Their pitching is led by new starter Kris Medlen — the Braves have won the last 23 games he’s pitched, and flame-throwing, shutdown closer Craig Kimbrel. While on offense, their outfield of Jason Heyward, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn is the best in the game. The Braves also have great team leadership from veterans Tim Hudson and Chipper Jones.
Despite being a Wild Card, the Braves should be considered one of the favorites to reach the NLCS and possibly the postseason. However they have two large obstacles in the one and done Wild Card game, and the top seeded Nationals and Reds, against whom they are a combined 9-15.
The final division champion is the 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants. Like that 2010 team these Giants rely heavily on their superb pitching, with a dash of offense from MVP candidate catcher Buster Posey.
The Giants boast perhaps the best playoff rotation in Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum. Any time a team can list a two-time Cy Young as their fourth pitcher, they have an intimidating rotation.
The Giants’ playoff chances were hurt by the loss of batting leader Melky Cabrera in August due to a 50 game suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs. The loss of Cabrera leaves a big hole in their lineup and outfield, severely hampering their chances of going far.
The benefactors of the new Wild Card format are last year’s World Series champions the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite the loss of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols to free agency, the Cardinals find themselves right back in the postseason. Their +116 run differential hits they are a better team than their record suggests.
Led by veterans such as Carlos Beltran and Chris Carpenter as well as last year’s postseason hero David Freese, the Cardinals present a pesky out for any playoff team. Their rotation of Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, and Lance Lynn can matchup with any other team in the playoffs.
All things considered the favorite to reach the World Series from the National League has to be the Washington Nationals. However don’t be surprised to see any of these other four teams their instead.