It’s been three weeks since the end of the World Series and five weeks since the end of the Braves season, and the Braves have already made the biggest news of the offseason. We’ve talked about the stadium already. Now it’s time for us to talk about the team.
In the final accounting, the 96-win 2013 Braves were a very good team masquerading as a juggernaut. They benefited from playing in one of the weakest divisions in baseball, as the Mets and Marlins gave up on the year before it started, the Phillies lumbered through a sea of bad contracts, and the Nations were arguably the biggest disappointment in the league. Against NL East teams, the Braves went 47-29; against other teams, they were 49-37, which grades out to 92 wins over 162 games and is probably a closer approximation of the team we watched all year.
By the end, the Braves had become a Dead Man Walking, undone by injuries and ineffectiveness by key players. As has so often been the case, the Braves could comb over their flaws during the regular season but were unable to overcome them in the Division Series. The two biggest weaknesses, of course, are owed $26.45 million in 2014, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.
There were other problems that the length of the season exposed — injuries to Ramiro Pena, Evan Gattis, and Jordan Schafer weakened the bench; injuries to Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and Jordan Walden strained the bullpen; and injuries to Tim Hudson and Brandon Beachy stressed the starting rotation. But the Braves also had good fortune in other areas, as Chris Johnson enjoyed a career year on offense, Andrelton Simmons had arguably the best defensive season of all time, Julio Teheran justified all of the hype, David Carpenter turned into one of the best setup men in the league, and Alex Wood and David Hale flashed serious potential in smaller auditions.
In this edition of the annual Where Do We Go From Here? series, we’ll look at the team’s performance in 2013 and its outlook for 2014, with particular focus on three areas:
• The biggest busts in 2013, Uggla and Upton
• The biggest offseason player story, Brian McCann
• The strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the roster around them
There are four agonizingly long months between now and spring training. But there’s plenty of baseball to talk about. If there’s anything you especially want to cover — or if there’s anything you’d like to volunteer to write about — please let us know in the comments, or email me at the email address in the upper right hand corner of the page.