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The Atlanta Braves, Major League Baseball's best team during the regular season, will begin their quest for a second World Series title in three years on Saturday, when they take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the best-of-five National League Division Series. The Braves and Phillies also met in the NLDS last fall. The Phillies won that series in four games, dashing the Braves' dreams of becoming MLB's first repeat champion in more than two decades.

The beauty and agony of MLB's postseason is that no one can say for sure what will happen in any given series. The Wild Card Series between the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays offered a fresh reminder of that reality. The Rays hardly resembled their 99-win regular-season selves, scoring just one run and committing a handful of fielding errors in a two-game sweep.

As such, CBS Sports has leaned into the uncertainty -- as well as, we suppose, the opportunity to annoy every person who clicks this article --  by offering three reasons the Braves will and will not win the World Series. Let's get to it. 

Why the Braves will win the World Series:

1. Best regular season team

Again, there's no failsafe way to fill out a postseason bracket. Sometimes, it feels like flipping coins is a more fruitful approach than applying logic to the exercise. One simple, defensible approach is to pick the best team in each series. If you commit to that strategy, then there's no alternative: these Braves are going to be the team lifting the World Series trophy in your bracket.

The Braves won a majors-leading 104 games during the regular season, three more than any other team. Additionally, they had a plus-231 run differential, the second-best mark in modern franchise history (behind 1998). The Los Angeles Dodgers were the only other team this year to clear plus-200. 

We can keep chopping up their results into granular tidbits (and we will in the next point in their favor), but those statements are enough for us to say, definitively, that the Braves were this year's best team. If there's justice overseeing this postseason, they should be rewarded for their regular season excellence with yet another championship parade.

2. Elite against top competition 

We promised we'd get granular about one other aspect of the Braves' season. Here it is: the Braves had the best winning percentage against teams with .500 or better records, amassing a 55-33 mark -- that includes a 15-11 mark against the three other remaining NL playoff teams.

For those who aren't near a calculator, that works out to, oh, a 101-win pace over a 162-game schedule. In other words, if the Braves had only played good teams, they would've still finished tied for the second-best record in the majors. (Obviously it's not that simple, as there's no guarantee they would've maintained that pace, but it's best to just enjoy the tidbit without thinking.)

We're not aware of any research showing that record against quality foes correlates with postseason success. Still, it can't hurt your chances in October to be this successful when you're up against the best.

3. Instant offense 

Here's a dirty little secret about baseball: the easiest way to score runs is to hit home runs. Philistines have long pretended that home runs are a moral failing, a violation of the sacred principles governing the game. These Braves scoff. They led the majors by going yicketty 307 times during the regular season -- 58 more times than any other team. Relatedly, the Braves also led the majors in scoring by plating 41 more runs than anyone else. Correlation does not always equal causation, but we're certain it does here. 

Despite what you've heard, James Smyth, a researcher for YES Network, showed on Friday that teams who score most of their runs through home runs tend to fare better in the playoffs:

The Braves had 10 players homer at least 10 times this season. Nine of those 10 players homered 15 or more times. Seven of those nine cleared 20 home runs. Five of those seven topped the 30-homer threshold. Three of those five jumped the fence at least 40 times. Their lineup's home-run column looks like some kid's MLB The Show franchise mode team with the difficulty set on rookie. 

You'll often hear announcers bemoan that you have to do more than slug to win in October. Here's a look at where the last 10 World Series champions ranked in home runs during the regular season:

YearTeamHR rank














Red Sox















Red Sox


There was a stretch earlier this decade when three consecutive teams who ranked outside of the top-10 in home runs won the World Series. It's happened once since, and that required an all-time month from Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals pitching staff. You can win a World Series without loving the long ball, but it's a heck of a lot harder than if you can hit the ball a long way.

These Braves can do the latter better than any other team in the field. That gives them a leg up, and the chance to put runs on the board in a hurry.

Why the Braves will not win the World Series:

1. Regular season doesn't guarantee title

We concluded the first reason in the other section by writing "if there's justice overseeing this postseason, they should be rewarded for their regular season excellence with yet another championship parade." Unfortunately for the Braves, justice seldom intervenes during the month of October. 

Our Dayn Perry recently noted that "the team with the best overall record among each year's playoff field has won the World Series just seven times since 1995." For comparison's sake, the team with the worst record in their respective playoff field has won the World Series five times since 1995. Some justice, huh?

For additional context, eight teams have had a better run differential than this year's Braves since the playoffs were tweaked in 2012. Of those eight teams, just one managed to win the World Series: the 2016 Chicago Cubs. 

Regular-season dominance does not matter in October.

2. Compromised rotation

The Braves are not entering the postseason with a clean bill of health. Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton will miss the NLDS after being placed on the injured list on Sept. 23 with finger inflammation. Morton's activation date (Oct. 8) falls after the deadline for teams to finalize their rosters.

Technically, Morton could be used as an injury replacement for someone else during the NLDS, but the commissioner's office would protect against apparent roster manipulation if the Braves faked an injury to activate him. 

In addition to Morton, the Braves have been without lefty Max Fried since Sept. 21 because of a blister. Fried seems likely to be part of Atlanta's NLDS roster and rotation, though's Mark Bowman warned that "there's still seemingly a need to have a backup plan for his expected Game 2 start." That's a suboptimal scenario, especially since Fried would be in line to start a prospective Game 5, should the series end up necessitating one.

Fried's potential limitations put pressure on fellow starters Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder. Strider is electric, but he established a new career-high in workload by more than 50 innings, suggesting fatigue could become a factor at some point. Elder, for his part, followed up a fantastic first-half with a 13-start stretch that saw him post a 5.11 ERA and a 1.66 strikeout-to-walk ratio. 

If you're looking for one aspect of the Braves that could prove to be their Achilles heel, it's probably the rotation -- even if it's the result of health, not talent. 

3. Stuff happens

If a great team loses to a lesser team in the NFL or the NBA, it's a headline the next morning. If that happens in MLB, it's just another summer Tuesday. 

There's something to the idea that almost every MLB team will win 60 games and lose 60 games in a given year, and that it's the other 42 games that dictate their season. Upsets happen constantly, in single games and in three- or four-game series. That's just baseball. You wouldn't want it any other way.

For as fantastic as these Braves are, they aren't immune to the chaos. If they have a couple of bad nights, either this week or in the next few, that could be all it takes for them to be sent home for the winter. 

It's cold, this baseball, but it makes the successes all the sweeter.