With less than 48 hours until the first pitch of the 2011 baseball season, the time has come for the first BravesFTW roundtable preview.
While the early expert previews heavily favored the Philadelphia Phillies, picking the Braves to win the NL east has become vogue among those same experts lately.
While the writers on this site are admittedly Braves-leaning, the BravesFTW roundtable results were not at all unanimous.
Here are the BravesFTW.com staff predictions for the Braves in 2011.
What is the Braves biggest strength?
Nick: The lineup. Martin Prado is once again tabbed as being the leadoff hitter, setting up a lineup with the likes of Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Alex Gonzalez, Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth, rookie Freddie Freeman and the newest-Brave, Dan Uggla. If this lineup can remain healthy and McLouth can improve off of a stellar spring campaign, the Braves will have a lot of success in 2011.
Josh: Starting rotation. Is it as strong as the Phillies? No, but the Braves 1-5 is a different style than the Phillies 1-5. Hudson, Hanson, Jurrjens, Lowe & Beachy should be an incredible force this year. Hanson & Jurrjens should be hitting their prime, while Hudson & Lowe will once again be strong veterans to help balance out the rotation. I also expect a solid season for Beachy.
Joel: The Lineup. The Braves were one power hitter short of staying atop the division throughout the season a year ago. Enter Dan Uggla. The former Braves-killer is primed for a big season playing all his home games at Turner Field where he has 12 homeruns and a .354 average in 45 games as a visitor. Chipper looks to be fine and Jason Heyward should continue blossoming into the star he's certain to become.
Nick: The bullpen. Having two second-year relievers at the back end in Craig Kimbrel and Johnny Venters and adding George Sherrill, who is coming off a lackluster season and Scott Linebrink, who hasn’t seen an NL lineup everyday since 2007 does not bode well for Atlanta. Eric O’Flaherty and Peter Moylan will do everything they can to hold up their end of the bullpen.
Josh: The bench. I love Hinske and his incredible ability to hit at the right time. But after Hinske & David Ross. I'm a little worried; I'm not a Conrad believer. He's a very good pinch hitter but he's an absolute liability in the field. I'm confident in the younger guys (Hicks & Young), but the bench is shaky without Diaz and Infante.
Joel: The bench. Hinske and Conrad should continue to be viable options off the bench, but other than David Ross--who backs up Brian McCann at catcher--is young and unproven.
What grade do you give this lineup?
Nick: B- | With Dan Uggla’s addition, it will provide protection for Heyward, Chipper, McCann, Freeman and Gonzalez.
Josh: A | It is definitely stronger than last year but question marks remain with McLouth, Chipper & Freeman.
Joel: A | The lineup needed some power, Uggla provides it. Chipper looks great and Brian McCann is primed for a career season.
Nick: B | The rotation is exactly the same as it was last year, just another year older. If J.J can remain healthy and Beachy can prove to be a solid-5th starter, the Braves will be primed for another playoff run.
Josh: A | One rookie, two guys entering their prime and two veterans should equal a great combination and strong season.
Joel: B | Look for Tommy Hanson to begin his acension to ace status in 2011. Hudson and Lowe will continue to provide valuable quality starts. Jair Jurrjens is a medical liability, but rookies Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy will provide a stabilizing force at the backend of the rotation.
Nick: C+ | This Braves bench will likely be feast or famine. Eric Hinske’s bat and glove are the quality of a starter and the same can be said of David Ross. Brooks Conrad has another chance to prove his worth. Brandon Hicks and Matt Young, both rookies, can give the Braves an added late-inning boost.
Josh: C+ | Quality vets like Ross & Hinske will help newbies, Hicks & Young. Conrad will continue to hit & try to play defense. I just find it very hard to be excited about the bench this year, I can't wait to be proven wrong.
Joel: C | Hinske, Conrad, and Ross are as reliable off the bench as they can be. But it's the unprovens on the bench that will have to step up in key spots.
Nick: C+ | The loss of Billy Wagner will be huge, but Venters and Kimbrel are ready to take the closers role. The Braves added Scott Linebrink from the White Sox and George Sherrill from the Dodgers, adding to the reliable O’Flaherty and Moylan.
Josh: A | Easily one of the strongest bullpens in the Majors. Stacked with lefty specialist, George Sherrill, our Aussie vet Peter Moylan, and the Venters & Kimbrel tandem that should get us plenty of saves & rarely blow them.
Joel: B | Venters, Kimbrel, and Moylan should be as valuable as any seventh, eighth, and ninth inning trio in the majors. If George Sherrill can still get lefties out and Linebrink can regain his San Diego form, this could be one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.
Who will be the team MVP?
Nick: In just his second season, Jason Heyward will be the team’s MVP. Heyward will avoid a sophomore slump by flourishing in Fredi Gonzalez's lineup that added Uggla and has a healthy Chipper and Prado for what the Braves hope the entire season.
Josh: Brian McCann. He'll finally get the protection around him that he's needed and he'll deliver when we need him to. I'm projecting a big year for McCann with Uggla, Heyward, Jones & Freeman around him.
Joel: Tommy Hanson is ready to bust out in a big way. Hanson went 10-11 with a 3.33 ERA last season. The young pitcher had almost no run support for much of the season, however. In 12 of his 13 no-decisions, Hanson had a 2.06 ERA in 74.2 innings. In addition, three of Hanson's losses in August and September were by two runs or less. That rotten luck changes in 2011.
Nick: .326, 19 HR, 94 RBI
Josh: .275, 15 HR, 65 RBI
Joel: .282, 15 HR, 82 RBI
Nick: .311, 24 HR, 107 RBI
Josh: .275, 25 HR, 85 RBI
Joel: .308, 22 HR, 87 RBI
Nick: .287, 16 HR, 82 RBI
Josh: .295, 15 HR, 70 RBI
Joel: .264, 15 HR, 62 RBI
Nick: .270, 36 HR, 118 RBI
Josh: .265, 35 HR, 110 RBI
Joel: .258, 33 HR, 105 RBI
Nick: .282, 7 HR, 54 RBI
Josh: .270, 10 HR, 50 RBI
Joel: .267, 12 HR, 45 RBI
Nick: .291, 21 HR, 92 RBI
Josh: .300, 30 HR, 80 RBI
Joel: .325, 28 HR, 102 RBI
Nick: .337, 12 HR, 64 RBI
Josh: .325, 15 HR, 65 RBI
Joel: .318, 12 HR, 61 RBI
Nick: .261, 27 HR, 89 RBI
Josh: .250, 12 HR, 55 RBI,
Joel: .263, 13 HR, 58 RBI
Nick: 221.2 IP, 15-7, 2.72 ERA, 174 K’s
Josh: 220 IP, 16-8, 2.99, 165 K's
Joel: 210 IP, 13-6, 3.18, 124 K's
Nick: 232.1 IP, 16-11, 3.74 ERA, 189 K’s
Josh: 200 IP, 14-12, 3.95, 130 K's
Joel: 220 IP, 16-10, 3.34, 118 K's
Nick: 211.1 IP, 14-8, 3.61 ERA, 207 K’s
Josh: 210 IP, 15-7, 3.20, 180 K's
Joel: 225 IP, 19-6, 2.53, 204 K's
Nick: 168.0 IP, 9-2, 3.41 ERA, 124 K’s
Josh: 200 IP, 13-9, 3.50, 150 K's
Joel: 150.2 IP, 7-8, 4.17, 89 K's
Nick: 54.2 IP, 3-5, 3.66 ERA, 44 K’s
Josh: 180 IP, 10-8, 3.70, 145 K's
Joel: 120 IP, 7-6, 3.78, 92 K's
Nick: 110.2 IP, 7-4, 4.13 ERA, 72 K’s
Josh: 80 IP, 5-4, 3.30, 85 K's
Joel: 112 IP, 13-10, 3.67, 89 K's
Nick: 78.0 IP, 4-1, 3.88 ERA, 57 K’s
Josh: 75 IP, 4-2, 2.35, 85 K's, 20 SV
Joel: 72 IP, 6-5, 3.62, 81 K's, 15 SV
Nick: 81.1 IP, 5-3, 3.93 ERA, 68 K’s
Josh: 75 IP, 3-2, 2.50, 90 K's, 30 SV
Joel: 78 IP, 4-4, 3.23, 92 K's, 34 SV
NL East Predictions: Predict each team’s record and order of finish
1. Philadelphia 98-64 |
2. Atlanta 95-67 |
3. Florida 85-77 |
4. Washington 68-96 |
5. New York 56-106 |
1. Atlanta 93-69 |
2. Philadelphia (WC) 90-72 |
3. Florida 85-77 |
4. Washington 75-87 |
5. New York 70-92 |
1. Atlanta 97-65 |
2. Philadelphia (WC) 94-68 |
3. Florida 85-77 |
4. New York 78-84 |
5. Washington 75-87 |
The bottom line is, the Braves led the division for much of 2010. This team is vastly better than last year's squad.
While the Phillies rotation got even better with the addition of Cliff Lee, the injury bug appears to have settled-in on Philadelphia this spring. Chase Utley and Brad Lidge are key contributors and if their injuries turn out to be of the nagging variety, things could get quite bumpy in the city of brotherly love.
The Braves are once again poised to take the division and make some real noise come October.