The final week of the Braves 2015 season will be spent at home. Fans are ready for the season to end. The Braves are ready for the season to end. Both Braves fans and players know the season ended long before the last out in the 162nd game will be recorded, so I have only one question about 2015:
There were bright spots in 2015– not many, but some. With faith in the direction we’re headed, hope that THE PLAN succeeds, and belief that the Johns know what they’re doing, I humbly submit that next year’s team will be better. Here’s why.
The bullpen will be better. Jason Grilli’s injury will turn out to be a blessing because it allowed Arodys Vizcaino to pitch high leverage innings. Viz was not the Kraken, but he was competent. Whether he is cast as the closer or primary set up reliever, the experience will be beneficial. The rest of next year’s pen spent a large portion of the season on the disabled list. These pitchers may struggle initially. When the parts combine, the whole will be one of the team’s strengths.
Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran will be better. Shelby will win more than five games in 2016, and Julio will be the second half version we saw this year. The kids will battle for the last two slots in the rotation, and the Braves will obtain a top of the rotation starter, more likely through trade than by signing a free agent. Our rotation won’t be as top heavy as the 2015 Dodgers or as ballyhooed as the 2015 Mets, but our new number one will deepen the staff and make everyone better. Chris Sale would be nice. So would David Price or Zack Greinke.
Acts 2:17: “Young men have visions. Old men dream dreams.” I dream.
Both defense and offense will improve. Freddie Freeman will heal during the offseason. Perhaps Adonis Garcia will be an everyday leftfielder and Hector Olivera remember how to catch the ball at third. Olivera could end in left. If Adonis can’t cut it, I’d rather see Nick Markakis moved there than Hector. Neck’s no longer a gold glove right fielder, but his range may improve through his continued rehab; and — bold prediction — he will be a better hitter in 2016 with more power. If Neck plays left, Hector could play second, with Jace Peterson or Daniel Castro becoming a latter day Martin Prado and the Braves finding a real third baseman. You gotta believe.
If Nick moves to left, we could bring Jason Heyward back. I don’t think he’s a $20 million a year player, but I’m in the minority on Braves Journal. I wouldn’t give him that, but I would give him $15-18 million annually for six to eight years.
Failing a JayHey reunion, there are options through trade or free agency. I’d prefer a left-handed bat over a 31 year old Alex Gordon, but I’d take either Gordon or JayHey and smile.
Given my druthers, I’d druther have Heyward.
We have to get a catcher. Christian Bethancourt is young and might show improvement in the spring, if he lasts that long. If he’s still here come spring and doesn’t convert his vaunted potential into production, he’s gone.
A.J. Pierzynski produced better than I thought possible in 2015. To expect him to duplicate this year is, to quote Sam and others, wish casting. At best, AJP’s a solid backup and a steady bat off the bench. Maybe Matt Wieters gives us a hometown discount. He’s not Buster Posey (still out), but anybody, including Smitty’s barber, would be better than this year’s Betty. We will have at least one new catcher in 2016, and he will provide better defense and at least as much offense as last year’s backstops not named AJP.
Fredi Gonzalez is on a short leash. Big John says we won’t suffer through another season like this one. Big John is blame adverse, and the leader of a series of consecutive second half collapses is a good scapegoat. At the least Schuerholz’ statement put Fredi on notice.
I spent the afternoon chopping this fire wood. I’m eager to light the stove. Please indulge an old dreamer. What must we do to challenge the Mutts and Folders in 2016?
The Braves played an utterly meaningless game against the Nats tonight. We won, but it didn’t matter. Matt Wisler stifled the Natspos, even with chokemeister Papelbon on leave without pay, through five. Meanwhile, our Braves were less than usually futile at the plate. Tanner Roark matched Wisler pitch for pitch until AJP mightily smote a two out home run in the fourth to give the Bravos a one-zip lead. A.J. had hits in his first two at bats and constituted the bulk of the Braves attack. (Guilty pleasure: I like A. J. Pierzynski. I hope he comes back, just not as the starter.)
Alas, Trea Turner hit his first big league home run leading off the Nats sixth. Game’s tied at one, but Matt rebounded to fan MVP-elect Bryce Harper and hopefully has-been Jason Werth before inducing an inning ending groundout. Through six, Matt limited the anointed champions to one run on four hits, and Fredi let him hit for himself to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Fredi’s our manager, and managers manage. That’s what they do.
Wisler walked Ian Desmond leading off the seventh. Despite the “I told you so” on the tip of my tongue, Matt escaped. Huh! When did Fredi get smart? Now get the kid a run, Braves.
Woo-hoo! AJP one more time again! Who is this guy? Home run A.J! Braves lead 2-1.
Matty’s still in to start the eighth. Fredi’s a lunatic again. Uh-oh, here we go again: runner on first, no outs. Only now does the team idiot go to the pen. Will Fredi’s lunacy cost Wisler a hard earned win? Bet on it: Edwin Jackson’s in to blow, er, protect Matt’s lead.
Can of corn to center for the first out. So far, so good, but …
Jackson walks Rendon. Harper’s up with runners on first and second. Miracles happen: Brycie grounds into a double play. Take that, MVP. I’m sorry I doubted you, Edwin.
A little insurance wouldn’t hurt, but AJP’s not due this inning. Alas, nothing doing.
Top of the ninth: if we win, we can’t lose 100; but there’s three more outs to get. Arodys Vizcaino gets another of those pressure innings.
Jason Werth singles to left. Clint Robinson’s up. Single to left. Nats go station to station. Ian Desmond sacrifices into a 2-5-3 double play. Lol Natspos.
Den Dekker stands between Arodys and the save. Strike out. Braves win.