Are the weakened Braves playing for a wild card?

This guy might need to take a turn. (Kathy Willens/AP)

This guy might need to take a turn. (Kathy Willens/AP)

In the CineSport video above, you’ll hear/see some moron (i.e., me) tell Brian Clark that he believes the Atlanta Braves, who won the National League East by 10 games last season, will be playing for a wild card in 2014. My reasoning, such as it is: Division titles are won by rotations, and the Braves’ rotation is missing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy.

Until Medlen and Beachy were lost to elbow injuries in the span of 24 hours, I was actually among the holdouts who weren’t picking the Washington Nationals, who disappointed hugely in 2013. With a working starting rotation, I saw no reason why the Braves couldn’t do it again. Alas, I see one now.

This guy might need to take a turn. (Kathy Willens/AP)

This guy might need to take a turn. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Our friends at Baseball Prospectus polled their staffers as to which teams would finish where, with the result being fairly chilling if you back the Braves. Thirty-eight of 40 picked the Nats to run first in the East; two picked the Braves.(Twelve of the 38 picked the Braves to grab a wild card, though.)

Three NL teams were the top three choices by BP writers to win the World Series. The Dodgers drew 12 votes, the Nats six and the Cardinals five. The Braves commanded nary a one.

In previewing the NL East, Sam Miller and Will Woods also list the Nats ahead of the Braves, and the BP projection system PECOTA shows Washington winning 89 games to the Braves’ 82. (Don’t fret too much about that. In my BP-reading experience, I can attest that PECOTA often underestimates win totals.)

Oh, and ESPN The Magazine has also offered its preseason picks by taking a rather different approach. It attempted to quantify Team Chemistry, which would seem unquantifiable. The Braves, you should know, finished second to the Nats there, too.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s this: Almost nobody picks the Braves, even in their weakened state, to finish below second. The rest of of the NL East still stinks.

Further listening: Here’s a Baseball Prospectus podcast previewing the Braves that features, near its end, yours truly.

Reader Comments 1

38 comments
bravesfanfc
bravesfanfc

Braves need Juan Francisco back.  Brewers just released him… he could serve as a PH/DH and a backup 3B and 1B.  We have no power off the bench which we need and he was hitting 300 in spring training before he was released.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Dear Mr. Bradley, of course, you would nevva evva evva acknowledge or even mention the Braves pitiful October incompetence, would ya, now?

Wilbo
Wilbo

Bradley! Holy Jehovah, man! You're telling us nobody picked the Braves to win the World Series? Well considering they have blown 10 of the last 11 postseason series they played in, and have choked like sick dogs every October since we were all toddlers wearing diapers, PLEASE tell me you don't find that surprising!?

JaySly
JaySly

im not going to any games until they move to cobb county---it too expensive down there and too hard to park

iBalling
iBalling

Don't we ask this same question every year? Are the Braves contenders? Honestly, I really don't see it with our hobbled pitching staff. I am not sure how many retired or pitchers who had Tommy John surgeries are available now for the Braves to hire.

jeffreyd
jeffreyd

Keep in mind the Braves won the division by 10 games without Beachy last year.

MikeS777
MikeS777

Well, if you're asking if they can make the playoffs since the division is so weak, then it's clear you don't think this is a contender team.  And really who would when you look at the stacked rosters in LA and St Louis.  The Giants should be better if they get healthy too.

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

Braves management has no intention of putting together a contender.  Only enough talent to win enough games to get people and their wallets into the ballpark.  I'll go to a game for entertainment, like a movie.  Go cheer for our Braves!  But hoping for the Braves to win anything of significance is futile.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"My reasoning, such as it is: Division titles are won by rotations, and the Braves’ rotation is missing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy."

It's missing Tim Hudson, Greg Maddux, and Warren Spahn, too. Sure, the Braves lost a lot when they lost Medlen and Beachy (I thought Medlen was odds-on a 20-game winner). But life moves on, and indications are pretty solid the team brass was already evaluating contingencies.

This whole "play for a wild card" thing is just a storyline for the shills to promote. Teams at this point play to win the next game and ultimately to make the post-season, however that might occur. There are many ways to construct a winning baseball team; this team might hit 200+ home runs and steamroll right over everyone. As Laird says, St. Louis did it in 2011.

Calel
Calel

The only real "loss," if you want to call it that, in this rotation's injuries is Medlen. Beachy was coming back from surgery anyway, so it's anyone's guess as to what he was going to provide. 


And not many people picked the Braves to win the East last year anyway--I don't even think Chipper picked them! So let's play the 162 and see what happens. You know what they say.....no matter the team's talent, EVERY team is going to win 54 games and lose 54 games. It's what you do with the last 54 that determines how good you are. Hopefully the Braves can win most of  the head to head match ups with division opponents. 

Calel
Calel

I'll never understand this: how does a team PLAY for a Wild Card? How do you know you can be the second best team (or  third for a play-in spot) in baseball? What if the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, Reds, D-Backs and, say, Nats, are all in position to win over 95-96 games. How in the world do you "play for a Wild Card"? You either play to win your division, or you fold it in. You BACK in to a Wild Card spot; you can't set your sights on it. If the Braves don't have what it's going to take to flat out WIN the NL East, then I suggest they start listening to Clark Howard for travel deals in October! 

JaySly
JaySly

the braves will be lucky to get a wild card slot---too many gaps in that lineup

extremus
extremus

It's not the size of the man in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the man.


Yes, the Braves had their pitching rotation badly damaged during Spring Training, and there's lots of uncertainty with such a young staff and the equally pressing question of whether Dan Uggla and BJ Upton will hit above .200.  But mindset is as vital as anything on paper.  If you come out of Spring Training thinking "Wild Card" instead of "Let's win our division", you're already allowing mediocrity and acceptance of failure to creep in.  And obviously I don't have to remind other Braves fans of what can happen in a one-game elimination playoff (think BAD, GUT-WRENCHING things).


No, it's "Win the NL East" or bust.  And that's the way it should be for ANY self-respecting team in the division.

Stinger2
Stinger2

FarTain: You are not much of an optimist are you? Do you believe the sun will rise tomorrow? 

JChikara
JChikara

Atlanta will be lucky to win 82 games this year, I have them at 80-82, and a third place finish. The injuries to their already thin rotation will be too much to overcome, and they will be in the same spot the Nationals were last year, trying to play catchup all season long. Also, anyone hoping for a comeback season from either Uggla or Upton better think again. Uggla is finished as a productive hitter and BJ will be a Mendoza line hitter the entire season. 


Expect Heyward to miss his standard 40 games this year while only showing flashes of his supposed brilliance, and Kimbrel will be decent but not great. The bright spots for the Braves will be Freeman, Simmons, Justin Upton, and Gattis. Teheran will emerge as an All-Star, but that will be about it. 

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

I honestly don't understand all the pessimism.

Based on their 2013 numbers, replacing Medlen with Santana is a wash.

We haven't had Beachy for almost two full years and have done just fine.

OK, we're losing Hudson, but we had the best record in the NL after he went down last year. Although he was starting to pitch well before his injury, he still just barely got his ERA under 4.00. I'll take my chances with a young Alex Wood over a full season instead of an aging Huddy.

Why is no one taking into account the fact that Uggla and B.J Upton have no where to go but up? Why is no one excited about the fact that Heyward is healthy again?

I think people are freaking out because they see how thin our rotation looks now, but that's not what our rotation will look like in May. We just have to survive the first few weeks.

The Braves will be fine. Everybody chill.

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

You gotta love it when you asked if your team is a contender and your response is "well, they do play in a weak division".

Are they still without an ace? Do they still have Uggla and Upton as automatic outs? Did they lose Brian McCann's offensive production?

Then yes. THey are playing for the WC best case.

The bigger question is what is their longterm plan to replace Medlen and Beachey? They can't possibly still be counting on these two to come back and be difference makers at this point.

FarTrain
FarTrain

Wild card? Really?   They wish!   They will be looking up at "gnat's butts",  and maybe even "fillies butts" this year.  Watch for the Marlins to surprise a few people also.  They got Saltalamacchia from the Red Sox, who the Braves once had and let get away.  With decent pitching they could make a run like they are doing in ST. Just noticed in the Business Insider(maybe a writer who is a sports enthusiast)  that they have a "power ranking" for all MLB teams.  They show the Braves at #11 with a grade of C- and project 84 wins.  Sounds about right to me.

ByteMe
ByteMe

It's going to depend on whether the Nats can string together some wins, which they couldn't do last year.  If they can't do it this year, they'll finish second again.

JackClemens
JackClemens

I know it's chic to bash Leo Mazzone now, but didn't his regimen get credit from the three hall of famers for strengthening their arms? Yes, they had injuries over the years, but nothing like the slew of them the current staff has had the past couple of years.

59bulldawg
59bulldawg

Don Gullett was a pretty good arm on that Big Red Machine!

VanguardETFs
VanguardETFs

For those bummed out about the Braves, please consider paying attention to your local and college softball teams.  This is a sport that is 100% as entertaining as the Braves.  Teams like the UGA Bulldogs are fun to watch, full of excitement, and boasts tremendous athletes.  They need your support:  financial and attendance. 

 

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

The Braves left a lot of games on the table last year, and still came out okay. They can't do that this year. Too many times last year, with close games still in  reach, BJ Upton and Dan Uggla would be trotted up to the plate to do the inevitable. It was like, why do I know what these guys are going to do, but he manager doesn't? And there were times when pitchers were doing really well, and had the other team's number, but they hit the dreaded green wall, the modern day green monster for pitchers, Fredi's Gospel for Pitchers - 100 pitches - and out they came regardless of how they were doing. And in comes the new guy - game over. It was like waving a white flag in the 8th inning. Okay. You win. 


The good news is that the Braves have some very promising young pitchers who may develop into top notch pitchers now that they will be getting the opportunities to prove themselves.  We can only hope.  And the other good news is that if BJ and Uggla start earning  their pay this year (and so far, it looks like they just might), and everything else holds true, the Braves could mount an unbeatable offense this year. It can be done with offense and solid, but not great, pitching. Remember the BIg Red Machine?  Rose, Bench, Perez,  Morgan, Foster, Ken Griffey, Concepion. Now name one of their pitchers.  


If the young pitchers have a solid year, and the offense steps up to its potential, and every winnable game is played until the last out in the ninth inning, the Braves do not have to settle for a wild card berth year.



AtlantaStu
AtlantaStu

You PLAY for the Division, and you SETTLE for a Wild Card

JerseyGil
JerseyGil

Samooo....Samoo....of last year....National going to win the National East and the WS....Because Atlanta not have the Rotation (That was last year)....and look what happen....Braves has the best ERA in the league last year, that without Tim Hudson since july....we won 15 games in a row after Huddy accident.

Title is won in the field, not on paper or so kind of Ciber Moron tell us that. Atlanta has the best core of young player that is the envy of the MLB.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@Honky4Herman Honky, can you count to 96? Forward or backwards, doesn't matter. When you master that start working on $14 million. If you don't know what these numbers represent try looking up the contract values for Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel, BJ Upton . . . Oh, and Mike, how many playoff games did the Yankees win last year? Rangers? Angels? Phillies?

MikeS777
MikeS777

@Honky4Herman  I have to agree with this.  The team just isn't a contender.  "Money ball" doesn't work.  I don't care about the media hype.  yeah ok, it may get you to the playoffs, but you're probably not going anywhere when you get there.  That's what the Braves are doing, playing "Money ball."  They are too cheap to go out and bid for the real talent that will add to these young kids and make a contender.

FarTrain
FarTrain

@extremus   Notice he didn't mention the World Series.  Happy just to win the division. That's very typical.

FarTrain
FarTrain

Oh, BTW,  with a different manager this year the Braves could achieve 94 wins as he is good for about 10 losses.

FarTrain
FarTrain

@AtlantaStu  Believe it or not, lots of so-called "rabid fans" were happy with being above average last year and winning a division title.  That's why they get what they do.  They support "mediocrity' more often than not, and don't demand success with their wallets.

extremus
extremus

@FarTrain @extremus


I think winning the World Series should be a foregone goal; winning the division greatly helps the chances of doing so in the crapshoot that is the MLB playoffs.  If you think I'd be happy or satisfied just to see another "Division Title" banner hung at Turner Field, you GRAVELY misunderstood the meaning of my post.  And I think the "typical" sentiment of Braves fans echoes my own; NOBODY I know wants to see their team "just get to the Dance"...they want to WIN IT ALL.

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  1. […] the Atlanta Braves would be a playoff team. I thought that the absence of two starting pitchers would relegate them to wild-card status, but so far they’ve fooled me. (Not for the first time, and surely not for the last.) And now […]