Monday, April 6, 2015

2015 Braves Season Outlook

If you follow the Braves then you should know by now the changes that were made in the offseason. There's been a few trades and free agent signings that were eye-opening. John Hart has said that the Braves have gone into a rebuild but that it's more of a short term rebuild. When he traded Justin Upton and Heyward, although it was hard to see them go, I could see what the new direction was.

I've seen many people complain about the Braves....quite a lot, actually. Some of the moves were hard to accept, I understand, but for the most part they needed to be done. With Upton's contract (Justin, that is), it would cause a problem to try resigning. I'm just glad we got something in return for him (hello Jace Peterson, first hit of the year for the Braves), as opposed to rolling the dice on trying to resign him just for him to go elsewhere that offers more money. The Heyward trade brought in Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins while the Gattis trade brought in Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz, and Andrew Thurman. I know some will say that the minor league system isn't that great but it's definitely better than last is. It's been rounded out and we've got just about every position added to in-depth with prospects, which wasn't the case over the past few years.

The Kimbrel/Upton trade was surprising. I heard about the trade while I was halfway through with writing this, that's why I'm talking about it separately. I knew this was going to happen, so I was prepared. I just wasn't expecting the trade to happen so soon. I know Kimbrel signed that contract extension but I figured they'd try keeping him for at least another year or two while still under control. At least they free up a TON of money by getting BJ's contract (I'll still gonna call him BJ) off the books which I'm sure everyone in baseball never thought could happen. But it's done. As you can guess, Kimbrel was the main part of that deal going through, so it definitely came with a price, which the Padres now have to worry about. Especially with all of their offseason moves, the Padres have a lot of pressure to be good this year, so it's interesting to look at it from their perspective. IF the Braves are to be mediocre this season, then might as well sell when value is high. Also, I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I do believe that Kimbrel will be on the decline (I can say this openly now that he's gone). I've felt it was only a matter of time before TJ surgery catches up to him, or something serious happens to his arm when consistently throwing high 90's. That might not happen for a few years from now, but I do believe something will happen. With the Braves' history of TJ surgeries, it's nice to see them get ahead of that trend (even if they were more focused on freeing up salary). That's just something to think about, so keep that thought in mind for now.

2015 Braves outlook:

Although I have the Braves finishing fourth in my prediction of the 2015 standings, I do believe they could surprise people. You can call it being overly optimistic, but as a fan sometimes you have to be. I'm not sure about first place but second place could be possible, third definitely possible. All it takes is a few injuries on other teams and/or underachievement. Earlier in the year I wrote a post about the Braves' season statistics from last season and it may or may not surprise you. Considering they were towards the bottom of the league in offense, would trading guys like Heyward, Justin Upton, and Gattis really make that much of a difference? Even with those guys they still didn't do well offensively, and with the offseason additions, hopefully the team will be more contact-oriented. If they can strikeout less and put the ball in play more (not too many double plays) then they can still be a decent team. I understand it was hard to see some fan favorites go. I'm still a little bummed Heyward is in a Cardinals uniform and Kimbrel is off to San Diego, but it's time to move forward.

Final thoughts:

The Braves aren't expected to be competitive until "2017" and all that, but I still believe they can be a good or at least decent team. They may not win 90 games. They may not win 85 or even 80. But these guys aren't going to mail in a whole season just because a few players got traded, and we as fans shouldn't give up on them. People are already jumping ship before we've even set sail. For those still mad about the trades, take a deep breath and chillax. Baseball is finally back and we get to see Freddie make cringe-worthy stretches at first and Andrelton make some vacuum-like plays at shortstop, so it'll be great to see everyone again and get acquainted with the new additions to the team. The Braves may surprise people.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Prediction: 2015 MLB Standings

*Teams with a "WC" are Wild Card winners

World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox

World Series Champions: Red Sox

National League:

For the NL, there's a few teams I'm curious to see how they do for the year and they are the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Cubs, and Mets. The Dodgers, coming off a loss to the Cardinals in last year's NLDS, will look to capture their first World Series berth since 1988 when they last won it. With the Padres making some big moves over the offseason, they will look to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and win their first World Series title in team history. Since the Giants win the World Series every two years, they won't win again until 2016 (joking, of course....or am I?).

The most intriguing division might be the Central. With the Cubs looking to contend with their young stars we've heard so much about, it'll add more competition to a division that has seen the Cardinals and Pirates have the recent success. As a baseball fan, it'd be nice to see the Cubbies reach the playoffs, but I think it'll be just out of their reach.

The most difficult division for me to predict was the East. We all know the Nationals will win it, and the Phillies will finish last, BUT the other three teams brought out my curiosity. The Marlins definitely got better in the offseason, the Braves sold some value and got younger talent we'll see in the next 1-3 years, and the Mets pretty much stayed the same (Harvey's back but Wheeler is now lost for the season). Considering the Marlins only needed three more wins to move into second place last year, I'm putting them second for this season; they made some good moves. Normally I'd probably put the Mets as fourth, but with the Braves' outlook, the Mets will probably take third in the division (moving in the outfield fence yet again should help, after all).

American League

The Royals had a great run last season but fell just a little short. If their team can stay healthy I believe they can make another run for a title with the young group of players they have. The East division won't be all that great, and you could probably flip-flop the Orioles and Blue Jays, so that was debatable.

I wanted to put the Indians in at least a Wild Card spot, but I just wasn't feelin' it to be honest. I believe the Royals can at least get a Wild Card spot. The Tigers have owned the division over the past few years so seeing them finish second (or even worse) would be surprising. I was hesitant giving the Mariners a Wild Card spot, though they finished last season with an 87-75 record so they could repeat that again and make the playoffs. I wanted to go with the Orioles or possibly the Indians for a Wild Card, but we'll see what happens. My overall feeling is that the AL will probably be a little more unpredictable than the NL, as there's a few teams that I'll have my eyes on (mostly the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Indians as potential playoff teams). I'm banking on a few teams to overachieve or underachieve, so although anything can happen, it's sort of a way to predict a surprise or two. The Indians seem to be a World Series favorite so who knows, maybe they'll finally win it.

* * * *

You may have noticed the differences in this year's post as opposed to last year's standings predictions post (I also realized I was a little too generous for total wins). I'm not the best when it comes to making graphic layouts (or else you'd be seeing fancier graphics more often) but we'll settle with this jaw-dropping design I made on Microsoft Paint. I'm actually surprised it worked as well as it did, nice and simple. The hardest thing was probably lining everything up the best I could. At least the picture is clearer and since it's not stray text it won't bunch together if you read from a mobile device. So those are some positives, for sure.

I hope you all enjoyed reading over these predictions (and the better picture quality) as much as I did. We are only a few days away from Opening Day so the wait is almost over. Baseball is back!