2012 MLB Offseason: Atlanta Braves Fielding Breakdown

Scott BarzillaContributor IIIOctober 19, 2011

Jason Heyward is one of the more underrated fielders in the game.
Jason Heyward is one of the more underrated fielders in the game.Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Before we take a look at the Atlanta Braves, I wanted to throw out a quick reminder to take a look at the original “Team Fielding Series” if you haven’t already. That article will explain what these numbers are and why we are using them. If you have already done that, we can go ahead and continue with the overview.

DER: .699 (11th)

RA: 605 (3rd)

FLD%: .987 (3rd)

Baseball Reference: +6 runs (14th)

Fangraphs: -23.2 runs (26th)

Fielding Bible: +24 runs (8th)

Baseball Prospectus: -7.4 runs (25th)

Composite Runs: -0.2 runs

The advanced fielding metrics lag behind the Braves’ DER, which seems to indicate that they might have been a little lucky last year or their superior pitching (ranking third in runs allowed despite average fielding) helped prevent some hits. Down the stretch, that started to catch up with them as they surrendered more runs in September than any other month.

One thing I will have to give the Braves credit for is that they didn’t panic like the Red Sox when they faltered down the stretch. Cooler heads prevailed and now they can take a look at the big picture. They have a great young rotation and bullpen. A tweak here and there in the everyday lineup could work wonders for this team.

The Braves will see a boost in fielding when Jones retires.
The Braves will see a boost in fielding when Jones retires.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Best Defender

Most people would guess Michael Bourn, but they would be wrong.

Jason Heyward is a great right fielder and deserves a Gold Glove for this year’s performance. I tend to doubt he will get it since the coaches love to give to center fielders. If Heyward were healthy the whole season, there would have not been any doubt here.

Worst Defender

Dan Uggla first got on fans' fielding radar when he misplayed all of those balls in the All-Star game a couple of years ago. That really isn’t his problem, though. He’s simply not quick enough to get to the same balls that other second basemen get to.

He will become a first baseman someday, but Freddie Freeman is blocking him right now.

Possible Changes

Chipper Jones continues to contemplate retirement and one of these days he’s actually going to do it. When that day happens, the Braves’ fielding picture will get a lot brighter.

Martin Prado can easily slide there and the Braves can get a real left fielder to complement their two studs in the outfield.

Sadly, I don’t think that season will be next year though as Jones probably has one more season left in him. Alex Gonzalez is also a free agent, but all indications are that he will come back.

2012 Outlook

The Braves are an average defense by all accounts. They have good fielders like Alex Gonzalez and Jason Heyward and they have bad fielders like Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla.

The key for 2012 will be to see if Michael Bourn can bounce back from a surprisingly down defensive season to once again becoming one of the top center fielders in the game.