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Around the NL East: Braves on a roll

Apr 9, 2013, 4:23 PM EST

Photo by USA Today

By Steve Roney

Sizing up the Opening Week that was in the National League East, with one contender sprinting out of the gate, an also-ran that has yet to start walking, and everyone else in between:

Atlanta Braves: 6-1
The Braves are off to the majors’ best start, sweeping the Chicago Cubs late last week to fuel a four-game winning streak. One of the game’s best (and deepest) pitching staffs deserves most of the credit, ranking second in the NL with a 2.29 ERA. While the immensely talented outfield has yet to really warm up – Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton are a combined 5-for-49 – feel-good story Evan Gattis hit a home run in the opener, his major league debut. Not only was the rookie catcher’s dad in attendance – the elder Gattis was being interviewed on national TV when his son connected. Not a bad way to start the season.
Player of the Week: Justin Upton, OF: 9 R, 6 HR, 8 RBI, .423 AVG 

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  1. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    New posted: On the question of starting the year in warm weather parks, even having two series in warm weather parks (6 games) would help. just look at the weather in DC this week versus last. Lots of teams just had their home openers yesterday. It wouldn't be that big of a deal.

  2. NatsLady - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    Well, it looks like the first of my thirty Opening Day "Aces" will be out for a while. Jared Weaver.Watching the Aces

  3. NatsLady - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Oh, sorry, that's my link. Here is the link to the Jarod Weaver story.Jered Weaver

  4. A DC Wonk - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    I believe the Braves to be a good team, but surely, the fact that they are "on a roll" is–in part–due to who they've played: the Cubs (lost over 100 games last year) and the geriatric Phils.

  5. A DC Wonk - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    To my comment that 15 teams in each league is silly, someone wrote: 14/16 is worse.I only want to add: I don't necessarily disagree. 16/16 makes more sense than either 15/15 or 14/16

  6. Tcostant - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    BTW – For any season ticket holder who didn't use their tickets for the Yankees game; the link is now up for Unused Tickets for that game only. I'm sure other games will be up later this week.

  7. Candide - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    From previous post: Dave said… Frankly, the rhythm of his discourse led me to believe he was trying to end the call.As it was true a thousand years ago, so it is true today: A customer service person's sole concern is to make you go away.Period.

  8. Steady Eddie - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    Chase, While I appreciate your writing this piece, what it doesn't tell you is what to make of the teams' records/performance thus far.As we all know, the Nats play a pretty monster schedule this month, with 15 of their 27 games against teams that made the playoffs last year (CIN 7, ATL 5, STL 3) and another 3 against our current foes (CHS), a near-playoff team starting the season very well. That's exactly two-thirds against really good teams.In contrast, the Braves play only 8 out of their first 26 games (in April) — 31% — against playoff or even near-playoff teams (Nats and DET). 12 are against middling teams at best (PHI, KC, PIT, COL); though maybe one of them will surprise this year, no telling whether that will happen in April.So it would be surprising if the Braves didn't take a significant lead in the division by the end of this month. And their individual and team stats would obviously reflect that schedule. What this means is that it will be that much harder for Davey to have the Nats get the kind of fast early start he likes and that they had last year. And though the Braves' schedule does get tougher next month (15/29 games against really good teams — Nats 2, CIN 3, SF 4, ARI 3, LAD 3 — and a couple against the maybe-they'll-get-good TOR), it's still not as tough as the Nats have in April, and the confidence and capability from getting in a groove playing well for a month should definitely help them tune up for May. And while ours gets a little better in May (12/28 against playoff quality teams (ATL 2, DET 2, LAD 3, SF 3. BAL 2), that dropoff to 43% "tough" isn't getting into the Braves' 31% zone for April.We all heard it was going to be a tough first couple of months for our guys. It's just that the Nats' 55% tough (30/55) for April and May will make it a huge challenge to keep anything close to pace with the Braves' much more meager and gearing-up-to-boot 42% tough (23/55).Obviously this isn't all preordained — some "bad" teams can get off to an unsustainably fast start before fading, and "tough" teams can have a slow one. But on the average, we're going to have to really play exceptionally to be within a couple of games of the Braves (let alone ahead) by June.And even the Mets may look strong for a while, given their real pattycake schedule in April (only 6 of their 27 games against tough teams (Nats and LAD), with 13 of the middling variety (PHI 6, MIN 3, COL 4). Not that that really matters in the longer run — they started off hot last year into June.This context is important when looking across the division, even as early as one week into the season. We need to keep repeating (especially in the face of the LoD for this tough stretch) "marathon not sprint, marathon not sprint…".

  9. Steady Eddie - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    Wonk — I ain't buying you a drink because I was writing a dissertation, not a comment.But as we both essentially said, context is important.

  10. EmDash - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    Wow, poor Weaver. I'm surprised – I saw him go down and it looked painful, but didn't look severe enough to be a break.And yeah, the Braves first three series are the declining Phillies and two of maybe the three worst teams in the National League. If they didn't have a great record coming into the DC series I'd be pretty shocked.

  11. natsfan1a - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    Also from the previous post:Did the following phrase happen to be uttered?"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."Dave said…I miss the old season-ticket system, to tell you the truth. I felt like I was dealing with human beings then. Now I'm not sure whom I'm dealing with.April 09, 2013 12:28 PM

  12. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    The thing that concerns me most of all is that I have no idea whether or not my exchange request actually went through originally, because we don't get any kind of email confirmation that we've made it.Dave, if you're worried about this, there's one thing you could do to create a record. When I've done future exchanges online, after hitting "Submit" a screen pops up that says something like "Thank you for submitting your exchange request. You will receive your tickets via email or we will contact you if necessary." So you can print that screenshot out (or save it as a PDF), write any notes you want on it, including the date submitted, the tickets exchanged etc. and hold onto it until your tickets arrive. I think our ticket reps will be happy to help us get everything in order once the site is up and running correctly. The delays are frustrating, but the key thing is whether they get your new tickets to you before the game you requested is played. If they do that, no harm no foul. I have no doubt this system will save them time because their folks can just fill the ticket requests rather than deciphering handwriting on those envelopes, and all of your info is in the system and doesn't have to be keyed in or looked up. And, of course, once it's actually working as designed, it will save them lots of time because STHs won't be calling in en masse to ask about why the website isn't working or why their tickets haven't arrived.

  13. A DC Wonk - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    Wonk — I ain't buying you a drink because I was writing a dissertation, not a comment.I'll let the judges decide that ;-)But, in all seriousness — you put a good work into that. Well done!

  14. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    Steady, Chase didn't write this piece. Check the byline.

  15. natsfan1a - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Context concerns aside, creaky and leaky has a nice ring to it, and overall the piece, um, flows well."The creaky lineup is matched with an equally leaky rotation"

  16. Steady Eddie - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    222 — gotcha — I just looked at the "posted by Chase Hughes" at the bottom and assumed ….Anyway — it'll be a major achievement to have any lead over the Braves going into June.

  17. Dave - Apr 9, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    Candide and 1a, tradition abides…And the response I got was marginally more human than HAL…

  18. Rich P. - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    The same cities that have potential for cold weather issues in early April have potential for cold weather issues in late September. So if you design a solution for April the same solution would need to be applied for September. Then you have the same 15 teams perennially opening and closing their seasons on the road. Ain't gonna happen.

  19. Steady Eddie - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Wonk — thanks, but actually it was a little depressing to write. I started it off just knowing how weak the Braves' opponents were for the first six games (at least right now), but the more I looked into the schedule, the worse it seemed.I'll appreciate their good wins all the more.

  20. Candide - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Steady Eddie said… Wonk — I ain't buying you a drink because I was writing a dissertation, not a comment.Wonk is nowhere to be found on the NIDO tab for drinks owed. What's the protocol for owing a drink to someone who isn't even in the game?

  21. baseballswami - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    So I was watching the Phillies game for a few minutes and I heard the color guy say — " now we are getting into the heart of the Phillies line up" — and he was talking about Howard, Young and Brown. I went —HUH? Ryan Howard – aging , who may never be the same, Michael Young – also no spring chicken and Domonic Brown,who has basically made this roster by default. My how things have changed. I have been trying not to gloat, because I think the baseball gods hate that, but it's just not possible after all the vile things their fans have said and done. They are reaping what they have sown — I hope they and the Yanks are an object lessons for the rest of the teams about very long term deals. We have Werth for a while yet. But I don't feel that the Nats organization is going to fall into that trap – they did not cave on LaRoche.

  22. natsfan1a - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    I usually just add their name (now that I've figured out how to do that), assuming that the person is open to participating.

  23. Tcostant - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Dave your rep can help. I asked her to looking to both my Yankkes exchange and the 4/5 game and she was very helpful. In the case of the Yankees game I had previously had it on stubhub and deactivated and the Nationals couldn't process because it had it list for sale. Once I deleted it, they issue the tickets within a day.E-mail your rep!

  24. NatsLady - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    Welcome to cherry blossom season!Denard Span ‏@thisisdspan Tweeting as I'm in traffic hoping to get pulled over so that I can get to the field quicker #omg

  25. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Rich P/Feel — That's silly. Why would you *have* to do pay attention to the weather for four weeks a year when doing one week a year in warm parks would dramatically help the situation? About half the teams have to play the first week on the road, why not have them be the cold weather teams? But second, you've got your facts wrong. The average low temperature in DC in September is 62. The average low in April is 47. The average low temperature on April 1 is 42. The average low temperature on September 30 is 57. The record low temperature in September was 38 on September 26, 1879 and September 30, 1942. The record low temperature in April was 15 on April 1, 1923. Every single day in April has a record low of 38 or below(most are in the 20s). Sure, there's potential for cold weather in late September but it's not as cold a month as April. It just isn't. (April is more like October.) Finally, there's still baseball in October, at least for some teams, so I'm not sure what the point of scheduling the last week or two of the regular season for weather purposes would be. One week, 6 games, in warm weather parks in April. That's all I'm suggesting. Not two in April, and two in September. With interleague play and 15 warmish parks, it can be done. Bud, if you're reading this, just do it.

  26. oscar ballestero - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    Go braves!!!!!lets chop all the way to october Baby…….CHOPTOBER!!

  27. NatsLady - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    A depressed Philly fan–this is funny. There is some hockey stuff at the end, but the baseball part is great.Philly Sports

  28. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Steady, one way we can keep it close with Atlanta is to sweep the seven games we play against them in April and May. Or at least go 5-2. This weekend's series is big.

  29. oscar ballestero - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    People talk about how the braves are 6—1 with an easy schedule but just know that heyward,bj Upton,Simmons,and uggla are going start hitting and maccan is not playing yet so just keep that in mind to…. ohh and freeman is on the DL

  30. peric - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    Go braves!!!!!lets chop all the way to october Baby…….CHOPTOBER!!Braves fan … they know … their bats haven't even gotten started although they will miss Chipper's platoon bat. That's one team that really should be an AL team just because of that guy.

  31. A DC Wonk - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    Wonk is nowhere to be found on the NIDO tab for drinks owed. What's the protocol for owing a drink to someone who isn't even in the game? Hey!!! I've been in the game for years!!

  32. peric - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    Its not going to be an easy season and in my mind Rizzo fixed what wasn't broken. That may end up being a fatal mistake.

  33. NatsJim - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    222, I'm usually with you, but your weather suggestion (if implemented) would mean the Nats would never again host an Opening Day game – I'll pass.

  34. peric - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    AND or BUT NO I don't think Rizzo should be fired for it … at all.Needless to say we've got more than a couple of stubborn men running this franchise and Riz and Davey are just two. Still waaaaayyy better than what was in place before.

  35. oscar ballestero - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Peric….agree 100 percent even tho fransisco and johnson are going be just fine

  36. peric - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Just ensuring that everyone knows I have an entirely different perspective and outlook on Riz and Davey that does JayB. In the end I think they'll realize what was done and Tyler Moore will find his way into the lineup oscar ballestero. Tyler Moore is going to be a right-handed Jay Bruce. Then the Nats will have the superior offense to the Braves. Advanced stats indicate that it was Moore with the team high ISO along with LaRoche and the best percentage of fly balls/line drives that were home runs of anyone on last year's roster. The Braves pitching staff will fear the Magnolia Muscle just as they did Mikey Mo.

  37. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    NatsJim, I understand that sentiment, but be honest, do you even remember which of the nine Nationals seasons started at home and which started on the road? I don't. I do remember last year when we opened on the road in Chicago (brrrr!).I took that afternoon off and celebrated opening day at Duffy's with many of my virtual friends, and then also went to see the home opener the next week. So if you start on the road you kind of get to enjoy two Opening Days!

  38. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    Note to Denard — Trying to get a police escort to the game is clever, but tweeting in traffic could get you killed….

  39. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 9, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    222…. I think he was parked in traffic.

  40. natsfan1a - Apr 9, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    I've not gone to that many opening days, but that Duffy's day was one of my faves.Section 222 said… I do remember last year when we opened on the road in Chicago (brrrr!).I took that afternoon off and celebrated opening day at Duffy's with many of my virtual friends, and then also went to see the home opener the next week. So if you start on the road you kind of get to enjoy two Opening Days! April 09, 2013 2:57 PM

  41. baseballswami - Apr 9, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    I have been to opening days where I froze to death and I have been to opening days where I roasted to death. The year that the Phillies were obnoxious and the Philly announcer guy died in the booth ( generally a bad opening day all around) it was really hot. Point being that the weather around 1 April is not predictable and can be almost anything at all.

  42. Dave - Apr 9, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    222 and Tcostant, I'm sure the ticket swap thing will work out, and I also know it'll work great once the bugs are ironed out. As a matter of fact, 222, I did print a screen shot of the first exchange I did. Forgot to to do this for the second (more complicated) one, and that's what's making me nervous.I'm just a grouchy old man resisting change, that's all. Moreover, I'm still a bit unsettled about not having a paper ticket to tell me which game I should go to when. Gotta look it up on the account to confirm the calendar.Harumph…

  43. Section 222 - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    I hear ya Dave. I'm more and more tempted to shout "Get off my lawn" than ever before. It's scary. :-)

  44. Unknown - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    16 teams in each league won't happen. There aren't enough good markets. Already the two Florida teams, Oakland, are in dire straits and Pgh and KC could tank if they don't win soon. People even still question DC and Texas as "baseball towns", but both are stronger than a lot of franchises. Tough to see two other markets that would boost MLB's bottom line, which is the only thing they care about.





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