The Atlanta Braves will begin their quest for a second-straight World Series Championship Tuesday night when they host the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS at Truist Park. The Phillies ended the St. Louis Cardinals’ season in the Wild Card Series winning two straight while the Braves have enjoyed five straight off days. As we wait for first pitch Tuesday, I asked for questions on Twitter for a quick mailbag. I appreciate everyone that contributed and we will likely do this again down the road.
What impact will the compressed playoff schedule have on the pitching staff selection? Is there a world where both Bryce Elder and Jake Odorizzi make the NLDS or NLCS/World Series roster?
Would you keep Odorizzi with his playoff experience or Bryce Elder on the roster?
When I made my prediction for the postseason roster last week, this was one of the areas where there was a question mark. Odorizzi largely struggled after he was acquired from the Astros in exchange for Will Smith at the trade deadline. He did pitch well in his final start in Miami where the Braves locked up a fifth-straight division title.
I projected the Braves to carry 13 pitchers for the Division Series and haven’t seen anything yet that would change my mind. I don’t see them carrying both Elder and Odorizzi given that they also have Jackson Stephens, Jesse Chavez and Collin McHugh as other multi-inning options.
Odorizzi has pitched out of the bullpen in the postseason before. I gave him the edge over Elder largely because of that experience. A week later, I still feel the same.
When do we expect Ozzie Albies back?
Brian Snitker said during the final home series that Albies had gotten a new cast and would be in it for about a week. Albies has been on the field taking ground balls from Ron Washington, but obviously can’t throw yet. Snitker answer was that they weren’t going to make any plans for Albies until the cast is removed and they will go from there. My guess is the earliest would be the NLCS, but even that might be 50/50.
What is the rotation beyond Max Fried?
Who starts Game 2 of the NLDS if Strider is healthy? Does Morton start Game 3 or 4?
The reports have been positive on Spencer Strider, who finished the season on the 15-day injured list with a sore oblique. Still, it is unclear how much being shut down will affect him in the Division Series. Max Fried is penciled in as the starter for Game 1. I think they will then go with Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton in Games 2 and 3. The intriguing question might be would we see Strider used in relief initially? If that is the case, he could still possibly serve as the opener for Game 4 if needed.
Before the injury, I would have said that Strider would have pitched in Game 2 in Atlanta. If the layoff didn’t hurt him, maybe that is still in play. It will be interesting to see if the Braves announce their plans beyond Fried or wait until after Game 1.
Is there any worry about Tyler Matzek’s recent appearances?
It has been a strange season all around for Tyler Matzek, who was so key to the Braves’ postseason run in 2021. He has dealt with a loss in velocity, a shoulder issue, and inconsistency. He just hasn’t looked like the same pitcher we saw last season. Matzek didn’t finish the season well either allowing three hits and four runs over his final 6 2⁄3 innings. Perhaps more concerning though was that he walked nine and struck out just four during that span.
There was this idea in the second half that Matzek was holding something back and just waiting for the postseason, but I am not sure I buy it at this point. I think his roster spot would be in jeopardy if they had another good option. If they elected to go with just 12 pitchers, most people would probably think that it would be Odorizzi’s spot that gets dropped, but it might just be Matzek.
The Freddie Freeman/Matt Olson trade-off will take six years to fully evaluate, but after one, and you can assume Olson may or may not have ended up in LA, how much better off if at all, would the Braves be now?
This is a fair question, especially after Freeman surged down the stretch while Olson fell into a deep slump. I wrote last offseason that if the Braves were unable to keep Freeman, that they needed to acquire Olson. I still feel like he was the best option and one they absolutely had to make. Locking him up long term made the deal look even better in my opinion.
They are different players though. Olson was never going to be Freeman and that is the unfortunate part that comes with replacing an all-time great for any franchise. Freeman was as good this season as he has ever been. He sacrificed some power, but made up for it in other areas. He nearly won a batting title and produced a .918 OPS.
Even with the second half slump, Olson put together a great season too. He hit 34 home runs, had 44 doubles and drove in 103 runs. It is safe to say that you are looking at a 40+ homer season if not for the dead baseball in April. I think it is pretty clear that we haven’t seen the best of Olson yet and he’d be the first to admit that.
All things considered, yeah you would love to have Freeman hitting second or third on Tuesday against the Phillies. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and I think the Braves made the best possible move they could have given the situation.
Just to circle back to the question. I think the Braves would be better this season if Freeman was still here, but considering Olson’s eight-year deal with an option for a ninth season, they are better off in the long term.