A little early, but I'm going to be travelling on actual New Years Day, as I expect many of you will. So I'll do this on Friday to get the jump on the New Year. Here are the things I think the Braves should resolve to do in 2014.
1 - Be Better in Center: We all know BJ sucked, and he was part of the reason the Braves couldn't get anything going at the back end of the order. Hell, he was so bad it was record-setting. He's a killer to a lineup if he's wrong. That means if the Braves want to have a remote shot at taking the division again next year, they need him to hit over .240 at the least.
2 - Make Better Decisions at the Plate: There are times when a walk is as good as a hit. There are other times when a walk is a situational killer because a guy batting sub-.200 is behind you. If we have two outs, two on, and Jason Heyward at the plate, I want him free-wheeling on the ball when Dan Uggla is behind him. I don't want that walk to make the bases loaded for a bad hitter who doesn't even put the ball in play 50% of the time. You can't play the odds that way and expect to score. Too many times the Braves were swinging when they shouldn't (guys like Simmons jump to mind), and taking when they shouldn't (guys like Justin jump to mind). As a result our RISP was terrible, and that's what making better decisions improves foremost.
3 - Embrace Thievery: Speed was supposed to be one of this team's assets. You know how many bases we stole last year? 64. That was 24th in the Majors. When you struggle with RISP, it helps to get more chances with RISP. I mean even if you're hitting .250 in that category, you'll still score a run if you stretch 4 singles into runners on second with smart base-running.
4 - Stay Healthy: How many injuries can you take to a team before it takes a toll on your performance? How many times did a pitching injury or hitting injury change the whole outlook on a month? The Braves need to take a look at how they approach games, as does the manager. They need to question their conditioning heading into the season if they are constantly coming up with tweaks and problems to almost everyone in the lineup. If there's one thing I can say for Dan Uggla, dude is in shape and doesn't get injured that often.
5 - Minimize the Snowball Effect: The Braves were bad about giving up the big inning that would completely sink the game in 2013. Somehow one run would turn into 4 runs with a lot of walks, errors, and bombs. Example, in game 3 of the playoffs, the Dodgers got two leadoff hits. Then the Braves got a strikeout. At this point, all you need to do is get a ball on the ground or in play. Nope, Teheran walked the bases loaded. Then he gave up a sacrifice. Okay, so the damage was just a run. Get an out and you're out of the inning. Nope, 3 run bomb to Crawford with two outs. Not just with 2 outs, with 2 strikes as well. That's what I mean about the snowball effect, and it happened to the Braves all season. In fact in September, the Braves gave up 9 innings of 3 runs or more. That's just in one month. Those are game-changing innings that more often than not cost you wins down the stretch.
Those things are the resolutions I'd love to see the Braves make in the New Year. Oh, and will somebody adopt Dan Uggla please? Maybe we can put him on one of those ASPCA-type commercials with Sarah McLachlan singing "Eyes of an Angel" and distribute it to all the GMs. For just $35,000 a day, you can give an Uggla clean drinking water, baby Tees, and a good home.