Image credit: Kevin Seitzer (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The 2023 Braves had one of the greatest offensive performances in major league history.
By the metric weighted runs created plus, Atlanta produced runs at a rate 25% above league average, equaling the legendary 1927 Yankees for the best wRC+ ever.
Atlanta’s 307 home runs tied the 2019 Twins for most ever in a single season. The Braves’ collective .501 slugging percentage was the highest all time—and the only one to equal or exceed .500.
It’s only appropriate, then, that the individual who oversaw that output is recognized. Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is the 2023 BA Major League Coach of the Year.
“When (Braves public relations) told me, I said, ‘Well this has to be a mistake, because I just got to coach the offense of the year,’ ” Seitzer said. “I had some really good players who I got to coach, and I give them all the credit—and everybody else who goes into it.
“It’s a stinkin’ team effort, man. But it’s very cool. Very humbling. I don’t feel worthy at all. Hitting coaches just show up, grind and get after it and try to keep the ship afloat the best we can.”
Seitzer has been instrumental during the Braves’ six-year run atop the National League East. The Braves’ offense has been a strength since 2019, but it reached an unprecedented level in 2023.
In addition to home runs and slugging, the Braves led MLB with 947 runs, 1,543 hits, a .276 batting average and a .344 on-base percentage. Atlanta mashed its way to an MLB-best 104 wins.
“It was hard to comprehend all season,” Seitzer said. “I mean, as coaches, especially hitting coaches, we wait for the low, the slump, the time where we just can’t score runs . . . and it didn’t happen all year.
“We would have periods where two or three guys would be cold. But everybody else would be so hot, they were picking them up. And then when they got going, there would be two or three other guys who got cold. The whole group just kept covering up each other, picking each other up to where we just kept going.
“We kept scoring. We kept hitting homers. And, you know, we get to the end, and I look back and I’m going, ‘Holy cow, this is unbelievable.’ We didn’t really have a slump as a team—which is a miracle—until the postseason.”
The Braves’ bats went cold in a Division Series loss to the Phillies. As a team, Atlanta hit .186 and scored eight runs in four games.
“I’m very proud of them,” Seitzer said of his hitters, praising both their talent and work ethic.
“The way they pull for each other—and their whole motivation is to win ball games every night. You just don’t find that very much, to have a whole group of guys like that. Everybody who comes in that clubhouse, that’s the expectation.”
Right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and first baseman Matt Olson headlined the offensive success. Acuña was named NL MVP after becoming the first player ever to top 40 home runs and 70 stolen bases in the same season. Olson set Braves franchise records with 54 home runs and 139 RBIs.
Seitzer credited Acuña’s season to him being truly healthy for the first time since before he tore the ACL in his knee in July 2021. He felt Olson’s success was rooted in comfort, this being his second season with his hometown Braves.
But what made Seitzer proudest was perhaps the most important aspect of the offense. The Braves did a remarkable job trimming their strikeout rate.
The Braves struck out 24.6% of the time in 2022, the third-highest rate in MLB. In 2023, Atlanta hitters struck out at a 20.6% rate, fifth-lowest in MLB.
Seitzer didn’t take much credit for the drastic change, instead praising his players’ ability to adapt to pitchers and circumstances.
“It was amazing,” Seitzer said. “I’ve always hated strikeouts, but it is part of it, and when you’ve got damage that’s unfolding and you’re scoring runs, you can live with it. But that was incredible to cut down that drastically . . .
“One through nine, the season that they all put together, you just take your cap off to these boys.”
The good news for Seitzer is that the Braves are projected to return every hitter but left fielder Eddie Rosario from their exceptional 2023 lineup.
The only down side is that there may be no records left for the 2024 crew to break.