When I did this article last Monday, The Braves were only 1.5 games behind the Mets, but FanGraphs gave New York a nearly 75% chance to win the division. After an up-and-down week from both teams, the Braves are now just one game back with 16 games left to play, and they are actually tied with the Mets in the loss column. Seems like the division is a toss-up to me, but FanGraphs doesn’t see it that way. They still give New York a 67.1% of ripping the NL East crown away from the Braves. There could be a couple of reasons for that, but frankly, that’s an absolutely absurd number, and it’s why computers don’t play the games.
The most substantial disadvantage the Braves currently have working against them is the tiebreaker. The rules have changed in Major League Baseball; there is no longer a Game 163 if two teams are tied atop the division. The tiebreaker is decided by the head-to-head series, which the Braves are currently losing to the Mets 9-7. Now, that could flip when the two teams meet at Truist Park to end September, but Atlanta would have to sweep New York for that to happen. However, the Braves do have some things working for them down the stretch.
First and foremost, the schedule advantage that the Mets have enjoyed all month has dissipated. Both teams play very similar strength of schedules to end the season. Secondly, as I mentioned above, the Braves and Mets are tied in the loss column, which is a big deal when talking about two teams that are on pace to eclipse 100 wins. It’s much easier for the Braves to reel off two more wins than hope for the Mets to lose a game. Finally, the final series between the two NL East foes takes place at Truist Park, where the Braves are 50-25 on the season, which might be the most significant advantage of it all.
Toss in the fact that the Braves have been there and done that in each of the last four seasons, and I can’t think of a reason why FanGraphs is so high on the Mets coming down the stretch. I’m sure they could give me some reasoning; I’m just here to say it makes absolutely no sense. The most optimistic Mets fan in the world wouldn’t sit here and make an argument for why they have nearly a 70% chance to win the NL East. For some odd reason, projective analytics haven’t looked favorably upon the Braves over the last five years. Thankfully, they don’t play the games, but you would think at some point they might figure it out.
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