Consistency a key for the Braves in 2012
2011 may have been a disappointing season in Atlanta, but for 2012 to erase the memories of a September collapse, a few things need to fall into place for the Braves to capture the franchises first World Series title in 17 years.
The biggest key, of course, is health.
In 2011, the Braves were snake-bitten with injuries, losing All-Star catcher Brian McCann down the stretch while never having the luxury of having Jason Heyward healthy for an extended period of time, while first-half studs Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson were unable to avoid the injury bug in the second half.
But the second most important key to the Braves success in 2012 is consistency.
Mired in the worst slump of his career, Dan Uggla surged with a 33-game hitting streak, but panned out after that. Rookie of the year runner-up Freddie Freeman had a 20-game hitting streak during that time, but many Freeman never got settled as he hit in numerous spots in first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez's lineup.
McCann never recovered fully from the strained oblique he suffered in the Braves 19-inning 4-3 victory over the Pirates, while Martin Prado looked as though he may have came out of his own slump before a staph infection forced the once-utility player away from the game to recover.
An oblique injury to Nate McLouth in Anaheim forced the Braves to call up Jordan Schafer, and while Schafer was a spark-plug, he found the disabled list just before getting traded, along with three minor-league pitching prospects, for Michael Bourn.
Alex Gonzalez, now a Milwaukee Brewer, was dreadful up until his bat got hot for two weeks in September. But injuries forced Gonzalez to the bench, as the sure-handed shortstop never showed the type of pop the Braves hoped when they acquired him the year before from Toronto for Yunel Escobar
Chipper Jones, probably the most consistent hitter all season for the Braves, missed 12 games with a knee injury, and had arthroscopic surgery done before returning much earlier than expected. The 39-year-old third baseman played in 126 games, and was just one of three Braves to hit over .275 on the season (Freeman and Bourn were the other two).
The Braves bullpen, the most consistent bullpen through the seasons first five months, wore down in September, as Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel blew three saves in the seasons final month, including one in St. Louis and another on the seasons final day against the Phillies.
Derek Lowe, now a Cleveland Indian, had possibly the worst month of his career in September, going 0-5 with an ERA over 8, just one season removed from possibly his best September, when he went 5-0 with an ERA below 2, helping the Braves earn the 2010 Wild Card.
Without Wren pulling the trigger on any big moves, yet, it appears his faith in this team did not waver, especially as he watched it collapse in September.
Wren has shown his patience, but in the revamped NL East, if his patience does not pay off, many will wonder why the Braves remained quiet on the trade front in the offseason.