In order for the Atlanta Braves to be successful in the postseason their plan of action must include four elements that will make them a better team.
Everyone needs to elevate their efforts and play well and the clubhouse must remain intact. That goes without saying. But if the Braves want to compete for World Series glory the following to-do list must be accomplished.
First, Atlanta needs Jason Heyward back in the leadoff spot. Heyward was the catalyst of the Braves offense during his twenty-three games batting leadoff, going 30 for 87 with five homers, six doubles and fifteen runs batted in.
Without Heyward, the Braves do not have a true leadoff hitter. They have tried Andrelton Simmons and Jordan Schafer, among others, at the top of the lineup, but nobody has enjoyed the same success as Heyward.
When Heyward is able to return from being hit in the jaw with a fastball, his name should be immediately penciled in at the top of the batting order.
Next, starting pitchers Mike Minor and Julio Teheran need to continue their success into the postseason. Both starters have averaged over six innings per start and the Braves need quality starts in the playoffs. They obviously need production from all of their starters but Minor and Teheran are the most important, as they are at the top of the rotation.
Minor has thirteen wins on the season and an ERA of 2.99. Teheran is 10-7 with a 3.08 ERA and both pitchers are near the top of the league in both categories.
The third line item addresses the below average play of B.J. Upton. Now is the time for Upton to start producing. Sure, we have waited all season for his bat to come around, but maybe he is waiting for the playoffs to display his value to the team.
Upton has never been a great hitter, carrying a .249 batting average during his seven full seasons in the majors. However, he has always had the ability to steal bases and achieve above average power numbers.
Before joining the Braves this past offseason, Upton averaged 36 stolen bases and 32 doubles over six years with the Tampa Bay Rays and has 126 career home runs. The ability is there, we have just not seen it during his tenure with the Braves.
And finally, the Braves must stay healthy. This is understandably out of their control, but if the Braves want to be successful in the postseason they must avoid the injury bug.
Freak injuries, such as the one that occurred to Heyward happen. The Braves have certainly had their share of these injuries during 2013 with several everyday players, such as Heyward, missing significant playing time. Atlanta has continued to win despite these setbacks, so there is no reason they should not excel when their lineup is intact.
The Braves have the best record, arguably the best coaching staff, and one of the best front offices in baseball. The tools are in place and the timing is right for the Braves to enjoy success into the postseason.
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