LATEST NEWS : The 3 best players in Atlanta Braves history

The best stat for determining a player’s worth is WAR (wins above replacement), an analytical tool that was not accessible until recently. The formula for WAR differs for position players and pitchers, and I’ll explain it in simple terms. WAR takes into account all aspects of the game, including batting, baserunning, and fielding, as well as position and stadium, to evaluate how many wins an individual player may have above a league average player. Using WAR to assist us rate them, let’s take a look at the best 24 players in Atlanta Braves history, which has seen them play in Boston and Milwaukee before settling in Georgia permanently.

1 of 24Hank Aaron 1954–1974 (142.5 WAR)

Hank Aaron was a Brave when they still played their home games in Milwaukee, and he holds the majority of the team’s notable offensive records, thanks in part to his 21-year tenure with the franchise. But just partially. Because let us not forget how powerful “Hammering Hank” was in the batter’s box. In over 3100 games for the Braves, Aaron hit.310/.377/.567 with 733 home runs and 2202 RBI. He currently holds the Major League record for both RBI and total bases. Aaron was an all-star for the Braves for 20 years in a row, was the National League MVP in 1957, won three Gold Glove trophies, and won two batting titles. He received a World Series title ring in the same.

While many of the Braves on this list are well-known, one is unlikely to be. Righty Kid Nichols pitched for this team when they were still called the Boston Beaneaters, long before any of us were born. Nichols played for the Beaneaters for 12 seasons, winning 330 games and posting an impressive 3.00 ERA. He led the Majors in victories for three years in a row from 1896 to 1898, made 476 of his 502 starts for this team, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Old Timers Committee in 1947.

It's Warren Spahn Day in Buffalo as Hall of Fame lefty would have turned 100
3 of 24Warren Spahn 1942, 1946-1964 (99.3 WAR).

Warren Spahn is on the Mount Rushmore of left-handed starting pitchers to ever play Major League Baseball, and the Braves were lucky enough to have him on their side for 20 seasons. Spahn never pitched in Atlanta but was both a Boston Brave and a Milwaukee Brave, and for the better part of two decades, was at the top of his profession. The Buffalo, NY native pitched in 714 games for the Braves and earned 356 victories while working to a 3.05 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. He led the league in wins on eight different occasions, won two ERA titles, was selected to 17 all-star games, and was the 1957 Cy Young winner–the same season the Braves won the World Series. Spahn surely would have padded his resume, even more, had he not missed three full seasons while serving in the military, and he was a no-brainer selection to the Hall-of-Fame in 1973. The Braves retired his number 21 in 1965.

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4 of 24Eddie Mathews 1952-1966 (94.1 WAR)
Third baseman Eddie Mathews is the only player to suit up for the Braves while they were playing in all three of their cities –Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. That was a result of fortuitous timing more than anything, as he joined the Braves in their last season in Boston and left after just one season in Atlanta, but it still makes him a fun answer to a trivia question. Between the lines, though, Mathews was easily among the best players in this franchise’s rich history. In 2,223 games for the Braves spanning 15 years, he slashed .273/.379/.517 with 493 homers, 1388 RBI, 338 doubles, and 70 triples. He made 12 all-star teams, started at the hot corner for the Braves 1957 championship team, and was selected to the Hall-of-Fame in 1978.

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5 of 24Phil Niekro 1964-1983, 1987 (88.5 WAR)

Knuckleballing righty Phil Niekro spent 21 of his 25 Major League seasons pitching for the Braves organization, and he is still predominantly recognized as the premier knuckleball pitcher in the game’s history. With the Braves Niekro earned 268 of his career 318 victories, made four all-star teams, won five Gold Gloves, and earned an ERA title. Niekro led the Majors in innings pitched in three straight seasons from 1977-1979, while also–in large part due to his feature pitch–leading the league in both walks and wild pitches three times. He was inducted into the Hall-of-Fame in 1997 and his number 35 is retired by the Braves.

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6 of 24Chipper Jones 1993, 1995-2012 (85.3 WAR)

Larry ‘Chipper’ Jones, a switch-hitter, joined the Braves as a regular in 1995 and won the World Series in his rookie season. Despite playing for 16 more seasons, he never earned another, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t leave an impression on this company. Jones played his whole career in Atlanta, representing the Braves in eight all-star games. He was the National League MVP in 1999, won the batting title in 2008 by hitting.364, and received two Silver Slugger Awards. Jones was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, his number 10 has been retired by the Braves, and he is second only to Hank Aaron in nearly every Braves all-time offensive category.

7 of 24John Smoltz, 1988-1999, 2001-2008 (69.5 WAR)

In a 1987 deal with the Tigers, the Braves obtained minor league right-hander John Smoltz in exchange for reliever Doyle Alexander, a decision Detroit would later regret. In Atlanta, Smoltz quickly rose to prominence, serving as a dominant starter, closer, and then starting again. In 708 games with the team, Smoltz won 210 games, saved 154, and had a 3.26 ERA in 3,395 innings. He was an all-star eight times, won the Cy Young Award, helped the Braves win the 1995 World Series, and received the Rolaids Relief Award. Smoltz was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, and Atlanta retired his No. 29 in 2012.

8 of 24Greg Maddux (1993-2003, 67.3 WAR)

While Smoltz was a dominant force on the mound for Atlanta for almost two decades, the undisputed leader of the dynamic Braves rotation during their dynasty years in the 90’s was right-hander Greg Maddux. Maddux began his career in Chicago with the Cubs but relocated to Georgia as a free agent in December 1992 in what turned out to be one of the best moves the Braves ever made. With Atlanta Maddux won 194 games with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP, while notching 61 career games–an incredible number given the era he pitched in. Maddux won four ERA titles in a Braves’ uniform, won the Cy Young award in his first three seasons in Atlanta, pitched in six all-star games, and won 10 of his unbelievable 18 total Gold Glove awards as a Brave. He helped pitch the Braves to the World Series championship in 1995 and he was a near unanimous Hall-of-Fame selection in 2014. The Braves retired his number 31 in ’09.

9 of 24Tom Glavine 1987-2002, 2008 (63.6 WAR)
It’s fitting that Smoltz, Maddux, and Tom Glavine came back-to-back-to-back on this list, because for over a decade, the trio were the faces of this franchise and gave the Braves the best top of the rotation in baseball. Save for a five-year hiatus in Queens with the Mets, the left-handed Glavine spent his entire career with the Braves and was easily one of the best pitchers in their history. In 17 seasons in Atlanta the southpaw earned 244 of his career 305 victories while pitching to a 3.41 ERA in 518 starts. He made eight all-star games as a Brave, won a pair of Cy Young awards, and was the MVP of the World Series Atlanta won in 1995. Glavine went into the Hall-of-Fame with his buddy Maddux in 2014, and no Atlanta player will ever wear the number 47 again as the Braves retired it in his honor in ’10.

10 of 24Andruw Jones 1996-2007 (61.0 WAR)

Center fielder Andruw Jones debuted for Atlanta in August of 1996 as a 19-year-old, and for the next dozen seasons, he was a staple for the Braves at position number eight on your scorecard. During his prime, Jones was the premier defensive outfielder in baseball, and won 10 straight Gold Glove awards from ’98-’07. Offensively he was no slouch either, as he crushed 368 homers as a Brave including a Major League-leading 51 in 2005. Jones participated in five all-star games and won a Silver Slugger during his career, and these days he’s his son’s biggest cheerleader, as Druw Jones was selected #2 overall by the Diamondbacks in last summer’s draft.

11 of 24Dale Murphy 1976-1990 (47.2 WAR)

Right-handed swinging Dale Murphy began as a catcher, then moved to first base, and finally settled in the outfield, but no matter where he lined up defensively, he was a force in the batter’s box. Murphy hit.268/.351/.478 during 15 seasons in Atlanta, with 371 home runs, 1143 RBI, and 306 doubles. He earned back-to-back NL MVP honors in 1982 and 1983, played in seven all-star games, won four Silver Sluggers, and won five Gold Gloves for good measure. Murphy was a true iron man, playing all 162 games in four consecutive seasons, leading the league in home runs and RBI twice, and the Braves rightfully retired his number three in 1994.

12 of 24Freddie Freeman 2010–2021 (43.1 WAR)

Most Braves fans reading this probably still have mixed feelings about the fact that first baseman Freddie Freeman is no longer calling Truist Park home. There’s no question the 33-year-old will easily go down as one of the best Braves of all time, and while current Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson is a force in his own right, it’s still mind-blowing the Braves let the face of their franchise depart for southern California. During his tenure in Georgia Freeman slashed .295/.384/.509 in well over 1500 games, while launching 271 homers and driving in 941 runs. Freeman represented the Braves in five all-star games, captured three Silver Sluggers, won a Gold Glove, and was the 2020 NL MVP. Most importantly, though, he led the Braves to a World Series title in 2021 which only added to the confusion over Atlanta letting him walk as a free agent the following winter.

13 of 24John Clarkson 1888-1892 (42.4 WAR)
Righty John Clarkson wasn’t in this organization for long, in fact he only spent five seasons pitching for the Boston Beaneaters in the late 1800s. But that was a much, much different era of baseball, and Clarkson was able to pack a career’s worth of service into those five seasons. Case in point, Clarkson made 72 starts for the Beaneaters in 1889 and 68 of them ended in a complete game. He threw 620 innings that season, a simply mindboggling number by today’s standards when you consider 200 is elite today. The Cambridge, MA born hurler won 149 games during his stint in Boston while working to a strong 2.82 ERA, and impressively won the pitching Triple Crown in that infamous ’89 season. The Veterans Committee ushered him into the Hall of Fame in 1963.

14 of 24Vic Willis 1898-1905 (42.1 WAR)

University of Delaware graduate Vic Willis is another pitcher that starred for this organization back in their Boston Beaneaters days, and like Clarkson his arm endured quite the workload. Willis tossed fewer than 300 innings in only one of his eight seasons in Boston, and while his 151-147 record with the Beaneaters would indicate he was mediocre, that was far from the case. Willis pitched to a tremendous 2.82 ERA in over 2500 innings in Boston, while notching 268 complete games, including 26 shutouts. His middling record had more to do with pitching on a poor team than anything else, and he was deservedly selected to the Hall-of-Fame in 1995.

15 of 24Jim Whitney 1881-1885 (41.6 WAR)

Many, many moons ago, lefty Jim Whitney was predominantly a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters, but he also played some first base and outfield when he wasn’t toeing the rubber. The Conklin, NY native made a name for himself as a 23-year-old rookie in 1881, winning 31 games for Boston with 2.48 ERA in 63 starts. He’d go on to win 102 more for the team over the next four seasons before leaving to join the Kansas City Cowboys in 1886. Unfortunately, the tale of Jim Whitney took a sad turn a few years later, as he died at the age of 33 in 1891.

16 of 24Tommy Bond 1877-1881 (40.1 WAR)

No player on this list dates back further than Tommy Bond, who pitched for Boston 145 years ago. Standing at just 5’7 the right-hander was far from an imposing figure on the mound, but that didn’t stop him from carving hitters up with regularity. In his five seasons with Boston Bond won the ERA title twice, winning 149 games and pitching to a 2.21 ERA in 2127.1 innings. He won the pitching Triple Crown in 1877 and led the league in wins and strikeouts twice.

17 of 24Fred Tenney 1894-1907, 1911 (39.4 WAR)

First baseman Fred Tenney was hardly a standout during his playing career, but he was a consistent presence in Boston’s lineup for 15 seasons. Tenney never led the league in anything other than plate appearances, but sometimes the finest ability is availability, and the Beaneaters knew they could rely on him every day. Tenney hit.300/.376/.367 in 1737 games for Boston, but he lacked power, as seen by his 17 home runs. He was speedy, though, and managed to accumulate 242 doubles, 74 triples, and 260 stolen bases, earning him enough WAR to make this list.

18 of 24Wally Berger, 1930–1937 (36.6 WAR)

Center fielder Wally Berger made his Boston debut in 1930 and had a fantastic rookie season, slashing.310/.375/.614 with 38 home runs and 119 RBI, and he seemed to never stop hitting. Berger made four consecutive all-star teams from 1933 to 1936, led the National League in home runs and RBI in 1935, and crushed 199 long balls in eight seasons in Boston. While power was his calling card, Berger most likely played in the wrong age, as no one now would look twice at his strikeout totals, but in his day, when there was so much emphasis on putting the ball in play, he acquired a reputation as an all-or-nothing hitter.

19 of 24Tommy Holmes (1942-1951, 36.0 WAR)

Tommy Holmes, a left-handed hitting outfielder, was a notable member of the Boston Braves for most of the 1940s. While he was a league average player for the majority of his career, Holmes was as deadly a hitter as there was in the game for one amazing season in 1945. That year, he hit.352/.420/.577 with a league-high 28 home runs and 117 RBI. In no other season of his career did he hit more than 13 home runs, and he never drove in more than 79 runs. He also led the league in SLG, OPS, and OPS+ that season, earning his first of two all-star berths.

20 of 24 Herman Long, 1890-1902 (35.4 WAR).

Shortstop Herman Long played his rookie season for the Kansas City Cowboys. He showed enough potential to draw the attention of the Boston Beaneaters who purchased him from the Cowboys for about $5500 that winter. In Boston Long would go on to have a solid career and become a staple on the Beaneaters infield for over a decade. In 1647 games for the club the left-handed swinger slashed .280/.337/.390 with 88 homers, 964 RBI, 295 doubles, 91 triples, and an impressive 434 stolen bases.

21 of 24Johnny Logan 1951-1961 (33.4 WAR)
Shortstop Johnny Logan began his career with the Braves in Boston but played the majority of it in Wisconsin after the franchise relocated to Milwaukee in 1953. The Endicott, NY native spent 11 seasons in all with the Braves, in which he slashed an impressive .270/.330/.384 with 339 extra-base hits and 521 RBI. Logan was selected to four all-star teams and was a member of the Braves’ World Series-winning team in 1957.


22 of 24Joe Torre 1960-1968 (33.2 WAR)

When fans of today hear the name Joe Torre, they almost probably remember him as the longtime Yankees manager or for his work for Major League Baseball during the last few years. However, a little more than 60 years ago, the same Joe Torre was a rookie for the Milwaukee Braves before moving with the team to Atlanta in 1966. Torre was a standout player for this organization, appearing in five all-star games and winning a Gold Glove. In little over 1,000 games with the Braves, he hit.294/.356/.462 with 142 homers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame (as a manager) in 2014.

23 of 24Rabbit Maranville 1912–1920, 1929–1933, 1935 (30.4 WAR)

Rabbit Maranville, a short-statured infielder, made his Boston Beaneaters debut as a 20-year-old rookie in 1912, and despite three separate spells, he ended up playing 15 seasons for the team. In little under 1800 games with Boston, Maranville hit.252/.313/.329 with only 23 home runs, but he used his speed to contribute 244 doubles, 103 triples, and 194 stolen bases. He won a World Series ring with the 1914 Beaneaters, and while his statistics don’t necessarily support it, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954.

24 of 24Billy Nash (1885-1895, 28.7 WAR)

Billy Nash handled the hot corner in Boston for ten years, and while his numbers were not particularly impressive, he did enough to finish last on the Braves organization’s top 24 WAR list. Nash hit.281/.368/.389 in 1187 games with the Boston Beaneaters, with 51 home runs and 811 RBI. He added 200 doubles, 69 triples, and an impressive 232 stolen bases.

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