Atlanta Braves: What is their X-Factor in the NLDS?

Aug 7, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) delivers a pitch during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) delivers a pitch during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
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Atlanta Braves
Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies will be one of his team’s X Factors against the Atlanta Braves this week. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

How do the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies matchup?

The Atlanta Braves and Phillies both play in the same division so the strength of schedule factor does not play as big of a role in determining how they would match up. The Phillies and Braves have played each other 19 times this year though. The Braves won the season series 11-8 with 12 of those games coming in the second half in which the Braves won 8.

Even though the Braves took the season series, the Phillies are a very good team. As far as offense goes, the Phillies ranked 10th in MLB in weighted runs created plus (wRC+) with a 106, which measures the ability to produce runs adjusted by ballpark and is measured against the league. For reference, the Atlanta Braves ranked 7th. In total runs scored, the Phillies scored the 7th most, with the Braves scoring the 3rd most.

It makes sense to look at the “what have you done for me lately”, because like stated above, the first half team and second half team are not created equal, not to mention that Bryce Harper — the reigning MVP — is back.

Interestingly, since the start of September the Phillies are ranked 17th in runs scored and 10th in wRC+ while the Braves are ranked 10th in runs scored and 6th in wRC+. There are factors, like who the teams faced as far as rotation arms, but given the fact that the Braves scored. Based on the Phillies wRC+ we can say that it is quite possible they have been a bit unlucky, but the Braves still have the edge here.

As far as the rotation goes, the Phillies are very good. In terms of Fangraphs‘ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), the Phillies are 2nd in all of MLB and first in the, led by the MLB leader in rotation fWAR Aaron Nola, and rounded out with Zack Wheeler, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez, and Noah Syndergaard who have an ERA+ (100 is league average) of 163, 144, 129, and 99 respectively.

The Phillies are deep too, with Zach Eflin and Baily Falter who both have above-average ERA+ at 101 and 106 respectively.

The Atlanta Braves also have an excellent rotation coming in 7th in fWAR. In the playoffs, top end starters are more important than depth. Typically teams will run a 4 man rotation in the playoffs, so let’s examine with that in mind. If Spencer Strider is able to pitch, the Braves top 4 rotation arms would be Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton with an ERA+ of 164, 127, 153, and 99 respectively.

If we look at rotation fWAR since the start of September, the Phillies and Braves have slowed down a bit. The Phillies are 8th in WAR and the Braves are 10th.

Needless to say, both rotations are very good, but the Phillies appear to have a slight edge, even if Strider is available (and he’s on the NLDS roster).

The Bullpen is arguably the biggest gap between the 2 teams. The Braves’ bullpen on the season had 2nd highest fWAR in MLB. The Phillies had the 9th highest.

Of course, fWAR is an accumulative stat, which can be a bit misleading since some bullpens are used more than others. So, looking at expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP), which does not factor in defense behind them, the Braves had the 6th best in MLB, with the Phillies being way down at 19th.

However, the bullpens change quite a bit over the season, so let’s look at the numbers since September. Since September 1st, the Braves’ bullpen has had the 3rd best xFIP, and the Phillies have had the 12th best.

Both bullpens have gotten better over the season, but it is safe to say that the Braves have the clear advantage here. However, it should be pointed out that the Phillies now have the option to use Eflin and Syndergaard out of the bullpen if needed, which could result in a better bullpen than the regular season numbers suggest.

Defense matters, and the Phillies are bad. According to Fangraphs overall defensive rating, the Phillies are ranked 25th in the league. However, the Braves are not much better at 18th. For the month of September, Atlanta has improved moving up to 13th with the Phillies getting worse at 27th.