Yesterday was Opening Day. The Atlanta Braves teased their fans in the last home opener at The Ted as the Washington Nationals came back in extra innings to win the game.
Earlier in the day on the way to work, I tuned in to The Front Row on 680 the Fan. Steak Shapiro, Sandra Golden and Brian Finneran were playing what they called the Atlanta Braves Over/Under Game. Steak would read a stat and poll Finneran, Sandra and some of their listeners for their thoughts.
Well, now you get to hear mine.
Braves wins: o/u 70
Finneran said under, while Sandra said over. While I can agree that this rendition of the Braves looks better and more exciting on paper than last season, they did little to make me believe that they can improve on last seasons 67-win campaign.
Let’s be honest, does anyone think the Braves actually care if they do?
The Braves are building for the future and — like the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros before them — would be wise to exhibit patience and let these youngsters ripen and mature so they can compete down the road… approximately 25 miles down the road in Cobb County. I felt they rushed a few kids last season — like Matt Wisler who we will get into in a bit — that they don’t need to make the same mistake this season.
Whether or not Ozzie Albies makes it to Atlanta this season or not won’t get the Braves to the postseason any more quickly.
Hector Olivera RBI o/u: 77
I’m on board with Finn here. This number is simply too high.
I have not been shy in stating my feelings on Olivera. I think he may be the highest risk “prospect” to come out of Cuba in the recent wave of big name signings. John Hart wanted him during the International signing period, and when he didn’t get him he traded Jose Peraza and Alex Wood for him.
I get the business side of it. He’s cost effective for a few years and he has that sexy power bat. But he’s no spring chicken. Olivera is 31-years old today. He was injured in his final season before defecting from Cuba so he hasn’t played a full season of baseball in quite some time. The expectations are too much.
He’s currently batting sixth in the lineup. He’s also playing out of position in left field after being a third baseman for the majority of his career. There is a lot going on here for Olivera, and I don’t see the big season many Braves fans are banking on.
Julio Teheran wins: o/u 12.5
I had Teheran pegged at 13 wins this season, so this number is pretty reasonable.
It’s actually somewhat surprising that Teheran wasn’t shipped away this offseason. He simply isn’t the ace the Braves had envisioned, and quite frankly, some of his tendencies don’t project well for him ever developing into that No. 1 guy that they need.
Teheran was brutal against lefties last season as they slashed .300/.387/.507 with 18 home runs. He’s now pitched three consecutive seasons that he has at least 30 starts and has yet to win more than 14 games in a season. As Holloway will agree, wins are becoming more arbitrary in today’s MLB and are by no means a good gauge in determining one’s skills. But Teheran doesn’t have a 20-win season lurking down the road.
The Braves will likely see a lot of instability in their rotation this season, but Teheran will be the one constant. He should get to that 13-win mark, even if the Braves only muster 65 wins. The only real question will be whether or not he ends the season on the Braves.
Freddie Freeman home runs: o/u 20.5
This is a tough one. Looking at 2014, when Freddie played all 162 games and had a career high 708 plate appearances, he hit 18 home runs. Last season, when his wrist was falling apart and he played a mere 118 games, want to venture a guess how many home runs he hit?
But wait. There’s more.
Freeman’s 2012 and 2013 were also models of consistency. He blasted 23 home runs in each of those seasons. So to recap, Freddie’s last four seasons are 23, 23, 18, 18. That average? 20.5
I think Freddie is healthy and if Opening Day was any indication, it looks like I am right. He needs only 20 more home runs this season to hit the over, and I think he has it in him.
His biggest issue will be whether or not pitchers just stop throwing him hittable pitches this season. As long as Adonis Garcia‘s bat keeps up in the cleanup slot and Nick Markakis stays in the middle of the order and not ahead of him, Freeman should see enough quality pitches to drive out of the park.
Matt Wisler wins: o/u 9.5
The day that Wisler was called up to face Jacob deGrom for his big league debut last season, I wrote this piece explaining that I felt he was being rushed and not quite ready.
That night Wisler went out and hurled eight innings of one-run ball and everyone wanted to troll me and tell me just how wrong I was. Keep in mind, this was the pre-Yoenis Cespedes Mets, otherwise known as the only team that was hitting worse than the Braves at the time of Wisler’s outing.
My issue with Wisler at the time was that he was too hittable, but I loved his control. Despite winning four games in July (remember what I said about the irrelevance of wins earlier), he was hit. He allowed 29 hits over 30 innings, and his impeccable control that he displayed in the Minors was nowhere to be found. He walked 15 over that month, which was higher than he had in his Minors career.
That 5-1 pitcher finished 8-8. The numbers that matter to me were worrisome as his ERA hit 4.71 (4.93 FIP) and his WHIP was 1.46. 72 strikeouts to 40 walks was nothing to brag about either.
Simply put, finishing the year in the not-so-hitter friendly International League and working his kinks out may have been more beneficial.
That being said, Wisler took his big league licks. He got hit hard and he learned he needed to work on his pitches and command. He worked with Tom Glavine on his changeup this offseason. His last three outings of 2015 were pretty strong, and he used that to build his momentum coming into this season.
Wisler is good. And he’s getting better. He should be able to surpass the 9.5 and quite possibly lead the Braves in wins.