Postseason Previews: Atlanta Braves

Posted: October 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

braves

2013 Record: 96-66, First NL East

Offense: Despite the “expert” prognostications suggesting otherwise, the NL East was never up for grabs. From their opening-day triumph over Philadelphia, the Atlanta Braves marched their way to a division crown. After over a decade of dominance in the nineties, Atlanta won their first division crown since 2005. The Braves’ offense is steady if not unspectacular. Stars like Justin Upton (.263-27-70), Jason Heyward (.254-14-38), and Freddie Freeman (.319-23-109) provide the pop. Veteran 3B Chris Johnson (.321-12-68) was a pleasant surprise. On the other hand, the dismal campaigns of BJ Upton (.184-9-26) and Dan Uggla (.179-22-55) created massive black holes in the Atlanta lineup. If the Braves have any hope of succeeding this postseason, they’ll need Uggla and Upton to produce at pre-2013 levels.

Rotation: Losing Tim Hudson for the season in August was brutal. He provided a veteran presence at the top of the Braves’ rotation that has yet to be replaced. Still, Atlanta has a promising playoff staff. LHP’s Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21) and Paul Maholm (10-11, 4.41) are quality southpaws, even if the latter has been dismal since June. The key to Atlanta’s playoff success, however, will be their two right-handers, Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11) and Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20). It has been an enjoyable campaign for Teheran, who won the 2011 International League Most Valuable Pitcher award. The 22-year old struck out a team high 170 batters and will get his first taste of postseason play this week. Medlen, meanwhile, is the de facto ace of the staff. But, his inconsistency has been mind-boggling. If Medlen and Teheran are on their A-game, the Braves could win the National League.

Bullpen: Heading into 2013, this was the undisputed strength of the team. With injuries to LHPs Erik O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters, the Braves lost two of their best setup-men. The offseason acquisition of Jordan Walden (4-3, 3.45) proved monumental. Just as large were the roles played by David Carpenter (4-1, 1.78), Luis Avilan (5-0, 1.52), and Anthony Varvaro (3-1, 2.82). It seems like it doesn’t matter who is in the Atlanta bullpen; they always seem to thrive. The most important man in that ‘pen is Craig Kimbrel (4-3, 1.21, 50 SV). One of the best young closers of all time, Kimbrel has led the NL in saves for three consecutive seasons.

Coaching: For the first time in his career, Fredi Gonzalez has led a team to the postseason. After beginning his professional life in Miami, González replaced Bobby Cox as Braves’ skipper following their elimination from the 2010 playoffs. Gonzales is a fiery manager and has proven to be proficient at managing a quality Braves pitching staff. However, one has to wonder about the decision-making during the course of the season with regards to BJ Upton and Dan Uggla, who played a combined 262 games despite each possessing batting averages below .185.

Outlook: Lose in NLDS, 1-3

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