Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Are the weakened Braves playing for a wild card?

In the CineSport video above, you'll hear/see some moron (i.e., me) tell Brian Clark that he believes the Atlanta Braves, who won the National League East by 10 games last season, will be playing for a wild card in 2014. My reasoning, such as it is: Division titles are won by rotations, and the Braves' rotation is missing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy.

Until Medlen and Beachy were lost to elbow injuries in the span of 24 hours, I was actually among the holdouts who weren't picking the Washington Nationals, who disappointed hugely in 2013. With a working starting rotation, I saw no reason why the Braves couldn't do it again. Alas, I see one now.

This guy might need to take a turn. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Our friends at Baseball Prospectus polled their staffers as to which teams would finish where, with the result being fairly chilling if you back the Braves. Thirty-eight of 40 picked the Nats to run first in the East; two picked the Braves.(Twelve of the 38 picked the Braves to grab a wild card, though.)

Three NL teams were the top three choices by BP writers to win the World Series. The Dodgers drew 12 votes, the Nats six and the Cardinals five. The Braves commanded nary a one.

In previewing the NL East, Sam Miller and Will Woods also list the Nats ahead of the Braves, and the BP projection system PECOTA shows Washington winning 89 games to the Braves' 82. (Don't fret too much about that. In my BP-reading experience, I can attest that PECOTA often underestimates win totals.)

Oh, and ESPN The Magazine has also offered its preseason picks by taking a rather different approach. It attempted to quantify Team Chemistry, which would seem unquantifiable. The Braves, you should know, finished second to the Nats there, too.

If there's a silver lining, it's this: Almost nobody picks the Braves, even in their weakened state, to finish below second. The rest of of the NL East still stinks.

Further listening: Here's a Baseball Prospectus podcast previewing the Braves that features, near its end, yours truly.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.