The Braves’ best trait for the postseason? Experience

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

MIAMI – Soaked with champagne and feeling elated because of another National League East title, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos journeyed back five years, to when the club won its first division crown in this string of five.

The scene: Braves and Dodgers, 2018 National League Division Series. The Braves, fresh off a rebuild, exceeded expectations and won the division. And now, they had a date with the powerhouse Dodgers.

“Everyone’s eyes were wide,” Anthopoulos recalled. “We were ready to go compete, but we weren’t ready like we are now. This clubhouse is so different. We were excited we won, but everyone was just happy to be there. Now there’s just an expectation, and I don’t the guys get rattled by any of it.”

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As the Braves ready for another postseason run, with hopes of repeating as World Series champions, they boast a talented roster from top to bottom. Their lineup is dangerous, their pitching staff stingy. They are led by Anthopoulos and manager Brian Snitker, two of the game’s best in their respective positions.

But the Braves’ greatest strength might be something immeasurable.

This time, they have experience.

“I think these guys probably got more confidence in what we’re getting ready to experience here than they did last year,” Snitker said Tuesday night. “In that respect, we’re better equipped, I think, to handle the stresses and the series and all that because of what we’ve been through the last four years.”

Everyone around the baseball world is asking the same question about these Braves: Are they better than last year? You can break down losing Freddie Freeman and gaining Matt Olson, the strength of the starting rotation, the depth in the bullpen and more. But a big-picture look might be best.

The Braves no longer will stun anyone. No one is surprised that they won the division. They are not going to sneak up on anyone. They are regarded as one of baseball’s top organizations.

A big part of that: They are hardened to what they will face in the postseason.

“There’s no way to make a younger guy come into a postseason game and make them feel experienced,” A.J. Minter said Wednesday. “There’s nothing that they can do to replicate that feeling. You just have to go out there and experience it yourself. And for us, all of these guys have experienced it, including myself. That goes a long way. I don’t think people realize how much experience it is.”

During the World Series last season, Minter noticed all the media and TV crews at the ballpark. When he would wake up every morning, he would turn on the television, only to see people talking about last night’s game. All of this made the experience more nerve-wracking than the actual game, Minter said.

“You’re going to be juiced up. Your adrenaline is going to be going in those situations,” Minter said. “You have to learn to control that adrenaline and control your breathing and just slow everything down and not let the situation get too big. The only way you can do that is to experience those games because they kind of feel more like any other game.”

Minter and tons of other Braves have postseason experience. Rookies Michael Harris, Spencer Strider and Vaughn Grissom do not. Collectively, the Braves are prepared for what they will run into this October.

The Braves are ready to defend their title. Along with talent, they will bring experience to the fight.

“It’s definitely something you set out for,” Dansby Swanson said of repeating as champions. “Winning is winning, and winning at the highest level, there’s nothing that can replace it. It’s amazing to give yourself a chance; it’s amazing to put yourself in a position to be successful.”

Could Strider be ready for the NLDS?

After the Braves clinched their fifth consecutive division title under Anthopoulos on Tuesday night, the executive joined Bally Sports South, doing a live interview with Treavor Scales, Nick Green and Brian Jordan.

He provided a telling update on Strider, who is working to return him a left oblique strain.

Anthopoulos said this about the situation: “I was just asking (Strider), ‘What do you think?’ Obviously we’re not going to put him at risk at all. ... He thought there’s a very strong scenario he could be ready for the (NLDS) at some point. I’m not trying to send Twitter crazy or the internet crazy on it. But I asked our trainer after, ‘Do you think that’s just a young guy wanting to pitch? Or do you think that’s realistic?’ And he said, ‘I think he certainly has a chance.’ So he’s going to continue to need to pass some of those tests, but I think the (NLDS) is certainly going to be in play for him, depending on how things go.”

Strider played catch on Wednesday, just as he did on Tuesday. Snitker said it went well and that Strider feels well. The manager said the team won’t truly know how he is until he throws off a mound, though.

On Bally Sports, Anthopoulos said he thinks Ozzie Albies, who was still in a cast Tuesday, “is a little further behind, because he hasn’t started hitting and things like that.” He called Albies a “long shot” for the NLDS.

The Braves begin the NLDS on Tuesday at Truist Park. They will play the winner of the three-game wild-card series between the Phillies and Cardinals in St. Louis this weekend.

A neat feat

The Braves are the only team in the majors not to have been swept this season.

They are the sixth team since 1990 to go an entire season without suffering a series sweep. They are the first team to do it in a full season since the 2004 Braves.

Best ability is availability

Swanson and Olson both were in Wednesday’s starting lineup. Swanson took one at-bat before exiting the game, while Olson played the entire game, hitting a two-run homer.

Both players ended the season with a rare feat in the modern-day game.

They will end the season with a rare feat in today’s baseball world.

At the conclusion of the regular season, Swanson and Olson lead the majors with 162 games played. Swanson leads the majors with 162 starts. (Olson was not in the lineup for a recent game in Philadelphia, but entered the game late).

“That’s something that I think everybody sets out to do every year is play in every game and be somebody who can be in the lineup every day,” Olson said. “It’s cool.”

Olson also repeated the old baseball adage: “The best availability is availability.”