The Braves Set a Standard That Only the Dodgers Can Imitate

The Atlanta Braves, fresh off a sweep of the Colorado Rockies, visit the Los Angeles Dodgers in a crucial National League series. But for Atlanta, they have a unique strategy for building and maintaining a winning team. That is to say, an envy of many teams. For the Dodgers, they have taken the effort to a new level, replicating some of those standards with their own slight twist here and there. When it comes to these two teams, it’s fair to say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

How Atlanta Is Built to Win

A Matchup of Consistency

These teams are not mirror images of one another, but have something special in their respective compositions. Just spending money isn’t the fix-it solution that many think it is in baseball. For further proof, please review the current seasons of the New York Yankees, New York Mets and San Diego Padres.

Atlanta’s base is all over the field and it starts with All-Star Ronald Acuña Jr., second baseman Ozzie Albies and pitcher Max Fried. They have been mainstays during a run of five consecutive division titles that includes a World Series championship. In that same timeframe, the Dodgers retained the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Max Muncy and Austin Barnes. Those players were key contributors to their 2020 World Series championship.

Aside from those players, there are some key components who have been acquired through drafting and development. The Braves drafted Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder, Austin Riley, Michael Harris II and A.J. Minter. All of those players are mainstays in the lineup now. Meanwhile, Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright were first-round picks in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The Dodgers basically the did same thing as their fellow NL rivals. Los Angeles built through the draft by selecting Will Smith, James Outman, Bobby Miller. Outman and Miller are in their first  big league seasons as they’ve made strong contributions throughout the season. They’ve made an impact in replace of four others who are rehabbing major injuries: Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Gavin Lux.

Deftly Dealing

There is a certain magic in pulling off the right trade at the right time. Atlanta is familiar with this type of situation and it happened two years ago.

In 2021, after losing Anderson and Acuña to injuries, the Braves made all the right moves in acquiring Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Stephen Vogt and Adam Duvall. It was a last ditch effort to keep their season alive with hopes of another deep playoff run. Those five players jelled with the core of the team and led the Braves to a World Series championship. None of the five minor leaguers the Braves traded for those components are in the major leagues this year.

Now this season, the Dodgers are attempting the same. They went ahead to chart a similar course this season with the returns of Kiké Hernandez and Joe Kelly in. Their respective return to Los Angeles saw the team make few more acquisitions including Amed Rosario, Lance Lynn and Ryan Yarbrough.

Money, Money, Money

The aforementioned big-spending Mets ($353 million), Yankees ($276 million) and Padres ($248 million) lead the majors in payroll. The Dodgers are not far behind, spending about $222 million on its roster.

The Braves have a $203 million payroll investment, but six players are tied to long-term contracts. Acuña, Albies, Harris, Strider, Austin Riley, Matt Olson (Freeman’s replacement) and Sean Murphy are under contract through at least 2026. Those six will make a combined $70 million in base salary this year.

Who Is the Better Team?

The Braves and Dodgers showdown could determine home field advantage in the playoffs. Both teams have battled in two of the past three NLCS. They’re World Series contenders who own a double-digit lead in their divisions. If they have an identical winning percentage at seasons end, home field will go to the team that won the seven-game season series. Atlanta would need to win three of four this weekend to gain the tiebreaker for home field come October.

During the past five years, these teams have ranked first and second in wins, runs allowed and runs scored. Both have won a World Series. The Braves won five division titles and the Dodgers have won four. That is, if all goes according to plan.

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