Phillies-Braves NLDS Preview: Hello, Old Friend

There is till no word on whether <a rel=
There is till no word on whether Ozzie Albies will be back for Atlanta in the Phillies-Braves series. Questions surround what Atlanta does at second base if Albies remains out AP Photo, Charlie Riedel

Phillies-Braves NLDS Series; How Healthy Is Atlanta?

The Phillies-Braves NLDS series pits the NL East rivals against each other for the first time since 1993. Atlanta injury concerns may determine the outcome of their series against Philadelphia, and how far they go in the playoffs. The Braves need both Ozzie Albies and Spencer Strider to help defend their World Series title.

Without Strider Jake Odorizzi likely starts game four for Atlanta. Strider threw off flat ground a few days ago but there has been no update on his condition since then. The team still waits to see how he looks throwing off a mound. Albies looks to be out for the NLDS with a broken finger. Orlando Arcia replaces him at second base, with rookie Vaughn Grissom coming off the bench to pinch hit for him. Atlanta will miss Albies defense more than anything. He has more range, and a stronger, more accurate arm, than either Grissom or Arcia.

Kirby Yates may also return from an elbow injury. Atlanta’s bullpen is deep enough that it can overcome his injury more easily than Albies or Strider.

Bullpen Atlanta’s Biggest Advantage Against Philadelphia

The Braves bullpen helped chase down the Mets after trailing New York by 10.5 games June 1. It took a total team effort to win the NL East, but Kenley Jansen‘s improvement down the stretch makes Atlanta’s relievers the biggest advantage the team has over Philadelphia.

As I mentioned in the last Fantoms on the Mound podcast, Philadelphia’s bullpen ranked 23rd in ERA this season. The Braves finished fourth. Yes, the Phillies relievers were better against the Cardinals but they also gave up the only three runs St Louis scored. Atlanta’s deeper line up presents a greater challenge to Philadelphia’s relievers.

How Big Of An Issue Will Atlanta’s Hitters Strikeouts Be?

The other issue the Braves face in trying to repeat is their hitters high strikeout rate. Only Angels hitters struck out more than Atlanta’s. Despite that fact the team finished second in runs scored and OPS, behind the Dodgers. They finished second in home runs to the Yankees.

Atlanta 3B <a rel=
Atlanta 3B Austin Riley represents the best, and worst, of the teams hitters. He has plenty of power but also strikes out often as well. Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The question is how much more of a problem the Braves failure to consistently put the ball play will hurt them. The Phillies rallied for six runs in the ninth against St Louis by putting the ball in play. Atlanta must find a balance between hitting home runs and manufacturing runs by getting hitters over and linking hits together.

Bottom Line For Phillies-Braves

Winning fourteen more games than your opponent and having better stats means nothing in the playoffs. It makes the Braves the “better team,” but three road teams won Wild Card series this weekend, including the Phillies. It feels as if Atlanta should advance to the NLCS, but Atlanta was in the same position as Philadelphia last year and the Braves shocked everyone and won the World Series.

Atlanta can overcome its injuries as long as Strider can contribute something this series and beyond. If he can then Atlanta has a big advantage in starter depth, along with their deeper lineup and bullpen. If he cannot then this series is a little more even. For now I will not predict a number of games, because I stink at predictions, but the edge clearly is to Atlanta in this series. Philadelphia will have to find some magic from their Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, or Eddie Rosario to advance.

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