Monday, October 8, 2012

Braves 2012: The Post-Mortem

Well, it's all over. It ended the way the season went for the most part, with the Braves unable to hit with RISP. If there's one failing of the season, that would be it. I won't go into the infield fly thing, because let's face it, that was a horrible call. I still don't believe that alone cost us the game. It was our errors, and our lack of production at the plate. Taken at face value, we hung ourselves on the infield grass.

What I have to do is look at this season in total, and see how we fared. To be honest, we actually over-achieved in many ways. We overcame numerous back-breaking injuries to a pitching staff that turned out to be one of the best in the league. We suffered a complete overhaul of our starting rotation and came out smelling like a rose on the other end. We consistently maintained the best bullpen in the national league if not the majors as a whole. We also got to say goodbye to one of the best switch-hitters that's every played the game, and a first ballot hall of famer. We beat back the demons of a September collapse and made it back to the post-season. Nobody will be happy with the one game outcome, but I can say with simple honesty that I really enjoyed this season, and I refuse to let the last game color my memories of a team that won 94 games.

There's a lot to like about this season. The story of Brandon Beachy before his injury, and his rise to becoming one of the more dominant starters in the league. There's a chance we may get him back in July next season after the all-star break if things go well. We know we'll have Kris Medlen back, and he'll be itching to get things started again as a regular part of the rotation. We'll still have the best closer in the business in Craig Kimbrel. We'll still have an improving lefty in Mike Minor, a guy who has really battled since I questioned his ability back at the beginning of the season. He's probably the biggest turnaround story of the year for this team. You have to love the turnaround also in Jason Heyward, who went from complete disaster at the plate into a solid .270 hitter with 27 bombs. Also, you can't ignore the fact the Martin Prado is the best hitter we have on the team. A .300 average on the season, 42 doubles, 10 homers, 81 runs scored, and 17 stolen bags. He's a top of the order nightmare for opposing teams. We're going to need him as a leader in the clubhouse now that Chipper's gone. Also, the young guns Simmons and Freeman can both swing the bat and be solid in the infield.

There's also a lot to lament about this season. Jurrjens turned out to be a complete trainwreck. Hanson shouldn't be allowed to pitch on this team anymore since he can't get more than five and third. Uggla was terrible for 90% of the season. McCann is proving that he's not the catcher of the future for this team since he can't consistently hit or throw runners out. The Pastornicky thing simply didn't work. He's not as good in the field as Simmons, nor can he hit anywhere near as well. Bourne completely fell apart late. His .300+ average pre-All Star break crashed and burned into a .274 mark by the time the season was over. Randall Delgado is not the answer for this pitching staff, and may never be ready for primetime. And to top it all off, the Braves were tied for dead last with RISP on the season...with the Cubs. Anytime I say you're tied with the Cubs for any stat, you should be shaking your head.

After all we've been through, I'm actually very optimistic about next season, even without Chipper in the lineup. A lot of what the Braves will look like in 2013 will be decided in the offseason, but we do have a solid core of players in Simmons, Freeman, Prado, and Heyward. Uggla will still be there because he's under contract, and we just have to deal with it. I hope they resign Bourn and Reed Johnson to compliment our outfield, but we'll see what Wren has up his sleeve. When you look at the season we put together, we won more games than we've won since 2004. That's a HUGE improvement over the Braves teams we've had in the past. Yeah, the wheels came off in one game at the end. So what? I have every reason to believe that next season, with some better hitting pieces and this pitching staff, that we can win this division. 96-98 wins is not out of the realm of possibility at all.

So hold your heads up Braves fans. We're all hurting right now, and we have a long offseason to lick our wounds. But you know what? There's a lot of young talent and great stories waiting for this team. Chipper retires the last of the old guard we know from the 1990s teams. Now, this new team takes form, with new leaders, and new talent. They get to write the next version of great Braves history. I'm excited to see what the future holds for them in 2013. Until then...

Go Braves!

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