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Braves Sure Bets: What Atlanta Fans Can Take To The Bank In 2011

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Braves Sure Bets: What Atlanta Fans Can Take To The Bank In 2011
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He's not flashy, but Derek Lowe is money in the bank for the Braves.

There are no sure things in sports, but sometimes, you can come close.

In baseball, some players are so consistent that a look at their previous three or so years can give you a pretty good estimation of how they will perform in the coming season.

Here's what Braves fans can reasonably expect.

Chipper Jones will get hurt; no rational human being can expect anything close to a full, healthy season from Chipper.

He hasn't played more than 150 games since 2003, and many of the games in which he does appear are single pinch-hitting appearances or early exits after tweaking some body part. He further weakens the team with all those games where he's too hurt to play, but not hurt enough to go on the DL.

Consider that he's also had a steady three-year decline in slugging and he's a $14 million dollar albatross around the Braves' collective neck.

This leads us to our next guarantee.

Derek Lowe will eat innings and record double-digit wins. Roto players hate him, but since becoming a starter, Lowe has never failed to win in double-digits and never misses a start.

Considering the nightmarish wave of injuries that befell the Braves rotation in 2008, it's no wonder Frank Wren was willing to overpay for this workhorse.

What's the "surest thing" for the Braves in 2011?

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Dan Uggla will hit 30 homers and make 15 errors. Since Uggla joined the big leagues, he is second only to Albert Pujols in homers by National League right-handed hitters. Both his power numbers and his fielding stats have held steady over the course of his career.

Considering how hotly contested the Braves playoff series with the Giants was, despite Atlanta's dearth of power and poor fielding in the series, I think Atlanta can stomach the occasional error from their new slugger.

Brian McCann will be Brian McCann and Martin Prado will be Martin Prado. Two models of consistency, McCann can be relied on for 20 homers, Prado will bat .300 and both will provide steady defense and a positive presence in the clubhouse.

The only question will be: Who plays left field when Prado takes over third base after Chipper's inevitable injury?

Nate McLouth will stink.

Frank Wren has said that the Braves need McLouth to return to the form he showed in Pittsburgh, but let's be clear about something: Nate McLouth had one terrific year in Pittsburgh in 2008, but was never that caliber of player before or since. Even at his best, he still only batted .276 with a .350 on-base percentage.

Take away his one atypical season and McLouth is a 10-homer, 12-steal guy with a .250 batting average. Hardly worth a starting spot on a championship contender.

Those are my guarantees for the season. Anyone else see any sure things for the Braves in the coming year?

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