Buster Olney of ESPN wrote an interesting article about the analysis of each team’s schedule and how tough it is for those teams. I personally think MLB should take the article into consideration in making future MLB schedule and try to make tough team facing tougher schedule and weaker team facing easier ones, especially early in the season.
Buster's analysis is for the whole league and three month into the season (to All-Star game) and I would like to perform an analysis for the Braves alone, but for the whole season, to use it as an indication to predict their route and the possibilities to playoffs.
2. Monthly analysis
One thing to know about the Braves according to last season is that they are not afraid to face tough opponent. On the other hand, they may sometimes underperform when facing easier opponent. That makes them a bit unpredictable because most of the Schedule analysis is based on how tough the opponents are.
However, the 2010 Braves have much more consistent lineup and it is known that their pitching can shutdown weak offense so I expect them to perform against weaker team this season.
Let’s get it started:
They started facing the Cubs for opening series and end with the Cardinals. The opponents they need to face are the Cubs, the Giants, the Padres, the Rockies, the Phillies, the Mets and finally the Cards. Only two teams did not have .500 records last year and the healthy Mets team will be much rougher than before.
In addition, they play the Padres at their home, we all know how difficult it can be to hit in their park.
They had pretty good record against those teams though in 2009; a 42-21 record, which is pretty amazing. I don’t think they will have another 13-5 record against the Mets but they are still vulnerable without Beltran and Santana. Both Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson are good early season starters, but I see Kawakami might be a bit struggling.
However, I would expect a decent month for the Braves. I predict a 14-9 record, first in NL East.
Braves normally play good in May until the end in the last four seasons and then they will start their struggle in June. The opponents they are going to face are the Astros, the Nationals, the Phillies, the Brewers, the Diamondbacks, the Mets, the Reds, and the Pirates.
They hold a 48-40 record against those teams and discount the Mets and the Phillies (double count), they hold a sad 25-27 against them. Only the Phillies hold the winning record way above .500 in 2009 in this bunch and this clearly shows how badly Braves played losing teams in 2009.
One thing the Braves have to do is to play the weaker team better. If they hold a losing record against those teams again, they can just forget about winning anything. I believe they can do better against them in 2010 and will give them the benefit of the doubt. I predict a 16-12 record, 30-21 overall, first in NL East.
The Braves normally have bad June. Probably because the interleague opponents they played were normally pretty tough. In 2009, they had Yankees and RedSox for two weeks, it was brutal.
In 2010, it is not getting any better. The interleague teams they have to play are the Rays, the Royals and the White Sox and the Tigers and the NL league teams they need to play are the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks and the Nationals. The AL teams may not be the powerhouse like the Yankees and RedSox but they do have some pretty tough starters.
In addition, they need to play two playoff teams from NL. It is going to be a tough month in any aspect. I predict a losing record: 13-15, 43-36 overall, first in NL East.
After all star game, it is generally the time for the Braves to get hot (baring injuries). Before all star, the Braves will normally have a so-so record. They have the Marlins, the Mets and the Phillies and they should get a 4-5 record by losing two series because the Phillies will start to get hot too and the Marlins is always the nemesis of the Braves.
So their record will be 47-41, second place in NL, one game behind the Phillies.
In the second half, it will be a battle about who is hotter. However, based on the schedule, once again, the Braves played most of the toughest opponents in the first half of 2009 and had a relatively easy second half, hence a very good second half record. This time around will be the same.
The opponents they will face in the second half of July are the Brewers, the Padres, the Marlins, the Nationals and Reds and only the Marlins had .500 records last year. It is the absolutely right time to face those opponents after the break; Braves’ starters and relievers should be fresh and should be able to shut down weaker offense. They should get a 10-5 record in the second half of the month, 57-46 overall.
The Braves had a terrific August in 2009 with 17-11 record. I would expect the same in 2010. They will need to face the Mets, the Giants, the Astros, the Dodgers, the Nationals, the Cubs, the Rockies and the Mets again. They are a very tough bunch and the Braves will probably meet pitchers like Lincecum, Zambrano, Kershaw, and Santana very often.
However, Braves defeated the guys like Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee as well in August 2009 and when this team is hot; they can defeat any team because of their rotation. I expect a 17-12 record again, 74-58 overall.
It will be the most important month for the playoff push and with 16 games (74-58) above .500, they should be at the top or close to the top of the division. The opponents they will face this month are the Mets, the Marlins, the Pirates, the Cardinals, the Nationals, the Mets, the Phillies, the Nationals, the Marlins, and the Phillies again.
The final two weeks of the season are brutal. It is the do-or-die situation against the Phillies again. In the final months of the 2009, they have their up and downs. They had a 16-3 record in three weeks but 1-11 in the rest of the weeks (one week into October).
They will have easy opponents to get them ready to the big finish. They will have to play 30 games until season end and I will predict to own first two weeks but play seesaw games with the Phillies in the final three weeks, 18-12 record and 92-70 overall.
So I think the Braves will be drag down again in June and July time and lose the seesaw game to the Phillies but 92 wins season should get them to the playoffs through wild card. However, if they prove that they can handle the tough pitching from AL pitchers in June and get an even record, they can boost the record to 94 wins, a borderline division winner.
The key period will still be the final month that they will have to beat guys like Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay to win the seesaw games. If it is two year later, I would say Tommy Hanson will be more than a match against those guys but experience-wise, edge still goes to the veterans.
Of course, if the Braves can pull those ‘ace killer’ moves again and defeat those elite pitchers, they can get more than 95 wins and with Halladay losing, Phillies will be lost, too; unlikely to happen though.