3 areas of focus for the Braves ahead of the playoffs

MLB: OCT 10 NL Division Series Braves Practice

The Braves were the first team in baseball to clinch their division. It’s Atlanta’s sixth-straight NL East title, which was a poetic one that came in Philadelphia after the Phillies ousted the club from the postseason last year.

Atlanta has dominated its division for the past six years, but it’s been decades of dominance. It’s the Braves’ 23rd divisional title since the divisional era began, three more than any other team over that span.

Moreover, since 1994 when Atlanta joined the NL East, the club has won 18 titles, which is 13 more than the Phillies, who have the second most over that span. If you do some quick math, those six straight division titles are now more than any other NL East team has ever won since the Braves joined the division.

It’s been utter domination, but the Braves aren’t satisfied. The NL East is the first step, but the ultimate goal from here on out is raising the Commissioner’s Trophy. It’s World Series or bust for Atlanta.

After locking up the division with 16 games left to go, what’s left for the Braves to do? Well, let’s dissect where their focus needs to be.

What does the bullpen look like?

As Chase wrote about it yesterday, Alex Anthopoulos has some things to figure out with his relief core. Across most metrics, the Braves bullpen has been among the best in baseball. However, if there’s one area of concern, it’s this facet of the club.

Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Joe Jimenez, and Pierce Johnson have mostly been rock solid for the ‘pen, but after them, I get less confident. Michael Tonkin has done nothing but shove this season and could be another AA diamond in the rough, but I don’t have a lot of faith in him. Kirby Yates is in the same conversation as Tonkin in terms of production and trust. I admit that it doesn’t make much sense.

Both are surely set to make the postseason roster, but it gets questionable after that. With Dylan Lee on the injured list and his recent performance against the Phillies, Brad Hand punched his ticket to the playoff roster. Jesse Chavez just finished his second rehab assignment, striking out the side on 15 pitches, 12 of which were strikes. He’s also an option.

Then, there’s the wild card of Kyle Wright, who returned to the major league club after months of nursing a shoulder injury. He looked rusty against the Phillies, but that’s to be expected after missing so much time and facing a talented Philadelphia lineup. He’s surely in the mix for a spot in the bullpen.

The Braves will have to figure out how this shakes out over the next few weeks.

Sean Murphy & Travis d’Arnaud postseason split?

This is one that not many are talking about. Travis d’Arnaud has played a lot recently. For much of the season, Sean Murphy has taken a majority of the starts behind the dish. Down the stretch, the Braves will have to figure out their catcher rotation in October.

To me, it seems rather obvious. Murphy isn’t only the best defensive catcher in Atlanta, but he’s among the best in baseball. Murphy should garner most, if not all of the postseason starts. However, where does that leave the veteran?

d’Arnaud is an invaluable member of this team, but his spot isn’t obvious. He’s not a better defender than Murphy, and you can’t have him DH over Marcell Ozuna, given that the Big Bear is among the best designated hitters in the entire league.

I’m not sure what Brian Snitker will do, but it should be Murphy starting every postseason contest.

Kyle Wright???

Kyle Wright deserves a section of his own because it could go either way.

Best case scenario: Wright proves he’s the guy from 2022 who led baseball in wins and got Cy Young recognition. At that point, he’s likely getting starts in the postseason.

Worst case scenario: Outside of another injury, Wright can’t quite shake the rust and is left off the postseason roster altogether.

However, like most things in life, it’ll be something in the middle. Over the next 16 games, Wright will likely prove enough to be used as a weapon out of the bullpen.

Other than Michael Tonkin, the Braves don’t have a reliever that can go multiple innings, which is necessary in playoff baseball. Kyle Wright could potentially assume this role, but the club will have to figure it out down the stretch.

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire


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