Atlanta Braves: What Has Gone Right In 2009?

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2009

DENVER - JULY 12:  Martin Prado #14 of the Atlanta Braves high fives a teammate in the dugout against the Colorado Rockies during MLB action at Coors Field on July 12, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Braves 8-7.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

No, I'm not dead.

No, I haven't given up writing for the greatest professional sports franchise in the history of mankind.

Life happens, and graduate school takes precedence over Bleacher Report.  However, two finals and two A's later, your beloved Braves writer is back.

The facts:

The Braves are sitting with a 51-50 record with 61 games left in the regular season.

They are currently eight games out in the NL East behind the Philadelphia Phillies (58-41) and the Florida Marlins (53-48).

The Atlanta Braves are also sitting in fifth place in the wild card race where they are four games behind the San Fransisco Giants.

The truth:

The Atlanta Braves have the starting pitching and just enough bats in the line-up that they can reasonably put together a stretch to catch the Phillies in the NL East race.  However, with the recent acquisition of Cliff Lee, the Phillies have a strong hold over the NL East.

In reality though, the Braves have a great shot at catching the Giants in the wild card race to put them in the 2009 playoffs.

What has gone wrong in 2009?

Tom Glavine went 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA in his attempt to prolong his Hall of Fame career.

Jeff Francoeur didn't come close to resurrecting his career in Atlanta, and was shipped off to the division rival New York Mets.

Omar Infante was the Braves hope for a productive lead-off hitter, but was lost to injury for the good part of the season.

Kelly Johnson just flat out stinks (I'm sorry, it's true).

Chipper Jones is still great, but not Chipper Jones great (you have to be a good hitter for your average to drop 75 points, and still be hitting .289 on the season)

Kenshin Kawakami can be added to the list of free agents signed this past offseason that are not producing proportionally to their paycheck.  He is 5-8 with a 4.37 ERA.  Honestly, he is a likely bullpen candidate for when the team ace Tim Hudson returns from injury next month.

The Jordan Schafer era will have to wait a year.  A wrist injury and a gaping hole in his swing sent him back to AAA where right now he sits on the DL.

What has gone right in 2009?

I hate talking about negatives.  Every team has them, but it is the positives that overcome your faults that makes a World Series champion.

Tommy Hanson is as advertised.  He is awesome, and plainly is the future ace of the rotation.  He is 5-1 and holds a 2.95 ERA.  Not bad for the rookie, eh?

Martin Prado is on a route to be a second-half all-star if there was such a thing.  On the year, he's hitting .313 with a .375 OBP.  Not bad for a guy that just got the starting job.

Javier Vazquez is having a career year with his first season under skipper Bobby Cox.  I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was this good.  His line is as follows, 2.98 ERA with 150 Ks and only 27 BBs.

Jair Jurrjens makes the Edgar Renteria trade look better and better every start.  I love J.J., I really do.  He could be an ace for about half of the teams in the MLB.  He's definitely been the Braves more consistent starter this season, and that's why I like him.

Rafael Soriano has taken over the closer role extremely well with a 1.91 ERA and has saved 14 games in 16 chances.

Call me crazy, but since the All-Star break, Yunel Escobar has arguably been the best shortstop in all of baseball...take that Yunie haters.  He's hitting .305 with 11 HRs.  The best part is his hitting in the clutch.  He's hitting .427 with RISP.

Brian McCann is to the 2009 lineup as Chipper Jones has been for years now.  You cannot replace him, and you really hate it when he rests every fifth day.  He deserved to start in the All-Star game and his bench selection is yet another example why fans aren't the best judge when it comes to All-Star and I stand firm on that.

The Braves have a shot at the playoffs.  How they get there, I don't care, I just want to play baseball in October again.

The Phillies are a great baseball team, there's no joking around about that. However, the Braves hold a 7-2 record on them in 2009 so far, and the Braves have nine games left against them.  I guarantee that this fact worries that Phillies squad up in Philadelphia.

Look for the Braves to make a run and challenge the Phillies, but I think the Braves could make a strong campaign for the NL Wild Card.

I always said during the Braves consecutive division winning streak that the next year the Braves win the World Series would be if they made the playoffs as a wild card team and not the division champions. 

Think about that...


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