The Braves have had their share of star players throughout their history. From Hank Aaron to Dale Murphy to Greg Maddux to Chipper Jones to Freddie Freeman and now with Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves fans have seen some truly exciting players come through town. However, it can sometimes be more exciting to watch lesser-known players outperform their expectations, particularly during seasons in which a championship isn't truly in the cards. That's exactly what happened for these four Braves players, who somehow led the team in wins above replacement (WAR) for a full season.
4. Jair Jurrjens (2009)
WAR heavily weights innings pitched, which helped Jair Jurrjens finish with a team-best 6.7 in 2009. Jurrjens pitched 215 innings that season, finishing with a 2.60 ERA and 14 total wins. This was Jurrjens' best year of his career and he deserved to make an All-Star appearance. In Jurrjens' eight year career, 2009 was the season where he pitched his most innings, tallied his most strikeouts, and finished with his best ERA.
3. J.D. Drew (2004)
On a Braves team that won 96 games thanks to the likes of Chipper Jones, Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones, and John Smoltz, you probably wouldn't have expected J.D. Drew to lead the team in WAR in the 2004 season. However, Drew doubled up the next-closest Brave in wins above replacement, finishing with 8.3, with Chipper checking in at 4.0. In Drew's only season with the Braves, he was exceptional, finishing sixth in NL MVP voting with 31 home runs and 93 RBIs. After winning the NL East division, the Braves disappointed in the playoffs in 2004, losing to the Astros in the NLDS.
2. Michael Bourn (2012)
In 2012, the Braves were an exciting young team that overachieved as a whole. With young studs such as Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, and Craig Kimbrel all under 25, the Braves won 94 games and made it to the NL Wild Card game. However, the biggest surprise that season was Michael Bourn, who led the team with a 6.0 WAR. This was largely due to his phenomenal 2.9 defensive WAR that season while playing center field. Bourn stole 42 bases that season, a big contributor to his final wins above replacement tally.
1. Lonnie Smith (1989)
At 33, Lonnie Smith seemed to be past his prime. It had been seven years since he hit over. 300 for a season. However, Smith shocked the world in 1989 and led all position players in the MLB with a WAR of 8.8. Smith batted .315 and led the NL with an on-base percentage of .415. While the Braves may have been tough to watch in '89, Smith's bounce-back was a great storyline for fans to follow. He ended up finishing 11th in MVP voting that season.