MLB: The Braves Are Setting a New Standard for Tanking

MLB: The Braves Are Setting a New Standard for Tanking
The Braves chase a foul ball at Wrigley Field on May 1, 2016. | David Banks/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves began play May 3 with a 6-19 record, the worst record in baseball, and it wasn’t much of a surprise. After all, the franchise conceded at least the next few seasons while it started a rebuild a few offseasons back. However, baseball has not seen a team quite this horrendous through the first five weeks of the season in recent memory.

To get an idea of the type of example Atlanta is setting for the league in the midst of its organizational reboot, we thought we would point out some of the more telling statistics the team has compiled thus far. Here are four stats no one wants associated with their team.

Atlanta position players have -3.1 WAR

The concept of wins-against-replacement (WAR) is a little tricky when dealing with Atlanta. After all, Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Castro, and Kelly Johnson are three perfect examples of replacement players. If you take them out and swap in figures from Triple-A or the waiver wire, would it get any worse? This stuff could make an advanced stat geek’s head explode.

Regardless, Braves position players are the only group with less than a -1.0 WAR. Phillies position players, next to last, are 2.4 wins better at -0.7 WAR. Atlanta offense (-53.4), defense (-6.1), and baserunning (-3.7) are each bad in their own ways, but the offense is terrifying for fans of the long-ball and extra-base hits in general.

27 players have more home runs than the Braves

One of the signs of Babe Ruth’s greatness was the home run prowess of the Big Bam compared to other teams. There were seasons where Ruth out-homered the majority of teams in the league, and no single player came close to his power stats. In 2016, the Braves are making dozens of players look Ruthian. At press time, 27 players had more big flies than the entire Atlanta roster (5). Nolan Arenado (11) has more than twice as many.

MLB: The Braves Are Setting a New Standard for Tanking
Freddie Freeman looks on at Turner Field on April 20, 2016. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

26 defensive runs lost

The defensive runs saved (DRS) stat hangs a number on a player’s ability to prevent offense by the opposing team. Using the average defender as the benchmark, this number gives you an idea of how your team is doing on behalf of the pitching. Atlanta as a group had posted -26 DRS through May 3 — 42 runs worse than Texas, which had the best mark in the Majors at +16. Compared to an average defense, Braves fielders have allowed a few dozen runs more.

The only team slugging below .300

Teams like St. Louis (.487) and Colorado (.485) have flashed extraordinary power in the first month of the season. In Atlanta’s case, it’s been quite the opposite, with the team slugging .289. No other MLB team is below .300 through the first month of play, and the next-worst club (San Diego) has a .353 SLG one month into the season. For a little more perspective, the Braves on-base percentage is .297, giving the club a .586 OPS.

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