The Atlanta Braves' Successful 2013 Season in Review

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | With the regular season over, the Atlanta Braves are focused on keeping the good times rolling in their National League Division Series matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

So it's too early for them to reflect on the success of the current season, but it's never too early or too late for fans to reflect on it.

Here are five big reasons why the Atlanta Braves' 2013 season was a huge success:

Emergence of young pitching core

Mike Minor is pitching like a true ace, Julio Teheran is a strong contender for the Rookie of the Year Award, and Kris Medlen is continuing his evolution into a solid rotation staple. All three of these guys are young, talented, and healthy. You can never count on the health of a pitcher, especially with Medlen already returning from Tommy John surgery, but these three guys have the potential to anchor the rotation of a team used to pitching dominance. I haven't been as confident in the team's starting rotation since Maddux left.

Andrelton Simmons: secret weapon

In his limited playing time last season, Simmons showed that he had the potential to be a prodigious, Ozzie Smith-caliber defender at shortstop. His performance in 2013 has exceeded even those expectations. Simmons has also shown a surprising amount of power this year. His OPS is slightly below league average at .692, but he hit an impressive and unexpected 17 home runs. Simmons would have been a valuable member of the squad with far worse offensive numbers, but he more than held his own in 2013. I would argue that he has been the Braves' most valuable player.

Batting title challenge from Chris Johnson

Johnson was supposed to be the throw-in piece of the blockbuster Justin Upton trade, beginning the season in a platoon with Juan Francisco. The Braves' front office eventually realized that they might have struck gold with Johnson early on in the season, cutting ties with Francisco the first week of June.

Johnson ended up as one of the Braves' most valuable players on the year, finishing with a .321 batting average, good for second place in the National League, and accumulating 2.8 WAR. When you consider that the third base position was one of the major question marks entering the season, Johnson has been a revelation. Replacing future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones is no easy feat.

Craig Kimbrel dominance

Kimbrel is almost certainly the most dominant pitcher in the National League. And while it's easy to overestimate the value and importance of a relief pitcher, it's impossible to not be impressed with Kimbrel's performance. The Braves enter the postseason with the rare luxury of being able to shorten any game. You just aren't going to beat the Braves if you need to stage a late-game comeback against this guy.

The Nats' belly flop

It might be a bit cynical to bring this up in an article designed to highlight the achievement of the Braves, but the season really only ended up the way it did because the Washington Nationals played so far below expectations. I fully expected the Braves to be in a tough fight with the Nationals all season. With how well they were playing in August and September, I couldn't help but think how dangerous of a team it is and how big of an opportunity it squandered. I fully expect the 2014 season to be much more of a fight.

Patrick Richardson is a longtime follower of the Atlanta Braves who started playing t-ball right as Atlanta's record-setting run of division titles began. He is an amateur but enthusiastic sabermetrician.

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