The Atlanta Braves are set to open a new stadium in 2017. The Braves closed out Turner Field with a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on the last day of the regular season. Suntrust Park is the future for Atlanta, and it is time to reflect on some of the heroes of Turner Field. Some of the best players in franchise history played at the Ted, and these are the five best seasons compiled there.
Top Five Seasons at Turner Field
2000 – Andruw Jones
.303/.366/.541/.907, 36 HR, 104 RBI, 122 runs, 199 hits, 36 doubles, 126 OPS+, 355 total bases, 8.2 WAR, Gold Glove, eighth-place MVP finish
Andruw Jones burst onto the big league scene at just 19 years old. In his third full season, Jones hit 31 home runs and captured his first Gold Glove. His first great season, however, came in 2000. Jones appeared in 161 games while anchoring the outfield and providing a punch on offense. He led the Braves in runs, hits, triples, total bases, and tied Chipper Jones for the team lead in home runs.
Andruw came just one hit shy of the first 200-hit season for a Braves player since Marquis Grissom in 1996, while also posting a 20-20 season with 36 home runs and 21 steals. Always known for his strong defense, Jones posted a 2.6 dWAR in 2000, the highest mark in the National League. His 8.2 WAR also ranks as the second-highest mark for a single-season at Turner Field.
His best stretch of the season came in the month of May. Atlanta went 17-10 with Jones posting a slash-line of .340/.456/.641/1.097. He hit eight home runs to go with 14 extra-base hits, 25 runs, and 17 RBI. Jones set the pace for a Braves team that won 95 games and the ninth of 14 straight division titles. The lone blemish was a poor postseason performance. He posted just one hit, a solo homer, in a three-game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals.
2005 – Andruw Jones
.263/.347/.575/.922, 51 HR, 128 RBI, 95 runs, 154 hits, 24 doubles, 136 OPS+, 337 total bases, 6.7 WAR, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, second-place MVP finish
Jones’ average and overall WAR may have been lower in ’05 than in ’00, but his impact was much greater. The ’00 Braves had four players with WARs greater than five, while the ’05 Braves had just two. Jones led the team in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases. His 51 bombs remain the franchise record for most in a single season. Jones was rewarded with a second-place MVP finish while tallying 13 first-place votes.
Jones was fantastic all year long, but his strongest month in ’05 came in June. He slashed .317/.418/.733 with an incredible 1.151 OPS. Jones had 32 hits on the month, with 13 home runs, 26 RBI, and 18 runs scored. He even performed fantastically in an eventful but short-lived postseason. Jones logged eight hits in 17 at-bats, with five RBI and five runs scored in a four-game series loss to the Houston Astros. Fans will always remember Jones for his limitless potential, and there is no denying he is one of the true legends of Turner Field.
1997 – Greg Maddux
19-4, 2.20 ERA, 33 starts, 232.2 innings, 0.946 WHIP, 2.43 FIP, five complete games, two shutouts, 177 strikeouts, 20 walks, 0.8 BB/9, 8.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio, second-place Cy Young finish, 12th-place MVP finish, Gold Glove
The toughest choice was deciding between his ’97 and ’98 seasons. Strangely, Maddux did not even win the Cy Young award for either campaign. Pedro Martinez bested Maddux in ’97 with a season so good that it is still hard to comprehend. Tom Glavine won the award in ’98, but it is difficult to fathom why. Maddux was better in nearly every category except for one – wins. Choosing between the two seasons by Maddux was essentially a toss-up, but the ’97 season gets a slight edge.
Maddux did not capture the Cy Young despite leading all of baseball with 0.8 walks-per-nine-innings and an 8.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Both marks are career-bests for Maddux. He was the anchorman in ’97 for one of the most effective rotations in all of baseball. Maddux led all Braves starters in ERA, win percentage, FIP, ERA+, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
There are no particular stretches that standout from 1997, but there a few games deserve recognition. Maddux threw four full-length complete games, three of which he completed with fewer than 100 pitches. He did this with such regularity over the course of his career that a complete game finished with fewer than 100 pitches is now considered a “Maddux.” His highest game score for the season came on July 2. Maddux used just 84 pitches to scatter three hits while logging eight strikeouts without allowing a walk in a 2-0 shutout of the Yankees.
2004 – J.D. Drew
.305/.436/.569/1.006, 31 HR, 93 RBI, 118 runs, 158 hits, 28 doubles, 157 OPS+, 295 total bases, 118 walks, 116 strikeouts, 8.3 WAR, sixth-place MVP finish
This spot on the list will likely draw criticism for the selection, as well as a few omissions. Gary Sheffield hit 39 home runs, drove in 132 runs, and struck out just 55 times in nearly 700 plate appearances in 2003 while finishing third in MVP voting. Fan-favorite Javy Lopez hit 43 home runs in the same season, still an MLB record for catchers. Lopez also finished the season with a fifth-place MVP vote, two spots behind Sheffield. But neither of these players was more valuable to their team than Drew was in 2004.
Drew receives the unfortunate distinction of being the cornerstone of the trade that sent Adam Wainwright and Jason Marquis to the Cardinals. Drew played just one season in Atlanta; Wainwright has pitched parts of 11 seasons in St. Louis and won two pennants and one World Series championship. Still, Drew held up his end of the deal for his one year with the Braves. Drew’s 8.3 WAR in 2004 is the highest ever in Turner Field history. That mark is also the highest for an Atlanta position player since Lonnie Smith posted an 8.8 WAR in 1989.
There is also no denying the value of Drew’s performance to the Braves in ’04. No other player posted a WAR higher than four. By contrast, the ’03 Braves had Sheffield, Lopez, and four other position players post WARs of four or higher. Drew led the Braves in hits, walks, runs, home runs, OBP, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the truest sense. Drew produced as hoped in Atlanta, but the ultimate goal of a World Series ring never materialized. He departed via free-agency following ’04, but his lone season in Atlanta was by far the most productive season of his career.
1999 – Chipper Jones
.319/.441/.633/1.074, 45 HR, 110 RBI, 116 runs, 181 hits, 41 doubles, 25 steals, 169 OPS+, 359 total bases, 126 walks, 94 strikeouts, 6.9 WAR, Silver Slugger, MVP
Chipper Jones is the most iconic Braves player of the last 30 years. He did something that even Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, John Smoltz, or Glavine could not do. Jones was drafted and played every game of his career for the Braves, and even restructured his contract to allow the Braves more financial flexibility. He is the last Braves player to win the MVP, and was the first since Terry Pendleton won the award in a magical 1991 season.
The ’99 Braves won 103 games and the NL pennant behind outstanding offensive performances from the “Jones Brothers” – Chipper and Andruw. Chipper, however, was more dominant. He led Atlanta in hits, home runs, runs scored, walks, batting average, OBP, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. Jones even added a career-high 25 steals to complete one of his two 20-20 seasons. The Braves were eventually swept out of the World Series by the Yankees in a series much closer than the sweep indicated.
Jones saved his best work for his favorite nemesis – the New York Mets. The Mets came to Atlanta on September 21 with a 12-5 record on the month and trailing the Braves in the division by just a single game. Any hope for erasing that deficit was quickly destroyed. The Braves won the first game of the series 2-1, with both runs coming on a set of solo-homeruns by Jones. Atlanta swept the series 3-0, with Jones homering in every game and single-handedly outscoring the Mets. Jones finished the series with four hits, all home runs, seven RBI, five runs scored, and three walks, two of which were intentional. Atlanta took a four game lead in the division that they would never relinquish.
Jones finished the ’99 season with a line of .400/.510/1.000/1.510, seven home runs, 16 RBI, 14 runs scored, and 40 total bases in 12 games against the Mets. A season for the ages was made even better by his performances against a bitter rival.