At the start of spring training, there was near-universal consensus that the Phillies were a lock to win the NL East. By the end of spring training, the Braves are co-favorites. Is this not a classic example of the recency fallacy, combined with groupthink? It's not like the Phillies lost anyone for the year. This is extent of their injuries; Brad Lidge, Chase Utley, and Domonic Brown. (Am I missing anyone?) None of these three players are expected to miss more than a month of the season. Meanwhile, their starting pitchers - the strength of the team - are all healthy. It seems to me that the Phillies are being held to a very high standard and the moment that it looks like they aren’t going to hit it, the media overreaction swings into effect.
I'd buy the reasoning that the Phillies are vulnerable because of injuries if the Braves weren't in the same boat. Look at the team’s health profile. Chipper is an injury waiting to happen. Nate McLouth has a bad injury history. Martin Prado is coming off of a season-ending injury. Durability is the only major concern with Jason Heyward. Jair Jurrjens was hurt last year. Tim Hudson is old and 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Derek Lowe is healthy, but old. Jonny Venters and Peter Moylan both pitched in a million games last year because of Bobby Cox’s bullpen usage. I’m not enough of a baseball fan to say whether this health profile is unusual, but the Braves don’t strike me as a team that is likely to be significantly healthier than the Phillies. The one advantage that the Braves have is pitching depth. With Mike Minor and Julio Teheran in the wings, the Braves can handle injuries to starters. The Phillies are phucked if they lose one or more of their big four.
Overall, I feel pretty good about the Braves, but years of watching the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz rotation have led me to believe that superior starting pitching is the sine qua non of regular season success. Philly’s offense doesn’t have to be very good if its four aces pitch as expected. So file me away with the pre-spring consensus: the Braves are playing for the wild card.