When the season started, I had these concerns about the Braves 2011 lineup:
1) Will Chipper be able to stay healthy and return to pre-knee injury form?
2) Will Nate McClouth hit?
3) Will Freddie Freeman be able to handle the ups and downs of a long season as the Braves’ starting 1st baseman?
4) Is Craig Kimbrell ready to take on the pressure of being our closer (especially with regard to walks)?
Now the season is well under way, so I thought I would take a look at what my concerns are now:
1) Will Dan Uggla hit? I hate to pile on because I know he’s such an easy target right now but come on! Dan was supposed to help us out with our lefty heavy lineup and supply some right-handed pop. I know he’s gotten a few hits lately but he’s still hitting .180. Now he’s in the 2 hole so “he can see some good pitches”. I’m not sure he knows a good pitch when he sees one. I think we would be better off with Dan in the 8 hole where he belongs. I know they want to stack the lineup lefty/righty/lefty, but Uggla batting second is just painful. When McClouth started struggling at the beginning of the year, Freddie put him at eighth until he started hitting again and I thought that worked well. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that we need Dan. We need him to hit. I say take some pressure off, put him at eighth. When he starts to rake put him back in the 5 hole.
2) Is Jason Heyward going to be able to stay healthy and hit for average/power? This was not a concern for me going in to this season. I was expecting a massive breakout year for Jason. So far I’ve been disappointed. I saw today that he’s about to come off the DL. That’s great because just his presence will greatly improve our lineup. But will he hit when he returns? I’m not as sure as I was when the season started. After all, he was a .220 hitter when he went on the DL and lord knows we don’t need another one of those!
3) Is Chipper going to make it through the year? I think Chipper is really starting to show his age. Unlike alot of the Braves faithful, I am a big fan of Chipper’s. I understand what he means to our lineup–his presence changes everything. Pitchers still have to respect him. Unfortunately, you can just see that he’s playing with some pain now, he’s a little slower, and he’s really struggling left-handed. We really need Uggla, Heyward, Prado, and McClouth back in the every day lineup and performing so we can afford to give Chipper more days off because we’re going to need him at the end of the year.
Well those are my main concerns right now. Of course, they all have to do with hitting! I’ll admit I have some other minor issues–is our bullpen going to get worn out, is Kimbrell really the man, is Moylan coming back, why does Freddie keep doing hit & run with guys who aren’t hitting, etc. I’m going to sign off now so I can get something to eat before Mets@Braves @ 7:10.