When I first started thinking about the 2009 Braves, I thought the additions of Derek Lowe, Javier Vasquez and Kenshin Kawakami were the icing on the cake to renew the franchise.
Then I looked at their depth chart.
Beyond Chipper Jones and Casey Kotchman the rest of the names on the depth chart are unknowns, players who’ve fallen short of potential or youngsters that are hard to bet on.
The pitching staff is going to be better. Lowe, Vasquez and Kawakami should help extend the rotation and take some pressure off the bullpen. Lowe’s a proven winner and while calling him an ace may be a stretch, he’s at least a durable #1. Vasquez and Kawakami both have to prove themselves this year, but so long as they both get near 200 innings, it won’t be a complete disaster.
With Derek Lowe expected to take the hill opening day, he will be just the 7th different pitcher to open a season for the Braves in 20 years. Three of the other six are obvious (Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux), but can you name the other three pitchers who served as opening day pitchers. Bonus point if you can name the pitcher who started before the three HOFers streak began.
I’m not sure there is any real offense here. The trouble is there are two good hitters on the team and a bunch of guys that you’re just not sure of anymore or yet. It’s not all bad. Teams like the 2009 Braves have succeeded in the past (look at the Rays last year), but I don’t think anyone is betting the Braves to have enough pop to put up a playoff run.
Then there’s the Bobby Cox factor. Cox has been at the helm since 1990, easily the longest termed ML manager in present days. Only five of the 19 years he’s been managing the Braves they’ve missed the playoffs. Of course three of those seasons were 2006-2008. I’m not sure anyone will be calling for Cox to be released at the end of 2009, but Braves fans probably already know the end is near.
Oh and did I mention the Braves decided spending some dough on career Brave John Smoltz wasn’t worth it. Instead, Smoltz is taking his HOF career to Boston while the Braves piece-meal their pitching staff together.
While the Braves helped out the pitching staff, there are still way too many questions throughout the roster. Last year was the Braves worst season since Cox took over in 1990 and the additions for 2009 don’t appear to be enough to right the ship.
The Braves finish a snip ahead of the Nationals with a 70-92 record.
Tim Hudson started opening day in 2006 and 2008.
Russ Ortiz started in 2004
John Burkett started in 2001
Glavine – 1990, 92, 99, 2002
Smoltz – 1991, 97, 05, 2007
Maddux – 1993, 94, 95, 96, 98, 2000, 03
Zane Smith started opening day in 1989, the year before the HOFers took control of the Braves future.