Spring is upon us. I really shouldn’t bring up last September. I know that. Sorry in advance. The Braves collapse has a lot of people hoping for a different result at the end of this year, and the news coming that there will be a second Wild Card team and play-in game can just mean that last year’s bitter taste could go away (or last longer because last year never would have happened under this year’s rules).
However, history will not be on Atlanta’s side. Taking into account the 10 biggest collapses prior to 2011, only the Dodgers – once in Brooklyn and once in Los Angeles – were able to recover and make the playoffs the next year. Note that I didn’t take into account any wild card opportunities that existed prior to 1995. An additional caveat is that the 2008 New York Mets actually improved their record from their 2007 September collapse but still were behind the Philadelphia Phillies.
The worst case scenario would be the 2003 Mariners and the 2010 Padres. Those teams not only had the collapse to recover from, but also the fact that both years were, well, flukes. The Padres were 19 wins lower, and the Mariners were 30 the next year (another note is that Seattle’s highest playoff chance percentage was June 18 which is much earlier than the other teams on this list). The Braves don’t really have to deal with that scenario. The Braves adjusted W/L record (taking account runs scored and allowed) was only four wins lower than the 89 they actually had. There are some things that the Braves need in order to get to the playoffs this year. Jason Heyward needs to be more consistent, and a full year from Michael Bourn and a healthy Brian McCann will help bridge the gap and that’s only on the offensive side. They have a good mix of veterans and young players that should allow them to be right in the mix despite the cloud of the teams before them.
The reality is that the biggest competition the Braves will face should come from within the division. The Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals are the up-and-comers that could thwart the Braves’ aspirations even if their record stays where it was last year. There is also whichever of the NL Central teams bounces back from free-agent losses.
History might say that the Braves will take a step back, but history also said that the Braves would make the playoffs last year. If last year taught us anything, it’s expect the unexpected and don’t count your chickens until all 162 eggs hatch.
(All collapse data came from Cool Standings.)