How The Braves Future Has Everything To Do With Age
Posted by jrniemeyer on August 4, 2010
Coming into the 2010 season, the only thing we knew for certain about the Braves was uncertainty. How much does an aging Bobby Cox have left in him? How good can a 20 year old really be? Does the 38 year old future HOF 3B have anything left to give? How can we trust our setup man and our closer when they have a combined age of 79? Is it a good thing that all 5 of our starting pitchers are either 24 and under or 35 and older? Many of those questions have been answered while some still remain.
With all due respect to Brian McCann, the future of the Atlanta Braves is 20 year old Jason Heyward (at least for 5 more days, someone needs to buy that man a beer.). There is little doubt in my mind that Jason Heyward can carry this team into the future. However, depending on him to do that right now may end up being a little much. Jason Heyward is as cool as they come, but he’s still 20 and the pressure and grind of a 162 game season will catch up to him.
Chipper Jones is an enigma to me. The 38 year old future HOF blew the doors off MLB when he won the batting title at the age of 36 with a .364 average. His lack of power isn’t a surprise at his age but for a reason I can’t explain his average numbers went from top of the league to below average at best. His OBP hasn’t declined too much but you can attribute that to Chipper having one of the best eyes in the MLB. One of the biggest problems for Chipper is all his ailments. It’s never a good thing when fans reference an oblique injury by saying “pulled a Chipper”. Chipper has been the leader of the clubhouse for almost a decade. If the Braves are going to go anywhere this season, that leadership needs to be shown at the field and at the plate.
Coming into this year most thought the starting rotation would be solid but I don’t think anyone thought Tim Hudson would be this dominant. He’s been just short of un-hittable in 4 out of his last 5 starts. On the other end of the spectrum, Derek Lowe and Kawakami have been a disappointment. Lowe posted a 4.76 ERA in July which included games against all 4 NL East teams. The starting rotation has been a mixed bag of sorts and will continue to be that way. Consistency is hard to come by when you don’t have a single starting pitcher in the 25-34 age range.
The bullpen has been the biggest surprise of the year. The old men of the group, Saito and Wagner, have done their parts and 25 year Johnny Venters came out of no where to solidify the 8th inning job. Wagner, however, seems to be falling off a little bit. In his last 6 appearances he has 3 times either come away with the loss or a blown save. When you are only up by 2 games on a charging Phillies team, that needs to improve quickly.
When looking ahead to the future, age will tell the story. This team is littered with young talented players. McCann, Heyward, Jurrjens, Hanson, Prado, Venters and Medlen are all 26 or younger. The Braves will probably lose two legends in the offseason in Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones. Age has a funny way of catching up with everyone. The key to the future of this team is how well the young guys transition themselves from young guns to solid veterans and how well the older veterans handle the twilight of their career. One thing is for sure, all questions will eventually be answered.