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Bottom feeders: Phillies vs. Braves series preview

Many of the Braves’ wins have come against bad teams

National League Division Series Game 1: Atlanta Braves v. Miami Marlins
Marcell Ozuna, shown here yelling at a cloud
Photo by Michael Starghill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Baseball Reference gives the Atlanta Braves a 97.8% chance of making the playoffs. That seems accurate, simply because there are six playoff spots in the National League, and only about seven teams that are realistic options to earn those spots.

But having watched this year’s edition of the Braves, I can’t help but feel unimpressed. Sure, they’ve racked up some wins against some of MLB’s lesser lights, but when faced with better competition, they haven’t fared too well. So, it’s likely that they’ll make the playoffs, but like most years, they probably won’t fare too well once they get there.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 62-41 (Second place in National League East, three games back)

The last time they met

One of the reasons I’m so unimpressed by the Braves is because they just played the Phillies last week, and the Phillies won two out of three. Sure, any team can get a fluke win in a series, but it seemed to me that the Phillies were the better of the two teams.

For the season, the teams are 5-5 in head-to-head play, but the Phillies have outscored the Braves by 13 runs in those ten games. That seems like a rather definitive answer as to which team is superior.

Since then?

The Braves swept the Diamondbacks. Congrats on sweeping a last place team, Braves. But from what I can see, that’s kind of their thing.

Picking on the weaklings

Against the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Pirates, and Nationals, the Braves are a combined 22-5. I suppose you can only beat the teams on the schedule, but it feels like the Braves have “run up the score” on a bunch of sad sack teams. On the other hand, they have losing records against first place teams like the Mets, Dodgers, and Padres.

The Braves have played five fewer games against the first place Mets than the Phillies have. I wonder if the standings might look a little different if that ratio was reversed. Of course, this means the Braves have a bunch of games left against the Mets, but that might work to their advantage because the Mets aren’t a franchise known for their strong play in the final months of the season.

Who’s cold?

I’m not sure when Marcell Ozuna lost the ability to hit, but the two-time Silver Slugger in in the midst of his second straight disappointing season. His OPS sits at a disappointing .671 and over the past two weeks, his batting average is a meager .194.

Pitching matchups

Due to Kyle Gibson going on bereavement leave, the Phillies will have to use a bullpen game on Tuesday. That used to signify an automatic loss, but hey, the Phillies bullpen is good now! The prospect of wringing nine passable innings out of these guys doesn’t seem as daunting as it has in years past.

The Braves will counter with rookie Spencer Strider. Strider pitched well against the Phillies when he faced them last week, but it isn’t uncommon for a young pitcher to perform well in his first start against a team and then do much worse the second time around. For example, Strider fared well against the Washington Nationals in his first start against them. But when he faced them again the following month? He gave up five runs in four innings.

I feel confident in saying that the Phillies are far better than the Nats, so it wouldn’t shock me if the same thing happened in Tuesday’s game.

Also, there’s this:

On Wednesday, the Braves will start Charlie Morton who struggled in his last outing against the Phillies. He’ll be opposed by Zack Wheeler who will have the benefit of an extra day of rest. It is clear who has the advantage in this matchup.

They’ve been busy

Apparently, the Braves’ front office recognizes how flawed the team is and has been very busy on the trade market. They just picked up pitcher Jake Odorizzi from the Astros and outfielder Robbie Grossman from the Tigers. Odorizzi is a cromulent starter, but you have to wonder why a first-place team like the Astros would get rid of him. As for Grossman, his offensive numbers look even worse than Ozuna’s.

The Braves lucked out with some non-marquee depth trades in 2021, and it’s clear they’re trying to recapture that magic. But it seems unlikely that these moves will work out as well as they did last year.

Flashback of ineptitude: Adonis Garcia

It can become boring talking about current players who aren’t very good, so I sometimes like to look back at players from yesteryear who weren’t very good.

Adonis Garcia spent three years with the Atlanta Braves, and he contributed a cumulative negative 0.2 wins above replacement across those three seasons. In 2016 he served as the Braves’ main third baseman, but he certainly didn’t make anybody forget about Chipper Jones. (Though as far as I know, Garcia did manage to keep his distance from Hooters waitresses, which is good.)

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a gif of him striking out:

Garcia’s younger brother Adolis plays for the Texas Rangers and has already made an All-Star team in his young career. I’m glad to see it isn’t just the Phillies who always end up with the wrong brother.

Closing thought

As of this writing, the Phillies have been quiet on the trade market, with Edmundo Sosa being their only pickup. Personally, I’m not sure what the point of that trade was since they seemed to have plenty of offensively limited infielders, while they gave up some of their left-handed pitching depth.

I would like to see them pick up another starting pitcher, but I’m not expecting anything major. They just need a guy who can give them five to six decent innings every five days, so they don’t have to rely on Bailey Falter or bullpen games to get them through the stretch run.