The Atlanta Braves open the 2016 season on Monday. To say that the team was revamped during the offseason is an understatement. Other than Freddie Freeman, there are few players on this team that the average Braves fan will recognize. Let me start by saying that isn’t a completely bad thing. The Braves ended up last in runs scored and home runs in 2015 but honesty compels me to point out that is partly due to the fact that they began dismantling the team at midseason.
I have been taking a lot of heat lately for being quite vocal about how weak this year’s starting lineup is on paper. So, let me give you some stats to ponder. If each of the eight starting position players hit the same number of homeruns they hit last season it would add up to 57 homeruns. To put that in perspective, the Braves were last in homeruns last season with an even 100. That means the based on the 2015 numbers for the starting eight, the bench players would have to nearly double the production of the starters just to get back to the worst power numbers in the league.
That is just homeruns, let’s talk actual runs. This season’s starting eight drove in a combined 346 RBI in 2015. That is over 200 less than the league worst 548 RBI racked up by, you guessed it, the Atlanta Braves. Now, it’s not all bad news. This starting eight combined for a .277 average in 2015. That is a strong 20 points higher than the league average. If the pitching is good enough, this team might be able to play small ball just enough to scratch out some wins. So let’s look at the pitching staff.
The projected starting rotation was an ugly 28-34 combined in 2015 with an average ERA of 4.78. That ERA is higher than every other major league team last season that didn’t play half of its games in the stat destroying ballpark in Colorado. The league average for team ERA in 2015 was 3.96. Of course the league average also factors in bullpen ERAs and we all know stats can be a little misleading at times.
However, the simple truth is that this is a weak batting lineup backed up by a young, unproven and in my opinion quite questionable pitching staff with only two bullpen pitchers you can count on in Jason Grilli and Arodys Vizcaino. The ace of the starting rotation is Julio Tehran who would be third in most rotations. There is one power threat in the batting lineup in Freddie Freeman and absolutely no reason for anybody to actually pitch to him.
This team is built to finish last not only in its division but probably in all of the major leagues. Even the most optimistic fans are hoping to go .500. For the most part, this was unavoidable as the Braves were forced to gut their squad in order to shed themselves of years of bad decisions and even worse contracts. Even so, you would think they could have assembled a better roster than the one they are breaking spring training with in 2016. Once again, I question whether the franchise cared at all about the product they put on the field for the last season actually in Atlanta.