Braves’ biggest problem may be Rockies, not Phillies (UPDATE: Jurrjens out)

Will Derrek Lee's grand slam Sunday in New York jump start the Braves to the playoffs?

Will Derrek Lee's grand slam Sunday in New York jump start the Braves to the playoffs?

(UPDATED at 3:25 p.m. below with news that rookie pitcher Brandon Beachy will replace starter Jair Jurrjens tonight.)

I’ve never really been a numbers guy, but sometimes in baseball there are numbers that can’t be avoided.

These for example: The Braves are three games back of Philadelphia in the National League East going into tonight’s series opener between the teams. They play the Phillies again in the final weekend of the season.

What do Braves have to go in final 12 to make the playoffs?

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Simple math says if the Braves don’t win at least four out of the six games against Philly, they will have to make up the minimum-three-game deficit in the other six games. That’s not likely to happen.

The Phillies have the pitching advantage in every game in this series: Cole Hamels (3-0, 0.44 in his last five starts) vs. Jair Jurrjens (11 earned runs, 19 hits in his last two) tonight; Roy Halladay vs. Mike Minor Tuesday and Roy Oswalt vs. Tommy Hanson Wednesday.

(UPDATE: The Braves just announced prospect Brandon Beachy will make his major league debut tonight in place of Jurrjens, who has a sore knee. This probably isn’t the way they wanted to go into this series. It means the Braves will be starting rookies on back to back nights: Beachy and Minor.)

Feeling confident?

The Braves are still in decent shape in the wild card race, with leads of 2 1/2 games over San Diego and 3 1/2 over Colorado. But the team they need to worry about the most may be the Rockies.

Below, I’ve listed the standings at the top of the National League East and West Divisions, as well as the wild card race. I’ve also listed the remaining schedule for each of the five teams involved, as well as what each team has done against their remaining opponents this season. Those five teams are listed in order of winning percentage against the opponents.

Finally, I’ve listed how each potential postseason team has fared of late. This is where the Phillies and Rockies really stand out. Even the Braves’ three-game sweep of the New York Mets over the weekend didn’t change the picture much.

Take a look:

East    W-L    GB
Phillies 89-61 —
Braves 86-64  3

West    W-L   GB
Giants  84-66 –
Padres 83-66  ½
Rockies 82-67 1 ½
Wild card      GB
Braves  86-64  —
Padres  83-66 2 ½
Rockies 82-67 3 ½
Remaining schedules
Phillies (12): 3 vs. Braves, 3 vs. Mets, 3 at Nationals, 3 at Braves.
Braves (12): 3 at Phillies, 3 at Nationals, 3 vs. Marlins, 3 vs. Phillies.
Giants (12): 3 at Cubs, 3 at Rockies, 3 vs. Diamondbacks, 3 vs. Padres.
Padres (13): 3 at Dodgers, 3 vs. Reds, 4 vs. Cubs, 3 at Giants.
Rockies (13): 3 at Diamondbacks, 3 vs. Giants, 3 vs. Dodgers, 4 at Cardinals.
Record vs. remaining opponents
Padres: vs. Dodgers (8-7), Reds (2-1), Cubs (4-0), Giants (10-5). Total: 24-13 (.649)
Rockies: vs. Diamondbacks (9-6). Giants (8-7), Dodgers (7-7), Cardinals (9-6). Total: 33-26 (.559)
Braves: vs. Phillies (7-5), Nationals (7-8), Marlins (8-7), Phillies (7-5). Total: 29-25 (.537)
Giants: vs. Cubs  (3-1), Rockies (7-8), Diamondbacks (10-5), Padres (5-10). Total: 25-24 (.510)
Phillies: vs. Braves (5-7), Mets (8-7), Nationals (9-5), Braves (5-7). Total: 27-26 (.509)
September
Phillies: 15-3
Rockies: 13-5
Giants: 11-6
Braves: 9-9
Padres: 7-11
Last 30 games
Rockies: 21-9
Phillies: 20-10
Giants: 16-14
Braves: 15-15
Padres: 12-18


Bottom line: I think the Braves need to go at least 9-3 to make it to the postseason, if Colorado continues to play near this pace. The other wild card (no pun intended) is what happens if the Rockies win the West. The Braves would be battling the Giants and Padres for the last playoff spot.

So what do you think of the Braves’ chances? I’ve also put up a poll asking the question: How many games of the remaining 12 do the Braves need to win to make the playoffs?

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Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

248 comments Add your comment

mrcliff

September 20th, 2010
9:14 am

I’m certainly glad the Braves are taking a three game sweep momentum into the Philly series. I hope Bobby is preparing them that this is their series to make or break, and that every pitch counts.

kaminari

September 20th, 2010
9:15 am

WE are in control of our own destiny. I predict we will go 9 & 3. I’m hoping for 12 & O though. Go BRAVES!!

ideaman

September 20th, 2010
9:18 am

Braves win 4 of 6 games with Pjillies, then all of thje rest to win the division byh one game on Bobby Cox’ last home game. Heard it here first.

If I weren’t a fan of the Braves, then I’d be more pessimistic, but that’s the beauty of being a fan” Believing in your team.

mrcliff

September 20th, 2010
9:21 am

Fans, I believe the magic is back. Lee finally comes to life and jacks a g-slammer, even McLouth is back on track. Plus the bench is stocked with potential too.

Turnbull

September 20th, 2010
9:22 am

9-3 for Braves means that they’ll be tied with Rockies for WC IF the Rockies go 13-0!! Bit of a stretch, don’t you think? If Rockies go 11-2, then 7-5 gets the tie. Rockies are dangerous, but 9-3 isn’t a must. I say 7-5 gets it done. That still isn’t going to be easy. If we take 2 from Nats and 2 from Marlins, then we’ll still need to go 3-3 vs. Phils.

A Raider

September 20th, 2010
9:25 am

Just Win, Baby!!!!!!!

mrcliff

September 20th, 2010
9:28 am

I believe the Braves will take two out of three from the Phillies. I’ve just got a good feeling about this. I’m so glad I have tickets for the other Phillies showdown on October 1. Thanks Home Depot!!!

VaBravesfan

September 20th, 2010
9:33 am

Logic tells you nobody is going to win all their games. The Braves need to win about 8 of their 12 and hope the Rockies, Giants and Dodgers beat each other up.

VaBravesfan

September 20th, 2010
9:34 am

I meant Padres

J. Ryder

September 20th, 2010
9:34 am

The Braves will make the Wild Card while the Rockies win the division. Philly wins two of three in this series this week, and Atlanta will recover to win their remaining matchups the rest of the year.

Ron E.

September 20th, 2010
9:34 am

The Braves have more of a problem from a team that trails them by 3.5 games than a team that plays them 6 more times? Sorry. I’m not buying that.

Erik

September 20th, 2010
9:35 am

12-0! BELIEVE…GO BRAVES!!

Alaska Dawg

September 20th, 2010
9:37 am

I am thinking 7-5 will get us in. Kaminari and Eric lay off the Braves Kool-AId. 12-0 is not going to happen.

steve brown

September 20th, 2010
9:38 am

Nuts. The Braves can go 7-5 and get the wild card! Book it!

Tucker T

September 20th, 2010
9:38 am

I agree Jeff. I was very happy to see Colorado lose last night. You are wrong about one thingh though. The sweep of the Mets did help the Braves. They increased their overall wildcard lead from .5 games to 2.5 games.

7-5...

September 20th, 2010
9:39 am

Philly in Philly 1-2
Nats 2-1
Fla 2-1
Philly in Atlanta 2-1

7-5. That might do it, but maybe not. The Div champ is not a realistic goal as of now.

As Raider says, Just Win Baby and all will be fine.

Paul

September 20th, 2010
9:40 am

Notice how the phillies set up their rotation a few days ago to make sure their top 3 all faced the Braves. Good thing Jeff is if they can clinch home field, Charlie will rest some guys for that final 3 game series.

7-5...

September 20th, 2010
9:41 am

Hey, I heard that if JJ can’ t go tonight, Kawakami will be pitching…..

Just kidding. That would be ugly against that lineup.

Tucker T

September 20th, 2010
9:43 am

Jeff

Can you breakdown who will play who in the playoffs depending on who gets in? For example, if the Braves win the wildcard and the Padres win the West, who do the Braves play in the first round. I would much rather play the Reds or the Padres than the Rockies or the Phils.

Steven

September 20th, 2010
9:49 am

The rockies are done. The loss yesterday killed them. They were up big and then lost in 11. Giants will win the West. Braves or Padres will win the wild card. Braves will win it unless they start losing again. Just don’t get swept in philly is all that’s needed.

mountain_jim

September 20th, 2010
9:50 am

I hated that 9th inning comeback yesterday at Philthy… A loss there could have been huge for this series and Braves chances.

Barry

September 20th, 2010
9:51 am

Braves can’t play the phillies first round. That’s basic baseball knowledge 101. You can’t play a team in the first round from the same division

Knuckle Sandwich

September 20th, 2010
9:56 am

START HUDSON ON SHORT REST! There is no excuse to start Minor in this series.

Joey

September 20th, 2010
9:59 am

Braves have no one to blame but themselves for the situation they find themselves in at this point. Hindsight being what it is, if they had beaten the teams (Pirates and Nationals) that they SHOULD beat in the past few weeks they would be in much better shape. You can’t lose 4 out of 6 to the two cellar dwellers in the NL and expect to be in any better shape than they are now. They have to play lights out from here on out and I just don’t know if they can, especially with the Marlins and Nationals still to play and the inexplicable trouble that they have with both teams. They could easily lose 4 of 6 to those teams. Then what?

Barry

September 20th, 2010
10:01 am

Phillies have had two ridic comebacks recently. Yesterday and that come back against the dodgers a few weeks back. Add in the braves collapse in colorado and they would be tied.

Herschel Talker

September 20th, 2010
10:01 am

Schultzie:

For sure this is the case. The Braves aren’t catching the Phillies. But the wild card is there for the taking if the Pads, Giants, and Rockies can take each other out.

HT

Joey

September 20th, 2010
10:01 am

Why couldn’t we close out the season with a 12 game series against the Mets?

John

September 20th, 2010
10:03 am

All season and for the past 4-5 years the braves play well against the mets and then do so so against the other divisional teams. So it’s critical they don’t get swept again. Even losing 2/3 against the phillies isn’t that bad. They would still have the wild card lead no matter what happens. But they need to get 2/3 against the marlins and nats.

Bob Horner

September 20th, 2010
10:06 am

We need to go 8-4…and we need the Cardinals to play hard on the last 4 games series against the Rockies….

Tucker T

September 20th, 2010
10:06 am

Barry

Why don’t you break the rest down for me since you are such an expert. Douche.

OBX Dawg

September 20th, 2010
10:12 am

Come on guys! Philly starts Hammels, Halladay, and Oswalt. The 3 hottest pitchers throwing right now. And we counter with an ailing JJ, Minor, and Hansen. We will be lucky to get 1!!!!!
fast forward to next weekend’s series. Philly’s rotation sets up for the same 3. Are you kidding? We will be fortunate to get 2 of 6. Unless the Phillies reset their rotation for the playoffs next weekend.
Best case scenarionhas us splitting with the Phillies and taking 2 of 3 vs Nats and Fla. With that 7 and 5 would be a break. Probably enough though

skaters are haters

September 20th, 2010
10:15 am

what are you thinking schultz??? you’re predicting the braves must go 9-3. so, in retrospect, you believe that the giants/padres/rockies will all go 12-0???

the braves have a 2 game lead on sf, 2 1/2 game lead on sd, and 3 1/2 game lead on col. the giants and padres play each other in the last 12. it’s 100% unnecessary for the braves to have to go 9-3. some basic math before your articles would be of great benefit.

as for my prediction as to a safe record…..7-5. that would equate to 10-5 in final 15, which is what majority have predicted as needed to assure the braves of making the playoffs.

expect better from you.

dap01

September 20th, 2010
10:20 am

If the Braves win 6 out of the remaining twelve (very likely) and the Rockies win 2 out of every 3 (win eight games, which is not likely) we would still have a one game lead at the end of the year.

I don’t see the need for panic yet.

sportsmandh

September 20th, 2010
10:21 am

Jeff,
Have you considered. The Pads are stuttering more than the Braves lately. I don’t think they’re a threat. That leaves the Giants and Rockies as teh threats. Have you considered maybe the Rockies overtake the Giants and not the Braves for the wild card? I say if the Braves go 7-5, very doable, they are in.

Also, the Phils and Rockies are bound to cool off at some point. I’d rather them be white hot right now than in two weeks when the Braves may face one of them in the playoffs.

kaminari

September 20th, 2010
10:25 am

We just won three straight, and I know it was a deflated & tired Mets team, but hey they were playing for pride & we still whipped them. I think the bats are starting to heat up. That means the pitchers don’t have to go out there & stress that if they give up two or three early it’s over. They can relax & give us better pitching. Plus we see H20 twice. If we can take one of the games in Philly it gives us confidence & two games is just a bonus. Three is dreaming & I’m off the Kool-Aid, but it could happen. I just hope Bradley doesn’t predict a sweep cause we’re doomed for sure.

Jeff Schultz

September 20th, 2010
10:25 am

Tucker — Generally wild card team plays the division winner with the best record, but I think the rule still is that if the wild card (say Braves) and the the with the best record (say Phillies) are in the same division, then the wild card plays the team with the second best record. Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong.

Jeff Schultz

September 20th, 2010
10:26 am

Joey – Because every team would want to close with a 12-game series against the Mets.

JJ

September 20th, 2010
10:27 am

So let me get this straight Jeff….you think the Rockies are going to win out? That’s what it looks like to me…..because if the Braves go 9-3 to finish, the Rockies can’t afford to lose another game or they are O-U-T. Sorry, not following your math. Maybe you ran out of coffee and forgot to pick some up before this morning.

7-5 probably will get it done for Atlanta. Padres would need to go 10-3 to finish just to tie, and Rockies would need to go 11-2.

Jeff Schultz

September 20th, 2010
10:31 am

Skaters — I was looking at Colorado, and, given their tendency to go unconscious (in a good way) down the stretch it wouldn’t surprise me if they went 12-1 or 11-2 down in their final 13. Does that math work for you big guy? But 8-4 could do it.

Oregon Brave

September 20th, 2010
10:31 am

With my rose colored glasses squarely in place, I see the Braves winning 10 games with Chipper’s inspirationals motivating the team. However, when I remove the glasses I see the “tank” that the Braves drive so well while winning only 5 of the final 12. The next two weeks could be fun. Go Braves.

Ted Striker

September 20th, 2010
10:31 am

That’s a lot of research. Take the rest of the day off.

The Philadelphia Phillies...

September 20th, 2010
10:32 am

are just better than the braves.

Jeff Schultz

September 20th, 2010
10:32 am

Sportsmandh — No question, Padres are heading south of late — the slumpiest (that should be a word) of the 5 teams.

mrcliff

September 20th, 2010
10:33 am

Jeff, I have a question that I sent in to ‘ask your question’ to the announcers and they’ll answer it during the game but don’t really know if they answered it because I can’t watch every game. The manager of the winning NL and AL teams are coaches for the All Star game the following year. Who coaches the team if a coach retires at the end of the season?

Brian

September 20th, 2010
10:36 am

Should be a fun series, fun to watch the Braves slink out of town 6 games back.

The Philadelphia Phillies...

September 20th, 2010
10:37 am

will crush any hope you had of winning the series.

The Philadelphia Phillies...

September 20th, 2010
10:38 am

will crush any hope you had of winning the division.

The Philadelphia Phillies...

September 20th, 2010
10:38 am

and will crush any hope you had of winning the Wild Card.

The Philadelphia Phillies...

September 20th, 2010
10:39 am

will basically crush and demoralize you, starting tonight.

JJ

September 20th, 2010
10:43 am

Jeff – if the Braves go 9-3, then the Rockies have to win out. That’s what you said in your blog.

Let me go out on a limb for you here – the Rockies WILL NOT win every game the rest of the regular season. They may go 10-3, which would be very good. In that scenario, the Braves must then go 5-7 for the Rockies to make the postseason without a one game playoff. If that happens we won’t be talking about how great the Rockies are, we’ll be talking about the massive choke job the Braves just dropped on the city of Atlanta.

Point being, if the Braves just play better than .500, somebody else is going to have to rip off a torrid closing 2 weeks to beat them outright. Not to say it won’t happen, but time is on the Braves side. There are probably not enough games left.