Trying to bring a little common sense to the game of baseball. But considering many of the people who read baseball blogs, I'm probably just pissing into the wind.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Atlanta Braves Preview

The beginning of a new era, but with most of the same team that made the playoffs better. They could be even better this year, and prove that last year wasn’t an emotional send-off of Bobby Cox. Some new players and old ones returning from injury will make this a good club, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they took the division. It’s a weak one, and it’s wide open. For two teams.


Brian McCann. One of the best. He does every thing you need with the bat. Lots of extra bases, good homerun power, he walks, and is the best-hitting catcher in the National League. He’s not great defensively, but he will get the job done. At his size, he’ll eventually become a first baseman, but until then he’ll rack up a lot of All Star game appearances.

Upside:  getting any better will be hard, but he might get more power

Downside:  his size starts to wear on his knees

Score:  + 1

First base:

Freddie Freeman. By the depth chart, again. I’m not sure about this, as he’s only 20. The Braves have a history of bringing up young guys and watching them turn into stars, but that was with Cox. He’s hit well in the minors, and has some power, which should get better as he gets older. I’m an advocate of bringing guys up early, but with the need to get Jones off of third, another year in the minors might not hurt.

Upside:  hits like he did in the minors

Downside:  not ready for the big leagues just yet

Score:  - 2

Second base:

Dan Uggla. Probably the second best second baseman in the league. Good power which will play well in Atlanta, he gets lots of doubles also, and gets on base at a decent rate. He strikes out way too many times, and his defense isn’t good, but he’s not there for that. His right handed bat will be a good compliment to the left handed hitters on the team.

Upside:  likes to win and plays like it matters

Downside:  can’t handle the pressure

Score:  + 1

Third base:

Chipper Jones. Who should be at first, because of all the injuries. Still one of the best hitters in the game, and still a good fielder, if he’s healthy. Still gets on base, and can steal bases when he wants to. The homerun power is going away, but he still hits a lot of doubles, and he is the leader of the team. A full, healthy year from him and the team can write its own ticket.

Upside:  is healthy all year

Downside:  still a member of the walking wounded

Score:  + 2

Short stop:

Alex Gonzalez. But I’ll be damned if I know which one. Not much of a hitter, he’s due for a down year. He’ll pop some out, but not do much else. No walks, and no stolen bases. He did hit 42 doubles, so that’s a bonus, and he’s good with the glove. That will be more important than anything else with this infield, as it won’t win any Gold Gloves. He has to get the job done this year for this team.

Upside:  his defense is good enough to overcome the hitting

Downside:  loses his glove

Score:  0

Left field:

Martin Prado. There for his bat, and because his other positions are taken. He’s getting better as he gets more playing time. He gets on base, is developing some power, and doesn’t strike out too much. He’s not great defensively, so this move could be more of a positive than anyone thinks. He’s also slated to be the back up infielder, but he won’t do both. He’ll be in left or coming off the bench. If he hits, and he will, he’s in left.

Upside:  finds this is his best position and stays for years

Downside:  can’t do it defensively

Score:   0


Nate McLouth. A down year for him, he does have past success, and really needs to get it back. He’s had the power and the steals. He can still get on base, and can use his speed for doubles. His stolen bases would usually lead this team, and he’ll likely be the leadoff hitter. He gives the teams a lot of left handed bats, so he needs to be able to hit lefties also.

Upside:  has an average year for him

Downside:  can’t rebound and there is no one else who can get it done

Score:  0

Right field:

Jason Heyward. What can you say about this guy? The only knocks are the strikeouts, but that can be lived with considering everything else he does. Not a good stolen base percentage, but that should get better as he learns the pitchers. Walks, hits for power, good defense. He’s a middle of the order guy at 20, and there is only upside. Good defense and he can handle the pressure. The Braves are poised for another long playoff run.

Upside:  quietly, very quietly, has the exact same year this year

Downside:  someone tells him who David Justice is

Score:  + 1

Pinch hitter/general utility:

Joe Mather. Doesn’t really list this position on the depth chart, but it does exist. It’s really just the extra utility guy. He can play all the corner slots, and is okay defensively. Hasn’t hit much in the chances he’s got, so anything will help. Will help spell the outfielders when needed, and give Freeman a break as necessary. Make or break year for him as far as roster spots go.

Upside:  does better than he has before

Downside:  end ups with too much playing time

Score:  - 2

Backup catcher:

David Ross. Better than most back ups with the bat. Hits for power in his limited playing time, and can get on base. Good with the glove, which is the most important thing for a second string catcher. He’ll get into about 50 games, as McCann will get lots of days off from behind the plate. Could also do the job well enough on a full time basis if McCann had to go to first.

Upside:  one of the best for the role he fills

Downside:  picks this year to start the slide

Score:  + 1

Backup first baseman:

Brian McCann. Says Mather and Prado, but I don’t buy it. McCann’s going to start needing more days off behind the plate, but they need his bat in the line up. He’s never played the position, but he’s a good athlete and can do it. If Freeman needs some time off, Ross is good enough behind the plate to fill in. I know Braves fans will call me 100 different kinds of idiot, but I think I’m right.

Upside:  gives him a break behind the plate and saves his knees

Downside:  plays here too much and Ross doesn’t get it done

Score:  + 1

Back-up infielder:

Brooks Conrad. Because no one else is really available or capable. Plus, they’ll try to let him redeem himself after last years’ playoffs. Not great with the bat, but better than other options. He also switch hits, which is good. He’ll go at second, third and first, when needed. He’s better at second than people realize, although not great. The only real issue is who backs up short stop, but if Gonzalez is healthy, he goes 155 games.

Upside:  playoffs don’t affect him and he can do something

Downside:  had his moment of glory

Score:  - 2

Back-up outfielder:

Jordan Schaefer. Didn’t make it the majors last year. He’s at the age where he’s not going to develop into a star, and a backup role is there for the taking. He’s young, can play all three positions, but not well. He can run, pinch hit, play multiple positions and give guys a day off when they need one. This outfield will need more than a lot, so if he’s not productive, he’s out.

Upside:  accepts the role and gets on with it

Downside:  shows why he didn’t make the bigs last year

Score:  - 2

Rotation (front 3):

Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, and Tommy Hanson. They aren’t going to win any awards, but they won’t hurt you either. Lots of previous success, and they have to hope it can be continued. The rotation will get lots of offensive support, but the defense won’t help any. If they can do what they did last year, this team will be able to compete. They have to avoid the injuries, and get at least 200 quality innings out of each of them.

Upside:  Lowe and Hudson maintain their performance while Hudson gets better

Downside:  a year that is to long and injuries

Score:  + 1

Rotation (back end):

Jair Jurrens and Mike Minor. Jurrens was hurt to start the year, and never really got on track. If he pitches like he’s capable, he gives the team a front four, and one of the top five staffs in the league. Minor is strikeout lefty, who has shown well in the season and a half in the minors, but not much yet in the majors. He’s young and suited for the fifth starter role.

Upside: Jurrens is healthy and Minor doesn’t need to go back to the minors

Downside:  Jurrens doesn’t get back on track

Score:  0


Scott Linebrik, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty, Scott Procter and George Sherrill. Very experienced. Good, but not great. Lots of strike outs, and way too many walks. None of them are multiple inning pitchers, so the rotation will have to go deep most days. They can, so that’s a help. Sherrill has experience as a closer, if needed, but none of the others do.

Upside: the strikeouts offset the walks

Downside:  too many innings and too many walks

Score:  0


Jonny Venters and Craig Krimbrell. A lefty/right combination, and that could be good. Both were rookies last year, and put up great numbers. They will strike out a ton, and not walk too many. They seemed to handle the pressure okay, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason they can’t get it done again. Platooning them will save innings and make great match ups. Probably only one will end up the primary, but I like the idea.

Upside:  split the job all the way to the playoffs

Downside:  platooning closers doesn’t work and one of them isn’t really suited to be a closer

Score:  + 1

Team speed (which includes base running):

Not a lot. A few guys who can steal, but probably won’t do much. Lots of doubles, but not many triples, which is a truer sign of speed. Good range in the outfield, which will help, but not much around the infield. This team won’t be about speed. It will be about getting on base and bashing the runners around to score. There won’t be much stealing, and there are a lot of good reputations for base running.

Upside:  anything helps

Downside:  need it and it isn’t there

Score:  - 1

Team defense:

Not good, but not bad. The corner outfielders will do okay, and the left side of the infield will be good if Jones is healthy. The right side and center won’t give a lot. The team will score a lot, so the defensive mistakes shouldn’t hurt as bad. But it does become important in the playoffs, as the Braves found out last year. The hard way. Offense and pitching.

Upside:  won’t make any difference until the playoffs

Downside:  too many free runners coupled with the walks are disastrous

Score:  - 1

Team batting:

Will be good. Maybe as good as the Nationals, and certainly better than the Phillies. This will be the strength of the team. Lots of power, and they get on base well. They walk a lot and don’t strike out very much. Good gap power, and the young guys should only get better. If Jones can stay healthy and Freeman can hit, this team will go into the playoffs. A bounce back year from McLouth would be a huge advantage.

Upside:  outscore the other team to death

Downside:  not enough comeback years

Score:  + 1

Team pitching:

Good. Good rotation, if they stay healthy. Good, solid, experienced bullpen, and a rookie closer(s). The offense should score enough runs, and the pitchers strikeout enough batters, they get good leads to the bullpen, who just have to hold the game, not win it. Lots of strikeouts will look good, but the large number of homeruns won’t. The hitting is more important, but the pitching isn’t far behind.

Upside:  everyone is healthy and pitches like they have in the past

Downside:  an off year from two or more starters throws the whole thing out of whack

Score:  + 1

Total score:    + 1


  1. I don't know if Jones will stay at third or not, but don't you find him the most underappreciated thired baseman in a long while? Except for the MVP year he seems to always be overlooked in comparison with some new up and coming hotshot (the David Wright of a few years ago springs to mind)

  2. I agree. Even last year, when he was hurt, he put up as good as numbers as anyone else in the league.

    Just for fun, I looked up all of the numbers for the National Leauge third basemen, and Jones is far and away the best. To be fair, Wright is close, but still lags behind in everything. That's per 162 game average.

    I think it started early in his career, when he got caught having the affair and they played the Mets in the playoffs that year. Seems he's never been the media darling all the rest of them have been, either because of New York, or an occassional playoff trip. Guys like Jones, and daresay I, Jeter, never seem to get their proper due because of all the exposure in the playoffs. If that makes sense?