I believe the Braves bullpen depth makes the no-days-off playoff format a positive for the the Braves. Having watched two playoff games, which is more than enough for an internet rando to come up with a theory, I’ll elaborate.
The conventional wisdom is that the Braves will be hurt by the format by possibly being forced to use 4th or 5th starters, and if you squint hard enough, you can find maybe 3. But here’s the thing. Starting pitching is important, but has there ever been a time in baseball history where it has been less important? Marlins starters, for example, pitched into the 7th inning only 8 times all season, per Stathead.
In an era where bullpens are routinely asked to cover 3 innings or more, and relievers rarely pitch more than 3 consecutive days, or even consecutive days if they have a long outing, the Braves are a lot better suited to cover 5 or 7 consecutive days than anybody else. Brian Snitker will have to manage his bullpen workload carefully, especially if he uses a bullpen game, but he has 4 legitimate closer options, 2 former closers in Darren O’Day and A.J. Minter, plus Tyler Matzek and Grant Dayton that he can comfortably use in close ballgames.
We got a peek against the Reds at what could happen in a long series. It looked pretty good for Cincinnati in game 1 when Trevor Bauer and Raisel Iglesias combined to shut out the Braves for 9 innings. It was a game the Braves could have easily lost, but even if they had, they forced Iglesias to throw 26 pitches. Iglesias relieved again in game 2, and facing Marcell Ozuna for the 2nd time in 2 days, allowed the first of the 2 homers he would give up that inning. In a longer series, the Braves are going to see a lot of tired and familiar relievers, crappy ones, or both.
Quirky picks get clicks, which could be one reason why so many experts were picking the 7th seeded Reds over the 2nd seeded Braves in the wild card round. Another reason, though, could have been that Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray looked pretty good when stacked up against a team who notoriously had only one reliable starter. It’s a certified crapshoot, but at even money, why not just pick the team that won more games? There’s probably a reason why they did.