Well it’s a brand new year and the Brave’s outlook is just as bright as ever with an improved rotation (whoever steps in for Derek Lowe) and an improved lineup (full season of Michael Bourn in the lead off spot). The Atlanta offense was pretty rough last year but not because we didn’t have the talent, simply because of unfortunate injuries and bad luck. I am going to try and show you exactly what happened with each player in the lineup so you can get an idea of what went wrong, and why we are still ready for success in 2012.
Because of an injury mid season McCann played in less games than he has since 2005 and less plate appearances than ever since 2006. He also had a BABIP below his career average of .300 and slightly below his previous two years of .297. McCann started off hot, but the injury made him less productive than he usually is.
Freeman was the exception to the rule last year playing in 157 games and staying productive throughout the entire season once he got through the first few weeks. He was the most consistent hitter on the team as a rookie and he will try and improve his impressive .282/.346/.448 line. His .339 BABIP may look a bit high for a guy without above average speed but his line drive percentage and ability to hit the ball all over the field make it more likely that he can keep that up. Unless injury strikes, Freeman should have another great season next year.
Everyone knows about Dan Uggla’s season last year. Career worst in the first half, career best in the second half. He has always been a slow starter but never that slow. Uggla’s line drive rate was a bit down last year, but not drastically so. That and his career low .253 BABIP is all you need to find out why 2011 was such a mess. Expect the BABIP to go back to the career norms next year and he should have another great year.
the rest of the team after the break
Gonzalez wasn’t unlucky last year, he’s just not a good hitter. He put up a slash of .241/.270/.372 and I find it extremely likely that Pastornicky can exceed those numbers. The defense will never be as good from Pasto, but the offense should always be better than what SeaBass brought to the table.
With Chipper, injuries aren’t bad luck. We all know this. The only question we had with Chipper was how long he could continue to be effective when healthy and he exceeded most people’s expectations last year despite having the lowest walk rate of his career. Larry Parrish as well as Chipper’s age and decrease in power led to the 10.0 BB% and one of those problems has already been taken care of. Chipper’s numbers are still productive but he is on the decline.
Prado had the worst season for a Brave behind Jason Heyward, and his struggles can mostly be attributed to his staph infection which seemed to mess him up for the duration of the season. After he came back from the injury he wasn’t the same hitter and over reached in order to try and become productive again. Prado’s BABIP was also lower than the norm for him but that was due mostly to a huge drop off in his line drive percentage. After seasons of 18.9, 22.9, 19.8, and 21.0 his line drive percentage last year went all the way down to 14.6%. His injury has to be the main cause for this because Prado is entering his prime years and shouldn’t be going downhill for several more years.
Heyward’s struggles have been talked about endlessly this season although I haven’t covered it much since joining the Take. Heyward had a serious Sophomore slump last year (it feels so good to say last year) caused by a shoulder injury, and Larry Parrish. Out of the entire team it seems that Parrish’s aggressive approach affected Heyward the most with his BB% going from 14.6% to 11.2%. That combined with the fact that he probably came back from his injury too quickly made for a terrible year from Jason Heyward. He is still an extremely talented player and should bounce back when the season starts.
Michael Bourn had a great year and now will be leading off for the Braves for the entire season. He’s a huge upgrade over Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth and might even have a career year heading into his last season until free agency.
The bad luck the Braves had last year was obvious. Next year is already looking better and I can’t wait for Spring Training. Personally, I think our team is strong enough to get back to the playoffs exactly how it is (we need a back up shortstop, but that’s going to happen). Our offense is stronger, and our starting rotation is stronger. With a little luck in the opposite direction we will be the last team standing come October 2012.