The roughest season for the Atlanta Braves since the dark ol' days of the 1980s finally came to a close on Sunday, and the Braves ended the season in winning fashion by picking up two wins in a doubleheader against the Cardinals. First off, SHELBY MILLER WON A GAME. The infamous streak finally came to a close, as the Braves beat St. Louis 6-0 in the matinee game. Then, Matt Wisler ended his season in style by coming one out away from a complete game shutout as the Braves finished their season with a 2-0 victory. And now, enjoy the scenes from the final day of baseball in Atlanta for the next few months.
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Since the season is now over, it's time to start looking towards the future (though I'm sure that everybody who roots for the Braves has been looking at the future since late July, if we're being totally honest here), and the Braves have a pretty bright one ahead of them. Their reward for the putrid 2015 season will be the #3 overall pick in next season's MLB Draft. It's really "impressive" to see how badly the Braves played in order to get to this point, but it just wasn't enough to overcome the Phillies' prolonged futility over the entire season and the Reds' incredible effort of finishing the season by losing 14 of their last 15 games. Still, the Braves have gotten themselves in solid position to continue their rebuild in a positive manner.
The crew here at Talking Chop will be going through each position and reviewing the season that was and previewing what may happen in the future with that position. We've started with the catcher's position today, and that was the position that gave us a resurgent season from A.J. Pierzynski and a disappointing campaign from the projected catcher of the future, Christian Bethancourt.
Andrelton Simmons had another excellent defensive season at the shortstop position. We've come to expect that from him, and that probably won't change for a long time. The question for Simba has always been about whether or not he can get it together at the plate, and while he didn't exactly tear it up with the bat this season (he hit .265/.321/.338 with 82 wRC+, .290 wOBA, and 4 HRs), he's still making small improvements and the Braves are happy with the progress. More importantly, it appears that Simba and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer are forming a positive relationship, which is nothing but good news as far as the future is concerned.
Simmons, who turned 26 last month and is expected to win his third consecutive Gold Glove, is still very much a work-in-progress offensively. But the Braves seem pleased with strides made in his first season with Seitzer — the third hitting coach Simmons has had in the majors — and Seitzer’s assistant, Jose Castro.
"He’s a much improved (hitter) than he was last year," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "His first year he hit 17 home runs; I think that was just a byproduct of it being his first year, nobody knows him, here’s a first-pitch fastball hitting in the eight hole. I really like his approach this year better than I’ve seen him in 2 ½ or three years. He has stayed in that (middle) part of the field and he’s been more consistent this year."
A.J. Pierzynski has always been known as one of baseball's most eccentric characters. While we didn't get too many of those flashes of oddness this season, we finally got something on the last day of the season. For the final Home Depot Tool Race of the season, Pierzynski was apparently paid off by Two Bit the Drill to interfere in the race and did so by landing a clothesline on Hammerin' Hank and leveled B-Rush with a shove. Two Bit won, and I have no doubt that Pierzynski collected a nice check from Two Bit afterwards.
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Despite the fact that the Rangers managed to blow a four-run lead in the 9th inning of Saturday's game against the Angels, they were able to make amends by taking care of business on Sunday by winning 9-2 to clinch the AL West. The victory completed one of the most improbable runs of the season, as the Rangers made a surge up the standings after acquiring Cole Hamels from the Phillies earlier this Summer. The acquisition paid off on Sunday, as Hamels was the one who kept the Angels in check and he was able to help lead the Rangers to a divsional title.
Meanwhile, the Houston Astros have to be a little disappointed that they let a golden opportunity to win this division slip through their hands. They led this division for most of the season, and let a bad month of September take it away from them. With that being said, the Wild Card isn't a bad consolation prize considering that they haven't made it to the Postseason since 2006, so it's still a great achievement for a team that seemed to be stuck in perpetual rebuilding mode. Now, they'll have to travel to the Bronx to take on the Yankees in the Wild Card game, but did you ever think back in the Spring that we'd be talking about the Astros and Yankees facing off in this game?!