You won't see me get misty over saying goodbye to Turner Field or this version of the Atlanta Braves in 2016. Some fans get nostalgic over buildings, but I think of the Ted more as a house of horrors than an actual friend we're losing. It was never a true baseball stadium. It was too big, retrofitted, and essentially formless in terms of defining features. The best thing that most people can say about it is that they spent times with family there so they have memories of those times. Which again, those can happen anywhere. It's the family and friends and teams that make those memories, not the building. So I don't weep for the loss of the Ted. Frankly, I've hated its location forever even though I have season tickets.
With that said, I think we're all excited about how the Braves played in September. I didn't cover it much because I rarely write about this team once we're eliminated until the final recap. But I will say that we saw some signs of potential greatness in this squad late in the year. Offensively, it was one of the strongest months in all of baseball, with the Braves finishing 1st in the NL in runs for September. We saw Freddie Freeman have his best second half of the season of his career, and we say Dansby Swanson make his debut. We saw Ender Inciarte become a possible staple in the outfield and Mallex Smith return from injury. We saw Matt Kemp join the team and change the complexion of the lineup. All in all, we saw a lot of positive things that can give us hope that the future is bright.
Also, the team won 68 games. Last year they won 67 games. For months I've heard whiner fans tell me that John Hart and John Coppollela lied to us, saying the team wouldn't be worse than 2015. Well guess what? It's not. It was one game better, and that makes their statement true. But even more than that, the team as constructed looks like a functional baseball team now with offensive firepower. The best part is the young pitching isn't even really sorted out yet. We were winning games in September with mostly bigtime scoring. If we can train up the young staff to form a killer rotation, this team is playoff bound again.
But let's look back at my bold predictions from the beginning of the season shall we?
1 - The Braves will finish with more than 100 home runs - TRUE! They finished with 122 after an awful start to the season hitting the long ball. The real hero there was Freddie Freeman with a monster 34 on the season and his career high. He hopefully can carry that momentum into next year.
2 - The Bullpen will be better than 2015's greasefire - TRUE! The bullpen finished with a 3.95 ERA on the year, which isn't stellar but still way better than the 2015 finish of 4.69. Blech.
3 - Jason Grilli won't be on the team in the second half of the season - TRUE! Jason Grilli was traded on May 31st to the Pirates. Most of you can barely remember he started with the team, so this one was probably a reminder.
4 - Hector Olivera will lead the team in batting average - FALSE! Way false. He was a disaster, and he wasn't allowed to finish the season with us due to a domestic violence charge and suspense of 82 games. Then we traded him for Matt Kemp who turned out to be awesome. And slightly fat but still awesome. The actual batting average leader for the team with over 200 ABs was Freddie Freeman at .302. However, Dansby Swanson also hit .302 in 129 ABs, so look out!
5 - Defense will be a major problem for this Braves team - TRUE! Man, it was a mess in the first half of the year. Bigtime. Going by defensive ratings on Fangraphs, the Braves finished the year with a -29.6, which puts them 23rd in the league. And that's having improved some in the second half of the year.
6 - Julio Teheran will have his best season so far - TRUE! Julio Teheran finished the year with 188 innings, 30 starts, and a 3.21 ERA. Baseball reference gave his WAR on the year a 4.8 which is the highest total of his career. The key was that his H/9 was the lowest it's ever been, and his BB/9 was the lowest it's ever been as well, while also increasing his K/9 along with it.
7 - Braves will have their first no-hitter since 1994 - FALSE! Not with this pitching staff. We didn't really even get close to this because of the issues with the rotation. Oh well, that was a long shot.
8 - Much fewer shutout losses in 2016 - TRUE! We had 17 shutout losses in 2015. In 2016 the Braves only lost while scoring zero runs 12 times. That's a 29% reduction on shutout losses, and that's a good thing, because those are unwatchable. And when it was over 10% of the games last year, that sucked.
9 - Three All-Stars for the Braves in 2016 - FALSE! We only had one, and it was Julio. We should have had two based on Freddie's total year, but he didn't turn on the jets until the second half so there's no way he was going to win the vote.
10 - The Braves will have the highest team OPS since 2010 - FALSE! The Braves OPS in 2010 was .740 on the season. It was the highest total over those last 5 seasons leading into this year. The Braves finished this 2016 season with a .705 OPS so it wasn't even close. But I'll blame most of that on the fact the team struggled to score at all for about 60% of the season.
And the final prediction, I picked the Braves to win 72 games. Close, but they only won 68. Still, the win total for the team in Vegas was 65, and I was taking the over. And you know what? We won that bet.
SEVEN predictions right, FOUR predictions wrong. And another baseball season behind us. Here's to the new season in SunTrust park in about 5 months, Braves fans. Can't wait.