The Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers face off in the NLDS beginning on Friday. Much has been made (rightfully so) of the pitching prowess and matchups, but oftentimes, playoff games are won by the offense. So, I want to dive into each position and see who holds the upper hand for this best-of-five series.
Starting with the men calling the games behind the plate, both teams feel good about who they have in the catcher’s spot. The Braves’ Travis d’Arnaud only played in 60 games this year after missing most of the season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He ended the year batting .220 with seven home runs. Meanwhile, the Brewers’ Omar Narvaez batted .266 with 11 homers over the course of the season. D’Arnaud packs a punch in his swing but has seemingly not regained his 2020 form, while Narvaez was selected as an All-Star earlier this year.
Advantage: Brewers in a close one
The Braves have the reigning NL MVP and best first baseman in baseball, Freddie Freeman, batting .300 with 31 homers. The Brewers, on the other hand, will split duties between Daniel Vogelbach and Rowdy Tellez. There is no question who the best player at first base, and probably overall, will be in this series.
Ozzie Albies ended up third in the National League in RBI with 106, all while batting .259 with 30 home runs. Those 30 homers put him second in the NL behind Javy Baez’s 31. Kolten Wong, in his first year with the Brewers, ended the season batting .272 with a career-high 14 home runs. Both second basemen produced solid numbers for their teams, but Ozzie’s numbers obviously pop a little bit more, thanks to his incredible power for his size.
Dansby Swanson was the usual Dansby Swanson this year — some really high highs and some really low lows. After starting the year very poorly, he got hot in July and August before cooling off in September, ending the season with a .248 batting average and 27 homers on the side. Willy Adames has been one of the driving forces of the Brewers’ offense since being traded from the Rays, batting .262 with 25 homers. He missed about 40 games this year, but his consistency and power give him an edge over the roller coaster that is Dansby Swanson. Keep in mind though, a hot Dansby could very easily swing this into his favor in the NLDS.
Austin Riley, the last piece of Atlanta’s vaunted infield, is a substantial reason the Braves are even in this position. The MVP candidate blasted 33 homers to go along with a .303 average and kept the team afloat for many stretches throughout the season with his superb hitting. The Brewers traded for Eduardo Escobar, who has been solid throughout the season as well, hitting .253 with 28 bombs. While that line is nothing to scoff at, it’s very clear that Austin Riley is the second-best hitter in this series.
While Atlanta’s outfield has many changing pieces, the most likely starter in left field is Eddie Rosario. Acquired from the Indians while on the IL, Rosario has raked in 33 games since taking over LF duties in August, posting a .271 batting average, seven homers, and .903 OPS (!!). Even I didn’t realize his OPS was that high since joining the Braves. Former MVP Christian Yelich patrols left field for Milwaukee, but he just hasn’t been the same since 2019. He ended this year with a .248/9 homers line, leaving everyone wondering what has happened to the Yelich of old. While Yelich is the recognizable player and has pedigree that Rosario doesn’t, the left field superiority leans away from him in this series.
Guillermo Heredia started over 100 games in center field for the Braves, but it’s NL RBI leader Adam Duvall who will most likely get the starts here in the postseason. Duvall did nothing but mash 38 home runs this season and hit .326 with runners in scoring position, all but making up for his low .228 batting average. The Brewers have Lorenzo Cain roaming center, who only played in 78 games due to injuries. He finished with a .257 average and eight home runs, hitting well below what he was capable of in Kansas City and his first year in Milwaukee. Again, the pedigree of Cain makes this closer than it really is, but Duvall’s gigantic power advantage puts him over the top in a postseason that will most likely be decided by home runs.
The Brewers have unheralded Avisail Garcia and Tyrone Taylor. These two will split time based on matchups, and their level of production has been both a surprise and a bright spot in the outfield. The Braves traded for Jorge Soler, who has filled in admirably for Ronald Acuña Jr., smacking 14 homers with a .269 average in 55 games since being traded from the Royals. While potentially a liability in the field, he has been a critical part in the Braves surging to their fourth straight NL East crown.
The Braves have a clear advantage at most spots in the lineup. The Brewers have been weak offensively since the All-Star Break. Underperforming former stars, coupled with players who just lack the offensive skills, don’t paint a picture of offensive success in the postseason. The Braves, on the other hand, go eight deep in players who could go yard at any time and have the clear two best hitters in this series. In the playoffs, when facing elite pitchers every day, that ability is huge, which is why they have the advantage offensively in this series.