by Matt Trueblood
on February 15, 2010 @ 00:00:00
Atlanta's Turner Field strongly suppresses home run output, allowing 7 percent fewer long balls than expected over the last three years. That would really hurt if there were any Braves who rely heavily on round-trippers for their fantasy value, but that isn't the case in 2010.
Atlanta has been among the bottom three in the NL in stolen bases each year since Rafael Furcal left following the 2005 season, but Nate McLouth had the green light to run 18 times after arriving in June. Manager Bobby Cox generally gives only his top two batters regular opportunities, so don't bank on double-digit steals from Yunel Escobar or Melky Cabrera.
Only the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies kept the ball on the ground more often than the Braves' staff in 2009. This is a hallmark of Cox-managed clubs, even in the post-Leo Mazzone era: They keep the ball in the park, and go after groundball-oriented arms when possible.
Cox divided save opportunities 31-17 between Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez last season. Since John Smoltz was closer, Cox has rarely given even 60 percent of his save chances to any one pitcher. If he continues that pattern with newcomers Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, Wagner loses some potential value. Wagner may still be closer than not to Smoltz's class, though.
Because Atlanta lost strikeout pitcher Javier Vazquez, defense will become more important for their staff in 2010. The defensive strength is middle infield, where Escobar is a whiz. Only Miguel Tejada, Asdrubal Cabrera and Marco Scutaro started more double plays than Escobar in 2009. Replacing the miserable defense of Jeff Francoeur and Garrett Anderson with Cabrera at either corner outfield position is a five- to 10-run upgrade.
The big defensive mystery will be whether Troy Glaus can transition smoothly to first base, after a decade of solid defense at third. He should, and that makes Atlanta a tough team on opposing batters. The ideal against them would be a left-handed flyball hitter with speed: Backup catcher David Ross controlled the running game well, but Brian McCann caught only 22 percent of prospective base-stealers.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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