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Dodgers and Braves, a battle of MVPs & the National League’s best

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Dodgers and Braves have the two best records in the majors, both well on their way to division titles. They meet this weekend for four games at Dodger Stadium, and if we’re lucky they’ll meet once more in October.

There’s a decent chance the top four in National League Most Valuable Player voting will come from these two teams.

Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuña Jr. are the two headliners. Betts leads the National League in OPS (1.021), slugging percentage (.611), wRC+ (174), and both versions of WAR (7.6 at both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference). He’s having one of the great months in Dodgers history, hitting .454/.512/.796 in August, with one game left in the month.

Acuña has an absurd 61 stolen bases to go with his 29 home runs, already with the most home runs by any player ever with 60 steals. He’ll be the first 30-60 player ever, and could even reach 30-70. Acuña leads the NL in on-base percentage (.416), runs scored (119), and steals. He’s tied for the league lead in hits (178), with a former teammate.

Freddie Freeman leads the majors in hits (178, tied with Acuña) and doubles (51), and leads the NL in total bases (308). He’s one shy of tying the Dodgers franchise mark for doubles in a season, a 94-year-old record. Freeman is on pace for 63 doubles, with the last 60-double season in the majors coming in 1936.

Matt Olson, Freeman’s replacement at first base in Atlanta, leads the NL in home runs (43) and RBI (112). He’s cooled off a bit of late, but is still on pace for 53 long balls. Olson homered in a win over the Dodgers in Atlanta on May 24.

Familiar face

This is the fourth series between Freeman and the Braves since they abruptly parted ways in March 2022 after 12 glorious seasons together in Atlanta. Freeman has been right in the middle of things in each of the three series so far, hitting .361/.465/.667 with three home runs, two doubles, seven RBI, eight runs scored, and seven walks in nine games against his old team.

Freeman has a hit in every game but one against the Braves, and he’s reached base multiple times in seven of the nine contests.

Holy cow, Atlanta’s offense

The Braves and Dodgers are first and second, in that order, in the majors in runs scored, home runs, OPS, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and wRC+. But there’s quite a gulf between the two teams, especially in the power department.

Atlanta is literally slugging .500 as a team, something no team has ever done. The National League/American League record is a .495 slugging percentage by the Astros in 2019. Only seven teams before this year have slugged at least .485.

The Murderer’s Row 1927 Yankees slugged .488 as a team for further reference. New York that year had a 125 wRC+, the best ever, which this year’s Braves team is currently matching.

The Braves have 250 home runs, 42 more than the second-place Dodgers. Atlanta is on pace for 307 homers this season, which would tie the 2019 Twins for the major league record. Minnesota slugged .494 that season, when the majors as a whole averaged 1.39 home runs per team game. This year, the average is down to 1.20 home runs per team game. “Down” is a relative term here, as 1.20 is in line with 2020 and 2021, and up from 1.07 home runs per team game in 2022. 1.20 would be the fifth-highest home run rate in MLB history.

Atlanta already has seven different players with at least 20 home runs. No other team this year has more than four. The Dodgers are one of those teams with four players, though one of their 20-homer hitters, J.D. Martinez, isn’t due back from the injured list until next week at the earliest.

The all-time record is eight players with 20 or more homers, by the 2019 Twins. Next-closest for the Braves to join the 20 club are shortstop Orlando Arcia (16 home runs) and centerfielder Michael Harris II (12).

Scalding hot

Both teams are on a roll at the moment. The Dodgers are an absurd 24-4 in August, with one day left in the month. The Braves are 20-8 this month. The Dodgers’ last series loss was in July; they’ve won nine straight series since. Atlanta has six straight series wins, with their last series loss coming August 4-6.