Starters must step up
JP Morosi raises some reasonable doubts about the Bravos:
So it will be harder to generate offense in divisional games — something the Braves found challenging enough in 2011, when they ranked in the bottom half of the NL in runs scored. The low output contributed to their appearance in a major-league-leading 26 extra-inning games. That, in turn, cranked up pressure on the still-young Kimbrel and Venters.
The rotation was complicit, too. Rather than ease the workload of Kimbrel, Venters and fellow stalwart Eric O’Flaherty by pitching deep into games, the starters logged only 957 1/3 innings — the fewest of any NL team that finished with a winning record.
The Braves would love to reverse that trend in 2012, but I doubt they will succeed. Hudson was their only 200-inning pitcher last year, and his lost April will make it almost impossible to hit the benchmark in 2012. Derek Lowe finished second on the staff in innings pitched, and he was dealt to Cleveland for salary relief.
So, at least until Hudson returns, the younger starters — Jurrjens, 26; Hanson, 25; Brandon Beachy, 25 — must lead the staff. And it’s unclear if they’re ready for that responsibility. …
It may take some time this year to understand the Braves’ performance last year. Perhaps those 89 wins weren’t a choke at all — but rather the best a flawed team could do.
On a positive note, Mike Minor had another strong outing today.