Jason ‘J-Hey Kid’ Heyward and ‘Fast’ Freddie Freeman were keys to A Braves Playoff Berth

Friday, September.28/2012

Even with Chipper Jones retiring at the end of this year, the Braves look to have a bright future with the likes of Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward taking over the club’s offensive lead.

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer):

In Atlanta, making the playoffs became so common for the Braves that the fans would just shrug off the feat and stay away from coming to the ballpark until the NLCS if they happened to make it.  14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, (Now as a Expos than Nationals fan) I would like to point out that they were not anywhere near the Expos in the 1994 Strike Year), spoiled the fans each season to take it for granted.  5 World Series appearances (including a 1-4 record),  9 NLCS Appearances (including a 5-4 record) and the team had a 9-5 NLDS record.  After a playoff loss in 2005, the team was smart enough to rebuild for 5 years before making another playoff appearance in 2010 as the National League Wild Card team.  That was Jason Heyward‘s rookie campaign, in which he finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year Voting with a .277 Batting Avg, 18 HRs and 72 RBI. The team lost out to the eventual World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS.

In 2011, it was Freddie Freeman‘s turn to finish 2nd in ‘Rookie of The Year’ Voting, batting .282 wih 21 HRs and 76 RBI.  Freddie Freeman was arguably the best Atlanta Brave last year and he did all he could to help the team make the playoffs-only to see the club lose the Wild Card Spot to the St.Louis Cardinals on the last day of the season.  It was one of the biggest collapses in playoff clinching history (stay tuned for a big article on playoff collapses next week from your truly.)  In the post-mortem analysis of the club, the startling ‘sophomore’ drop-off from Jason Heyward was one of the biggest reasons why.  Heyward battled injuries, plus a lack of plate discipline, to hit only .227 with 11 HRs and 44 RBI.  He wasn’t alone in struggling with the Braves during the 2011, however patrolling a highly productive position like Right-Field surely didn’t help in the late season charge.

This whole season, the Braves have been playing for Chipper Jones to have one more shot at another World Series. Starting next week, they will get their chance
-Photo courtesy of spdigitalphoto.com.

So heading into the 2012 season, the Braves had a mission to make the playoffs, to not only have Chipper Jones receive one last crack at the ‘Fall Classic’, but to erase the misery of the 2011 September meltdown.  In contrast to their collapse AL counterparts, the Boston Red Sox (and their chicken and beer bending ways), the Braves have played spectacularly all season long in 2012.  At 91-65 (.583) at the time of this article, they currently have clinched the #1 Wild Card position in the NL and have a long-shot chance to run down the Nationals being 4 games back with 6 games left. 

Leading the offensive charge all year has been the brilliant young duo of Heyward and Freeman.  These 23 year-old’s are taking charge of the club.  Freddie Freeman’s stat line of .265/.346/.809 is accompanied by 22 HRs and 93 RBI.  These numbers rank him in the upper half for first baseman in the National League-and represent a significant upgrade to last year’s collective numbers.  Freeman has been a solid run producer with 49 RBI in the 1st half of the season and 44 RBI in the second half. His steady glove at 1st base has helped out the infielders all season. Perhaps the most telling stat for Freeman is the clubs record with him in the lineup, which is 87-54 (.617), versus 4-11 without him (.364.)

Jason Heyward has numbers of .271/.338/.825, along with power numbers of 27 HRs and 79 RBI.  He is going to double his production of last years totals.  While he is still striking out more than he would like with 159 K’s, the Braves will take his totals.  His OBP is also only .338 compared to his rookie year of .393, again the club will chalk this up to a learning curve.  The power numbers are up, therefore his numbers are completely acceptable.  At such a young age, Heyward is sure to keep finding the right balance and become a better hitter each season going forward.  He has stolen 20 bases to make him a 20/20 member in 2012. He has unlimited potential as one of the best 5-tool players in the MLB today.  I would not be surprised to see him hit 30/30 next year and challenge 40/40 in subsequent years.

I kind of chuckled (pardon the pun towards my name here) when I watched the highlights of the Braves celebrating their post-season birth the other night with champagne and jubilation.  Yet, you have to see it what if was for.  After the horrible end to the 2011, added to the pressure of playing for the postseason in Chipper’s last year, it must have been a great to at least make it to the playoffs.  SO for this alone, I will give them a pass on a one-day celebration.  Besides, they are currently on a  5 game winning streak and are 9-2 in their last 11 games.  They still would love to chase down Washington.  While it is unlikely to happen, they certainly would love to enter the Wild Card playoff game next week, playing their best baseball of the season. This begs the only question left, how will the Braves fans support a home game (1 game playoff) at Turner Field? Regardless of the fan support, Heyward and Freeman will have a chance to showcase themselves on the National Stage for at least one day.

Some have criticized the Braves for Celebrating just a Playoff Birth. I am of the opinion that based on what the team has gone through in the last year, it is completely okay.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***

 ***Thank you to our Lead Baseball Writer- Chuck Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here  or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book, ” please click here ***

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About chuckbooth3023

I played competitive baseball until 18 years old and had offers to play NCAA Division 1 University Baseball at Liberty University. Post-concussion symptoms from previous football and baseball head injuries forced me to retire by age 19. After two nearly made World Record Attempts in 2008, I set a New World Record by visiting all 30 MLB Parks (from 1st to last pitch) in only 24 Calendar Days in the summer 0f 2009. In April of 2012, I established yet another new GWR by visiting all 30 Parks in only 23 Calendar Days! You can see the full schedule at the page of the www.mlbreports.com/gwr-tracker

Posted on September 28, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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