So far the 2016 season has gone exactly as planned for the Braves. They're really bad (39-70), but they've also been able to acquire more young talent through trades, the draft, and international free agency. The rebuild remains right on schedule.
It's not often a team on pace for 104 losses has a chance to have a noticeable impact on the postseason race, but the Braves are in that very unique position this season. They're going to be an X-factor in the various playoff races simply because they have so many games remaining against teams vying for postseason spots.
Including Saturday night's game against the Cardinals, the Braves will play 34 of their final 53 games against contending teams. That's 64 percent, or basically two-thirds of their remaining schedule. Here's a quick breakdown of their remaining games:
|Nationals||13|| 8/12 - 8/14 |
8/18 - 8/21
9/5 - 9/7
9/16 - 9/18
|Marlins||7||9/12 - 9/14 |
9/22 - 9/25
|Mets||6||9/9 - 9/11 |
9/19 - 9/21
|Giants||3|| 8/26 - 8/28 |
|Tigers||3|| 9/30 - 10/2 |
|Cardinals||2||8/6 - 8/7|
|Non-contenders|| 19 |
Boy, do the Nationals have to feel good about things right now. They're seven games up in the NL East and still have 13 (13!) games remaining with the Braves, a team they've beaten six times in six tries already this season. They have as many games left with Atlanta as the Mets and Marlins do combined.
Of course, this is baseball, and any team can beat any other team on any given day. That's why the Marlins are 4-8 against the Braves this year. That has to feel like a missed opportunity for the Marlins, even though they're sitting in a wild-card spot. They'd have a much more comfortable lead and be closer in the NL East race had they taken care of business against the Braves.
Atlanta is obviously going to play a big role in the NL East and wild-card races, but they'll also dip their toe in the NL West race and AL Central/wild-card races as well. They have those three games left against the Giants, and they close out the season with three games against the surging Tigers.
Obviously everyone wants to win, but for a young team like the Braves, getting a chance to play spoiler is the next best motivator. They're out of the race, yet they still have a chance to impact the way the postseason races shake out. Atlanta's going to be an X-factor in this year's races, for sure.