FOX Sports MLB Analyst
The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers own the two best records in Major League Baseball, but are the two National League squads peaking too soon?
Following a three-game series sweep over the New York Yankees, the Braves are now 8-2 in their last 10 games. Atlanta has been playing outstanding all year long, owning the best record in baseball for the majority of the 2023 campaign.
The Dodgers, who sit at 73-46 heading into the third and final game of a three-game series against the Brewers Thursday night, are 14-1 in August with a +58 run differential. The Dodgers are currently riding a 10-game win streak where they have outscored opponents by nearly four runs per game.
The month of August has typically been kind to the Dodgers. In 2022, they went 22-6. In 2021, they went 21-6, and the year prior, the Dodgers went 21-7. Now, I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to win, and there really isn’t a way around it, but you don’t want to not play your best baseball at all times. In order to give you some reasoning on why peaking too soon might be bad, let’s look at the division races.
The Braves are up 12.5 games in the NL East. It’s over … The Braves are winning the division. The Dodgers are up 9.5 games in the NL West … that’s done as well. The Braves and the Dodgers will be the top-two seeds in the National League.
Come mid-September, what are you really playing for? Are you playing for the No. 1 seed? Sure, that means something, but it’s not the same. You’re not playing for your lives, and you’re not playing like every single game means everything to your team and the organization. Then consider the fact that these top-two seeds are going to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs. It has always been my belief in baseball that a bye is not good. You do not want that time off.
There’s no better reference than the Detroit Tigers in 2006, as they swept the Oakland Athletics in the National League Championship Series to go to the World Series. Magglio Ordonez walked it off to send the Tigers to the World Series. The Tigers had a week off, and they came out flat and lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Time off is not good in baseball. You play 162 games, you play every single day, you get in a rhythm, and at the end of that year, you don’t want to get out of that rhythm.
The fact that the Braves and Dodgers aren’t going to be playing for anything for the last month of the year — and are going to have time off on a bye — I don’t view that as a great thing. Look at all of these teams that are getting to the World Series in recent years. There’s often a wild-card team that gets on fire because they’re playing for their lives to get into the playoffs, and then they have the talent and the star power to continue that and get to the World Series.
Have the Atlanta Braves & Los Angeles Dodgers peaked too early?
In fact, over the last eight full seasons, half of the World Series teams have been wild-card teams: the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies were NL champions, the 2019 Washington Nationals won the World Series, and in 2014, both the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants were wild-card teams.
Again, you want to continue to win baseball games, but the numbers do back up the fact that the Braves and Dodgers are peaking too early.
Save some for October!
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