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Recalculating the Atlanta Braves' playoff odds before Labor Day weekend

The Braves are currently on track for a division-high 91 victories. The other NL East estimates: 87 wins (Phillies), 82 wins (Nationals), 72 wins (Mets) and 66 wins (Marlins).

ATLANTA—11Alive Sports offers a revised statistical and logistical breakdown of the Atlanta Braves' chances of making the National League playoffs—potentially ending the franchise's five-year playoff drought.

Today's piece coincides with the Braves (74-58, 1st place in National League East) enduring a quirky home stand of four different teams in nine days (Rays, Cubs, Pirates, Red Sox); and after that, there aren't many sustained rough patches left on the docket.

At least, on paper.

Here's a capsule look at the National League's playoff contenders, while calculating the projected wins for each club.



Record: 78-54 (NL Central leader)

Projected Pace: 96-66

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 20

Skinny: We should know the Cubs' NL Central fate by Sept. 12.

They'll have an 11-game road swing through four playoff-contending markets (Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Washington) and then host the Brewers from Sept. 10-12.

Bottom line: Even with the loss of Yu Darvish, Chicago likely has the National League's strongest four-man rotation for the playoffs (Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and the white-hot Cole Hamels); and it'll be especially tough to topple the Cubs at Wrigley Field, if they're sitting on the No. 1 postseason seed.

BRAVES (NL East leader)

Record: 74-58

Projected Pace: 91-71

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 22

Skinny: It's hard to envision the Braves enduring a late-season swoon and missing the playoffs altogether.

The young quartet of Ronald Acuna Jr. (post-All-Star break numbers: 14 HR, 28 RBI, 31 runs, 9 steals, .329 batting, 1.106 OPS) , Ozzie Albies, Ender Inciarte and Johan Camargo are surging at the plate.

Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis have been remarkably consistent all season; and for August, the entire Atlanta pitching staff owns a superb ERA of 3.07.

Bottom line: The Braves are one more 10-day surge away from rendering the season-capping trip to New York (Mets) and Philadelphia moot, in terms of NL East supremacy.


Record: 73-60 (NL West leader)

Projected Pace: 89-73

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 24

Skinny: The scheduling gods apparently aren't rooting for Arizona to capture the NL West crown.

From Aug. 30 to Sept. 26, the Diamondbacks will face the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Rockies and Braves for 24 of 26 games during this formidable stretch. Ugh.

On the plus side, the ongoing lot of opponents may be immaterial to Diamondbacks hitters David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt, who boast dueling OPS rates above 1.000 over the last 30 days.

Since July 31:

Peralta: 9 HR, 18 RBI, 17 runs, .382 batting, .433 OBP, 1.186 OPS

Goldschmidt: 7 HR, 18 RBI, 14 runs, .347 batting, .446 OBP, 1.089 OPS

On pitching side, all five of Arizona's current starters (Clay Buchholz, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, Zack Godley, Robbie Ray) posted August ERAs of 3.66 or lower.


Record: 74-59

Projected Pace: 90-72

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 16

Skinny: We were admittedly skeptical about the Cardinals' chances this time last month; but check out the August numbers for the entire pitching staff:

20-6, 2.77 ERA, 198 strikeouts in 231 innings, 1.21 WHIP and converting on 12 of 14 save opportunities

Now for the intriguing part: The Cardinals are on the precipice of a 13-game stint against four clubs with non-winning records (Pirates, Reds, Nationals, Tigers).

If St. Louis can go 9-4 or better during this stretch, we might as well pencil the team in for the wild-card round.


Record: 74-60

Projected Pace: 89-73

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 12

Skinny: Sure, no one living outside the Greater Milwaukee area can name two pitchers in the Brewers' starting rotation.

But then again, few National League contenders can match the Brew Crew's potent lineup ... which has minimal holes from top to bottom.

Speaking of which, is there anyone hotter than outfielder Christian Yelich, who hit for the cycle on Thursday night?

Digging deeper, here are Yelich's numbers after the All-Star break: 15 HR, 32 RBI, 33 runs, 2 steals, .372 batting, .413 OBP, 1.189 OPS.

One last thing: On paper, Milwaukee has the most favorable finishing schedule of any National League contender. It's an easy road ... after the next two go-rounds with the Cubs.


Record: 72-60

Projected Pace: 88-74

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 20

Skinny: If I had to guarantee one playoff team from the NL West, either as divisional champ or wild-card purveyor, it would be Colorado ... which has a stronger record on the road (38-30) than Coors Field (34-30).

The Rockies (38-22 since June 19) recently weathered a storm of 10 consecutive opponents with winning records; and during that stretch, Colorado pitchers Kyle Freeland (30-day tallies: 3-1, 2.15 ERA, 42/15 K-BB), German Marquez (30-day tallies: 2-1, 2.12 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 40/8 K-BB) and Jon Gray (2-0, 3.73 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) were simply stellar.

In other words, this is not your father's Rockies team.

As its subsequent reward, Colorado draws 23 consecutive NL West opponents, before ending the season with a seven-game home stand versus Philadelphia and Washington.

Not bad.


Record: 72-61

Projected Pace: 88-74

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 17

Skinny: The Dodgers, winners of five straight, are a on a mini-roll after sweeping the bottom-feeding Rangers, setting the stage for this weekend's BIG four-game bonanza against the NL West-leading Diamondbacks (venue: Dodger Stadium).

The following week, Los Angeles will experience a potentially season-defining road swing, rolling through Colorado, Cincinnati and St. Louis for 10 days.

Check out these 30-day numbers for three Dodgers pitchers:

Clayton Kershaw: 2-0, 2.06 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .202 opponents' batting average, 33/3 K-BB

Rich Hill: 2-0, 2.76 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .186 opponents' batting average, 29/11 K-BB

Alex Wood: 1-1, 2.05 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .220 opponents' batting average, 19/8 K-BB


Record: 71-62

Projected Pace: 87-75

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 21

Skinny: The Phillies often run hot-and-cold, so let's not make any grand assumptions about their playoff chances just yet.

On the plus side, Philadelphia has 15 remaining dates with Miami, Washington and the New York Mets—wayward clubs merely playing out the string.

Also, the Phillies will face the first-place Braves seven times over the season's final 10 days.

On the negative side, Philly just concluded a 7-11 stretch against middling competition—Padres, Mets, Nationals and Blue Jays.


Record: 67-67

Projected Pace: 81-81

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 20

Skinny: The true-blue sports fans of Washington D.C. are about to learn a cruel lesson about opportunity vs. delusion—for the second time this calendar year.

Remember how the NFL's Redskins recently let Kirk Cousins walk to the Vikings, via free agency, without getting any compensation in return? (The club could have tagged him, forcing Minnesota to execute a trade for the coveted quarterback.)

Well, the Nationals pulled the same illogical stunt last month, failing to trade Bryce Harper to a contender before the MLB non-waiver deadline; and now, short of Harper giving the club a so-called hometown discount in free agency this winter, Washington's curious move of holding onto Harper, without deeply exploring the trade market, could and should be viewed as a harmful endeavor.


Record: 67-68

Projected Pace: 80-82

Remaining Games Against Above-.500 Teams: 20

Skinny: Let's see. The wild-card contenders are currently on pace for 88-89 victories; so for the Giants to reach the minimum threshold of '88' ... they would need an amazing finish of 21-6.

Is that impossible? No.

Is it highly improbable or eminently implausible? You betcha.

Bottom line: MLB history rarely rewards teams that cannot produce winning streaks longer than five games over a full season.


Since Major League Baseball added a fifth playoff team for each league in 2012, the average win total for an NL wild card shakes out to 91 victories.

So, using that benchmark for the following exercise, here are the required finishing kicks to reach the hallowed '91' mark.

Cubs: 13-17 to reach 91 wins

Braves: 17-13 to reach 91 wins

Diamondbacks: 18-11

Brewers: 17-11

Dodgers: 19-10

Phillies: 20-9

Rockies: 19-11

Cardinals: 17-12

Pirates: 26-3

Nationals: 24-4

Giants: 24-3


Here's a listing of 11 head-to-head battles featuring the Braves (74-58) and Phillies (71-62), since the NL East will undoubtedly be a two-horse race:

Why 11? If you've seen the movie This is Spinal Tap, you don't need an answer to that question.

Warning: Some of these stats are worthwhile and tangible ... while others may be viewed as short-sighted and/or subjective. Oh well.

Better head-to-head record—Advantage: Braves (7-5)

Remaining games versus the Mets and Marlins—Advantage: Phillies

Fewest games left against viable World Series contenders—Advantage: Phillies

Easier schedule over the next three weeks—Advantage: Push (advantageous for both)

Easier schedule in the final three weeks—Advantage: Phillies

Better intra-divisional record—Advantage: Braves

Seasonal record with games decided by one run—Advantage: Braves

Better starters' ERA—Advantage: Braves

More regulars with an OBP higher than .350 since July 17—Advantage: Braves

More regulars with double-digit runs since July 17—Advantage: Push

Which team has Ronald Acuna Jr. on the active roster?—Advantage: Braves


Braves: 90-72 (NL East champ)

Phillies: 87-75

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