It seems that on-base percentage was about average for the Braves in 2015. However the RBI total and slugging percentage were the worst in the league. What do you think the new lineup will do to address these trends?
-- Lee J., Tallahassee, Fla.
The Braves ranked ninth among 15 National League teams in on-base percentage and last in both slugging percentage and total RBIs. If they are going to get a little more "instant offense," courtesy of an improved slugging percentage, they need to hope that Freddie Freeman's wrist remains healthy and Nick Markakis proves stronger during his second season after undergoing neck surgery.
Obviously, Freeman and Markakis will significantly influence how much offensive improvement the Braves see after scoring 573 runs (fifth-lowest total in Atlanta history) each of the past two seasons. But another significant variable will be the success Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar might have while manning the lineup's top two spots.
Inciarte brings a little more speed to the top of the order, but the .338 on-base percentage he produced last year isn't considerably better than the .327 mark Atlanta's leadoff hitters produced. Aybar has had some previous success in the two-hole, but his strikeout percentage increased last year as he produced a less-than impressive .301 on-base percentage for the second time in three years.
The Braves might get a little more consistency at second base while platooning Jace Peterson and Gordon Beckham at that position. There's certainly reason to wonder if Adonis Garcia can extend his magic. But truthfully, he might pose less of a concern than Hector Olivera.
There are some areas of concern from an offensive perspective. But if they are fortunate to gain some consistency via the platoon options at second base and third base (Garcia and Kelly Johnson), then the healthier outputs produced by Freeman and Markakis might indeed create noticeable offensive improvement.
Do you think Julio Teheran will be able to bounce back from last year's bad first half?
-- Kenneth P., Hayden, Ala.
Similar to many other baseball-related analysis, we can look at Teheran and say that he's not as bad as he was while producing a 4.71 ERA over last year's first 21 starts, and he's not as good as he was while he allowed two earned runs or less during nine of his final 12 starts (a 2.95 ERA thanks to the Yankees clunker that rested within this span).
Teheran produced a 2.86 ERA during a 60-start span that stretched from April 23, 2013 through the end of the 2014 season. Within that span, he produced a 35.7 ground-ball percentage and a 8.3 homer/fly-ball ratio.
As Teheran posted a 4.04 ERA over 33 starts last year, he produced a 39.7 ground-ball percentage and a 13.0 homer/fly-ball ratio. Before looking too closely at the HR ratio, account for the fact that he allowed seven of his 27 home runs within two starts -- April 17 at Toronto (4) and Aug. 30 vs. Yankees (3).
Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) measures a pitcher's effectiveness based on statistics that don't rely on fielders. When Teheran struggled through last year's first four months, he had a 4.24 xFIP. This marked dropped only slightly to 4.10 as he experienced much more frequent success over the season's final two months.
Looking at the xFIP figures, one could surmise Teheran was simply more fortunate down the stretch. But the fact of the matter is he's a 25-year-old pitcher entering his fourth full Major League season. His future success might be best dictated by how much he learned in the midst of last year's struggles.
Do you think Adonis Garcia is the real deal offensively?
-- Vincent B., Greenville, S.C.
Based on his history, I certainly have my doubts about Garcia's ability to match last year's power output. But at the same time, I certainly understand why the Braves really have no choice but to take a chance on the possibility he'll remain hungry and quite effective at the plate.
When the Yankees writers were in town for the late August series, some of the New York writers playfully joked about Garcia being at the Major League level. The 30-year-old Cuban had toiled in the Yanks' farm system for the previous three seasons before being released at the conclusion of Spring Training. So it's safe to say nobody expected Garcia to exit this past season with 10 homers through his first 191 career at-bats.
It's never wise to put too much stock in winter ball stats, but Garcia certainly didn't hurt his stock as he hit .353 and compiled a .411 on-base percentage over the 13 games he played in Venezuela this winter.
Yeah, there is a chance that the unexpected power will wane and Garcia's suspect glove will become even more of a concern. But for now, the Braves really have no choice but to give Garcia a chance to prove last year's final two months were not a fluke.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.