Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taking Stock in the Braves

Am I the only one who feels like this Braves team is mostly unchanged from last year's edition, with one obvious exception? Let's leave Jason Heyward aside, along with his .302/.423/.581 line and his 15 RBI (no other Brave has more than eight). We still don't have another outfielder who can hit, as McLouth, Cabrera, and Diaz have all disappointed in the first two weeks of the season. Thus, the Braves still look like a team that is an outfield bat away from contending. Chipper is good, but not great when healthy. We can't find offense at first base, the easiest position at which to find a bat, but we have plenty of offense at catcher and the keystone spots, which are the three hardest. (Maybe Eric Hinske is the solution at first instead of Troy Glaus?) Collectively, the Braves don't show much power, but they draw a pile of walks. It's 2009 all over again.

In terms of the pitching, the starting staff looks good, but not as good as last year's version because we're replacing Javy Vazquez with Tim Hudson. Hudson has been good in his first two starts, but he isn't striking anybody out, which is a cause of concern. Derek Lowe looks about like he did after the first two months of 2009: below average. (It's strange that the Braves' best pitchers earn the lowest salaries, while their least effective starters are handsomely compensated. Tenure is nice if you can get it.) The bullpen looks great, but the specter of Bobby wearing out Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner still looms.

Overall, as the Braves head into a measuring stick series against the three-time defending NL East champs, the local baseball collective again looks like a team that will win between 85 and 90 games. Tonight's pitching match-up (Hanson vs. Kendrick) is favorable, tomorrow night's is not (Halladay against Hudson), and then Thursday looks like a classic rubber game (Lowe vs. Moyer). Heyward, deliver us from evil.


Robert said...

I'm just not sure how this year's team is much different. The starting staff is worse, I liked last year's pen just fine, Chipper is a year older, and we have Heyward. And yes, the ability of this team to NOT find OFs and a 1B that can hit amazes me. But hey, we got a 5th OF in trade for our best starter....

hoodawg said...

Agree completely with Michael & Robert. Anyone who has done a fantasy draft this year knows that the wealth of talent at 1B this year is almost silly-deep. And yet, the Braves always seem to find a way to snag the underperformer. That's despite switching 1B's EVERY YEAR for the last decade (setting aside LaRoche's 2-year reign). How is that possible? Freddie Freeman can't get here fast enough.

I still don't understand the Vasquez trade.

Here's a blog post topic for you, Michael -- how many offensive players has Frank Wren traded for or signed that had a net-positive effect on the team? LaRoche's half-season last year is the only one I can come up with, but I haven't thought about it very long. Maybe Garrett Anderson is the second-best? Sheesh.