The Braves had a heartbreaking season last year that saw them lose a playoff spot in the last month after having a 7 game lead. That spot was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals, the eventual World Series Champions. This year they made things different. They are improved in almost all aspects of the game.
The lineup is much improved. Freddie Freeman has taken a big step in his sophomore season. He has become a great hitter and a great fielder. Jason Heyward has returned to his rookie form. Heyward is starting to become the five tool player that they always thought he would be. Michael Bourn has been solid in the leadoff spot and covers an incredible amount of ground in center field. Martin Prado has hit for a solid average and played a lot of different positions for them. The only real disappointment in the lineup has been Dan Uggla, he had a great year last year, but is yet to find his stroke this year.
The lineup is good, but the pitching might be better. Tim Hudson has been his solid usual self. He has a 3.61 ERA and has been a work horse. He has the poise and experience to help them in the playoffs. Paul Maholm has been a nice boost for this team. He came over from the Cubs midseason and has a 3.65 ERA. He has not had playoff experience, so he could be a bit of a wild card. The rest of the rotation is pretty average, but they could be a wild card in the post season.
The bullpen is incredible. The combination of Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters has been a great 1-2 punch that really shut the door. Kimbrel has 40 saves and a microscopic ERA. The bullpen will not be the reason they make an exit from the playoffs.
The most interesting part of this team is the retirement of Chipper Jones. The team seems to have some type of extra motivation. This team could make a deep run in the playoffs and it could be on the back of Chipper Jones.