Not the way any Braves fan wanted to see the season end. Chipper's final game is marred by poor defense, including an error by Chipper, and an infield fly call that stunted a possible rally by the Braves. The call by the umps also fueled the Braves' fans as they showed their displeasure for the bogus call. It was really a shame as it showed the fans and city in a bad light. It also masked the fact that the team lost due to poor defense and Medlen not being able to get out of a jam when he needed to. You probably also missed Fredi Gonzalez's great decision in starting David Ross over the struggling Brian McCann. Ross then went 3 for 4 with a home run for 2 runs batted in. A poor showing all around.
It is also a dissapointing end to a great bounce back season where Atlanta won 94 games and was strong down the stretch in contradiction to the epic swoon they displayed last September. The offense was average at best. There were some good points. Chipper's .287/14/62 (AVG/HR/RBI)was a great way to end his career even if he struggled the last two months of the year. Martin Prado played everywhere and had an impressive .301/10/70 year. Jason Heyward (.269/27/82) and Freddie Freeman (.259/23/94) each had good years while Michael Bourn batted .274 while stealing 42 bases. Brian McCann and Dan Uggla hit .230 and .220 respectively creating holes in the lineup throughout the year.
The pitching was outstanding. Fifth in ERA, runs, and earned runs, and 4th in WHIP. Up and down the rotation and bullpen Atlanta's pitchers were as good as almost anyone's in the league. The rotation was anchored by Tim Hudson (16 wins/3.62 ERA), Kyle Medlan (10 wins/1.57 ERA) and Paul Maholm (4 wins/3.54 ERA after trade from Cubs). Tommy Hansen and Mike Minor also had good years with each attaining double digits in wins and had an ERA in the 4's. Craig Kimbrel was nothing short of a stud as the closer (42 saves/1.01 ERA/.65 WHIP). Ed O'Flaherty, Johnny Venters, Chad Durbin, and Luis Avilan were key to one of the best bullpens in baseball. How good? Second in ERA, 4th in WHIP, 10th in batting average allowed, and 7th in strikeouts. This pitching staff was good, no questions there.
Hard to have a 94 win season go up in smoke with one bad game. I'll expand on that in another post. Atlanta will definitely look at this as a good year but will still be dissapointed in having lost in their one game series with St. Louis. Personally, I thought this team could go deep with their pitching. They were made for a nice playoff run. You just never know how things will work out.
This offseason will be one in which they'll really have to make some tough payroll decisions. Michael Bourn and Chad Durbin are the key free agents but some of the top bench players will also be on the market (David Ross, Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske). They have club options on Tim Hudson and Brian McCann. Hudson is a slam dunk but McCann's $12 million dollar price tag will be a head scratcher after the tough season he had. Atlanta has a $500 thousand dollar buyout option with McCann. Eight are eligible for arbitration including Jason Heyward, Tommy Hansen, Johnny Venters, Kris Medlan, Martin Prado, and Ed O'Flaherty among others. Will be a busy off season for GM Frank Wren. I honestly think most of these players will return though I wouldn't be surprised if Atlanta finds it hard to commit that kind of money to Brian McCann.
Atlanta will be a contender again next season assuming the pitching doesn't go south and the offense can stay the course and hopefully get better. With Chipper leaving someone will have to step into the role as team leader not to mention as the full time third basemen. Still there is plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Still I, like other Atlanta fans, am not happy with the way the season ended this year. I would have loved to see Chipper go out after a nice deep run in the playoffs since there is no "next year" for him. Again a very good season for the Braves and we'll just have to see what next year brings.