Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Around the NL East: Atlanta surging

Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney

The Braves have led the division throughout the season, and have enjoyed the biggest division lead in the majors for most of that time -- and now, that lead is twice as large as it has ever been. Only the Nationals, at 54-58, have even the faintest hope of challenging for a playoff spot behind Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves (68-45)

The Braves are blowing everyone out of the water right now, riding the majors' longest current winning streak (11 games) to a silly 13.5-game lead over the second-place Nationals. It's their longest streak of the season, improving their record to baseball's second-best -- just percentage points behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. If the season were a baseball game, Luis Avilan and Craig Kimbrel would be warming in the pen, preparing to slam the door on the rest of the division.

The trends in the lineup remain the same, as Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and Chris Johnson continue to bring the wood; early-season feel-good story Evan Gattis has slipped more than a bit, as his 15 home runs are nice, but his on-base percentage has fallen to .299. The loss of Tim Hudson for the remainder of the season hurts a ton, but is not the devastating blow that it would be to most teams, as it almost perfectly coincided with Brandon Beachy's return. Though Beachy has been shaky in his first two post-Tommy John starts, his strikeout rates are right where they need to be, and he should be fine. Atlanta's other alliterative starter, Mike Minor, continues to dazzle, and has been far and away the team's best starter this season.

Player of the Week: McCann, C: 3 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .250 AVG

Miami Marlins (43-67)

You would be hard-pressed to find a more toothless lineup than the one fielded by Miami right now (though, in fairness, they did explode fairly out of nowhere a few days ago in a 10-0 victory over Cleveland). Not a single position player, regardless of the number of at-bats -- whether they have three or 300 -- has an average of .300. The ghost of Placido Polanco leads the regulars with a .257 average, and Giancarlo Stanton -- with just 68 games under his belt -- leads the team with 13 home runs. Only Justin Ruggiano (12) joins him in double digits, and he hasn't hit one in just over a month.

The saving grace of this team has been pitching, where Jose Fernandez is putting on a performance for the ages (if not the aged) during his rookie campaign. The young hurler -- who just last week became old enough to purchase one of Marlins Park's $8 beers -- has 35 strikeouts over his last three starts, including totals of 13 and 14 in his most recent two. With Kevin Slowey sidelined for the next several weeks with a sore forearm, the kids have the mound to themselves, and Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi, and Henderson Alvarez continue to acquit themselves well.

Player of the Weak, likely until he's shut down: Fernandez, SP: 1-0, 8 IP, 0 R, 14 K, 0.50 WHIP

New York Mets (49-60)

Not a good week to be a Met, or a Mets fan. First, they did nothing at the deadline, failing to engage in any meaningful talks that could have yielded useful pieces to aid in rebuilding -- and as one of the few teams with no reasonable hope of making the playoffs, they should have. Then, David Wright strained a hammy, putting him on the shelf for three to five weeks. Lastly, utilityman Jordany Vladespin and prospect Cesar Puello were among the dozen felled by 50-game Biogenesis suspensions -- along with former top prospect Fernando Martinez, now property of the crosstown Yankees.

All of that obscured a decent post-All-Star break run in which New York started the second half 8-8 -- but alas, without Wright, this team is a bus without a driver. Add in the news that closer Bobby Parnell may be placed on the DL with a strained neck, and you start to wonder what a Mets-shaped voodoo doll looks like. At least Marlon Byrd continues his resurgence -- cleanly, ostensibly.

Player of the Week: Dillon Gee, SP: 1-0, 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 K, 0.71 WHIP  

Philadelphia Phillies (50-61)

Like the Mets, the Phillies haven't much to cheer about -- currently nursing a five-game losing streak, they're stuck in a 2-13 tailspin since coming back from the All-Star break. They, too, have been without their best hitter, as Dom Brown continues his recovery from a concussion suffered July 24, though he is expected back tomorrow. And Antonio Bastardo, their main setup man in front of Jonathan Papelbon, accepted a 50-game suspension Monday for his connection to the Biogenesis scandal.

If Ruben Amaro Jr. wasn't sitting on his hands at the trade deadline, he was likely using them to plug his ears as most of the objective baseball world urged him to put up the For Sale sign. He did nothing, though it isn't too late to try to pass Michael Young or Papelbon's huge contract through waivers. He apparently continues to negotiate a contract extension that would keep Chase Utley in Philly for the rest of his career, and while that would certainly please fans of the Phillies and of the game, it won't save his job if the team sports a similar record a year from now.

Player of the Week: Carlos Ruiz, C: 1 R, 2 2B, 0 RBI, .308 AVG


Tcostant said...

Review of the worst division in baseball. Is there another with only one team above .500?

Anonymous said...

Okay, if you need a factoid to counter all of today's grim stories, how about the fact that at least three and possibly four of the Nats' stateside farm affiliates will being going to the playoffs this year?

Potomac and Hagerstown clinched their respective first half crowns, the GCL-Nats are an incredible 33-6, 16 games in front with about a third of their schedule remaining, and Harrisburg is in first place and winning games with great pitching.

UNTERP said...

I hate the Braves and don't like their fans either, but I am happy for them nonetheless, and I'm not being sarcastic. It's a conundrum of sincerity...

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

Maybe if the Braves finish in first place they can start dressing the part. They have to be the only team in MLB that doesn't put the players' names directly on the uniform but instead sews another piece of cloth with the name on it onto the jersey above the number. Looks tacky.

Tcostant said...

While it's nice the Nats minor league teams get some playoff money; the fact is minor league record means nothing. It's about development of players.

Tcostant said...

Phil Wood said last night that he though Roark would be moved up to the bigs this month and added that Detwiler can be moved to 60 day DL o create room on the 40 man roster.

That guy knows more baseball than anyone not named Boswell.

#Nats purchase contract of RHP Tanner Roark from AAA, option LHP Xavier Cedeno to AAA, transfer LHP Ross Detwiler to 60 day DL.

SCNatsFan said...

God I hate the Braves

NatsLady said...

Question: Were the Nats that arrogant last year? "We are goooooooooood." I don't remember, but it seems to me, the Nats were surprised and happy to be 98-game winners and in the playoffs (I know I was, as a fan).

Eugene in Oregon said...

UNTERP - From last thread: Sorry I missed the sarcasm (and the little smiley thingy). In any event, I still recommend the series of Joe Nocera articles to anyone who wants to read about the behemoth that the NCAA, bigtime college football, and bigtime college basketball have become. As an example, the U. of Oregon (read Phil Knight's money) has just opened a new $65 million football 'complex' that -- I kid you not -- includes gadgets specically designed by German engineers that help players put on their shoulder pads, separate meeting rooms for inside and outside linebackers (can't have them sharing!), imported marble, and such. Gotta have it to compete, they say. But I'm getting off-topic. Anyway, let's hope the Nats can take the next two from the Braves. Maybe by scoring a few runs?

baseballswami said...

NatsLady-- think back to the one game play off vs the cards.. Trash on the fields . That's what you are dealing with. We were almost embarrassed to be in first place without paying enough dues. We were obviously running a tab- the bill has come due and we are paying those dues now. Out of all the fans whose teams are doing well, the Barves fans do seem to be the most mean spirited. Nats, Phils, Mets, Fish- long memories. Kharma.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

NL, the word "arrogant" did come up once or twice in connection with the 2012 Nats, as I recall.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Tcostant said...
Phil Wood said last night that he though Roark would be moved up to the bigs this month and added that Detwiler can be moved to 60 day DL o create room on the 40 man roster.

That guy knows more baseball than anyone not named Boswell.

#Nats purchase contract of RHP Tanner Roark from AAA, option LHP Xavier Cedeno to AAA, transfer LHP Ross Detwiler to 60 day DL.

August 06, 2013 2:17 PM

That was a rumor that I'm sure Mark heard but didn't want to repeat on the record as Mark doesn't deal in rumor.

Phil Wood was the same guy who said RZim would start the year on the DL and Drew Storen would never be sent down.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Since Detwiler hasn't pitched for almost a month his DL can go back mostly retroactive and can come off the DL early September if that is still a possibility.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Ghost. Don't forget the "Micah Owings goes North with the big club" by Phil, too m

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

60-day DL means Detwiler is done for the season. To bring him back, they would have to move someone off the 40-man roster to make room. That's why they put him on the 60-day DL in the first place, to make room for Roark.

baseballswami said...

I think they said Det 's DL is retroactive to a july 4. Disc issues are no joke.

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

You guys can bash Phil Wood all you want, but the fact is that people pay attention to what he says. No one pays attention to you guys, not even the writer whose blog you're poaching on.

baseballswami said...

Have been reading on twitter- the guys are taking BP and taking turns filming each other with an iPad. At least everyone is still trying. Whatever. You just never know if something you throw out there might stick. Something. Anything.

Tcostant said...

Here here to the real Phil Wood!

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