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If not for Bud, Braves would be World Series favorites

Sep 21, 2012, 12:05 AM EDT

Craig Kimbrel Reuters

Who’s with me?

The Nationals’ four projected starters are a combined 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in the postseason, with that entire track record belonging to Edwin Jackson. They have one hitter in their lineup with a .350 OBP. They don’t have any big holes in their lineup, but they also don’t have anyone with an OPS over .850.

The Reds’ No. 1 starter, Johnny Cueto, has a history of fatiguing as the year goes on, something that seems to have manifested again this year. He’ll enter the postseason having already topped his career high in innings by about 20. Their best hitter has gone 41 at-bats without homering since returning from a seven-week injury. The team as a whole has hit .249/.309/.395 in road games this year. Their elite closer has been dealing with shoulder weakness. They’ll almost certainly be starting Bronson Arroyo in Game 3 of the NLDS.

The Giants have the worst run differential of any of the NL’s big four. Their offense has performed surprisingly well without the suspended NL batting champ, but there’s only one guy with an .800 OPS left in the lineup. Besides Buster Posey, there isn’t anyone on the team with even a dozen homers. And while the Giants have the best one-two rotation punch in the NL, it’s going to be hard to trust Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong or Barry Zito in Games 3 and 4. Also, they don’t have a closer.

The Braves have the game’s hottest pitcher in Kris Medlen, with Tim Hudson available to start Game 2. They’ll have to choose from the Paul Maholm, Mike Minor and Tommy Hanson trio after that, but the top two should be tough. They have an incredibly dominant force to pitch the ninth and a top notch lefty in front of him. With Michael Bourn and Martin Prado, they should be able to manufacture runs at the top of the lineup, and they have five guys behind them capable of delivering the long ball.

Atlanta isn’t about to make up 5 1/2 games on Washington to win the NL East. As a result, a one-game wild card playoff seems assured, and even if the Braves will be good bets to win that game with Medlen or Hudson starting, there’s still at least a 35-40 percent chance they come up short.

Under the old system, the Braves would be my pick to represent the NL in the World Series. The lack of home-field advantage would be a problem, but they look like the best team to me, particularly since they’d be able to get a little more out of Chipper Jones, Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty with the additional days off in the postseason schedule.

As is, they’re a big underdog. Which is precisely what Bud Selig and the others wanted in agreeing to the new wild card format. The Braves are still capable of advancing, but I think I’d have to go with the Giants at the moment.

  1. foolmaker - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    The Giants will make it to the WS if and only if the Nationals get knocked out in the division series. The Nats have some major ownage on them this year. I don’t see that changing in the postseason.

  2. xmatt0926x - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    Favorites? I guess you can make a case for them, but I don’t think there are any clear favorites in the NL. I think you could make a reasonable argument for all the NL teams. Hudson seems to be leaking some oil lately and Bourn. Mccann and Uggla can be ice cold for stretches. You get by Medlin and what I think is a less effective Hudson and there’s nothing special in that rotation. If Lincecum can somehow find consistent effectiveness I think I’d put my money on the Giants and maybe the Nats after that.

    • biasedhomer - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM

      Have you seen what he wrote?

      He would pick the Braves to win the WS since they are an unstoppable force.

      BUT…

      They don’t have home field advantage so they are huge underdogs!

      Good teams win at home, great teams win on the road and at home.
      This article is garbage. He writes about the Jackson’s bad postseason record, yet excludes the Braves post season pitching stats from Hudson(on ATL) and Hanson.

      • alang3131982 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:22 AM

        I’m pretty sure they are a big underdog beccause they have to play the play-in game. Matt’s argument was if this were 2011 and the Wild Card didnt have the play-in game, they’d be the favorites. I dont think the Braves are nearly as strong as Matt does, but he has a point that the new wild card set-up makes picking a wild card to get to teh world series tenuous. I mean you’re gambling on a one game series — even the Astros beat decent teams occasionally…

  3. mkd - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    You do realize that Michael Bourn has gone 216/311/300 since the All Star Break right?

    And what does 22 innings of Edwin Jackson postseason pitching have to do with Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Detwiler? Nothing? The answer is nothing right? I’m pretty sure the answer is nothing.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:12 AM

      Point is, the Nats’ pitching staff lacks playoff experience. The team in general lacks playoff experience. Jackson, Jayson Werth, Mark DeRosa (may be on the playoff roster) and Chien-Ming Wang (unlikely) have World Series rings (though Wang didn’t pitch in the 2009 playoffs for the Yankees). Adam LaRoche and Michael Gonzalez have playoff experience. That’s about it.

      • personalspaceinvader - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:00 AM

        What they lack in playoff experience, the Nationals make up for in grittiness, clutch and teamwork.

        In fact, I have Bryce Harper at a 3.5 CAR (clutch above replacement).

      • sumerduckman - Sep 21, 2012 at 7:45 AM

        But they have Davey Johnson as manager. Should count for something.

      • paperlions - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:14 AM

        Playoff experience means jack squat. It is a post-hoc narrative that people employ when a young team (or at least a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs before) was simply beaten by a better team.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        I’m not disagreeing that playoff experience is of limited value, though saying it has no value makes no sense to me. Just clarifying someone else’s comment.

      • scatterbrian - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM

        The playoff experience argument is specious. The Giants had relatively none when they won two years ago, same with the White Sox in 2005, the Marlins in 2003, the Angels in 2002.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:47 PM

        Citing those teams is as specious as only citing teams that had playoff experience and won. Ex., 2007 Red Sox, 2009 Yankees, 2011 Cards).

      • scatterbrian - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:11 PM

        No, not really. If the point is that teams need to have playoff experience in order to succeed, then pointing out the instances where it doesn’t apply–in this case, four of the last WS winners–is valid method of debunking the point.

    • madhatternalice - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:51 AM

      Yup. Double checked the math and everything.

      Unknown doesn’t equal bad. It equals unknown. Let’s withhold a little presumptive judgement of how Gio, JZ and Ross are going to do in the post-season until…we actually see them in the post-season. Is that crazy?

      • georgiared - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:07 AM

        That’s crazy talk! Tim “I have a 1-3 post season record” Hudson is clearly not gonna crap himself under the big lights again

  4. smcgaels1997 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    One of the most rediculous articles to date..the Braves and their jauggernaut of an offense and lights out pitching? Really? The Nats, Reds and Giants would roll them easily.

    • georgiared - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:06 AM

      Come on now, clearly the fact that the Reds are 5-1 vs. the Braves this year, means they can’t hang with them. Cause you know that Arroyo with his 13-5 post season record won’t be able to pitch 7 innings of one run ball again like he did vs. Atl. earlier this year, or even be able to improve on his 6-3 record vs. them. Or worst yet, Cincy could be forced to send out Homer Bailey and my god has he looked awful beating the Braves twice already this year. Then you got their closer who’s faced 8 ATL. batters this year and struck out 5 of them, but you know, giving him a rest only means good thing for the Braves.

      Then you gotta look at the fact that Votto hasn’t hit a homer yet since he’s been back. I mean it’s not like he’s reached base in every game he’s been back for, or even reached base at least twice in 10 of the 14(one of those 4 he hasn’t was today in which he only had one AB and that was a RBI single) I mean without one of the arguably best players in the game Cincy only went 36-18! They clearly need to be worried about the fact he hasn’t hit a home run yet.

      And worst of all is their .245 batting average that has ONLY given them the second best road record(1 game behind Wash.) in all of baseball

      Couple all of these facts with the Braves showing their mental fortitude of playing under pressure like they did down the stretch last year clearly means they won’t completely get embarrassed by a team that has won 5 of the 6 times they’ve played them this year.

      • georgiared - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:01 AM

        Forgot to add that Cincy needs to be concerned because Arroyo is only 5-1 with a 2.85 era in his last 7 starts, so another reason why Atl. clealry is the favorite for the NL, you know, because a guy who’s team has won 9 of his last 11 starts is no match for Tommy “I haven’t won a game in over a month” Hanson, or Mike “I STILL have a losing record” Minor.

  5. mkd - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    Tommy Hanson’s postseason record is 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA! Since coming to the Braves Tim Hudson’s postseason record is 0-1 with a 7.65 ERA! Minor, Maholm and Medlen have never even pitched in the postseason! They’re DOOOOOOOOMED!!!

    • mkd - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:02 AM

      Or to put in Mathew-speak: In their careers Hanson, Medlen, Minor and Maholm have combined to win zero postseason games while sporting a hefty 9.00 ERA!

    • georgiared - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:25 AM

      Forget Hudson’s record with Atl. Hes 1-3 in the playoffs PERIOD! Add Mr. “haven’t won a game since the middle of August in the last 2 years” Hanson and you get a top flight pitching staff with a 1-4 playoff record. How can you not see this is clearly the best team in the NL with these stats?

  6. hushbrother - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:54 AM

    I’m picking the Braves. Just so we can hear the “Chipper Jones begins and ends his career with World Championships!” narrative ad nauseum.

  7. bouwel92 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Speaking of the Braves, can anyone tell me if Ben Sheets is back. I have not heard anything since he was out on the 15 day DL awhile back.

  8. nomorsacbball - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    umm. I’m pretty sure Hunter Pence has over 20 homers this season. He hasn’t hit them all with the Giants but it doesn’t make him any less capable.

    • ducksouped - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      Correct. Still in black and orange when the post season starts. Pretty sure it’s all that maters

  9. Gonzo - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:17 AM

    For 10 years, the Braves were favorites because of the trio of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. They won one title and made the series two other times. Even under the old system, it’s still a crap shoot.

  10. mungman69 - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:31 AM

    What happened to the Pirates?

    • georgiared - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:03 AM

      They remembered they played in $hittesburgh

      • mazblast - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:07 PM

        georgiared,

        I was going to compliment you for your clever analysis of how the Reds don’t stand a chance. Then you took this gratuitous swipe at Pittsburgh. Do you actually know anything about the city of Pittsburgh, or are you just blowing smoke out your a** like most Reds/Bungles fans?

  11. recoveringcubsfan - Sep 21, 2012 at 7:28 AM

    As Gonzo said – fast fingers! – wouldn’t this article have been precious even in the 1990s, when the Braves were favored to win the World Series several times and they won it a whopping ONCE?

    Fuck it, let’s have the parade today!

    • mazblast - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:04 PM

      If they have a parade in Atlanta, will anyone attend?

  12. vcupats - Sep 21, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    I keep hearing how great the Braves are – well if they are so great then why do they have little chance of winning their own division.

  13. sophiethegreatdane - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    This article reads like it was written by a homer Braves fan.

  14. recoveringcubsfan - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    Matthew could have made this post about the absurdity of having a one-game playoff between arguably the second-best team in the NL (records aside, who played the better schedule between the Braves and Reds?) and a distant fifth-place loser club like St. Louis or LA. I think Matthew is being silly by throwing in his WAG that Atlanta only stands a “35-40 percent” chance of losing the playoff game; I believe most people put that at 50-50. It will be a minor, but significant, issue for mainstream baseball fans if, say, the Cardinals are to win that game and eliminate the Braves, a clearly superior team over the course of the season. It’s one thing to root for an underdog and to say “anything can happen” and see that proved right; it’s quite another thing to have an underdog win a toss-up game he didn’t belong in.

  15. frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Well even if the Braves do win, the Nats shouldn’t be ashamed as they are going to be back every year for the next decade, right?

  16. simon94022 - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    The Braves lost the 162 game schedule to Washington. So while they may be the hottest team in the NL, a truly “fair” system would exclude them from the postseason completely.

    • bravojawja - Sep 21, 2012 at 9:18 AM

      And the Yankees lost (or will lose) the 162 game schedule to Texas. So let’s exclude them from the playoffs entirely, too. That’s “fair.” Or “1968.” Either way.

  17. paperlions - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    In addition to the above arguments as to why thinking the Braves would be clear favorites is silly, it is worth noting that there is no evidence this is Selig’s fault.

    First, Selig doesn’t have ideas. Other people have ideas and he is told to support them. This playin game happened because the owners realized if they expanded the playoffs they would have a game that no one owned the rights to broadcast and they could sell those rights. That profits the owners, not Selig. Again, who thinks Selig EVER has an idea of his own? Anyone?

    Second, Selig is not the dictator of baseball. He doesn’t even get a vote. Owners propose and vote on changes to rules or the CBA, not Selig. He just does what he’s told, and in general, does it clumsily.

    That said, being the favorite of a 5 game or 7 game series generally means you have a 55% or so chance of winning it. In other words, being the favorite in a short series of baseball games doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot.

  18. salvomania - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Bottom line is that the Braves weren’t good enough to win their division. Twenty years ago the absurdity would have been allowing them into the postseason in the first place.

    If the Braves are so good then they should have no trouble swatting aside the loser team they play in the Wild Card game, especially since they can set up the exact pitching matchup they want to face a team that will probably have to go all out just to make it there.

    Either you accept the system, warts and all (stiffer competition in one division, unbalanced schedules, “lesser” team having chance to knock off “better” team), or else you MUST advocate for the pre-1969 style “best record in each league goes to the World Series.”

    By definition, teams in a playoff system are going to be of differing quality, and the fun is that it’s not always the “best” team that wins.

  19. natslady - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    That’s true. Under the “old” system, it would be knock-down drag-out Cincy-Nats and Atlanta wouldn’t be sniffing postseason.

    • natslady - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:59 AM

      Of course, the Nats would be the Senators. No, wait, they would be the Expos. No, wait—

  20. pdowdy83 - Sep 21, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Last I checked the Nats owned the Giants this year. It wasn’t even close in head to head (44 runs off the vaunted Giants staff in their 5 wins against them). They also took the season series over the Reds, 5-2 (should have had another win other than some bonehead umpiring) and also own the season series against the Braves, 10-8. They are 3-1 thus far against the Redbirds and Brewers too. The Nats beat the good teams all year (26 – 13 against the aforementioned teams). Why should that stop in the playoffs? The Nats also have almost identical records at home and on the road so they are pretty even keeled. Not having a single guy over an .850 OPS is a lame stat. Zimmerman, Morse, Werth and Desmond all missed at least a month this season. Zimmerman once healthy has an OPS over .950.

    Yes they strikeout too much (but they also hit a ton of homeruns). No their starters don’t have post season experience (could be because they are a young group, at one point Glavine, Smoltz and Avery didn’t have post season experience either). No they don’t seem to have one blatantly obvious star on offense (neither do the Braves or Giants for that matter) but I take the Nats lineup over the Giants and probably over the Braves too. I think it is a push with the Reds lineup wise but in a short series I take Gio, Zimmermann, Jackson and Detwiler over Cueto, Latos and their other starters. The other thing not mentioned enough is the Nats have 2 relievers who can effectively close games (as Drew Storen demonstrated last night by striking out Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley in a row). They also have 2 solid lefty relievers and another trio of right handers who have been very effective. The bullpen is deep, the rotation is solid, albeit lacking playoff experience, and the offense is capable of hitting a homerun from top to bottom. There is even power and speed on the bench with Tyler Moore, Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy and Roger Bernadina and the defense has been VERY good all year.

    I just think this post over looks a good portion of why the Nationals have been succesful. They are a well rounded team from top to bottom.

  21. ducksouped - Sep 21, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, doesn’t Hunter Pence have over a dozen home runs? Almost 100 RBI ?

  22. rooney24 - Sep 21, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    I have nothing against the Braves, and likely would have wished them well. But, all the whining I keep hearing lately about how the Braves are getting “screwed” is so annoying. I will now root against the Braves just because of their whiny fans.

    Are the teams themselves crying about the system? If so, I haven’t heard it. All teams knew how this was going to go coming in to the season. Winning your division would be a huge advantage over being a WC and having to win one game. They didn’t play well enough to win the division, so they didn’t earn an immediate series and have to win a one game play-in. In a couple of weeks, the Braves season will be over and they can just stop their whining.

  23. makeham98 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Blaming Bud is just lazy writing.

  24. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    In the title, you spelled “Strasburg” wrong.

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