Wednesday, April 13, 2005
I honestly don't have anything against the Braves specifically. The Braves fans I've met are nice, polite people. The team itself doesn't seem to have particularly odious personalities. They play good defense, have excellent pitching, and come up with timely hits, so I like the way they play the game. As stupid (and petty) as it is, I can only hate them for winning.
Despite the Hudson deal I think this year is finally the year for the wheels to come off the Braves jauggernaut. Let's look at the numbers:
As of April 11, the Braves had scored 27 runs and surrendered 24 (+3), yet had a record of 5-2. Going into yesterday's matchup with the Marlins, the Phillies were +16 (47 to 31). The Phillies were a game worse (4-3). I know these sorts of distinctions are meaningless at this stage of the year, but the Braves don't have their usual confidence. They look like they know they need to sweat out close games to capture their ... what, 14th pennant?
Hudson is going to have a great season, as will Hampton and Smoltz, but they aren't playing particularly good defense (.677 DER v. .685 NL average) and they aren't producing on offense (.312 OBP v. .344 NL average; .365 SLG v. .421 NL average). This team misses J.D. Drew and haven't been able to replace his bat in the lineup. The Braves circa 2004 weren't that strong at the plate, but the '05 team looks to be on its way to finishing in the bottom half of the NL in most offensive stats.
So the division is wide-open. I continue to be skeptical that the Mets have a shot, so it has really become a three-way race between the Phillies, Braves and Marlins for the pennant. After watching the boring, predictable Braves win year-after-year, I welcome the change, even if the Phillies flop and it is the Marlins. Change is good, though Braves fans must be pining for the good 'ol days.
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