The MLB postseason is set to begin, and the Atlanta Braves have already clinched the first wild card in the National League. They will play one game against the other wild-card team, with the winner advancing to the National League Division Series.
While it is going to be much harder for a wild-card team to win the World Series than past seasons, the Atlanta Braves have all of the requirements to be able to pull it off.
Chipper Jones is the only player remaining from the Atlanta Braves team that won the World Series in 1995, and he is set to retire at the conclusion of the season after playing the past 18 seasons with the Braves. Jones is the team leader and is likely respected by every person in the clubhouse. The entire team is going to want Chipper to go out with one more World Series title, so they are going to do everything they can to get it done. It is this type of motivation that leads teams to overachieve in October.
2. The Bullpen
The Atlanta Braves have had one of the best bullpens in baseball the past two seasons. Craig Kimbrel has 42 saves this season and is a serious contender for the Cy Young Award. He has not given up a run in the past 30 days, and he has a 1.02 ERA for the season. When you add Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Peter Moylan to the mix, there is no other team that can shut down the last few innings like the Braves.
3. Hot Starting Pitching
Kris Medlen has emerged as one of the best starting pitchers in the National League since he was put in the starting rotation. Medlen owns a 10-1 record with a 1.57 ERA this season. The Braves have also won the last 23 games that Medlen has started, which is now a major-league record.
While it is hard to do, Mike Minor may be pitching better than Kris Medlen the past month. Minor struggled during the beginning of the season, but he has found his groove the past few months. Minor owns a 4-0 record and a 0.87 ERA over the past 30 days. Tim Hudson has also been pitching great lately, and he is always big in big games.
4. Balanced Offense
It is usually much more difficult to score runs in the playoffs than the regular season, so teams need to know how to manufacture runs to win games. The Braves have the perfect setup to manufacture runs with Michael Bourn and Martin Prado at the top of the lineup. Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, and Jason Heyward all possess the power to hit home runs when needed to. A balanced offense of power and speed will allow the Braves to score more easily than most teams in the playoffs, and may be the deciding factor in several games.
While Jake has lived in Missouri his entire life, he has been a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan since he was able to watch every game on TBS as a child.
Sources: Yahoo! Sports, mlb.com, braves.com
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