Fear & Loathing in the National League, East: the Braves

Let’s get this out of the way quick. I predict the 2012 Braves will win 83 games.

Overall, the Braves are a fine ballclub, and in many ways very similar to the Nats. The Braves starting pitching, however, isn’t as good as the Nats, and gives up an awful lot more runs (Braves projected pitching runs allowed: 698; Nats: 599!). The Braves’ defense is a bit weaker than the Nats as well, saving only 2.3 runs where the Nats might save 3.3.

The Braves make up for this, though, by batting very well. I project the Braves to score 710 runs–well above the Nats 648. But, again, starting pitching will be the difference here.

The question mark going into the 2012 Braves season, for me, will be their rookie shortstop, Tyler Pastornicky. I have him performing at about the league average for everyday shortstops, and as an average defender. If he’s much better than that, the gap between the Braves and the Nats closes a bit. But at this point, there’s just no way to know.

I would expect Braves/Nats series in 2012 to play out an awful lot like the final Braves/Nats series at Nats Park in 2011–a Series the Nats took 2 games to 1, by the way.

Overall, I’d have to give the nod to Dave’s pessimistic outlook for the Braves–with the caveat that I don’t think the offense will be nearly as bad as he thinks it may be:

The Braves pitching depth looks good but is slowly unraveling. Tommy Hanson was in a car accident the other day and like so many other baseball teams the Braves aren’t going to pick up the phone and call the Falcons to find out how NFL players get over concussions in a week. Tommy Hanson tries to come back early in April but home plate is a blur as he wildly throws like Rick Ankiel in the NLDS. Jurrjens having not been traded rewards the Braves by throwing out his shoulder, and the rest of the young staff fails to come together while Tim Hudson starts to show his age over the 257 innings he is forced to pitch.

The Braves had one of the best bullpens in the majors in 2011 but they might have been overworked. Being overworked doesn’t always lead to injury, but it can lead to ineffectiveness, and that could be a very real problem that plagues the 2012 Atlanta Braves. Some of that depth in the bullpen could be moving to the starting rotation and if Venters and Kimbrel are both ineffective then the Braves could have a serious problem at the end of games.

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