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2005 Record: 90-72
2005 Runs Scored: 769
2005 Runs Allowed: 674
Expected 2005 Record: 91-71
Atlanta Braves have had arguably the most remarkable regular-season run of
success in the history of major league baseball. Despite every team in their division
finishing .500 or better last year, they still found a way to win with an
incredibly young outfield and clutch pitching.
But with uber-pitching coach Leo Mazzone defected to
2005 Starters: Johnny Estrada, Brian McCann
Projected 2006 Starter: Brian McCann
Estrada followed a pattern that the Braves developed with Michael Tucker. Find a guy, showcase him for the most productive part of his career, then ship him off for other needs when his buzz is high. They may have waited a little too long with Estrada, but McCann stepped in and posted a .345 OBP while handling a pitching staff down the stretch in a divisional battle. Did I mention he is only 21? Todd Pratt will back him up and start every 4th or 5th day.
2005 Starters: Adam LaRoche, Julio Franco
Projected 2006 Starter: Adam LaRoche
Adam LaRoche has been slumping all spring. If that continues on into the regular season, ancient Brian Jordan or young and hungry James Jurries will take some playing time away from him. I imagine that if the problem is serious, the Braves will move to acquire one of the many fine hitting twentysomething first basemen that populate AAA.
2005 Starter: Marcus Giles
Projected 2006 Starter: Marcus Giles
Giles is a little big-man who has good line drive power, can run, field, and hit for average. He does everything well, nothing spectacularly. He started off last season slow but finished strong. He is entering his prime and could be the top overall second baseman in the NL this year.
2005 Starter: Chipper Jones
Projected 2006 Starter: Chipper Jones
The face of the franchise, as American as apple pie, Chipper isn’t one of the top hitters in the league anymore. But he has returned to form as a fine hitter over the last few seasons. Chipper credits third base as making him feel more involved than he did playing left field. Whatever the reason, he certainly plays better in every facet of the game when he mans the hot corner.
2005 Starter: Rafael Furcal
Projected 2006 Starter: Edgar Renteria
We here at Baseball Evolution were the first to tell you that Edgar Renteria was incredibly overrated as a hitter following his stellar 2003 campaign, and remained so even after his 2004 precipitous decline. His huge contract with the Red Sox looks ridiculous given what a poor hitter and fielder he was in 2005 (although I never heard a Boston fan once admit how bad he was last year). Having said that, Renteria likely has some middling-to-good years left in him.
2005 Starters: Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson, Brian Jordan
Projected 2006 Starters: Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson
Jeff Francoeur has an amazing half season at age 21 at the plate…although his lacks of ability to take a walk indicates a likely decline this year. But even in that short time, he was easily the most valuable fielder at RF in 2005. Andruw Jones is still young and had a breakout season last year. The left field platoon is young too, and expect Cox to juggle it well during the regular season, poorly should the Braves reach the playoffs.
Projected 2006 Front Starters: John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Horacio Ramirez
Hudson combined for over 420 IP last year and an ERA in the low threes. You really can’t ask for more form your top
two men. Ramirez, however, will likely
have a big say in how well
Other 2005 Starters: Jorge Sosa, Kyle Davies, John Thompson, Mike Hampton
Other Possible 2006 Starters: Jorge Sosa, Kyle Davies, John Thompson
Sosa had a breakthrough half season in 2005, and his ability to continue anywhere near that level would go a long way to help the Braves secure the East again this season. Davies is unremarkable, and Thompson was brilliant a few years ago but now seems to be made of glass. Mike Hampton, the poster-child for bad contracts, is out for the entire season with an elbow injury.
2005 Top Relievers: Kyle Farnsworth, Chris Reitsma,
Projected 2006 Top
Relievers: Chris Reitsma, Joey
Dan Kolb was—with no surprise to us—a disaster last year. Chris Reitsma was effective, but not at closing, so the Braves nabbed Farnsworth at the trading deadline, who was lights out until single-handedly giving the decisive NLDS game to the Astros. Well, now he’s gone and Reitsma is back in the closer’s role, for now. Who knows what tricks and delights wait for us in the Braves’ pen this season?
This is the very model of a well run franchise. While you can justifiably argue that Bobby Cox makes poor in-game decisions (especially in the playoffs), there is no better manager in the league at getting production out of whatever motley crew he can work with over a 162-game season. The departure of pitching guru Leo Mazzone makes me take pause, the lineup of the Mets makes me break out in hives, but one would be a fool to count out the Braves this year. They should be slight favorites to win the NL East. AGAIN.
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