ANALYSIS OF THE BRAVES
The Braves, who have finished 1-2-3 for eight straight years, have explosive power in the middle of the batting order, three first-rate pitchers and the best catcher in the league. Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock hit 104 homers, batted in 341 runs last year, figures strong enough to impress any pitcher. Warren Spahn with 288 wins and 51 shutouts is winningest lefty in NL history, should win his 300th game this year. Spahn's roomie, Lou Burdette, missed 20 by one last year, will start and relieve this season, will win less, but should prove just as valuable. Bob Buhl's slick 3.09 ERA, 16-9 record shows he's definitely recovered from 1958 arm trouble. Del Crandall at 31 is still No. 1 among NL catchers. Roy McMillan and Billy Martin from Reds and Frank Boiling from Tigers strengthen Braves infield, a trouble spot in 1960.
Primarily relief pitching, but there are also gaping holes in the outfield and in secondary pitching. Braves gave up on Joey Jay, Juan Pizarro, traded them for infielders, are no closer to solving problem of finding extra starters. Manager Charley Dressen hopes for comeback from hard-throwing Relief Man Don McMahon (3-6 and 5.91 ERA in 1960). Outfield situation is muddled: Wes Covington, with his bad knee, and Lee Maye, with his unfulfilled promise, are strong hitters, but slick-fielding, spray-hitting Al Spangler and Felix Mantilla may do most of the playing. The Braves already miss Billy Bruton, the outfielder they traded to Detroit.
THE BIG IFS
The outfield and the relief pitching. Braves are gambling that patchwork outfield this year won't hurt the way patchwork infield did last year. And McMahon must give the Braves first-class relief help.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Braves are gloating about Mack Jones, 22, an outfielder who runs fast, hits with power, throws well. His power is to right center. If he can be taught to pull, he could stick this year. Frank Torre's brother, Joe, who was with team in spring training, became catcher on Frank's advice, throws like a big leaguer, has shown a hot minor league bat, is rated a sure future bet. New Shortstop McMillan and new Second Baseman Boiling are first-class ballplayers, will give Braves solid double-play combination. Billy Martin wants to play, is Dressen's kind of ballplayer.
The Braves will win the pennant if the outfield holds together and the pitching staff comes up with a stopper in the bullpen. Even if that parlay doesn't come off, the Braves should be close to the top all year.
THE ROOKIE CATCHER
Joe Torre is a good-looking, thick-chested 20-year-old Latin with dark eyebrows and curly hair. With a fast hair-comb and a close shave, he could make a burly matinee idol for a Hollywood feature, but he doesn't want to be. He wants to be a major league catcher.
He leaned against the batting cage and rubbed his wrist. He had Band-Aids on the thumb and the ring finger of his left hand. He had a cut on his right palm and tape across the right knuckles.
"I'm not worried about the bruises. It makes your hands tougher," he said. "I played first base, pitched and played third in high school. My brother Frank [former Milwaukee first baseman] and I looked over the major league rosters one day. We didn't see many catchers who had big batting averages. So, I became a catcher.