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The Braves Win The NL East For The 1st Time Since 2005: The Team Is Way Different From Early 2013

The Braves won 14 straight Division Titles from 1991 - 2005, that culminated in 5 World Series Visits, with cashing in for the Trophy in 1995, however other than a Wild Card Berth (2010), and a Wild Card Play In Game (that they both lost), the club has not seen playoff success for the past 14 years.  The Bravos will have a full NLDS Series to claim another chance at a NLCS Pennant, for the 1st time since 1999.

The Braves won 14 straight Division Titles from 1991 – 2005, that culminated in 5 World Series Visits, with cashing in for the Trophy in 1995, however other than a Wild Card Berth (2010), and a Wild Card Play In Game in 2012 (that they both lost), the club has not seen playoff success for the past 14 years. The Bravos will have a full NLDS Series to claim another chance at a NLCS Pennant, for the 1st time since 1999. Atlanta is still duking it out with the Dodgers and Cardinals for overall home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and have a 0.5 Games Lead over St. Louis (2 game lead over Los Angeles) with just 5 games left.  This would be extremely ‘vital’ to the club – as the team sports a (MLB best) record of 53 – 23 at Turner Field – compared to 40 – 41 on the road this season.

By Hayley Howell (Featured Baseball Writer + Braves Enthusiastic Fan)  

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The first fourteen years of my life (1991-2005) the Braves won consecutive division titles (the best run in MLB to date). They were the first team in the NL to go from last place to first place the next year (“Worst to First”).

They went to the World Series. (1991 was the first time that the home team won all 7 games of the World Series-too bad Atlanta wasn’t the home team).

On my first trip to the local library after moving downtown twenty minutes from home I quickly discovered there were only two Braves books in the whole four floors:

The Miracle Season and a book by John Smoltz that I wish I could remember the title of because I read that thing like it was a holy canon that summer.

I know the Braves beat the Astros 6-5 a few hours after I was born, and I think, in baseball astrology terms, that meant I was destined to become a Braves fan.

The first World Series I was alive for was the Braves and the Twins, not as if I could remember it, but I know that people still argue over the bad call that supposedly caused the Braves to lose, as if one call among thousands could determine a game much less a series.

And for fourteen years consecutively the Braves won their Division (of course the 1994 Season was cancelled, negating the only time the season ended, without them atop the NL East Standings – Montreal was leading that year).

Braves Clinch The NL East

Chipper Jones, seen here mentoring Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, was at the tail end of the 14 straight NL East Division Titles for this given contract. Now that he has gone, it will be up to the likes of these 2 gentleman to raise the level of Post Season Success.

Chipper Jones, seen here mentoring Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, was mostly part of a club that won 14 straight Division Titles from 1991 – 2005. Now that he has gone, it will be up to the likes of these 2 gentleman to raise the level of Post Season Success.  The Braves have risen to the challenge in their 1st year without Jones.  Ironically, the afterthought in the Justin Upton and Martin Prado deal, (Chris Johnson) is currently challenging for the 2013 NL Batting Championship.  Something that the former Third Baseman of the Braves did during the majority of his illustrious playing career.

Fast forward to my cognizant years and you have me, obsessive fan as I am, feeling an entirely renewed and amplified love of my Braves watching them win in person for the first time I can remember.

Of all the times I remember watching my first game at the Ted with my grandparents as a kid, rounding the corner at Spring Training to see John Smoltz pitching for the first time and subsequently falling in love with his embodied finesse of the sport.

I recall seeing my first game with my best friend and greatest love (the very first game I didn’t drag an unwilling boyfriend to), seeing them win for the first time, even in a losing season, was a feeling of fire I could never have imagined, even in the incessantly sad, warehouse that is The Trop, it was thrilling.

This moment stayed at the top of my list until I spent my 21st birthday standing in the rain watching Kris Medlen break a half century old record and Chipper Jones getting “misty eyed” after standing at the plate for the last time at Turner Field.

After a lifetime of faithfulness, in good times and bad, for me to be able to write this article knowing that my Bravos are in the postseason, not the absurd wild card playoff but the Postseason.

After unwaveringly winning at the top of the division since April, clinching the division now changes my stance from “when will they choke” to “watch them win”. And I’ve never been prouder.

With that said, I refuse to be the one to jinx it by saying they’ll win it all.

The Atlanta Braves team from April is not the same team that’s going into October.

I, like many of us, went into this season with guarded hopes and the expectation of the mediocrity that we’ve come to expect with the Braves the last few seasons (however I will admit my irritation over the trade away of Martin Prado in January may have fueled this pessimism).

However, our Bravos have not only managed to stay on top of the division (and at many points the league) since the beginning of the season, but have had some really impressive feats by their rookies. But back to the point: this is not the same team as April. Better? Possibly. Worse? Definitely not.

I took a couple weeks off of baseball to focus on moving and starting this semester at school, painful but necessary.

Now don’t be brash, I checked my At Bat app (best friend) and scores and possibly some highlights (I’m neither confirming or denying that fact), and was a little confused by the box score a few times when I didn’t recognize every name.

Now I’m a big Braves fan but I don’t know every player in the farm system (I do have a social life). So here’s a rundown of the new kids on the diamond and those that are missing due to injuries going into the postseason.

A comparison of today’s active roster and this season’s opening day roster shows thirteen additional players and six missing players.

This includes a few like Brian McCann (C) who just missed the first half of the season, but it also reveals the undeniable fact that a few people haven’t brought the team to the postseason but rather the team as a whole unit is working effectively.

ADDITIONS:

The Orioles traded Luis Ayala (RHP) to the Braves in April, but he was put on the DL shortly after due to anxiety related to high blood pressure and David Carpenter (RHP) was brought up from the minors to take his place.

Ayala was put on the DL again in June for anxiety. Ayala has done well but the Carpenter’s impressive 1.84 ERA definitely makes him valuable in the postseason.

Scott Downs (LHP) was acquired in exchange for Cory Rasmus (RHP) in late July and has a record of 4-4 and an ERA of 2.34 this season. He seems to be steadily improving, but I’m not sure he’s going to be one of the game changers in the postseason.

Freddy Garcia (RHP), Kameron Loe (RHP), and David Hale (RHP) have also joined the roster but haven’t played enough to draw any real conclusions.

However, I told my boyfriend about this article just as I was writing this part and he asked if I’d included a guy named Hale.

Apparently he randomly met a guy in line at the Tallahassee Burrito Boarder at 2AM (dollar tacos after midnight!) that went to high school with David Hale.

And then there’s Alex Wood (LHP), who I really, really want to like. I watched his adorable parents on his debut, his mom crying and his dad about to fall onto the field taking pictures.

But I think he’s too risky and too inexperienced for the postseason. Hopefully some pairing with Brian McCann and advice from Tim Hudson in the offseason will improve his control and consistency.

Finally, I didn’t actually notice Elliot Johnson (2B) until I saw his spot on, hilarious Harry Caray impression, but he seems to be doing relatively well. He spent nine years in the minors before being called up last year and traded to Atlanta on August 21 this year.

His presence seriously calls for the addition of first initials to the jerseys. Johnson, Johnson, and Johnson sounds more like a law firm or baby shampoo than a baseball roster.

It’s been done before (remember the days of Andruw Jones and C. Jones?). He’s not a standout amongst the loaded current lineup but he’s had a handful of impressive plays that warrant watching him in the postseason.

INJURIES:

Tim Hudson exited on July 26 and will be out for the remainder of the season and postseason with a fractured ankle after the Mets’ Eric Young Jr. accidentally stepped on it at first.

The 38 Year Old Veteran had a successful surgery and is wearing a walking boot without the need for crutches. He’s hopeful to be healed by the holiday season and in plenty of time to return for Spring Training.

As amazing as the Braves pitching staff is, unfortunately I feel like they’re taking a huge hit losing their most experienced pitcher.

With a super young starting rotation that’s going to be heavily depended on in the postseason I really hope that Huddy is staying involved, even if it’s just to discuss strategy over the phone with the talented, but inexperienced pitchers.

Even though Brandon Beachy was supposed to be back this season, he’s been experiencing off and on discomfort in his elbow following last year’s Tommy John surgery and as of Saturday is still not cleared to throw from the mound.

I like the RHP a lot (and so do others apparently, “Brandon Beachy girlfriend” appears way before “Brandon Beachy injury” on Google’s most searched), but I don’t foresee him factoring into the postseason this year. Hopefully we’ll see him rested and back to his incredible self next season.

Ramiro Pena (shoulder), Tyler Pastornicky (ACL), Eric O’Flaherty (elbow), Cristhian Martinez (shoulder), and Jonny Venters (elbow) will be out for the remainder of the season.

The Good News: Just a month after Jason Heyward sustained a broken jaw from a fastball to the face, he was activated from the DL Friday for the Cubs series.

His first game back was disappointing – going 0 for 2 through five innings, but on Sunday he improved with one run, one hit, and only two strikeouts in five at bats.

The Braves are definitely glad to have him back after worrying that his injury was season ending. Interesting fact: Jon Niese has hit another Braves player in the face with a fastball, the same player that took Heyward’s spot after he exited the game: Jordan Schafer (broken nose in Spring Training).

Schafer allegedly remains terrified of Niese and reportedly asked not to face him at least once before.

Whoever winds up on the playoff roster, healthy, injured, or playing with pain, the club will lean on them for their very best.  It would be a major disappointment to not advance in the Post Season for yet another year.

Brian McCann is the only member of the current Braves team that also played on the last Division Title winner in 2005.  The Veteran Backstopper has hit 20+ HRs in six consecutive years, even though he missed over 50 games this campaign.  McCann, 29, is a Free Agent after this season is completed.  He has bounced back after a mediocre 2012 year, in which he 3 slashed .230/.300/.689 - by putting a mark of .259/.339/.805, numbers more reflective of his career totals.

Brian McCann is the only member of the current Braves team that also played on the franchise’s last Division Title winner in 2005. The Veteran Backstopper has hit 20+ HRs in six consecutive years, even though he missed over 50 games this campaign. McCann, 29, is a Free Agent after this season is completed. He has bounced back after a mediocre 2012 year, in which he 3 slashed .230/.300/.689 – by putting a mark of .259/.339/.805 in 2013; numbers more reflective of his career totals.  If you add his power numbers with Evan Gattis, they have combined for 40 HRs and 117 RBI – in just a shade under 700 AB during the 2013 year so far.  Both will be counted for big hits in the 2013 Post Season.

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

A big thank-you goes out to our ”Featured Baseball Writer” Hayley Howell for preparing today’s featured post. Hayley is a student at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

She earned her Associate in Arts degree, and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s. Her major is Editing & Writing in Media and Hayley’s minor is Entrepreneurship.

Hayley has stated she is a ridiculous Braves fan. 

Baseball is her life. Her first date ever was at Wrigley Field. Her 21st birthday, was spent watching Chipper’s last home game.  She considers baseball a religion –  and has to take part in worship as often as possible.

You can follow Hayley on Twitter: 

Hayley

Please e-mail me  at: mlbreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.   To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Posted on September 25, 2013, in Playoffs, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Braves Win The NL East For The 1st Time Since 2005: The Team Is Way Different From Early 2013.

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