Braves Baseball: 4 Atlanta Braves Poised for a Huge Second Half

Baily Deeter@@deetersportsSenior Writer IIIJuly 17, 2012

Braves Baseball: 4 Atlanta Braves Poised for a Huge Second Half

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    The Atlanta Braves are just 2.5 games back of the first-place Washington Nationals, but some players have been terrible this year. 

    Brian McCann seems to have found his swing, but his stats are certainly not good. Dan Uggla has struck out way too many times, and Mike Minor has been terrible in the first half. While Minor seems to be doing better, his next start on Wednesday will be key.

    Atlanta's second half will be very interesting, and it will be hard to predict how the team and the players will fare in the second half. However, I think I know four Braves who will break out and dominate in the second half.

Brian McCann

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    Brian McCann was expected to be one of the Braves' first-half stars, but he has come way short of those expectations.

    McCann is hitting .240 with 13 homers and 46 RBI. Even though he has only struck out 42 times, McCann has had trouble finding the gaps. On balls in play, McCann has a horrific .285 average. 

    However, I expect the career .282 hitter to bounce back in the second half. McCann has still been putting the ball in play, and I believe he will continue that trend. I also expect more of the balls he hits to start falling, and for his batting average to climb rapidly.

    During McCann's seven-game hitting streak, his batting average has jumped from .224 to .240. He has found his swing, and that's why Atlanta has won seven straight games. Expect him to continue his dominance against the Giants and Nationals.

Jair Jurrjens

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    Just like McCann, Jurrjens has already begun to bounce back from his poor start.

    After four starts, Jurrjens was 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA. Now, Jurrjens is 3-2 with a 4.97 ERA, and he is finally starting to look like the Jair Jurrjens that dominated in 2011.

    Jurrjens has never been a strikeout pitcher, and this year, he has just 18 strikeouts in almost 42 innings. Jurrjens also isn't much of a threat to throw a no-hitter or a perfect game, as he has a career 1.31 WHIP. However, he is able to work out of jams.

    I expect Jurrjens to lower his 1.66 WHIP and his 4.97 ERA significantly. Jurrjens is already showing that he can pitch like he did in 2011, and I expect him to pitch like that in the second half.

Dan Uggla

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    Dan Uggla hasn't done much good for the Braves this year.

    He is hitting .223 with 100 strikeouts and 67 hits this year, and Uggla's lack of patience at the plate has hurt the team immensely. Uggla does have 12 home runs, but other than that, nothing positive has happened for him this year.

    But that will change.

    Uggla has a lot of power, and when he connects with the ball, he can really send it deep. However, he has 33 more strikeouts than hits, which is certainly not encouraging. As long as Uggla can hit the ball more (.335 BABIP), he will have a good second half.

Ben Sheets

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    Ben Sheets has only played one game as a Brave, but boy, did he look good.

    The strikeout artist shut out the Mets in six innings while scattering just two hits. Sheets was fairly accurate, and he hit his spots. Sheets can force hitters to chase low pitches by tempting them with a changeup or curveball, and he can get ahead of the count with his fastball (which usually hits the mid-90s).

    Sheets only struck out five hitters on Sunday, but he walked just one batter. Once Sheets gets back in the rhythm, expect him to strike out a lot more hitters, and to overpower those hitters with his main three pitches (especially his new pitch, the changeup).

    Atlanta needed depth in their rotation, and Sheets provided it. Now, it's his time to shine, and I believe he will take advantage.