The Braves aren’t a team built for the postseason, right? Their hitters strikeout too much; their homerun-reliant offense will not be able to manufacture runs and win those close, low-scoring games; their offense is feast or famine; they don’t have a dominant ace-type pitcher. One way or another the buzz around the Braves this season is that they can’t succeed in the postseason.
I, for one, have beaten the strikeout thing to death. Just in case you still have doubts, the Braves are 2nd to the Astros in strikeout rate among all major league teams but are second in the National League in runs scored per game, are fifth in on-base percentage and are second in slugging percentage. The Braves still get on base and they get the right kind of hits (plenty of extra-base hits as they are fifth in the majors in homeruns).
The Braves have a slugging offense causing some to think their offense is boom or bust, feast or famine. But the Braves have the second-fewest number of games scoring two runs or more. The Cardinals have the fewest with 39. The Braves and Diamondbacks are at 41. The Braves offense goes “bust” or “famine” fewer than almost every team in their league.
But are they capable of winning those games in which they do in fact go bust? Well, they have the highest winning percentage in the National League in games in which they’ve scored two runs or less. Their pitching staff has consistently kept them in games, allowing three runs or less in 75 games, the third-most in the National League behind Pittsburgh (77) and Los Angeles (76).
The Braves may not have a legit ace but they have enough #3 or #4 type starters and enough bullpen dominance to hold even good offenses down. A starting staff that can keep its team in games and a bullpen that can shut the door works wonders and having dominant starting pitching is probably a bit overrated. The Braves are even a better strikeout team than many probably realize. They aren’t dominant in that category but they are above average with 7.6 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. They do enough to take some batted-ball bad luck out of the equation and they are third in the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Of course none of this guarantees postseason success. One or two plays that have nothing to do with the Braves’ baseball skills could lead to an exit from the playoffs. Or an uncharacteristic few games from the Braves or from their opponents could knock the Braves out. It sounds cliche but it can’t be overstated how much the postseason is a crap shoot. The Astros could beat one of the best teams in the game three out of five times or four out of seven times. It’s not unheard of. But the myth that the Braves can’t possibly win in the playoffs is just that, a myth. They have just as good a shot as any other team. And anyone who wants to bet on postseason baseball is braver than I.