How Good Will The 2010 Braves Be?

Written by Kent on March 19, 2010 – 9:52 am

As I’ve scanned various season previews on the web and magazine racks, there seems to be general consensus among prognosticators that the Braves will be an 86 win team – give or take a few – again this season.

Far be it from me to spit in the face of popular opinion, but I must respectfully disagree.

Where do so many bloggers and columnists have it wrong? It all comes down to foundation of their argument.

Most observers use Atlanta’s 2009 record (86-76) as starting point for their evaluation. They take an 86-win team and then work through the additions and subtractions made over the off-season. In the end, they conclude that the Braves might be better than last year, but only if the roulette wheel lands on their color. They contend that if Bobby Cox’s troops suffer even an average degree of infirmity or misfortune, we’re looking at a team that is not much – if at all – better than the Braves we saw at the end of last season. Hence… roughly 86 wins.

The problem isn’t with their reasoning, but rather, with their starting point. It’s important to understand that 2009 was very much a tale of two seasons, and the Braves we saw at the end of last season was NOT an 86-win team.

Early in the season, a combination of epic underachievement (Jeff Francoeur and Kelly Johnson) as well as health/vision problems (Jordan Schafer, Garrett Anderson and Brian McCann) rendered the Braves offensively impotent through most of June. Additionally, many forget that the 4/5 slots in the rotation posted a combined ERA in the neighborhood of 6.00 through the end of May. Adjustments made by Kenshin Kawakami and the long awaited arrival of Tommy Hanson would later turn around the back end of the rotation, but it wasn’t pretty in the early going.

As of June 27th, the Braves were playing .459 baseball. To put that in perspective… over a full season, that translates to a 74-88 record.

But then, mid-way through season, everything began to change. Frank Wren unloaded 3 tons of dead weight (“Frenchy”, “KJ” and an injured Jordan Schafer) from the lineup in favor of highly productive hitters. And later, the Braves would swap light-hitting First-Baseman, Casey Kotchman, for notorious late-season masher, Adam LaRoche. Additionally, shortly after an early June arrival, Tommy Hanson made adjustments to Major League hitters and began dominating with regularity.

The Braves would go on to play at an exceptionally high level until the very last week of the season, when it was apparent that their post-season charge would fall short, and the games no longer held any meaning.

From June 28 through September 28 (a span of 82 games), the Braves went 52-30 (.650). Over a full season, that .650 clip would translate to 105 wins.

When the Atlanta front office completed their mid-season overhaul, they had turned over no less than HALF of their lineup. The Braves altered their offense more in the middle two months of the season than they did the entire previous winter. And the addition of young Mr. Hanson was certainly no small upgrade.

My point is simply this: If you’re going to factor the Braves’ early season record into your evaluation of where this team stood at season’s end, you might as well factor in the entire 2008 season too while you’re at it. It would be no less relevant, considering the ‘08/’09 offseason changes were less significant than the in-flight modifications made during the ‘09 season.

Even if you hold those final 6 losses in meaningless games against them, they still played .590 baseball from June 28th on (an 88 game span), which would translate to 96 wins over a full season.

When you understand this fact and use that as you’re starting point, it becomes clear that, under reasonable circumstances, the 2010 Braves are no 86-win team. Unless of course you believe Frank Wren and Co. have substantially DOWNGRADED this roster over the winter, but I’ve yet to hear anyone make that argument.

Now, I’m not Ms. Cleo, and I have no foreknowledge of the season ahead. Lady Luck always holds the trump card. But the fact of the matter is that it would take an above average degree of misfortune to hold the Braves under 90 wins in 2010. Hey, I could be wrong. But I’m not.


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Posted in General, Speculation | 14 Comments »


14 Responses to “How Good Will The 2010 Braves Be?”

  1. By Castrologist on Mar 22, 2010 | Reply

    Couldn't agree more. This team has a chance to be special. They could also lay a golden egg, but I think there is a lot of cause for optimism. With our rotation, our capable lineup, and a hopefully revamped bullpen, the Braves have a chance to win every night. That has been the formula for regular season success since 1991. Just got back from spring training. They look good save for Nate McLouth, who hopefully will get it turned around. It is gonna be a fun season. World Champs 2010!

  2. By PEDRO on Mar 23, 2010 | Reply

    I DO BELIEVE THE BRAVES CAN BE AS GOOD AS ANY OTHER TEAM, IF THEY WILL RELEASE OR LET JUST SAY (FIRE) THE BATTING COAH TERRY PENDELTON, HE AS A MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYER WAS NEVER THAT GOOD OF A HITTER A GOOD GLOVE YES, THE PICHING COACH, AND THE BIG DOG BOBBY HE IS OLD PLAYING
    CONSERVATIVE BASEBALL, IN THIS GAME YOU MAKE THINGS HAPPEN DONT WAITE FOR THOSE THINGS TO HAPPEN

  3. By Kent C. on Mar 23, 2010 | Reply

    I think it's very hard for us fans to gauge how good a hitting coach is or is not. All I know is that after they unloaded the dead weight from the lineup the middle of last season, the Braves scored a hell of a lot of runs. Maybe they scored in spite of TP… in part BECAUSE of him, or neither… couldn't tell you. But I do know that offense is likely to be a problem for this team.

  4. By Kent C. on Mar 23, 2010 | Reply

    OOPS… offense is NOT likely to be a problem for this team. Sorry.

  5. By doug on Mar 23, 2010 | Reply

    I believe we are a better team than last year. My main concern is the bullpen. I think offense is much improved with the additions, but the pen additions other than wagner that have been mentioned as the replacements for what we had last year is a question mark in my mind.

  6. By Les D on Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

    You don't win a league MVP with just your glove!

  7. By LarryS on Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

    This bullpen is IMO one of the top 3-5 in the league. We finally have a shut down closer in Wagner, which is something we've lacked for a long time. EOF and Moylan proved how dominant they can be over the course of a season. Medlen finally got over the nervous jitters and pitched phenomenal in the second half. Add proven veterans Proctor and Saito and you have the makings of a dominant bullpen. The last spot will be won by Chavez, Acosta, Reyes, etc. who will more than likely only pitch when the game is out of hand.

  8. By LarryS on Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

    Great article Kent. I agree with a lot of your assessments. This team is not the same as it was the first few months of last year. The depth on this team is one of the biggest positives IMO. This team could suprise a lot of people this year. There built to make a run at the Phillies and the Wild Card, just have to hope we remain fairly healthy.

  9. By Jonathan on Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

    Hopefully Saito can shake off the rough start to Spring Training. On the bright side, he is a veteran that has shown his abilities in the past and not some unproven pitcher.

  10. By eyeandeer on Mar 26, 2010 | Reply

    Good read and I agree on a number of areas. Barring injuries and a meltdown by the pitching staff, the Braves will challenge the Phils and hopefully overtake them. I still feel the Rockies are the strongest team in the NL, so it should be an interesting season.

  11. By Kent C. on Mar 26, 2010 | Reply

    Really? The Rockies?? That's the first time I've heard anyone say that. They're good, but I think the Phillies and Braves are both clearly better… and the Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers could also be better. Just my opinion.

  12. By com682 on Apr 6, 2010 | Reply

    awesome article kent. enjoyed your analysis. I just checked out Mitchell Karasik pre season report on the Braves, he discuses 5 Key Points the Braves need to address. Over all i thought it was good. just wanted to share.
    http://www.lockerblogger.com/videos/lockerblogger
    Im really looking forward to this season

  13. By rumble on Jun 2, 2010 | Reply

    Braves are in first place lets keep up boys. They are playing great they are starting to look like the braves i use to know

  14. By javier on Oct 8, 2010 | Reply

    braves are good fuck haters

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