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Atlanta Braves news and links: It's .500 or bust for the Braves in 2016

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Obviously, the Braves are planning to improve in 2016 after an abysmal 2015 campaign. As a matter of fact, John Hart is hoping for a 15-20 win improvement in 2016, which means .500 is the mark that the Braves could be shooting for next season.

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BRAVES NEWS

John Hart discusses Braves' plans for 2016 and beyond

On Monday, the Braves' front office addressed the media before taking their one-week offseason break, and John Hart laid out his plans and expectations for the team in 2016. Hart said that the team's priority in the offseason will be to fix the bullpen, which was the clear weak point of the team (as evidenced by the nose-dive the team took when trades and injuries basically gutted the bullpen). Additionally, Mike Minor could play a role on the squad in 2016. However, he also stated that an overhaul to the offense (which scored the exact number of runs in 2015 as they did in 2014. Go figure.) would be difficult-to-impossible, so the team will once again have to lean on their pitching staff if they want success. What would be success for the Braves next year, though?

The Braves again are building on pitching. Following a 67-95 finish, good for fourth in the NL East, there are no expectations of an immediate turnaround to compare with 1991's worst-to-first drama.

President of baseball operations John Hart said Monday ''We will be better'' in 2016. He offered hope that ''maybe'' there could be an improvement of as many as 15 to 20 wins.

So there you have it, folks: .500 or bust! Considering how this past season went, I'll definitely take that.

Braves end rough season with a decent month

The Braves didn't exactly light the world on fire in September, but considering how July and August went, they were pretty good. As Ivan the Great notes in the first paragraph of his September recap, the Braves had a .419 winning percentage in September, which was as close as they got to their .414 overall winning percentage all season. There were some highlights (such as Freddie Freeman's wonderful night off the bench in New York and Hector Olivera showing us flashes of his monstrous power potential) and there were also lowlights (such as Fredi Gonzalez basically handing the Mets a game thanks to bullpen mismanagement), but overall, it was a decent month for the Braves to end the season with.

Freddie Freeman had another solid season in 2015 (when healthy)

Our first base positional review for 2015 was basically the Freddie Freeman review show. Although it wasn't his best season (and it was mostly due to injury), I think we'll all take .276/.370/.471 with 18 HRs, .364 wOBA, and 133 wRC+ (for a grand total of 3.4 fWAR) from the team's cornerstone, right?

10 storylines to look out for this offseason

The crew over at Fox Sports South are definitely looking forward to what's in store for the Braves in the future, as they've come up with 10 big storylines to follow as we head into 2016. Some of the juicier stories include Freddie Freeman and concerns about his wrist, the state of positions such as second base, catcher, and outfield, and whether or not the Braves can manage to fix their offense (even if the front office has already conceded that this will be a tough task). Needless to say, we'll have plenty to discuss around here during the Hot Stove season.

MLB NEWS

2015 MLB Postseason kicks off today

It's finally here, folks: The Postseason starts today. 10 teams enter, but only one team will have the honor of lifting the Commissioner's Trophy by the end of October. The festivities start tonight with the Astros travelling to the Bronx to face off with the Yankees in the Thunderdome that is the AL Wild Card game, and it'll continue tomorrow when the Cubs visit the Pirates in the NL Wild Card game. After that, the "real" playoffs start, and the most wonderful time of the year will be in full swing. Are we going to get some fresh new faces lifting the trophy by the end of this thing, or will the Baseball Gods punish us with a Cardinals/Yankees World Series? Only time will tell.

Washington Nationals fire Matt Williams

The Washington Nationals capped off a severely disappointing 2015 campaign by getting rid of Matt Williams and his entire coaching staff on Monday afternoon. As the crew at Federal Baseball explains, the Nationals really had no choice but to get rid of Matt Williams. His in-game management was extremely questionable at times, and he'd clearly lost the locker room there in Washington by the end of his time there.

If Williams hadn't been considered a dead man walking in the dugout prior to last Sunday, he cemented his fate with how he handled the Papelbon-Harper assault.

Though the Nationals went 4-3 in the final week of the season, Williams treated us with a sort of greatest hits compilation in his final few games:

The Nats lost a 2-1 game in Atlanta earlier this week when Ian Desmond bunted into a double play attempting to sacrifice with two on and nobody out in the ninth inning. Not only was the decision to give away an out there ridiculous, but it resulted in two outs and pretty much ended the game. To make the decision even odder, though, Williams specifically said earlier that day that with the Nats eliminated from playoff contention, he was still going to start Desmond regularly. Williams said he was doing that so that Desmond could pursue a personal milestone and hit twenty homers for the fourth straight season. Yet there Desmond was, in a meaningless game, chasing his twentieth homer by bunting!