It’s September, and that means the playoff races are heating up in Major League Baseball. However, not everyone makes it to the promised land. Tom Wright tells us what went right and what went wrong in the elimination of the Atlanta Braves.
Last year, the Braves fired Frank Wren, a middling GM who had constructed some decent teams but also saddled Atlanta with ridiculous contracts to players like Melvin Upton, Derek Lowe and Dan Uggla. After Wren’s departure, the new Braves’ brass decided to limit the payroll without completely committing to a tear-down, so new team president John Hart spent this past offseason trying to swap out good players for other good (but cheaper!) players. Out went Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, Ervin Santana and the better Upton; in came Shelby Miller, Nick Markakis, Jim Johnson and Cameron Maybin. The goal was to keep the team competitive while transitioning to a younger core, allowing the likes of Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran and newly-acquired Jace Peterson to move slowly into the spotlight under the tutelage of veteran players who knew how to play “the right way.”
Unfortunately, the only part of the Braves plan that appears to have been executed successfully was the part where the Braves shipped out good players. Pretty much every other part of the plan has been entirely unsuccessful; the young players haven’t learned to hit or pitch, the acquisitions haven’t nearly replaced the lost production, and the veterans that they picked up to teach the youngsters how to act professionally include the likes of A.J. Pierzynski. It is likely that the Braves’ long-term goal is to have a good team by the time they move into their new stadium in 2017, but given the way 2015 went, that goal is going to take an awful lot of work.
Whatever the reasons, the team that has played at Turner Field this year has been a disaster. The lineup is a mess; besides Freddie Freeman, the only competent hitters on the team are a 38-year-old catcher having a dead cat bounce season, a mediocre-hitting right fielder on the wrong side of 30, and a 28-year-old center fielder already in his fourth organization. It’s no small feat to be outhit by a Phillies lineup whose first and second basemen appear to have died two years ago, but the 2015 Braves have somehow limboed the Phillies production to become the worst hitting team in the NL. Worse, the few leads that the offense was able to conjure were invariably squandered by a combustible bullpen; this year’s arson squad has blown more saves than anyone in baseball and has the worst ERA+ of any pen in the National League. With no ability to hit and no ability to pitch, the Braves were destined for a long season, and Atlanta’s execrable 10-30 record in August and September has made a bad season feel even more dragged-out than usual. Say what you want about the Frank Wren era, but even in his worst years, Wren never rolled a team onto the field that was nearly this bad.
The Braves last made the playoffs in 2013. Their only World Series title as the representative of Atlanta, Georgia came in 1995.
Next Team: Philadelphia Phillies