In 71 games of the 2nd half, the Braves went 43-28 and continued their dominant run that started in June and ran strong through mid-September to secure back-to-back NL East titles. It takes a team to win the division, but some were able to carry more cargo on the home stretch. From everyday players to bench players to players off the scrap heap, 2nd half heroes made a beautiful baseball bouquet that will hopefully stay lovely and fresh throughout the postseason.
Challenge: In the comments, the first 2 to guess why each player was connected to each flower, wins a Braves Journal t-shirt. Some are fairly obvious and others require a tiny bit of research. Big shoutout to Sam Walter (Twitter handle @thesamjwalters) for help with the photoshop. Sam is a sophomore at UGA majoring in Journalism and is dipping his toes into sports media relations.
Ok…so maybe Ozzie, who’s built like a poop brickhouse, doesn’t need to rest. Like a fine Barefoot Wine, Ozzie aged to perfection in 2019 getting better as the season progressed:
July: .862 OPS
August: .890 OPS
September .949 OPS
His hot start actually started in early June. After bottoming out on June 5th at a .722 OPS, Ozzie was remarkable for nearly 4 months with 33 doubles, 6 triples, 17 home runs, 9 stolen bases (to only 2 caught stealing), and a .932 OPS in 435 PAs.
Before enduring a 6 for 30 slump to end the season, Donaldson, along with Albies, carried the offense for the 2nd half. From July 12th-September 13th, Donaldson put up a 1.031 OPS and was a walk and dinger machine, smacking 19 dingers and taking 47 free passes. Even factoring in the season ending slump, Donaldson’s 2nd half OPS was .104 points higher than his first half OPS (.958 vs .854). The Bringer of Rain has won our hearts as fans and hopefully Anthopoulos will make it rain dollar bills to keep JD around.
Giving the title “2nd Half Star” to Acuna is a bit unfair as he was also a 1st half star. With less OBP, but more SLG, Acuna out OPS’d himself in the 2nd half by .002 points. However the power increase doesn’t tell it all as Acuna also stole 24 of 30 tried bases in the 2nd half, cementing himself atop the NL lead. Considering Acuna’s age, it likely won’t be the last time he flirts with a 40/40 season.
Because it’s been so long since he’s been in a lineup, we seem to forget that Ender absolutely annihilated baseballs when he returned from the IL. Only 90 plate appearances, but it was enough to convince this Ender naysayer that he deserved to stay as he produced a .931 OPS, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, and 3 HRs, to go along with a 100% success rate in 4 stolen base attempts. Too bad he got hurt…the Braves could really use 2nd half Ender on the roster.
I bet if you quizzed most Braves fans on who finished 3rd in OPS (behind Donaldson and Acuna,) in the 2nd half among players with at least 100 PAs, they’d say Freddie Freeman or Ozzie Albies. They’d be wrong. Adam Duvall might be the least boasted on Braves player but he truly deserves our praise as he became what Austin Riley was after Austin Riley was no longer capable of being Austin Riley. Duvall, who didn’t get a callup until the 2nd half, demolished LHPs this year with a terrifying 1.130 OPS. While he has the reputation as a lefty masher, he also held his own against RHP as well (.761 OPS). Anthopoulos was able to manipulate Duvall’s service time to gain an added year of control, so if the Braves want to keep Duvall around, they can do so for 3 more cost-controlled years.
It was a small-sample, but a small-sample worth remembering as Hechavarria bashed baseballs one after another in a Braves uniform. In 70 PAs, Hech walked (6), hit doubles (5), a triple, and smacked home runs (4). With that production that’s so out of the norm from everything he’s done for his career, one has to wonder if Seitzer tapped into something that’s always been there but a swing tweak was needed. It’s doubtful, but for Hech’s and the Braves sake, we can hope.
Like Hech, Cervelli’s time was limited as a Brave. Also like Hech, he was having a bloody awful season until he donned the tomahawk. Add Seitzer’s Stick Sprinkle Dust BAM! A born again hitter. Cervelli made the best of his 37 PAs with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, and 4 walks. That adds up to a 1.031 OPS and that added up to getting his wish granted: a chance to play in the postseason.
I like OPS. I also realize when OPS can be a limited statistic. Take Billy Hamilton, for example. His OPS in a Braves uniform was a mere .692. Why? Because he can hit about as hard as my Aunt Melba, who’s 4’10 and 72 years old. However, what he can do well, much better than my Aunt Melba, he did with the Braves: he used his legs and got on base. A lot. Someone with his speed, getting on base is the skill of skills and Billy boasted a .375 OBP. The last time Billy carried an OBP like that in the Majors was never, so let’s not be begging for Billy to PH in the playoffs. Rather, let’s let Billy do what he does best and that is to let others get on base for him then he take extra bases in their stead.
I hope these beautiful flowers continue to flourish to bring us fans the most breathtaking bouquet of all…a World Series.