For the Atlanta Braves, the 2011 season crashed to an ugly conclusion. The inability of Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla and Michael Bourn to catalyze the anemic offense made the efforts of their remarkably deep pitching staff futile. Bullpen fatigue and the beginning of the end for Derek Lowe cost the team what was at one time a healthy cushion in the NL Wild Card race, and they missed the playoffs when they lost in microcosmic fashion on the final day of the season.
This year, they have a new hitting coach, a rookie shortstop and some young arms that appear ready to contribute. This team, which won 90 games in 2011, looks like it could be even better in 2012. They should have gotten even better, but were hamstrung by ownership's hard-and-fast budget. Still, they're a serious NL playoff contender. Here's a more in-depth preview of the team, from top to bottom.
This is the second of 30 team previews in 30 days, leading up to the start of the 2012 MLB regular season. Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Matt Trueblood offers insight on all facets of each club, profiles their manager, raise key questions, identifies risers and fallers and lays out run matrices for each team based on his proprietary 2012 projections. Check back daily for the next team in the series, or follow Trueblood on Twitter: