Braves could benefit from a shortened season

Braves pitchers who are due for positive regression

Major League Baseball recently released a plan — that has been approved by federal health officials — to start training camp back up at the beginning of May with games resuming not too long after. All teams will be playing in the Phoenix area with no fans to start until the spread of the Coronavirus halts, and things begin to return to normal. It’s far from a perfect solution, but it’s one that guarantees a season and gets baseball back the fastest, which is all we can ask for at this point. 

There is no telling if the league is going to be able to pull this off. As you can imagine, there’s a multitude of hoops to jump through. But if they can, the season probably won’t be much shorter than 162 games. There will be some more doubleheaders and a few less off days, but I’d expect them to at least play 140 games — if not more. Still, with more games in a less amount of days, the deepest teams will be the ones that benefit, and few organizations have as much depth as the Braves, especially as far as pitching is concerned. 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote how a shortened season is not great news for the Braves, explaining how Atlanta’s playoff odds go down — according to FanGraphs — with the fewer amount of games that are played. I received a decent amount of backlash, and understandably so. That article was purely about parity. The fewer games played, the more likely a team like the Marlins can stay in the hunt and make a push for a playoff spot. There is no disputing that. However, if there is a team built for a condensed schedule with more games in fewer days, it is the Braves. 

Whenever the season does begin, teams are going to roll out six-man rotations for the first month or so. Unlike most organizations, this plays out perfectly for the Braves, who have at least six deserving starting arms that should make the roster. Cole Hamels will be back to full strength by the time the season arrives, giving Atlanta a pretty deadly top four of Soroka, Fried, Foltynewicz, and Hamels. But the Braves also have Sean Newcomb, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Wright to choose from — all of whom looked fantastic in Spring Training. Brian Snitker could pick two of those guys to round out perhaps the deadliest six-man rotation in the league and use the other as a long-relief option, which will be necessary with so many games on top of each other. Keep in mind; rosters are supposed to be expanded to 29 players for at least the first month of the season, so the Braves will have the luxury of keeping all of these guys. This time can also serve as an extended Spring Training of sorts, allowing the most deserving starters to earn their spots. 

That is not all; however, Alex Anthopoulos went out at last year’s trade deadline and acquired three arms in Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene. All of them remain on the roster for 2020, which would have already given the Braves a daunting bullpen unit. But Anthopoulos didn’t stop there. He doubled down on his investment by signing Will Smith — the best reliever on the market — to a three-year deal this offseason and also brought back Darren O’Day. Throw in the guys that stepped up last season to save the Braves’ ass, like Luke Jackson and Jacob Webb, and Atlanta’s bullpen is as good as they come. Not to mention, the Braves also have a crop of young arms like Touki Toussaint and Patrick Weigel that can contribute at a moment’s notice. And God forbid if one of the 2019 flops — A.J Minter or Chad Sobotka — were to have a bounce-back 2020. 

When the Braves began this rebuild six years ago, the focus was on stockpiling pitching in hopes they could develop a historic rotation as they did in the 90s. To this point, that hasn’t come to fruition, with only Mike Soroka and Max Fried panning out as they envisioned. But they still have a boatload of talent on the cusp of a breakthrough, giving them much more pitching depth than just about any other organization in baseball. The Braves are well-equipped for this moment, and it doesn’t hurt that they should tote one of the best offenses in the National League once again. 

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