2012 MLB Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

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2011 Review

An amazing thing happened on the way to a catastrophe:  Many other things.

Do you know how many milestones Chipper Jones reached in 2011?  Or that Brian McCann became the second player ever to hit a game-tying home run and a game-winning home run in the same game?  Or that the Braves franchise record was over .500 for the first time since 1923?

Of course you didn’t, because you’re a self-involved sadist, choosing to laugh and slobber at the Braves rather than look up on the internet any good things they did last year.

But the list goes on.

Craig Kimbrel!  Who could have known a 23-year-old would set Atlanta on fire with frightening enthusiasm?  Everybody, really.  In 2010 he went 4-0 with an ERA under 0.5 and 40 K’s in 20 2/3 innings.  But nobody paid attention until 2011, when he spent a whole season with the Braves ruining heroic, magical comeback wins for opposing teams in the ninth inning and, with undying support from flamethrowing young relievers Eric O’Flaherty and Johnny Venters, wrapped up the NL Rookie of the Year Award pretty unquestionably.

Meanwhile, prior to the ninth inning, Dan Uggla was terrible.  Hitting .173 going into July 4, Uggla wasn’t giving his $65 million contract a good name.  Which was why it was so weird when he went on to hit in every game until August 14, a hit streak long enough to fit Freddie Freeman’s hit streak inside of it.  Uggla didn’t hit over .200 for the entirety of the stretch.  And he led the league in errors for a second baseman (15).  But still!  Hit streak!  Impressive.

So, you see?  The Braves spent 2011 being a pretty interesting, competitive, positive club.  They won games with dominance.  They won games with theatrics.  They had a competitive starting rotation in Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, and Tommy Hanson in a division that defines starting rotations.  They had powerful youth coming into their own.  They signed Michael Bourn halfway through the season and watched him finish with a personal best .294 batting average and all those bases he steals without even really trying that hard.  This year it was 61.  It was all going so well.

… and then they imploded.  Quite violently.

But again.  You know all about that.  So, like the Braves, let us ignore the past.  Let us forget it.  When other people bring it up, let us bang the two nearest objects together and yelp loudly.  Because the Braves were a championship caliber team for the first five months of the 2011 season.

In 2012, they’re trying for six.