Yesterday, I came up with my bold predictions for the season. Now, it’s time for me to take a stab at how the Braves 2021 campaign will shape up. The goal this year is simple: It’s World Series or bust in Atlanta. The Dodgers may be the favorites — as they should be — but there isn’t a soul in the Braves clubhouse that doesn’t believe they can handle the Boys in Blue after what happened in 2020.
However, Atlanta’s competition doesn’t lie solely out West. A few teams within their own division believe they can dethrone the back-to-back-to-back NL East champs. The Mets were the busiest team in baseball this offseason, making a blockbuster deal with the Indians for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco while also adding James McCann, Trevor May, Taijuan Walker, and bringing back Marcus Stroman.
The Washington Nationals are also looking to bounce back from a rough 2020 that included many injuries, and they have every right to believe they can do something special. The last time they were healthy, they won the World Series. You also can’t completely count out the Phillies or Marlins. Miami made it to the NLDS last season before the Braves trounced them, and Philadelphia — despite their underwhelming performances in recent years — still has a lot of talent on their roster.
The NL East is set to be the most competitive division in baseball, but make no mistake, it is still the Braves to lose. Here’s how I think things shake out in 2021.
NL East Standings
- Braves (95-67)
- Mets (92-70) (WC-2)
- Nationals (88-74)
- Phillies (78-84)
- Marlins (69-93)
C’mon, you didn’t really think I was going to have anyone but the Braves take home the division crown, did you? Until someone takes it from Atlanta, I will not stop picking them. However, I will say that the Mets appear to have the best chance to give the Braves a run for their money in quite some time. I love the moves they made, and they have put together one of the most complete rosters in baseball. With that being said, the Braves have shown time and time again how well they can perform over a 162-game season. This group just wins baseball games, and this is the best roster they have had in the last four years.
I still have the Mets making the Wild Card game as the second Wild Card behind the Padres, who will finish well behind the Dodgers out west (sorry, San Diego fans). That sets up an incredible one-game playoff for the right to play Los Angeles in the NLDS. And I have the Mets winning, given they will be sending out the best pitcher in baseball, Jacob DeGrom, who will completely silence a potent Padres lineup. Here’s how the NLDS will look:
- Dodgers vs. 4. Mets
- Braves vs. 3. Cardinals
The Braves luck out by locking up the #2 seed, which allows them to avoid playing the Mets or Padres in the NLDS. The Dodgers will have their hands full with either of those teams. Meanwhile, Atlanta gets to face the NL Central winner, which is undoubtedly the worst division in baseball. I have the Cardinals winning by default, mostly because they added Nolan Arenado, but I still don’t think they are of the same caliber as the other three teams. The Braves will have a significant advantage, and while the best team doesn’t always win in baseball, their experience should be enough to guide them to the NLCS once again.
Mets beat Dodgers 3-2
Braves beat Cardinals 3-1
Ah, yes, we have an all NL East matchup in the NLCS. I have to give the Mets some respect (as much as it pains me), but I like their pitching to give the Dodgers just enough trouble in a five-game series. Plus, it’s incredibly challenging to repeat in baseball. I expect the Dodgers to trip up somewhere, and the NLDS versus a high-quality Mets team with fantastic starting pitching feels right. Now, onto their matchup with the Braves.
The primary reason Atlanta has been able to win three straight division titles has been their dominance in intra-divisional matchups, particularly against the Mets. They won seven out of their ten matchups last season, 11 out of 19 in 2019, and 13 out of 19 in 2018. Of course, this is a much more complete Mets team, and the playoffs are a whole different ballgame, but given that experience is also on Atlanta’s side, I’m giving the Braves the edge — making it to their first World Series since 1999.
Braves beat Mets 4-2
So who will the Braves be facing in the World Series? How about the same team they squared off against in 1999 — the New York Yankees. There truthfully aren’t a lot of teams I am impressed by in the American League. Everyone is sold on the White Sox, but they need to show me they can compete in the playoffs before I put them in the World Series. The Yankees feel like the best. Although I definitely believe they have some flaws of their own. Gerritt Cole may be enough to get New York to the World Series, but he won’t be able to carry the Yankees past a powerful Braves lineup. The Braves should have no problem putting up runs in this hypothetical series, and their rotation should be able to do just enough to shut down the Bronx Bombers.
Braves beat Yankees 4-2
I’m sure many people reading this will say something along the lines of, “Wow, what a homer pick. Dude from Atlanta picks the Braves to win the World Series,” and that’s just fine. Perhaps it is a bit of a homer pick, but I will say I have never once picked the Braves to win the World Series in my six years of running this site. Something about this just feels right. The Braves will have one of the best offenses in baseball, and they finally have a pitching staff to match. Add in their experience, and it is the perfect recipe for them to get over the hump. So call me what you want now, and make fun of me if the Braves don’t win later, but I predict the Commissioner’s Trophy will finally come back to the city of Atlanta for the first time since 1995.