The 2009 Atlanta Braves "underperformed" their Pythagorean projection by FIVE games, finishing 86-76 (3rd place), 7 GB the NL-champ Phils. They were 5th in the NL in RS with 735 and 4th in RA with 641. Braves fans can be forgiven for thinking they "shoulda beena contendah" with those numbers. This year's lineup features aging stars like Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus as well as young studs like Brian McCann and Yunel Escobar. The Giants assigned their über-prospect Buster Posey to the minors, but the Braves put 20-year old Jason "Heymaker" Heyward in their Opening Day lineup and he hit a 3-run HR his first time up. Here's a look at the everyday lineup with their 2009 wOBA and CHONE 2010 projected wOBA:
Melky Cabrera, LF (.331, .358)
Martin Prado, 2B (.355, .351)
Chipper Jones, 3B (.354, .377)
Brian McCann, C (.359, .373)
Troy Glaus, 1B (.228, .356) Glaus was out most of 2009, his career wOBA is .367
Yunel Escobar, SS (.357, .352)
Jason Heyward (rookie, .325) Here are his minor league numbers.
Nate McLouth, CF (.350, .355)
Note that wOBA or "weighted on-base average" is scaled like OBP, that is, .400 is outstanding, .330 is average, .300 is poor. This looks like a pretty good hitting team, and I'm curious how our pitching will do against some tough outs instead of the fodder we (mostly) saw in Houston.
The pitching matchups are Tim Hudson against Jonathan Sanchez in the Opener, and Derek Lowe against our No. 5, Todd Wellemeyer, on Saturday. The website says TBA for the weekend games--I wonder if the Giants will move Timmy up because of the off-day today. I don't see why this early in the season. I'm going to miss Saturday's game so I hope Tim pitches Sunday when I can watch.
Hudson's best years are behind him. CHONE projects only 19 starts but with a 3.74 FIP. The Braves, though, think he can still pitch and signed him to a 3-year, $28M deal this off-season. He had Tommy John surgery last year. He doesn't strike a lot of guys out, but he doesn't walk people either and gets his outs with ground balls. Derek Lowe is even older than Hudson, and is also a groundball pitcher, known for his sinker. CHONE projects 30 starts and a 3.87 FIP. Interestingly, the Braves signed Lowe to a 4-year, $60M deal before the 2009 season. That seems insane for a good-but-not-great oldster (his ERA+ last year was 88!) Relying on overpaid, past-their-prime guys seems like a big red flag for Braves fans, but their young bucks Tommy Hanson (22, pitches today) and Jair Jurrjens (24, pitched yesterday) seem like good bets to build around. Kenshin Kawakami, formerly of the Chunichi Dragons, rounds out the ro' and I expect we'll see him Sunday. I know next-to-nothing about Atlanta's 'pen, but I could say the same about every team except the Giants. Billy Wagner is the closer, another ancient (but effective) guy.
Bring 'em on!
p.s. Check out the photo of Eugenio Velez and his mis-spelled jersey! I didn't notice this on TV.