The Atlanta Braves are once again looking like a championship-caliber team. The Braves have held first place in the National League East for nearly three months and show no signs of slowing down. In fact, they are showing signs of improvement. (see: Derrek Lee)
Atlanta's success has undoubtedly been a 25-man effort, but that does not mean that the incredible individual performances should go unnoticed. Here are the handful of Braves that are amongst the top candidates to win some of Major League Baseball's most coveted awards.
Two years ago, Tim Hudson was having possible career-ending Tommy John surgery. Many seemed to write him off as past his glory days and doubt if Hudson would make a return to the mound.
Hudson returned to baseball with more fire and vengance in his heart than the main character of a Mel Gibson movie. Now fresh and rejuvenated, Hudson has the second best ERA in the majors and the fourth most wins in the National League. Hudson seems to have Comeback Player of The Year locked down already, and is now amongst the top five in every Cy Young contenders list.
More on that later.
Rolaids Extra Strength Antacid has provided relief for overeaters since the early 20s and Billy Wagner has been giving batters indigestion since 1995.
Amongst all of the Braves' young flamethrowers in the bullpen, Wagner has proven to be the nuclear bomb of the arsenal, with 29 saves and leading all closers with seven wins.
Wagner will have to scratch and claw to pass the likes of Heath Bell and Brian Wilson in the Rolaids Relief Man Award race, but he has been lights out for Atlanta all year and is one of the main reasons that the Braves stand on the throats of the Phillies atop the National League East.
Jason Heyward has been the favorite to win the National League Rookie of The Year since spring training.
Heyward only increased his chances to win the award by belting a three-run homer with his first swing as a Brave and being the youngest player since Ken Griffey Jr. to be voted as a starter on the All-Star team.
Heyward had a short stint on the Disabled List before the All-Star Break and his stats suffered because of it, but Heyward's stats are not what draw people's attention.
Heyward has been one of the most exciting players to watch in baseball. He has stolen home plate, stretched singles into doubles, and delivered three walk-off victories for his team.
The Godfather, Bobby Cox has already announced that this year will be his last.
Instead of drooling over all of Cox's accomplishments in his 25 years with the Braves organization and discussing how the Braves skipper has the fourth most managerial wins of all time, let's look at what Bobby is doing this year.
The 2010 Atlanta Braves could possibly be the best group of ballplayers that Cox has ever managed and believe me, I know how big of a statement that is. Bobby Cox managed a Braves team that won 14 consecutive division titles and one world championship, but this year's Atlanta Braves is an all around better team, from the bench to the bullpen.
Cox has utilized his bench better than any other manager in baseball. The skipper seems to always know who to pinch hit and when. This has led to the most bench RBI's in baseball and game winning RBI's by 13 different players.
Martin Prado has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Atlanta Braves.
After spending over two weeks on the Disabled List with a broken pinky finger, Prado still has the most hits in the National League and is only .004 points away from leading the race for the Batting Title. Only "The Italian Stallion," Joey Votto and "Mr.Potato Head," Placido Polanco have better averages.
If the scorching bat of Martin Prado can continue this torrid pace of destroying opposing pitchers, he will be the favorite to win the title and could very well receive MVP votes. Yeah, I said it, MVP votes.
The ace of the Atlanta Braves has been the best starting pitcher in baseball that nobody knows about. Some say that Hudson's success is due to luck, but no amount of luck can explain the fact that Hudson is one of the best pitchers in every category of the game.
Although Hudson's strikeout rate is not out of this world, he holds the second best ERA in baseball and the fourth most wins in the National League.
Hudson has a legitimate shot at winning this year's Cy Young award and with a little more run support from his teammates, he could become the favorite to win the award.
For more on Hudson's Cy Young chances, read this article:http://bit.ly/cOlzGW