Braves Clinch Playoff SpotPosted: September 26, 2012
The Braves clinched a playoff spot Tuesday night on a walk-off home run from Freddie Freeman off former Brave, Mike Dunn. With that, they clinch a playoff spot and are guaranteed at least the second wild-card spot. A week later, not much has changed percentage wise on their chances of winning the division though (was 3.6%, now 3.4%). Looking at the schedule, you can’t help but to think they still have a shot at the Nationals.
Don’t get me wrong, four games back with eight to play is a very large lead to overcome, hence the 3.4% chance. But if we look into the remaining schedule, it heavily favors the Braves. The Nationals have two more against the Phillies, three against the Cardinals and three games at home with the Phillies again to conclude the season (opp. avg. W%: .518%). The Braves host the Marlins for two more games, Mets for three, and finish the season against the Pirates for three (opp. avg. W%: .459%). Also, take into account Philadelphia has been playing much better recently than their record would suggest while St. Louis is fighting for their own playoff spot. The Nationals also do not have the services of Stephen Strasburg every fifth day and a bullpen that could be tiring. On the other end of the spectrum, the Braves final opponents have been scraping together some Triple-A looking lineups that they should be able to take advantage of. The remaining schedule heavily favors the Braves.
Since both teams have clinched a playoff spot, the tie breaker for the division would come down to head-to-head record. Unfortunately, the Nationals hold a 10-8 advantage over the Braves. So, in order for the Braves to win the division, the Nationals would need to go 3-5 over their last eight games with the Braves going 8-0 (or any five game difference below that). Again, a 3.4% chance is very slim, but a lot of outside factors seem to be aligning for the Braves.
As for player rest, I wouldn’t change up the starting lineup too much, if at all. The Braves are still playing for the division and the last thing they want is to be out of sync for the one game playoff. I would give many of the bench players pinch-hit appearances late in games however. This should be done to A) keep them fresh B) decide who should/shouldn’t be on the playoff roster. Other than that, the regulars should be played pretty regularly for the rest of the season.
I have been pondering over the wild-card game roster and strategy. I probably won’t have a post until after the weekend (I will be traveling down to Atlanta to see Chipper’s final home game Sunday). After this weekend, we should know if the division title is still in reach or not. Overall, I like where this team is right now, they are setting up well for a memorable postseason run.
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