This 60-game season will be a sprint, not a marathon, which means anything can happen, and every team should feel like they have a chance to make the playoffs. The Braves are coming off back-to-back NL East titles, but this year will unquestionably be the most challenging of the three to capture. They still have the roster depth to outlast their divisional foes. However, in such a short season, parity will be rampant.
If you’ve yet to see the Braves schedule, here it is.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 6, 2020
The Braves open up with five games on the road, featuring a weekend series with the New York Mets and a two-game set in Tampa Bay to face the Rays. They then have their first five home games against the same teams. Yes, it’s weird, but that’s to be expected in this shortened season.
Overall, the Braves play 40 divisional games — ten against each team — and 20 games against the AL East (6 against Boston, 4 against the Rays, 4 against the Yankees, 3 against the Blue Jays, and 3 against the Orioles). With that schedule, it’s not going to be easy for the Braves to return to the playoffs unless they dominate within their division. They’ve been able to do that for the last two seasons. However, this year’s NL East is as stacked as ever.
The Phillies have faded out over the past two seasons, and that likely has to do with their lack of quality starting pitchers. But in a 60-game season, that won’t be nearly as much of a factor, and their lineup could carry them into October. The addition of Zack Wheeler doesn’t hurt, either.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Nationals have the best starting rotation in baseball, but the loss of Anthony Rendon will undoubtedly be significant. Still, anytime you can send out Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin 4-5 times a week, you can win a lot of games.
The Mets could also be a problem in such a short season. Even though they lost Noah Syndergaard for the year, they still have Jacob DeGrom and Marcus Stroman, as well as an offense loaded with young talent.
Simply put, if the Braves want to win their third straight NL East title, they will have to play their best baseball. And over the last two years, they’ve shown they can do it when the pressure is turned up. With such a demanding schedule, I don’t expect them to earn the #1 seed in the National League, but I do think they will do enough to make the playoffs — whether that’s as a Wild Card or division champions once again.
2020 Record Prediction: 34-26