Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Around the NL East: Atlanta keeps rolling

Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney
CSNwashington.com

Sizing up the week that was in the National League East, noting that while the standings haven't changed since last week, Atlanta continues to widen its lead -- and possibly inspire a little fear in the rest of the division that this may be their year.

Atlanta Braves: 11-1
Atlanta, off to their best start since opening 13-0 in 1982, is starting to look truly scary at this point. Evan Gattis, stepping in for the injured Brian McCann at catcher, has also filled in for the DL'd Freddie Freeman at first base. He continues to mash regardless of his defensive position, and is second on the team with four home runs and boasts a .324 average. As dominant as the Braves have been -- and did they ever look dominant in that three-game sweep of the Nats -- two thirds of their outfield has yet to start hitting, as B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward continue to toil beneath the Mendoza line, with Heyward hitting a paltry .103. The rest of the East, and the whole of the National league, is dreading the day when those two inevitably find their groove.

Player of the Week: Gattis, C/1B: 4R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .304 AVG 

Miami Marlins: 2-11
As much is going right in Atlanta, just as much is going wrong in South Beach. The Marlins, who figure to be bottom-feeders the entire season, have put up no pretense of contending, either on the field or through their front office machinations (no matter what owner Jeffrey Loria says). Only one regular, third baseman Placido Polanco, is hitting better than .240, and until slugger Giancarlo Stanton gets going (.167 AVG, team-leading 12 Ks), they're going to struggle to score any runs at all. The lone bright spot continues to be righthander Jose Fernandez, the last man added to the team; though he dazzled again in his second career start, he remains winless -- a theme that, unfortunately, figures to continue.

Player of the Week: Fernandez, SP: 0-0, 6 IP, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP

New York Mets: 7-4
Holding steady in second place, the Mets continue to ride the surprisingly powerful bat of catcher John Buck, who is up to six home runs and 19 runs batted in and is so far single-handedly winning the R.A. Dickey trade for New York. A notoriously streaky hitter, Buck will eventually give way to the real crown jewel sent over by the Jays, catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud, but for now, the Mets can afford to keep D'Arnaud stashed in AAA. Budding ace Matt Harvey turned in another sparkling pitching performance, boosting his record to 3-0 and lowering his ERA to a microscopic 0.82.

Player of the Week: Daniel Murphy, 2B/1B/OF: 5 R, 5 2B, 5 RBI, .500 AVG 

Philadelphia Phillies: 6-7
The Phillies righted the ship a bit this past week, going 4-2 to creep towards .500, though second baseman Chase Utley continues to be the only one driving in any runs (he leads the team with 12). Roy Halladay finally broke through and recorded a win, though he and ace Cole Hamels -- who doesn't have the age excuse to fall back on -- are both still sitting on ghastly ERAs of around 7.50. John Lannan continues to be a nice surprise for them, though a lack of run support has left him searching for his first win of the season.

Player of the Week: Ben Revere, OF: 1 R, 2 SB, but mostly this amazing catch...

19 comments:

Faraz Shaikh said...

Nice I was surprised we did not use the above catch as the picture for this update. Pretty neat play.

lawrence said...

I don't think the Braves necessarily looked *that* dominant over the Nats, except on Sunday. Friday's game the Nats gave away, plain and simple, but they weren't dominated. Saturday was a close game that hinged on a single error, one that could just as easily have been made by the Braves, turning the game the other way.

These two teams are still very evenly matched. People are just talking up the overrated Barves because they have a ridiculous and unsustainable record right now. They'll still lose at least 60 more games, probably more like 66. Several will be to the Nats.

The Marlins, on the other hand... well, they might not win another game until June.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that started the season 11-1, 4 of the 5 teams that have previously matched that feat have not made the playoffs!

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

FWIW, I remember 1982 quite well. The Braves got out to that insane start, and then gave it all back in the summer, and they got in on the 161st and 162nd games, when the Giants and the Dodgers beat one another's brains out along the way, finishing against and eliminating one another.

bowdenball said...

"As dominant as the Braves have been -- and did they ever look dominant in that three-game sweep of the Nats -- two thirds of their outfield has yet to start hitting, as B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward continue to toil beneath the Mendoza line, with Heyward hitting a paltry .103. The rest of the East, and the whole of the National league, is dreading the day when those two inevitably find their groove."

Yes, it is virtually inevitable that Jason Heyward and BJ Upton will give them much more production as the season goes on. But it's also virtually inevitable that Evan Gattis and Chris Johnson and Justin Upton and Paul Maholm and Mike Minor will give them far less production.

The article makes it sound like regression to the mean only happens in one direction.

NationalsFanatic said...

"Atlanta continues to widen its lead -- and possibly inspire a little fear in the rest of the division that this may be their year." Man-O-Man, talk about very early season hyperbole! Here is a little historical perspective to Atlanta's start this year. Of the four other teams to start 11-1 since 1995, only one (the 2003 San Francisco Giants) made the postseason. None of the other three (the 2002 Cleveland Indians, 2003 Kansas City Royals and 2009 Miami Marlins) got to even 90 wins. Yes Atlanta is a very good team, but the Nats' already knew that. The Nats', the Phillies and even the Mets are hardly terrified of the Braves hot start. They understand, unlike some journalist/reporters in this town, that 12 games does not make a season in baseball, nor is it any kind of season long indicator of what's likely to happen over the course of a 162 game season.
Statements like the one I quoted from this report, do nothing to help the new fan understand the dynamics baseball and insult and treat the experienced fan as if they were stupid. The Nats' fans deserve better and quite frankly, this type of reporting is more befitting a supermarket tabloid than a baseball blog as good as Nats Insider.

Faraz Shaikh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Faraz, I don't. I imagine most of them was back in the days of 2 teams making it from the AL and NL.

I think the Braves will be a Wild Card. They are still a very good team.

I also think Bowdenball is correct.

Faraz Shaikh said...

GoSM, thanks. I deleted my post once I saw that NationalsFanatic has mentioned the names of those teams.

I just wanted to look at their early schedules. I noticed that none of those other teams had really good pitching. while some of braves pitchers are performing better than they are capable, i don't think they will regress as badly as some of us are considering.

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

It doesn't have to be precisely 11-1 to be a good "comp." Lots of mediocre teams get off to good starts ... the Mets last year, for instance. One of the things that brings them back to earth is a lack of roster depth, and bad luck.

OK, two things that bring them back to earth are lack of roster depth, bad luck, and a schedule weighted to be easier at the start.

OK, AMONG the factors ...

bowdenball said...

For the record, I think the Braves are very good. If my life depended on picking the winner of the NL East in 2013 right now I'd take the Braves; I think the Nats and Braves are fairly close talent-wise, so the 3.5 game gap and the three head-to-head wins would be enough to tip the balance if I had to tip it in one direction. So I agree with the writer that the rest of the East has to be at least a little nervous that they could be building up a margin that's tough to overcome.

I just don't like the whole argument about how it's even more impressive that they're doing this without BJ and Heyward, so look out! You see this all the time. Some Nats fans did it last year too, pointing to how well the team was doing win April and May without Morse and others while not accounting for the inevitable regression of JZimm and Gio, who were both amazing for the first two months. No matter the team, it's just bad analysis.

NatsLady said...

This is SO puzzling. My blog on the left has gone back to a post from three weeks ago--yet this morning it was updated as of today's post!

Here is the link, if you didn't see it.

Alex Sanabia

http://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/2013/04/starting-fresh-alex-sanabia.html

Faraz Shaikh said...

That makes sense to me now, Sofa but lack of roster depth is when you have too many injuries. their pitchers could have a year like us last season where our starters did not suffer any injuries. anyways, these are all just speculations mainly.

if we take care of our business, we should be in postseason.

peric said...

Gattis looks like a ROY winner just because he catches. That could have been Hsrper thus making the outfield less if a problem.

Braves did a nix job with that 'International' signing.

Theophilus T. S. said...

What the first two weeks have exposed is that the Nats have the same weaknesses as last year -- pitchers who can't finish games (let's see how many more complete games they get out of Z'mann -- I'll take the under on 2) and a bunch of binge hitters whose base hits are as likely to cluster as mercury. The starters were bailed out by the bullpen last season, and ultimately -- until the playoffs -- the pitchers bailed out the hitters.

If the bullpen doesn't straighten out, Rizzo and Johnson should be very, very worried.

Every NL team has two likely outs at the bottom of the lineup, C and P. (So far, the Nats' catchers are doing well, and I don't mean to jinx them but who knows, espec. w/ injuries, how long that continues.) The problem is that the guys in the 4-7 spots are prone to strikeouts and at-'em balls to the infield that turn into GDPs. In any game there is likely to be at least one stretch where the opposing pitcher can go through seven-eight hitters in a row without drawing a deep breath. They need at least one more high-average, low-K hitter in the lineup to keep the pressure on.

They have stars all over the batting order -- but once they fall behind they're in trouble.

Doc said...

Speaking of B.J. and Hayward and regressive deviates, wad if RZim, ALR, and Espi start hitting.

And wad if our BP starts to do what it's supposed to do. And wad if Gio doesn't give up 7 runs anymore, and wad if Haren actually pitches to last September's standards????


Wad if!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A DC Wonk said...

What the first two weeks have exposed is that the Nats have the same weaknesses as last year

1. I don't think one can judge a whole lot in the first two weeks.

2. The strengths must have outweighed the weaknesses last year somehow -- you know, winning 98 games and all...?

Rabbit34 said...

Wonk is right. You can't judge a whole lot in the first two weeks. Nor can you look back to 1982 to an insane start and give it all back during the year. Nor look back to see four of five teams didn't make the playoffs after going 11-1. Nor look back to see that a team beat you out with 98 wins. No, you can't look back. Past records mean nothing. Baseball is now. Right now the Braves are CRUSHING everybody and nobody can do anything about it. Looking back to see what had been done means nothing. Energies need to be devoted to whishing the future will improve, in our case for the Nationals. But, those 98 wins last year aren't going to help us on darn bit.

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

"Energies need to be devoted to wishing the future will improve, in our case for the Nationals."

Dang, and you were doing so well up to there.

The Braves are crushing, *now*. The future is even less real than the past. Only the past matters--they don't figure the standings based on games the team is going to win.

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