This article isn’t meant to be a criticism or detract from the accomplishments of Maddux, Glavine and Cox, but it’s also fair to point out that part of the legacy of those Braves teams is that those 14 playoff appearances led to just one World Series title (1995). Why wasn’t it more? The law of averages—if every playoff team were considered equal—suggests the Braves should have won 2.1 championships in this period, so they really only underperformed by one title by this measure.
But the Braves were often better than the opponent who beat them, at least in the regular season, so maybe it should have been at least three titles. I thought it would be interesting to go back and see what went wrong for them. We’ll list three factors for each postseason series defeat during that period.
...Of course, in the postseason, when the margin for error is smaller and the opponents better, those mistakes become more important. Still, maybe that wasn’t a decisive factor; the Braves reached on an error 58 times in these 14 playoffs years, their opponents 64.
Maybe a key to the Braves’ success—starting pitching depth—just wasn’t as big of a factor in the playoffs, when their opponents could shorten their rotations. Maybe power pitching does win in October; think of some of the pitchers the Braves lost to (Schilling with the Phillies and then the Diamondbacks; Johnson; Wood and Prior; Clemens and Roy Oswalt). The Braves’ best playoff starter was Smoltz, more of a power pitcher than Maddux and Glavine. Maddux went 11-13 with a 2.81 ERA in his Braves postseason career but also allowed 18 unearned runs in 27 starts; he was good but not quite the Maddux of the regular season. Glavine was 12-15 with a 3.44 ERA in his Braves postseason career. (He had a 3.15 ERA in the regular season during this period.)
But Braves fans will always have 1995, Maddux pitching a two-hitter to win the opener and then Glavine clinching it with that masterful Game 6 performance, allowing just one hit in eight innings. It’s hard to believe that was 19 years ago.
Thanks to Chet.
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