By now, you’ve probably heard it a million times. The Braves have won 205 games over the last two seasons since winning the World Series, yet they’ve failed to make it out of the divisional round. Atlanta has fallen in back-to-back postseasons to their division rival, who seem to have figured out what it takes to win in October, despite never finishing anywhere close to the Braves in the standings.
There has been a lot of talk and will continue to be a lot of talk about the postseason format. It probably does need to be tweaked a bit to favor the teams who earned the top seeds based on their regular season performance, but that wasn’t the reason the Braves fell in October. They were beaten by a team that was considerably better than them over the last week, leaving everybody wondering why that is.
There’s no easy answer, but when Spence Strider was asked that question following the Braves elimination last night, I thought he gave the most real answer possible.
“I mean, it’s hard to explain,” Strider said, via Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “To fans who would like an answer, I’d love to give them one. Ultimately, I think we gotta accept whatever we did, whatever we’re doing, wasn’t enough. If we truly want to win a World Series, if that’s our goal, then we’re gonna have to change something or add something, in the way we prepare and the way that we focus.
“What we do in the regular season seems to be working, but we’re gonna have to make an adjustment to the postseason approach. That’s tough to say. It’s a daunting thing to confront right this minute. But that’s something I’m gonna get to work on and we’re gonna get to work on as an organization the moment we get out of here.”
The Braves undoubtedly need to make tweaks to the roster, ignoring that would be gross incompetence. But acting as if they need to make wholesale changes to the core of the team is nonsense. This remains the most talented roster in all of baseball, and nothing that happened over the last week changes that.
In my opinion, there are three areas specifically that could be bolstered that would allow this current group to reach its full potential. The pitching staff could use additions across the board. The starting rotation has more questions than answers, especially with Kyle Wright scheduled to miss all of next year. If Charlie Morton does not return, they’ll need to add multiple starters in free agency, and not just back-of-the-rotation guys.
The bullpen also needs a complete makeover. As we saw with the Phillies, having a dominant relief core can cover up a lot of issues. Rob Thomson was able to be so versatile with his decisions throughout the series, which the Braves could not do with their current group. Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t made it a top priority to invest in high-powered relief arms. After losing to the Phillies for the second year in a row, expect that to change.
Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, the Braves need to focus heavily on injecting leadership into the clubhouse. And I’m not talking about consummate professionals. The Braves have enough of those. I’m talking about swagger; guys who don’t blink in the face of immense pressure, and make sure that feeling of invincibility is felt throughout the clubhouse.
I know someone who fits that bill, and he just happens to be testing free agency this offseason. I’ll let you take a wild guess as to who.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire