Well, hello everyone...remember me?? I've finally taken the bar exam, spent a month traveling and am three weeks into my first job as a lawyer. Unfortunately, I had to take a little sabbatical from the site, but I'm back for the last week of the regular season and all geared up to speculate all post-season long!
So, on a flight back from Tampa this morning I thought about the biggest disappointments of the year and the nicest surprises. I know we've still got a week left and some slim postseason hopes, but it's never too soon to do a little review and evaluation.
Let's start with the biggest disappointments of the year:
- Mark Redman: Enough said. Ok, so I have to say more. I never thought Redman looked that great to begin with. He was 11-10 in 2006, 5 and 15 in 2005 and posted 5.71 and 4.90 ERAs in 2006 and 2005 respectively. Yet none of that compares with his performance in Atlanta. Here, he posted an 0-4 record and an 11.63 ERA over 21.2 innings.
- Bob Wickman: After looking like the picture-perfect workhorse closer last season, Wickman's career in Atlanta came to a surprising halt last month. In 27 innings pitched in Atlanta in 2006, Wickman posted a 1.04 ERA and converted 18 of 19 save opportunities. In 2007, Wickman came in with a disappointing 3.92 ERA but converted 20 of 26 save opportunities. Those numbers might not sound that bad, but his attitude was another story. We all know the real reason he's no longer in a Braves uniform is because of his attitude with regards to pitching in non-save situations. He apparently made it well known that he didn't want to pitch in non-save situations and became increasingly difficult to manage. The Braves have always been about team players and I was shocked to find that when it came right down to it, Wickman was not one.
- Chris Woodward: Oh, what do you say about Chris Woodward? He's right up there with Mark Redman for me. I groan every time he comes into a game. I especially lost patience with seeing him in games once I saw what Escobar and Prado could do. Seriously, why is Woodward ever put in the game?? He has a .189 AVG this year in 132 at-bats and he has no redeeming qualities out on the field defensively. I don't even know what else to say about him.
- Andruw Jones: Yes, he's a Gold Glove center fielder. Yes, it's possible that he saves enough runs from scoring that it balances out his lack of prowess at the plate. However, I think we were all disappointed by his offense this year. Especially surprising because it was a contract year for him. I can't even count the number of times I yelled at the tv when he swung the bat so hard he fell down at the plate, or he nailed a catcher with his back swing. Someone needs to tell him that a base hit is as good as a homerun a lot of the time!
Now let's end on a good note with the highlights of the season:
- Last I heard, Jeff Francouer is one of only three players in MLB who started every game this season. Since Cal Ripken, Jr.'s consecutive games played record is the one I personally find most impressive in baseball, I really admire what Francouer has done this season. Props to Francouer for improving his plate discipline this year as well! That .290 AVG he's currently sporting is exactly what I hoped to see from him this year.
- Tim Hudson had his first 16-win season with the Braves and I'm convinced he could have hit 20 if he'd had a little more run support in a few of those games. I couldn't have asked for much more out of him this season - I loved watching him pitch this year!
- John Smoltz is the same workhorse he's always been. So far this season he's a 14-game winner, despite a stint on the DL and the fact that he turned 40 this season. He and Hudson were a solid one-two punch in the starting rotation this year (now if only we'd had a solid third starter).
- Chipper Jones and his .342 AVG that currently puts him in the lead for the NL batting title. This is a hugely impressive average for him considering his physical woes and several stints on the DL. When the game's on the line, I want Chipper or Diaz out there.
- Which brings me to Matt Diaz. Boy was he ever a fantastic surprise this season! Because of the platoon, he doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, but he's hit .338 in 343 at-bats this season. It seemed every time we really needed a hit, Diaz could produce it. Oh, and for those who missed it, I called this one before the season even started!
- While we're still on batting...Renteria had a stellar year at the plate as well and his .332 AVG puts him in fifth place among NL players.
- Let's not forget Willie Harris while we're on the offensive stats. His .278 AVG was much higher than I think most expected and for awhile there he was really hot at the plate. And to move to defensive prowess, Harris looked fantastic in the field this year. I'm not sure he's got what it takes to be in CF, but I liked that they gave him some playing time there.
- Kelly Johnson made a near-seamless move to 2B this season that was very impressive. His .279 AVG and his ability to bat in the leadoff spot made him an offensive asset as well.