It’s all hugs as the Braves head into the postseason…
Offense: Yes, the Braves WON! And they score a lot of runs, but it was against the crappy Phillies pitchers. Still, I like the confidence that winning the last game brings to a team headed to postseason play. At least we weren’t no-hit on the final day of the season.
Good hitting: While Chris Johnson (.321) missed winning the batting title thanks to the late season surge by Michael Cuddyer (.331), he still finished 2nd in the NL in batting. Hot on his heels was Freddie Freeman (.319), who finished 3rd in the NL. The last time two Braves finished in the top-10 in batting average was 2010, when Omar Infante (.321) finished 3rd and Martin Prado (.307) finished 7th.
Season All-Stars: There is no official end-of-season All-Star team in baseball (though there should be). ESPN’s SweetSpot blog gives us their choices, and in addition to the obvious choices of Andrelton Simmons as shortstop and Craig Kimbrel at closer, Luis Avilan was also chosen as the left-handed setup guy.
Part of Atlanta’s dominant bullpen, Avilan fanned just 38 in 64 innings but allowed a .173 average and just one home run. He gets great movement on his two-seam sinking fastball, resulting in fewer K’s but a lot of groundballs.
Good Laird: Gerald Laird finished the season with this line: .281/.367/.372, and a very respectable .739 OPS. Of course, a lot of that was helped along on the final day by a 4-for-4 performance. Prior to yesterday’s game Laird’s line was this: .256/.343/.350 with a .694 OPS. Laird raised his OPS 45 points in one day. For reference sake, David Ross finished the season with this line: .216/.298/.382 with a .681 OPS. So Laird was better even before yesterday’s game, but Gerald has fallen way behind in the beard category.
Orlando bound: It won’t be rest for all the Braves. Atlanta could possibly send several of their recovering players to Orlando for a couple of days to play in some Instructional League games. Reliever Jordan Walden, catcher Brian McCann, and outfielder Reed Johnson all need some more reps and the team needs to make sure they’re good to go before being added to the playoff roster. The other possibility is what they did when Heyward was coming back, and that was to have a pitcher from the Instructional League come to Atlanta instead of sending the Major Leaguer down to the farm. As for who will be on the playoff roster, I imagine those decisions likely won’t be made for a couple of days.
Bring on the Dodgers: It’s gonna be a tough matchup, but no matchup in the postseason is easy. The Braves strikeout-prone lineup will be facing a pitching staff with swing-and-miss stuff, which sounds like a recipe for disaster for Atlanta. Game one is this Thursday at Turner Field, no game time has been announced yet. Let’s hope 2013 really is Choptober, and not Choketober.