Well it’s Saturday August 13th and as I’m sure you’re starting to notice Chop Talk never takes a day off. Just because it’s the weekend doesn’t mean there isn’t significant baseball news to report. Despite the fact that it’s only the middle of August the one thing on all baseball fan’s minds is this, playoff baseball.
Is your team in? Or is your team falling out of the race? If your going to make a move in the standings your time is starting to run out just a bit. A lot of the division battles are becoming 2 team races. The National League Central is down to a 2 team race as the Reds and Pirates have pretty much played their way out of it and the same can be said of the Rockies in the West Division.
With that being said, where do our Atlanta Braves stack up in all of this? Well the Braves find themselves in a comfortable but not optimal place in the standings. Yes they are the Wild Card leaders by 6.0 full games. However they have also suffered large set backs within the division. Since the All-Star break the Braves have lost a lot of ground to the powerhouse Phillies and find themselves 7.5 games back.s
So naturally baseball fans are beginning to figure out the different playoff scenarios that could possibly occur. Well as we speak the standings look just like this:
NL East: Phillies 77-41 Braves 70-49 (7.5 out)
NL Central: Brewers 68-51 Cardinals 64-55 (4.0 out)
NL West: Diamondbacks 66-53 Giants 64-55 (2.0 out)
NL Wild Card: Braves 70-49 Cardinals 64-55 (6.0 out) Giants 64-55 (6.0 out)
So if the playoffs started tomorrow the Braves would be headed to Milwaukee to face the Brewers in a 5 games series. Yes the Brewers have Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun but the one thing they are lacking is a winning record against the Braves. Atlanta has gone 5-3 against the Brewers including a 4 game sweep in May.
Now for better or worse the playoffs won’t start tomorrow no matter how much we wish they would. So what other scenarios could the Braves find themselves in. Well winning the National League East would almost guarantee that the Braves would have the best record in the National League and would give them home field advantage. Is this possible? It’s probably not the most likely scenario out there but it’s definitely possible. I realize that the Phillies and their fans both think the division is theirs. However the Braves have 6 games left against the Phillies and currently sit 7.5 games out. If they want to have any chance of winning the division then they will have to take advantage of those head to head meetings. Both of these final two series will take place next month. The first one will be in Philadelphia taking place Sept 5th-7th and the second one will be in Atlanta the last series of the season. I’d say for the Braves to have a legit chance to win the division they would have to go 4-2 if not 5-1 in these two series. Not impossible by any means. Currently the Braves have a 5-5 record against Philadelphia. So no matter what the Phillies say or think they have not proven they can beat us in head to head meetings.
The Diamondbacks are exactly 2 games behind the Brewers. If Arizona was to win the National League West and have a superior record to Milwaukee, the Braves would head to Chase Field to start the playoffs. How do the Braves match up with the Diamondbacks? Well to the naked eye some would say not to good. Were sporting a 0-2 record against Arizona this season and that field has always been a place of horrors for Atlanta. Now I want to pose this question to my readers. Since when does a 2 game series serve as any evidence that one team is better then the other? We have a series coming up with Arizona that will be played at Turner Field starting the 19th and running through the 21st of August. That should give us a better idea of how we match up with these Diamondbacks.
Other playoff match ups could include the Giants who are currently just 2.0 games behind the Diamondbacks in the National League West and the Cardinals who sit a modest 4.0 games back of the Brewers in the National League Central. With the Braves having a healthy 6.0 game lead in the Wild Card despite their injury troubles I can’t see the Giants or Cardinals passing them for the Wild Card spot. When Jurrjens, Hanson and McCann rejoin the team I think that the Braves will slowly pull away. Just for the record the Braves currently hold a 1-2 record against the Cardinals and a very impressive 3-0 record vs the Giants.
Very simply put I’d like to see the Braves get matched up with either the Brewers or the Diamondbacks in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Brewers have a lot of fire power in their offense but we have proven that we can beat them by posting a 5-3 record against them this season, which includes a 4 game sweep at Turner Field. Which brings me to my next point. The Brewers have have an atrocious 26-36 record on the road. Yes if the Braves play them as the Wild Card team then Milwaukee will have home field advantage but at some point they will have to leave the friendly confines of Miller Park and will have to hit the road. When they do the Braves would take full advantage of this weakness winning BOTH games at Turner Field. Which means they would just have to steal one game on the road. Great pitching beats great hitting when it comes to the playoffs.
As far as Arizona is concerned this is a great story for baseball. A true underdog team making the playoffs always gets people excited. However this team has NO playoff experience at all. Their pitching is not deep enough to carry them to a series victory against Atlanta and they would most likely crack under the pressure. The playoffs are a completely different world then the regular season. The Braves would bring playoff experience and a better pitch staff to the table. Arizona would lose that series in 4 games.
Now of course the other side of the coin is the 2 teams I’d prefer NOT to play. Those teams would include the Giants and the Cardinals. The Giants proved last year that they have what it takes to win the World Series. They didn’t get past the Braves, Phillies and Rangers by accident. Their pitching may be up and down over the course of the regular season but the Braves found out first hand last year what it’s like to see Tim Lincecum on the mound come October. I’d prefer to avoid the Giants pitching and scrappy offense. They know how to win and I don’t want to chance it.
The Cardinals are another team that I do NOT want to see come playoff time. Tony LaRussa is one of the all time great managers. This guy is a proven winner and is more then capable of willing his team to a series win. Not to mention the murder’s row that they have sitting in the middle of their order. Pujols, Holliday and Berkman can do a lot of damage very quickly. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and seem to be picking up steam. Their pitching isn’t what it used to be but it’s plenty good enough to win games with the kind of offense they posses. Busch Stadium is also a very difficult place to play come playoff time. They have great fans and it’s a spacious ball park that the Cardinals are used to playing in. The Braves actually travel to St. Louis for a series that runs from Sept 9th – Sept 11th. That will give us an indicator to how we’d fair there in a playoff series.
By: Bob McVinua