Atlanta Braves: All-time WAR leaders

With Opening Day inching closer, let's look at some of the all-time greats that have played for the Atlanta Braves and how each of them rank throughout the franchise's history, starting with WAR.

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(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Many of us are certainly aware of the likes of Aaron, Jones, Smoltz and many more household names that have been stitched on the back of an Atlanta Braves uniform. All of these players have contributed to this world-class organization.

It can be interesting to periodically re-familiarize yourself with your favorite teams' WAR leaderboard, as it can give you a compelling perspective on just how good former players were, while also providing a tool to compare the players that are playing for the team now with those of a different era. Sometimes you will be surprised to see a few active players that are actually on pace to one day enter the ranks of these historic players.

The Stat

The growing popularity in advanced statistics and ever-so-complicated rate-type stats that help give fans and front offices a better idea of just how good a player is have taken Major League Baseball by storm over the years. With this current trend the most popular stat of them all was born, WAR (wins-above-replacement).

It would take an entirely separate article to explain the guts of WAR, and I'm not even sure I could properly explain it and its importance. In summary, WAR is unique and very helpful because it takes a player's entire overall stat sheet and does a lot of fancy formulating to create a nice and even single number.

In terms of WAR, any number above zero is translated as "above replacement-level". This means exactly what it sounds like - better than a bench player or a player down in Triple-A.

Fangraphs does come job of explaining:

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic.

Baseball has come a long way since the days of gloating over a high batting average and high RBI totals. Baseball stats are a very different animal now.

The modern-day front office is a lot more knowledgeable about just how good their players are. Wins-above-replacement, or WAR, provides general managers with a somewhat standardized way of formulating value for their players.

Teams are run more like a corporation or business, with a focus on assessing value and return on investments. This has done several things to the way a major league roster is put together, as nowadays there is more of an objective way to determine the real worth of a player's stats.

The Braves made a statement and a commitment to analytics when they hired GM Alex Anthopoulos back in November of 2017.  Anthopoulos spent six seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays General Manager but spent two seasons employed by the analytically-inclined Los Angeles Dodgers.

In Los Angeles, Anthopoulos gained a lot of knowledge on how to structure a roster using advanced metrics as a tool. His experience with the Dodgers assisted him in making multiple savvy transactions when he arrived in Atlanta.

Since we now have this handy stat to determine just how great players are, let's look at how our individual Atlanta Braves rank all-time regarding WAR totals.

Atlanta Braves WAR leader #10: Tom Glavine (P)

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Mandatory Credit: Otto Greu

Disclaimer:
In this particular Braves ranking, and the future rankings involved in this series, the list will feature the top-10. Ten players is a large enough range to come to see the top-tier players that have come through the Braves organization without lingering into pools of players that had a modest tenure with the team. These players should be players that spent a majority of their career playing for the Braves.

The WAR totals for the players listed are their career-totals while playing in a Braves uniform - not career-totals from their entire major league career. And I've started from all the way back to 1871 (the franchise's inaugural season) to present-day. All listed stats are from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference with "fWAR" specifically being Fangraphs' calculation of the WAR stat:

  • 54.9 fWAR
  • 518 games-pitched
  • 1987-2002 & 2008

The third member of the "Big-Three" in Atlanta for numerous years, Tom Glavine is yet another Hall of Fame pitcher to take his turn every fifth day for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s. The hockey fanatic and former NHL-draftee will always be remembered by Braves fans, and his 305 total wins are the fourth-most by a left-handed pitcher in MLB history.

The Accolades

The lefty from Massachusetts, Tom Glavine was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 1984 MLB Draft, as a second-round pick. Like Smoltz and Maddux, his induction into the Hall of Fame was a pretty indisputable result of his candidacy (525 of 571 ballots).

Tom Glavine also won two Cy Young awards to go with ten All-Star selections, a World Series MVP award (1995), and - a tribute to his well-versed hitting - four Silver Slugger awards.

Not to be outshined by the other two dominant pitchers in his rotation, Glavine often led the National League - and the Majors - in categories like wins and games started.

While his two Cy Young awards are impressive, most of all his display of excellent consistency should be remembered as Glavine finished in the top-3 for the Cy Young award four other times in his career while competing against the likes of Randy Johnson and teammates Greg Maddux and John Smoltz.

As a precise artist on the mound, Glavine would age very well, pitching through his age-42 season and even making the National League All-Star team at 40-years-old for the New York Mets in 2006.

The Player

Tom Glavine made his Major League debut at the age of 21 in August of 1987. His first season with the Braves didn't show any signs of a future Hall of Famer, as Glavine finished that initial season with a 5.54 ERA and 5.90 BB/9 in nine starts. Even though Glavine was never known for running up the strikeout totals, his measly 3.58 K/9 in 1987 showed signs of a pitcher not yet ready for the big leagues.

The next three seasons (1988-1990) didn't offer much hope either, as Glavine failed to average an ERA under four during that span. He also led the Majors in losses in 1988, with 17. Take a look at his numbers in that three-year span:

Tom Glavine (1988-1990)

  • 31-37 win/loss record
  • 4.19 ERA
  • allowed an average of 17 HR/season
  • 4.6 K/9

It's interesting, in retrospect, seeing how Tom Glavine really struggled his first four seasons as a Major League pitcher. He's a perfect example of not giving up on a guy too soon into his career.

Getting back to the good Tom Glavine, the left-hander started figuring things out in 1989, as a 23-year-old. That season featured 14 wins for Glavine and a 3.68 ERA. He would continue to get better over the next two seasons, before reaching "ace" status in 1991, winning his first Cy Young award, and making his first All-Star appearance, while also finishing just outside of the National League MVP top-ten, at 11th.

Starting with that 1991 season, where Tom Glavine led the majors in wins (20), this is what his dominant run looked like as a Brave:

Tom Glavine (1991-2002)

  • 209-102 win/loss record
  • 33 starts per season
  • 3.15 ERA
  • 3.76 FIP
  • 44 complete-games
  • 18 shut-outs
  • 5.8 K/9
  • 3.1 BB/9
  • 0.6 HR/9

Tom Glavine never lit up the radar gun, but what Glavine was skillful at was poise and a calm demeanor. These attributes shown by Glavine can be found on his Hall of Fame page, which also include a quote by Chipper Jones that summed up just how important Glavine's mental strength was for the team:

Yeah, we followed his lead, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that his kind of poise, his mentality, his way of going about his business, well, that's what won him over 300 games.

Tom Glavine's performance on the field no doubt led the Braves for many years, but more importantly, his professional approach to the game assisted in the growth and development of the several former greats that played alongside him during his career.

Best Season:

1991 (5.4 fWAR)

  • 34 starts
  • 246.2 innings-pitched
  • 20 wins
  • 2.55 ERA
  • 3.06 FIP
  • 192 strikeouts

Tom Glavine's best season, in terms of WAR, may not be as impressive as the others on this leaderboard, but the 1991 season was an impressive one for him. Of note, though, Glavine was not a true "strikeout pitcher", and the strikeout stat is a key part of that WAR formula for pitchers... so you could argue that he started with a disadvantage.

As a 25-year-old, that season was the first season of a stint where Glavine would tally three-straight seasons of at least 20 wins. In 1991 and 1993 (20 wins and 22 wins respectively), Glavine would lead all Major League pitchers in wins, with a 1992 season in between where he would lead the National League in that stat with 20 wins.

Glavine would also lead the NL in complete games in 1991, with nine total. His 153 ERA+ (adjusted ERA with park factoring) would lead the National League as well.

The 1991 season would be Tom Glavine's first of four Silver Slugger awards. Glavine would finish the '91 season with a slash-line of .230/.288/.243 (.531 OPS), hitting a double that year and knocking in six runs in 95 plate appearances. Not bad for a 175-pound pitcher.

Tom Glavine and Steve Avery would lead the Braves to the World Series that season, only to lose to the Minnesota Twins in seven games. He would make four starts during that 1991 Postseason, unfortunately only notching one win.

His best series of the playoffs that season were his two starts in the World Series, where Glavine would finish 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings - a bright spot in the Braves heartbreaking defeat to the Twins.

In 1995's World Series victory for Atlanta, though, Glavine was named the series MVP after a total shutdown of the vaunted Cleveland Indians offense, posting a 1.29 ERA overall in 14 innings, including a one-hit eight-inning shutout in the clinching Game 6, perhaps the defining moment in his excellent career.

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Atlanta Braves all-time WAR leaders #9: Andruw Jones (OF)

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(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

  • 64.3 WAR
  • 1,761 games played
  • 1996-2007

A player that, to this day, is the best defensive player to ever wear an Atlanta Braves uniform, Andruw Jones got started as a star at a young age. Making his mark in the majors as a 19-year-old and playing 12 seasons with Atlanta at an All-Star level, Jones will always be remembered for his crazy catches and skills in center field.

The Accolades

Andruw Jones played in five All-Star games and received 10 Gold Glove Awards for his superior defense. Jones also won a Silver Slugger Award and a Major League Player of the Year award.

The accolades don't do Jones' career justice, as he specialized in an aspect of the game that has yet to be properly noticed. He is currently on the Hall of Fame ballot, where the lack of love for his D is even more apparent... and of the players in this list, the only one not yet enshrined.

Jones hit 434 career home runs and almost 2,000 hits. The only stat category that could arguably cause an anti-Hall discussion is Andruw Jones' career batting average of .254.

Even with his low-ish batting-average, the fact remains that there are far less-qualified players in the Hall of Fame at the moment than Andruw Jones, particularly since his defense alone should be sufficient to merit inclusion.

The Player

The Curacao-born 19-year-old made his MLB debut in August of 1996. His short stint in the Majors that first year would only feature 31 games for Andruw Jones, but his advanced ability to hit was made known quickly. In just 113 plate-appearances for Jones, he would hit five home runs and seven doubles.

The 1996 regular season for Andruw Jones may not have been all that notable, but the 1996 Postseason was a different story for the teenage outfielder.

In the seventh game of the NLCS, the Braves were matched up against the St. Louis Cardinals. The series was tied up at three games apiece. The Braves would end up throttling the Cards in that final game of the series (15-0), but the significance of that game came from the 19-year-old Andruw Jones.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Braves already up big, the young Andruw Jones would come up to the plate and drive a two-run homer off of pitcher Mark Petkovsek. Fulton-County Stadium went nuts, as a young superstar was born.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Braves already up big, the young Andruw Jones would come up to the plate and drive a two-run homer off of pitcher Mark Petkovsek. Fulton-County Stadium went nuts, as a young superstar was born.

As we all know, that wasn't it for the teenage Andruw Jones. In that same 1996 Postseason, with the Braves now in the World Series facing the New York Yankees, Jones would hit home runs in his first two at-bats, becoming the youngest Major League player to ever hit two homers in a World Series.

As we all know, that wasn't it for the teenage Andruw Jones. In that same 1996 Postseason, with the Braves now in the World Series facing the New York Yankees, Jones would hit home runs in his first two at-bats, becoming the youngest Major League player to ever hit two homers in a World Series.

When he finally got to experience his first full season in the show in 1997, Jones would play 153 games and hit 18 home runs with 20 stolen bases. On defense, Jones would bounce around all over the outfield, but it was obvious that he was a skillful defender. Jones would finish 5th in the National League Rookie of the Year vote that season.

The numbers are magnificent for Andruw Jones when looking at his tenure as an Atlanta Brave. From 1997 (his first full season) to 2007, Jones would go on a run of pure excellence, not just as a hitter, but as a defender as well.

During that 11-year span, Jones would literally win all of his awards as a Major League player. Just look at his stats and seasonal averages for that span:

Andruw Jones (1997-2007) 

  • 1,730 games (157 games per season)
  • .263/.343/.498
  • .841 OPS
  • 363 HR (33 homers per season)
  • 1,104 RBI (100 RBI per season)
  • 135 SB (12 stolen-bases per season)

Many of us remember Andruw Jones because of his outstanding skills on defense, but he was also a huge bat in the lineup for over a decade. The fact that he was able to contribute to the success of the Braves at such a young age is what makes his career so special.

Best Season:

2005 (7.9 fWAR)

  • 160 games
  • .263 BA
  • 51 HR
  • 128 RBI
  • 134 wRC+

As a 28-year-old player in his prime for the Atlanta Braves, Andruw Jones would lead the Majors in home runs and the National League in RBI in 2005, with 51 and 128 respectively. His .575 slugging-percentage and 134 wRC+ would also be a career-high for Jones.

Led by Bobby Cox, the Braves would finish the 2005 season with a 90-72 record and the division title but would fall to the Houston Astros in the NL Division Series in four games.

That season the pitching staff would be led by 14-game winners John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, followed by Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, and Adam LaRoche leading the offense.

Andruw Jones' 51 homers that season were more than what Chipper Jones (21) and Adam LaRoche (20) would finish with combined in 2005 - the second- and third-place home run hitters on the team.

Unfortunately, Andruw Jones would only play two more seasons for the Braves, and sadly once Jones got into his 30s, his performance suffered drastically. After Jones left for the Dodgers in 2008, the former Brave would finish out the string of his career bouncing between the Dodgers (one season), the Texas Rangers (one season), the Chicago White Sox (one season), and the New York Yankees (two seasons).

Those last five seasons of his career, Jones would only average 87 games per season, 13 home runs and a .210 batting average. The conclusion of his 17-year MLB career may be what is holding back a few of the Hall of Fame voters, but Andruw Jones had a 12-year run that outpaces many players currently enshrined into the prestigious fraternity.

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Atlanta Braves WAR leaders #8: Phil Niekro (P)

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COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24: Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

  • 72.6 WAR
  • 740 games-pitched
  • 1964-1983

A starting-pitcher that played 21 seasons with the Braves, two seasons with the Indians, two seasons with the Yankees, and a season with the Blue Jays; Phil Niekro had a very long and successful Hall of Fame Major League career.

The Accolades

The righty from Ohio received his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1997, locking down 80.3% of the ballot that year. Niekro was included in a Hall of Fame class that featured Nellie Fox, Tommy Lasorda, and Willie Wells.

Over the entirety of Niekro's MLB career, he would make five All-Star teams, win five Gold Gloves, throw a no-hitter, and win an ERA Title.

Niekro would make two top-3 finishes in the National League Cy Young vote, while also placing 9th, 17th, and 20th in the NL MVP race. He was a starting pitcher that was known for his durability and was a player that the Braves could always count on when it was his turn in the rotation, and sometimes even when it wasn't

On August 19, 1982 Niekro had to make an emergency start because Pascual Perez kept missing his exit (multiple times!) on the Atlanta perimeter road and missed the game.

Oh - the Braves won that game 5-4 over the Expos with Knucksie giving up just 3 hits in 7 innings.

The Player

Phil Niekro started his Major League career, and Braves career, in 1964 - pitching in ten games as a reliever. That rookie season for Niekro wouldn't feature much success, but Niekro would spend the next two seasons cutting his teeth as a reliever in the bullpen.

Starting in 1968, at the age of 29, Niekro would pitch predominantly as a starting pitcher. That season he made 34 starts and pitched 256.2 innings, with three outings as a reliever.

The 1968 season would prove a success for Niekro as a starter, as he would finish the season with 14 wins and a 2.59 ERA, not to mention the five shutouts and 15 complete games that Niekro would achieve during that season.

From that 1968 season until 1983, Niekro would be a mainstay on the Braves starting rotation. In 1979, he had the odd distinction of being credited for nearly a third of the team's 66 wins on the year (he went 21-20 with a 3.39 ERA).

Here are his numbers during that 15-year span, along with his average numbers for that stretch:

  • 251 wins (averaged 16 wins)
  • 573 starts (averaged 36 starts)
  • 216 complete-games (averaged 14 CG)
  • 42 shut-outs (averaged 3 shut-outs)
  • 4,272.1 innings-pitched (averaged 267 IP)
  • 2,709 strikeouts (averaged 169 SO)
  • 3.25 ERA
  • 3.48 FIP
  • 0.8 HR/9
  • 5.7 K/9
  • 2.8 BB/9

As a Brave, Niekro was pretty much a lock to win over 15 games and make at least 35 starts. For a 15-season span, you can see just how dependable Niekro was for the Braves. His ability to go the distance and average 14 complete-games a season for 15 years was a huge help for the Braves bullpen during that time.

Best Season:

1978 (8.6 fWAR)

  • 19-18
  • 248 K
  • 2.88 ERA
  • 2.76 FIP

In a season where Niekro would lead the National League in losses as a pitcher, he would also put forth his best single season of his career. As a 39-year-old, Niekro would only win one more game than he lost (the team only won 69 times that year), but would lead the Majors in games-started with 42.

Even in his older age, Niekro still had a knack for going the distance in a game, going all the way with 22 complete games in 1978 (also an MLB high that year).

Niekro would also lead the Majors in innings pitched (334.1) and also pace the league in fewest hits allowed (295). Also, his 107 total earned-runs would lead the National League.

The right-hander had two other seasons in his career where he would post high hit-by-pitch numbers, and in his best WAR season of 1978, he would lead the Majors with 13 hit-batsman.

The 1978 season would also feature an All-Star appearance for Niekro plus a sixth-place finish in the National League Cy Young vote, followed by a Gold Glove and a 17th-place finish in the NL MVP race.

The 1978 Braves weren't a very good team that season, finishing a rough 69-93 and in a sixth-place finish in the National League. The dismal team performance was felt in Fulton-County Stadium, as the attendance for that season ranked last in the National League, at 904,494 for the season.

It was a season gone to waste by Niekro's excellent year and, first baseman at the time Dale Murphy's 23-homer season. Niekro didn't get much help that season from his rotation-mates either, as no other starting-pitcher recorded 100 strikeouts that season. 25-year-old Mickey Mahler finished second on the pitching staff with 92 punch-outs.

It's a shame that Niekro's 2.76 FIP, 6.7 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9 was overshadowed by a last-place finish in the NL, but the fact that he was able to put up an 8-win season (fWAR) at an age where most pitchers nowadays are hanging it up is a true example of his talent.

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Atlanta Braves all-time WAR leaders #7: Kid Nichols (P)

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(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

  •  72.8 WAR
  • 556 games-pitched 
  • 1890-1901

In the early days before the Braves were the "Boston Braves", Kid Nichols pitched for the Boston Beaneaters. He spent 12 seasons with the Beaneaters before spending his last four years with the Cardinals and Phillies.

The Accolades

Kid Nichols was a 1949 Hall of Fame inductee who played in a time period that would make modern-day pitching coaches and front offices cringe. The starting pitchers of this era didn't throw 90-100 pitches and sit; they would pitch until the game was over.

While Kid Nichols played before the time of anybody that's reading this, the stats he put up are still amazing. The righty amassed 362 wins in the Majors, with an impressive career ERA of 2.96.

The Player

The Madison, Wisconsin native pitched at least 400 innings in each of his first five Major League seasons and averaged 51 starts. Like Maddux and the many pitchers of Nichols' time, he didn't strike many hitters out. His career strikeouts-per-nine-innings was a minuscule 3.32 punch-outs.

Nichols' Major League career ended in 1906 while he was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, but his tenure with the Beaneaters organization spanned from 1890-1901 (ages 20-31). In those 12 seasons with the Beaneaters, Nichols would put up some incredible numbers:

Kid Nichols (1890-1901)

  • 329 wins 
  • 3.00 ERA
  • 502 starts
  • 4,547.6 innings-pitched
  • 476 complete-games (nearly 40 per season)
  • 44 shut-outs
  • 16 saves
  • 3.3 K/9
  • 2.3 BB/9

The innings pitched and start totals are pretty astounding to the modern baseball fan, but back in that era it was pretty normal for a starting pitcher to make 40-50 starts per season and have 300-400 innings pitched. We will most likely never see that kind of durability in the Majors ever again.

After his stint with the Beaneaters, Nichols would pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals for two seasons and then the Philadelphia Phillies for two seasons. Nichols would pass away in 1953 at the age of 83.

Best season

1890 (8.4 WAR)

  • 424 IP 
  • 27-9 
  • 222 K
  • 2.23 ERA 
  • 3.04 FIP

What's unique about the 1890 season being Nichols' best is the fact that this was his rookie season. You don't see this very often from a Major League player.

In 1890, Nichols led the Beaneaters, as a 20-year-old, to a 76-57 record - good for 5th-place in the National League. That season the Beaneaters, and most teams of that era, only used a three-man rotation - with Nichols leading the trio.

Nichols' other two rotation-mates that year were John Clarkson (28-years-old) and Pretzels Getzien (26-years-old). Both had great numbers but not near as good as the young Kid Nichols.

Nichols would finish the 1890 season with a record of 27-19 and a 2.23 ERA through 47 starts. All of those 47 starts were from complete games by Nichols, and seven of those were shutouts which led the Majors that year.

In the 424 innings that Nichols would complete that season, he would only surrender eight home runs, for an unworldly 0.2 HR/9. His FIP would also lead all of the National League, at 2.98.

All in all, it was a pretty remarkable season by a 20-year-old rookie that stood at a modest size of 5'10", 175-pounds.

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Atlanta Braves WAR leaders #6: Greg Maddux (P) 

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(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

  • 72.9 WAR
  • 363 games-pitched 
  • 1993-2003

The "Mad Dog" had an absolute ridiculous career stat sheet while playing on some of the best Atlanta Braves teams of all-time. His style of pitching was a work of art and he will probably go down as the master of pitching command in his time.

The Accolades

The induction of Greg Maddux into the Hall of Fame was a no-brainer in 2014 (97.2% of the ballot). The guy won four Cy Young awards in his career and 18 Gold Glove awards.

His superb command brought him four ERA titles and eight All-Star appearances, not to mention all of the times he led the Majors in FIP, WHIP, and other pitching stats in his 23-season career.

Maddux may have played for the Cubs, Dodgers, and Padres, but he will always be remembered as a Brave.

He was a critical part of the "Big Three" in the '90s that provided the Atlanta Braves with the pitching excellence that the organization still strives for today.

The Player

Maddux achieved at least the 200-inning mark in all but five of his 23 seasons and led the Majors in innings pitched for five straight seasons from 1991 thru 1995. He had an 11-season stretch where he averaged 34 starts and 227 innings, a true testament of his dominance.

His span with the Braves lasted 11 seasons (1993-2003). Here are his totals for that span:

  • 194 wins / 88 losses
  • 2.63 ERA
  • 2.95 FIP
  • 1.051 WHIP
  • 61 complete games
  • 21 shutouts
  • 6.5 K/9
  • 1.4 BB/9

To gain a better appreciation for those numbers, here are his per-162 averages for that span of 11 seasons. These are the numbers he would put up in a normal season during that span of his career:

  • 19 wins / 9 losses
  • 34 starts
  • 2.63 ERA
  • 2.95 FIP
  • 6 complete-games
  • 2 shut-outs
  • 237 innings-pitched
  • 172 strikeouts

His run with the Braves would occupy his age 27 thru 37 seasons, which fell right inside the prime of his Major League career. As most of us know, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and played there at the beginning of his career (1986-1992).

Maddux was a 2nd-round selection by the Cubs in the 1984 MLB Draft but didn't make his Major League debut until September of 1986. His first two campaigns with the Cubs weren't anything special, but in 1988 everything started to click for him.

By the end of 1992, his last season with Chicago, he had made two All-Star games and won 95 games (an average of 14 per season in that span). His career ERA at the time was 3.35 and the deadly precision was coming full force by then.

At the age of 27, Maddux made his debut with the Atlanta Braves in the 1993 season after signing in the offseason as a free agent. He went 20-10 that season and finished with a 2.36 ERA (leading the Majors). His 36 starts led all of baseball, as well as his eight complete games.

He tossed 267 innings (also leading the Majors) and struck out 6.6 per nine innings in that 1992 season. It was the beginning of an excellent 11-year span with the Braves.

Known for his accuracy and ability to paint the black with a nasty changeup, here's Maddux pitching a complete-game in only 76 pitches in a 1997 game against the Chicago Cubs, picking up the win of course:

Known for his accuracy and ability to paint the black with a nasty changeup, here's Maddux pitching a complete-game in only 76 pitches in a 1997 game against the Chicago Cubs, picking up the win of course:

In 2004, at the age of 38, Maddux would play for the Cubs again, going 16-11 with a 4.02 ERA. He would play two seasons with Chicago before ending up with the San Diego Padres where he would pitch for one season. The 2007 season with the Padres would still end up being a solid season for Maddux, as he would finish with 14 wins and a 4.14 ERA in 34 starts.

In 2008, he would split time with the Padres and Dodgers, winding up with an 8-13 record in 33 starts. That year, even at the age of 42, he would win his last Gold Glove award and lead the National League in walks per nine-innings (1.4).

All in all, Maddux had a run of 17-straight seasons with at least 15 wins. In his entire career, he tallied a video game-like walk rate of 1.8 walks per nine innings. Mad Dog accomplished some ridiculous achievements in his time, some that may never be accomplished by another pitcher.

Best season

1997 (8.0 WAR)

  • 232.2 IP 
  • 19-4 
  • 177 K 
  • 2.20 ERA 
  • 2.43 FIP

In 1997, Maddux was in the middle of an already fantastic pitching career, and still only 31-years-old. That season the Braves would finish 101-61 and win the NL East division, with leaders like Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff and Chipper Jones on offense and Denny Neagle, Maddux and Smoltz on the pitching side.

The team wound up losing in the National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins, but the season was still a magnificent one for Greg Maddux.

The 1997 season did not end in a Cy Young for Maddux, but his second-place finish shouldn't leave doubt as to what kind of season he had. He won a Gold Glove award, finished 12th in the NL MVP vote, and made the National League All-Star team.

That year Maddux would finish with a 19-4 record, leading the National League in winning percentage among pitchers. In his 33 starts and 232.2 innings-pitched, Maddux struck out 177 batters and only walked 20, with a nice 2.20 ERA.

He led the Majors in homers allowed per nine innings, with 0.3 HR/9 and also paced the Majors in walks per nine innings, with a crazy BB/9 of 0.8.

Maddux was always known for his run-prevention and expertise in avoiding walks, but in 1997 he reached another level with those skills.

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Atlanta Braves all-time WAR leaders #5: Warren Spahn (P)

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  • 74.3 WAR
  • 714 games-pitched
  • 1942-1965

Another super durable player, Spahn had a very interesting career that featured a long run of success as a low-strikeout starting pitcher. Spahn finished his 21-season career with a strikeout rate of just 4.43 K/9.

The Accolades

The New York native and 1973 Hall of Fame inductee Warren Spahn played in an era that cared less about strikeouts and more about pitcher longevity.

Spahn was an expert at inducing soft contact, as he earned 17 All-Star appearances, a Cy Young award and three ERA titles by mastering his craft.

Durability was another quality that Spahn possessed. The lefty led Major League Baseball in innings pitched four different times (1947, 1949, 1958 and 1959).

The Player

Entering Major League Baseball as a 21-year-old in 1942, Span's start to his career wasn't exactly normal. He pitched in six games that first season, but would go on to fight in The Battle of the Bulge and the Taking of the Bridge at Remagen in World War 2.

He missed all of the 1943 thru 1945 season due to his service with the Army, earning a Purple Heart due to his injuries and heroics in the War. He was a true star in the War Era of Major League Baseball.

From 1956-1961 Warren Spahn would be a mainstay in the National League Cy Young award conversation. Not only did he win the award in 1957, but he placed third in 1956 and placed second in '58, '60 and '61. That's an amazing six seasons with one Cy Young win and four top-3 finishes.

Starting in 1947, Spahn also entered the MVP ranks each season. In that '47 season, he made his first National League All-Star team at the age of 26. His 21-10 record and MLB-leading ERA of 2.33 earned him 15th in the MVP vote that year.

He went on to finish in the top-10 of the National League MVP race in five different seasons throughout his career, with his best finish being in 1956 at the age of 35. That season, Spahn finished with 20 wins and a 2.78 ERA spanning across 35 starts. He recorded 20 complete-games that season also.

Spahn hurled 17 straight seasons (1947-1963) with at least 200 innings pitched and posted a career ERA of 3.09 - despite never finishing a season with 200 strikeouts.

He would also finish his MLB career with the most wins ever recorded by a left-handed pitcher in history.

Warren Spahn's run of excellence really came at a time when pitchers these days start to regress due to age. While Spahn was in his thirties, he was pitching the best baseball of his career.

Here are his age 30-39 seasons (1951-1960), followed by his 10-year average for that span:

  • 202 wins (19 wins per 162)
  • 2.95 ERA
  • 344 starts (32 per 162)
  • 2,797 IP (260 per 162)
  • 1,427 SO (133 per 162)
  • 208 complete-games (20 per 162)
  • 36 shut-outs (4 per 162)
  • 3.31 FIP
  • 4.6 K/9
  • 2.4 BB/9

In today's game those numbers are not easily obtainable, since most pitchers start trending way down in performance once they reach their mid-30s. Because of Spahn's pitch-to-contact mentality, he was able to last all the way into his age 44 season as a Major League pitcher.

Here's a quote by Spahn that perfectly described his simple, yet effective, pitching philosophy:

A pitcher needs two pitches - one they're looking for and one to cross them up.

Here's Warren Spahn notching his 300th career win in 1961 against the Chicago Cubs... the only pitcher to record his 300th victory in a Braves uniform:

Here's Warren Spahn notching his 300th career win in 1961 against the Chicago Cubs... the only pitcher to record his 300th victory in a Braves uniform:

Best season

1953 (6.2 WAR)

  • 265.2 IP
  • 7-3 
  • 148 K 
  • 2.10 ERA 
  • 2.96 FIP

At the age of 32 and in the middle of his prime, Spahn would finish the 1953 season with a Major League-high 23 wins. In those 32 starts that season, Spahn finished with a 2.10 ERA (also a MLB-best).

Spahn was actually more of a strikeout-pitcher that season, as he struck out five batters per nine innings (the 4th-highest K/9 rate of his career). He even recorded three saves that year.

That 1953 Braves team, led by skipper Charlie Grimm, would win 92 games and finish second in the National League (there weren't any divisions in that era). The New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers met that year in the World Series, with the Yankees winning it all.

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Atlanta Braves WAR leaders #4: John Smoltz (P)

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(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

  • 78.3 WAR
  • 708 games-pitched
  • 1988-2008

The now 51-year-old Hall of Famer (inducted in 2015) Smoltz was amazing as a starter and a reliever, notching 213 wins and 154 saves in his career. I don't have to tell you how rare that is. In his 21 big league seasons, Smoltz had a career 3.33 ERA, eight All-Star appearances, and a Cy Young award in 1996.

Even though wins have lost their weight these days, Smoltz had two separate stints of five straight seasons with double-digit win totals. Even more impressive, starting as a 37-year-old in 2005, he broke off three straight seasons with at least 14 wins and at least 205 innings pitched.

He stands as the only pitcher ever with at least 200 wins overall wins and 150+ saves.

The Accolades

We still see a lot of John Smoltz these days. The former starting pitcher - turned closer, turned starting pitcher again - is a prominent figure in the MLB broadcasting industry, as well as repeated appearances as an analyst on MLB Network.

There's a reason for his post-player status. Smoltz was a unique player, for reasons that are obvious in regards to his pitching title changes, but also the simple fact that he was a very dominant player in his time.

The eight-time All-Star pitched 20 seasons for the Braves, winning a Cy Young Award in 1996 (finished top-5 in two other Cy Young votes). The Detroit native was a big part of the "Big Three" that helped lead the Braves throughout all of those NL East titles.

In his 1996 Cy Young season, Smoltz pretty much was in a league of his own. He finished the season with 24 wins (led MLB), 253.2 innings-pitched (led NL) and 276 strikeouts (led MLB).

He also led all of baseball in FIP (2.64) - which is a run-prevention stat that is more indicative of the pitcher's actual ability to limit runs, disregarding variables that he cannot control.

Smoltz also led MLB in strikeouts per nine innings, with a rate of 9.8 K/9. He did it all that season, and as a 29-year-old, he was just getting started.

In 2015, Smoltz received 82.9% of the votes on the ballot, on his way to his Hall of Fame induction. Like Chipper, he is another player that Atlanta Braves fans appreciated - and not for a lifelong career in a Braves uniform (he spent his last two seasons of his career with two other teams), but also because of his successful move to the bullpen.

In his first stint as a starting pitcher, Smoltz finished as high as 11th in the NL MVP voting for the 1996 season (same season he won the NL Cy Young). His role as a closer provided an eighth-place finish in the MVP vote in 2002 when Smoltz led all of baseball with 55 saves.

The Player

John Smoltz made his Major League debut in July of 1988, at 21-years-old, and pitched through eight frames with only four hits allowed. The young Smoltz only had two strikeouts, but more importantly, he got the win.

He would go on to make 11 more starts and finish the season with a 5.48 ERA. It wasn't the most impressive first-year, but the future was bright for "Smoltzie".

His first stint as a starting pitcher spans from 1988-1999 (12 seasons) and it was a very impressive dozen seasons for Smoltz. Here are his average stats for that 12-season span:

John Smoltz (1988-1999 average)

  • 13 wins
  • 3.35 ERA
  • 3.30 FIP
  • 4 complete games
  • 1 shutout
  • 201 innings pitched
  • 175 strikeouts
  • 7.8 K/9
  • 2.9 BB/9

Now remember this is a 12-year average. This is just the typical season for Smoltz. When a typical season means over 200 innings pitched and only 2.9 walks per nine innings - especially for a 12-season period - you've got it figured out.

Smoltz racked up 157 of his 213 wins in that time period but moved to the bullpen after an injury that caused him to miss a year (the 2000 season).

Now moving on to his closer role, Smoltz was just as dominant when he started coming out of the bullpen. From 2001-2004, he was a superstar closer for the Braves and racked up 154 saves in those four seasons. Since we looked at his averages as a starter, let's look at his averages as a closer:

John Smoltz (2001-2004) averages

  • 38 saves
  • 2.65 ERA
  • 2.47 FIP
  • 1.01 WHIP
  • 9.5 K/9
  • 1.7 BB/9

His ability to be a top-tier starting pitcher, get hurt, and then come back as a top-tier closer is remarkable. The adjustments he had to have made to be able to pitch in constant high-leverage situations are impressive, when for so many years he was so used to approaching pitching in a manner that would enable him to make it through six innings.

Best season

1996 (8.4 WAR)

  • 253.2 IP
  • 24-8
  • 276 K
  • 2.94 ERA
  • 2.64 FIP

As mentioned above, Smoltz ripped off a career season in 1996 at the still prime age of 29. Not only did he lead the Majors in strikeouts (276), but he also paced all Major League pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings - with 9.8 K/9.

The trio of Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine all made at least 35 starts that season and won at least 15 games. Smoltz's 8.4 fWAR would lead all Major League pitchers and rank third overall compared to all Major League players.

The way Smoltz was able to strike batters out that season coupled with the fact that he only had 55 walks (1.96 BB/9), proved that a pitcher can be in the zone all season. Very few players are able to not only start off the season playing at a high level but have the ability to maintain that kind of dominance all year.

The legacy that Smoltz created playing for the Atlanta Braves will always be the bar set for pitchers that come through the Braves organization. I don't think we will ever see another pitcher in the game be able to have that kind of success both as a starting pitcher and as a closer.

9 of 11

Atlanta Braves all-time WAR leaders #3: Chipper Jones (3B)

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(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

  • 84.8 WAR
  • 2,499 games
  • 1993-2012

He will probably go down as the Braves all-time fan favorite, at least for my generation, and it makes it even sweeter that he forever remained a Brave. Chipper is in the same stratosphere as Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray in terms of the best switch-hitters to ever play the game. His eight All-Star appearances don't even halfway represent how much he meant - and still means - to Braves Country.

The Accolades

In the 19 seasons that we all got to witness Chipper Jones play baseball, we were never forced to watch him play for any other team than ours. The fact that he stayed with the Atlanta Braves throughout his career is something that fans have always appreciated.

Chipper was a two-time Silver Slugger winner, a 1999 NL MVP, and made eight National League All-Star teams, including his final season in 2012 at the age of 40.

His inevitable induction into the Hall of Fame in 2018 was not only a no-brainer for us folks in Braves County, but the entire baseball industry felt no need to procrastinate his confirmation as one of the best to ever play.

In the 2018 ballot (six inductees), Jones would receive the largest share of the ballots - earning 97.2% (410 of 422) of the votes. How he didn't achieve a Rivera-type unanimous induction is beyond me.

His one MVP award shouldn't be taken lightly, as the Hall of Fame third baseman finished in the top-10 of the MVP vote five times to go along with his '99 MVP season. Jones also came in second place for the NL Rookie of the Year in 1995 - and I think all Atlanta Braves fan feel the same about that result!

That 1995 award went to Dodger Hideo Nomo, who received 18 first-place votes while Jones received 10. Nomo had a great season, making 28 starts as a pitcher and finishing the season with a 13-6 record. The native Japanese starting pitcher struck out 236 batters (most in the NL) in 191.1 innings-pitched.

However, Jones hit 23 home runs and knocked in 86 runs with an .803 OPS, good for 2.7 bWAR. Nomo was 26-years-old and had five seasons under his belt playing in the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), while Jones had only played in eight Major League games before that season; and was only 23-years-old at the time.

Here's Chipper's first blast as a rookie in 1995:

Here's Chipper's first blast as a rookie in 1995:

In 2008 Jones won a Batting Title at the fresh age of 36, becoming the oldest switch-hitter ever to win one. He finished that season with a .364 batting average and 22 home runs. He also finished with more walks than strikeouts that season (61 SO / 90 BB) and was a 7.1 fWAR player.

The Player

Larry Wayne Jones, a Florida native and former #1 overall pick in the 1990 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves, made his MLB debut on September 11, 1993, at the young age of 21. He would only play in eight games that year after his call up.

He wouldn't log any MLB time in 1994 (recovering from a devastating knee injury suffered in Spring Training), but the 1995 season would be the true beginning for Jones. In 1995, his first full season, Jones hit .265 and slugged 23 home runs, showing why he was the first selection in his draft class.

On October 3rd of 1995, Chipper's first postseason game, the rookie hit two homers in the '95 NLDS against the Colorado Rockies:

On October 3rd of 1995, Chipper's first postseason game, the rookie hit two homers in the '95 NLDS against the Colorado Rockies:

Jones went on to have a remarkable career with the Braves, but there was a 12-year span where he was on an absolute tear. From 1996-2007 Jones put up MVP numbers, and his average performance for that span is amazing.

Chipper Jones (1996-2007) averages

  • 146 games played
  • .310 BA
  • 30 HR
  • 101 RBI
  • 34 doubles
  • .961 OPS
  • 10 SB

During that run of excellence, Jones won the NL MVP award in 1999, also taking home the Silver Slugger award. His '99 season (the best of his career) came at the prime age of 27 and helped guide the Braves to a World Series appearance that year.

After Chipper's big 2008 season (7.1 fWAR), he would begin to decline a bit, losing some of his power and contact skills. The last four seasons of his career weren't at all bad, just not what we were used to seeing.

Jones was still a big part of the lineup, and his defense was still plenty playable at third base. From 2009 to 2012 (age 37-40 seasons) Chipper wasn't as durable (averaged 119 games), but his hitting was still very respectable, with a four-year average of 15 home runs and a .272 batting average.

Heck, his final season in 2012, at the age of 40, Chipper played 112 games, managed 14 homers and a .832 OPS (127 wRC+). That's when you know a player is on another level - when he's able to still hit 27% above average at the age of 40 after 18 previous seasons of grinding.

Here's a look at how Chipper measured up against all third basemen in MLB history:

  • 2,726 hits (8th all-time)
  • 549 doubles (6th all-time)
  • 468 home runs (6th all-time)
  • 1,623 RBI (5th all-time)
  • .303 batting average (21st all-time)
  • .401 OBP% (6th all-time)
  • .930 OPS (tied for 3rd all-time)
  • 141 wRC+ (tied for 8th all-time)
  • 84.8 fWAR (5th all-time)

One of my favorite Chipper Moments was during his last season in 2012. On September 2nd against the Phillies, Chipper walked it off and won the Braves the game. It was beautiful (sorry for the amateur video).

One of my favorite Chipper Moments was during his last season in 2012. On September 2nd against the Phillies, Chipper walked it off and won the Braves the game. It was beautiful (sorry for the amateur video).

Best season

1999 (7.3 fWAR)

  • 157 G
  • .319 BA
  • 45 HR
  • 25 SB
  • 165 wRC+
  • higher BB% (14.2%) than K% (13.3%)

A National League MVP award is a pretty good clarification of the type of season Chipper had in 1999. He didn't have a crazy league-leading stat or anything like that, Chipper just had an absolute complete year at the plate and on the field.

Chipper's 1.074 OPS for that '99 season looks nice, but the "O" and "S" of that acronym are what we should really appreciate. His on-base percentage was .441!  In 2018, only Mike Trout got on base more than that (.460), but that's Mike Trout.

Chipper's .633 slugging-percentage in 1999 is also a rate that needs to be put into perspective:  In 2018, only Mookie Betts had a higher SLG% (.640).  In 2017? No one. What about 2016? No one.

While times are a little different than those late-90's and early-2000's seasons, the fact remains - Chipper Jones was the real deal. Not that you needed me to tell you that.

10 of 11

Atlanta Braves WAR leaders #2: Eddie Mathews (3B)

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(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

  • 94.3 WAR
  • 2,223 games
  • 1952-1967

Eddie Mathews is the definition of durability, as the 1978 Hall of Fame inductee averaged 130 games-played over his 17-season career. From 1953-1961 the 15-year Brave never hit less than 30 home runs, while also never finishing a season with a WAR total of less than 5.4. An all-time great for sure, and the only player to be a member of the Atlanta Braves franchise in all three cities they have hailed from - Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.

The Accolades

Playing alongside teammate Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews had some almost unobtainable expectations he had to endure daily, even being the senior teammate.

Mathews still managed to be chosen for 12 All-Star games, and in 1978 he received 301 of 379 ballots for his Hall of Fame induction.

In his rookie season, he finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year vote and added four top-ten finishes in MVP votings - twice finishing runner-up. He also was part of two World Series teams.

The Player

Eddie Mathews died in 2001 (69 years old), but his legacy still stands strong throughout the Atlanta Braves organization. He is the only man to ever play for the Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves, and the Atlanta Braves.

Mathews was born in Texas on October 13, 1931. He made his major league debut with the Boston Braves in 1952 as a 20-year-old. He began his MLB career as a strong-hitting third baseman.

As mentioned above, Mathews finished third in the voting for NL Rookie of the Year. He put up an impressive campaign that year but was snubbed by starting pitcher Harry Byrd who pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics.

Mathews made a strong case for the award by posting a 113 wRC+ with 25 home runs and 2.6 fWAR in 143 games.

The decision to award Byrd with the ROY title is even odder when looking at Byrd's season that year, as he finished with a 15-15 record and a 3.31 ERA with 116 strikeouts. While Byrd had a good season, I find the numbers put up by Mathews more impressive - especially considering Mathews was 20 at the time and Byrd was 25 years old, but I digress.

From his 1952 rookie season, until is 1966 season, Mathews never hit less than 23 home runs (14 straight seasons).

He averaged 34 homers per season in that span, with four seasons tallying home run totals in the '40s, and led the NL in that stat twice (1953 and 1959).

He ranks 23rd all-time in home runs (512) and 22nd in total fWAR (96.1). When comparing him to all third basemen to play the game, he ranks third and fourth in fWAR and home runs respectively.

Here's a famous quote from the all-time great Ty Cobb, provided by Eddie Matthews' Hall of Fame website.

“I’ve only known three or four perfect swings in my time,” said Hall of Famer Ty Cobb. “This lad has one of them.”

If Ty Cobb is talking up your swing than you're doing some stuff right. Mathews not only had power, but he also had the contact skills and plate-discipline to maintain a high batting average.

If Ty Cobb is talking up your swing than you're doing some stuff right. Mathews not only had power, but he also had the contact skills and plate-discipline to maintain a high batting average.

More of Mathews - and Aaron - can be seen on this episode of Home Run Derby from late 1959 that aired in 1960.  Fun fact:  Aaron won $13,500 from winning 6 episodes in a row... on top of a 1959 salary of just $35,000.

The skills that Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, and the greats of that era are a tier of hitters that we now see in the great players of today. The traits that Mike Trout and Mookie Betts display at the plate in today's game are reminiscent of the skills Mathews possessed in his time.

Best Season

1953 (8.7 fWAR)

  • 157 G
  • .302 BA
  • 47 HR
  • 135 RBI
  • 167 wRC+

What's fascinating about Mathews' best-WAR season was that it was only his second season in the big leagues, at the young age of 21. Also, the young Mathews led the NL in home runs that season, while playing in the second-most games of his major league career.

The .325 ISO that he posted in 1953 was the highest of his career as well, and all that power earned him his first All-Star appearance.

That year the Milwaukee Braves were a solid team with Mathews leading the lineup at such a young age. The Braves had not received Hank Aaron's services yet, but they were still a second-place team in the National League.

With a 92-62 record and 738 total runs scored  - the Braves, led by manager Charlie Grimm- had a deep lineup of talented players. With Mathews leading the team on offense, the batting lineup featured five other players to finish that season with double-digit home run totals.

Guys like Warren Spahn and Johnny Antonelli led the pitching staff for the Braves, with Spahn leading the NL in wins (23) and finishing fifth in the MVP voting.

Eddie Mathews would go on to put up MVP-like numbers for the remainder of his career, and he never seemed to slow down until his 1966 season (his last full season with the Braves).

He would finish his historical career playing for the Detroit Tigers in 1968, only playing 31 games with them before finally retiring... later to become the manager of the Atlanta Braves from 1972-1974.

11 of 11

Atlanta Braves all-time WAR leaders #1: Hank Aaron (OF)

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(Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

  • 136.0 fWAR
  • 3,076 games
  • 1954-1974

Still standing firm with the second-most home runs all-time, Aaron's 755 homers are still making the Atlanta Braves franchise look good. The recent birthday boy (he turned 85-years-old on February 5) had an impeccable 23-year career in the big leagues.

The Accolades

Hank Aaron is easily the best baseball player to ever wear an Atlanta Braves uniform. I don't think there's any doubt in that statement. I could write hundreds of words just listing all of the statistical categories that Aaron either ranks first or in the top-5 in franchise history all-time.

There are a broad number of offensive statistics that list Aaron right there with names like Ruth, Bonds, Mays and Cobb at the Major League level as well. Hank Aaron is an all-time great and his legacy will always be remembered by anyone who has anything to do with Atlanta Braves baseball.

Aaron won two Batting Titles, appeared in 25 All-Star games and won the 1957 National League MVP. The right fielder and first baseman also won three Gold Glove awards for his work on defense.

It doesn't take a statistician to see why he received 97.8% of the ballots (406 of 415) in 1982's Hall of Fame voting - giving him the highest percentage of ballots on that year's docket.

Hank Aaron's performance in his team's (Milwaukee Braves) World Series win in 1957 against the Yankees deserves applause, too. In that series, Hammerin' Hank came to bat 28 times and batted .398 with a ridiculous 1.200 OPS. He hit three home runs and knocked in seven runs in route to winning the Series four games to three.

That '57 World Series was a beautiful conclusion to a spectacular season for Aaron, as he posted a .322 batting average with 44 homers and 132 RBI. The season of 1957 was only his fourth big league season, but it was his best yet - and there would be plenty more to come.

The Player

Hank Aaron was born right here in "Braves Country", in Mobile, Alabama. He played his high school baseball at Allen Institute in Mobile. At the age of 20, Aaron made his Major League debut with the Milwaukee Braves, and like so many who make their debut, it wasn't pretty.

In a game against the Cincinnati Redlegs (Reds), on April 13, 1954, Aaron struggled to a tune of 0 for 5, although he avoided any strikeouts. He ended up playing left field in that game and the Braves would go on to lose 9-8.

His second game?  2 for 5 with a double and run scored behind a Warren Spahn victory.

That 1954 rookie season featured 122 games for Aaron, as he accumulated over 500 plate-appearances that year. He would go on to finish that first taste of the majors by posting an impressive .280 batting average and slugging 13 home runs - all good for 1.2 fWAR.

It was a good first-year for Aaron, but it wouldn't take him long at all to get acclimated in the majors. He would go from 1955 to record 20 straight seasons with at least 20 homers, while also being worth at least 5.2 fWAR for 17 straight years in that span.

As I mentioned above, it would take an entirely separate piece to list all of the stats in which Aaron ranked first or nearly so. We'll save most of that for another day.

However, I think the least I can do is make you aware of how Aaron stacked up in regards to stats that we are all familiar with and see often. Just know that there are many more stat categories that Aaron either leads or ranks in the top-5.

Always a Threat

The following are career-stats followed by his rank all-time (stats from Fangraphs). These stats include the 21 seasons playing for the Braves, but also the two seasons he spent with the Brewers at the end of his career:

  • 3,298 games-played (3rd)
  • 755 home runs (2nd...technically)
  • 2,174 runs (5th)
  • 2,297 RBI (1st)
  • 153 wRC+ (t-23rd)
  • 136.3 fWAR (6th)

What's even more amazing is when you look at his career and average out his performance for his entire time in the majors. More so for players with large MLB tenures, this will allow you to see a player's average performance - which can give you a stat-line that best represents a player's season year-to-year.

Synonyms for the word average are "normal" and "typical games played." Hank Aaron's average performance is quite impressive.

Just look at this stat-line as: "This is a typical Hank Aaron season."

  • 143 games-played
  • .305 BA
  • 32 HR
  • 10 SB
  • 153 wRC+
  • 5.9 fWAR

It's amazing how some guys were able to basically have MVP-like seasons pretty much on a "normal" basis. The durability to be able to average 143 games over a 23-season career is just mind-blowing.

It just goes to show how important Aaron was to the Atlanta Braves, as it's pretty obvious that when he was on the field, he was more than likely playing at a very high level.

Best Season

1961 (8.9 WAR)

  • 155 G
  • .327 BA
  • 34 HR
  • 21 SB
  • 153 wRC+

The 1961 season was a great one for Aaron, but not so much the Braves. Aaron was still only 27-years-old but was the catalyst for that Braves team as the cleanup hitter.

The Braves finished the season in 4th-place in the National League (83-71), with the Reds winning the League (93-61) behind Frank Robinson who hit 37 homers that year.

In that 1961 season, Aaron would finish eighth in the NL MVP voting. He would go on to finish with at least 8-wins in each of the next two seasons while playing another 13 seasons with the Braves.

Here's a little tape of Hank Aaron to close out this piece...

Here's a little tape of Hank Aaron to close out this piece...

Next: Let's Talk Touki
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Thus we have the Top 10 best Atlanta Braves in history by WAR value.  Dale Murphy and Fred Tenney would be #11 and #12 respectively.  But at 30.8, Freddie Freeman is making a run at someday breaking into the Top 10.