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Atlanta Braves Predictions | 2011 Season Betting Preview

2011 MLB Team Preview: Atlanta Braves

Hard to believe, as many of us watch the snow fall outside, that the Boys of Summer are almost back. But it’s true; teams will report soon to 2011 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year.

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Braves Calender

FEB. 1-18, 2011 – Salary arbitration hearings
FEB. 14, 2011 – Voluntary Spring Training reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players
FEB. 19, 2011 – Voluntary Spring Training reporting date for non-pitchers and catchers
FEB. 26, 2011 – Mandatory Spring Training reporting date for all players

After more than a decade’s worth of division titles followed by a brief lull, it didn’t take long for the Atlanta Braves to return to respectability. Last year marked a trip back to the postseason. With a few new faces not to mention a new manager in 2011, could the Braves take the next big step?

World Series odds: +2000

The staple of Atlanta’s success in the 1990s and early 2000s was always pitching and the team’s personality took that form again last season. The Braves had baseball’s fourth-best ERA at 3.56.

Looking up and down the Braves’ pitching staff, it doesn’t seem like it can get any better than it was last year. Tommy Hanson is maturing into a legit staff ace as everyone knew he would but Derek Lowe and especially Tim Hudson (after an outstanding 2010 resurgence) have nowhere to go but down. Mike Minor showed flashes in an eight-start cup of coffee last season but we still don’t know if he’s ready to be a regular contributor.

In the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel is a real sight to behold. The guy’s strikeout rate is absolutely absurd. In his first major-league action, he posted a 0.44 ERA and struck out a ridiculous 40 batters in 20.2 innings. He’s the frontrunner to close for Atlanta this season. Still, since Kimbrel walks lots of guys and Billy Wagner was great in the ninth-inning role last season, it doesn’t seem like Kimbrel will make the Braves’ pen superior to last year’s unit.

So what’s my point? My point is that, since the Braves’ pitching can’t get any better, the bats must improve if Atlanta wants to challenge Philadelphia for the National League East crown. Luckily for Braves fans, it looks like that will happen.

Jason Heyward, perhaps the most hyped offensive prospect in the last 10 years, delivered on his promise as a rookie. He hit .277 with 18 homers in 142 games and showed very encouraging plate discipline with 91 walks. He’ll only get better as he matures into Atlanta’s offensive centerpiece.

Heyward will have improved help this season with Dan Uggla arriving in town. Some people bemoan his mediocre batting average but Uggla is the second coming of Jeff Kent, the first second baseman in major-league history to post four consecutive 30-homer seasons. That’s right – Dan Uggla may be on a Hall-of-Fame career path. How’s that for underrated?

Uggla will undoubtedly make the Braves a more offensive team. Brian McCann and Martin Prado, who broke out last season, are also key pieces of the offensive puzzle. It’s too early to tell what if anything Chipper Jones can contribute after ACL surgery. The Braves hope that youngster Freddie Freeman can pick up the slack at the other corner spot. He’s expected to hit for high average with decent pop and solid defense.


Are the Braves in the same class as the mighty Philadelphia Phillies or even the powerful, young Cincinnati Reds? Probably not, even if their offense is improved. But they’re every bit as good as the Giants, Cardinals, Brewers and other Wildcard contenders. A 90-95 win season and another playoff berth seem very possible if not probable for the Braves. And don’t worry about Bobby Cox’s departure. New manager Fredi Gonzalez was Atlanta’s third base coach for four seasons and learned well under Cox before managing the Florida Marlins.

Prediction: 2nd, National League East


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About Shea Matthews

Shea Matthews the Senior Writer at CP. Lives and breathes sports. He made the transition from athlete to sports journalist at a young age, writing in TV & national papers. Shea applies his knowledge to sports betting + handicapping daily, and shares winning picks with the world.