So, we’ve still got a while before the season begins, but like most of you, I’m already feeling the itch. We’ve got the team set. We traded the high priced pitcher. Like it or not, the offseason is finished as far as what we are going to do. To keep us busy, I thought we’d play a nice game of over/under/push. It’s pretty simple. I’m going to make a series of provocative statements, and then say whether or not I believe the player it was made about will do better, worse, or right on. Feel more than free to give your own answers as well. Let’s get to it then.
1. Brian McCann will have 100 RBIs this season.------Over. He finished the season with 94, and that was with missing most of the first month with eye problems. However, Cox rests him pretty regularly, and he’s never played more than 145 games in a season (to which Chipper replied, I don’t know how he does it) but I think it’s safe to assume he’ll play 140 games this year and have probably 20-25 more at bats this season than he did last season. Of course, this all depends on whether or not Huddy goes Maddux on us and decides to use Ross as his catcher everytime out. But assuming he doesn’t, he should get past the century mark.
2. 25 steals for at least one player on the braves roster. ------Under. No surprise here, we still aren’t very speedy. Diaz should have 10, and Heyward and McLouth could both push 20, but I’m not that confident in either of those. I’d say the team leader will have around 13, 18 at the most.
3. Two or more pitchers will finish with 18 wins.------Push. Deep within my soul beats the heart of a lifetime, incredibly biased Braves fan. I believe Jair Jurrjens could be hit by a bus and come out and throw a 2 hitter against the Cubs the next day. However, I have a brain, and now that its highly unlikely that all of our pitchers are as good as the little kid in me wants them to be. But looking at the fact that 4 of our 5 starters had over 10 wins last year, and two had 15, with that dismal offense last year, it would be foolish not to think that with a (slightly) retooled offense we shouldn’t have at least two pitchers get close to 20 wins. Right? Look for JJ and Lowe to hit that 18 mark.
4. Three players will finish with a batting average over .300------------Over. Not too far over, the number will be four. Prado, Jones, Escobar, and Diaz. Prado and Escobar are the easy choices. Prado just has a pretty swing and I love to watch him get pure hits. Escobar has unlimited potential, but I think that we overlook how much having Vasquez benefitted him last year (or how much not having him will hurt this year). Diaz is a career .310 hitter. Yes, he is a bit of a Jekyll and Hide Your Eyes because sometimes his swing makes you wanna cry, but I believe he is as good as he played last year. As for Chip. I grew up idolizing this guy. In my heart, he’ll always be the best switch hitter in baseball, and I’m going to believe he gets that average back up this year.
5. 90 wins for the Braves this year.----------Over. Go back to when Diaz’s brain stalled on third base (before you keep reading, take the time to be angry about it, I totally am) and we are 86-70 before phoning it in the last six games because the playoffs were out of reach. Combine that with game three on the year when we blew that 10 run lead on Philly, the time Cox put in Soriano when Hanson clearly had his first complete game shut out, and the seven blown saves by Gonzo, we should easily be able to come up with 5 more wins there.
6. 50 homeruns by our outfielders this year.-----Under. We had 43 legitimate homers from our outfielders last year. I don’t see that changing. I can see 20 from McLouth, and 10-15 from Diaz and Heyward. I know Heyward is supposed to be a power guy, but I don’t expect much this year. Add in about 8 from Melky, and we could get dangerously close to getting more than 50, but I’m just not ready to bet the house on it. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong though.
7. One or more player, other than Brian McCann, will represent the Braves on the all star team this year.-----Under. As a whole, the team is better. No superstars though. It could be a while before Mac has any company at that game. Even if we do have someone who borders on deserving, I just don’t see it happening, considering Mac is hands down the best catcher in the National League, and if it weren’t for Joe Mauer, he’d be the best in the bigs, and he didn’t get the start.
8. I’ll reference how happy I am that Greg Norton is no longer on our team 50 times this year.----Over. Let me emphasis this. OVER! That number will be 162. Every game, win or loss, good, bad, and ugly, I will go to bed at night sleeping peacefully because that guy is nowhere near our roster. The one positive is that between him and Schafer I made about $50 last season by saying “I bet you a dollar this guy strikes out on three pitches.” Oh, how bittersweet that money was…
9. Troy Glaus will miss 30 games this season due to injury (not including rest)-----Under. We don’t usually sign players who end up injured immediately, with the obvious exception being Mike Hampton. I just truly believe that the guy is healthy, if not, I don’t think we would have signed him. I’ll refrain from jinxing anything and saying exactly how many games I think he’ll play, but I just believe that he’ll stay relatively injury free all year long.