LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — While this comes with no guarantees, one of the nation’s preeminent baseball writers says he is “leaning towards” picking the Braves over the Philadelphia Phillies to win the National League East Division.
I chatted with ESPN’s Buster Olney at Braves camp this morning and he went through a list of reasons why he is considering picking the Braves, despite the fact the Phillies have assembled one of the greatest starting rotations in major league history (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt).
But before passing along those reasons, this might take a little shine off of Olney’s possible prediction. As he and I were speaking, Braves general manager Frank Wren walked up. Then came this exchange.
Olney: “I might be the only national person who picks you guys in the
Wren: “Really? Wow. What’s your record?”
Olney: “I picked the Rockies to win the World Series last year.”
Wren: “Oh, great.”
Olney: “Yeah, I have no credibility.”
Actually, he does. Most consider Olney the best national baseball writer in the business. Few do their homework like him. Here’s Olney’s breakdown of the race between the Braves and Phillies:
♦ “The [Phillies'] injuries and the lack of balance [in the heavily left-handed] lineup are real concerns. They won’t see right-handed pitching after the fifth or sixth inning this year. The starting pitching is obviously unbelievable, but I think these guys [Braves] are deeper than what they’re given credit for and if Derek Lowe can pitch like he did down the stretch, their pitching certainly is good enough to match up. If [Craig] Kimbrel and [Jonny] Venters can fill the back end of the bullpen, this is a real good team. The every day lineup is certainly better than what the Phillies have because of the concerns they have. Right now, they’re talking about [outfielder] Ben Francisco being the No. 5 hitter in that lineup [to replace the departed Jayson Werth] and that’s probably a tall order for him. They had 170 games lost to injuries last year in the infield. Jimmy Rollins’ OPS has gone down the last three years, since he won the MVP. [Chase] Utley’s OPS has dropped each of the last two years. [Ryan] Howard last year, because of the lack of depth in their lineup, saw a lot off-speed stuff away and it really seemed to affect them. [Placido] Polanco is 37 years old now and he had elbow trouble last year. They’re an older team. The question is, how do those injuries manifest themselves and do they have the depth to make up for it?”
So, are you convinced?
By Jeff Schultz
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