Just a few weeks ago, Major League Baseball was looking at the rough possibility of having a World Series between tainted franchises with confirmed histories of cheating without punishment. As it turned out, America’s pastime—and all the nation, in truth—avoided that embarrassment and even emerged relatively unscathed with the Atlanta Braves winning the championship in six games over the ridiculous Houston Astros and their enabling manager.
The Braves have other optics issues, of course, and we’re not even talking about the disgraced former President of the United States. But for now, we will be happy that the Boston Red Sox, the Houston Astros, and the San Francisco Giants did not emerge from the traditional October crapshoot with the championship trophy in hand.
Atlanta was actually the “worst” team to make the postseason, in the sense the team won only 88 games in the regular season—the least of all 10 postseason participants. Sabermetrically, however, the Braves were better than four of the other October participants: Boston, Milwaukee, New York, and St. Louis. Atlanta beat the Brewers in the National League Division Series, and the Braves were fortunate to catch the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers in a “tired” place during the NL Championship Series.
In the World Series itself, Atlanta’s superior pitching overcame the Trashstros’ home-field advantage. With the 12th-highest payroll in the sport, the Braves weren’t huge spenders, but they did fit the profile of the vast majority that have won the World Series since the late 1990s: in the top half of payroll across MLB. Atlanta even overcame the loss of its best player during the summertime and the loss of its most grizzled starter during Game 1 of the Series.
“Resilient” is the word we’re going to use to describe this bunch. Also, it wasn’t a star-laden squad, with just one player having a standout season: Corner infielder Austin Riley (6.1 WAR) was the only guy on the roster to finish on the Top 10 MLB WAR list for position players, and he was tenth. Meanwhile, no Braves pitcher cracked the MLB Top 10 for pitching WAR. No one on this team will win a major individual award, and that’s okay, because they’re all World Series champions now.