Fearsome forecast: SI rates Braves fourth-best in the NL East

SI's preview cover. Note: Albert Pujols does not play for the Braves.

Sports Illustrated's preview cover. Note: Albert Pujols does not play for the Braves. (Photo by Robert Beck)

Well, here’s a cheery note. Sports Illustrated picks the Atlanta Braves, who had a lot of things go wrong last season and still won 89 games, to win 82 in 2012. (I’d offer a link, but SI.com hasn’t posted one yet.) This total, in SI’s estimation, will enable the Braves to finish fourth in a five-team division.

SI’s projected National League East finish:

  1. Phillies, 94-68
  2. Marlins, 89-73 (wild card)
  3. Nationals, 84-78
  4. Braves, 82-80
  5. Mets, 75-87

More glad tidings: SI sees the Braves finishing with the 10th-best record in the 16-team National League and the 17th-best (tied with the Kansas City Royals, actually) in baseball. I believe I can speak for us all when I say: Yikes.

I’m on record as believing the Braves’ spring-training record — after a 1-10-1 start, they’re up to 6-13-3; if this were hockey, they’d have 15 points — means less than nothing, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has written that (unnamed) “rival executives believe that [manager Fredi] Gonzalez … already is on probation.”

Given that the first real game is still 13 days off, we shouldn’t read too much into anything just yet. But it’s not unreasonable to suggest that general manager Frank Wren, who before this offseason wasn’t known for his patience, might be forced to do something soon — and I’m not talking so much about firing Fredi G. as making a personnel move or two — if his team looks tepid through April.

Wren likes his roster very much. He doesn’t think this is a fourth-place team. He thinks these Braves should win 90 (or so) games, not 82. But not everyone agrees.

By Mark Bradley

357 comments Add your comment

Benjamin

March 23rd, 2012
9:34 am

Where are my kudos?

John

March 23rd, 2012
9:35 am

I’m really excited about this Braves upcoming season! NOT!!!

2012 will be the Chipper Jones farwell season and nothing more. Sorry but they don’t look too good. I hope I’m wrong.

Benjamin

March 23rd, 2012
9:36 am

Also, SI has a pretty terrible track record for picking World Series winners.

Much like the rest of us, really…

Go Braves! [We win the division - and 92 games - this year.]

Mark Bradley

March 23rd, 2012
9:36 am

Huffy, are we, Benjamin?

PMC

March 23rd, 2012
9:37 am

The east is going to have 4 competitive teams but other than the Phillies who may struggle until the break due to injury, who really is that good?

Can’t buy into the Marlins until they prove something. Can’t buy into the Braves unless they hit.

Seriously, the Nationals. Whatever….

Joey

March 23rd, 2012
9:38 am

Wish Wren would replace the passive (and I’m afraid, not very smart) Fredi G.

Ted M

March 23rd, 2012
9:40 am

There is no question Fredi blew it last year.

ChopAttack

March 23rd, 2012
9:40 am

I have the Phillies, Nats, and then the Braves/Marlins are a tossup

PMC

March 23rd, 2012
9:40 am

This Braves starting roster is more than capable of winning 90 games. Their problem is that the margin is RAZOR thin with position players. They can’t afford a single injury because almost all of their ready to play MLB talent is in pitching. They can’t afford any struggles and they can’t afford injuries in the starting 8 whatsoever. Much is made about the bench, and it’s fine in spot duty, you don’t want anyone on that bench playing every day.

JJ

March 23rd, 2012
9:45 am

Lets see: they picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl last year too…they think we are a lousy sports town…let’s stay under the radar, talk is cheap…

phoenix

March 23rd, 2012
9:46 am

They’re right on the money. This is not a championship-caliber team. Not even close. Poor team speed, below-average defense, not much power, and a banged-up starting rotation. 82-80 might be optimistic.

Braves20

March 23rd, 2012
9:47 am

As someone already pointed out, SI has an awful track record in baseball predictions. And while both Washington and Miami have improved some, remember even with our collapse they trailed us by 8.5 and 17 games respectively – a lot of ground to make up.

Speed Merchant

March 23rd, 2012
9:48 am

Hudson and JJ are gimp… Medlen is a five inning starter. The much vaunted starting rotation will have to depend on Hansen and a bunch of rookies, and more than likely the bullpen will burn out again. The Braves have no shortstop, Prado has already had his career year, Methusaleh is at third. If Uggla hits .150 until July again, and Heyward still can’t find his bat, McCann, Bourn and Freeman won’t be enough to lift this team much higher than fourth.

ClemsonBrad

March 23rd, 2012
9:49 am

Mark….so much love for the Marlins and Nationals this year so far. I know they went through some huge roster overhauls and have improved, but it still takes a whole new mentality to become a “consistent winning team”. Not to say it can’t happen, but I think a betting man still has to like these Braves to finish 2nd.

YES!!!!!!!

March 23rd, 2012
9:53 am

“SI rates Braves fourth-best in the NL East”

Consider the source. This is the same SI that claimed the Falcons would play in the SB.

dtanner

March 23rd, 2012
9:54 am

sounds about right,completely unspiring bunch if you ask me,and as long as they have that fool freddi gonzales as manager will continue to underachieve

Greg

March 23rd, 2012
9:54 am

I think 4th is just about right. I basically agree with Speed Merchant. Many question marks.

Atticus

March 23rd, 2012
9:54 am

Mark question for you? Of the last 10 WS Champs, how many of them had pathetic Springs?

slug27marathons

March 23rd, 2012
9:55 am

Hey Mark, did you get your Peachtree Road Race entry in??? Spring weather we’re having makes for for good training runs! Are you always behind that desk???

Tenaciousd

March 23rd, 2012
9:58 am

I agree with SI. These Braves are more likely to approach 100 losses than 100 wins. Sorry to say it.

JDHGT

March 23rd, 2012
9:58 am

Ted M,

Since there is “no question,” I would like to ask you: what would you have done differently?

Designated Hitter = Fake Baseball

March 23rd, 2012
9:59 am

Chipper,

We know playing for Fredi “You Gotta Tip Your Cap to Them.” Gonzalez must be a nightmare, but RETIREMENT?

Surely, you could get that man fired if you still love the game and still want to play.

Designated Hitter = Fake Baseball

March 23rd, 2012
10:00 am

From that cover of “SPORTS ILLUSTRATED,” it doesn’t appear those DOVE FOR MEN products are helping the skin of Mr. Pujols remain moist and youthful.

Duke

March 23rd, 2012
10:01 am

That is a bad projection for all of the teams. The Nats won’t have a winning record. The Phils are hurt every where.

Steveo

March 23rd, 2012
10:01 am

Opinions are like a$$holes…everyone has one….some just stink worse than others….

706bravo

March 23rd, 2012
10:03 am

Did the Braves win a game by more than one run last year? or more than 2? 3? Rarely did they cruise to a win. They couldn’t hit all year, collapsed in September, and inexplicably did nothing in the offseason to address their lack of hitting—other than fire their hitting coach. So much is riding on Heyward, and Chipper is incapable of carrying the team on his back, else his knees will give out. Fredi is in over his head. This could mark the third year in a row the Braves have failed to support their great pitching with woeful hitting.

Kyle

March 23rd, 2012
10:05 am

Without making a move after that disaster end to last year I don’t know how they got to be even 4. The Mets must really be total crap.

YES!!!!!!!

March 23rd, 2012
10:05 am

“Wren likes his roster very much. He doesn’t think this is a fourth-place team. He thinks these Braves should win 90 (or so) games, not 82. But not everyone agrees.”

And there lies the problem. Oh well, college football spring practices are about to begin. UGA is about to win another Fulmer Cup.

jim lanham

March 23rd, 2012
10:07 am

Si is a garbage rag. We win the division…….

Bluestreak

March 23rd, 2012
10:07 am

I agree with everyone pointing out that SI makes tons of predictions and are about as good as everyone else in making predicitons. I remember in ‘91, I was in high school and told my friends that the Braves would make the World Series that year. Of course, I was completely kidding.

But, I’ve got about as good of a record as SI does in predicting who goes to the World Series. If the makeup of the team always was a predictor of who was going, the Yankees would be in it every year with whomever decided to spend the most in the NL that year.

Who would have guessed the Cardinals last year? No one, until the last 3 weeks of the season.

AtrueBravesFan

March 23rd, 2012
10:08 am

Hmm Lets see The Nats are up and coming but they also have an overrated team and the Phillies are getting pretty old and the Marlins are still building and we finish behind them according to SI. They are idiots.

extremus

March 23rd, 2012
10:12 am

Things could honestly go either way, but unfortunately SI’s prediction is very plausible. The Phillies are showing signs of wear but should still be strong enough to vye to be at or near the top of the division, the Marlins spent a ton of money and have a new stadium that (at least for a season or two) should help to revitalize their club, and Stan Kasten (the former Braves personnel guy who was responsible for their rise in the early ’90s) has built the Nationals up to a potentially scary degree through free agency and especially their farm system.

Meanwhile the Braves are hoping that last year’s awful hitting and fundamentals, as well as their historic September collapse, are just “an aberration”, and all of that highly touted pitching that was supposed to be their greatest strength suddenly isn’t with a season-ending injury to Vizcaino, the struggles of Teheran and Delgado, the inconsistency of Jurrjens, and the health of Hudson and Hanson, both of whom may arrive a month or so late to the party. I know there are some who would argue “See? This is why you stockpile pitching!”, but the fact remains that any good (and especially great) team maintains a healthy balance between offense, speed, defense, and pitching…and the current Braves roster, as well as their farm system, appear sorely depleted or hurting in every category. This team MIGHT make a wildcard spot if everything goes right, but there’s an awful lot of talk regarding “hope so” regarding so many aspects, and frankly it’s an uneasy, increasingly skeptical “hope so”. I’ll continue to root for them as always, but the Atlanta Braves no longer have any swagger or the expectation they’re going to win on any given day as they did a decade ago, and it is evident that a lot must change before they’re likely to return to championship-caliber status.

reckingball

March 23rd, 2012
10:13 am

I perdict that the Braves will finish the 2012 season, at 1st place in the NLEast.
Now, how does my prediction, not hold as much water as SI?
Who cares what SI, ESPN, or any other company predicts?
Start the season, let them play, and then we will find out, who does what in 2012?

Where did SI predict that the SF Giants would finish a couple of seasons ago?

The Braves

March 23rd, 2012
10:13 am

You are right Mark. We have lost a lot of ST games. But we don’t care because we read in these ajc blogs that most fans don’t care how much we lose during ST.

So it is party time every night in Orlando!!

George Stein

March 23rd, 2012
10:15 am

I can’t imagine the Marlins improved themselves by 17 games over last season. Similarly, the Nationals may be marginally improved, but I’d surprised if they were any more than marginally better than last year.

The Braves’ pitching was awfully good last year, and I think we need to expect it to regress a bit. However, the Braves’ offense was equally poor, and one can only hope this means the team will add a bit more focus on being patient at the plate rather than being aggressive. It wouldn’t hurt if Fredi would cool it with the bunting and other small-ball tactics.

We can’t predict injuries, but I imagine somewhere between 88 and 91 wins should be expected.

Big Chief

March 23rd, 2012
10:16 am

Not sure we finish as low as 4th but this team won’t be in the playoffs. The lineup is pathetic. 3 of the 5 starters are coming off of surgery (one has “changed his delivery” to avoid further injury) the other 2 are untested. The bullpen should be exceptional but you typically need to have a lead for that to matter.

Jimmy Crack

March 23rd, 2012
10:19 am

Didn’t SI predict the Falcons winning the Super Bowl?

reckingball

March 23rd, 2012
10:20 am

Does anyone remember about 15 years ago, when the Baltimore Orioes punked SI, with a 40 something years old guy, they said was a prospect who came out of nowhere, and could throw a 110 mph fastball.
And SI bite on it hook, line, and sinker, and then did a ten page story about him in their RAGazine.

Dozer

March 23rd, 2012
10:20 am

This isn’t a fredi issue – its an organization issue. From the top down these guys have been selling this team as a contender with the starstruck local media pretty much falling in line as they always have. This organization is committed to being only as good as THEY think they have to be. They aren’t looking outside their organization – if they did they would realize that they aren’t a real player for a World Series – everyone else got better while they stayed the same. Its the culture of acceptance that has been around for 20 years – how long since this organization has won a world series game? A playoff series? The proof is on the field, and all the Braves have proven is that they are pretty good but don’t have the team to realistically contend for a championship.

Sports Ilustrated

March 23rd, 2012
10:21 am

The Braves offense stinks, so actually we had the Braves in last place. But we moved them up to 4th because we knew the Braves fans and ajc sportswriters would whine, whimper and cry and call for their mommies if we ranked them dead last.

NElly

March 23rd, 2012
10:22 am

How could he not be on probation after blowing that lead last year? Cmon how about some accountability!

Dawgdad (The Original)

March 23rd, 2012
10:23 am

SI predictions are rarely better than Joe Blow’s, however, theirs match mine except I think the wheels are about to come off in Philly. Great pitching, like Atlanta, but aging sluggers. Think they will finish second behind the Marlins. Braves/Nationals will battle for third, who wins that struggle is immaterial, losers both.

Marlins have really improved at the manager position as have the Nationals. Guillen and Johnson do not tolerate lack of effort. Ozzie has the talent and he will get it out of those guys or get fired trying. Johnson doesn’t have quite that amount of talent, but he is a smart game tactician and demands results, so the Braves and Phils are in trouble this year. Going to be a battle at the start, but things will begin to unravel for Braves, Phils, and Marlins after the all star break.

DawginLex

March 23rd, 2012
10:24 am

I can’t argue with SI on this pick although I do believe the Braves will win more than 82 games.

Lots of questions and lots of injuries to overcome

reckingball

March 23rd, 2012
10:24 am

The Braves will finish in front of the fish, nats, and metros.
I believe that they will win the Div.
GO BRAVES!

Dawgdad (The Original)

March 23rd, 2012
10:25 am

and Nationals not Marlins.

atlvol55

March 23rd, 2012
10:26 am

Hate to say it, not enough hitting.

I hope I eat crow, but I just don’t think Heyward has it. Remember when all the scouts talked about his great eye?? I saw him swing and miss balls by a foot last year. Way too many swings without making contact.

We know Uggla and McCann will be solid. Outside of that, we just have WAY too many unknowns. Braves are a good, but not great. Just too many inconsistent hitters

Jimmy Crack

March 23rd, 2012
10:26 am

Sports,

“whimper and cry and call for their mommies”

No, that would be the Mets.

reckingball

March 23rd, 2012
10:30 am

The Phillies are aged, and it will show this year.
The Fish will fade, just as they do every year.
The Nats, will be improved, but the Braves will have their number this year, and the Braves will win their series against the Nats, by a wide margin of victories.
The Metros will be the Metros, and they will be the bottle of the barrel.
I feel confident that the Braves will win the East.
go braves!

Reggie Ball for Heisman

March 23rd, 2012
10:34 am

Meet the Mets, Beat the Mets, Step right up and SWEEP the Mets!

P Rose

March 23rd, 2012
10:34 am

Why “yikes,” Mark? Last year SI picked the Cardinals to finish fourth in their division, and to go 78-84. (Note: they did NOT pick them to win the World Series.)

Baseball predictions don’t matter.