Braves' focus now should be on future

In John Schuerholz's new book, he must mention a dozen times that the Braves have been champions for "fourteen straight years." They haven't. But they have won 14 division titles in 15 years, and that's very nearly as impressive.

What's not been impressive in 2006 has been Atlanta's pitching; the staff ERA, 4.76, ranks just 15th in the National League. It goes without saying, perhaps, that the Braves have not fared so poorly in this category in many, many years. Their starters rank ninth in the league, with a 4.58 ERA. Their relievers rank 16th in the league, with a 5.16 ERA.

Can the pitchers do better? Sure. Anything's possible. In addition to John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, Braves starters John Thomson, Horacio Ramirez and Jorge Sosa all are capable of pitching better than they have. Based on past performance, that is. On the other hand, Smoltz and Hudson are doing essentially what they did a year ago. So is Thomson. Sosa's 2.55 ERA last season was not indicative of his underlying skills (this year, one analyst wrote of Sosa, "Potentially facing the biggest drop-off of any player"). Ramirez, too, wasn't particularly good in 2005 (same book, different analyst: "Tough to imagine what 2006 will bring. DN: Selling used cars in Ohio or No. 1 starter on the Royals.").