Continuing the all-decade teams, we now move on to the best decade of the franchise’s history: the 1990’s. An explanation of my methodology can be found here.
C – Javy Lopez
The only catcher with significant production in the decade, Lopez’s 119 home runs led him to around 13 WAR in his 6+ seasons. As I stated last post, his biggest season didn’t come until 2003, but he had a couple good seasons. Greg Olson and career backups Eddie Perez and Charlie O’Brien barely provided above replacement level production.
1B – Fred McGriff
Costing just Melvin Nieves and a couple minor leaguers, McGriff provided 12 WAR in his 4+ seasons, most of which came his first year and a half. Andres Galarraga probably had the best season of all first basemen of the decade, posting a 5-win season in 1998. While Sid Bream provided one of the greatest moments in franchise history, he was not very productive as a Brave.
2B – Mark Lemke
Easily the weakest position of the decade, Lemke’s great defense and 3500 PA give him the spot. Never rating above replacement level offensively, his +69 defensive rating was as his only value. Keith Lockhart and Jeff Treadway gave the Braves a couple wins in the decade.
SS – Jeff Blauser
The Brave with the most plate appearances mans the shortstop position for the 90’s team. While Blauser was not much defensively, he put up a .362 OBP, leading to around 18 WAR for the decade. Having troubles staying healthy, his two seasons with at least 600 PA were his best, amassing 5 WAR each year. Walt Weiss was the only other shortstop above replacement level during the decade.
3B – Chipper Jones
Again the best Braves player of the decade, Chipper provided 25 WAR in his first five seasons, culminating in his 7-win MVP season in ’99. His .301/.394/.529 slash line is not quite as impressive as his 2000’s line, but still among the best in the game. Terry Pendleton also won an MVP in ’91, providing two great seasons before a sharp dropoff.
LF – Ron Gant
After playing his way out of the infield, Gant settled into the outfield to start the decade. His 30-30 seasons gave the Braves about 16 wins in his four seasons in Atlanta before the ATV accident. Ryan Klesko was worth about 11 WAR in his six seasons, while Lonnie Smith had a couple good seasons while Gant was in center field.
CF – Andruw Jones
It’s quite impressive to make the team when you are 22 years old at the end of the decade. In about three full seasons, Andruw was only a bit above average offensively, but rated out at an astonishing +98 defensively, leading to about 18 WAR. Like right field in the 2000’s, there were many different quality players in center field during the decade. Gant, Otis Nixon, Marquis Grissom, Kenny Lofton, and Deion Sanders were all productive in the position.
RF – David Justice
Winning Rookie of the Year in 1990 and hitting a home run in the series-clinching 1-0 win in the ’95 World Series, DJ was the first star of the decade. His 24 WAR before his trade to Cleveland just ranks behind Chipper for the top spot. Michael Tucker and Brian Jordan succeeded Justice in right, providing about 3 WAR each.
With a combined six CYA’s in Atlanta, the Big Three combined for at least 120 WAR over the decade. Maddux won the last three of his four straight Cy’s with the Braves, posting historic ’94 and ’95 seasons, ERA’s around 1.60 both seasons. Glavine won the ’91 and ’98 CYA, with ’91 being his only elite season. Smoltz won the ’96 award, along with many great postseason performances. Avery had three solid seasons before slowly fading by ’96. Leibrandt was a reliable strike-thrower who had three decent seasons with Atlanta. Denny Neagle and Kevin Millwood each had two solid seasons, just missing the cut.
Again, much like the 2000’s team, the bullpen was not a strong point of the team. McMichael, the changeup artist, had a tremendous rookie season, finishing second behind Mike Piazza in the ROY voting. Mercker did make 53 starts for Atlanta along with his 178 relief appearances. Among those starts, the only no-hitter by the Braves in the decade was a Mercker start, followed by a couple relievers. Wohlers took a while to develop, had a great two seasons at the closer, then Jim Leyritz essentially ruined his career. John Rocker took over for Wohlers before imploding himself.