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2010-braves-swot-analysis-strengths | February | 2010 Articles

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2010 Braves SWOT Analysis: Strengths

Written by Joe Lucia on .

This is one of the more...interesting ideas I think I've come up with. Hat tip to my Business Strategy prof Jake for drilling the idea of a SWOT analysis into my head so much this evening that my mind felt like it was going to explode. What IS a SWOT analysis you may ask? SWOT stands for Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats, and companies use it to take a quick look at various parts of their organization. It is NOT by any means the most comprehensive tool out there, nor is it at all definitive when looking at the company. Its simple and easy, so I formulated one tonight, and will be posting it in 4 parts this weekend...one part for each letter. I've done so many of these as a management major, that I know how to do them pretty well. I hope you enjoy this look at the team. STRENGTHS Hitting up the middle. Brian McCann is the best catcher in the National League, bar none. At a position where defense is seemingly put at a premium over having an elite hitter, the Braves have gone the other direction. McCann isn't the best fielder in the world, but offensively, he's an absolute demon. Having a presence like that in the 5-hole of the lineup is a luxury many teams don't have. McCann needing some rest every week isn't the best thing in the world, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Moving up the infield, Yunel Escobar has proven to be a strong hitter who will give you a good amount of walks with few strikeouts and decent pop, especially for a middle infielder. His defense is solid average, but looks a lot better if you watch the Braves on a regular basis. On the other end of the bag, Martin Prado had a great 2009 year getting most of the time as the starter at second, but its a mystery if he'll be able to duplicate his efforts...I'll discuss that in depth in a future installment. And finally, in center field, Nate McLouth will give you an odd skillset from a center fielder, with a low average, great pop, decentish speed, and a decent to pretty good BB:K. He posted an above average UZR for the first time in his career last season, so who knows if that will continue to improve, or what. Starting pitching. Oh, now this is obvious. Tommy Hanson is one of the best young pitchers in the National League and could end up as the team's best pitcher by the time the season is over. Jair Jurrjens joins him as one of the best NL pitchers, and posted nearly identical seasons in 2008 and 2009, despite his vastly different ERAs. Yay FIP! Kenshin Kawakami...he had a rough April, but got better as the year went on. If he's able to actually throw 180 or so innings, which would be a step up from what he did on the regular in Japan, he would be an ideal 3rd or 4th starter in the NL. He does nothing really great, but everything well. And hey, he makes less than Joe Blanton! Big day. Tim Hudson looked strong in September on his return from Tommy John surgery, and should be as solid as a rock in the rotation like he has been his entire career...unless his elbow flares up again, which will also be discussed in the future. And finally, there's Derek Lowe, who fell apart last season. All of his relevant peripherals dropped across the board last year, but he wasn't as bad as his 4.67 ERA indicates. Either him or Kawakami will be the worst pitcher in the rotation this year, and that should be an ERA in the neighborhood of 4.00. When you're getting that from your worst starter, you know you've got a great rotation. The bench. Oh yes, the Braves bench. This is a huge bright spot. David Ross is probably the best backup catcher in the majors, and was unreal for the Braves last year...so much so, that people were saying he should be getting more playing time at 1B instead of Casey Kotchman. Omar Infante isn't the greatest hitter in the world, but he can play nearly anywhere on the field and can give anyone a day off if the need be. He's not an anemic hitter like Diory Hernandez, but he's not going to be able to be a capable full time starter if there's a major injury. Newly signed Eric Hinske can play all 4 corners and is a really great hitter off the bench. He's undoubtedly going to be a replacement in the batting average and power side of things in comparison to Greg Norton last season. Melky Cabrera is a fine fourth outfielder, being able to play all 3 of the positions, and not murder you if he gets 10 or 12 at bats a week. He's a lot like Infante...great coming off the bench, but you really don't want him starting on a regular basis. The final spot on the bench is a tossup, to be given to someone like the aforementioned Diory Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, Brooks Conrad, or a non-roster or minor league signee, like Mitch Jones or Joe Thurston. None of these men would be much more than a 25th man on the bench, and wouldn't get a lot of playing time. Unless of course, Martin Prado falters and Bobby Cox falls in love with Conrad's grit. But again...THATS A FUTURE ENTRY. Bullpen. STRONG LIKE OX. Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, and Peter Moylan give the team 3 possible closers in case of fatigue, and since all of them have had injury concerns in the past, that is a point that should not be taken lightly. Wagner is also a lefty, which will prevent the team from running into the dreaded Bobby Cox obsession on matchups. And I'm really going to need to stop teasing things I'm going to talk about in future entries. Anyways, back on track. The Braves have another possible closer in waiting with stud righty Kris Medlen, and Medlen can go multiple innings due to his success in 2008 and the beginning of 2009 in the Braves minor league system as a starting pitcher. In the rare event that a Braves starter gets his body exploded by an opposing offense like an alien in District 9, Medlen would most likely be the guy to get the call from the pen to eat some innings. Eric O'Flaherty is your LOOGY du jour and will hopefully build on the success he formed last season in his debut as a Brave. The final 2 spots in the pen are up for grabs, with Mike Dunn, Luis Valdez, Lee Hyde, Jesse Chavez, and Scott Proctor having a light saber duel to the death for the spot. Either that, or they'll all go to Orlando as a happy family and try do things the old fashioned way and pitch their way into the majors. As I outlined a week or so ago, my picks are Valdez and Dunn, barring a disaster from either. Minor league pitching depth. 28 of the 38 remaining members of the BravesHeart Top 40 Prospects list (which can be found here) are pitchers. The Braves have always been a pitching heavy organization, and they are really going hogwild right now. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Braves have 6 pitchers in the organization that are rated as 3, 4, or 5 stars (including newly acquired Arodys Vizcaino, who I did not rank in my top 40, nor do I plan on revising rankings to include. Revisions are stupid). Thats a pretty wild number. For those curious...Vizcaino and Julio Teheran are 5 star, and Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, Craig Kimbrel, and Robinson Lopez are 3 star. Nice to see the Robinson Lopez bandwagon that I started is still strongly rolling along. Just watch him hit the wall this season in Danville. Lower minor league prospect depth. I define lower minor leagues as the teams in Rome, Danville, and the GCL. Yes, including Rome but not Myrtle Beach is an arbitrary cutoff, but these things happen sometimes. Of the 38 (grumble, this is what I get for doing the rankings before minor league free agents signed anywhere), 21 finished the year in the lower leagues. This is both a good and a bad thing: it shows you that the Braves are both drafting and signing amateur players well, but that the team does not have a lot of depth at the higher levels to fill holes effectively in case of a major injury. Dammit, there I go again with the teasing of future articles! I hope you enjoyed this (long) look into the mind of a business major...this is the kind of crap I learn about in school on a daily basis. Thankfully, this isn't stuff like calculating the curve of the second derivative of a 5th level equation that won't have much of a use in the "real world". I'm actually...glad? that I was able to put something I learned sitting in class to use in my OTHER job. Always a fun time. The next segment of the analysis will be WEAKNESSES, and should be up sometime tomorrow evening.

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