Monday, April 05, 2010

Five Thoughts on the Braves at the Outset of 2010

1. In thinking about Jason Heyward the other day and how fortunate we are to have him, I was reminded of the Baseball Prospectus's chapter about the Braves several years ago. At the height of the Moneyball craze, the Prospectus argued that the Braves weren't cutting edge in the Billy Beane sense, but they had figured out how to exploit a market inefficiency of their own. Most baseball teams struggle to know much about the players in the draft pool because the pool is so big. The Braves made the decision to know their local area very, very well so they would know more about their draftees than other teams would about theirs. Now, cue the stories about Heyward that other scouts didn't see as much in him because he never saw a strike, so they never got to see him swing, but the Braves saw him enough and had enough good input from coaches in the area that they swiped him.

2. I'm hard-pressed to think of a weakness for this team going into the season. Last year, we wondered whether we would get anything from the outfield and we knew that we were going to get below-average production at first base. This year, we have a first baseman who is one year removed from being a five-win player and every outfield spot is manned by a player who can at least be described as decent. I'd feel better with Javy Vazquez in the rotation, but right now, I feel good about this team.

3. Outside of Heyward, the Brave whom I am most excited to see this year is Yunel. There is a tendency to get excited about the new shiny addition, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that our shortstop has improved in each of his three season as a major leaguer. He was a seven-win player last year, which put him in the top tier of shortstops in baseball. If he didn't have a reputation of being a bit difficult or if this town didn't have a sense of ennui about the Braves, Yunel would be a star. Maybe the combination of Bobby's last year and Heyward's emergence will cause people to pay more attention this year and they'll realize that we have a great shortstop in Atlanta. See, Jason Heyward can solve anything!

4. How much of this season comes down to Chipper? The Braves are a more balanced team than they have been in recent years, but they lack a true marquee hitter, unlike the rival Phillies with Utley and Howard. Chipper can be that guy, but he showed the signs of age for the first time last year, as his numbers dipped into mere mortal territory. If I could ask the Fates one question to determine whether this team will be playing in October, it would be whether Chipper is going to be a 1.000 OPS player or an .800 version.

5. I know it's not Bobby's style, but I kinda wish that Tommy Hanson were getting the start today. In my mind, he's the ace of the staff already. But then again, I've always been distracted by new, shiny things.


Anonymous said...

Need to temper the Heyward expectations for this coming season. Very few players are even league average at his age. It'll be fun to see him develop, but I don't think we can expect him to have a debut year like Albert Pujols. If he does, then, well, we have one of the best players in MLB history on our hands.

atlstew said...

4:10 cannot get here soon enough!!