Monday, March 27, 2017

Braves Bold Predictions 2017

Hey we're starting baseball in exactly one week! Who is excited?! <Raises hand like that nerdy kid you probably hated in middle school> That's right, we're ready to watch 162 games of (hopefully, mercifully decent) baseball, and before we do that I get to make some bold predictions about the season. Let's find out how wrong I'll be there year! Can anything top me picking a guy to lead the team in average who was then subsequently kicked off the team for domestic violence? WE'LL SEE!
  1. The starting rotation will be bottom 10 in ERA in the majors - I don't like much about our rotation this year beyond Folty and Teheran. I'm also sort of waiting for Teheran to come back to reality after last year. Julio had the best year of his career in 2016, and I think it would be hard to repeat that performance mentally and physically in 2017. Folty is still learning the ropes but he's yet to post a MLB ERA under 4.00 for a season. Garcia has only had, from what I can tell, one stellar year in his entire career, and that was 2015. RA Dickey is always a bad knuckler from getting shelled, and Bartolo is (let's face it) fat and old (although entertaining).
  2. Dansby Swanson wins Rookie of the Year - Dansby kept his rookie status heading into 2017 which means he'll be in the prime slot for ROY honors if he plays well. I don't think the competition will be very stiff, but it will likely come from the Cardinals, Nationals, and Pirates with their prospects if it does. However, Dansby was a .302/.361/.442 guy last year in 38 games, so if he's on point with those numbers in 2017 he's a shoe in to win it.
  3. Freddie Freeman hits 40+ homers - Freddie was banging the ball last season, he's had a great spring seeing the ball, and everyone is marveling at how consistent he is at the plate. I really like his odds to kill the ball in the new park. He hit 34 last year, and I think he'll be in the home run race this season with over 40.
  4. The Offense will be top 10 in runs scored - At the end of 2016, the Braves finished 4th in runs in September, and 10th in runs in August. They really turned things around offensively, and if anything I think they are better prepared to score in 2017. Matt Kemp will be around full-time, Ender Inciarte now has his deal to play in the outfield long term, Nick Markakis is still consistent, Freeman is back to full strength, Adonis will be at third, Dansby will get starting time, Brandon Phillips is now the second baseman, and they added Kurt Suzuki to catch. It all adds up to more runs on paper. Now we just need them in the ballpark.
  5. The bullpen will be a train wreck we still haven't fixed - My fear is that no lead will be safe with the Braves in 2017. I don't really see many options beyond Vizzy, Johnson, and Krol. Even Johnson and Krol had some uh-ohs in 2016. Behind that is the likes of Paco Rodriguez, Mauricio Cabrera, and Jose Ramirez. Two of them have less than 50 innings in the majors. Rodriguez has barely 80 innings. That's not a ton of experience to hang your hat on with the pen.
  6. Somebody will pitch a no-hitter in SunTrust Park - I don't know if it will be for us or against us, but I have a feeling that no-no is getting out of the way earlier in the new digs.
  7. Brian Snitker will get another contract extension mid-year - The Braves won't want this to linger, and I think they like having Snit in the dugout. I suspect the Braves will be cruising around .500 and fairly watchable all year which is really all the front office wants in this transitional period. They may say they want to make the playoffs, but they aren't stupid enough to actually believe it with this pitching staff.
  8. Parking around the stadium will be fine by July - Everyone is panicking but it's just a matter of finding your niche around the new lots. Once people figure out where to go, and that the battery is actually open for dinner before games with stuff to do, I get the feeling you won't have the 7PM traffic crush every day. People will start showing up at 5PM and hitting up Antico on the way to the stadium.
  9. The Braves will change regular closers at least twice - I don't think Vizzy holds the job all year long. Something just tells me with this bullpen we're going to see a big shakeup, and it might by Vizzy, Johnson, and somebody else as the Braves try to solve the late-game issues and closer problems. I would like to hope I'm wrong, but I don't really love what I'm seeing on the pitching staff at all.
And finally #10 is the record. I think the Braves go 76-86. I think they'll have games where they look awesome offensively and win 8-4. Then they'll have a night where they struggle and the rotation implodes early for a 7-2 loss. It's going to be a rollercoaster with more downs than ups as they continue to look to get younger arms experience on the staff. After all, this is still part of the rebuild. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

GO BRAVES!

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