Braves suddenly getting some national love over Phillies

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are two reasons some are predicting the Braves will upset Philadelphia in the National League East. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are two of the reasons why many believe the Braves will upset Philadelphia and win the National League East Division this season. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Chipper Jones made an interesting point the other day when asked about the possibility of the Braves winning the National League East over Philadelphia this season: “We’re going to have to play more consistently against teams not named Philly. Philly beats up on teams they should beat up on.”

The Braves don’t. At least they didn’t last season. They went 19-17 against Washington and Florida last season (teams that finished a combined 149-175). The Phillies were 25-11 against the Nationals and Marlins.

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That’s a difference of six games. The difference in the standings last season: six games.

The Braves open the season Thursday at Washington. I’m on record as believing they have the better team than Philadelphia (given injuries to the Phillies’ Chase Utley and Brad Lidge and the loss of Jayson Werth) and they will win the East Division.

I figured that pick was going out on a limb. Turns out that it’s not such a longshot after all.  Several media outlets suddenly seem to have turned the Braves into a fashionable pick.

Here’s a short dance around the internet:

Sports Illustrated picks the Braves over Philly. Excerpts from Jon Heyman’s analysis:

It’ll be considered an upset by all, but their starting pitching is terrific by any standard except for Philadelphia’s, they have not one but two decent closing options in Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters, and while there are defensive questions, at least at second (Dan Uggla) and third (Chipper Jones), Jones looks like he’s primed for a big finish, Brian McCann is in the best shape of his career and [Freddie] Freeman and Jason Heyward might both turn out to be megastars. … The Phillies have that fantastic pitching, good enough to justify their tag as World Series favorites. But their spring was an unmitigated disaster. Chase Utley is out indefinitely, Brad Lidge is hurting and so is Placido Polanco.

Fox Sports picks the Braves over Philly. Excerpts from long time baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby:

It would be a made-for-TV season if Gonzalez rallies the Braves to a division title in his first year on the job. Give Atlanta the edge in the NL East. [Freeman and Heyward] are the foundation for the Braves future, ready to make an impact now. The old man, third baseman Chipper Jones, is returning for another year and showed no problems from the torn ACL that cut short his 2010 season. Major offseason addition Dan Uggla will provide some life to the offense, but defense is a question. The rotation won’t get the plaudits of the Phillies, but it’s a quality quintet with the youthful arms of Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens. … Center fielder Nate McLouth has been a major disappointment. This spring, however, he has looked like the offensive catalyst the Braves need to have a contending lineup.

ESPN has a panel of 45 making predictions. Of those 29 pick Philadelphia to win the East, 16 tab the Braves. Buster Olney, ESPN’s premier national writer, picks the Braves, as he hinted a few weeks ago when we spoke in Florida. Of the other picks, 18 predict the Braves to reach as a wild card, 11 say they will miss the postseason, 12 tab them to win the pennant and two predict they’ll win the World Series. Here’s ESPN’s video preview of the East.

CBS Sports has a panel of eight experts, six going with the Phillies and two going with the Braves. Four project the Braves to win the pennant and one writer, Danny Knobler, writes that the Braves will win the World Series. (As a side note, Danny and I both are products of Ms. Fontes’ journalism class at University High School in West Los Angeles. But I don’t believe that had anything to do with his pick.)

The Sporting News picks the Phillies to win the East and go all the way to the World Series, where they’ll lost to Boston. They say the Braves will miss the playoffs all together. Frank Wren just canceled his subscription. The Sporting News gives the West to Colorado and the wild card to San Francisco. An excerpt:

This will be a battle between the Giants and Atlanta Braves, but another of the majors’ best rotations will be the deciding factor. Despite also having a deep rotation, the Braves have too many defensive questions and aren’t very deep. San Francisco has offensive issues of its own, but its offense won’t run into the Phillies’ arms as often as Atlanta’s will

Yahoo! Sports has three baseball writers making predictions. Two went with the Braves in the East, one with the Phillies. Tim Brown places the Braves fourth in his overall power rankings, behind Boston, San Francisco and the New York Yankees, and one spot ahead of Philadelphia.

I bet you didn't know Mr. R. gave financial advice, did you?

I bet you didn't know Mr. R. gave financial advice.

There are a zillion more previews to be found. But I figure if you click-and-read the links, that should more than enough to fill your free time before Thursday’s first pitch at 1:05 p.m.

Oh wait. One more thing. Here are my 100-percent guaranteed predictions, if my name isn’t Rumpelstiltskin.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Boston (East), Minnesota (Central), Oakland (West), Detroit (wild card).

NATIONAL LEAGUE: Atlanta (East), Cincinnati (Central), San Francisco (West), Philadelphia (wild card).

A.L. CHAMPION: Boston.

N.L. CHAMPION: Atlanta.

WORLD SERIES: Boston. (Sorry.)

Your turn. Let’s hear your prediction (and remember: It’s going on your permanent record.) Also have a poll up.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

80 comments Add your comment

D A DoubleU G

March 30th, 2011
10:46 pm

I am as Braves as Brave can be, true and through……

but watch us lose to the Nats tomorrow…… they own us. Then all hype will be gone.

Hope I am wrong!!!

FIRST!!!

T-Bone

March 30th, 2011
10:48 pm

First. But you don’t give kudos, like Bradley, do you?

MitchC

March 30th, 2011
10:48 pm

Jeff, as much as I’d love to see this. (All except for the Braves losing to the Red Sox, in the WS, I just think you are discounting Philly too much.

Yes, they have injuries now.. but.. that starting staff. Halliday, Hamels, Oswalt, Lee, Blanton. Four of those five guys should win 15 games each, and have a shot to win 20. I think they are the best rotation since Maddux, Glavine Smoltz Millwood, or Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz Avery, or Maddux Glavine, Smoltz Neagle, whichever you prefer.

The Phillies might be a bit short in the hitting, but Utley and Howard are still formidable.

Closer will be a problem for them early, with Lidge out for up to six weeks, but we have two new closers too.

Uggla will help us, but we know Chipper will DL somewhere along the line.

Oh, and our top two starting pitchers, Lowe and Hudson, are over 35.

I just think NL East is too sunny of a prediction. Wild Card, yes, they should get that, if healthy, but NL East? I think Philly would have to falter, badly, for us to get that.

Poobear Jenkins

March 30th, 2011
10:48 pm

It’s baseball time.Let’s go bravos. I’m thinking world series run, we have the correct conglomerate to get this done for sure.

SSA

March 30th, 2011
10:49 pm

Boston to win the world series.. I don’t blame you. An overwhelming Boston team

snake

March 30th, 2011
10:51 pm

SSA

March 30th, 2011
10:52 pm

MitchC, Philly had questions with their offense last year even when they had Utley and Werth, and now neither are healthy. There’s no way Philly runs away with the division, they are basically the 2009 Giants that didn’t make the playoffs… Lots of pitching, way too inconsistent of an offense. And our best starting pitcher is Hanson. And he isn’t anywhere close to his 30’s

Najeh Davenpoop

March 30th, 2011
11:00 pm

I think the Braves win the wild card and lose in the NLCS. Philly’s starting rotation is too good to pick against. Unless one of them gets injured, I have a hard time seeing them losing a playoff series regardless of how banged up their starting lineup is.

Poobear Jenkins

March 30th, 2011
11:03 pm

You either with the guys in that braves clubhouse or your not. Me and my people ride and die with them boys in the A, and shut the doors on those who do the one foot in, one foot out routine. Please be trill wit it. Can’t stand half steppers

evanwins

March 30th, 2011
11:04 pm

I am a Phillies fan and quite frankly, it would be great if another team was the true critics pick. These writers are ALWAYS wrong. The braves have a good team but their great players are well past their prime and their great-to-be players are still to young. Also, last year you were virtually untouched by injuries and odds are you won’t escape that this year. One more thing: how many “magic” finishes for wins did you have last year? A lot. Can you really depend on that portion of luck again? Sorry guys, not this year.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 30th, 2011
11:06 pm

“last year you were virtually untouched by injuries”

Is it already April Fools’ Day?

Randnotell

March 30th, 2011
11:08 pm

Don’t forget that the Onion’s SportsDome picked the Braves over the Phillies earlier this month.
http://www.onionsportsnetwork.com/video/the-toad-returns-to-make-his-mlb-preseason-picks,19363/

Corky Miller, Scott Thurman, and Oscar Villarreal

March 30th, 2011
11:11 pm

NOTHING CAN GO WRONG!!!!!!!

D A DoubleU G

March 30th, 2011
11:14 pm

evanwins…..

yes, we will definitely count on the magic. It’s in our DNA.

Poobear Jenkins

March 30th, 2011
11:14 pm

I would love to see Boston in the series. That would be a match-up that would garner lots of attention, considering each teams lineup. But no matter who face, getting there would rank prime minister. Let’s do this Atlanta. We got you

ken

March 30th, 2011
11:17 pm

doug glanville a career philly so his opinion is pointless n bias

Heath

March 30th, 2011
11:24 pm

“Last year you were virtually untouched by injuries.” I can’t decide which is funnier, that line or Leslie Nielsen umpiring the Angels – Mariners game in The Naked Gun.

Anyhoo:
AL: Tampa Bay, Detroit, Oakland, WC: Boston
NL: Atlanta, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, WC: Philly

WS: Atlanta-Detroit
Braves in 7.

Homer? I know I am, but what are you?

Poorbrave

March 30th, 2011
11:44 pm

I’m picking Braves to get off to a fast start..ST is over and its for real now.”Fredi and the Braves Star in Washington tomorrow………..with all-Star Cast…Go Braves”.

Wright

March 30th, 2011
11:46 pm

Braves still represent loserville and of course that means they are still the “Not ready for prime time players”.

Rhett

March 30th, 2011
11:55 pm

Virtually untouched by injuries…… except Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Nate McLouth, etc. Right, virtually untouched…

big o

March 31st, 2011
12:02 am

@Wright
Wright you are wrong !!! ( could not resist yall ) And what is this 1989 with the primetime player remark

Mitchell

March 31st, 2011
12:30 am

It clearly doesn’t matter.

It’s a Red Sox nation and we’re all just living in it. Or something like that.

Mitchell

March 31st, 2011
12:47 am

I gotta go with Wright here. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m amazed that anybody would pick the Braves to even win a playoff series let alone make it to the World Series.

I mean, I like it. It sounds good to me and it’s about time we got some love or whatever you want to call it but the Braves are still a bunch of bedwetters.

They’re just not the same team on the big stage. They can’t handle it. These people are aware that we haven’t won a playoff series in ten years right?

Even though we’re probably the better team and should win, I still gotta go with the team that has won it four years in a row.

In the central, I think you have to like the Brewers being able to compete against the Reds. Their pitching staff has gotten overhyped but they have a decent bullpen and ultimately anything other than the performance they got from their starters last year has to be considered a vast improvement.

That settles it, I’m going with the Brewers.

The Rockies are a bunch of phonies. The Giants will repeat.

The Wild Card will be either the… I was about to say the Phillies but I forgot I picked them to win the division so I guess it’s going to have to be the Braves.

I was going to say the Phillies, Marlins or Reds but why bother making predictions?

They’re always wrong. Nobody know’s what’s going to happen. That’s why they play the game.

Younger Than That Now

March 31st, 2011
1:24 am

I’ll go with what you got Schultzie… except for the WS winner, where I’m sticking with the home team! I understand that you have to be a more balanced, realist writer… but I don’t… so it’s nice rings all around and the big flag hanging at Turner Field next year!

GO BRAVES!!

Joseph

March 31st, 2011
2:27 am

Braves: 3rd in the NL East behind Philly and Florida. MARK IT DOWN!

James Adams

March 31st, 2011
2:52 am

This is the year Braves fans realize just HOW GREAT Bobby Cox really was. 4th in the East, ahead of only the Mets, and under .500.

Dr. Warren

March 31st, 2011
4:15 am

The Braves are one stiff Chipper Jones hamstring from losing him at any moment. The man is old, folks. I like the new manager and think they’ll play hard for him, but I see this year at 86 wins.

Larry

March 31st, 2011
4:50 am

Oh the optimism of starting the season today undefeated…

Now the reality…

– What will Freeman do over a full season?
– How will Prado play in LF?
– Will Chipper stay healthy?
– Will we see the Lowe of April-August, 2010 or the Lowe of Sept-Oct?
– Will Jurrjens regain his fast ball or be a mediocre starter?
– Will Hanson regain HIS great fastball or be just above average?
– Can Kimbrell really close out games consistently?
– Will Heyward make the next step offensively or is he another Tony Torasco?
– Will we get the McClouth of spring training or the McClouth of last season?
– Will Conrad catch the ball and through it to first base for an out?

My greatest optimism lies with the new Manager, Freddie Gonzalez. The extra emphasis on fundamentals and a greater sense of urgency this spring was refreshing, to say the least. And having so many players show up in the best shape of their careers is refreshing.

No one can truly predict what is going to happen to a team with so many changes from one season to the next. But I will predict this. If all–and I mean ALL–of the above questions get favorable responses then this team will be a playoff contender. On the contrary, this is also the type of team that if too many of the above questions are answered negatively this team also had the potential to win 85 games and be out of contention by early-mid September.

For sure, this is the most compelling Braves team to watch in years…now let’s play the games, shall we?

Larry

March 31st, 2011
5:11 am

James,

Please!

Bobby Cox was 1-15 (.067) in the last game of his 16 postseason opportunities afforded him by a team with one best GM’s, scouting systems, and minor league player develop systems in MLB. And, save the pitching performance of a lifetime by Glavine (one hitter) and the solo homer by Justice in game 6 of the 1995 World Series, Cox could be sporting a perfect 0-16 record at watching his opponent manager and his players celebrate on the pitcher’s mound.

1-15…think about this! You have to really be bad at postseason, in-game, situational managing to pull this off!

I’ll give him his due for righting the ship as a GM in the late 80’s, managing the youngsters in 1990 and 1991 to ignite this run, and for being an overall stable presence from February – September every season. But, long, long ago someone should have forced Bobby to hire an Offensive Coordinator to take over the decisions in October where he was routinely out-managed despite often having superior teams (1991, 1992, 1996, 1997).

Try as you may, but you cannot defend the overwhelming and convincing evidence of 1-15.

DamYankee

March 31st, 2011
6:15 am

Guess what, Larry? Bobby’s not the manager anymore. Let it go.

nauti-boy

March 31st, 2011
7:02 am

hahaha. u r both right.

Let's Go

March 31st, 2011
7:06 am

Larry
There’s no player on the Braves 40 man roster named McClouth. They do however have a starting CF named Nate McLouth.

dave

March 31st, 2011
7:32 am

Never heard of anybody “throughing” a ball to first base. I’d like to see that.

Buzz ME

March 31st, 2011
7:42 am

Yankees get Al Wild card, Texas wins Al West and Rockies start their run earlier and edge SF for West title.

BartenderBart

March 31st, 2011
8:03 am

National League:
East: Braves
Central: Reds
West: Giants
Wild Card: Phillies

American League
East: Red Sox
Central: Twins
West: Rangers
Wild Card: Yankees

World Series
Boston over Atlanta in 6 games

Surprise of the Year: Don’t be surprised if someone on this Braves rotation sneaks up and wins the Cy Young.

Obuma 2002

March 31st, 2011
8:25 am

Toppling a Brutal Dictator a ‘Dumb War’

QWDH

March 31st, 2011
8:33 am

How soon they forget. On ESPN radio this morning, some yahoo called the Phillies rotation the best in 20 years. It has not been that long since Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Neagle, Millwood, etc. were better than the current Phils’ rotation.

Stu

March 31st, 2011
8:35 am

I’m on record as believing they have the better team than Philadelphia (given injuries to the Phillies’ Chase Utley and Brad Lidge and the loss of Jayson Werth)

Yeah last year they had 6 starters including chase on the dl for at least a month, had oswalt for 3 months of the season and have cliff lee and still won 97 games but yeah the phils wont beat the braves. yeah right. idiot.

PMC

March 31st, 2011
8:40 am

meh, they got it last year too. Braves had a 7 game lead in July and lost by 6 games last year.

The Phillies ADDED Cliff Freaking Lee and Roy Oswalt.

I’m a Braves fan…I love the Braves, I think it’s going to be close. But on paper….the Braves are probably 3-5 games back at the end of 162.

PMC

March 31st, 2011
8:41 am

I think the Braves could lose the NL East and still win the NL pennant or the WS, and I also think they are a year away from being really good.

Booby

March 31st, 2011
8:46 am

chip will be out by may with an injury and won’t return til july and will get hurt again and miss the rest of the season.

Jamaaliver

March 31st, 2011
8:49 am

You really picked the Yankees to miss the Postseason altogether???? Bold!!

Viva la Bravos!!!

Rbrave

March 31st, 2011
8:52 am

Don’t know how we can be picked over the defending champs, BUT I like the underdog status, gives you extra incentive. Philly’s staff is great, but I think we have a better “team”. Like they said we have to win the games over teams we’re supposed to beat and try to win each series. Looking forward to seeing these young guys come through , I hope we’re not puting too much pressure on Hewyard, Freeman and the kid closers! Good luck go Braves !!!

blue

March 31st, 2011
9:06 am

Dr. Warren; can you tell me which 86 games the Braves will end up winning? Thanks!

AFSOC 1st Sgt

March 31st, 2011
9:07 am

Yeah, I’m digging all the love the Braves are getting. But starting this afternoon, predictions and projections mean absolutely……….jack. That’s why they play the games.

Joey

March 31st, 2011
9:09 am

Nice stat on the 6 game difference between the teams, Jeff.

I hope we are a little more aggressive on the on the bases under Fredi, than in the past.

Joey

March 31st, 2011
9:11 am

Gotta tighten up the D also . . .

JimmyK

March 31st, 2011
9:16 am

It’s cute picking the Braves. I get it. People want to be the smart guy that dug deep, looked past the Phils’ utterly ridiculous rotation, found a few flaws, and justified the Braves as level-headed pick to win the division. But I think we all know how this race ends.

Larry

March 31st, 2011
9:17 am

Larry

March 31st, 2011
9:20 am