Continuing the all-decade teams, we hit the decade that was decent early, but faded fast: the 1980’s. An explanation of my methodology can be found here.
C – Bruce Benedict
A Brave his entire career, Benedict used his quality defense to accumulate 7-8 WAR, enough to make the team. He put up a couple average seasons offensively early in the decade, good for about 2.5 wins apiece. Ozzie Virgil had a couple 2-win seasons at the end of the decade, the only other catcher with significant playing time.
1B – Chris Chambliss
The starter for the first half of the decade, the former Yankee hero amassed around 8 WAR as a Brave. Gerald Perry was the starter for most of the remaining portion of the decade, but wasn’t even a replacement-level player overall.
2B – Glenn Hubbard
Never the flashy player, Hubbard was worth about 16 WAR as the Braves starting second baseman through ’87. While he had little power and didn’t steal many bases, the longtime first-base coach was a solid defender and was able to draw walks, leading to a few 2.5-3 win seasons. Ron Gant and Jeff Treadway each had a 2-win season succeeding Hubbard at the keystone.
SS – Rafael Ramirez
Despite being well below average at the plate and only average in the field, Ramirez was the primary shortstop for six seasons with Atlanta. His 5 WAR doesn’t seem to be much to brag about, but his successor, to be featured in the Not-So-All-Decade team, makes Ramirez look like Trammell or Ozzie.
3B – Bob Horner
Between his inability to play defense and serious injuries, Horner showed a lot of his #1 overall pick potential, providing about 15 WAR in the 80’s, between his time at third and first. Most of that came his first four seasons, as he was out of the majors by age 30. Ken Oberkfell took over for Horner at third, had a couple 2-3 win seasons, then faded.
LF – Lonnie Smith
Only playing part-time in ’88, Smith makes the team due to one of the most overlooked seasons in Braves history. In ’89, “Skates” put up a .315/.415 (league-leading)/.533 line, along with a +23 defensive rating, out of line with the rest of his career. Even if you knock him down to average in the field, he was worth around 6 wins that year. Guys like Brett Butler and Ken Griffey Sr. manned the position earlier in the decade, but were nowhere near as productive as their peaks.
CF- Dale Murphy
A top 15 player in the decade, Murphy’s 45 WAR for the decade was almost as valuable as the other seven players on this team combined. His 308 HR for the decade were only five behind Schmidt for most in the decade, partially due to his tremendous durability, getting over 100 more PA than any other hitter. After moving to right field in ’87, Dion James took over in center, hitting well but not able to hold up defensively.
RF – Claudell Washington
The least valuable player on the list, Washington was only worth around 4 WAR for the decade. His bat was above average, but a -55 defensive rating in just under 5000 innings took a toll on his value. Gary Matthews Sr. started the decade in right, but was not very productive.
Just a little different than the 90’s, huh? Mahler’s 16-18 WAR easily leads the group, as his middle-of-the-road stuff did lead to a couple consecutive 4-win seasons in ’84 and ’85. At ages 41-44, Niekro still hadn’t moved on from Atlanta, posting four above-average seasons, good for about 10 WAR, before heading to New York in ’84. Smith’s biggest strength was keeping the ball in the park, allowing a homer roughly every 19 innings. A horribly unlucky ’89 season sent him packing to Montreal. The ever-eccentric and troubled Perez had a couple good seasons with Atlanta before bottoming out in ’85. Alexander spent an unimpressive 1980 in Atlanta before heading back for parts of the ’86 and ’87 season. He probably could have made this list just due to the infamous trade to Detroit. Craig McMurtry and David Palmer were the only other two starters close to 5 WAR for the decade.
With all the other weaknesses on the team, the bullpen seemed to be a fairly solid part of the Braves in the 80’s, with all three guys around 8 WAR for the decade. While Camp is more known for his 18th inning home run against the Mets, he was a good reliever during the beginning of the decade. Garber was a longtime Brave, appearing in 446 games that decade, posting good 2.5 win seasons in ’82 and ’86. In ’82, he was complemented by Bedrosian, who posted a tremendous 4-win season out of the bullpen in his rookie season. Terry Forster had a 2.29 ERA in his 2+ seasons as a Brave, his last productive seasons in the majors.
The Not-So-All-Decade Team: Andres Thomas
One of the worst players in league history, Thomas managed to get over 2000 PA despite complete incompetence at the plate and less than stellar work in the field. His six wins BELOW replacement from ’85-’90 is staggering, especially considering the Braves rejected a straight-up trade of Thomas for Bonds in ’86, the first of Atlanta’s two near-trades for Barry.