The offseason is over and spring training has been completed. That means it is time to make our predictions for the 2019 season. This is the third and final installment in the series. If you missed the first two articles, you can find them here and here.
How many games will the Atlanta Braves win in 2019?
Doc: I keep landing on 86-76 as a record, with a second-place finish that leads to a second wild card spot. While that win total might seem low to make it into the WC slot, it’s not just the NL East that got better, the NL Central is also going to be a bloodbath, and even the NL West looks like it could be more balanced than in previous years. Because of that, the records should even out across the league, and I don’t see any full-on runaways. I not only think that playing against enhanced competition hardens the Braves around the edges during the season, but also as they go into the playoffs. I think the Braves win the WC and the NLDS, but get knocked out by the Dodgers in the NLCS. It’s always the Dodgers.
Ivan: I feel like I’m generally on the pessimistic end of takes about the team, just because there have been so many forgone or ignored potential improvements for it over the past half-decade or so. Last year, my prediction of 79 wins was ahead of some projection systems, but even that wasn’t optimistic enough. So this year, I’m taking a different tack. In reality, I think the Braves are going to end up with around 84 wins, missing a playoff spot by a game or two. But, I’ll say something different, because the world needs more hope, not less: the Braves will win 88 games and secure a playoff spot because they do the right things to squeeze the extra wins out of their roster -- better platooning, better bullpen personnel/usage decisions, giving the right pitchers the ball to start the game and removing them at the right times, and yes, even better lineups. They do all that and they can make it to the postseason.
Dillon: With all the young players that will likely play in Atlanta this year, the variability is pretty high, but I will say 87 wins for the Braves. The rotation is scary, but I think amongst the huge group of major league ready starters the Braves will find some stability, even if it takes an army to get through the season. A full year or Acuna, a healthy Donaldson, and a refined Swanson could push the ceiling much higher if things break the right way for the pitching staff. There are a ton of “ifs” mixed into the Braves’ outlook this year, making them really tough to gauge, but 87 wins seems fair.
Kris: I really think the Braves will have a better team this season but given the improvement within the division, will finish with a slightly worse record than last season. I’m going with an 88-74 mark which should be enough to snag a wild card spot. I’m not convinced that the roster we see now will be the same one we will see at the end of the season so this could be a team that gets better as the season moves along.
Anthony: I’m going to be optimistic and say the Braves win 87 games and snag a Wild Card spot. The NL East is going to be brutal this year, and I’m concerned about the Braves’ lack of depth across the board. However, I’m enamored with having Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, and Ronald Acuña, Jr. in the same lineup. I also love the young pitchers. The Braves are flawed, but 87 wins is well within their reach.
Aaron: A lot of things have to go right for the Braves to get back to 90 wins. Healthy Folty, at least 2 of the young pitchers stepping up, Newk not walking the entire team, no sophomore slump for Acuña, and guys like Albies, Freeman and Markakis can’t have 2nd half slumps. As such, Folty is already hurt along with Gaus and Newk is already walking everyone in Spring Training. I’m going 84 wins.
Eric: I will remain the optimist of these projections and say 90-72. I don’t think that the Braves made any radical improvements overall to the roster with some projected downgrades at some spots offsetting some gains elsewhere. However, I do think that the Braves have a chance for real upside with the talent they are going to be trotting out in the starting rotation and with the depth to plug in other pieces that aren’t working. I also think a full season of Ronald Acuna Jr. in the lineup helps cover some deficiencies. Much has been made of the Braves feasting on the division last year and not expecting that to happen this year. My feeling here is that the division is harder, but I also expect them to perform better outside the division and I am just not sold on the other teams in the division as they have real warts.
Demetrius: I can see them picking up 89 wins. It’s definitely not going to be as “comfortable” as last season ended up being, as we all know that the rest of the division (outside of Miami) has improved. Still, even if the Braves had an underwhelming offseason, I can understand why the organization is projecting confidence and I figure that’s because they’re betting on guys like Acuna, Albies, Swanson and the seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of young pitchers to improve and give them the boost that they would have gotten from an outside addition.
That’s probably why this offseason was so disappointing -- had they added onto the squad, I’d feel a lot more comfortable about their win total for the upcoming season. Instead, I’m firmly in the camp of believing that they’ll be in the conversation for a divisional title, but 89 wins and the Wild Card seems like their destiny this year.
ABsinceWayBack: The season will hinge on whether Josh Donaldson stays healthy and performs well. If he is healthy, the Braves should win 88-89 games. If not, I would say 83-84 wins. This team did not address its weaknesses very well. There are many question marks outside of Freeman and Acuña on offense. I will go with 88-74 to be optimistic.
Shawn: I am going to go 88-74. Unfortunately, the least certain group on the roster, our pitching, will be stumbling out of the gate due to injuries. The lack of options plus nearly 20 games against playoff hopefuls in March and April is a hard start to the season. Entering May with a .500 record or better could be seen as a big positive.
While other teams added significant talent externally, the Braves need significant steps forward from their talent internally. That includes consistency from Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, and Newcomb to find his 2018 first half form. A breakout young arm would also help.Patience will likely be needed, but I feel our talent will emerge in the end. If we can stay relatively healthy, I feel strongly the Braves will be in the playoff mix the whole year.
Matt: I’m going with 90-72 and a second place finish that is good enough to get the team a spot as the top wild card. A full season of Acuña, hopefully a more even full season from Ozzie, and adding in Donaldson to go with Freddie means the offense should be strong. I think the bench will be better than it’s been in a long time, and will allow us to rest guys in order to stay healthy and fresh in the fall. There are some concerns with some pitching injuries, but there are more than enough talented arms ready to help now that I think it’s less of a concern for the Braves than it would be for any other team.
What is your predicted order of finish for the NL East?
Doc: Nationals-Braves-Phillies-Mets-Marlins. I’m not even sure Miami wins 55 games this year.
Ivan: Per the above, I think it’ll probably be something like Nats-Phillies-Mets-Braves-Marlins, but those three teams in the middle are so close that there may be like a game separating them in the end. But, I’m adding hope to the universe again: the Braves finish a couple of games behind the Nats, but one to four games ahead of their own divisional competition (as well as with the third-best record in the NL, as the Central beats itself up a lot).
Dillon: I predict 87 wins for the Braves, which I think will slot them in just ahead of the Mets. My predicted finish is: Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins. The pitching possessed by the other three contenders in the division makes it tough to give the Braves the benefit of the doubt, though the Mets will have to prove they can keep all those guys healthy before I trust them. The second Wild Card seems like the most realistic race for the Braves this season as currently constructed.
Kris: The NL East is going to be one of the most interesting divisions to follow this season and should be competitive throughout. As far as a predicted order of finish, I am going Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets and Marlins. I think the Nationals will see a significant bounce back this season. The Phillies are better and I expect it to be a tight race with the Braves with Atlanta pulling ahead at the end. I think the division is good enough that we could see both Wild Card teams come from the East.
Anthony: Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins. I think the top four teams will be within 9 games of each other. I might be lower on the Phillies than most, but I’m not sold on their pitching past Nola.
Aaron: What do you trust more? Hitting or pitching? I’m more on the pitching side of things. Nats have a ridiculous 1-3 and they have the hitting to go with it. Mets have solid 1-3 starters, but I’m not buying that lineup. Braves pitching has loads of question marks, but have 3 of the toughest hitters in the league. Phillies have a great #1 with some really good hitting. This is tough and I think no more than 5 games separates these 4 teams by the end of the year. No way the Marlins win 50 games. I’ll go Nats, Phillies, Braves, Mets and Marlins.
Eric: Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Marlins. The non-Marlins teams will be close-ish, but I feel pretty good about the Braves being at the top. The Marlins might lose 100 games this year, so obviously they are out. The Mets have not demonstrated any ability to stay healthy for a full season for half a decade and they have some interesting pieces, but with big question marks. The Phillies won some headlines justifiably for their additions this offseason, but I still think they are one of the worst defenses in the league and they had to have some guys in the rotation overperform to hang around as long as they did last year (except for Aaron Nola… he is really, really good). The Nationals are going to be good, but they lost some contributors, some others are getting older/less productive, and there seems to be a lack of cohesiveness there. It wouldn’t shock me if they won the division, but count me in the minority that isn’t sold. The Braves, meanwhile, have a ton of young talent that has a year more experience, what I believe will be an improved bullpen, Josh Donaldson, and one of the better defensive teams in the league. There are a lot of variables that can change things, but I like the Braves’ chances even though it will be close.
Demetrius: Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins. I’m gonna go ahead and say that both Wild Cards are gonna come from the East this year, which means that this season for the Braves is gonna hinge on a one game Wild Card Thunderdome against the Phillies. To be quite honest, I could see 1-4 being any combination. It’s that wide open in the division this year.
Still, I have to give the edge to the Nationals since they seem like the most well-rounded team in the division right now and they did a good job of preparing for the loss of Bryce Harper. All of the other contenders in the division have an obvious flaw and it’s hard to find the Achilles heel when it comes to the Nats. Still, I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the four contenders wins the division. It really might come down to who beats up on the Marlins the most and plays well within the East.
ABsinceWayBack: Phillies-Nationals-Braves-Mets-Marlins. Braves play the Nats in the Wild Card game, which is a great draw for us.
Shawn: Nats, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
The Nationals feel like the most complete team, while the Phillies and Mets seem to have a few clear holes. If the Nats again deal with starter injuries, it becomes very interesting.
I feel the Braves defense and a significant move or two during the season will push the needle. Plus a big boost from some of our young talent evolving. I feel the Braves will have a significant hot streak in the middle of the season to comfortably find themselves in the thick of things in September.
Matt: Phillies, Braves, Nationals, Mets, Marlins
It’s going to be a tight division and I think 1-4 every single team will be in it most of the way. The Phillies are the most talented team right now and I expect them to do well in the regular season, but I do question how far their starting pitching can get them in October. Between the Braves talent and the chemistry of the team feeling very strong, I think they have a slight edge over Washington and the Mets. The Nationals and Mets are a coin toss for me, but I feel like the Mets have a few more questions so I’ll pick them fourth. The Marlins are a clear last place team who won’t compete.