Three reasons why the Braves’ World Series hangover won’t last for long


The Braves were crushed, 12-1, by the Padres on Thursday night, dropping them to 3-5. Being the defending champion means a heightened sense of scrutiny and there’s always that worry about that pesky “H” word. 

Deep breaths. 

The Major League Baseball season is only eight days old. Drawing any sort of broad, sweeping conclusions to this point would be plenty foolish. It is, of course, human nature to react to small samples when we haven’t seen anything else.

Through this incredibly small sample, one takeaway when it comes to the champs is that few teams have looked worse. 

The Braves are 3-5. Looking just under the surface, things are worse than that. They started the season by splitting four games at home against a Reds team not expected to contend and with 40 percent of its expected rotation on the injured list. They then lost two of three games at home to the Nationals, who are likely to be one of the worst teams in baseball this season. Thursday, they lost in blowout fashion. 

The Braves’ minus-14 run differential ranks 28th in baseball, ahead of only the Nationals and Royals. 

It is just eight games, but it’s also eight terrible games and I’m not sure anyone would dispute that. 

Are we looking at one of those so-called World Series hangovers? There are a few recent examples. 

  • The 2020 Nationals followed up their World Series title with a 26-34 season, missing the playoffs despite there being eight seeds per league. 
  • The 2018 Red Sox won 108 games and then went 11-3 in the playoffs, winning the World Series in five games after having never faced elimination. In 2019, they started 1-5, 2-8 and 6-13 and never fully recovered, going 84-78 and missing the playoffs. 
  • The 2016 Cubs started the season 25-6, won 103 games and broke the “curse” in winning the World Series. In 2017, they started 3-6 and went hot-and-cold through the first half, sitting 43-45 at the All-Star break. They would recover with a big second half to win the NL Central by six games. 
  • After consecutive pennants and the 2015 World Series title, the 2016 Royals started 8-2, but were only 12-11 by the end of April and a crippling July (7-19) had a big hand in making sure they finished 81-81 and missed the playoffs. 
  • The 2015 Giants started 3-9 and missed the playoffs. 
  • The 2014 Red Sox started 2-4 and never were more than a game over .500, finishing 71-91. 
  • The 2013 Giants weren’t very good and finished below .500. 

Yeah, it happens. 

Of course, every individual team has its own set of circumstances and it’s more coincidence then some sort of rule. The Dodgers last season started 13-2 and won 106 games. The 2018 Astros started 6-1 and won 103 games. 

Should we worry about these Braves joining the majority of the recent World Series champions? 

Probably not. At least not yet. Let’s take a look at three reasons why there’s little reason for concern with the Braves right now.

1. Such a small sample

It would take an awful lot beyond just the on-field results before I said I was worried about any team through eight games. Maybe if they were 0-8 or something, but a 3-5 team? C’mon. The Braves are only 2 1/2 games out of first and that’s with the Mets having the best record in baseball. 

Since it’s so early and close, the Braves could be in playoff position before the end of the weekend. 

2. Mr. Ronald Acuña, Jr. 

The Braves’ offense is currently 10th in the NL in average, eighth in on-base percentage and 10th in slugging. This is with Matt Olson hitting .407/.543/.630, Marcell Ozuna hitting .313 with a .594 slugging and Austin Riley slashing .286/.429/.571. What gives? 

Well, again, small samples and all that. So much can get skewed here early. 

Also, the Braves are soon going to get a boost like no one else in baseball — at least not until the Padres get a certain someone back — when Acuña returns from his torn ACL. 

The latest on Acuña is that he could begin a minor-league rehab assignment as soon as Monday (April 18). The maximum time allotment for a rehab assignment would be 20 days, but it’s unlikely he’d be sent on such a trip if he needed close to that much. He’s only a few weeks away, basically, barring a setback. 

Acuña is one of the best players in baseball, simply put. He finished fifth in NL MVP voting at age 21 in 2019 and he was having a better year in 2021 before going down. 

3. They’ve been here before

Not only will the return of Acuña provide a boost to the psyche of the clubhouse, but this group could pretty easily tap into what happened last season. 

Remember, they fought .500 like no team in recent memory. They started 0-4, then won four in a row, then lost four in a row and it continued on a similar path for much of the season. Until Aug. 5, when the Braves evened their record at 55-55, they had been exactly .500 six times and lost their ensuing game every single time. Several times it started a losing streak. They just couldn’t get over the hump until winning on Aug. 6. Then they never dipped below .500 again. 

This team was 30-35 (a 162-game pace of 75-87) and eight games out of first place on June 16. 

They are the champs. They are getting one of the best players in baseball in the coming weeks. There’s no chance a slow start phases them. They’ll be fine. 



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