Braves’ story: WC stands for wild card and woulda-coulda

If the Braves pull this off, even Chief Noc-A-Homa may come back.

If the Braves pull this off, even Chief Noc-A-Homa may come back.

This is the time of season when a fan sits back and thinks: “Wait a minute. You mean we could’ve made the playoffs if we just beat the Nationals, Marlins or Pirates?”

There are 10 days left in the season. As you may have noticed, the Braves are not dead again. The fingers continue to wiggle through the dirt at the grave site. Colorado blew a 3-0 lead and lost at home to San Diego, 5-4, Thursday night. The Rockies’ lead over the Braves in the wild-card race is down to 3 1/2 games.

When things get this close, you start to think of all the what-ifs. For example:

♦ What if the Braves hadn’t lost consecutive series to the Washington Nationals in April and June?

♦ What if they hadn’t been swept by Florida in April and had a better season record against the Marlins than 7-8?

♦ What if they weren’t 6-8 against the Pirates (56-95) and Diamondbacks (66-87)?

Even with the small deficit in the wild-card race, most of the numbers still work against the Braves. But let’s break it down:

WILD  STANDINGS

Team      Record GB   Schedule
Colorado  86-67  --  (3 StL, 3 Milw, 3 @LAD)
Braves    82-70  3.5 (3 @Wash, 3 Fla., 4 Wash.)
Florida   82-71  4   (3 NYM, 3 @Braves, 3 @Phi)
San Fran. 82-71  4   (3 ChiC, 3 Ariz,  @SD)
♦

♦ ELIMINATION NUMBER: 7. That means if any combination of Braves’ losses and Rockies’ wins equals seven, it’s over. The Braves have 10 games left, the Rockies nine. If the Braves go 10-0, the Rockies can still clinch the wild card by going 7-2. If the Braves go 8-2, the Rockies can still clinch by going 5-4.

♦  THE SCHEDULE: Seven of the  Braves’ last 10 games come against the Washington Nationals, a team they should sweep on paper. But it never seems to work out that way. Colorado has a seemingly difficult remaining schedule: three each against St. Louis (home), Milwaukee (home) and Los Angeles (road). However, the Rockies swept seven straight road games at St. Louis and Milwaukee in June. They’ve struggled against the Dodgers, losing 12 of 15, including five of six in L.A.

♦ THE ODDS: According to CoolStandings.com, which I blogged about last month , the Braves have a 12.4 percent chance of winning the wild card. The website, which factors in strength of schedule, computes the Rockies’ chances at 79.7 percent, the Giants’ at 4.2 and the Marlins’ at 3.4.

So are they dead or alive? Declare.

130 comments Add your comment

F-105 Thunderchief

September 25th, 2009
11:02 am

Alive. But, if they make it, it will be a pleasant surprise and maybe bring back some ‘91 spirit to the fan base.

P C

September 25th, 2009
11:03 am

Alive — barely. Let’s hope they do it.

michael b

September 25th, 2009
11:05 am

Alive…..but on life support. So if we end the season tied is there a one game playoff or is it decided by head to head record?

Michael Vick

September 25th, 2009
11:06 am

They are not dead until i throw for a touchdown. which might be a while.

MurphyRules

September 25th, 2009
11:07 am

Braves and Cardinals sweep this weekend and we have a heckuva lot of excitement in the final week of the season. Could happen, especially with Carpenter and Wainwright going in first two games for St. Louis.

Gene

September 25th, 2009
11:11 am

The Braves had plenty of stupid losses, but they are finally playing good baseball. They probably won’t win the wildcard, but they are going out with some character.

Used to be fed up with Wren, but coming around

September 25th, 2009
11:15 am

Sixth. Dead.

Bravedawg

September 25th, 2009
11:18 am

Who took a dump in your Wheaties this morning, Jeff? Geez…For every sweep loss to the Marlins there’s a sweep of the Cardinals. For every series loss to the Marlins there’s a sweep of the Phillies. It’s fun! Just appreciate that we’re in this because of an amazing run of late.

midnite

September 25th, 2009
11:18 am

Nothing like October baseball, when your team is in it. I believe. It’s a 10 game season now. “YOU CAN DO IT” (stolen from Waterboy)

PMC

September 25th, 2009
11:18 am

Remember though for most of the season their outfield was non existant at the plate. They started the season with virtually non servicable hitters at almost every position. They’ve made a ton of changes over the course of the year to improve the relatively awful team they started with in April.

Bill Heller

September 25th, 2009
11:21 am

What if Bobby Cox knew how to put together a batting order? Imagine this: DIAZ, PRADO, ESCOBAR (.388 with runners in scoring position), LaROCHE (leads team in HR), McLOUTH, McCANN (too slow for cleanup), JONES (sorry Chipper, your numbers justify this), ANDERSON, Pitcher’s spot. Although I think Bobby’s been a great manager he’s put together a loyalty-based batting order this year.

NC Braves Fan

September 25th, 2009
11:26 am

An interesting point made over on O’Brien’s blog is this – the Braves are on target for 86-91 wins. So how can we really call this season a disappointment or say the Braves have underachieved relative to expectations at the start of the year?

Looks pretty good when you consider all the problems with injuries, non-performers and other stuff that went on early this year.

I suspect the race is going to get tighter from here, and I hope the good folks in ATL will turn out when the Braves get home and cheer the team on as they try to get off the deathbed and play October baseball.

Don

September 25th, 2009
11:38 am

How can anyone doubt that Bobby Cox’s actions and lack of actions have blown far more than enough games for the Braves to be leading????

schultz is mighty smart

September 25th, 2009
11:42 am

On life support, but at least the last week will be interesting. The way the Rockies are playing, can’t win to save themselves, I put the odds of the braves sneaking in at 40%.

Mr_Ed

September 25th, 2009
11:46 am

What if the rockies finish a 1/2 game ahead……remember the blown win @ colorado befor e the all-star break

cheshire

September 25th, 2009
11:47 am

the games that hurt are the ones we repeatedly lost to last place teams obviously, but the one that still kills me the most was the 3rd game of the season in Philly when we blew something like an 8 run lead in the 8th inning. I knew the day that happened that it would come back to bite us, and lo and behold, here we are.

Mr_Ed

September 25th, 2009
11:47 am

lotta coulda wouldas this season, but interesting nevertheless

Coach (2010- Mr. overrated retires)

September 25th, 2009
11:48 am

Yea it sucks. The deepest pitching staff in ML baseball, but what are you gonna do? Bobby Cox can manage a great team into the playoffs (who can’t?) while given a good team, he will screw it up every time.

I’ll sum up 2010 right now. Playoffs (probably wild card), a quick exit out of the post season and no more Bobby Cox !!!!!!!!!!!

EB

September 25th, 2009
11:48 am

their hopes faded in the spring. the fact that they came back and made it interesting is a sign of hope for next season, though.

VaBravesfan

September 25th, 2009
11:48 am

If they hadn’t blown the game with Colorado right before the all-star break, the would be 1.5 games out.

James

September 25th, 2009
11:50 am

And yet Bobby Cox should stay, right everybody?

Enjoy missing the playoffs, tards

Red Shirt

September 25th, 2009
11:51 am

“They’re dead Jim-I mean Jeff.”

BravesFan

September 25th, 2009
11:51 am

To have any chance, the Braves have to go no less than 9-1 the rest of the way.

It’ll be tough to do that. Especially after they’ve played such good ball for the last couple weeks. They call them streaks for a reason because they all come to an end at some point.

T-Bone

September 25th, 2009
11:52 am

How can we forget going 1-5 against the Reds and Padres just a few weeks ago? Those were winnable if not downright sweepable series where the offense decided not to show.

Herschel Talker

September 25th, 2009
11:54 am

What if Bobby blown 16 games on his own? You can flush 2010 down the crapper too.

JM

September 25th, 2009
11:54 am

Schultz is spot-on. If you wanna know why the Braves are likely going to come up an inch short of making the playoffs, look at our 21-22 record against Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Washington. We simply didn’t handle our business against the weak sisters.

We have a 22-17 record against the four projected playoff teams from the NL, and that’s the shame of this team. We have the pitching to match up with and beat the big boys, but I’m afraid all those games where we played down to our competition are going to come back to haunt us.

Knuckle Sandwich

September 25th, 2009
11:54 am

Alive, I like how the schedule sets up.

Mr_Ed

September 25th, 2009
11:58 am

The braves will be back soon enough, with or without all the doubting thomas’ here

bruce

September 25th, 2009
11:58 am

I’ve got tickets to all three in Washington. Very exciting.

ColoradoDawg

September 25th, 2009
11:59 am

I live in Denver, so I see the Rockies quite often. As of late, their starting and relief pitching has been slumping. Marquis is mired in his usual 2nd-half-of-the-season slump, Aaron Cook’s arm is questionable with Tracy having to watch his innings, Jimenez is a mixed bag depending on if he walks 1 or 9 in any given game, and De La Rosa was hot before but has cooled off in his last couple of starts.

Their relief pitching has blown multiple games in the last week (including last night against SD). They are playing like the walking wounded, trying to run out the clock as they limp across the finish line into the playoffs.

If they make the playoffs, it will be a first round exit, but I think the Braves definitely have a chance to catch them. A couple of other things working in the Braves’ favor are that the Cards and Dodgers are still fighting for best record (along with the Phils), so we can expect them to put their best feet forward against the Rocks. Also, the Dodgers have absolutely OWNED the Rocks this season, and as Jeff pointed out, Colorado wraps up with a 3-game set in LA.

If the Braves can finish 8-2, I think they have a realistic chance. But will they FINALLY wake up and start beating the Nats like drums like they should have been doing all year? Can they “protect this house” against Fla.? Everything’s a moot point if they don’t.

GO BRAVOS!!

andrew

September 25th, 2009
11:59 am

it aint over til the FAT lady sings!

Ramblin Wrecker

September 25th, 2009
12:00 pm

No excuses now. The Braves play Washington, Florida and then Washington for 4 games. There is no reason why they can’t win out or win 9 of 10. If Colorado plays just above .500 (5-4) in their final 9, the Braves would be in. I don’t think 5-4 is impossible for the Rockies seeing as how 3 of those games are against the Cardinals and 3 are against the Dodgers (both better teams than Colorado). But its all on the Braves to win out or come close to it.

Smack

September 25th, 2009
12:02 pm

Gotta pull the Yogi, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” We absolutely have to play our best ball all year and finally take care of business against the Nationals.

Richard Hamilton

September 25th, 2009
12:05 pm

What if the Braves played better at home? I believe they may be the only team in the major leagues with a better road record than home record. A few more wins at home and we would be leading the wild card. We better hope the rockies struggle mightily down the stretch and we don’t play down to the competition, like we have all season.

Brian

September 25th, 2009
12:06 pm

You gotta hope the Cardinals and Dodgers don’t start to take the foot of the gas, having already been assured a playoff berth. We’ll probably need the Rockies to lose five out of those six games.

knowyourbaseball

September 25th, 2009
12:06 pm

Mr Ed,
It is impossible for the Braves to finish 1/2 game behind. We have 10 left, Colorado has 9. The 1/2 game difference right now will be gone at the end of the season.

Toots

September 25th, 2009
12:08 pm

They’re alive!! They’re alive!!! Aaaaaahhhh!

(And for what it’s worth, all the what ifs aren’t worth a hill of beans. Just like most of the opinions. Including my own.)

Brian

September 25th, 2009
12:09 pm

Ramblin Wrecker, this is exactly the kind of talk that makes life as a manager very difficult: “There is no reason why they can’t win out or win 9 of 10.”

This is not college football. This is baseball, when the very, very best teams win about 60% of the time. I know that in order to make the playoffs, winning 9 out of 10 is just about necessary. But to say there’s no reason they can’t do it is being a little demanding. It’s really, really, really hard to win 9 out of 10 in baseball.

a

September 25th, 2009
12:10 pm

T-Bone hit the nail on the head above. The reds and padres series took the wind out of the sails, for sure.

Bob Horner had a sweet compact swing

September 25th, 2009
12:17 pm

We have the pitching to pull this off…I think 8-2 will get us in a 1 game playoff at the worst…difficult, yes..but it can be done…need to win tonight..and then worry about Saturday on Saturday…

knowyourbaseball

September 25th, 2009
12:29 pm

Look back at what the Rockies did at the end of 2007! It can happen. If Boston can come back against the Yankees with 4 straight in the playoffs, then it is possible for the Braves.

Daniel

September 25th, 2009
12:32 pm

I actually believe they are alive. You think about games like Mets game where they blew the call at 3rd base. That really will come back to haunt us.

smitty

September 25th, 2009
12:32 pm

Good point TBONE and BRAVES FAN but I really don’t know what to think about the Braves at this point. I’m just going to keep my eyes on the game/score like I’ve been doing and waiting for Sundays to come and that way I wont be upset like usual if they do lose. No matter what ever stats you wanna dig up the ones that sticks out like a sore thumb is the recent series between the reds(sweep) & the last two games of the Florida series when they looked like they might sweep that series and that padres series was awful also. But I did want to see them fight back and glad to see they actually did! until the fat lady sings (she’s drinking her tea warming up) it’s not over

Eternal Optimist

September 25th, 2009
12:34 pm

Alive. Rockies go 3-6. Braves go 7-3. That makes it a tie with a 1 game playoff here in the ATL, which the Braves win and go on to sweep both the Cards and Dodgers into the World Series where they lose to the Yankees in 7, due to a Texiera homer in the bottom of the 9th.

Gary

September 25th, 2009
12:35 pm

Two what-ifs we can look back at are the first loss of the season when the Braves blew a 7 run lead and the last game before the All-Star break where we blew a lead in the late innings against the Rockies. Those two alone would put the Braves in a dead heat with Colorado right now going into the final week.

Forget the games against the Pirates or Nationals and look at those games and think what might have been had we closed the door.

Adam

September 25th, 2009
12:37 pm

What if Tommy Hanson had started the season on the roster instead of the front office trying to nickel and dime us on his contract by calling him up so late to push back his arbitration date?

Anyone can complain about managerial decisions after the fact and I don’t put a lot of stock in that kind of whining about why Bobby stuck with Kelly Johnson/Jeff Francouer for so long. But, Jo Jo Reyes and Kris Medlin started 9 games this year. Those starts should have gone to Tommy Hanson, but they didn’t purely because of money and that infuriates me as a fan.

If the Braves miss the playoffs by 1 or 2 games that Tommy Hanson could have picked up for us, that failure is on the front office.

Joe Torre

September 25th, 2009
12:39 pm

Jeff Schultz…

You sir, are an arse…

BELIEVE…

Thrasherville

September 25th, 2009
12:40 pm

If they Fat Lady isn’t singing, then has the paddles and is yelling, “CLEAR!”

Boribrave

September 25th, 2009
12:42 pm

We’re Aliiiiiiive!!! ALIIIIIIVE!!!!

Ron Roberts

September 25th, 2009
12:48 pm

Braves go 7-3, Rockies go 3-6 and we’re in. Given the way both teams have played, of late – it’s very possible.

Braves go 8-2, Rockies go 4-5, and we’re in a playoff. Given the way both teams have played, of late – it’s still somewhat possible.

Pressure’s on the younger Rockies to succeed; will they wilt under pressure? They just might.

The KEY is taking no less than 2 of 3 from the Marlins and letting the rest happen as it should. We SHOULD take 2 of 3 on the road from the Nats, and SHOULD take 3 of 4 from ‘em at home. That’s a solid 7-3 outcome. The Marlins would probably lose 2 of 3 in Philly to eliminate them.

The Rockies have the toughest grind; The Cardinals will be focused on playing good ball going into the playoffs, now, and LaRussa sees a chance to gauge his team’s strengths against a potential playoff foe. The Brewers hit well – and I hear Coors Field’s friendly to teams that can hit. And the Dodgers will host them, again, with a chance to gauge their team against a potential playoff foe, and a shot to knock their division rivals out.

My only fear is that the Nats get motivated from here on out not to make their horrible record more embarrassing – like the Detroit Tigers did before Jim Leyland took over.