The Atlanta Braves dominated the NL East in 2013 and did so with ease, but that dominance hid the fact that the team was merely a shell of what it was before the myriad of injuries they sustained. That being said, the return of those hurt players means a huge increase in talent on top of a team that is already capable of beating the best in the game.
The Braves started the season off with Brandon Beachy being out as he continued to recover from the Tommy John surgery he was forced to undergo in 2012. His return was key to the Braves’ success in 2013, and I anxiously awaited his comeback throughout the season. After a few setbacks and when it became apparent he wouldn’t return in time for the playoffs, I knew the Braves were in trouble. He has the potential to be the best pitcher on the team, and having him start in the postseason would have changed the series dramatically.
Tim Hudson’s tragic injury was a critical moment in the season. While I think the “veteran presence” that many people mention wasn’t really a factor, the loss of his steady and reliable performance was missed. Hudson seemed to be getting into his groove right when the injury occurred. The pain of Hudson’s absence wasn’t as apparent as expected during the season because of the young pitchers who stepped up down the stretch, like Alex Wood, but when the postseason rolled around that hole in the starting staff couldn’t have been more obvious.
Hudson may very well not return to the Braves in 2014 as I discussed here, but that isn’t necessarily bad news. Freeing up his $9 million salary will give the medium payroll team more room to fill holes in the lineup as multiple Braves’ pitching prospects are on the horizon. With that extra cash, Beachy’s return to the staff and guys like J.R. Graham ready to take the big league stage, the Braves pitching staff looks to be far superior and playoff ready than it was in 2013.