Posted: 11:28 am Monday, September 1st, 2014

Labor Day dawns, and the Braves are buoyant 

By Mark Bradley

"I think we're better than Milwaukee. What about you?" (David Goldman/AP)

“I think we’re better than Milwaukee. What about you?” (David Goldman/AP)

Four weeks ago, these flying fingers suggested that the arrival of baseball’s third holiday checkpoint would reveal the Atlanta Braves’ playoff chances as a forlorn hope. This grim forecast was based on two observations: First, the Braves’ schedule was about to toughen; second, that the Braves had been, not to sugarcoat things, stinking out Ye Olde Joint.

Which only goes to show: Baseball seasons are rarely quite what they seem. After an 0-8 West Coast swing, the Braves have gone 14-9. (That still puts them three games under .500 over the past 31, but never mind.) Our friends at Baseball Prospectus now levy the Braves’ playoff odds at 49.6 percent, which beats the heck out of the 20.9 percent not quite three weeks ago. In sum, they’ve given themselves a September chance.

That’s not to say they’re a lock. BP lists five National League teams with odds of 62.2 percent or better, the fading Milwaukee Brewers being the fifth of that bunch. Only five teams make the playoffs, as I’m sure you know.

Labor Day arrived with the Braves six games behind Washington in the East with 25 to play, and that’s probably too much to make up. They are, however, within 1 1/2 games of St. Louis and aforementioned Milwaukee for the second wild card. (One of those teams is apt to win the Central.)

With Mike Minor’s return to form, the starting pitching is again dominant. The offense is still spotty — the Braves are 29th in the majors in runs — but we’re accustomed to that. This isn’t nearly a great team, but there are no great teams in baseball in 2014. (Remember the mighty Oakland A’s? They’re five games behind the Angels.) The best any team, from the Nats to the A’s to the Angels to Dodgers, can hope is to qualify for October and get hot once there.

Four weeks ago, I thought the Braves’s shot of playing beyond October was a bad week from nonexistent. That bad week never came. With one month to go, they’re still in it.

30 comments
Hesalive
Hesalive

I'm pulling for these guys. I think it would be a great thing for a very young team to make the playoffs. This is a crucial last month for this team. If they fade it might weigh on them in coming seasons. If they come through and make the playoffs, it's going to make them very confident. 

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Bradley...................Shall we rename the Brave's the Atlanta Titanics?.....................Buoyant?............Buoyancy happens when something floats...........not sinks!

Legendary
Legendary

Some of you posters spell and form sentences as badly as you understand baseball.  However, I agree with the general sentiment about the lineup phoning it in and Fredi seeming to be ineffective as a manager.  I take exception to those of you that are calling him stupid, and mounting personal attacks out of your frustration.  Fredi is likely less-than-effective because of his passive nature, and not because he lacks baseball sense.  He makes the odd questionable decision, but all managers--including the great ones--have been second-guessed by fans every day of their careers.


I also take exception to the claims that Liberty Media is the reason for our teams' under-achievement.  Sure, we all had fun when Ted pulled out the checkbook to go get Pendleton, Bream, Maddux, Neagle, McGriff, Galarraga, etc, but those teams only won one World Series.  The Braves' payroll is right in the middle of the road, yet our team is struggling to stay above .500, to our collective disappointment.  I really don't think spending money will resolve the issues.  Nor do I think that having different hitting coaches will do much.  Honestly, my impression as a passionate and observant outsider is a lack of urgency by the team.  I also see some small evidence of general positivity, but no team-wide drive or open display of competitive fire.  Maybe the Braves Corporate Model of distinguished professionalism should be phased out in favor of a new and more modern model where achievement and drive are the norm.  Maybe there's a need for a more aggressive and firy manager, who will call the players on their egoistic inability to make adjustments for the good of the team, the game, or the situation.  The emphasis on fundamentals seems to be completely lacking with this lineup, and that is the fault of the system under which the lineup operates; namely, the manager.  I also feel that Frank Wren has too many times now pulled the trigger on a deal simply because there was nothing better.  I would rather have not signed BJ Upton and taken our chances with whoever else we could have gotten than to have spent $75 M on a guy with no supporting career stats to even remotely warrant such a signing.  Signing Derek Lowe was also ludicrous, simply because AJ Burnett chose not to sign and he HAD to sign someone.  Lowe wasn't quite as much a flop as Kawakami or Uggla or Upton, but it was still a hasty and desperate signing.  Anyway...  I'm shrugging off another wasted and disappointing season of underachieving.  I guess it's better to resign now than to have them phone it in in a playoff series and be eliminated yet again in the first round by a lesser team.

klsfriend
klsfriend

This is almost hilarious reading this on September 2nd. Buoyant? LOL


No-hit by a collection of 4 guys on the last place team in the division. Need one say more?

sea8491
sea8491

Mark, have you ever had a column that calls a spade a spade?

Another wards, identifing the problem, the current Braves Management?

savannahgator5220
savannahgator5220

You people need to realize the problem starts at the top with Liberty Media. They are absentee owners who care only about profit and nothing about the Braves winning. While Wren and Fredi have made mistakes they are working with one hand behind their back by ownership. I will not attend a game or by merchandise until Liberty Media sells the Braves.

vol4ever
vol4ever

As long as Gonzalez is the manager we will win nothing.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

1 run in three days. No hit today. Says it all. Boobfense hitting on all cylinders

highfive
highfive

The worse thing for the Braves is to make the playoffs. They need to clean house starting with management. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

Braves take today off.... just like a championship team.  Thanks Wren for the  great hitter you put on this Great Team. Braves no-hit by last place team...

ByteMe
ByteMe

They miss the playoffs if they keep running BJ out there....

cvan32802
cvan32802

While the recent events are encouraging, the chances of winning the division would require a lot of 'what ifs' not the least is a total Nats collapse. The Braves are six out, they were 8 out a week or so ago.   Not likely to happen but then again the Braves collapsed in 2011.


So that leaves the wild card.   Last year it required 90 wins to make the NL wild card.   May not require that much this year since there are more teams in the hunt so let's say 88.   The Braves have won 72 and they have 25 games left.   That means the Braves will have to go 16-9, which is better than their performance after the August slump.   Not likely to happen but then again, the Brewers seem to be in free fall so a slot might open up.  The Braves, Pirates and Brewers will fight it out for the remaining slot.   If the Brewers don't collapse, it's St.L, Milw and/or SF in the wild card.   Braves and the Pirates are out.  


So what Fredi should do?   Many have argued, quite persuasively, the BJ shouldn't be playing.  Benching BJ is the right play if you want to make a serious run.   But his contract is an albatross on the future of this team and the chances of beating the odds to get to the post-season at this point are slim.   I say play him every day.   He either sucks and we're no worse off and if they play .500 ball the rest of the way we might be rid of Wren and/or Fredi, which would please many fans, including me.  On the other hand, perhaps, as part of a miracle finish, BJ regains something close to his Tampa Bay form and becomes a factor in getting the Braves to the post-season or an "almost" run on the last day of the season.   Because of that possibility, given the long current odds of making the playoffs, they ought to play him regularly.  His performance doesn't deserve it, but the Braves ought to try to raise his current trade value, which at the moment is -$50 million.  Letting him play and raising his BA a few points  might facilitate a better deal than what has been discussed so far.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Where they make it or not its time for Wren and Fredi to go...Both are a damn joke!

Phillipdj
Phillipdj

Mark, qualifying hinges on 3 things and I'm not confident that ANY of them will happen

1. Freddy has to play the right guy in CF EVERY day. Emilio is hitting SIXTY points higher than BJ. Even once in the next 3 weeks and starting Bossman is a fireable offense

2. The Mike Minor of August has to stay, the Minor of May, June and July can't.

3. They have to step on the throats of lesser opponents (Mets, Marlins, Phils). Have they ever been good at doing such?

Braves match up well against Nats, Pirates and Brewers, but not so much against Cards and Giants. Dodgers eat Tomahawks for breakfast.

Codex
Codex

They'll find a way to shoot themselves in the foot, again. This team collapses under pressure way too often so I'm not going to get my hopes up.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Mark,

Not a chance in hell with that managerial buffoon in your photo.

JackClemens
JackClemens

I hope they can pull it out, but we've all been disappointed by the Braves before. However, having grown up during the years of futility, being competitive is better than not being.

sea8491
sea8491

@savannahgator5220  Liberty Media needs to sell the team and the Braves need new owners but do not forget the Three Stooges must go, over rated John Scheruholz, No nothing McGuirk, & Out to lunch Frankie Wren.


Then the clown must go, Fredi.


How did Freddie do in Miami?

sea8491
sea8491

@highfive  You are correct, top management.


The three stooges need to go, Scheruholz, McGuirk, & Wren

Birdhair
Birdhair

@58Supersports  No. W/out Fredi we'd be below .500. Imagine if Cox was managing this team or Wren had a puppet manager in there? B.J. would still be playing! Frank the Clown Wren is the reason why we suck. This will be season #7 under clown w no playoff series wins. Clown has wasted more than $238M on B.J., Lowe, Uggla, C.J. and KK. birdhairblog.com

Stinger2
Stinger2

@58Supersports  Fredi is the third best manager in the NL as voted by his peers a few weeks ago.

Stinger2
Stinger2

@RangeRover  The man you call a managerial buffoon was, a few weeks ago, honored by his peers as the third best manager in the NL.,

SOB
SOB

@RangeRover Whole heartedly agree! Why the Falcons and Braves can't find a manager/coach with half a brain defies all human logic. They cost our teams many winnable games with what seems to be an innate stubbornness. Not one whit of innovation or creativity. Ever. Cox was basically the exact same way. Stubborn to a fault. With the talent he had, Braves should have won several more World Series...

sea8491
sea8491

@Birdhair  Don't you wonder why Liberty Media has no accountability of Frank Wren?

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Stinger2 @58Supersports  That's a good old boys vote...don't mean crap it's like the All-Stars vote. Stinger you are a homer and they can do no wrong in your eyes, part of the problem.