Another baseball season is upon us, and the Atlanta Braves are playing their first regular-season game in a matter of hours. This spring saw them finishing a perfect 15-15, but we all know that that really doesn’t mean anything. What’s more important is how they play with their everyday lineup and rotation in the coming months.
This season is already shaping up quite differently; they’ve lost Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria, two key players. Yunel Escobar should do a capable job of filling in for Edgar, but he has plenty of time left to develop into the kind of player that Renteria is. Andruw’s loss is kind of a mixed bag – he is undoubtedly a very good center fielder, but his bat has been far too inconsistent in recent years. Even Mark Kotsay should be able to provide more offensive production than Andruw did last season.
If the Braves can stay healthy – especially Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, and Brian McCann – they should be as good as any team in the NL East. If Glavine can produce, and if Mike Hampton turns out to be a miracle, and the bullpen doesn’t implode around Rafael Soriano, there’s no reason they shouldn’t improve upon last year’s slightly-better-than-average performance. The back end of Atlanta’s rotation will have to be better than last year, and it looks like it will be.
There has been a lot of talk about the Phillies, but just as Phillies fans won’t take the Braves seriously, I have a hard time giving them any credit. They’re filled with average players (with exceptions in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins – although Rollins’ actual play is outshone by his reputation). Again, the Mets have a very good lineup and pitching staff, especially after acquiring Johan Santana. It’s a shame the Braves couldn’t have gotten a new ace instead of a 42 year old, but one pitcher will likely not decide the race. It should still be fun to watch how things shape up.
My prediction for the final standings (although I’m always wrong on these things):
- New York