The AJC’s Mark Bradley has a column up today with the headline: “With Lee again a Phil, are the Braves playing for the wild card?”
My answer — which I’ve been giving anyone who will listen since midnight Monday — is “Yes. Yes they are.” Even if you set aside their top two pitchers who will often face opposing aces, they will have a supreme advantage in 60+ starts in which their starters face vastly inferior three and four starters from the opposition. That’s a recipe for a double-digit division lead, possibly before the All-Star break.
For that reason, I don’t plan on considering Philadelphia as the Braves’ primary competition next year. I’m going to consider the competition to be the Reds, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and whoever else might muster enough for a run at the wild card. It’ll make my summer much easier, that’s for sure.
And it’s not like such a thing is defeatism. Why not? Because in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007, the NL pennant winner was the wild card team. And in 2006 the pennant winner was the weakest of any of the NL playoff representatives during the regular season. And last year’s pennant winner — the Giants — mowed down the Phillies’ already-formidable rotation.
Lament the near impossible task of winning the NL East next year, Braves fans (and Marlins, Mets and Nationals fans), but don’t worry too much if the wild card represents the best shot at your team making the playoffs. NL wild card teams do quite well with that, thank you very much.