Washington+Nationals+v+Atlanta+Braves+DHEgiP3xVhul.jpgAs I lie in bed listening to Radiohead on my iPhone on this lovely Sunday night (err Monday morning), I contemplate a very horrendous Braves game that took place a good 14 hours ago. To be honest, I was a hair frustrated after the game ended.

Quite the optimist (especially as it relates to the Braves), I became very negative rather quickly this afternoon. I thought surely after Saturday’s game against Bruce and the Reds that we’d picked our bats back up. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Micah Owings, the Gainsville native, shut the Braves down. Really? Yeah, he did. While he’s done well against the Braves in the past, I just didn’t see anything that impressive. I definitely didn’t see anything impressive enough to keep us from scoring more than 2 runs. We played amateur ball, really. Our only professional hitter in the line-up, Chipper Jones, gave him a hard time. Ok, David Ross took him yard. Or was that a Reds’ reliever? I can’t remember and nor do I care.

I’ll just shoot it straight here. It’s late… early.

Let’s go.

-Yes, the NL East will be tight all season.

-Look at the NL East standings right now. Take a picture. It’ll be about like this all season. The Braves lose a game and remain 2 back from first place? Scary tight. . . .

-We will have to score more than 2 runs a game to stay in the pack. Period.

-Our strong rotation can’t do everything. Even in the 90’s, the Braves scored on a more consistent basis.

-No more comparing to the Braves’ 90’s rotation. There will never be another like it in all of Baseball.

-Do the Braves have the best pitching rotation in the NL East? Undoubtedly. Argue if you want. It better be good.

-Will Kenshin tone it down on the homers? He’s gonna have to if we’re gonna stay in this.

-About Kenshin, give him a break. This is his first season in the U.S. His talent is there. He has awesome movement. He can mix his pitches and hit both sides of the plate well. He will adjust. He will get better and better. Cy Young? Absolutely not. 3.20-3.95 ERA? I think so . . .

-Will Glavine play again? No. Haha, sorry.

- Will Tommy be called up this season? Personally, I think the Braves would love Jo-Jo to get a few more games under his belt so he can have more opportunities to show other clubs what he can do. I think the Braves will deal him before the break. Hanson finishes the season in the 5th spot.

Okay, I just have to make this statement:

The Braves will start to really surprise some folks when they can get all of the starters in the line-up at the same time for an extended period of time. This has been there problem. No consistent threats at the plate. It’s hard to match up against other clubs with Kotchman as the Braves’ clean-up stick. I love the dude to death. He will be one of our more consistent hitters this year. Just not in the clean-up spot.

Braves pitching is there, folks. The pen is getting things together and fast. Until today, the starting pitching has kept the Braves in games.

I’m gonna leave you with what the Braves’ line-up will soon look like as well as their rotation. You tell me if you don’t think they can match up with anyone in this division.

1. Kelly Johnson 2B
2. Yunel Escobar SS
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Garrett Anderson/ Matt Diaz LF (BTW, I strongly dislike Garrett Anderson)
6. Jeff Francoeur RF
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Jordan Schafer CF
9. Derek Lowe P

Derek Lowe
Jair Jurrjens
Javier Vazquez (Stud)
Kenshin Kawakami
Tommy Hanson (by June)

I smell a serious run at this…

…of course if the Braves can keep Chipper in the line-up…
…and everyone else.

Wait! Dang, I forgot about Huddy. What do we do with him come late July, early August? Obviously pitch him. Sheesh. Good problems . . .

Good week everyone,

Luke Goddard

 

Frenchie: Steppin’ Up to The Plate in A Big Way

pg2_ap_francoeur_300.jpgWell folks, I usually prefer to wait until the end of my blog to get to the “meat and potatoes” of what I’m writing about. I’m gonna break my own rules today.

Before I go any further though, let me stop here and say a few things.

A handful of some of my best buddies text me during Braves’ games, especially when things look rough. I got a text from a buddy during one of the last two nightmare-ish games against the Bucs. It said, “It looks like a circus out there.” Of course, he was referring to our recent bullpen skids.

Quite honestly, his text couldn’t have been more aptly put. While I was in deep frustration at the time it dinged in my phone’s mailbox, I couldn’t help but to laugh. Talk about timely comedic relief . . . .

If you’ve been following the Braves this year, or at least the past 5 games or so, there’s been times when I’m sure you were ready to throw a brick through the TV. And I don’t blame you one bit.

If you don’t mind though, I’d like to be that shiny, white toilet when you have the squirts at the most inopportune time. Those two extra strength Tylenol when you’re head is beyond aching. That large Coca-Cola with Nu-Way ice when you’re craving that bubbly sensation that runs down your throat after the first sip of a Coke.

If you’re a frustrated Braves fan, Sunday’s game vs. the Bucs should be all of these things to you and more. Wait. Not because it’s final score was 11-1. Not because Javier Vazquez threw 6 shut out innings with 8 strike outs. Not because the recent struggling rookie sensation, Jordan Schafer, went 3 for 5 at the plate after striking out about a dozen times (not an exaggeration) since getting off to a sizzlin’ hot start. Not because the Braves’ offensive anchor, Chipper Jones, made his return to the line-up at a time when it couldn’t have been needed more.

But because Jeff Francoeur went 2 for 5 with 3 RBI’s. Two of his RBI’s came with 2 outs.452465019_0e7efa2919.jpg Huge, folks. Huge. Now, if you’re the patient Braves fan who has had to endure the past handful of seasons, and especially last season, then you should be beyond excited about Frenchie’s much anticipated return as a Brave. Frenchie, the organization’s golden boy endured the lowest point of his young life last season. For the first time, this atheletic jock struggled. You have to remember, Frenchie had set all kinds of records in baseball and football in high school. He made such an impression on his high school that the school decided to retire his number and has made a memorial for him beside the ball park.

Now, I went to high school with some pretty impressive athletes. All of whom have gone on to play college baseball and football. However, neither of these talented fellas have had their jersey number retired.

Frenchie turned down a full ride to Clemson to play football. Instead, he was drafted by the  Braves in the 1st round (23rd overall) in 2002 at the ripe, young age of 18 (maybe barely 19). He didn’t spend much time in class-A Rome. He was quickly called up in 2005 to make his major league debut. And boy, did he make one! He made such an impressive debut that companies such as Delta Inc. and Under Armour signed a contract with him.

t1_braves.jpgIn his 2006 call-up debut, Frenchie hit .260 with 29 HR’s and 103 RBI’s. The following year, he impressed even more by maturely increasing his average to .293. His homer total came out to be solid 19 with 105 RBI’s. While Jeff seemed content with his RBI total and batting average, he wanted to increase his HR total in the 2008 season.

Like any athelete would do, he hit the weight room during the off season. As a result, he added a good 30 lbs to his frame. In hopes of hitting a few more bombs as a result from “beefing” up, Frenchie humbly realized just the opposite. Frenchie compiled a meager 11 homers with a .239 batting average. Oh and let’s not forget, a 71 RBI total. This humbling season suddenly became worse when he was demoted to Triple-A (then, Richmond).

Since the end of last season, many have wondered if he would be another star gone bad.

It’s early, but I predict your wondering can cease. In fact, you don’t really have to hope anymore. You can expect.

You can expect this new and improved Jeff Francoeur to deliver this year.

Til’ next week,
Luke Goddard

PS: In case you’re wondering, here’s Frenchie’s totals thus far:

  G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG
2009

11

 

43

 

6

14

 

1

 

2

 

1

  

7

 

22

 

1

 

5

 

0

 

0

. 341

. 512

 

.326

Don’t Trade Jurrjens. Don’t Bump Schafer.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to blog as much as I’d like. Being that it’s my final semester of my undergrad, I’ve been occupied with, in my eyes, less important things. For instance, Sports-Jair-051108.jpgtonight, I could be at home watching the Braves. Instead, I have to go to class wait for updates on my iPhone regarding the status of tonight’s game against the young and pumped Florida Marlins ball club.

Enough of that.

Considering I don’t have the time to make each of my blog entries “pretty” with all of the flowery language that most professional writers spend time creating, I’m going to take a more informal approach to this season’s blog. I’m simply gonna share my thoughts on issues regarding the Bravos in the most raw form possible. And hopefully, I will do this once a week.

Let’s get to it.

Bill Shanks, the radio host for Fox Sports on 1670 AM (former ESPN radio host) boldly stated during yesterday’s segment that he thinks the Braves should consider trading Jair Jurrjens, as he would prove to be a luring piece of trade bait. Shanks mentioned that JJ could be used to bring that “missing” power bat the Braves need in order to contend in the East.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Normally, I take heed to Shanks’s opinions on matters regarding the Braves. However, this time, I turned the radio off. The comment regarding JJ was simply ignorant.

I could relate my opinion on the matter, but a professor friend of mine said it best in an email to me last night:

“No way on earth I’d trade Jair!  The lesson of the ’90s was that pitching wins, bats don’t matter nearly as much–and it’s much, much easier to rent a good bat for a year or even half a year because there are always bats people will deal–but far less so with really good pitchers.  And yes, with Chipper, B-Mac, Kelly, even Schafer, and a number of other guys off to promising starts, we’d be freakin’ out of our minds to trade such a strong young pitcher for a bat! “

Even so, I’m not sure I’d give up a pitcher like JJ for a power bat regardless of the status of players like Chippper, B-Mac, Kelly, and Schafer. Like Dr. Chip said, bats don’t matter nearlymlb_a_kawakami_300.jpg as much. 2 runs can win a ball game if the pitching shuts the opposing team down. End of story.

Moving on…

So, this year is completely different than the last 3 years in so many ways. We actually have solid depth in our rotation. After seeing our rotation at the beginning of Spring Training last year, Peter Gammons predicted that the Braves would win the World Series. His prediction was solely based on the fact that we had a rotation that appeared legendary on paper: (in no order) Smoltz, Glavine, Hudson, Hampton, and Jurrjens. Yeah, it looked nice. It looked really nice. However, the age element always made me a bit nervous. This year’s rotation is so much younger. I really like this year’s rotation. I love the idea of having work horses this year as opposed to future hall of famers who are fragile enough to break a limb picking up a shampoo bottle. I’m telling you folks– Lowe, Vazquez, and Jurrjens have proven to be work horses. Lowe and Vazquez more so than JJ, but JJ is getting there. I absolutely the love the idea of having a Japanese player on our roster as well.

I think the front office does, too. I just got the clubhouse catalogue in the mail and Kawakami’s face is all over it. Now, he’s obviously a great marketing tool. But, my Lord, is he more than that! The dude can flat out pitch. Yes, he will give up a homer or two this year, for sure. But, when you strike out 8 batters in a game, it sort of balances itself out.

Before I wrap up this week’s blog, I want to make mention my opinion regarding Schafer’s place in the line-up. So many commenters on DOB’s blog at http://ajc.com have said they’d like to see Bobby bump Schafer up to the lead-off spot.

Really?

 Schafer is 22 years young and is completely thriving in the non-pressured 8th spot? Why fix what ain’t broke?

That’s all.

Til’ next time.

My 2009 Season Prediction: Braves Will SNEAK into the Playoffs

Schafer.jpgThe Braves sure looked loose last night. The dudes are having fun.

My thoughts and predictions:

1) Derek Lowe: I’m loving Derek Lowe right now. Any sinker-baller will do well on this team. Great defense. Great year for Lowe.

2) Chipper Jones: Chipper will be chipper. I will be content with him playing 125 games. Martin Prado- great back-up.

3) Javier Vasquez: I’m curious to see if Vasquez will return to who he was with the Expos. Sinker-baller… I think so.

4) Kenshin Kawakami: I’m still not completely sold on Kawakami,
but I do believe he will at least be solid. Superstar? I’m not
POSITIVE, yet. Yes, I think it was a great move bringing him here. I’m
just going to be careful with how much hope I put in his ability to
perform in this league. I hope he does well and wins over my
confidence.

5) Jeff Francoeur: I’m looking for Frenchie to hit around .275
with about 30-35 homers. This open stance will enable him to have his
best offensive  year (power-wise) yet. I just hope he can drive those
outside-corner fastballs to right field. If so, his average will exceed
.275. I’m expecting  a .270-.280 average, a 30-35 HR total, and a
97-111 RBI total.

6) Brian McCann: MVP. No doubt. He looks good… really good.
I’m beginning to think he will go down as one of the best offensive
catchers in the history of baseball before it’s all over with. Of
course, that’s if he can keep those knees in shape throughout his
career. 2009 will be a big year for B-MAC.

7) Casey Kotchman: is going to settle in by the end of this
month and start producing. His defense is supurb. His offense will
pick-up. He’s starting to love Atlanta. He will have a solid year–
something we need from our first basemen.

8) Tom Glavine: For the sake of keeping things positive, I won’t go there.

9) Garrett Anderson/ Matt Diaz: This should be interesting. Look for Matty to get some at bats. Matty will make things tough for Bobby.

10) Tommy Hanson: Will be up by early Summer. I’m thinking June. (*See Tom Glavine)

11) Jordan Schafer: will be Rookie of the Year. 5-tool player.
He has a balanced amount of cockiness/confidence. Both needed to excel
as a 22 year old rookie.

The Braves will be biting at the heels of the Mets and Phillies.

I predict that they will go to the playoffs. Now, whether it’s by
winning the division or catching the wild-card is yet to be seen,
obviously.

I’m expecting big things. Age is no longer an excuse.

New days. New Braves.

A bit optimistic? Absolutely. It’s just what we need around here.

I’m out.

Some Things Just Need to be Addressed

080420-jones-vlg-4p.widec.jpgSome things just need to be addressed, folks. I’ve had an ear full.

I will always keep things polite around here. I enjoy meeting new baseball fans. And I greatly appreciate all my readers. To those who comment, I will always do my best with a follow up on your blog. 
With that said, if I burst your bubble, it needed it. If I don’t burst your bubble, then perhaps you have a brain in your head.
Frankly, I’m tired of the Chipper bashers. Even more so, I’m tired of Braves fans who claim to not be Chipper bashers, yet they still have the audacity to propose his name in trade talk. 
Have we forgotten who he is? What he has done for the organization. And just how generous he is? Obviously, many of us have forgotten these things.
Look, Chipper Jones is the most underrated pro baseball player. Period. Before it’s all said and done, he will go down as one of the best third basemen to ever play the game– if not the best. He is a switch hitter who is just as much of a threat on the right side as he is from the left side of the plate. He can hit for power, but he humbly chooses to hit for average because it’s something the Braves have lacked in the past couple of years. Chipper takes an underpaid salary, only because he knows Atlanta is no longer rich, as they were when Ted Turner owned them. It was Chipper who humbly made the decision to move from third base to left field when the Braves acquired the overweight Vinny Castilla. Chipper Jones is one of the most selfless players in the game. Any team would take him at the drop of a hat. In fact, some of the more financially blessed organizations would pay BIG money to have him. Who can deny that he is just as good of a hitter as Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, and the rest of the greats. After all, he did win the batting title last year. And don’t forget that he has been completely jipped of the Golden Glove Award for the past 10 years. Of course, anyone who plays in New York gets those types of awards rather easily. *Cough Cough* David Wright. You know, wherever the limelight is. 
Here’s Chipper’s recent salaries:

1993 Atlanta Braves $109,000
1994 Atlanta Braves $109,000
1995 Atlanta Braves $114,000
1996 Atlanta Braves $825,000
1997 Atlanta Braves $1,525,000
1998 Atlanta Braves $2,550,000
1999 Atlanta Braves $4,175,000
2000 Atlanta Braves $4,750,000
2001 Atlanta Braves $10,333,333
2002 Atlanta Braves $11,333,333
2003 Atlanta Braves $13,333,333
2004 Atlanta Braves $15,333,333
2005 Atlanta Braves $16,061,802
2006 Atlanta Braves $12,333,333
2007 Atlanta Braves $12,333,333
2008 Atlanta Braves $12,333,333
Career (may be incomplete)

Did you notice a major pay cut from the year 2006 and on?

That’s because he is willing to sacrifice.

Yeah, I bet Manny would do that.

Sure, A-Rod would, too.

His stats don’t look too shabby either.

Any true Braves fan would not suggest trading Chipper Jones.

I’m done here.


Breaking News: Hampton to Houston.

340x.jpg

Oh well. I was looking forward to having him back on an incentive-based deal for next season. I thought that since he and his lack of health totally robbed the Braves’ bank account, he’d at least have the benevolence to make his services available to the Braves. Not so. Hampton stated after his final game with Atlanta, “I love it here. I’m sure there will be interest on both sides,” referring to a possible deal with Houston. Hampton is in Houston waiting for the conclusion of a physical, which is usually the final step before a player and his interested club finalize a deal. 

I may be wrong, but I thought that the Braves organization has interest in bringing the guy back? If that is true, Hampton is a tool and a half for not agreeing. If Wren decided that it wasn’t in the club’s best interest to bring him back, then I understand Hampton’s decision to return to Houston. Maybe someone can help me out here. 



Well, this gives Wren all the more “bump” to go get some hurlers, although I know it’s not as easy as that. 

Heck, maybe we’re better off without the injury-prone lefty. I just have a feeling he’s going to return to his old form. In 1999, he won 22 games for Houston. 

So much for Hampton giving back to the club (the Braves) that had so much patience. . . .


The Undependables: John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Mike Hampton

Well, it was definitely a frustrating “blogging” day Thursday. I wrote a “Thanksgiving Blog” and it was zapped two times. Right as I would get ready to upload a few photos, somehow I would lose the body of my blog. I guess I should start writing my blogs in a word document and copy and paste. I’m not doing that right now, though. I’m too lazy to do that. I’m already going right now.


I do have some comments/questions I want to mention/pose:

After a very boring Hot Stove Thanksgiving (referring to the lack of trades…. not the food, was great), I began thinking about what to do with guys like Glavine, Smoltz, Hampton . . . the list goes on. By that, I mean what does the club do with players who hardly proved themselves reliable last season. Actually, the only two that impressed me out of those three last season was Smoltzie and Hampton, although Hampton’s surprise came when it absolutely made no difference. 

  • I’m sorry, folks. I love Glavine. Always have. However, this past season was just dreadful. Now, I know he didn’t get any run support his first several games, but it wasn’t like he was just shutting people down like Smoltz (before he got hurt). Glavine was barely skimming by. He wasn’t as sharp as usual. Crap, he’s gained 100 pounds since his Cy Young days, which is understandable . . . he will be 43 in March. Bottom line– I’m just not convinced he needs to still be playing. I know this will probably make some Glavine fans Sports_Glavine_060808.jpgangry with me. I love Glavine; I really do. I’m just not for paying him 6-8 million dollars to come back next year to pitch 4-6 decent games. Sure, it was nice to see him leave snobby New York to come back to his home in Atlanta. But, the “feel good times” need to be over, folks. It’s time to start winning again. Build from the ground up. Glavine is just not our ground (foundation) anymore. Guys like McCann, Yunel, Hanson, Jurrjens, Frenchy (hopefully…), etc.. are our foundation. 

I’m leaving Glavine alone . . .

  • Now, Smoltz deserves around 6-8 million to come back. It’s pretty much already understood that he will not receive the 12-13 million he did last year. Smoltz knows this. However, it must be stated that whenever Smoltz is healthy, he is still one of the best (if not the best) pitcher in baseball. Guys can’t touch him. Heck, you saw what he did last season before getting hurt. He shut folks down. Period. Someone recently commented on one of the few blogs I’ve posted since joining MLBlogs saying that they don’t see Smoltz returning for “special relief,” or even plain bullpen work, for that matter. The commentersmoltz._feature.jpg said that Smoltz will and should return as a starter. Initially, I said that it would be an asset to use Smoltz for long relief/closing stuff, as the situation presents itself. However, I’m going to waver from that for a minute. I’m going to be like John Kerry and just flat-out FLIP FLOP. I agree, commenter. Smoltz should return as a starter. Perhaps, he should pitch as a starter until his arm won’t let him in 09′ and then, if needed, he can go to bullpen and let Hanson get his crack at the BIGS. What do you all think? Regardless, I think the Braves should bring him back for at least one more year. If Smoltzie demands more than his feeble arm is worth, then turn him loose. And don’t sweat over it. We’ve got to start winning. Start young, again. Let the “feel gooders” go.

  • I’m not sure what to do about Hampton. I have mixed feelings. I feel like just when the hampton_mike_2008_03_23_01_feature.jpgBraves let him go, he will return to his all-star form and knock guys out. Of course, this is always the Braves’ luck. Should we sign him for cheap? Or let him go?

Give me something, folks. As the idiot, Kanye West says, “I need ya right now.”

Peavy or Burnett?

burnett-aj-392-080425.jpgFirst of all, a big “thank you” to all of you who have commented on my blog. I read each entry and enjoy them all. Also, thanks to Mark of MLB.com for doing some PR work for my blog. Many thanks.


May I vent for a minute? 

Good.

What is Jake Peavy’s deal (no pun intended)? Either he wants to play in Atlanta or he doesn’t. Honestly, I feel used. I feel like he and his agent are just dragging us along so that they can get more out of other teams that are willing to strike a deal with him. Personally, I think the dude is an absolute stud of a pitcher. I know there are thousands of Padre fans that are beyond sad right now, as he will undoubtedly be pitching in a different uniform next season. Padresgirl, again, I’m very sorry. 

Folks, I understand that it’s difficult to land a quick deal from the free agent market, especially when it comes to ace-caliber pitchers. Simply put, the pitcher and his agent are trying to get the most money possible. No one cares about winning anymore. The game is all about money. And money rules. Look at the Yankees and Red Sox. How about the Mets? Even though the Yankees and Mets didn’t make it to the postseason last year, still their big bank accounts steal all of the good players, leaving other less fortunate teams to have to settle for second tier players. I can’t say much though, as the Braves put on a pretty healthy streak in the 90’s behind the wallet of Mr. Ted Turner. Okay, okay– back to what I was saying— a free agent ace-caliber pitcher takes time and patience to land… and well, money. 

Jake Peavy, you’re not a free agent. Quit acting like one. Pick a team and go somewhere. Oh wait, it’s not that easy, is it Jake? Your GM, Kevin Towers, wants to get something in return. And frankly, no other team in the bigs are offering a better package than the Braves. If you think you’re doing yourself a favor by “waiting it out,” you’re wrong. Dead wrong. Wanna know

04braves-650.jpg

 why? Because if you keep beatin’ around the bush, you’re gonna get Kelly Johnson, instead of Yunel Escobar. While Kelly Johnson is definitely a solid ball player, Escobar is a future all-star. You better start acting quickly. Unless of course you want to go to the AL and join a team like the Yankees– an organization in which your “stardom” will simply be “lessdom.” You will just mix in with the rest of the overpaid, high profile ballplayers. 

Let me just say this: While I’m absolutely annoyed with this whole Peavy deal, I still really do want Peavy to be in a Braves uniform next season. I think of all the pitchers available, he is one that will most likely stay healthy over a period of time. Plus, he’s still extremely young. 

If you’re keeping up with Braves’ news, you’ve noticed Frank Wren’s increased interest in Burnett. I think if the Braves are willing to offer a 5 year deal with about 14-16 million a year, Burnett will, without a doubt, be pitching in Atlanta. Burnett simply likes Cox and Chipper too much to pass up on the offer. Plus, it has been said that he sees a lot of potential with the Braves’ improving. Moreover, this attitude of his, alone, makes me want him in Atlanta. One thing concerns me about Burnett though— he is injury prone. I have a bad taste in my mouth 


Thumbnail image for 91002.jpg
regarding injury-prone pitchers. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that only one of our starters made it through the entire season without being out for an extended period of time. Burnett wants a five-year deal, probably worth at least 15 million a year. That would involve significant risk for any team, given his past elbow and shoulder issues and the fact that he never won more than 12 games until 2008. With Burnett, it’s really an issue of staying healthy. If he’s healthy, he’s one of the best out there. On Burnett, Chipper has stated, “Earlier in his career, he was a thrower. Now he gets it. He’s a pitcher and when he’s healthy, he’s as good as there is.”

Braves fans, who do you want?

Baseball fans, in general, who would the Braves benefit from having the most?

I need answers people. I’m feeling anxious. I need sound wisdom.

Jake Peavy? 2009 Predictions.

6a00d8341bff7253ef00e54f2f701f8834-800wi.jpgTo the readers of my blog, “Braves Buzz with Luke” (at blogspot): I have officially joined the MLBlogs network. This is exciting. Okay, to Braves talk!

————————–

After one of the most disappointing seasons since the late 80’s, Braves fans have all the reason in the world to feel NUMB, BUMMED, etc. The majority of the season was nothing short of painful to watch. However, it takes a true Braves fan to realize that the Braves organization is on the uphill. Mind you, I am a glass half-full kind of guy, especially when it comes to the Atlanta Braves. I am fair with my opinions, though. And I try to discard any biased perspectives.   As the Winter meetings approach, I feel compelled to share my 2009 Atlanta Braves starting roster predictions. *Disclaimer* I do not, in any way, claim that my predictions are absolutely truthful, in any respect. Though, I feel they are very close.

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Allow me to begin by addressing the team’s urgent needs. Five words: Starting pitching and professional bats. That’s it. The Braves are set with bullpen and bench depth. 

Regarding the Braves’ starting pitching needs, they need dependable pitching. If you can remember, expert baseball analysis, Peter Gammons, predicted the Braves to win the 2008 World Series during the 2008 Spring Training period. And believe it or not, no one gave him much of a fight. His prediction was based solely off of the big names that were apart of the initial rotation– names such as, Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton, and Jair Jurrjens. How many of those were injury free during the 08′ season? One. Now, that’s pitiful. Actually, Jair Jurrjens went from the 5th spot to the ace. What a jump for a 22 year old, right? And boy, did he jump. He held the team’s lowest ERA, a number of 3.68. Not too shabby for the rookie. You can count on him being in the rotation for many years to come. 

So, what is GM Frank Wren planning to do to fix this problem? Frankly (no pun here), I’m not sure he even knows. We do know that he wants two experienced, top-caliber starting pitchers, which will be nearly impossible to obtain. However, I’m believing him to surprise Braves nation, just as he did with the Teixiera deal. Hopefully with this years acquisitions, his deals will last longer than the Tex deal. 

So, who is Mr. Wren after? 

Jake Peavy (don’t let his bluffing fool you),AJ Burnett, Derek Lowe, Jon Garland, Bronson Arroyo, Brad Penny, Oliver Perez, and possibly more. How many of these are actually possible? Maybe three. Who of these is most likely to be a Brave in 2009 season? Get ready, I’m about to rattle your little cage. Mr. Jake Peavy, my friends. Count on it. 

As you may already know, the Padres’ owner is going through what appears to be a nasty divorce, as his payroll is literally being cut in half– from 78 million to around 40 million. The organization has already withdrawn their contract offer from the face of the franchise– Trevor Hoffman. Simply enough, they are cutting costs so that they can rebuild with some young talent– namely starting pitching talent. In reference to Jake Peavy, Padres’ GM, Kevin Towers, has said, “The train has left the station.” So there’s no doubt that Peavy will be dealt. The question is where? Well, now that the Cubs have officially stated that they no longer have interest in pursuing Peavy, it looks like the Braves are the only ones left. The Braves, so far, have offered the best package in exchange for the services of Peavy. A package that includes future all-star short stop, Yunel Escobar. I will give it a week or so before Towers comes back knocking at Wren’s door for Peavy. And don’t be surprised if Wren is able to offer a slimmer package, which may include Braves’ second baseman, Kelly Johnson, instead of Escobar. If it so happens that they must get rid of Escobar, you can bank on the Braves acquiring either of the two former Braves– Rafael Furcal or Edgar Renteria. Edgar Renteria would be a cheaper option; however, it has been said that Furcal would be willing to offer a major, hometown discount. The kid loves manager Bobby Cox. And Cox loves him. On the other hand, Renteria would love to get the heck out of the AL, as his numbers have been exponentially higher in the NL.

Moving on…

Will the Braves be able to obtain AJ Burnett? Doubtful. Derek Lowe? Again, doubtful. Unfair clubs like the Yankees and Red Sox have a bit more money to spend. However, the Braves do have an estimated 50 million to spend this off-season. If they are able to obtain Jake Peavy, the likes of Burnett and Lowe would be more prone to come to Atlanta. Folks, free agent pitchers want to be signed to a team who has a chance to compete. And frankly, the National League Eastern Division is what I’d like to term, “packed heat,” with the exception of the embarrassing Washington Nationals. Maybe President-elect Barack Obama can find a more hopeful team to represent our country. Geez.

Let’s take a look at the outfield. What needs to happen here for the Braves to return to a winning form?

Firstly, Jeff Francoeur needs to return to his old self. During his first season and a half, the dude’s energy, alone, could carry the Braves. He was dreadful to watch during the 08′ season. Just dreadful. Not only did he lack his usual skill, but he was moping around like a little spoiled brat. Boy, did I get annoyed when he pitched a fit for having to go down to Double A! Ridiculous. Give me a break. Frenchy, you’re only what 23 years old? 24? Sorry. 

With the hopes of Frenchy returning to form, Mr. Wren is looking to acquire a power-hitting left fielder. Quite possibly, this left fielder will platoon with Braves left fielder, Matt Diaz. On Diaz, Wren has said, “He has worked hard all winter. He is in great shape.” Mr. Wren has had several conversations with Chicago’s GM regarding former Brave, Jermaine Dye. Jermaine Dye, alone, raked more homers last season than all of the Braves’ outfield combined. That number was 34– Dye’s homers, that is. Wren has also been in conversation with the Cardinals regarding the possibility of acquiring Ryan Ludwick. Both of these two outfielders will need to rest periodically. So, a Matt Diaz platoon may be helpful. While Ludwick is a great offensive threat, he has been known for being injury prone. And as for Eye, he’ll need to rest his old bones once in a while. Oh yeah, don’t count out the possibility of the Braves getting Magglio Ordonez. 

Enough of all of this. 

Here are my predictions:

Starting Rotation:
1. Jake Peavy
2. Jair Jurrjens
3. Jon Garland / Bronson Arroyo
4. Mike Hampton
5. Tommy Hanson (Top Prospect)

Bullpen:
1. Mike Gonzalez
2. John Smolt
z
3. Rafael Soriano
4. Peter Moylan
5. Does the rest even matter?

Starting Line-up: (and this is if we acquire Peavy)
1. Rafael Furcal SS
2. Martin Prado / Kelly Johnson
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Jermaine Dye LF
5. Brian McCann C
6. Jeff Francoeur RF
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Jordan Schafer / Josh Anderson / Gregor Blanco CF
9. Pitcher

Thoughts, anyone?

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