An historic season has the Atlanta Braves in the rather enviable position of having the home field advantage for as long as the are alive in the 2023 postseason. While we sit around and wait for the NLDS, I thought it would be fun to play that age-old game, “Who would you rather…?”
To make the game a little more interesting, I’d like you to consider your answers to the follow questions carefully, and to then complete the poll that you will find at the end of this piece. (I will post results of the poll Thursday morning.)
Who would you rather…play?
If you are reading Braves Journal, you know that the Braves will play a familiar foe in the NLDS. The Braves get either the Miami Marlins of the Philadelphia Philthies in the NLDS. Let’s take a look at how the Braves fared against each team before making your decision.
The Braves won 9-of-13 games against the Marlins this season. They pounded out 136 hits, 36 HRs, and had an OPS of .979 against the Marlins. Most of that damage came in the first 10 games of the season-series – when the games mattered – before that woeful post-clinching series in Miami in late September. The Braves hit for average (.298) and slugged .613 in their 13 games against Miami. They scored 96 runs in those 13 games, an average of 7.4 runs per game. Miami, on the other hand, did most of its damage in those final three games. They won 9-6, 11-5, and 16-2 against a hung-over Braves team. The Braves outscored the Fish by 31 runs for the season, despite giving up 23 more runs in that regrettable three-game set.
Atlanta won 8-of-13 against the Philthies, including four of the final six meetings. The Braves outscored the Philly team, 74-58, and averaged nearly 10 hits per game. They slugged .489 and had an OPS of .810 against a team featuring Zach Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez. The Philthies didn’t do much damage against the Braves pitching staff, hitting .219, slugging .400, with an OPS of .702. While Philly struggled against the Braves pitching this summer, they do have two Braves killers in Bryce Harper and Trea Turner.
Jesús Luzardo takes on Wheeler in Game One tonight in Philly. Lefty Braxton Garrett faces Aaron Nola in Game Two. The Game Three (if necessary) starters are yet to be determined.
Looking at the numbers, I would rather play the Marlins. We have a tendency to mash their young staff, which features two left-handed starters and a lefty closer. I’m not afraid of the Philthies, but a Suarez-Wheeler-Nola trio kept our bats more in check during the season.
Who would YOU rather play?
This question requires less documentation and fewer numbers, from my perspective.
I don’t view the Marlins as rivals because a rivalry involves two teams who can beat one another. I don’t really view the Marlins as a threat because of the way we have dominated them. Jazz Chisholm is not a villain – he seems to want to be a Brave – and without Sandy Alcantara, they are not very scary. Don’t you feel for Sandy? He gave his arm to Donny Baseball and that organization these past several years! Now he’s on the shelf and doesn’t get to pitch in the post-season!
The Philthies? Well, there is a score to settle. The Braves were exhausted after hunting the Mets down in 2022, their pitching staff was ailing, and that damn Philly pitching staff got on a run during the post-season that was pretty philthy! I would rather beat the Philthies, and it isn’t close.
Who would YOU rather beat?
Who would you rather…start in Game One of the NLDS?
Brian Snitker listed just two starting pitchers on the NLDS roster, Max Fried and Spencer Strider. He will choose between these two to start Game One. Fried spent most of 2023 on the IL and is currently there. I believe he is scheduled to come off in time for Game One, but would you rather start him in Game One? Or would you rather start Strider?
Fried was a 2.7 WAR pitcher in 2023. He was 8-1 in 14 starts this season. He carries a 2.55 ERA, a 1.133 WHIP, and 3.14 FIP into the post-season. In Fried’s only start against either potential foe, he threw five innings of four-hit, one-run ball against Philly on Sept. 12.
Strider was a 3.4 WAR pitcher in 2023. He was 20-5 in 32 starts this season. He carries a 3.86 ERA, a 1.093 WHIP, and 2.85 FIP into the post-season. After getting shelled in Philly last summer in the NLDS, Strider went 4-0 against the Philthies this season. Strider is the single-season strikeout king (281). He surpassed John Smoltz’s 276 in his final start Saturday night.
Fried has been dominant when he has pitched in 2023. Strider has been dominant for much of every outing, but has also been both unlucky and victimized by the HR ball at times. Even though he will have not pitched in a game in 15 days, I would rather start Max in Game One. Who would YOU rather start Game One?
…see start Game Three?
With uncle Charlie Morton on the shelf for the NLDS, who would you rather see as the third starter for Game Three? As I see it, there are three choices: Bryce Elder, AJ Smith-Shawver, or Jesse Chavez.
Elder had an All-Star first half, but I’m not sure he could get an out in the California Penal League (shout-out to the classic movie, Major League, here) today. It’s been a rough second half for the rookie right-hander. As I have written over and over again here, when Elder is right, he is like the annoying little brother he picks, and pokes, and needles his way around – being generally annoying AF, as the kids say. But when he is not right, he locates middle-middle and hitters launch rockets.
Smith-Shawver looked really last week in a spot start, throwing 3.2 innings of no-hit, one-run ball. When you follow him up with Kyle Wright, it can be a lethal duo. Wright has been on the shelf for even more of 2023 than Fried has, but seems to be rounding into form. His curve ball is nasty, and if he only has to work through the lineup a couple of times, these two can give you a solid six innings..
Finally, Chavez and his bullpen mates are also an option. Jesse has been amazing this season, even though he too missed long stretches of time after taking one off the shin shortly before the All-Star break. Chavez would likely be backed by Wright, as well.
I imagine the first two games will dictate who starts Game Three, but as it sits now, my choice is Smith-Shawver. Who would YOU rather start Game Three?
Ok, friends…have it! Click on the following link to cast your vote…Who would you rather…?