The Braves 2022 Postseason: Expectations Fell Short

Braves 2022 Postseason

The Atlanta Braves 2022 postseason did not go as intended. It did not flourish like so many flowing floral bouquets, nor did it pulverize opponents like silver screen legends of yore. In stark contrast, this particular movie is one that critics worldwide would receive with great disdain…or, at least, those populating the lower reaches of Twitter. Yes, the Braves’ playoff run was more of a walk, or, if one wants to get more technical, a minor sprint followed by an epic collapse. Battling the New York Mets down the stretch seemed to take more out of the team than was once realized.

Nobody saw this coming, or, at least, nobody in Braves Country saw it coming. Finding trouble spots on the team was like looking for needles in a million haystacks. Certainly, nobody thought that the break between the end of the regular season and the beginning of postseason play would wreak such havoc. The Braves, if all went correctly, had an easy first series. After all, the Philadelphia Phillies had finished 14 games behind them. However, if one looks at the statistics, one might find two teams who were more evenly matched than once thought. If Atlanta’s postseason were to have been extended, they would have needed to defeat a Phillies team that caught absolute fire at the right time. Now, the dilemma is figuring out what truly stifled the defending NL East division champs 2022 postseason.

Braves 2022 Postseason Disappointments

Dansby & Austin

We’ll begin our examination with two names: Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley. These two superstars were the doubtless leaders of the team all season long. This is especially true for Swanson, who brought his sizzling bat and spotless glove with him to games all summer. Riley was known for launching home runs the way NASA launches space vehicles. However, after a few days off, he and Riley were completely dismantled by Phillies pitching. They each had MVP-caliber seasons. Unfortunately, this did not translate into the playoffs.

That said, we cannot overlook that neither player was at their best going in. After a scorching hot July, Riley began to go flat. In August, he hit .241 and only had three long balls all month. In September, he hit .207, though he did manage six homers. Swanson’s bat had fallen short while his glove was still there. Over the final month, he slashed .236/.274/.449 with an OPS of .723. He struck out 35 times in his last 127 at-bats, leading to a percentage of nearly 28%. That is too high, and it brought back memories of a player that fans thought they’d seen the last of. This and Riley’s struggles helped kill the Braves’ 2022 postseason.

Day Game Factor

Yet another reason that may be considered lethal is probably the strangest. Namely, that most of the contests were day games. The one game that was forced into the evening was the only time the Braves won. Yes, the Braves were mediocre in the afternoon this season, going 24-27. According to Fangraphs, the team hit .239 during the day instead of .260 at night. Putting that into perspective, their day average is 19th in baseball. Their night average is second. What caused this seismic shift in offensive ability is still unclear, but the reality remains very stark.

Some might see this as a flimsy excuse. That is understandable, considering just how bizarre it is. Some have taken to calling the Braves a “vampire” team. But, before Count Dracula learns how to do the chop, let’s take a moment to think about things logically. A team cannot magically flip from good to bad based solely on either day or night parameters. Mentalities switch, but the time that the game happens has no bearing on whether or not a team plays well. This season, day games caused the Braves to have some negativity. Whether that was in the clubhouse or on the field is irrelevant. For some reason, team statistics took a sharp downturn during the day this season. Unfortunately, that translated into the playoff world.

Pitching

A third reason that Braves writers and fans have mulled over is the pitching, or, to be more specific, Max Fried and Spencer Strider. Along with Kyle Wright, these two formed a three-armed dragon that sat atop the National League for most of the season. So, it was no surprise when Fried was tapped to start Game One. After all, he’d been staff ace, won 14 games, posted a sub-three ERA and an ERA+ of 164. Then came postseason play, where his ERA shot up to 10.80. He gave up six runs (four earned) and didn’t get out of the fourth inning. His brilliance in Game Six of the 2021 World Series seemed very far away. This was the beginning of the end of the Braves’ playoff run.

For Strider, things didn’t go any better. The first two innings of his Game Three start looked like business as usual. However, from there, he was completely knocked out by Philly’s offense. He wound up with five earned runs in his first postseason outing. The rookie pitcher that posted an 11-win, 202-strikeout, 153 ERA+ season fell flat. It was his first start nearly a month after an oblique injury. Nevertheless, it was somewhat disappointing, especially after his first time through the order.

There’s Hope Amidst Disappointment

These are the three main reasons this writer has found for the assignment of blame for the Braves 2022 postseason. Looking forward to next season has, once again, become the norm in Braves Country. Questions about potential depth aside, this playoff run was not without its upsides. The fact that it happened at all was miraculous. It was a perfect mirror image of last year’s NL West duel between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately for the Braves, they became this year’s version of the latter team. Bounced from the playoffs early, the team and its fans have much to ponder. However, they also have a lot to be excited about. Yes, indeed, the future remains unequivocally bright in Atlanta.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

Players mentioned:

Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley, Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Kyle Wright