|2007 Season Postmortem: Atlanta Braves||| Print |||Send|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on November 27, 2007
Average: Chipper Jones, .337
Home Runs: Chipper Jones, 29
Runs Batted In: Jeff Francoeur, 105
Runs Scored: Chipper Jones, 108
Stolen Bases: Willie Harris, 17
ERA: John Smoltz, 3.11
Innings Pitched: Tim Hudson, 224.1
Strikeouts: John Smoltz, 197
Wins: Tim Hudson, 16
Saves: Bob Wickman, 20
Best Move of the Season
After losing ace setup man Mike Gonzalez to Tommy John surgery and closer Bob Wickman began to show his age and ace setup man Rafael Soriano began to look mortal, manager Bobby Cox found an arm in his bullpen and rode it. His name is Peter Moylan, and he appeared in 80 games and threw 90 innings. With the loss of two of the season’s Nasty Boys, Moylan stepped in and showed himself to be a dominating relief pitcher.
Worst Move of the Season
In an attempt to make a big splash at the trade deadline, general manager John Schuerholz moved starter Kyle Davies, who has talent but hasn’t translated it to the major leagues, to the Kansas City Royals for a half-year rental in Octavio Dotel. Dotel threw only 7.2 innings with the Braves before finally succumbing to injuries. Davies, meanwhile, can still become a decent number four pitcher in the major leagues.
Most Valuable Player
He was probably one of the least talked about players this season, but Chipper Jones deserves some more recognition than he is getting. Jones, a third baseman, had his usual good combination of power -- 29 home runs and .604 slugging percentage -- and plate discipline -- .425 OBP and seven more walks than strikeouts. Jones finished sixth in the National League MVP balloting, but if the Braves had performed better, maybe that rank would have gone up a few spots.
It’s a tough choice between Braves ace 1 and 1A, but the award should belong to John Smoltz. Tim Hudson threw significantly more innings, but Smoltz seemed to fit the mold of competitor. He ground out one more year on an elbow that has been through too many surgeries, and he still has the stuff to get 13 strikeouts in a game. It may be the sentimental choice over Hudson, but it’s an entirely justifiable one.
Up and Coming Player
With the departure of Edgar Renteria, the Braves have opened the way for shortstop Yunel Escobar to have the everyday job at shortstop. Escobar, a Cuban defector, plays with a certain zest that rubs opposing players the wrong way, but in over 300 at-bats, Escobar had an on-base percentage of .385, and he figures to slot into the number two spot in the lineup next season.
What Went Right
Last season did not go well, but the Braves learned a lot about how their 2008 squad should shape up. The lineup seems fairly set with Kelly Johnson and Escobar in the top two slots, while Jones, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Jeff Francoeur are in the middle of the order. The Braves also learned that they have too much depth in left field, where Matt Diaz and Willie Harris are both capable players, but will probably continue to platoon.
The Braves also learned that Moylan could be a solid setup man, and that Rafael Soriano, on the strength of nine saves down the stretch, could step up and be the team’s closer. Furthermore, Manuel Acosta and Royce Ring were given significant innings toward the end of the season, and they both showed they can be effective middle relief pitchers.
What Went Wrong
The beginning of the end started with the injury to Mike Hampton. Hampton was penciled to fill in the third spot in the Braves’ rotation, which would have allowed Chuck James, Lance Cormier, and Davies to come along slowly in the latter portion of the rotation. However, with Hampton’s injury, the Braves had to make a desperate move in signing lefty Mark Redman from free agency, and that was an unmitigated disaster.
Injuries beset the remainder of their rotation as guys like JoJo Reyes and Buddy Carlyle were given starts and never did a really good job. The pitching staff was also not helped by the presence of Tyler Yates, who, for some reason, continued to pitch meaningful innings for the Braves the entire season.
The Braves have already made two big moves in trading Renteria to the Detroit Tigers in return for starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens. Adding Tom Glavine was the other notable acquisition. Jurrjens and Glavine should provide some depth for the rotation, meaning they could line up seven deep next year: Smoltz, Hudson, James, Hampton, Glavine, Lance Cormier and Jurrjens. This was a fatal flaw in the Braves 2007 season: not having enough starting pitching to effectively get through a season.
The Braves do not have much they should pursue on the free agent market, nor are they likely to add anything or make any trades. Perhaps adding a reliever like LaTroy Hawkins or Luis Vizcaino or bringing back Ron Mahay would beneficial in that it could bridge the gap from starters to end-of-the-bullpen guys in Moylan and Soriano. That is, at least, until Gonzalez returns from Tommy John surgery and returns to the form he was displaying with the Braves in the early portion of the season.