Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Around the N.L. East: Braves on the warpath

Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney 

Glancing around the N.L. East, it's hard not to notice that the general hierarchy has been in place for the entire season, with the Braves sitting atop the standings from the get-go, and everyone else trying to build a foundation to try to challenge them. As Memorial Day passes and the Phillies continue to toil, it's becoming clear that if the Nats don't mount a challenge, nobody will.

Atlanta Braves (30-20)
The Braves have awoken from a mid-spring lull to retake their commanding division lead, which now stands at 4.5 games, the highest margin in the majors. Justin Upton has come back to earth a bit, with a .267 average, and though the long ball continues to elude Freddie Freeman, he is second on the team with 30 RBI. Who leads the team? El Oso Blanco, Evan Gattis, who just won't go away. Try as they might to take at-bats away from him, the slugger leads the team with 31 RBI, leads all major league rookies with 11 home runs, and has worked his average back up to .271. Though he's excelled in pinch-hitting duty, the Braves simply need him in the lineup everyday, somewhere. On a team with three sub-Mendoza Line regulars, they cannot waste him on the bench. 
B.J. Upton reportedly took the day off yesterday to work on his swing. With a .148 batting average, he has to try something. The signing was feted at the time, but year after year it's becoming increasingly clear that spending big money on free agents just doesn't work anymore. The Atlanta Braves paid $75 million for this? Upton has always had supreme talent and potential, but as of right now he has been worth -1.0 Wins Above Replacement-level, according to Baseball America. WAR is an imperfect stat to be sure, but it doesn't sound unreasonable to me that the Braves would be 31-19 if one of their outfielders from Triple-A Richmond had been starting all year long. That's how bad this situation is.

Player of the Week: Gattis, C/OF/PH: 3 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .500 AVG

Miami Marlins (13-38)
The Marlins just can't put anything together. After stringing together a win or two here and there, Miami has gone 0-6 since last week, and the shine is beginning to come off of Jose Fernandez, who was shelled last time out in the shortest outing of his young career (just 3.1 innings). If there's any silver lining, aside from the obvious emerging prospects, it's that veteran starters Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Slowey are pitching themselves into decent deadline trade chips. 

Talented but oft-injured throughout his career (seems like we've heard that before about a former Marlins starter...), Nolasco is putting together a fine season, leading the team with 11 starts and pitching to a very respectable 3.65 ERA. Slowey, 29, was signed in January for probably this exact purpose: to see if he could put together a first half that would be good enough to return decent prospects in July. Neither are part of the longterm plan in Miami, and it would be a shock if they're not dealt -- Nolasco, especially, could be a decent option for a contender looking to shore up the back end of their rotation.

Player of the Weak: Nolasco, SP: 7.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 K

New York Mets (19-29)
As if Matt Harvey wasn't already the toast of New York, word has circulated that he's now dating Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Anne V. Even though he only has one win in his last six starts (after winning the first four), that's enough to keep the streak going in most peoples' book. 

Elsewhere, there is decidedly less to cheer about. John Buck looks to have done his hitting for the year, and is settling back into the catcher we all knew -- well, some of us knew -- and loved before this season, and only two starters not named Harvey have recorded wins. Though slumping in the last week, David Wright continues to be his spectacular self on the season -- in a vacuum, this might be the summer you trade the 30-year old third baseman, but it might be that he just means too much to the franchise to ship him away. What other reason would fans have to go to the ballpark when Harvey isn't pitching?

Player of the Week: Lucas Duda, OF: 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, .304 AVG

Philadelphia Phillies (24-27)
With Chase Utley now on the DL, others pretty well banged up, and Michael Young falling back to Earth so hard that he buried (.260 avg), the young outfield holds not only the hope for the future, but any hope for the present as well. Through it all, Cliff Lee just goes about his business, with a 2.48 ERA and allowing almost exactly one baserunner per inning. One of the most prolific hired guns of the past few years, might he be wearing a different cap sooner than later? His price tag (both contractually and in terms of prospects) would be high, but GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. might be willing to cop to a slight discount in order to clear Lee's contract from the books and restock a mostly barren farm system.

Long an untouchable prospect, and in the past couple years a frustrating enigma, Domonic Brown is having a fine age-25 breakout season, leading the team in home runs (10) and RBI (29). Only his sub-.300 on base percentage has stemmed true rising-star talk. Learn to take a walk, Domonic. Then we'll talk.

Player of the Week: Brown, OF: 4 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, .304 AVG 


Dave said...

That Player of the Weak thing just doesn't get old. (At least to me.)

Dave said...

Oh, and I'm first. For the first time in my life.

A DC Wonk said...

Oddities of Mem Day Weekend:

- Colby Rasmus doubled off his brother

- Arizona used four pinch-hitters in their doubleheader -- who collectively went 3-for-3 with a walk

- Yu Darvish struck out 14 and walked none -- and lost

- Indians were 8-13 in their first 21 games, 16-4 in their next 20 games, 1-6 since then.

- Giants are the only team to be winless in interleague play thus far (ok, only 0-3, but, still...)

- Adam Dunn is 2-for-28 in his last 8 games, bringing his average down to .156. Of course, the two hits are both homers

- Reverse Lock: The Mariners pitched Felix Hernandez (lost) and then team leader in ERA, record of 5-1 Hisashi Iwakuma (who got no decision) -- then they sent Aaron Harang out there (he started the game with a 1-5 record, ERA of 8.58!!) and he threw a complete game shutout, winning 9-0

Nats 128 said...

- Yu Darvish struck out 14 and walked none -- and lost

and Verlander struck out 13 and almost lost. That's what that extra strikeout does.

As John Lannan would tell you strikeouts are over rated and walks are under rated and wins are good.

Tcostant said...

I saw this on Boswell's Q&A today. For those who can't get enough of stats and the Nats:


And are hungry too.

Alphabet Soup Erik said...

Okay, here is my stat of the day: Nationals have scored 2 runs or fewer in 25 of 51 games. Sorry to say, this team really stinks. You guys can keep hoping for some miracle offensive turnaround, but it isn't coming with this group. With the 1-2 punch of Strasburg and Zimmermann, they have a shot to be competitive, but that is about all without any offense. I sure would like to see this lineup in a couple of weeks:

Rendon (maybe switch Rendon and Span now and then)

Tcostant said...

Re: Nationals have scored 2 runs or fewer in 25 of 51 games.

I heard that 980am today too. Really hard to believe. I also heard yesterday during the radio play of the game, that the Nationals have not come back in any game regradless of inning once down by two runs. Just unreal. The starting pitching is the only reason that this team is not 10 games under .500

NatsLady said...

Tcostant that's cool, I might do that. Thanks.

Don said...

BJ Upton is a 30/30 kind of talent. He may be aching from his bad back who knows, but the guy is capable of 12 HR months as we have seen from him in the recent past, he's a high caliber CF and the Braves have enough firepower to bat the guy 7th or 8th while they hold their noses and hope his corpse revives.

The Braves are going to be hard to catch and they will be aggressive, adding talent to make a run. The Nats had better start hitting soon.

A DC Wonk said...

You guys can keep hoping for some miracle offensive turnaround, but it isn't coming with this group

Having Harper, Werth, and Ramos in the lineup will help.

Sec. 3, My Natural Sofa said...

Okay, here is my stat of the day: Nationals have scored 2 runs or fewer in 25 of 51 games. Sorry to say, this team really stinks.

That's not "really stinks," that's just "not hitting, probably because of injuries." The Marlins really stink. The Nats used to be the icon of "really stinks." We know what "really stinks" looks like, and this ain't it.

Nats 128 said...

With all the negativity it just tells you that once the Nats do start hitting it will be great!

A healthy Werth and Harper and Ramos in this lineup with the improving health of Zimm is big for this team. Desi will hit much better in a good lineup. All he is seeing is outside junk these days and a few mistake pitches that he has to capitalize on.

UnkyD said...


Section 222 said...

Tcos thanks for the reminder about Bos's chat. It has a great section about Espi and pitch recognition. Really worth a look.

Nats 128 said...

Here's an oddity. Tough day if your last name starts with R and your 3rd letter is N and ends in ON as you shouldnt go into your Managers office today.

Padres DFA Rincon and Yankees outright Rondon.

Luckily Rendon is back in the Minors.

Sec. 3, My Natural Sofa said...

They've won four of those, so there's that.

Just for comparison's sake, the Braves have 14 games in which they've scored 2 or fewer runs, with 1 win; the Giants have 13, with 4 wins, and the Cardinals have 13, with 3 wins.

nats guy said...

Nats cannot let that lead get to double digits or they can say hasta lumbago to the rest of the season. They don't have the horses to come back from a deficit that big.

SonnyG10 said...

Sec. 3, My Natural Sofa said...
Speaking of playing Fantasy GM, you may have seen this from MLBTR about the real one, over the weekend:

Rosenthal On Rizzo, Altuve, Mattingly
By Charlie Wilmoth [May 25, 2013 at 8:01pm CST]

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo might make an intriguing free agent after the 2015 season, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal says in a recent video. Rizzo's friends tell Rosenthal that Rizzo is not afraid of leaving after 2015 if the team does not pay him well. The Nats exercised their 2014 option on Rizzo last month, and have another option for 2015. Earlier this week, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported that the decision to exercise the 2014 option may have annoyed Rizzo, since the contract from which the option came was not especially lucrative. Under the 2014 option, Rizzo will be in the bottom third in GM pay, Kilgore noted. Here's more from Rosenthal.
May 28, 2013 2:56 PM

OK, now I'm upset. Lerners better pony up.

jeeves said...

My defense--Believe it or not, I know my minor leaguers pretty well, but obviously, natsjack, not that good at spelling their names. Stand corrected on Bernadina. I knew he had no options and really just meant send him, well, anywhere. Souza, as Alexa (Darn, that spelling doesn't look correct either.) suggested may have been a stretch, but I'm half serious in that he began to produce big time last year and is continuing to do so at Harrisburg. Certainly the guys we have with a lot more experience aren't producing so Souza couldn't possibly do worse. As to no position for Marrero. Well, I'm talking about a bat off the bench, and if you are suggesting that Moore has more than one position, I would suggest that with his defense, he doesn't really have any position.
Essentially, my point was that things need to be shook up, big time. And I'm sure I don't have to remind anyone that that the best position player the Nats have is the one with the least experience. Sure, Souza is not a Bryce Harper, duh. But, heck, he might actually continue to produce in the majors. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Joe Seamhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Seamhead said...

Gattis K's with two on in top of 9th. Tied 6-6.

Nats 128 said...

It took the Blue Jay pitcher 7 pitches to throw Gatis a slider.

Nats 128 said...

That was quick. McCann HR in the 10th. Kimbrel warming up.

Dave said...

Sofa said: We know what "really stinks" looks like, and this ain't it.

Post of the day.

Gonat said...

Oh my, the Tommy John doc to the Nats has died. Dr. Lewis Yocum.

Nats 128 said...

Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio were both 1st ball swinging to end the game.

Blue Jays lose. They had Kimbrel struggling in giving up a 3-2 walk and a 3-2 K with a steal and a man standing on 2nd.

Secret wasian man said...

Sec 3. Nats don't Really stink. But somebody needs to give a courtesy flush cause its getting real close to REALLY STINKING.

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