For 2 decades, Bobby Cox had stood at the top step managing the Atlanta Braves, but that came to a conclusion in 2010 and Fredi Gonzalez, after managing the Marlins from 2007-10, became the 2011 Atlanta Braves manager with what most would consider muted applause. Many at the time loved Bobby Cox, but wanted the organization to move toward a different mode of thinking rather than continuing with the “old guard”. It’s worth noting that not much has changed with this mindset as Braves are still going for clubhouse managers over tacticians. Fredi wasn’t the only person that moved from Miami to Atlanta in 2011 and that leads into the player offseason additions.
2011 Atlanta Braves Offseason Additons
- Acquired Dan Uggla for Mike Dunn and Omar Infante
- Acquired Scott Linebrink for Kyle Cofield
- Signed LHP George Sherrill
- Claimed Anthony Varvaro off waivers
Bad Omens Start in Spring Training
On March 9th, Brian McCann pulled a foul ball into the Braves dugout and it struck Luis Salazar in the face. He was airlifted and things were touch and go for 24 hours, but he ended up being ok, minus an eye, of which had to be removed.
2011 Atlanta Braves Opening Day Roster
With the addition of Dan Uggla, the RH power bat the Braves desperately needed, the Braves were out for blood with a formidable lineup, a backend bullpen trio that was best in the league, and a fairly deep starting rotation.
- Catcher – Brian McCann
- First Base – Freddie Freeman
- Second Base – Dan Uggla
- Third Base – Chipper Jones
- Shortstop – Alex Gonzalez
- Outfield – Martin Prado, Nate McLouth, Jason Heyward
- Bench – Brooks Conrad, Brandon Hicks, Eric Hinske, David Ross, Matt Young
- Starting Pitchers – Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy
- Relief Pitchers – Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty, Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill, Cristhian Martinez
Notable 2011 Atlanta Braves Injuries
Outside of Nate McLouth, the Braves were remarkably healthy for the 2011 season. McLouth went through a plethora of ailments including an inability to hit the baseball. The one injury that took him down was a sports hernia, ending his season and his Braves career on July 29th.
I did a bit of research and found some of Mac’s brilliance in his recaps that discussed the best wins of 2011. Enjoy memory lane, Braves Journaler’s
May 17, 2011: Brian McCann comes off the bench to tie it in the 9th with a HR and hits the game ending HR in extra innings.
“It was supposed to be Brian McCann‘s day off. But since every game McCann doesn’t start is a nailbiter, he wound up pinch-hitting. And sending the game into extra innings. Once Brian figured out that if he didn’t do something quick, his day off could easily turn into catching nine innings, he ended it.”Mac Thomason
June 16, 2011 The Balkoff: Bottom of the 10th, with runners on 1st and 3rd and 2 out, Jason Heyward is at the plate when D.J. Carrasco balks in the game-winning run!
Mac didn’t recap this game, but I found this piece put up by Alex Remington on the thread and found it quite humorous.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t even see the balk that gave Atlanta its latest extra-innings win.
Everyone else did.
With a runner on third and two outs in the 10th inning, New York Mets reliever D.J. Carrasco stopped and then restarted his motion with Jason Heyward at the plate, bringing home the winning run to give the Braves a 9-8 win Thursday night.
“The next thing I know Heyward’s hands are in the air without a bat,” Gonzalez said. “I said, ‘What’s going on?’”
July 26, 2011 Julio LugOUT? No! Safe!: A 19-inning affair, the longest in franchise history (and the game of the dreaded “Let’s go Pirates” little girl) the game ended on a bizarre call at the plate in which Julio Lugo was called safe when he was blatantly out.
“Sure, sometimes you’re going to win a game that goes 19 innings on a disputed call at the play that it sure looked like the umpire got wrong. Still, we needed this one, and I’m taking credit, even if I still can’t type worth a damn.”Mac Thomason
Notable Deadline Trade
With Nate McLouth shelved for the rest of the year and Jordan “effing success” Schafer crapping the bed, the Braves swung their only deadlie trade, grabbing Michael Bourn from the Astros in exchange for Juan Abreu, Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer and Jordan Schafer. Bourn wasn’t spectacular in 2011, but shored up the defense and provided some speed on the basepaths for the stretch run.
O’Ventbrel Dominance: Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel solidified themselves as the best relief pitching trio in baseball with 238.2 innings of 2.00 ERA baseball and Venters split was deemed nastiest pitch in the league.
Jose Constanza robs Jason Heyward of PT: Jose Constanza was promoted to the MLB club on July 29th and rode a hot streak through his first 16 games that continued to be rewarded well after he cooled with regular starts in front of Jason Heyward, who was experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump. It wasn’t until mid-September that Heyward earned his regular gig back and Constanza went back to bat-licking on the bench.
Dan Uggla hitting streak: Uggla’s start with the Braves was downright ugly. Through July 4th, he was carrying an OPS of .568 (to be honest, I’d forgotten it was that bad) through 348 PAs and Braves fans were getting nasty. Then…it happened. From July 5th through the end of the season, Uggla was a man possessed, carrying a .982 OPS including 24 HRs in less than a 1/2 seasons play, and from July 5th through August 13th, he carried a 33 game hitting streak, the 19th longest in MLB history.
Best Performers from 2011
While Derek Lowe was signed to be the staff ace, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy had to carry his contract and did so very well throwing over 630 innings of 3.30-ish ERA baseball.
Led by O’Ventbrel, the Braves Bullpen of 2011 threw the 3rd most innings in MLB and recorded the best ERA in MLB at 3.03.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but I’m not sure most casual observers back in 2011 would’ve realized how special of a season Brian McCann put up, posting a 6.9 fWAR and dominating the framing game before framing was the game.
The Disappointments from 2011
Many were predicting that Jason Heyward would become a perennial all-star and be a top 5-10 player in the league for the next decade. Alas, that didn’t happen and Heyward put up a .708 OPS in his 2nd season
And while Dan Uggla did carry the team from July through the end of the season, he was THE worst regular in the entire MLB up until that point and still fell well short of his 2010 numbers with the Marlins.
Derek Lowe, who might be one of my least favorite Braves pitchers in history, was bloody awful after putting up 2 serviceable years as the Braves “ace” and pitched to a 9-17 record.
The CF situation was just a hot mess that year as Jordan Schafer proved that he wasn’t a very good player without PEDs and Nate McLouth couldn’t stay on the field. It was finally resolved with Michael Bourn, but the damage had already been done.
On September 1st, the Phillies were dominating the division, but the Braves had an 8.5 game lead in the Wild Card. Entering September, the Braves held an 80-55 record and only won 9 games over the course of that month and lost their Wild Card berth on the final day of the season to the effing St. Louis Cardinals.
They finished with an 89-73 season. You can find Mac’s recap here.
Thanks for reading about the 2011 Atlanta Braves. I challenge you all to look into “Categories” on the right side of the page and find recaps from 2011 and regurgitate them in the comments section so we can all relive the brilliance of Mac.