Who is the X-Factor to the Braves winning the World Series?

Braves Olson

I don’t think there’s any question about it — this Braves team is far better than the one they had last season that went on to win the World Series. In all phases, they’ve improved, but that doesn’t mean they are a shoo-in to win the World Series. Hell, it doesn’t even mean they will win a single playoff series. Every team remaining has talent, and all it takes is one cold streak for the Braves to find themselves looking forward to next season. I expect guys like Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, and Max Fried to rise to the moment. They’ve done it time and time again, but who is the X-Factor to the Braves holding up the Commissioner’s Trophy for the second season in a row?

Honorable Mention — Spencer Strider‘s Health

Spencer Strider isn’t just the best rookie pitcher in the league. I don’t think it would be ridiculous to call him a top-five pitcher in the game right now. What he’s done since entering the rotation has been mind-boggling. Strider was the fastest player in MLB history to reach 200 strikeouts, breaking Randy Johnson‘s record, and he’s accrued more fWAR than any other pitcher since entering the rotation. Had Strider begun the year as a starting pitcher, there’s a good chance he would have won the NL Cy Young.

Unfortunately, Strider currently finds himself on the IL with an oblique strain. The Braves are hopeful he will be ready for the NLDS, but it’s certainly no guarantee, which would be a massive blow to the team. If he’s healthy, the Braves will be extraordinarily difficult to beat, but if he can’t go, there will officially be a chink in Atlanta’s armor.

Braves X-Factor — Matt Olson

There’s no questioning Matt Olson hasn’t been Freddie Freeman, but the Braves don’t need Freeman to win a World Series. At Olson’s peak, he’s as good as any first baseman in baseball, even Freeman. Olson showed that last weekend against the Mets, in which he went 5-for-9 with a home run in every game. He’s the type of player that can get hot and hit homers in bunches, and as we all know, home runs are what change games in the postseason. Olson is coming off a week in which he was named the NL Player of the Week. If he can carry that momentum into the playoff, this Braves offense will be a nightmare for opposing pitchers.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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