In 2007, at mid season, the Atlanta Braves are sitting in a perfect spot, ready to put away perennial adversaries the New York Mets and leave the Philadelphia Phillies in the dust. Very much aware of the competition they will continue to encounter from the Mets, the Braves will seek to contest for the division championship with a full team effort involving pitching, hitting, fielding and a sense of team play. With Bobby Cox at the helm there aren’t many baseball gurus who would bet the farm against the Atlanta Braves showing up for one more round of the tomahawk chop.
Definitely Not the Pitching of Old. There was a time when the success of the Braves required little more than the outstanding performances of pitchers of the ilk of Greg Maddox. For more years than many National League teams want to remember the Braves had a rotation that just would not quit. Looking at the Braves at mid season in 2007 is rather a different picture. No starter yet has reached 10 wins. Still with John Smoltz as the ace starter and Bob Wickham as a bona fide closer, the Braves have the bookends for a pitching staff that can and so far has succeeded. In the old days the Braves could rely to a far greater extent on their pitching but this years version of the Braves seems bent on having lots of balance rather than leaning on one aspect of the team’s performance.
How Young Are These Guys. When you take a look at the Atlanta Braves hitting at mid season 2007 a few things seem to jump out from the page. First Edgar Renteria, Braves shortstop is having a banner year at the plate hitting well over .300 and also hitting for power and knocking in runs effectively along the way. On the negative side, you have to wonder at the lackluster year turned in so far by former wunderkind Andruw Jones. From the time he joined the team at the tender age of 19 until this season Jones has been a crowd pleaser both in the field and at the plate. But 2007 has been most unpleasant all the way around.
It is hard to believe that Andruw Jones won’t break out of his doldrums during the second half season, he is just too good a ball player to remain permanently in the slump position. Chipper Jones has suffered from injury and only recently returned from the DL but at the mid season 2007 he seems as hot after his return to the lineup as Andruw has been cold. For lots of years, as Chipper went so went the team. If that ‘s the case in 2007 then good things await the team during the second half year.
The really good news for the Braves is that their team has a very talented corps of young players who are starting to come into their own. Young players like Jeff Francouer, Kelly Johnson and Brian Mc Cann seem to have gained enough experience to be ready to make some noise come the post season. Youthful inexperience is no longer an issue for the Braves.
Fielding The Atlanta Braves at mid-season 2007 are not really going to dazzle anyone with their fielding. Brian McCann will definitely make some impressive throws from his catcher’s position and catch a runner or two on a steal attempt. And of course there is 9 time gold glove winner Andrew Jones roaming about in center field. The overall Braves team defense however isn’t going to scare anyone, nor is it likely to be the positive turning point in any crucial game. At the mid season the Braves are sitting at a sobering 12th in team defense in the National League.
What they have are the Extras. The Atlanta Braves at mid-season are not a statistically exciting team to follow. They have some good pitching, hitting and fielding but they are not exactly a powerhouse . What the Braves do have at mid season 2007 which may carry them to a division championship and deep into post season play is extras. Two extras to be precise. Unlike many teams, the Atlanta Braves at mid-season 2007 can look ahead to the second half of the season knowing that they are working for and with one of the most experienced and successful managers in the game today or ever.
Bobby Cox, a former player for the New York Yankees, has led the Atlanta Braves for 22 years. You don’t stay the manager of a major league team for that long without getting results and Bobby Cox gets results. Tough and demanding, Bobby Cox gives his team that extra confidence which can help to elevate their play and as Manny Ramirez would say, take it to the next level. Secondly the Atlanta Braves have a team with a unique bond. There are nights when a team takes the field for the Braves that is made up of nine players who have all come up through the Braves farm system. This has got to give the Braves a certain advantage of camaraderie and team feeling that other teams will find hard to duplicate.
Looking at the second half season the Braves know they have a challenge ahead. To make the post season they must depend on every member of the team to step up and deliver. They don’t have that superior pitching of old, or the dependable bats of some other national league teams. Their fielding is occasionally less than effective. Still with a real team effort and flawless managing they are still very much in the running for a post season berth. After all they are the Atlanta Braves, post season is what they do.