I can go optimistic or pessimistic in thinking about next season. For now I’ll focus on the promise, and I think it is considerable. That is, if Fredi and Parrish don’t screw it up.
Look at the regular eight: McCann could certainly rebound and have a better season; Freeman was great as a rookie and, assuming he doesn’t have a Heywardian sophomore slump, could be even better; Uggla figures to give you the same power production without the abysmal first half; shortstop is a question mark (Pastornicky, WIlson/Gonzo/another stopgap veteran?); Chipper will probably do about what he did this year, maybe a tad less; Prado – who knows, next year will be pivotal for him; Bourn should be solid again and we’ll have speed at the top of the lineup for a full season; J-Hey should rebound. (I’ll be shocked and bitterly disappointed if they deal him this offseason, in regards to the Olney nugget.)
So that could be a pretty good lineup. Then again, that could have been a good lineup this season on paper. We’ll be counting on some rebounds, but none is a huge stretch. Not like, say, banking on Linebrink to be a good setup man.
As for the pitching, we should see Huddy, Beachy, Minor, Hanson and JJ in the rotation. Or perhaps Delgado or Teheran or even Vizcaino is in there and one or two or three of the non-Huddy others are not. All in all, with a bit better health, we should have a good rotation. IF that happens, maybe it’ll reduce the mileage on the relievers. You’ll note I excluded Lowe. I can’t imagine he’ll be taking the hill every fifth day in 2012, even if the Braves have to eat the $15M. If Lowe’s in next year’s rotation, Fredi’s an even bigger imbecile than he appears.
In the pen, there’s no reason to think Venters, O’Flaherty and Kimbrel won’t be good again. Maybe — OK, this could be a reach — but maybe Fredi learned something and won’t grind those guys down so much next season. Medlen, Vizcaino and Varvaro could be very nice complements. Finally, Cristhian Martinez presumably will be back and we will introduce the newest Braves fan club: the Cristhian Coalition.
OK. That’s my off-the-top-of-me-head optimistic take on next season. This obviously assumes the Braves make no big trades or signings. And again — should we copyright this phrase? — IF FREDI AND PARRISH DON’T SCREW IT UP (AGAIN). Maybe they’ll reconsider and jettison Parrish. Maybe Liberty will sell the team this offseason. Any of you guys want to try to pool our money and raise $400 million?
We’ll of course have plenty more speculation, rumination and aggravation in the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile, at least we can enjoy the postseason without gnawing our nails and scaring our pets and children.