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Atlanta Braves Preview

Posted by Michael Baumann, Sun, April 04, 2010 12:01 PM | Comments: 16
2010 Previews, Analysis, Posts, Season Preview

Atlanta Braves (86-76, third place in the NL East in 2009)

Happy Easter, everyone, Christ is Risen, and so are the Braves.

I hate this team. I know those Phillies fans who only started following baseball in 2007 think the Mets are the Phillies’ biggest rivals, but for those of us who came of age during the 1990s, there will always be a special dark place in our hearts for the Braves. The 1990s Braves were clean, boring, methodical, reeked of Southern passive-aggressiveness, and ruthlessly dominant. Of course, since 2005, the tables have turned somewhat, with the Braves missing the playoffs each of the past four seasons and the Phillies winning three division titles, two pennants, and a World Series.

While the Braves stumbled through a purgatory of mediocrity for four years, they seem to have figured things out and are being tipped by many pundits to give the Phillies the strongest challenge for the division title.

2010 Season

Since the departure of most of the stalwarts from the 1990s dynasty, the Braves’ greatest strength has been local scouting. They’ve studied and gobbled up high school prospects from Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, and it’s paid off quite well. That process netted Brian McCann, one of the top three hitting catchers in baseball, world-beating outfield prospect Jason Heyward, and other assets who were traded later, including Jeff Francoeur and Adam Wainwright.

The Braves also were able to make the most of their Caribbean scouting department, bringing in Phillie-killer Jair Jurrjens from the Netherlands Antilles and Yunel Escobar (who, depending on how Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes do this year, might be the second-best shortstop in the division) from Cuba. Martin Prado is a solid average guy who plays multiple positions.

The Braves, with Heyward, Matt Diaz, Nate McLouth, and Melky Cabrera, have tremendous outfield depth, and a formidable starting rotation. While no Atlanta pitcher is quite up to the standards of Roy Halladay, they legitimately go four or five deep with reliable, quality starting pitchers.

I predict Atlanta’s return to the playoffs this season, but as the wild card team. In Bobby Cox’s last year, the organization has given him one more shot at a World Series title.

Prediction: 90-72

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    THIS team will be the Phils biggest worry this year.

    The Braves catch fire ….and the Phillies sustain too many injuries…..and the outcome for the division could be different than what you predict.

    Keys for the Phillies are an improved Cole Hamels and a healthy (at some point) Brad Lidge. Hamels REALLY needs to step up now with Blanton on the shelf.

     
  • Posts: 0 Blaise

    Um… go Phillies?

     
  • Posts: 0 EastFallowfield

    No rivalry compares to the one with the Pirates in the 70s.

    Except for some rivalry I’m too young to remember.

     
  • Posts: 0 John

    I remember those days. God how I hated that chop and chant thing! Nothing like having to go to Atlanta to face Smoltz, Maddux, and Glavine only to travel to Montreal to get bitch-slapped by Vlad “Phillie Killer” Guerrero and Pedro!!! Nice way to start a fine losing streak indeed.

    The Atlanta rotation is shaping up nicely. Jurrjeins and Hudson (if healthy) could shape up to be a nasty 1-2. Hanson showed a lot of promise his rookie year, but I haven’t ruled out the potential for a sophmore slump. Lowe might just be one of the best #4 in the majors. With average years from Chipper and Glaus, and a nice rookie campaign by Heyword, the Braves are scary, a bit scarier than the Marlins in my mind. The (ahem) Mutts, while having many questions surrounding them are certainly capable of answering them. Even the Gnats seem like they could be decent, on paper at least.

    I think the division is the Phils to lose, and with a couple patches of bad luck or an extended slump or two could easily cost us a few wins that may very well be critical come the first week of October. The NL WC may easily come from the East this year, but I’m expecting great pennant races in all three divisions. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Phils wound up with the WC. Obviously Philly is my pick, but, I really do think that the competition will be that close this year.

    Oh yes, I agree Yunel is a fine SS, and underrated in my mind. Cubans sure do play some fine ball.

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Randy Miller said on the radio yesterday that he believes the Braves are the second best team in baseball behind the Phillies. This Heyward kid is being talked about in terms of Willie Mays and the like.

     
  • Posts: 0 Burrgundy

    Heyward is a huge talent. He will be a large part of the Braves success this year and many years in the future. I believe the Phils will put it out during the last two weeks of the season. It should be a great competitive year and probably Chipper’s last one, too old with too many injuries.

     
  • Posts: 0 WFC010

    There’s little doubt that the Braves will be a huge threat this year, and I think there’s a very good chance that will see the Wild Card come from the NL East this year, either with the Phillies or Braves taking the division, and the other taking the WC. Whatever the case though, I would HATE to see the Phillies face the Braves in the Playoffs.

     
  • Posts: 0 Brian Michael

    I saw Heyward in Spring Training and in the one day, he was every bit as impressive as people say. He was patient at the plate, then drove a ball to the gap for a double. His veteran-like approach combined with his youth and build make him a scary dude in the other dugout.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    I don’t think the Braves are quite there yet. Heyward is unproven, Hanson has little experience, and Chipper Jones, Glaus, and Hudson could be injuries waiting to happen. Also, even though they’re deep in the outfield, Cabrera and Diaz are unspectacular, and McClouth isn’t great on defense. If everything for them pans out, they will indeed be a force, though.

     
  • Posts: 0 Ryan H

    the braves are such a trendy pick right now to be a really good team but I honestly ain’t buying it. They don’t have the lineup to really be a great team. Chipper is near the end. and who’s hitting cleanup for them? they don’t have any power on that team. and I’m not sold on Tim Hudson staying healthy or Derek Lowe really being any good or Jair Jurrgens really being dominant either. Tommy Hanson will be a beast though. but they’ll also miss Vazquez. but ultimately it comes down to hitting with this team and they simply don’t have enough of it.

     
  • Posts: 0 Ryan H

    I think the Marlins are a bigger worry for the Phillies than the braves. I really like their staff. Josh Johnson is a cy young waiting to happen and Hanley Ramirez might be the best player in baseball not named Pujols.

     
  • Posts: 0 WFC010

    The Marlins are definitely a team worth watching too, although I don’t know if i’d say they are as good as the Braves, they are certainly a good team that consistently gets underrated each year, and that’s part of what makes them so dangerous. We have always known to beware the Braves, but the Marlins get overlooked way too often. They have a great pitching staff and a few great offensive guys, but i’d still say the Braves are a little better overall. But still, both teams are very dangerous and well worth watching out for.

     
  • Posts: 0 Matt M

    The Braves won’t reach 90 wins this year. With a healthy Balnton the Phillies’ rotation 1-5 is better, and if you’re worried about Lidge and Romero bouncing back from surgery then how can you be confident in Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito as the Braves’ back end when both of them are significantly older and are coming off of injuries(and not to mention we’ve seen Wagner disappear when his team needs him to step up:’05, ’07 and the playoffs last year).

    And their lineup is built on a bunch of what-ifs. What if Troy Glaus can last a whole season and be as productive as the middle of the lineup guy they need? What if Jayson Hayward doesn’t have a harder time adjusting to actual ML pitching compared to Grapefruit League? What if Matt Diaz can be consisten for a whole season for the first time at 32? What if Chipper is more like ’08 instead of ’09 at 37 and if he struggles will he retire like he promised? Basically a lot had to go right to even make a run at the wild card last year and a lot more will have to go right for them to even challenge for one this year.

     
  • Posts: 0 WFC010

    Anyone who tries to write off the Braves is fooling themselves.

    Also, I would like to say that this year the NL East may very well be the strongest division in the National League, and maybe even the second strongest division in all of Baseball, behind only the AL East. Like the AL East, the NL East projects to have 3 strong teams, along with 2 relatively weak teams. But unlike the Baltimore Orioles or Toronto BlueJays in the AL East, our 2 “worst” teams will likely be more competitive this year than last year, although probably not enough to challenge for the Division or WildCard . Toronto appears to be in a rebuilding phase, and who the hell knows what’s going on with Baltimore anymore?

     
  • Posts: 0 PA Online Jobs

    Good points…I would note that as someone who really doesn’t comment to blogs much (in fact, this may be my first post), I don’t think the term “lurker” is very becoming to a non-posting reader. It’s not your fault really , but perhaps the blogosphere could come up with a better, non-creepy name for the 90% of us that enjoy reading the content .

     
  • Posts: 0 Sid Goralski

    I know many who don’t

     
 
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