Going into the season I thought the Braves improved their lineup and starting rotation with the addition of Uggla over Melky, and Heyward's further maturation and Freeman over Glaus. Couple that with the Beachy/Minor combo replacing Kawakami and I thought the team would have an even better record and even give the Phillies a run for their money. The Braves were on a 96 win pace just a few weeks ago. It took some apocalyptic weeks to ruin everything to have a worse record than last year's team and completely miss the playoffs. Who's to blame?
1. Larry Parrish
In 2010 the Braves were 1st in the NL in OBP. In 2011 the Braves finished 14th. 14th! I really thought that was a joke when I first heard that. How could everyone drastically underperform seemingly all season? You can't put all the blame on the esteemed hitting coach, but there the numbers speak for themselves. The mantra of "aggressiveness" from Spring Training on did a lot of great work didn't it? It's pretty clear that in addition to a backwards strategy of hacking that most players failed to make adjustments all season long. The collapse surely was a product of poor offensive numbers in September, but the fact is the team had been under performing all. season. long. It's painfully clear that the results on the field did little to change, adapt, or retool. In an age of endless video and matchup records, Those are things you do when you get poor results time and time again. A major league hitting coach of all people should know that. He doesn't and he never will. His unbelievably bad performance has costed the Atlanta Braves a return trip to the playoffs.
2. Fredi Gonzalez
Where to begin? All the bunting? The shortsighted, incredibly rigid (i.e. stupid) bullpen usage? All the playing time to Schafer? Benching Heyward? Idiotic lineups? I'll just go with everything. Let's not forget all the post game sound interviews that had all the insight of a small child. Very poor in-game tactics costed the Braves some games during the season. It ended up costing the Braves the playoffs. Fredi Jesus González is an oaf of a human being who incapable of worthwhile thought and professionalism, and he deserves to be terminated from his current position
Ahem, I wrote this fanpost before the season explaining how important a shutdown power pitcher will be for the Braves. http://www.talkingchop.com/2011/2/18/2000776/whos-the-most-vital-member-of-the-2011-braves Unfortunately, Hanson could not pitch into the last month due to a shoulder issues. Jurrjens, who pitched great in the 1st half, only pitched mediocrely in the 2nd half. For the 2nd season in a row, Jurrjens had nagging injurues that costed him his end of the season. Still, a man of Jurrjen's talents would have been preferred over rookie starters. To give an instance of how depleted the Braves starting pitching staff was, in a pennant race in September, the Braves once started four rookie pitchers in a row. Let's just say I would have preferred if one or both Hanson and Jurrjens stayed healthy.
4. Dan Uggla
There are bad starts and then there are Uggla starts. It's hard not to forget the .179 batting average into July with a declining walk rate. He gloriously came back with a vengeance to not only have the most unlikely 30+ game hitting streak of all time, but also set a career high in homers. Still, the sub replacement performance at the plate the first half and the limited range at 2nd costed the Braves games.
5. Frank Wren
I think he's an excellent GM who made several great moves coming into this season. He put a great team together. I thought that this was the best team on paper since 2003, which was the last time they won 100 games. Sure, he could have shored up the bench better earlier in the season, but there were no glaring mistakes of roster construction. The only truly puzzling move was Scott Proctor signed to a major league contract. I don't really blame Scott Proctor for being terrible in nearly every appearance. Everyone know he's going to suck. I blame the man who signed him and kept him on the team for an idiot to use. Proctor had no business on the roster and his perpetual ineffectiveness costed the BRaves a playoff birth.
Congratulations to the Cardinals for an improbable comeback. However, the Braves were a better team and should have had this locked up a couple weeks ago. All I can say now is that I'm looking forward to re-watching Ken Burn's BASEBALL documentary in the offseason. You should watch it too.