Strengths and weaknesses for each National League playoff contender

Even the Braves and Dodgers have some flaws entering the postseason

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Divisions have been won, playoff berths have been claimed, October baseball has arrived. 

The field of 30 teams has been reduced to 12 remaining World Series hopefuls. There are some clear contenders among the group, but even the league's best teams have flaws. 

Here's a strength and weakness for each National League playoff team.  

Atlanta Braves

Strength: Balance of power

All nine players in the Braves' starting lineup have a double-digit home run total. Of those nine, seven have over 20 homers, five have over 30, three have 40 or more and Matt Olsen has 54 to lead all of baseball. The Braves have hit an MLB-high 307 home runs this season and also lead the league in runs, hits, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Weakness: Rotation uncertainty

That kind of offensive production can mitigate pitching woes. But having two of your top three starting pitchers (Max Fried and Charlie Morton) on the IL during the final week of September is not ideal. Ace Spencer Strider is perhaps the best strikeout pitcher in baseball, but an ERA sitting close to 4.00 is an indicator of his inconsistency. 

Philadelphia Phillies

Strength: Peaking at the perfect time

Bryce Harper has found his power groove. Trea Turner has been red hot after a dreadful start. The Phillies might be playing their best baseball of the season when the playoffs start, kind of like last season when they went to the World Series. 

Weakness: Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola is no weakness when he is pitching like Aaron Nola. But that has not been the case for much of this season, with the 30-year-old posting a 4.46 ERA, third-highest of his career. The Phillies need him to return to form and combine with Zack Wheeler as a formidable one-two postseason punch. 

Miami Marlins

Strength: Winning close games

The Marlins are the type of team that does just enough to win, as seen in their ability to emerge victoriously in one-run games at a historic pace for much of the season. They get on base, placing second in the National League with a .259 team average, led by Luis Arraez flirting with .400 for part of the season. But … 

Weakness: Scoring runs

Hits don't mean much if they aren't producing runs. The Marlins have scored the fifth-fewest runs in the league this season, easily the fewest of all playoff hopefuls and even fewer than the 56-106 Kansas City Royals.

Milwaukee Brewers

Strength: Pitching

Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Wade Miley might make up the best playoff rotation in the National League. Closer Devin Williams and his 1.53 ERA headlines what might be the best bullpen in baseball.

Weakness: Hitting

Only one playoff team has scored fewer runs than the Brewers: the Marlins. Only six teams overall have hit fewer home runs than the Brewers this season. Only five teams have a lower slugging percentage. Only one player on the team has hit more than 20 home runs this season (Willy Adames with 24).

Los Angeles Dodgers

Strength: Experience

The Dodgers are perennial contenders and big spenders, with the team set to play in its 11th consecutive postseason. Their true season starts in October, and once there, they have the ability to outslug any team they face. They finished second in the league in both home runs and runs scored thanks to a deep lineup that for the first time in franchise history includes four players with 100-plus RBIs in a season (Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, J.D. Martinez and Freddie Freeman). 

Weakness: Untested starting pitchers

Who is getting the ball in a must-win postseason game for the Dodgers? The rotation has been decimated, having lost Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urías. Does manager Dave Roberts give the start to one of the rookies in Bobby Miller or Michael Grove or to the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer with a history of postseason struggles in Clayton Kershaw? This question typically isn't so difficult to answer for a powerhouse like the Dodgers. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Strength: Defense

The Diamondbacks don't make mistakes or cost their pitchers many runs in the field. They tied for a league-best .990 fielding percentage this season. 

Weakness: Hitting and pitching

Can defense win championships in Major League Baseball? Probably not. The Diamondbacks, even with Corbin Carroll, are average to below-average in most of the main offensive categories. On the mound, they have posted a 4.47 team ERA that ranks the worst of all teams currently playoff bound. You don't have to be a baseball savant to know that hitting and pitching are two key components during October baseball.  

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