NLDS Preview: Braves vs. Astros

Braves: 96-66, Won NL East.
Astros: 92-70, Won NL Wildcard.
Season series: Tied 3-3.

LINEUPS

Astros

LF Biggio
CF Beltran
1B Bagwell
RF Berkman
2B Kent
3B Ensberg
SS Vizcaino
C Ausmus

The Astros lost starting shortstop Adam Everett to a broken wrist in early August, though he’s been around as a pinch-runner the last few games. The Astros caught fire about a week after that. It’s no surprise that they did, since that forced them to re-arrange their lineup. It’s not that Jose Vizcaino is any better of a hitter than Everett, because he’s actually slightly worse. But instead of putting a bad hitter between their leadoff man Biggio and the good hitters, Garner eventually moved Beltran to the two-spot, giving them five (or six, depending on your opinion of Ensberg) good hitters in a row.

The Astros’ best players are Beltran and Berkman; Bagwell is a ghost of his former self, as is Biggio. Berkman put up a .315/.449/.565 season line, a fair approximation of what his counterpart on the Braves did. Beltran, after coming over from Kansas City, hit .261/.372/.565 and played good defense. Bagwell can still get on base (.378) but his power has largely evaporated (.467), and while Biggio and Kent still hit homers and doubles, they posted sub-.350 OBPs. Ensberg didn’t hit a whole lot, but was better than Ausmus and whomever was playing shortstop that day. If they got anything at all from shortstop and catcher, they’d have a great offense. As it is, it’s scary every other inning. If you get past the first five hitters, you have a good chance of an easy inning against the bottom of the order.

Braves

SS Furcal
2B Giles
RF Drew
3B C. Jones
C Estrada
1B LaRoche
CF A. Jones
LF Thomas

The Braves, of course, platoon at first base and left field, but the Astros got by my count only seventeen starts from the left side this season, fifteen by the injured Andy Pettitte, and will start all righthanders in this series. The Braves, unlike the Astros, start eight players who all contributed something offensively. Like the Astros, their best player is in right field, where Drew hit .306/.437/.571, slightly less than Berkman but in a tougher park to hit in. Leadoff hitter Furcal had the weakest line on the team, .279/.345/.414, but that’s better than three of the Astros’ regulars, and once again there’s the park to consider.

The Braves 4/5 hitters are a study in contrast, both switch-hitters. Chipper Jones hit only .248 for the season, but with a lot of walks and power; Estrada hit .314 but with far less secondary offense; his on-base percentage was only sixteen points higher than Jones’ and his slugging percentage 35 points lower. Jones did most of his damage in the second half (.214/.327/.414 before the break, .281/.389/.562 after), while Estrada declined from his All-Star first half (.332/.382/.481 versus .286/.376/.418). Jones was far more effective righthanded, while Estrada was basically hopeless from that side.

Andruw Jones, as usual, was up and down, and as usual wound up with his normal numbers anyway, .261/.345/.488. The Braves’ two platoons were both effective, but the righthanded halves were better, especially in left field, so that works against them.

BENCH

Astros

OF Lane
OF Palmeiro
IF Lamb
IF Bruntlett
C Chavez

The Astros’ best bench players are third baseman Mike Lamb, who outhit Ensberg (.289/.357/.513), and outfielder Jason Lane, who probably should be playing everyday instead of Biggio. Lane played in 106 games but had only 136 AB, hitting .272/.348/.463. Eric Bruntlett replaced Adam Everett on the roster, or rather replaced Vizcaino who replaced Everett, and didn’t do badly at all, slugging .519. Orlando Palmeiro was bad even for a fifth outfielder. Raul Chavez was bad even for a backup catcher. The Astros should have one more player, but hardly anyone else played except for Everett, and Everett can’t swing a bat or throw a baseball.

Braves

OF Marrero
OF Wise
1B Franco
IF Green
IF Betemit
C Perez

Marrero and Franco were platoon players who won’t get any starts against the Astros’ righthanded pitchers. Instead, they’ll probably be the Braves’ top pinch-hitters, because righthanded as they are they’re still better than lefty DeWayne Wise or switch-hitter Wilson Betemit. The Braves find themselves without an experienced middle infielder due to the injury to Mark DeRosa and release of Jesse Garcia. Betemit is the only Braves reserve who’s played shortstop, so probably the Braves will be reluctant to use him; if he’s gone, the Braves are an injury away from something weird like Chipper Jones playing shortstop or Julio Franco second base. Green started his time with the Braves very well in place of Giles but has been on a slow decline ever since. Perez looks good only in comparison to Chavez.

PITCHING

Astros

Starters

RH Clemens
RH Oswalt
RH Backe/Munro

Bullpen

CL Lidge

RH Qualls
RH Wheeler
RH Miceli
RH Springer
RH Harville
LH Gallo

I haven’t seen confirmation, but surely the Astros will go with a three-man rotation to cut down the chance that the weaker back of their rotation will hurt them. Clemens will start Game One on long rest after his “flu”, and Oswalt Game Two on normal rest. A lot will depend upon the ability of their big two to bounce back on three days’ rest, should the series go that far. Clemens is, after all, forty years old, and Oswalt has a long injury history. Munro and Backe were the other starters down the stretch; Backe was better, and started the clincher.

Yes, that’s Russ Springer listed as a reliever for the Astros. The listed relievers all pitched well down the stretch, with five sporting sub-2 ERAs. Qualls should be the top man after Lidge — at least, he was the best and most used after the closer. It’s a patchwork bullpen in many ways, but patchwork pens are oftentimes the best. Lidge is very good, saving 28 in 32 opportunities with a 1.93 ERA. It’s a good staff.

Braves

Rotation

RH Wright
RH Thomson (RH Ortiz)
LH Hampton

Bullpen

CL Smoltz

RH Reitsma
RH Alfonseca
RH Gryboski
RH Cruz
RH Byrd
LH Martin

The Braves announced initially that they would use a four-man rotation in the first round. Then it was going to be a three-man anchored by Wright. I think that if they’re up 2-1 after three, they’ll hold Wright out. If they’re down, they’ll bring him back unless he was worked very hard in the first game, and Bobby Cox generally doesn’t work his starters that hard. After that, Thomson is clearly the #2 man, but his health is a concern. I’m thinking Ortiz would step into his spot if he can’t go, with Thomson maybe available for the fourth game.

Smoltz was shaky at times down the stretch, but he finished the year 44 of 49 in save opportunities with a 2.76 ERA, which isn’t bad at all. Reitsma was very bad in the last two months and it remains to be seen if Cox will still use him as the primary setup man or go to Alfonseca, who was the Braves’ most consistently good reliever for the season. Byrd has relief experience, but it’s possible that the Braves could use another pitcher here, perhaps a lefty. The Astros, however, are mostly righthanders and switch-hitters; aruguably, the Braves would be better off dumping Martin and bringing in Roman Colon.

OUTLOOK

To get one thing out of the way, this Astros team bears little resemblance to the Astros teams routinely wiped out by the Braves in past NLDS. The only Astros left from the last of these (beaten 3-0 in 2001) are Bagwell, Biggio, Ausmus, Berkman, and Vizcaino. (Oswalt was unavailable in that series.) For that matter, the only Braves left are the two Joneses, Giles, Franco, and Smoltz. (That was the year Furcal was out the entire second half.) But the Astros still depend heavily on Bagwell and Biggio. They aren’t the engines that drive the offense anymore — that’s Berkman and Beltran. But they’re key cogs; if they go into their usual postseason funks it will be very hard for the Astros to score many runs.

The Braves look, to me, to be better suited for postseason than last year’s team. Last year, they had an elite offense but one that was heavily righthanded and heavily dependent upon the long ball; take that away, and they were shut down. This year’s Braves team has a weaker offense but a more broad-based one. And the starting pitching is far better, led by Wright. Wright is the Braves’ key player. If he keeps pitching like he did in the second half, when he was among the best pitchers in the non-Santana universe, they’re in great shape. If not, it will turn into a slugging contest, and that will be tough to win against Clemens and Oswalt.

I don’t make predictions as such, because this postseason stuff is too random. I’ll give you percentages, though.

60 percent chance of Braves win.
Most likely outcome: Braves in four.

36 thoughts on “NLDS Preview: Braves vs. Astros”

  1. Bobby Cox said on the radio this morning it would likely be Wright, Hampton, and Thomson in that order for the first three games.

  2. “I don’t make predictions as such, because this postseason stuff is too random”

    I hear you. If I make predictions I either feel like an Astros homer or someone that lacks faith in my team.

    Anyway… for three long years I’ve hoped for a chance at redemption against Atlanta. Now we’re here. Should be a great series.

  3. Good job on that preview, Mac. I’m very much looking forward to it. Hate that we get stuck with the day games as usual, but Braves have traditionally done pretty well in those games, so hopefully that trend will continue.

    The Big Two starting tandem of the Stros is a bit scary, but I feel like our guys seem relaxed. I hope the extra day allows Chipper to get full treatment and feel chipper again.

    Let’s just hope that the balanced team effort shows up and pulls us through. Somehow i don’t see JD putting up a 1-23 performance like Mr. Sheff did the last couple of years. And I’m looking forward to seeing Thomas, Franco and some others who havent gotten many playoff opportunities stepping it up.

  4. It should be an excellent series, and I think it will be unlike previous Astros teams that came in against Atlanta and got run over. Two main reasons – the Atlanta starting pitching isn’t as good, and the Astros offense is more balanced. With the off-days in there, I suspect you’ll see Clemens & Oswalt twice if it goes 5 games (with Backe pitching game 3). Both teams have shaky middle relief, and I think with the Astros edge in starting pitching, they’ll take the series. They are on a great roll right now, and will be tough to beat.

  5. I don’t think that the Astros’ offense is as good as the Braves’, though, so that really balances things out. (The two teams scored the same number of runs, which when you take the parks into account gives the edge to the Braves.) The difference between the offenses is the Braves’ offensive depth. The Astros have two good hitters, three ordinary hitters, and a bunch of scrubs; the Braves have two good hitters (assuming Chipper is healthy) and six ordinary hitters. (Honestly, what is infield defense to Roger Clemens? Why not give Lamb a shot at shortstop? Vizcaino isn’t exactly Ozzie Smith to begin with.)

    The Braves probably have the better defense right now, with edges everywhere but catcher and third base. The benches are theoretically equal — two good players and three or four guys filling out the roster — but the Astros’ is better tactically.

  6. Was reading the “Page 2” feature on ESPN and noticed that every one of the featured “experts” predict the Astros will take the series. For whatever it’s worth.

  7. Mark,

    Probably not worth much. Wonder where those prognosticators picked the Braves to finish back at the beginning of the season?

  8. Lamb is a below-average fielder. There’s no way he could play SS. Biggio looks like a Gold Glove OF compared to Lamb.

  9. Good work Mac!

    Man this is closer than I would like. Using just second half numbers the Braves have a better offense, but the Astros have better pitching. What is really strange is that you don’t have to correct for parks to even see this. But, these teams have been pretty even in the second half. The Astros seem to have better pitching the Braves better offense. I almost wish Houston had home field advantage, because I’d prefer the short porch with Clemens and Oswalt. I hope the coaches are preaching patience to the hitters. The Astros pitchers strike out a ton and don’t give up a lot of homers. Get on base, and wait for a mistake.

  10. Get on base, and wait for a mistake.

    This is why I think Furcal is our key position player in the series. I hope he suppresses his occasional (ok, more than occasional) tendency to swing for the fences, because Clemens and Oswalt don’t give up many HRs (32 in 451 innings, despite pitching in Minute Maid). If he can keep the ball on the ground he stands a good chance of getting on base a lot, as the Astros infield is without much range, especially up the middle.

  11. Well, there is no easy road to win the World Series anyway. I like the fact that we are being treated as underdog for the first time in many years. It forces the players to focus on one game at the time rather than thinking about World Series when they haven’t gotten out of the Divisional Series.

    No matter what kind of analysis we can perform (by the way, I still have to say Mac did a fantastic job above), there is no way we can win if Drew plays like Sheff in last year’s playoff or Wright pitches like Glavine in 2001 playoff.

    However, I am seeing good signs heading to the playoff. You can see that Giles and LaRoche are definitely hot. Drew and Estrada have been properly rested by Cox before the playoff after getting tired in September (predictable considering Drew’s history and Estrada being a catcher). There are mixed signals from Furcal, Chipper and Andruw. So, those three are actually the unknown at this moment. I believe the pitching (both starters and the bullpen) will be ok. Therefore, the key is whether we can generate enough offense against Clemens and Oswalt.

  12. This is why I think Furcal is our key position player in the series.

    That sounds right to me. I’d like to say Andruw is a key player, but he always turns into Paul Bako in the postseason, so let’s just assume that’ll happen again and consider only players who have a chance to be important.

    I actually think Chipper is the key. His second half rebound was nice, though the last few weeks he struggled. I think he was trying too hard with the 100 RBI thing on the line, but hopefully he;ll be back on track.

    And, of course, I hope Sheffield hits for NY like he did for Atlanta in teh postseason. Yes, I am bitter.

  13. Colin, I am with you on Sheffield. If he hits well for the Yankees in the playoff, he will move up to number 1 on my hate list for ex-braves. Who is my current number 1?! Tom Glavine man. I still remember he is the one who pitched Game 6, but the stuff that he said and did since he becomes a Met shows that the guy has absolutely no class.

  14. the stuff that he said and did since he becomes a Met shows that the guy has absolutely no class.

    What kind of stuff?

  15. Anybody here going to be at the game? I’ll be leaving work a bit early, but have been to at least one game in every post season series in quite a number of years.

    … Hmm, maybe I’m the bad luck charm. It can’t be the fault of Cox, Glavine, or Sheffield; it’s gotta be me.

  16. I want to recind my earlier comment about the Braves having better hitting and the Astros having better pitching. I must have flubbed something in my numbers, because I redid them and found the exact opposite.

  17. Reports in the Chicago Tribune today (Tues.) are that Chipper still cannot hold a bat. That’s not good news. Does anyone know whether there has been a decent advance sale in Atlanta for the first round? Houston fans will not fill up the ballpark the way Cubs fans did last year. I assume we are in for another series of “Atlanta fans just don’t care or appreciate their team” talk from the television commentators with many shots of the empty outfield upper deck seats.

  18. I said this in August and I’ll say it again. The Astros made the playoffs because of the September matchups. If they were playing the Cardinals, they would have the edge. Unfortunately for them they aren’t.

    Their pitching stats against LH hitters vs. RH hitters are not good. They gave up almost as many extra base hits vs. LH in almost 550 less AB. Lefties also walked 29 more times, had more stolen bases, and had BA, OBP and OPS over 10% higher than righties against the Astros.

    One other set of stats; The Astros offense was weaker in Sept. than in April, May or August. The only games they played against an opponent with a winning record other than the Cardinals (who weren’t playing all of their players) was the Giants, and they lost 2 out of 3 to them. 5 of their Sept. wins (25%) came against a Cardinal team that had already won the division. All but one other win came against the Pirates, the Brewers and the Reds.

    In August, they lost 4 of 6 to the Expos, 2 of 3 to the Braves and Mets. They swept the Phillins twice for 6 wins. Other than the Phillies, they were 8-14 againt the rest of the Eastern Division.

    That’s all I need to know. The Astros are overrated and Oswalt can be beat. He walks 2 1/2 batters a game and gives up a lot of hits. didn’t pitch great in Sept, but got wins because the Astros scored a lot of runs. He can’t do that in the playoffs or he’ll be going fishing early next week. Clemens will be tough to beat. If Lidge holds up, it will be a good series. He is the guy who can make or break the series for the Astros. I don’t expect him to get the chance though.

  19. “I assume we are in for another series of “Atlanta fans just don’t care or appreciate their team” talk from the television commentators with many shots of the empty outfield upper deck seats.”

    Well, isn’t it true? I understand these are difficult starting times, but what can you say about fans that will not support a team that is in the playoffs EVERY YEAR for 13 years. (And, yes, I understand the frustration of losing in the playoffs.) The Cubs fans filled Wrigley Field on Sunday for a meaningless game; if it had been Atlanta, they would have been lucky to draw 20,000.

    I see two keys for the Braves: Furcal and LaRoche. Furcal HAS to get on base and create things, especially against pitchers like Clemens and Oswalt. He also has to play good defense. If he doesn’t play well, I think the Braves have little chance. LaRoche is important because he has been coming on strong and will be facing strong righthanded pitching. Good pitchers usually try to neutralize stars (ie, chipper and Drew) and make sure not to let one of them beat them, so it is usually someone else that has to pick up the slack. In recent years, none of the Braves have been able to do it.

    I also think the Braves really need to get off to a good start; they can’t afford to get behind Clemens and they need to get up in the series. They have played very poorly at home in the playoffs over the last few years and Turner Field is not exactly a place that opponents fear.

    I don’t understand the complaints about Tom Glavine. What has he done that shows no class?

  20. If the Braves’ path to the World Series was Dodgers-Cardinals, I would be picking them to get there. Unfortunately, Dustin Hermansen had other ideas and so now we are stuck with an Astros team we can’t beat.

    My predicitions:

    The Braves will hit the Rocket, but get shutdown by Oswalt, and in the key game three will hack at everything thrown up there by Backe and swing their way right out of it.

    The decision to go to a three man rotation will be a bad one (for the nth consective year) and Wright and Hampton will be out in five the second time around.

    The bullpen will be stronger than expected but there will be at least one CR-related fiasco.

    Giles and Andruw will be the hitting stars for the Bravos but since Andruw is still hitting a ridiculous seventh, they will not be able to combine to make a big inning.

    Thomas will be replaced by Marrero in left by Game 3 or Game 4 to try and generate more offense.

    Someone on the infield will make an error early in Game 1 and it will feel like we are running uphill for the rest of the series.

    Sorry for the gloomy prediction, that’s just the way I see this series. I would be overjoyed to be wrong.

  21. I’m also going to take back my wish for playing in Houston. The Astro’s batting numbers match the Braves in aggregate, but on the road (not surprisingly) the Astro’s OBP and SLG decline by about 4%. However, the Braves are virtually identical on the road and at home. This makes me feel a little better about the Braves chances.

  22. “Well, isn’t it true?”

    I don’t neccesarily think that’s true. I care deeply and appreciate the team. However, I live in New York. I haven’t lived in Atlanta since I left for college in 1994. I do get back and go to games when i can, and I have been to a couple games at Shea as well. But the mere fact that I (and others in similar situations) won’t be in attendance tomorrow doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have a devoted fanbase which is fully appreciative of this astounding run the Braves have been on.

    I think the Braves have a lot of fans scattered around the country. TBS is sooo wonderful, because for all its shortcomings, it allows transplants like us to really follow the team, not just keep up with them via boxscores.

    I know that the best way to show our appreciation would be to show up for the games, but I can’t just traipse down there whenever I want to. I do hope to be in town for a weekend during the LCS, and I’m praying we’ll make it. If so, count on one less empty seat.

  23. nyb, we just love your positive enthusiasm. Oswalt could be out for the entire series if the ragweed in Atlanta makes him sneeze too hard. He came out early in 2 starts in Sept. due to that issue. They should pay the groundskeeping staff to walk through the Astros’ dugout after they cut the grass. That would do the trick.

    Anyone read the article about Sheffield and Bonds yet. I remembered when he was working out with Bonds before his first year with the Braves and thinking it was odd he only stayed about 3-4 weeks. I guess we know why now.

    Stayed tuned for indictments and suspension well after the World Series. MLB wouldn’t want to harm their ratings. My theory for Bonds not tailing off this year. He’s not wearing down like some of the other steroid-accused because is only having to work 2/3 of the time due to all of the walks.

  24. Troy,

    I’m not criticizing you. I’m like you, I live in Washington, DC. Obviously, we can’t attend the games in Atlanta. But, the fans IN Atlanta ought to be supproting this team. I realize a lot of people don’t like the way TimeWarner has run the team, but not going is not going to help. This is a city where attendence has declined seven years in a row even though the team has won 7 divisions and one pennant. In Baltimore, the Orioles draw roughly the same as the Braves with a team that has been under .500 for the last seven years.

    The Braves obviously have a devoted fanbase around the country. But those of us watching on TV don’t really do much as far as creating a home field advantage.

  25. re: attendance – the Braves, unfortunately, are not spoiled with having every game televised in prime time. I’m not saying that other teams can’t fill their ballparks for weekday games, but it sure doesn’t help.

    I don’t understand the complaints about Tom Glavine. What has he done that shows no class?

    I thought he and his agent showed a tremendous lack of class in the way they tried to conduct their negotiations in the media when he was a free agent. They accused the Braves of lying, and threw out there a lot of stuff about lack of respect, etc. Ultimately, there were some miscommunications because Glavine’s agent didn’t check his messages over a weekend, and then came back with bad words to the press about being ignored before he figured out that he was the problem.

    To his credit, Glavine eventually apologized in person to JS for some of it, but of course the apology wasn’t as vocal as the initial statements.

    Colin

  26. I have had season tickets since 93 and I went to a lot of games in seasons prior to that. I go to most of the games myself but even if I can’t get to a game I make sure my tickets are going to be used by someone who is a Braves fan. It does make me sick when I see our postseason attendance. Last year was probably the worst yet having to put up with probably 2/3 of the fans being Cubs fans. I’m nto sure what the answer is but I wish someone would figure out to get the real Braves fans to the games. I do think this year might be different. The last few games of the regular season I went to the feel in the stadium was different from years before. I think the fans can tell there is a different attitutude (or something) aout the players. Players like Julio, Green, Chucky-T, and Giles are giving everyone the same vibe we had back in 91-95. I’m anxious to see how the crowd is for the post season games this year.

  27. I WISH I could make it to every game, but I can’t afford to get season tickets. I made it to 6 games this year and will be in Sectin 402 ROw 10 for the first game of the posteason…

    I wont’ be at game 3 as I cant’ convince the wife to let me spring for another ticket, but if theres a Game 5 I’ll be there..

    I dunno what the problem is with the attendence though a 50k seat stadium isn’t helping either .. I wish we could sell it out but we can’t .. at least the LCS games will sellout.. if we make it..

    go braves.

  28. In respect of Glavine, he always has an excuse when something bad happened. It is always other people’s fault but his own. Too many times that have happened and I don’t want to remember them anymore. He made such a big deal about missing his turn for the first time in his career like it was a national tragedy. He openly courted Millwood and Smoltz in public media to join the Mets when Millwood and Smoltz are still under contract on other teams, which is total disrespectful of the Braves and the Phillies (when do you hear other players say this kind of stuff?). The list goes on and on, and it just shows that he is a mediocre pitcher now with a big mouth.

    In respect of the attendance, I am not sure if you guys will agree with my theory, but I think the team kind of lost its charm after trading away Justice. Since trading away Justice, the team acts as if we will always win the division, and our only goal is the World Series. While this may be true, such attitude will also be transferred to the fans as well. If the players are not serious about the regular season or the first two round of the playoff, why should we as fans care? However, this years team is different, the players actually care about the division title, and they act like they care about every round of the playoff instead of just talking about the World Series. I think such energy will also transferred to the fans eventually, and I think the attendance will go back up next year for the Braves because of how the players act.

    In respect of Clemens and Oswalt, go check out their respective ERA for road games. I just noted that their road ERA are both rather ordinary, which is quite unexpected because the differences between Clemens and Oswalts home and road ERA are quite significant.

  29. On the attendance issue–I could go on at length about that, but there simply isn’t enough time to detail all the reasons that attendance has slipped the past few years. Yeah the fans here are spoiled and all that (not just by having a great team, but by having the best coverage of baseball on TV thanks to TBS) but that doesn’t nearly begin to touch on the real factors that keep people away from the ballpark. Long story short: In a college a group of friends and I made the trip from Athens to see game 6 of the ’99 NLCS. All the way there, one of the guys (a New Jersey transplant) went on and on about the Braves fans not appreciating their team…worst fans ever…yadda, yadda, yadda. Anyhow, we make it to Atlanta with plenty of time to spare–“Hey, there’s the stadium off in the distance. We’re almost there!” After an entire frustrating hour of trying to find a spot to park the car where we didn’t feel like our lives were in danger the transplant was heard to say “No wonder nobody goes to the games. This is ridiculous.”

    And people who are wondering about the “fan-base IN Atlanta” would be in for as big a surprise as I was when I moved here four years ago. Hardly anybody in this city called Atlanta has any ties to the state of Georgia. They move here for jobs, they move here for the club scene, they move here because of the burgeoning gay culture, but they don’t move here for sports. Native Georgians by and large prefer the suburban outer lying areas of Atlanta where a 30 mile commute to downtown becomes 1-2 hour ordeal both ways for a high-selling game, and the idea of getting their families home after midnight on a school/work night doesn’t appeal to most. Especially when they’ve got a better view and less hassle watching TBS. I really believe the team would have a lot more success drawing crowds if they just had a suburban stadium. Don’t expect that to ever happen though.

    I now live right next to Turner Field and I take full advantage. I’ve seen 20 games this season and I’m planning to see as many games as I can make time and find the money for this postseason. I would love more than anything to experience a World Series atmosphere before I eventually move to the suburbs myself. The AJC says the 40,000 tix have been sold already for game one. Expect the stadium to look half empty at the start though as many working Atlanta fans wage the losing battle against rush hour and stadium traffic.

  30. Boyd, Your comments echo the analysis done in the Braves section of Baseball Prospectus 2004. In brief, the conclusion was that the stadium’s location relative to where the target fan base lives and difficulties of moving around in a metro area of 4.5 million people are the main reasons for the Braves declining attendance. I don’t see an easy solution. A stadium closer to the bread and butter customer base would be the answer but I don’t see the good people of Atlanta ponying up the tax dollars for a new stadium, especially since the Ted is new. And I don’t see Time Warner shelling out 200 to 300 million dollars on their own. The Braves have shown, especially this year that they are a creative organization. I sure hope that they can work with the city to figure this one out or we’ll be where every other team is. Nuturing talent, building a core and then watching it walk away for free agent dollars.

  31. The statement about the stadium’s location makes sense, but as far as the players not caring about the regular season, for God’s sake, they win 100 games almost every year. How much more could you care about it? And the lack of native Georgia fan base doesn’t really explain why they were able to fill the house in the early 90s. I can’t really speak to the local issues, but the old stadium was in the same place as the new one and, as I recall from when I did live in the area, parking was always a problem. And, as for all the games being televised, I think that’s pretty much universal. I live in the D.C. area and we get virtually every Oriole game and assume we will get all the Expos (?) games as well.

  32. Actually I did get to read Baseball Prospectus analysis you mentioned, Johnny, but that was after I had already formed my opinion. I was just glad that somebody actually sought real answers to the disappointing attendance of recent years – instead of just labling the fans as ingrates – and put it in print.

    MWS, I don’t think that since people filled the stadium in the early nineties that it takes any legitmacy away from that argument. Not at all. It speaks more to how excited the fans were about our team – espcially in the early going – that for several years they were braving the long commutes and nightmare traffic to come to games. It also speaks to how even those who wouldn’t normally care otherwise will jump on the bandwagon as long as it is the cool thing to do. But over time the excitement has been worn down 1) by the hassles involved with getting to the game and 2) the disappointment of several early exits from the playoffs lately. Like KC said, people tend to pick up on the vibe a team gives off. The hard-core fans may be able to weather those deflating losses (and sweeps), but the casual fans – the ones inside the city- just won’t. Recent AJC articles make mention of the dread some players felt going into last years playoffs. The fans feel that too. In any event, I think the fans get too little credit for how much support they showed this team for a good seven or eight straight years despite the reasons well document by BP.

    My comment about the TV aspect was more in reference to the quality of the coverage we get from TBS. I’ve seen the local coverage that other teams get and it does quite compare to what the Braves fans have been treated by. But the “you can see it better on TV” excuse is just one that I have been offered frequently.

  33. I was right earlier in this thread. If I go to a playoff game, we lose. Years and years of it. Y’all ought to take up a collection to pay for a night at Pink Pony instead of letting me go to the Ted in October. Sorry.

    About traffic — my new office is about 10 miles north of the park and located right off I-85; I walked back in about 5 minutes ago after sitting in congestion since moments after the last pitch. Whats that, about 75 minutes. Getting there was almost as bad. I’m as much of a die hard fan as you are likely to find, but even I am not willing to put up with that game after game.

  34. Boyd, I am so glad to hear that there is actually some tangible reason for the disappointing attendance. I used to live in the Marietta area, and we all know how spread out the population of Atlanta is. You are so right about the time to commute between the stadium and the suburban area. There is no way I will take my family to the stadium during the weeknight. Not because of the team, not because of the price, but because of the time required for transportation. If they can move the stadium up north (maybe toward to I-85 and I-285 intersection area), the attendance may go up. Of course, this is just an assumption statement, it will never happen.

  35. A new stadium north of Atlanta is one thing they are not likely to be able to do… two things they possibly could do is: 1. build a MARTA train station and line which goes to the stadium. Currently if you wnat to take MARTA (our “mass” transit system) you ride a train to one of their bus stops then ride a bus to the stadium (and you have to pay for the return trip so be sure you keep enough cash for that at the end of the game). and 2. improve on the overall condition of the area around the stadium. The outside area of the stadium is just disgusting. There are various shady folks hanging around (not just ticket scalpers) lots of trash and one side of the stadium has got some kind of open sewer stench that just about makes you hurl. Walking from the parking lot to the stadium is the most unpleasant part of the game and one I could see a lot of families not really wnating to put up with.

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