Question 5: Projecting the bottom line
5) How do you see 2022 shaking out for this team? What’s your expectation of where they finish?
We’re still waiting to see how things are going to shake out with the rest of the NL East clubs, but I am optimistic about the Braves’ chances to not only compete well, but also to have a chance at repeating as champions in 2022.
The Mets have clearly done a lot to upgrade and are likely the main threat to that (in the East), but at the same time, they lost some offense and are counting on both bounce-back players (Cano, Lindor) and pitchers (Scherzer, deGrom) to carry them.
The latter pair continues to be a health risk… and their team’s history hasn’t been good in that regard.
The Phillies will pitch and slug, but can’t catch the ball. The Nats are in limbo and the Marlins can’t spend enough to get free agents interested, despite having excellent young pitching.
Right now, I’d order the East as Braves / Mets / Phillies / Marlins / Nats.
Atlanta’s lineup is going to provide few places for pitchers to go to find outs and literally every position carries a 25+ homer bat.
The weakest spot for the Braves will be their 4th/5th rotation spots, but Atlanta will do what they have often done there: rotate guys in from AAA until someone proves they have earned the right to stick in the spot.
With 6-8 candidates for those roles, something will work… or the team will outslug the opposition.
Outfield defense will be iffy at times unless both Acuna and Duvall are on the field at the same time. But this team will definitely pound the baseball. The bench is solid with the addition of LHH Rosario. Outfield patrons should stay on alert throughout every game.
Overall: this feels like a 90-92 win team given the competition (and Atlanta has to face the AL West in interleague play). Also feels like the Dodgers (once again) will be the biggest competition for them in the NL.
Additional comments not supplied to Shoptaw: let’s talk more about the Dodgers. The euphoria over landing Freeman is overblown and ignores that they lost Corey Seager. It also ignores that their pitching is as shaky as I’ve seen for any Dodger team since … a while.
If you doubt what I’m seeing, try searching “best lineup ever” on twitter… it’s nauseating.
Since 2010, the Dodgers had a team ERA under 3.50 on nine occasions. Only once did that exceed 4.00 (at 4.01). The Braves held ERA under 3.50 only 4 times (with 5 instances well above 4.00).
This could be the year that pitching undoes that club. The Braves also know that they can go toe-to-toe with them.
It may still come down to this pair of teams in the 2022 NLCS, but at full strength, this Atlanta Braves team is built to win again.