MORE: Game 4 quick hits
On Monday night, the Braves fell to the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS in devastating fashion. And now that their season has ended, the time has come to mourn them.
Let us solemnly remember the 2013 Atlanta Braves ...
What went right
They overcame circumstances in a big way. Despite being solid underdogs to the Nationals coming into the season, the Braves won the NL East by a full 10 games. As well, they conquered a raft of injuries to core contributors like Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis, Paul Maholm, Jonny Venters -- no, still not done yet -- Eric O'Flaherty, Brandon Beachy, Dan Uggla, Jordan Walden and others. Given all that, a winning season would've been impressive. Instead, the Braves barged to 96 wins.
On an individual level, Craig Kimbrel carried on as the best closer in baseball, Freddie Freeman enjoyed a breakout season at the plate, Andrelton Simmons may have been the best defensive player in baseball, and Justin Upton tallied 27 homers. Julio Teheran turned in an impressive rookie campaign, and the bench was generally outstanding.
What went wrong
The playoffs went wrong, most notably. Elsewhere, Uggla and B.J. Upton struggled badly at the plate. We mentioned all those injuries. The rotation lacked a true shutdown ace, and manager Fredi Gonzalez's tactical instincts at times raised eyebrows. Worst of all, the Braves have now suffered first-round exits in their last seven trips to the postseason.
MVP: Freeman. The Braves' slick-fielding first baseman batted a healthy .319/.396/.501 (144 OPS+) with 23 homers. As well, Freeman ranked second in the NL in Win Probability Added, an advanced measure of clutch performance. Keep in mind that Freeman is still just 24 years of age.
LVP: Upton. In the first season of a five-year, $75.25-million free agent contract, Upton struggled mightily, as he “hit” a measly .184/.268/.289 with just 12 stolen bases. He remains a good fielder in center, but no amount of glove-work can make up for those numbers at the plate.
Free agents to be: RP Luis Ayala, RP Scott Downs, SP Tim Hudson, RP Kameron Loe, SP Paul Maholm, C Brian McCann, RP Eric O'Flaherty
Gameplan heading into the offseason
As you can see from the laundry-list above, Atlanta GM Frank Wren will have plenty to sort out when it comes to pending free agents. The biggest decision, of course, will involve McCann. Gattis provides a pretty solid fallback plan should McCann walk, but McCann is better with the bat and behind the plate.
Elsewhere, the Braves need to get Beachy healthy, improve the infield depth, and prepare to treat Uggla as a sunk cost (he's still signed through 2015) should his struggles persist. Given age, signs of decline and his ankle injury, it's probably best to let Hudson sign elsewhere. As a consequence, though, additional rotation depth will be even more of a need.
Ridiculously premature prediction for 2014
Second place in the NL East. Yes, the Nationals bounce back and win the flag. McCann signs with the Rangers.