The Atlanta Braves went 34-21 in the months of August and September. Unfortunately for them, their poor play early in the season meant that the playoffs were still out of reach. While their starting pitching was strong (Derek Lowe's underwhelming year not withstanding), their offense couldn't generate enough support. Chipper Jones had, arguably, the worst year of his career, posting an OPS of .818 – his lowest in nearly a decade-and-a-half. Jones' performance was a microcosm of the Braves' season as a whole: certainly not awful, but short of expectations.
Buster Olney, Baseball Prospectus and the Insider Staff broke down the season that was for the Atlanta Braves and what to expect from them this winter. An ESPN Insider account is required to read the article but here are the highlights for those without:
- Olney writes that the Braves need a bopper, preferably of the right-handed variety. The piece suggests Dan Uggla or Miguel Tejada while noting that Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are probably too pricey. Gary Sheffield is mentioned as a cheaper alternative, but one has to wonder if the Braves are at all interested in reuniting with the outspoken soon-to-be 41-year-old.
- Atlanta may need a big bat, but they can afford to stand pat when it comes to their rotation. Javier Vazquez was brilliant this year, posting career bests with an ERA of 2.87 and 9.8 K/9. With a starting five that also includes Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson, the Braves are one of the fortunate teams that do not have to sift through this year's pool of free agent starters if they don't want to. While the Braves may give some thought to moving Lowe, who is owed $15MM in each of the next three seasons, they may not find much of a market for his services.
- The Braves "face an intriguing decision" when it comes to Hudson's $12MM option. Hudson missed most of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery but has looked rather healthy since returning, posting an ERA of 3.61 in seven starts. A blog post from David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted that the Braves could decline the option and be able to sign Hudson for "quite a bit less", as Hudson has just built a home in the area.
- Shawn Hoffman of Baseball Prospectus concludes the piece by saying, "If the rotation can hold some of its gains, and Chipper Jones can at least maintain his current level, the Braves could be very, very tough."