Face Off: Numbers say Braves can’t do it

Click on photo to read Mark Bradley's response

Oh, Mark. So quick to get drunk off two wins, aren’t we?

Welcome back to the Wednesday Face off. As usual, there are two sides to this debate: the right one and the wrong one, which Mr. Bradley will handle.

This week’s topic is the Braves: Can they win the National League East Division? Considering they have started this important 10-game home stand with two shutout wins, it’s easy to get deluded. And if they can just get 10 or 15 more games against Chien-Ming Wang (0-6, 11.20), this should be easy.

I still don't see anybody in the East beating this team.

I still don't see anybody in the East beating this team.

But there are issues. The problem isn’t that the Braves are four games back of Philadelphia with 92 to go. The problem is having reasonable expectations of what they can do the rest of the season, given the team they have and the way they’ve generally played.

I used some of these numbers in a blog last week, but here’s the updated situation. Over the last 10 years, the N.L. East winner has averaged just over 95 wins (see the chart below). At 34-36, the Braves would need to go 61-31 the rest of the season to equal that. That’s a won-loss percentage of .663. If you prefer to use the Phillies’ 92-70 record last year as a gauge, the Braves would still need to go 58-34 (.630).

What we’re basically asked to believe is that everything we’ve seen for most of the first three months of the season — and to a degree several seasons just prior — is an aberration. But it isn’t. This is still a team in transition with significant issues. They’re not there yet.

Throwing everything else out the window, these are the Braves’ season winning percentages since going 101-61 (still only .623) in 2003 (chronologically): .593, .556, .488, .519, .444 and .478 (current).

You’re asking for is a relative 180.

Possible? Yes. Plausible? No.

The checklist the rest of the season for a division title is overwhelming. Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Javier Vasquez would need to be lights out as starters, and Tim Hudson would need to come back and contribute significantly.

Remember, we’re talking potentially .630-plus baseball the rest of the season: You’ll need four strong starters.

The bullpen: It can’t falter.

The defense: It’s not getting better. Even Chipper Jones dropped a throw at third Tuesday night.

The offense: Jeff Francoeur (.246) is still a mess. Kelly Johnson (.138 in June, .222 overall) is worse. Nate McLouth was a nice pick up in center and seems to be coming around. Garret Anderson suddenly has a pulse (five-game hitting streak). Will that continue?

This isn’t a running team. They don’t play small ball (last in the league in stolen bases). They don’t even play big ball (12th in home runs). If the batting averages drop off, they’re sunk.

They’re not there yet.

We’re asking for too much.

Year   East winner   W    Braves (34-36) need to go

2008  Philadelphia    92   58-34

2007  Philadelphia    89   55-37

2006  New York        97   63-29

2005  Atlanta           90    56-36

2004  Atlanta           96    62-30

2003  Atlanta          101   67-25

2002  Atlanta          101    67-25

2001  Atlanta          88      54-38

2000  Atlanta          95      61-31

1999  Atlanta          103    69-23

76 comments Add your comment

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

June 24th, 2009
11:22 am

No, we probably won’t clinch the division. But I’d say we are still in the running to be contenders for a Wild Card. There’s also a typo in your first paragraph, Mr. Schultz. Reference “right wrong.”

Hoosier Aaron

June 24th, 2009
11:22 am

A former high school math teacher always told us, “Figures don’t lie but liars do figure”. What does that mean? I’m not sure but this appears to be the correct situation to use it. :^)

Under normal circumstances I’d say you are absolutely correct. However, it appears that it will take less wins in the NL East than any division in baseball…at least right now.
The Phillies will have to go 58 – 36 the rest of the way to achieve 95 wins…they’re gonna have to heat up a little to get there.

For us – I see a couple of positives
#1) I’ll match our starting rotation up against ANY in baseball – 5 deep.
Javy Jazquez deserves to be on the All-Star team – by the way.
#2) I’ll match the back-end of our bullpen up against ANY in baseball.

The obvious problem is (of course) scoring runs. While GA is starting to heat up and McLouth has helped…we need a couple of other guys to get it going…..

If they do (however) we certainly have a chance.

Rev. Otis Nixon

June 24th, 2009
11:41 am

Wow, Jeff Schultz says we stink. What a surprise. Please, Jeff, Please stop writing this garbage. You have done enough at this point. Maybe they like sarcastic, pessimistic garbage wherever you come from, but we’re true fans down here in Georgia. You don’t deserve to cover the Braves.

Bama Aaron

June 24th, 2009
11:45 am

It’s not going to take 95 wins to take this division. I’m guess it probably won’t take 90. The current line-up will have a hard time maintaining to take it, but if Wren can trade for a bat the Braves can end the 3yr playoff drought.

Hilton Head Island

June 24th, 2009
11:48 am

Jeff,
The Phillies and Mets have not run away and hidden as many of the so-called experts predicted. In fact, the Mets are facing as many injuries as last year’s Braves, and the Phillies don’t appear to be comfortable with Lidge and have other bullpen questions (not that the Braves don’t).

I just think that if the fuse can be lit, this team has the talent to go on a significant run. Tommy Hanson is poised to make a HUGE difference in the second half and if Garrett Anderson is finally comfortable…who really knows? I do think, though, that we need to dump Frenchy and try to acquire Dunn…Frenchy’s fried as far as I’m concerned.

We have not been buried despite our poor play. That means the rest of the division isn’t as good as predicted. And that means that anything’s possible! GO BRAVES!!!

Jfreak

June 24th, 2009
12:00 pm

I like the idea of trading for Dunn because of the impact it “could” have the entire lineup but would that make the Braves a divsion champ team? No, probably not. Pitching is fine but you’d have to give up one of your best starters to get Dunn which means pitching would probably fall off to some degree. However, we have a good rotation and we have to do make some kind of move with a hitter to even give us a chance. We are certainly not going to do it as we are. Wren, if the move is available make it!

Jordan33

June 24th, 2009
12:00 pm

This year has nothing to do with what has happened in the NL East in past years. The Braves don’t have to play .630 ball the rest of the way. They just have to play five games better than the Phillies and a couple better than the Mets.

Chipper H

June 24th, 2009
12:11 pm

I agree-4 games back is not that much. We need to hang with every one else and pull a few games out of the hat, and we are right there. Win a few series in a row and we could be a game, two games back by september. Then it’s anybody’s division to lose…

The_Superhoo (Montana by way of Virginia)

June 24th, 2009
12:16 pm

I’m not drinking the Kool Aid yet, but I DO think it’s possible.

I like the numbers you use, but I have some issue with them. Using them the way you are, you assume that the winner of the division will have the same average record as those of the past. Well the teams that have won over the last 20 years were much better than the teams in this current “race.” Unless something drastically changes, the division this winner will have a win total less than you cite.

Buzz

June 24th, 2009
12:16 pm

The entire premise of this trash is that 95 wins are needed to win the East.

But this division will be won with far less this year. The top 4 teams are roughly equal in talent, unlike other years.

So, as usual, Schultz is blowing hot air. I guess they gave him a topic and he just starting bloviating/typing.

Col.Klink

June 24th, 2009
12:27 pm

Are you related to Sergeant Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes?
I can’t put my finger on it but you sure remind me of him.Especially after this column.

Adam

June 24th, 2009
12:30 pm

Until the team starts knocking in runs with less than 2 outs and sustaining rallies, forget it.

With our 7-8-9 you’re giving away 3 innings of offense EVERY GAME.

The Phillies had more offense in the 1st inning against David Price than we’ve had in a week. They woke up. We are in a coma.

Herschel Talker

June 24th, 2009
12:30 pm

JS – I’m with you. The numbers don’t add up. And let’s not kid ourselves. This is a .500 team. There’s are reasons that they’re 32-36 (or whatever it is). Let’s not get delusional over one win over each of the Cubs and Yankees.

Herschel Talker

June 24th, 2009
12:31 pm

ARod likes men

Herschel Talker

June 24th, 2009
12:31 pm

ARod likes men.

bravesfan27

June 24th, 2009
12:34 pm

Hey Jeff! why dont write for the phillies or the muts(mets). You got all the stats, but really do you think someone has to win 95 games in this division. The braves have the best pitching and our bats will warm up. I guess you have to do your homework on the rest of the division. the muts are running an ER and the phils have a better chance with you pitching. So go ahead and write on that!

JJ (WTH is Jeff Bennett still on the roster??)

June 24th, 2009
12:36 pm

Jeff –

You MAY be correct, but I’d argue this is the worst the division has been in the last decade plus. As of today, the Phils are 37-31 so they have to go 58-36 (.617) the rest of the way to get to your 95 wins. Does anyone REALLY think they can do that when they give up a 5-spot every game?? As we’ve all seen the past week or so with the Phils, even the best hitting teams can go into a slump. Not to mention what that starting pitching is doing to their BP.

As for the muts, they are 35-34 so they have to go 60-33 (.645) the rest of the way. And at least for the forseeable future they are without Reyes, Delgado, and Beltran. Don’t see it happening.

I just don’t think your historic numbers mean anything this year. The bottom line is the Braves have to play the last 92 games at 4 games better than the Phils and 1.5 games better than the muts. And I like the Braves current situation a lot better than the Phils (no pitching whatsoever) or the muts (terrible health and lesser pitching than the Braves).

mudcat

June 24th, 2009
12:41 pm

To Frank Wren: Sit tight, listen to all offers. You have a valuable commodity, quality pitching. If someone offers you a quality outfielder or infielder in exchange for one of those pitchers, consider it. DON’T keep trading our future away and DON’T trade for a player who can’t catch, throw or run, but specializes in striking out!

Mac

June 24th, 2009
12:42 pm

They’re not likely to catch fire. The lineup’s not as good as the ‘91 team Bradley references. But, the quality pitching gives me hope they will have a winning season and be ready to make a run next season.

Herschel Talker

June 24th, 2009
12:45 pm

Jeff – who would win a race around the bases between Garrett Anderson and Sid Bream?

Fischerking04

June 24th, 2009
12:49 pm

Okay Jeff:

The great thing about baseball is that anything can happen. It’s a long season and we aren’t even half way through yet. The Braves seem to be one of the few teams (if no the only) in the NL East that seems to be finding it’s identity.

The Phillies don’t have good pitching and can’t win at home. If you want a stat, look at how often a team with a home win-loss pecentage as bad as theirs ends up winning the division.

The Muts are banged up and don’t really have anyone behind Johan. And even he has been shaky this season.

The Fish are fairly even with us and I feel they have as good a shot as we do to take the NLE.

Our starting pitching is the best in the division. Tommy Hanson is getting more and more comfortable in each start. Huddy will be abck in a couple of months. Vaz is striking out everybody.

If anything the stats show that we have a very good shot to be right there in the hunt at the end of the season.

Fred McGriff

June 24th, 2009
12:53 pm

Maybe we need to set the press box on fire.

sidslid

June 24th, 2009
12:55 pm

Wildcard, fugget about it. Wild card will come from Central among Brewers, Cards, and Cubs. My bet Cards win division and Brewers get wild card. Pinella winds up at Fox.

Shadetree

June 24th, 2009
12:57 pm

It’s possible that within a week or 2 the Braves could be in first place. You can’t look at it as we need to go this to get to that. You take it one game at a time and the rest takes care of itself. Our Starting pitching and our 8th and 9th inning bullpen is great. Moylan is coming around too. All we need is for Francouer to get right and put Prado into 2nd until Infante gets back.

The best move we can make is to put Prado at 2nd and when Infante comes back, if Francouer is still cold put him out there.

Dump Johnson. He wouldn’t even make a good role player or left handed bat coming off the bench. He has a good 2 weeks and then a bad 2 months. Dump Johnson now. I don’t see why Cox is still playing him Loyalty is fine but blind loyalty gets us what we have now.

We would be fine if Coxie would do those 2 things.

When Huddy comes back I could see us going to a 6 man rotation, except for Lowe. He needs his starts to stay tired so his sinker works properly. Lowe, Vasquez, JJ, Hanson, KK and Huddy spells World Series to me.
IMO

Chipper Jones

June 24th, 2009
1:01 pm

HEY GUYS THIS IS CHIPPER JONES. WE ARE GOING TO SWEEP THE PHILLIES WHEN THEY COME IN TOWN

PATTY

June 24th, 2009
1:04 pm

I bet we could get somthing for Kotchman. he sucks as it is so whatever we get for him will be an upgrade

Fischerking04

June 24th, 2009
1:08 pm

Shadetree:

I say NO to a 6 man rotation.

Our best bet would be:

Lowe, Vaz, JJ, Hanson, Huddy

Then you take KK and put him in the pen. By doing this you can get Bennett out of the pen. Also you have two capable long relief guys in KK and Medlen.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2009
1:08 pm

Hoosier: I agree it could take fewer wins to take the East this year. Big question: how fewer?

Rev. Otis: Where in here did I say Braves stink?

Hilton Head, Jfreak: Dunn would be a strong addition. But he was available before the season in free agency when the Braves DIDN’T have to give up a body to get him. So why would they do that now, esp. with a 2-year, $20 million contract?

Mudcat: Who are you trading off the pitching staff. Just curious.

Herschel: Today, I think I’d take G.A. But it’s close.

McGriff: Hah!

Chiper: Thanks, Chip. No predix for Yankees, Bosox series?

Patty: Gee, that’d be a great salespitch to a team: “Our guy sucks, what will u give us for him?”

richbrave

June 24th, 2009
1:09 pm

Those of you who think the wildcard is plausible need to quit pulling on the old bong; get a new one. The BRAVES are as far behind that slot as they are the FILTHIES. They’re four out in the loss column(32 vs. 36), and have all but four NL teams to climb over to pull off a wildcard.

FACE-OFF: I’m with SCHULTZ. Too many new players. Now by the end of the season we could be back to the future ala 1990. 2010’s the ticket for the BRAVES. Question marks will be answered, and this group of players will be getting to know each others’ idiocyncracies.

I understand BISHER’s trade CHIPPER thing. Makes sense. Get something of value for the team now while he’s still got juice and under contract. I don’t think that will happen however. The BRAVES have not capitulated on 2009 yet.

BRADLEY says VASQUEZ gone to the NATS for DUNN’s bat. I don’t know. Makes more sense in my mind to do some tampering with ROY HOLLIDAY’s agent instead, get some assurance of a long-term deal for him, then ship VASQUEZ.

NOT THAT I WANT TO SHIP VASQUEZ.!!!! I personally think he’s done a more consistantly good job this year than LOWE or KAWAKAMI. Would hate to lose him now even with HUDSON on the horizon. A six-man at the end of this season and next would probably cure what ails KAWAKAMI. ‘Course the $$$$ for HUDSON’s contract are getting in JOHN MALONE’s way at the moment though we do have that club option for 2010 at what, 11.1 million?. Anyway, I’m with DUTCH on this one.

Smack

June 24th, 2009
1:17 pm

Shultz, is it not plausible with all the issues with the Phillies and Mets, coupled with the Marlins youth and lack of depth that 85-90 wins may very well win the East this year? To 85 wins it would only take 51-41 to get there. Very doable if we can score an average of 4 runs a game.

Adam

June 24th, 2009
1:18 pm

I think Garret Anderson in the outfield is closer to Johnny Estrada than Sid Bream.

NORRIS

June 24th, 2009
1:22 pm

It looks like the 95 game average was taken from the number of wins the division winner had averaged out. I would like to know how many wins would have actually won the division each year.
I guarantee it would not have been 95.
This division could be won with 90 wins easily.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2009
1:23 pm

RichBrave: I agree on the wildcard. If the Braves get to the post-season, I’m inclined to think it will be in the division — especially if, as so many here seem to believe, it won’t take as many wins this season to win it. … Too many teams to pass in the WC race.

Smack: Using that argument, yes. But then you’re asking for three plausibilities (is that a word?).

Kevin

June 24th, 2009
1:26 pm

hey folks be careful are frank wren may trade Me are u for a hitter..are jeff schultz for pair of jeans n a Vendin machine to….I rather see Bobby cox retire are win a word series then could retire with a ring what u think Jeff schultz i sound silly are what.

Kevin

June 24th, 2009
1:29 pm

No one respond yet oh well…..Hey i sayin is bobby cox retire with a ring again a WS title also.. and folks would stop gripein at him now in fact he be praised n stuff and oh be in the cooperstown hall of fame to as manager also….

braves fan

June 24th, 2009
1:31 pm

we have the best starting rotation period.
we definately have a shot, none of the teams in our division match our starting pitchers.
when tim hudson comes back, its even going to get better..

Jeff

June 24th, 2009
1:33 pm

Jeff, buddy, you make some valid points, but PROOFREAD, my friend! Your second paragraph says there are two sides to this debate, the “right wrong” and the wrong one…. as you know, any person trying to make a convincing argument in a debate has got to do so in a clear, concise manner! That being said…. I think you’re right on this one. This team just has too many holes and too many needs to be a playoff team in three-plus months. Maybe re-tool next year and find out what we need, but I don’t think Adam Dunn and his 200 strikeouts will help us get by all the NL teams ahead of us. Good luck Braves… but I think our next best chance for the postseason is 2010 or 2011.

Capt Caveman

June 24th, 2009
1:34 pm

YO Schultzie — aren’t you mostly comparing the Braves to their own history. The Mets were a one year winner with a history of choking and are now in disarray with the DL. The Phillies won the last 2 yrs but they have let their pitching go to crap. I don’t think this years division winner will win 90 games. Looking more like 86-89 wins. Of course it will be a tight race with those numbers so it all comes down to who can finish. If we are there in the last month I got my money on the Braves.

Go Bravos !!!!

Jeff

June 24th, 2009
1:38 pm

Wow… you’re good! you got that typo fixed pronto! BTW, one more thing… I think we need to seriously evaluate our talent scouts and/or coaching in the minor leagues. If all these supposed stars coming up (Escobar, Johnson, Francoeur, Reyes, Medlen, Morton, etc.) were supposed to be the next crop of Chippers, Javys, Blausers, Glavines and Smoltzs… well, it’s not quite working out. Other than McCann, none of them are bona-fide superstars. We need to find where our next Albert Pujols, Tim Linsecum, Josh Beckett, etc. is in our minor leagues and get them ready. Hanson should be a star, as should Heyward and Freeman in the minors… but we need to really look at where our scouting/evaluating/trades have left us since 2005.

Bill Heller

June 24th, 2009
1:38 pm

NOBODY in the division has a team that’s gonig to win 95 games this year, 85-88 will probably take the division title. What team will make the necessary trades/adjustments to get there?

bali

June 24th, 2009
1:42 pm

two faces only a momma could love

MtnDawg

June 24th, 2009
1:44 pm

To Adam:

The Braves are at the top of MLB in 2 out run production. For some reason, the Braves run production looks like an inverted pyramid, with increased run production proportionate to the number of outs in the inning.

Smack

June 24th, 2009
1:48 pm

Schultz, those 3 plausibles look pretty real to me. The Phillies can’t win anymore than 90 with the pitching staff they have. The Mets will implode (if you are going to use the past to predict the future) and have too many injuries to get more than 90 wins. The Marlins don’t have all the pieces they would need to get more than 90. And like a broken record, we are one bat away from at least 90. The Braves now have 3 Second Basemen at Gwinnett, might we have a better bat than KJ already in our mists?

jed

June 24th, 2009
1:49 pm

this team can add through subtraction. you take KJ & JF OUT of the lineup, and replace that dead weight with prado (then infante) at 2b and a solid bat in RF and you’ve got a new offense–one that can win with our rotation.

honestly, i dont think you have to move vazquez and gamble on his effectiveness being replaced by medlen & hudson. if i’m washington, i’d trade dunn for francoeur & kelly johnson and expect one of them to fulfill expectations eventually. (i truly expect KJ to return to form.) but if i’m rebuilding, as the nats are, why do i want vazquez?

Adam

June 24th, 2009
1:50 pm

That’s right — we are at the top with 2 outs — but that is why we don’t have big innings. No room for error.

Typical inning…..single, walk, double play, single, out. 1 run.

Knuckle Sandwich

June 24th, 2009
1:54 pm

Hey Jeff, how’s this for a number…4. As in, the Braves are only 4 games back in the division before the All-Star break. If this team can muster any semblance of offensive consistency, they can win this division running away.

nique

June 24th, 2009
1:59 pm

Although I think Dunn would be a great addition to the lineup wouldn’t Wrenn be admitting his mistake if they traded for him now. That said who might be available for the Braves to realistically trade for that wouldn’t cause egg on face of Mr. Wrenn? Also I assume (and hope) that they’re done trading upper-tier prospects this year?

Reid Adair

June 24th, 2009
2:11 pm

You are exactly right, Jeff. The numbers alone are against the Braves – not to mention the incredibly inconsistent offense.

yellerjacket

June 24th, 2009
2:13 pm

While certainly an improvement over Kelly Johnson, Infante and Prado aren’t the final answer to put us over the lumpy hump of mediocrity and maddeningly inconsistent baseball. Even the Nationals have a four game winning streak this year. Prado needs to be the everyday 2B right now. Francouer with his seed slinging arm, low error defense, and respectable batting average against lefties needs to stay in RF. Can you imagine all the gappers that would roll all the way to the wall like last night in front of Anderson if we had him AND Dunn manning the corner OF positions?!??! McClouth would be screaming uncle in two weeks from all the sprinting he would be doing. Anderson runs like his pants are around his ankles…

Mr. Schultz, you are a chuckle inducing sports writer who knows his baseball most of the time (although the Glavine man-crush makes us all a little uncomfortable…) Although you think this season is a lost cause, you haven’t seemed to offer a solution to even contending NEXT year. How about some meaty specifics on your proposed solutions?

yellerjacket

June 24th, 2009
2:14 pm

And 86 wins will win this division outright, fewer than the wild card winner, I’m predicting.