Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lineup Against the Wall: Atlanta Braves

I'm still going, you creeps. Quit looking at me like that. Squirrels? Squirrels??

Sorry, starting to get a little punchy. It wasn't that long ago that the Braves were the model of baseball class, a team that consistently won, year in and year out, with an eternally solid roster of starting pitchers, a few excellent position players and the most thoroughly stable front office around.

The last few years have been, well, if not rough, not excellent. And for a franchise that was used to excellence--how many division titles did they win in a row? 14? 17? 30?--mediocrity is cold water to the grundle. Causes the shrivel.

I'll take a gander at their starters and make bets on their chances post-jump.

There isn't a lot of stuffing in this pillow--beyond Chipper Jones, the club's bats fall off in quality dramatically. McCann can swing it, and Kelly Johnson has promise, but man, you look at this lineup and tell me you're excited by it:

Catcher -- Brian McCann
First Base -- Casey Kotchman
Second Base -- Kelly Johnson
Third Base -- Chipper Jones
Shortstop -- Yunel Escobar
Left Field -- Garret Anderson
Center Field -- Jordan Schafer
Right Field -- Jeff Francoeur

Starting Pitchers:

Derek Lowe (R)
Javier Vazquez (R)
Jair Jurrjens (R)
Kenshin Kawakami (R)
Jorge Campillo (R)

Relief Pitchers:

Rafael Soriano (R)
Blaine Boyer (R)
Buddy Carlyle (R)
Jeff Bennett (R)
Eric O'Flaherty (L)


Mike Gonzalez (L)

Bottom Line: They've got nada for offensive production but a pretty good staff of pitchers. They're going to have to be, because there aren't going to be a lot of leads to protect. Jeff Francouer has 30 home run power but a .239 reality. Nothing about this team suggests anything beyond 4th place.

Projected Finish: 4th Place in the NL East