Who do you think will be in the postseason rotation?
-- @big_phil22 Regardless of the opponent, it's safe to assume Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman and Anibal Sanchez will be in the four-man postseason rotation. Whether the Braves face the Dodgers, Rockies or possibly a National League Central club will influence
Who do you think will be in the postseason rotation?
Regardless of the opponent, it's safe to assume Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman and Anibal Sanchez will be in the four-man postseason rotation. Whether the Braves face the Dodgers, Rockies or possibly a National League Central club will influence who fills the fourth spot during the NL Division Series.
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Seemingly knowing he might be left off the postseason roster, Julio Teheran took the mound against the Phillies on Friday night and pitched much more aggressively and effectively than we've seen most of this season. Another similar effort against the Mets on Thursday would certainly strengthen his candidacy for the fourth spot.
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Sean Newcomb will have a chance to revive his candidacy when he starts Wednesday's game against the Mets. His last start was skipped because the Braves wanted their four best options to start during the just-completed four-game sweep of the Phillies. But if there's a desire to use a left-handed starter, the nod would either go to Newcomb or possibly Max Fried, who has totaled three innings over two relief appearances this month.
Back when Newcomb came within a strike of no-hitting the Dodgers on July 29, Los Angeles was producing middle-of-the-pack production against left-handed pitchers. But the Dodgers have produced an NL-best .861 OPS against southpaws and an .812 OPS against right-handers dating back to Aug. 15. Funny how things can drastically change after you acquire Manny Machado and welcome back a healthy Justin Turner.
The Rockies have produced a .720 OPS against right-handed pitchers and a .794 OPS against lefties. Their struggles against righties have increased as they've constructed a .692 OPS against them since the All-Star break.
Given that Los Angeles no longer shows a weakness with these splits and Colorado has had its most success against lefties, I would project Teheran to be the Game 4 starter regardless of the opponent.
Those of you wondering whether Touki Toussaint might get that start, I'd say it's more likely to see him or Fried placed in the bullpen as a long-relief option. But if Teheran were to struggle Thursday night, I'm sure the Toussaint debate will deservedly pick up steam.
What bench players will be on the postseason roster? Would Lane Adams be considered over Adam Duvall?
Given the schedule does not include games on more than two consecutive days during the NL Division Series, you might see some teams choose to carry just 11 pitchers (four starters and seven relievers). The norm will likely be 12-man pitching staffs. But given the uncertainty within the Braves' bullpen, there's at least a chance Atlanta could go with a 13-man staff, which would only leave room for a four-man bench.
If the Braves opt to carry 13 pitchers, I would project their bench to consist of Charlie Culberson, Lucas Duda, the backup catcher (Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki) and Adams, who provides better speed and arguably the better bat.
Quite honestly, even before he recorded two extra-base hits against Aaron Nola on Sunday, Adams was on my projected roster. If Atlanta was to use a 12-man pitching staff, the battle for the last roster spot might come down to whether to carry a left-handed hitter -- Rio Ruiz -- or a right-handed hitter -- Duvall.
Is the Braves' bullpen strong enough and deep enough to give us a fighting chance?
The answer to this question will be significantly influenced by whether Arodys Vizcaino's right shoulder proves strong enough for him to pitch on consecutive days and properly recover. We'll also learn more as we get a few more looks at Chad Sobotka, who looked like a future closer during this past weekend's series.
There are legit concerns about A.J. Minter, who simply hasn't been the same since his lower back began bothering him in early August. The return of Vizcaino and the sudden emergence of Sobotka could go a long way toward compensating for the back-end struggles the Braves have experienced as Minter, Jesse Biddle and Dan Winkler have stumbled down the stretch.
Where do you rank this year in terms of fun, in regard to preseason expectations?
I was a 17-year-old Pirates fan back when the Braves did something similar back in 1991 and then bounced Pittsburgh from the postseason. So from a personal experience, nothing compares to what this year's team accomplished. Before the season, I said it would be a success if either Foltynewicz or Newcomb elevated to front-line status while a couple of the starting pitching prospects neared the Majors.
As Foltynewicz did exactly what he needed to do, Toussaint, Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson suddenly added to the potential depth of the 2019 rotation. Future depth was also strengthened by the acquisition of Gausman. My preseason thought was this season should be viewed as the start of a 324-game journey. Progress through this year would put Atlanta where it needed to be when it truly mattered next year.
My feeling was this year's team would be one of the game's most successful over the final couple months. What I didn't anticipate was seeing Ozzie Albies and Nick Markakis ensure Freddie Freeman wouldn't be the only one producing NL MVP Award-caliber production in the first half. But because they did and because Ronald Acuna Jr. elevated to Michael Trout's level during the second half, the first half of this 324-game journey exceeded all expectations.
There's a chance the most memorable of chapter of this story will develop in October. Bur regardless of what transpires over the next couple weeks, I think it's safe to say Braves fans will forever remember this as one of the most enjoyable seasons they have experienced.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.