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Why Johnny Damon Puts the Atlanta Braves Over the Top

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  Johnny Damon #18 of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after he struck out in the bottom of the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees won 7-3 to win the series 4 games to 2. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Shayan AlamContributor IFebruary 10, 2010

Rumors and rumblings about Johnny Damon coming to Atlanta have been being spread for weeks. Finally, Frank Wren came to his senses and decided to attempt to make the rumors a reality. 

Damon has reportedly been offered a one year deal worth $4-5 million to come play left field for the Braves. Damon has already reiterated that he would be thrilled to play in Atlanta, and Atlanta wouldn't mind having him either.

His numbers from 2009 may be helped by the fact that Yankee Stadium was a hitter's park, but Damon is a lock for 15-20 homers and a .370 OBP. Oh, and he has speed. The Braves wouldn't mind some stolen bases.

With these stats, Damon can leadoff for the Braves, making it easier for Nate McLouth to drop in the order. With this in mind, take a look at the Braves lineup with Damon. Some logical stats predictions accompany the order. 

  1. Johnny Damon, LF: .280, 18 home runs, 60 RBI
  2. Martin Prado, 2B: .295, 12 home runs, 65 RBI
  3. Chipper Jones, 3B: .300, 21 home runs, 85 RBI
  4. Troy Glaus, 1B: .270, 23 home runs, 85 RBI
  5. Brian McCann, C: .295, 22 home runs, 80 RBI
  6. Yunel Escobar, SS: .305, 15 home runs, 70 RBI
  7. Nate McLouth, CF: .270, 20 home runs, 70 RBI
  8. Jason Heyward, RF: .290, 17 home runs, 70 RBI 

The lineup would be trustworthy from top to bottom. The only real wild card here would be Heyward. His numbers could fluctuate, it's hard to say. The stats posted look realistic for the No. 1-rated prospect.

Now here is the lineup without Damon: 

  1. Nate McLouth, CF: .260, 20 home runs, 60 RBI
  2. Martin Prado, 2B: .295, 12 home runs, 55 RBI
  3. Chipper Jones, 3B: .290, 21 home runs, 75 RBI
  4. Troy Glaus, 1B: .270, 23 home runs, 80 RBI
  5. Brian McCann, C: .295, 22 home runs, 80 RBI
  6. Yunel Escobar, SS: .305, 15 home runs, 70 RBI
  7. Matt Diaz, LF: .290, 12 home runs, 60 RBI
  8. Jason Heyward, RF: .290, 17 home runs, 65 RBI

As you can see, multiple hitters have lower averages and RBI. Chipper Jones and the rest of the middle of the lineup would definitely benefit with Damon at the top of the order as opposed to McLouth. Damon would have a better average, a higher OBP, and more steals. Along with that, the pressure to provide all the offense would be further lifted off Jones' shoulders.

The two negatives I see in signing Damon are defense and money. Damon's defense isn't great, but honestly, I would expect him to play better than Garret Anderson did in left field. In terms of money, the deferred payment would hurt the Braves in 2011. 

But with Troy Glaus likely leaving, Craig Kimbrel replacing Billy Wagner, and Freddie Freeman filling in at first, the money wouldn't worry me too much.

Another point: the Philadelphia Phillies look like the obvious choice for the NL East crown in 2010. Most experts rate their pitching staff better than the Braves, and their superior offense is obviously an advantage.

Barring injuries, the Braves will have to look to enter the postseason as the wild card team. As the team is set right now, the wild card looks tough with the likes of the Giants and Rockies performing better recently.

If the Braves are serious about winning a world championship in 2010 and sending Bobby Cox out a winner, then Johnny Damon is the choice to change this club. 

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