A cost of the Atlanta Braves’ great selloff was the loss of the great defenders Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward. A slightly obscured benefit of John Coppolella’s manic dealing was the addition of Ender Inciarte, himself a great defender.
If we check the two leading metrics for glove work, we find that the current Brave ranks ahead of both former Braves in Ultimate Zone Rating and ahead of Heyward but behind Simmons in Defensive Runs Saved. (Data from FanGraphs.) And if we go by FanGraphs’ WRC+ (weighted runs created adjusted for parks and league average), we find that Inciarte has been a slightly better hitter this season than Simmons and a much better hitter than Heyward.
Also this: Inciarte is 25; Heyward and Simmons are 27. And this: Heyward is making $21.6 million this season and Simmons $6 million; Inciarte is making $523,000.
All of which is preparatory to saying: The Braves have a keeper. And if you didn’t know that already, you know it now.
I’ve always considered Otis Nixon’s catch of Andy Van Slyke’s drive in July 1992 to be the greatest catch in Atlanta Braves history. (I was there that Saturday night and saw it and wrote about it in a blurry-fast haze.) Andruw Jones’ game-ending grab in Montreal was second — or third, depending on what you think of Heyward’s famous play that ended a game in, yes, New York.
But Inciate’s climactic run-and-leap last night included all those elements — it was a great catch that actually stole a home run AND ended the game AND undid the hated Mets. Let the debate ensue.
As fate would have it, this ran in today’s AJC (and was written before Wednesday’s game): A September to remember for, yes, the Braves.