Best Braves Team Tournament: First Round (Part 1)

Best Braves Team Tournament: First Round (Part 1)

No baseball?

Well, allow me the opportunity to do something weird. Using Out of the Park 20, I have set up a sixteen-team tournament of the best Braves teams since 1900. Why would I do this? Again, the no baseball thing.

I’ll get into how the tournament has been arranged, but I want to briefly discuss what Out of the Park 20, or OOTP 20, is. It’s a text-based baseball simulator that gives you a real litany of options of how you want to play it. Want to play out the 2019 season? No problem. How about setting up a league based in Germany using only German-born players? I mean, if you want to. Or maybe you want to take over the 1915 Boston Braves and see if you can repeat? Maybe you like the MLB set-up but want completely fictional players.  It’s completely up to you.

The game even has the ability to play online against other human opponents and Perfect League, a Madden Ultimate Team-like addition to the game that many people enjoy. OOTP 20 can be found on Steam, but if you want to wait, OOTP 21 will be released soon.

So, back to the tournament. How did I come up with a list of the top Braves teams in franchise history? The game only allows you to choose teams since 1900 so that takes out the Boston Red Stockings/Beaneaters dynasty of the late 19th century. Not that they would have qualified, but the database doesn’t include the 2019 team either. That will probably change in OOTP 21.

I organized the seeding by two factors – World Series winners and PythW-L%. If you are not familiar with the latter, it’s also often called Expected Win-Loss record. It refers to the win-loss percentage based on the runs scored and runs given up. Why not basic win-loss record? Just a personal preference. So, after ranking the three World Series winners by PythW-L%, I then added the top 13 teams by the same stat and that gave me my seeds. And like you might expect with March Madness, the #1 team is at the top of the bracket while the #2 team is at the bottom.

Each round will consist of a Best-of-Seven series with your typical 2 home, 3 away, 2 home setup with the better-seeded team receiving four home games should the series go all seven. One slight issue that I can’t really avoid that you should know about. In terms of roster utilization and decisions, the settings are set to modern. This means that guys who would have thrown complete games during their era will probably get removed much earlier. Maybe I’ll try different settings if I re-run this just to see if certain teams benefit from it over others.

The bracket will not be re-seeded after each round. The winner of the #1/#16 matchup will face the winner of the #8/#9 series rather than the top-seeded remaining team in the Elite Eight facing the lowest-seeded team that is still remaining.

Just to be clear, I didn’t mess with the rosters or lineups. The only thing I did do is go through and try to utilize a regular postseason rotation rather than a four-man staff. And there are some errors that we will just have to deal with as far as the roster makeup. But, let’s try to have fun regardless.

I believe that’s all the information you need. Let’s get to the seeds.

#1 – 1957 Milwaukee Braves vs. #16 – 1954 Milwaukee Braves
#2 – 1914 Boston Braves vs. #15 – 1994 Atlanta Braves
#3 – 1995 Atlanta Braves vs. #14 – 2003 Atlanta Braves
#4 – 1998 Atlanta Braves vs. #13 – 1956 Milwaukee Braves
#5 – 1993 Atlanta Braves vs. #12 – 1958 Milwaukee Braves
#6 – 1997 Atlanta Braves vs. #11 – 1953 Milwaukee Braves
#7 – 1999 Atlanta Braves vs. #10 – 2002 Atlanta Braves
#8 – 1948 Boston Braves vs. #9 – 2013 Atlanta Braves

To sum up, there are two teams from Boston, five teams from Milwaukee, and the remaining nine come from Atlanta. So, if I was putting money on this, I’d imagine an Atlanta-based squad will take it. And really, if you are betting on this tournament, you are damn desperate. But, ya know, the 1914 Boston team has faced some long odds before. If you’re curious, the first five teams left out of this tournament include the 2004 Braves, the 1992 squad, the 1916 Boston one, the team from 1996, and Bobby Cox‘s final team in 2010. If I hadn’t mad sure all three World Series teams would get in, the teams from 2004 and 1992 would have pushed the 1914 and 1995 teams out.

Let’s get this sucker started, why don’t we? And we’ll start with the #1 Milwaukee Braves from 1957 facing the squad from three years before.

Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of overlap between the two teams. But one key difference between the squads offensively is that the ’57 Hank Aaron hammered 44 homers that season, 31 more than he would hit in 1954 in his Age-20 season. Aaron was the usual left fielder when he came up with Andy Pafko playing right field, but switched to right field in the World Series-winning year with Wes Covington moving into the picture. One potential big change that we won’t see between the two teams is Red Schoendienst, who Milwaukee acquired during the 1957 season. Since I’m using opening-day rosters, the disappointing Danny O’Connell will man second base instead for both teams.

Sweet Sixteen
#1 – 1957 Milwaukee Braves vs. #16 – 1954 Milwaukee Braves

Warren Spahn | Baseball Digest, July 1958, Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons

Game 1: 1957 MIL 8, 1954 MIL 7

Real back-and-forth affair that saw the ’57 squad score four runs off Warren Spahn in the first – three on a homer by Del Crandall. Unfortunately for them, Lew Burdette couldn’t hold it. By the time the bullpens were fully involved as the sixth inning finished, it was 7-5 in favor of the ’57 Braves. But in the top of the 9th, sloppy play by Johnny Logan and Wes Covington led to two runs, one earned, to tie it up. That didn’t last long, though, because in the bottom of the tenth, Del Rice took the second pitch of the inning from Dave Jolly to deep left and out for the walk-off winner.

Game 2: 1957 MIL 5, 1954 MIL 3
1957 Braves lead series 2-0

A day after his younger self got beat up pretty badly, the 1957 Warren Spahn gave up three runs over six innings to help his team build a 2-0 lead in their Sweet Sixteen series. The much-maligned Danny O’Connell had a big knock for the ’57 squad, hitting a bases-loaded double in the fourth off Gene Conley to finish off a five-run barrage that erased a 1-0 deficit. Spahn wasn’t great but worked around eight hits, three walks, and a hit batter.

Game 3: 1957 MIL 6, 1954 MIL 1
1957 Braves lead series 3-0

Bob Buhl threw 7.1 scoreless innings while Del Crandall and Eddie Mathews both homered for the ’57 squad, which finds itself a win away from a sweep. They’ve done it largely with little help from Hank Aaron, who picked up his first RBI of the series and is hitting .231. His younger version has been even less impressive. Frank Torre finished with three hits for 1957 World Series champs while Joe Adcock picked up the only RBI for the ’54 squad.

Game 4: 1954 MIL 7, 1957 MIL 2
1957 Braves lead series 3-1

This time, the younger Warren Spahn came to pitch, working five scoreless innings while the ’54 Braves took advantage of a Danny O’Connell error in the second to lead to four unearned runs off Lew Burdette. Spahn had the big blow, hitting a bases-clearing double. Andy Pafko and Eddie Mathews added homers for the ’54 team while Bill Bruton homered for the ’57 squad, who will look to their own Spahn to finish off the series in Game 5.

Game 5: 1957 MIL 3, 1954 MIL 1
1957 Braves win series 4-1

Spahn only worked into the fourth when Ernie Johnson stranded a runner for him. It kept the lead at 3-1 and the bullpen closed the door from there for the ’57 squad. Both versions of Hank Aaron woke up finally, hitting a triple and scoring the only run for the 1954 team while slamming a two-run homer in the third, which broke up the 1-1 tie. Frank Torre was named MVP of the Series after hitting .368 and reaching base at a .455 clip during the series.

Before we finish this first part, let’s go over our next matchup will decide who faces the ’57 Braves. The #8 Boston Braves of 1948 were led by Tommy Holmes, an aging infield with Eddie Stanky at second and Bob Elliott at third, and a 27-year-old Warren Spahn with a 31-yer-old Johnny Sain. Under Billy Southworth, they won the NL pennant but lost in six games in the World Series to the Indians.

Meanwhile, the 2013 Braves, our #9 seed, was led by the young nucleus of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Alex Wood, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, and Craig Kimbrel. While we remember the team mostly for the decision to leave Kimbrel in the pen and the rebuild that would start soon after, it was a fun team that many felt would compete for years. Spoiler alert – that didn’t happen.

Sweet Sixteen
#8 – 1948 Boston Braves vs. #9 – 2013 Atlanta Braves

Game 1: ATL 4, BSN 1

We saw Warren Spahn a lot for both teams in the first series and a much younger version opens this series with seven quality innings, stifling the 2013 Braves. But Mike Minor matched him for five innings and the foursome of Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, and Craig Kimbrel kept Boston at bay. Meanwhile, Atlanta broke through in the eighth off reliever, Clyde Shoun. Dan Uggla singled ahead of a walk by Brian McCann. After a sacrifice bunt, Chris Johnson singled in Uggla and Freeman brought McCann in with a base hit of his own. A wild pitch scored a third run of the frame, giving Walden the dubya.

Game 2: BSN 8, ATL 3
Series Tied at 1

Boston broke up an early pitcher’s duel between Johnny Sain and Julio Teheran by scoring five runs off Teheran in the fifth. That erased the 2-1 lead Atlanta had built and Boston cruised to a victory to tie up things in the series. Bob Elliot homered wgile Eddie Stanky and Earl Torgeson each drove in a pair for Boston, who rode six solid frames by Sain.

Game 3: BSN 6, ATL 5
1948 Braves lead series 2-1

A see-saw battle saw Boston take the lead in the fourth before Atlanta pulled ahead 3-1. Boston followed that up by scoring the next four runs of the game, but Atlanta tied it with one in the 8th and another in the 9th. However, pinch-hitter Phil Masi hit a solo homer off Kimbrel in the tenth before Al Lyons worked around a one-out double by Jason Heyward in the bottom half, striking out Uggla to end the game. Tommy Holmes had three doubles while Danny Litwhiler hit a two-run homer to help lead Boston. Chris Johnson had four singles for Atlanta, but other than Heyward’s double in the tenth, their only other extra-base hit as a game-tying solo homer by Justin Upton in the 8th.

Game 4: BSN 9, ATL 5
1948 Braves lead series 3-1

Boston scored early and often, plating at least a run in all but three frames, as they cruised to a potential quick trip to the next round despite losing the first game of the series. Again, Johnson pounded Boston pitchers, adding three more hits including his first two homers of the series. But the rest of the Atlanta Braves attack continued to struggle. Meanwhile, several Boston players had big days. Holmes had three hits while Torgeson, Elliot, and Bill Salkeld each had two. Elliot doubled and homered as Tim Hudson gave up four runs. Vern Bickford was tremendous for Boston, striking out seven in six innings and only allowing one run on a Johnson solo homer.

Tommy Holmes

Game 5: ATL 5, BSN 3
1948 Braves lead series 3-2

Mike Minor out-pitched Warren Spahn to help Atlanta extend the series to at least a return visit to Boston. The All-or-Nothing Braves hit three homers with Justin Upton smacking his second dong while both Andrelton Simmons and Heyward added their first. Jordan Schafer, who plays over Melvin Upton, stole his fourth base. Meanwhile, Holmes and Stanky continue to perform for Boston with each adding two hits while Jeff Heath hit his first homer of the series.

Game 6: BSN 5, ATL 4
1948 Braves win series 4-2

The 2013 version of the Atlanta Braves built an early 2-0 lead after Justin Upton hit a two-run bomb, his third homer of the series. After Boston came back for a run of its own, Freddie Freeman hit a solo homer in the third. But from there, only one of the next five runs were scored by Atlanta as Boston sends the 2013 squad to something that the real Braves team of that year also faced – an early exit. Torgeson added three hits, including a homer off Kris Medlen, while Holmes picked up two more hits. He was also named Series MVP after hitting a ridiculous .583 during the series with five doubles. Johnny Sain worked around the early trouble and struck out ten over six innings.

Two teams have punched their tickets to the next round – the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the 1948 Boston Braves. Who will join them next? I hope you keep following along for that answer.

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