- As much as I want to go back and nit-pick so many things from the 2nd half, it's hard to get past the notion that the Birds blew a 17 point lead at home in such a big game.
- The D has to get better at certain things, and I think Dmitroff will address these (slowing down the run, covering the TE)
- I think Dmitroff may go after a potential big-play RB in the draft and try to strengthen both lines through FA
- Decoud made the Pro-Bowl, but his angles and tackling against SF was very below average
There are a few reasons to believe that the 2013 Braves are in excellent position to get into the post-season and hopefully at that point, some luck will maybe start to venture into Georgia.
1) Good regular season teams have strong, deep pitching staffs. The rotation of Hudson-Medlen-Minor-Maholm-Teheran/Delgado with Beachy due back around July gives the team flexibility in case of injury and really good young talent that is prime to blossom.
2) Deep staffs also include bullpens, and Frank Wren was able to turn Tommy Hanson, who was no longer needed, into a power right-handed bullpen arm to break up O'Flaherty and Venters. Put those 3 with Kimbrel and Gearrin and that's quite a bullpen.
3) A second big contract next to BJ Upton would have financially strapped the team until the off-season. By not throwing tons of money at a late 30's Shane Victorino or giving up prime prospects for a guy that put up big numbers in a hitters park like Dexter Fowler or Josh Willingham, Wren can really pin-point who he wants as the list of available LF/3B players will only increase once the season starts.
4) On that note, I am definitely OK with using a rotation of RJohnson/Francisco/Schafer/Constanza in the 8 hole until the LF/3B situation is solved, which not making a move could be a viable option if the match-ups with these 4 guys works out.
5) So, what's the biggest concern? Easy. The staff is a strong mix of experience/youth/talent and the bullpen will more than likely be one of the best in the game. The lineup includes several All-Star calibur guys that are either in their prime or just entering it in Prado, Heyward, and Freeman. The concern lies in the seasons of 3 players: Upton, McCann, and Uggla. Expect Simmons to be good, but not great offensively. Expect the platoon players to be streaky and very solid at times. But this franchise/city/team needs these 3 guys to step up more than anything. The lack of production from Uggla and McCann in 2012 was the main reason the Braves ended up in the dreaded WC Game instead of as division champs. So, a hopefully healthy McCann getting back up over .280 with power, Uggla hovering around .250 with a move back to 30+ HRs, and Upton giving the team that RH bat with speed that can put out a .270/25/85 season would make this a 98+ win team. If one of these 3 struggles to a .215/15/55 season, look for a 92/93 win team that may be division champs or host the WC game again, if 2 of them struggle in 2013, get ready for another WC game or no playoffs. All 3, and the trade deadline will be interesting for the wrong reasons...
That said, I am very optimistic about the Braves chances in 2013. I have to be, it's all I got right now.