example of how baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. This time it’s the latter.

 It's an important season for Dansby Swanson. Last season, he played in each of the Braves' first 60 games, hitting .266/.320/.491 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs. Swanson had a bit of a power surge in the first half, though his breakthrough offensive season later stalled because of a heel injury.

 The Braves are banking on Marcell Ozuna as their clean-up hitter this season. Ozuna hit .255 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs through 60 games a year ago. Josh Donaldson, now with the Twins, hit .253 with eight homers and 25 RBIs over that same time. Donaldson's production picked up when he was moved to clean-up May 10 after the offense had struggled.

 He's no longer a Brave, but this will be Dallas Keuchel's second consecutive shortened season. The Braves signed Keuchel in June and he didn't appear until game 76. He made 19 starts for the Braves, proving a valuable innings eater. Keuchel signed with the White Sox in the winter.