So not to sound like a bad fan, but chances are, these are the last 11 games for the Braves in 2009. We’re 5 games back in the NL Wild Card and Colorado is playing some tough baseball. Believe me though, I’d love to be wrong on that statement, but I just don’t see it happening.
However, the second half of this season has been exceptional for the Braves. Since the All-Star break, the Braves have played .603 baseball (38-25); a good enough winning percentage to be leading any division in baseball right now, save the AL East. Unfortunately, the games before the break (in which the Braves compiled a 43-45 record) count as well. And while our current 81-70 record is nothing to be disappointed over, it’s just tough to once again miss the playoffs after playing such great baseball. Either way, the team we have seen in the second half of the season is getting closer to the playoff-bound Braves teams of the past.
Since the All-Star break, the team hasn’t really let up. I’ll even go as far back to the beginning of July:
So back to the beginning of July, the Braves are 45-30 and haven’t come close to having a losing month. Equate that out over an entire season and the Braves would win 97 or 98 games. The real question is however, can the Braves make that a reality in 2010? Some things will have to change. The bullpen will need to stop wasting leads. The offense will need to come to life when our pitchers need the run support……..and we can’t get swept by the Reds when fighting for a playoff spot. I think starting pitching is locked up decently for the first time in awhile however.
What else needs to change or stay the same for a playoff run in 2010? Let’s go out and enjoy these last 11 games of the season. Who knows, anything can happen. Just ask the Mets.
Tags: 2009, playoffs
Posted in General | 6 Comments »
Well, here we are on the most magical moment of the calendar year… opening day for the Atlanta Braves. (In case you’re wondering, Christmas morning came in a close second.)
This is a time of year when optimism is almost a cliché. However, for Braves fans, I believe the prevailing optimism surrounding this team is well founded.
The off-season additions to the Braves starting rotation, the return of key relievers, and what promises to be a substantially upgraded outfield offense… It all adds up to a Braves team that I believe will surprise many prognosticators who have already penciled them in for a 3rd – or even a 4th – place finish in the NL East.
Over the winter, the Braves pulled off an impressive feat by add three quality starters, including an ace, Derek Lowe. And yes, Lowe IS an ace. He’s a second-tier ace (not quite on the level with a Johan Santana), but an ace nonetheless.
Over the last 7 years, he’s average 15 wins, and since moving to the NL 4 years ago, he’s posted a 3.58 ERA. One more thing – and this is HUGE – he steps up in big games. His post-season numbers are solid, and Boston fans will always know him as the guy who pitched all 3 post-season series’ clinching games for the Red Sox, on their way to a World Series victory in ’04.
After Lowe, the Braves have one of the league’s top young starters in Jair Jurrjens. Don’t be surprised if steps up and establishes himself has a legitimate #1 starter this season. Javier Vazquez was another nice addition. Numerous MLB scouts believe he is poised to have a very nice season in Atlanta. I agree. I look for something more in line with his 2007 and Montreal-years numbers than his ’08 stats.
Kenshin Kawakami, the Japanese ace has impressed this spring with a kitchen sink arsenal of pitches, one of the best curveballs in baseball (anywhere), and good control. No one expects him to be the ace here that he was in Japan, but it’s reasonable to look for good things from Kawakami. And Tom Glavine hasn’t looked like the washed up retread many fans took him for over the winter. Let’s not forget that it was just the season before last in which Glavine won 13 games and posted 23 quality starts.
CONCLUSION: This Braves rotation should be the best in the NL East, and has the potential to be the top rotation in the league if everything rolls their way.
And now if you’ll humor me, I will take part in the time honored tradition of pretending to know what’s going to happen in the season ahead.
NOTE: All statistical predictions assume health. I’m not going to try and guess who will or will not be healthy. There is one exception, I’m projecting that Chipper Jones will miss 22 games this season.
MY STARTING ROTATION PREDICTION:
Mike Gonzalez has quietly converted 40 of his last 42 save opportunities. He had a rocky Spring, but the Spring Training performance of ‘Big League’ closers rarely means much of anything. The most important thing is that he is now “100%” health-wise and feels good heading into the season. Look for “Gonzo” to be among the league’s best stoppers.
The key to the bullpen will be the healthy return of ’07 bullpen standouts Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano. Moylan, the submarine-throwing Aussie, recorded the third-lowest ERA in baseball (1.80) in 2007, before missing most of last season due to injury. He’s enjoyed a terrific spring, and will be ready to go in Phili. Rafael Soriano, when healthy, is one of best setup men in the game. There was some recent concern about his health; however, it appears that he too will be ready on opening day.
Blaine Boyer was one of the Braves’ most reliable relievers last year through the first half of last season. Fatigue seemed to set in around the 50 appearance mark, after carrying an undue workload in an understaffed, overworked ‘pen. But increased pitching depth should help him this season. Boyer is often said to possess “closer’s stuff”, and has been dominant this spring.
Buddy Carlyle will once again be the Braves’ long-reliever, a role he performed quite capably last year. While Eric O’Flaherty, a hard-throwing fastball/slider lefty and former Mariners’ top prospect, will take over as the situational lefty. He has the stuff to be effective if he can become more consistent. Jeff Bennett will likely serve as Bobby Cox’s ground-ball specialist. And Jorge Campillo may be asked to serve a wide variety of roles, if he can stick around in the bullpen after Tom Glavine is activated from the disabled list later this month (which will shrink the bullpen from 8 to 7 members).
CONCLUSION: Much will depend on the sustained health and effectiveness of Soriano and Moylan. At best, this could be the most dominant ‘pen in baseball. But if the Braves aren’t as fortunate in the health dept., the bullpen might suffer from a lack of depth, and could wind up looking rather ordinary.
Much has been made of the fact that this Braves lineup lacks a 30-40 homerun threat. While that is true, there is more power here than many realize. The Braves are likely to get double-digit homerun totals from every position on the field, and will have an excellent chance to lead the league in doubles.
Beyond Chipper Jones and perhaps Brian McCann, there are no hitters in this Braves order that will strike fear in the hearts of pitchers. However, unlike most lineups, there are no coffee breaks for opposing hurlers. Every last hitter in the Braves batting order can hurt you. What the Braves lack in the way of a Ryan Howard or an Albert Pujols, they largely make up for in depth. Assuming Jeff Francoeur rebounds for a disappointing ’08 season, the Braves will have quality, professional hitters, who will hit for a high average, all the way up and down the order.
CONCLUSION: No, this lineup is not likely to keep pace with Philadelphia in the run scoring department, but they’ll hold their own. This isn’t the best offensive team the Braves have ever assembled, but if everyone remains reasonably healthy and performs as they should, this will be a well above average lineup.
If Jeff Francoeur bounces back with a solid ’09 showing, and the Braves enjoy reasonably good health, particularly in the bullpen, they will have as strong a chance as anyone to take the NL East.
Tags: 2009, 2009 Preview, Preview
Posted in General | 4 Comments »