Looking Ahead to the Next Few Weeks

Written by Caleb on July 25, 2011 – 3:18 pm

Let’s forget about the past two series. One was at Coors Field, which is hell on any team. The other, Great American Ball Park, is small enough that traveling high school baseball teams regularly hit home run after home run while playing there (might be an exaggeration, but not much of one). As of Monday morning, the Braves are six games behind Philadelphia for the NL East lead and only four games ahead of Arizona for the Wild Card lead. It’s an easy time to look at the standings and determine that the Braves do not have a shot at overtaking the Phillies and that there is a good possibility that the Diamondbacks will overtake the Braves for the Wild Card position. However, this is a short-sided thought based on the past seven games at Coors and Great American.

The Braves have a great opportunity to make a decent run over the next three weeks or so. The next four opponents, in order, are the Pirates for four at home, the Marlins for three at home, the Nationals for three away, the Mets for three away, the Marlins for three away and returning home to three-game series with the woeful Cubs. Does this sound like a murderer’s row for the next few weeks? The Pirates, Marlins, Nationals and Mets are all hanging around the .500 mark, while the Cubs would gladly take a .500 record moonwalk bounce house at the moment. The strongest of all of those teams should be the Pirates, but I am not entirely sold on them being a “good” team. Average is more realistic and an average team the Braves should beat two out of three times.

Let’s look at each series. The Braves swept a two-game series with the Pirates in May, so let’s assume they take three of four from the Pirates. Then they take two of three from the Marlins, Nationals, Mets, and Marlins again. Let’s be positive and assume they sweep the Cubs after returning home. So they win fourteen out of the nineteen for one hell of a nineteen game stretch.

The Phillies will face the Giants and Pirates at home, then will head to the Rockies, the Giants, head over to Dodger stadium and finish with the Nationals. The seven games with the Giants will be very tough, Coors Field is always a crap shoot, and the Dodgers have been playing better, as of late.

In those nineteen games, the Phillies should realistically win thirteen or fourteen, similar to the Braves. However, let’s break it down a bit further. The series with the Rockies could go either way, but let’s assume the Phillies win two of three. There are seven games with the Giants, with four of them at San Francisco. The Phillies take two of three in Philadelphia, but only win one out in San Francisco. The Phillies lost two of three from the Pirates in June and let’s assume the Pirates play well against them again, with the Phillies only winning one game. They finish up with the Dodgers and Nationals and win two of three in each series. So in the Phillies’ nineteen games, they only win ten of them.

I know these assumptions are biased, but I believe they are within a realistic realm. If the above games play out as assumed, the Braves will be only two games back with a month and a half of the season left.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Braves are three games back after the next nineteen games. It’s quite possible the Braves are healthy, a trade has been made and the offense is clicking. They take four of six from the Phillies meaning they need to pick up two games somewhere. Is this possible? Possible, but improbable nonetheless. Unless the Phillies start to exhibit some weaknesses that they have not shown as of yet.

Being two games behind the Phillies for the NL East lead would mean the Braves are securely in the playoffs as the Wild Card team. Actually making the playoffs is the difficult part. Once the Braves are in, winning the first series becomes a three-man rotation, and I would put their three best against any other team. Assuming everything plays out accordingly, the Phillies and Braves will meet in the NLCS. As it has been repeated lately, these two teams are scarily similar. The match-up would be fun to watch and would probably stretch to six or seven games.

But before I get stuck in the future, let’s just remind ourselves that the Braves have a favorable schedule coming up in the next three weeks and the team is getting healthy. Add into this mix a trade, Dan Uggla continuing his upward trend, and the return of Peter Moylan (hopefully), the last part of the season is going to be very fun to watch.

I know this is biased and not based too heavily in statistics. I just wanted to point out that with a few wins here for the Braves and a few losses there for the Phillies, the NL East is still within reach however unlikely it seems now.

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