The Braves identified the bullpen as their biggest weakness in the off-season so they really reloaded on arms to cure that problem.Â 38 year old righty Bob Wickman will be the Braves stopper again this season.Â He was 1-6 with 33 saves, a 2.67 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 57 games for the Cleveland Indians and the Braves.Â He was really awesome after the Braves traded for him as he saved 18 games, had a 1.04 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 28 games for them.Â Look for the Braves to limit Wickman’s innings to keep him healthy and effective.Â He will save 30+ games for the Braves this season as long as he stays in one piece.
28 year old lefty Mike Gonzalez will be half of the set-up crew for the Braves and they brought the flamethrower to town in a trade for Adam LaRoche.Â Gonzalez also has experience as a closer if something happens to Wickman during the season.Â Gonzalez was 3-4 with 3 holds, 24 saves, a 2.17 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP in 54 games last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.Â Batters only hit .213 (lefties .163) against him last season and he whiffed 64 batters in 54 innings so that shows you what kind of dominating stuff he has.Â Gonzalez’ only weakness is sometimes he’s a little wild as he walked 31 batters in 54 innings, but that’s a small problem for him that will be fixed by the Braves.Â He will have a great 2007 for the Braves.
27 year old righty Rafael Soriano was added from the Mariners in a trade for Horacio Ramirez and he brings big-time heat from his right arm.Â Soriano was 1-2 with 18 holds, 2 saves, a 2.25 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 53 games for the Mariners last season.Â Batters only hit .204 (righties .179) against him last season and he whiffed 65 batters in 60 innings which shows the kind of stuff he has.Â The Braves have essentially three closers to line up in a row and Soriano has the best stuff of any of them.Â Look for him to also have an outstanding 2007 season.
25 year old righty Oscar Villarreal was 9-1 with 2 holds, a 3.61 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in 58 games (4 starts) for the Braves last season.Â Villarreal’s only real problem on the mound is that he gives up too many homers as he allowed 13 of them in 92.1 innings last season.Â Look for him to do a solid job early in games for the Braves in 2007.
24 year old lefty Macay McBride bursted on the scene last year and pitched well for the Braves.Â He was 4-1 with 10 holds, 1 save, a 3.65 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 71 games for the Braves.Â Batters only hit .248 against him (lefties .181) and he whiffed 46 batters in 56.2 innings.Â He walked 32 batters and that got him into trouble last season.Â Still, look for the Braves to use him as a situational lefty and that should really improve his stats and porduction for the Braves in 2007.
29 year old righty Tyler Yates was saved from the scrap heap by the Braves last season.Â He was 2-5 with 12 holds, 1 save, a 3.96 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 56 games for the Braves last season.Â Batters only hit .228 against Yates last season and he whiffed 46 batters in 50 innings.Â He needs to tighten up his control as he walked 31 batters last season and that’s way too many.
31 year old righty Chad Paronto was 2-3 with 8 holds, a 3.18 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 65 games for the Braves last season.Â That was by far Paronto’s best work as a major league pitcher.Â Look for him to continue his solid work out of the pen but it will be much earlier in games.