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Here is what could cost the Atlanta Braves a 2021 postseason berth.
The 2021 Atlanta Braves have a loaded roster, but they have a major Achilles heel: the bullpen.
Atlanta has won the NL East each of the last three seasons. The Braves are coming off their best campaign since 2001, as Atlanta was within one postseason victory of getting back to the World Series for the first time since 1999. While starting rotation issues are what hurt them back in October, not adequately addressing off-season bullpen concerns could come back to haunt them.
A leaky bullpen would drive every Atlanta Braves fan absolutely insane
Atlanta does not have three of its most important bullpen arms on the 2021 MLB Opening Day roster. The Braves letting Darren O’Day join the New York Yankees was bad, but seeing closer Mark Melancon link up with the San Diego Padres was infuriating. All the while, the Braves have not been able to re-sign setup man Shane Greene at any point this offseason. This is a big issue.
While Greene could regress to the mean, the same principle could apply to other relief pitchers. Tyler Matzek’s career was in shambles prior to last year. A.J. Minter is coming off his best season as a professional. The good news for Braves Country is presumptive closer Will Smith has plenty of room for improvement. He did give up a devastating homer to his namesake in Arlington.
So while the Braves have all the bats they could ever want, a slick-fielding defense, great speed on the base path, an improved starting rotation and an incredible clubhouse, that could all evaporate in an instant if the Braves bullpen resembles a leaky faucet. Having a leaky bullpen is the pits, worse than having an offense that can’t hit, but not as bad as having an incompetent manager.
Because there are no truly bad teams in the NL East this year, Atlanta could potentially miss out on the postseason if the bullpen lets them down one too many times. With the postseason field shrinking back to its normal allotment of five teams, there is no margin for error for the Braves to have a god awful bullpen. Hopefully, Alex Anthopoulos can rebuild it on the fly like he did in 2019.
Blowing massive leads would just par for the course when it comes to Atlanta/Georgia sports.