Are the Braves a playoff team? (Yes, I think)

That’s life: Flyin’ high in April, shot down in May. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

That's life: Flyin' high in April, shot down in May. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

That’s life: Riding high in April, shot down in May. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Even after they lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to elbow surgery, I’ve operated under the belief that the Atlanta Braves would be a playoff team. I thought 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 we’re on the far side of Memorial Day, which serves as the season’s first checkpoint, and we find them leading the National League East by 1 1/2 games.

Given the in-flux nature of their rotation and the out-of-it state of their offense, they’ve done nicely enough. But, as general manager Frank Wren suggested nine days ago, they’ve also missed a chance to distance themselves from their divisional brethren. Because the Braves pitch so well (second-best ERA in baseball, trailing only Oakland), they still look like a playoff team. Because they hit so little (third-fewest runs scored, shading only Cincinnati and San Diego), they’re no lock to finish first.

Baseball Prospectus assigns the Braves a 58.7 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 45.4 percent chance of winning the East. FanGraphs’ projection models are a bit kinder, giving the Braves a 68.7 percent shot of qualifying for October and a 48.9 percent shot of not landing in the reviled wild-card game.

Back in March, when the Braves were scurrying to throw together some sort of rotation, they’d have taken those odds in a Lake Buena Vista minute. But their April was so indescribably good — they were 17-7 and held a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Mets with two days left in the month — that a 1 1/2-game lead on May 28 qualifies as a retreat. They’ve played five games under .500 for the past month.

Some of that was inevitable. The pitching was never going to get any better than in April. But the Braves had to think they’d start hitting, and they haven’t yet. That’s why Monday’s loss to the last-place Red Sox was such a downer: The Braves managed six runs, which they’d done only four times since April 19, and still lost.

That Miami holds second place in the East is no great challenge. Without the great pitcher Jose Fernandez, the Marlins won’t hold up over 162 games. We’re already seeing Milwaukee and Colorado slide in the standings, and we’ll soon see the Fish take a dive, as it were. At issue is whether Washington, which just saw Adam LaRoche return from the disabled list but remains without Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez, will get healthy and whether that slightly dysfunctional team will ever again play to its apparent gifts. The threat in the East remains the Nats, but we’ve been saying that for a while, haven’t we?

Eyeballing the rest of the league standings, St. Louis has steadied — you knew it would — and should win the Central. San Francisco and the surging Dodgers appear the class of the West. The Braves are done with the first two, having gone 2-4 against the Cardinals and 1-5 against the Giants. Those 12 games against playoff-level opposition served to undo much of the fine work of April.

The season’s first month ended with the Braves holding the second-best record (behind Milwaukee) in the majors. As of this morning, they have the eighth-best record in baseball and the fourth-best in the National League. Yes, we’ve seen some slippage. They’re still a good team, but they really do need to hit more.

Reader Comments 0

47 comments
58Supersports
58Supersports

GM is a joke and he has signed 9 on these players to long term contracts... If they make play off it will be one and done.   That is all he (GM) cares about, not WS.  Damn Joke.

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

Even if the braves do make the playoff's they'll be out guaranteed in the first round either being swept or winning one game. They can't hit mid-level pitching much less great pitching that is in the playoffs. This team is just littered with awful players. Look at their averages up and down the lineup. 

psugator02
psugator02

i really try to like these writers. but SERIOUSLY???? the pitching staff is held together by aaron harang and ervin santana and the hitters are a complete joke....i wouldn't want upton, upton and heyward anchoring my offense. if they do make the playoffs it will be because the NL East is horrible..they'll then proceed to lose in the very first round.

ColdSplash
ColdSplash

Who cares about just making the playoffs! HEREIN lies the problem with Atlanta sports: mediocre franchises, mediocre teams, mediocre fan bases have mediocre goals like "making the playfOffs". Championship franchises have one and only one goal...EVER. The real and achievable plan to actually win it all, and will do all they can EVERY YEAR to do exactly that. Losing in the playoffs with a team CLEARLY not good enough to win under the guise of "being relevant " and a belief that all you have to do is "get in" and then winning it all is some kind of luck that befalls on the championship winner IS A LOSERS MENTALITY. It will yield incredibly long odds of actually ever winning it, odds to the effect oh say....1 championship out of 14 straight years of playoffs, and none in the last almost 20 years. Being relevant may pay the bills, excite some fans and make GMs and coaches and players rich and comfy....but it clearly won't win championships. And a Division is not a Championship John Schuerholz. So if that is the real goal, then just be truthful Braves, spare us about winning championships, because that is NOT your goal.

CynthiaTuckerrhymeswith
CynthiaTuckerrhymeswith

You want to get a bet down, MB?  I'm available and will take the 'wont make it' side...straight up.

Just name your number.

Wilbo
Wilbo

I'm not quite sure whom I despise more: the Perpetual Choke like Sick Dogs in October Braves or the homer nitwits who write about them.

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

This team can make the playoffs, but will also choke away any lead, and will certainly crash and burn as usual. There are NO clutch players on this team, and the coaching stinks from top to bottom.

FSUNole
FSUNole

i hope they don't..this team is an embarrassment.....the GM put together a lineup that great pitching will stifle 99% of the time...

TheMonger
TheMonger

To prove my point further... This is the list of Braves "hitters" who are below their career Batting Averages this year with the Braves.....

1. Chris Johnson, Career .286 hitter.  This year .258. 28 point drop.

2. Dan Uggla, Career .244 hitter.  This year .177. 67 point drop.

3. BJ Upton, Career  .246 hitter.  This year .210. 36 point drop.

4. Ramiro Pena, Career .233 hitter. This year .164. 69 point drop.

5. Tyler Pastornicky, Career .244 hitter.  This year .200. 44 point drop.

6. Jason Heyward, Career .257 hitter.  This year .238.  19 point drop

7. Gerald Laird, Career .246 hitter.  This year .217. 29 point drop

8. Jordan Schafer, Career .224 hitter.  This year .107. 117 point drop

9. Ryan Doumit, Career .267 hitter.  This year .231. 36 point drop

That is 9 of our 13 hitters on the team this year, hitting well below their career averages.  Only Freeman, J. Upton, Simmons, and Gattis are above their career averages.  Simmons, Freeman, and J. Upton are the only players on the team hitting higher than .259!!!  There is something DRASTICALLY WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE!!!!

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

I had a dream.  There will be no ESPN Sports Center MLB highlights showing Tyler Pastornicky making a "Play of the Day."  I cried myself awake.

WhatExcuseNow
WhatExcuseNow

Bases loaded and ZERO outs.  Yet, Gonzalez allows a .092 Pitcher swing away instead of looking at three straight strikes or even attempting a suicide squeeze with the persons most practiced at bunting.  Harang promptly hits into a double play, and lo' and behold, Heyward grounds out.  ZERO....ZERO....runs scored out of a bases loaded and NO outs situation.  The Braves were just swept by a cellar dwelling team with a 10 game losing streak and one of the worst offenses in the BIGs.  Yet, the Sox scored 8 and 6, respectively.  I officially gave up on the Braves and this season with that situation and the sweep.  Maybe, once the Braves move, or Wren and Gonzalez are fired, I will venture to cheer them on again.  Chipper was the only thing saving me before.  Curiosity filled me last year.  Disappointment prevails this year even with the Braves in first place in their division. 

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

It's a shame that there's not a sports writer in this town that A. remembers what a good team looks like (a 14 year run of good teams should have been an education), or B. can write the truth about this organization. This is a shoddily assembled collection middling talent with far too few diamonds in the rough. You guys have been propping up Frank Wren and this horrid ownership group for far too long. It's about time you call this for what it is: a team built to be interesting enough to draw over 2 million fans but not good enough to win a championship. That's been the model for years now, why can't you see it?

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

BRAVES BATTING


1. SCHAFER CF


2. PENA 2B


3. FREEMAN 1B


4. J UPTON LF


5. HEYWARD RF


6. GATTIS CATHCER


7. JOHNSON 3B


8. SIMMONS SS


GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Move J Hay to 5spot behind J. Upton make more sense.


Sit Uggla and B J down and started Pena and Schafer.


GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Some body please tell me why J Hay still batting lead of, SMH


Is Freddie G. Thinking backwards ?


Freddie stop wasting RBI.


GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Birdhair
Birdhair

"Will the Braves make the playoffs?"

-Mark Bradley

Bigger and more important questions remain, Mark. Will the Braves win a playoff series? The Braves are only 1 of 7 teams in MLB that have failed to win a playoff series since 2001. That's pitiful GM work.

The biggest question of all - when we will we have a GM competent enough to build a legit playoff contending team? The AJC praises Wren and we continue to fail. AJC supports mediocrity and the AJC fails to help the fans and the city of Atlanta. Shame on the AJC.

YesIamapirate
YesIamapirate

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?


Don't talk about the playoffs!! Playoffs? You kiddin me? I just hope we can win a game!



GwinnettFred
GwinnettFred

The first month was a total mirage. For the team to continue to play at that winning percentage one of two things had to happen: (1) The pitching staff continue to play an an unrealiztic level never before accomplished in the history of baseball or (2) they start to hit.

Since #1 is impossible, that leaves it to #2 and that isn't happening with this team. 1/3 of the lineup is as close to an automatic out as you can get and solo home runs (as proven in post seasons of the past) will not win games either.

Gattis is good, but only worth 100 games tops, 2B is a hole, Simmons is solid, but not a hitter to count on, Johnson's 2013 was an obvious fluke, heyward can't make up his mind if he's a .200 hitter or a .300 hitter. CF is a hole. This leaves Justin Upton and Freeman as the only real hitters in a 9 man lineup. Thus, option #2 above is nearly as impossible as option #1.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

It is clear that the Bosox are a bad team.  Their pitchers allowed the Braves batters to get hits AND runs.  If they were in the National League they would finish just above the Braves, both out of the playoffs.  Face it, the sub-.500 Hawks are Atlanta's premier pro franchise, as far as making the playoffs is concerned.  Soccer not included yet.

Intruder
Intruder

Could get in as the One and Done entry.

VinceVanGo
VinceVanGo

At one time I hoped that the Braves could trade Gavin Floyd for some useful player(s) before the trade deadline to a playoff hopeful team. Hale or Wood could replace him in the starting lineup. But it now appears that he may be the one to keep for the playoff push. Santana has been shelled lately but the Braves will keep him so that they can give him a qualifying offer this winter to be able to recoup the 1st round pick they lost to sign him. And I don't know if they could get anything much of value for Harang. Probably the best case trade scenario for Frank Wren would be to offer a decent prospect or 2 & mandate that Dan Uggla be included with the Braves picking up a major portion of his contract. It's the only possible way that anybody takes Uggla. Then the Braves can bring up the best second base prospect from the minors. hopefully one who can bat in the top part of the order. Pena & Pastornicky are just not everyday 2nd base options. And let the hitting coaches keep pushing the players to be more patient & stop hitting the first pitch, & take more pitches to the opposite field. Whenever the Braves work the pitch count(rarely) they hit better as a team. 

UncleTom
UncleTom

The Braves are just like UGA football.  Both of them have the same motto:  Pretty Good is good enough.  But the management does not put the pedal to the metal to insure the big title at least once every 10 years.  As a fan of both, it's starting to affect my appetite.


ChrisStacy
ChrisStacy

Just getting to the playoffs is no longer good enough.  Are they good enough to make the playoffs?  Sure! Can they do something once they get there?  No Likely!!  They will face great pitching in teams like the Giants, Cardinals, etc and we have already seen what happens against those teams.  Keep in mind they were 2-4 against the Cardinals and never saw Wacha and missed Wainright the 2nd time around.   This team strikes out way too much, they can't generate runs the old fashion way of bunting, playing hit and run, stealing bases, hitting the Sac Fly, etc.   If this team doesn't hit the 3 run homer they struggle.   Sorry, against really good pitching and over a 7 game series, that just won't happen.  If you can't play A....B....C Baseball when it counts, you dont hold up the trophy at the end of October.    So will the Braves make the playoffs.......Probably but does it really matter?

Marmoset
Marmoset

ATL's in one of the weakest divisions in baseball---they will make the playoffs easily and hopefully pull an upset in round 1

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

Unless the Nationals or Marlins go on some crazy winning streak  the Braves can win the division but as far as actually winning a playoff series, I don't see it.   Cardinals,  Dodgers or Giants will beat this team in a best of 5 series due to better pitching and better hitting and I guess you could say better baseball players.   As long as the Nationals underachieve the Braves have a chance but if they ever get it together then the Braves are toast.

iamlistening
iamlistening

I think Wren is going to make one of three trades: acquiring a good second baseman by giving up top shelf prospects; trading J Upton for a second baseman, a replacement outfielder, and a prospect; or trading Heyward for an outfielder that can be a leadoff hitter, as well as a prospect.

Pelbacker
Pelbacker

Do you count a possible second wildcard losing in the one game playoff as making it.  that is the best they can do and it is highly doubtful.

tulsabravo
tulsabravo

I don't think they'd have a chance if they weren't in what I consider to be the worst division in baseball. And while we knew the amazing pitching that we were getting wasn't going to last all season, I didn't think I'd see the Braves looking for ways to lose ballgames. As inept and inconsistent they are offensively, I just don't think they'll finish above .500.

Archangel
Archangel

Yes, maybe the braves will make the playoffs, but what good is that? They made the playoffs twice in a row only to be one and done. 

The goal for this team should be to at least go deep and maybe to the World Series but they are routinely far from doing such. I believe that we have been conditioned to think winning the NL East is the greatest accomplishment, at the expense of reaching what should be the ultimate goal.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

@FineousMcDirtyBird Good point.  Liberty Media is the real culprit here as they don't care about winning a WS title.  Their primary interest is to manage expenses to the lowest level allowable to preserve current fan support. As a result, they make paying Braves fans like you and me pay the price for management's mistakes (Uggla, Upton, etc) by watching them year after year hold the team back from achieving anything significant.  I know its been said several times before but the Braves will never go anywhere in the playoffs as long as Liberty is in control.

tulsabravo
tulsabravo

@ChrisStacy I agree almost 100%. The only thing I disagree with is them making the playoffs, but I hope they do..

Archangel
Archangel

@ChrisStacy It would be an almost exact repeat of last year. In fact, they actually swept the Cardinals during the regular season.

GwinnettFred
GwinnettFred

Your 2nd part speaks much louder than your first. I agree, IF they make the playoffs, with still over 100 games to go, no matter who they face, it's already a forgone conclusion they will be the underdog. That, in and of itself, says it all.

iamlistening
iamlistening

@tulsabravo The issue with this team is that it no longer has McCann in the lineup. Everyone keeps forgetting how important his bat was for this squad. As a result of having him in the lineup, Gattis played a lot in left field, with J Upton moving to right and Heyward to center. This homerun or strikeout team lost a major peg and did not replace it. The other major issue is the bullpen. Several games have been lost because the pen could not hold the lead. Guys we were counting on being lights out are being knocked out. If the bullpen improves, the Braves make the playoffs even with a hot/cold offense.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

@Archangel In 1999 after the Braves were swept by the Yankees, John Schuerholtz told Braves fans that the team's stated goal was winning Division titles and those wanting more should find another team to support.

iamlistening
iamlistening

@Archangel I can tell you this, I would rather be in the playoffs with a snowballs chance in hell of winning the World Series, than not having any chance because I didn't even make it.

FSUNole
FSUNole

@GeorgeJetsen @FineousMcDirtyBird it's not liberty's fault...it is frank wren's fault for throwing money at crap players like uggla and bj upton..did they not give him 14 milion to sign santana? ownership is not the issue, it is the GM that constructed this putrid team

iamlistening
iamlistening

@Archangel @iamlistening The problem is that he's a feast and famine hitter like Heyward, BJ, Johnson, Uggla, Gattis (pitcher spot is straight up famine). The only guy that is consistent is Freeman, with Simba rarely striking out. At the end of the day, something tells me you are right about J Upton not going anywhere.

Chop Shop
Chop Shop

Gattis has hit more dingers than mcan't....just saying.....

Archangel
Archangel

@iamlistening @Archangel Not making the playoffs isn't the only alternative. I'm simply saying that we should raise our standard of expectation beyond the NL East title. That's what most championship teams and fanbases do.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@FSUNole @GeorgeJetsen @FineousMcDirtyBird  Ownership is accountable when management is not held to a championship standard. In defense of Frank Wren, the Braves are never in a position to be players in free agency due to his payroll restrictions. Indefensible is Wren's complete inability to properly gauge what talent to sign when he does have money to spend. The only other GM in baseball that gets even less for the money he spends is Brian Cashman (arguably the worst GM in baseball history) and even he has won at least one title. Ownership is absolutely responsible for not demanding better performance from its executives, not to mention the team itself. But what do you expect from a multi-billion dollar corporation that expects the public to pay for over half of its new stadium.

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

@Archangel @iamlistening The only way they trade one of their everyday players is if they start tanking now and become sellers in July.   With the weak division and that stupid 2nd wildcard I doubt even if they do go on another losing streak they would be out of it so what more likely is to occur is the Braves become buyers in July and part with 2 or 3 prospects that right now are probably better than whats on the field.

Archangel
Archangel

@iamlistening @Archangel Freeman hasn't been consistent lately though. In fact, Justin has surpassed him in batting average. That may or may not stay that way, but I don't see them trading away one of their top hitters. 

I would like to see some sort of trade though.