Posted on October 2, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
With the Wild Card games behind us, the real MLB playoffs begin Thursday with the two National League series getting underway. The first series matches up the Atlanta Braves with the St. Louis Cardinals, both division winners. Let’s take a look at how these teams stack up against one another.
Offense – Advantage Braves
This is one area where Atlanta has a big advantage over the St. Louis. The Cardinals are ranked in the bottom half of the National League in most offensive categories. Paul Goldschmidt has been their standout offensive performer this season with an OPS of .821. Only one other St. Louis regular had an OPS over .800 this year. The Cardinals will rely on Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna, Paul DeJong, and rookie Tommy Edman to carry the load while hoping others are able to contribute.
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The Braves, meanwhile, have four players with an OPS over .850 in Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson. Behind that group are veterans with postseason experience like Brian McCann and Nick Markakis. Even with a few key bench players out due to injury, Atlanta’s lineup has plenty of depth that will make it difficult for the St. Louis pitching staff to navigate.
Rotation – Push
This is too close to call because both teams have frontline starters and a fair amount of postseason experience. Adam Wainwright brings 24 career postseason appearances to the table. He also won 14 games this year despite a modest 4.19 ERA. Meanwhile, youngsters like Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson give the Cardinals a pair of young flamethrowers to anchor the rotation.
Of course, the Braves have plenty of firepower in their rotation as well. Mike Soroka figures to be one of the top candidates for the Cy Young this year. Mike Foltynewicz had a brilliant second half and looked like a Cy Young candidate with a 1.50 ERA in September. Also, keep in mind that the Braves have Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran, who were both dependable starters all year.
Bullpen – Advantage Cardinals
Atlanta’s moves at the trade deadline give them a viable postseason bullpen, but the Cardinals have had one of the best bullpens in the National League all season. Carlos Martinez anchors the St. Louis bullpen as the closer. But there’s plenty of depth in front of him with John Gant, Giovanny Gallegos, and John Brebbia. The Cardinals also have Andrew Miller, who isn’t his dominant self but has playoff experience that he can draw upon.
As for the Braves, they’ve put together a decent bullpen, acquiring Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin at the end of July to fix what was a dreadful bullpen. Greene hasn’t matched his performance in Detroit early in the year, but Melancon has settled in as the team’s closer. Sean Newcomb gives the Braves a lefty they can use while veterans Anthony Swarzak and Josh Tomlin provide a fair amount of depth in case the Braves don’t get more than five innings out of their starter.
Prediction – Braves in 3
St. Louis should be thrilled about winning the NL Central this year and snapping their three-year playoff drought, but this figures to be the end of the line. The Braves are better than they were when they lost in the NLDS last year. They’ve added pieces and their young players have another year of experience under their belt. Atlanta is a serious threat in the postseason and they’ll take care of business against a St. Louis that can pitch a little but will struggle to score runs. Atlanta wins in three games.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.