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Josh McCarroll of Braves Nation looks into Bill James' (BIS) forecasts for the Braves pitching staff. It is an interesting read. In summary,† Josh thinks the forecasts for Hudson, Cormier, Gonzalez and James are on the pessimistic side. While I completely agree on Gonzalez I have slightly different thoughts on the other three. Here's why: Chuck James: James is a strong fly ball pitcher. Batted ball stats last year indicated that he was a touch fortunate that his home run rate wasn't a bit higher. A bit less luck and suddenly a very respectable ERA is languishing around the 4.5-5 mark.† The BIS projection has his ERA at 3.53 -- I think that is going to be his absolute ceiling this year. While Josh isn't quibbling with the stat line he rightly points out the the BIS numbers appear conservative on James' playing time projection. Tim Hudson: It is worth noting that BIS has the most bullish forecast on Hudson. Most others, including THTs projections peg him squarely around the 4.2 ERA mark. I'm partly with Josh here. I think Hudson will have a strong year as as 2006 was a bit of an aberration as he collapsed with runners on base. I'm not sure he'll crack the 3.5 ERA band but if he posts his BIS line I'll be very happy. Lance Cormier: Cormier was awful last season and I don't care how good you are in spring training, until you do it in the Show I ain't interested.† In all seriousness, Cormier has had an excellent spring and some value has to be placed on that -- we'd all be a helluva lot more worried if he'd been smacked around the yard. However, I'm not sold on his stamina -- I think he struggle to go more than five innings a start and think he'll get knocked about a bit. The BIS ERA feels about right to me. If Josh is right (and I hope he is) then the Braves are in great shape. We'll have a top rotation with two genuine stars (Smoltz and Hudson), with James, Hampton, Redman, Cormier and Davies as useful (or in James' and Hampton's case better than useful back-up. Combine that with a high potential 'pen and an offense that continues from where it left off in 2006 and we'll be in the mix for sure. Josh will be looking at hitters in a few days. Make sure you check it out.

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