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Around the NL East: Times are tough

Jun 25, 2013, 5:32 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today

By Steve Roney
CSNwashington.com

Remember the success, the optimism, and the results produced by the NL East the past few years? Last season, two playoff teams, with a third (New York) finishing at .500. The year before, in 2011, two winning teams, and two within sniffing distance of .500. 2010 was the same, with the fourth-place Mets finishing with a winning percentage of .488.

Now, however, it's the Braves (owners of the sixth-best record in baseball), and then a relatively huge gap — for this early in the season, anyway — and then everybody else. Only the Nationals, at 37-38, are close. Contrast that with the AL East, where any of the five teams would be in at least second place were they located in the NL East, as all boast winning records.

Atlanta Braves (44-33)

The only divisional team with it's head above water, Atlanta has held the course after a hot start, with a 12-11 record for the month of June so far. Obviously there is half a season left, but unless Washington pulls itself together and starts scoring some runs, the Braves likely won't need to do much better than they have been. If not the Nats, who's going to catch them, the Phillies? I like Atlanta's odds.

As with seemingly every team, the injury bug is complicating things somewhat, as top slugger Evan Gattis is still on the DL. Brandon Beachy, who was targeting a return from Tommy John last week, is still on the mend as well; for most teams this would be very, very discouraging news, but Atlanta's pitching staff has been very good one through five — only Tim Hudson (4.10) has an ERA above 3.75. Beachy will be an important piece, for sure, but right now they can afford to take their time with him.

Player of the Week: Chris Johnson, 3B: 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .292 AVG

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  1. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    its its ITS ITS ITS please? Pretty please? (In the Atlanta section).

  2. natsfan1a - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    "I would feel pretty good about that, but predicting that the Marlins will trade their highest-paid player is like predicting a thunderstorm in the summer: Everyone knows it's coming, you just don't know if it'll be this week."Where's the "like" button on this thing? Also, your writing just gets better and better, Chase. Which is not to say that it was ever bad, but rather that you seem to have found your voice. I often can't tell whether it's you or Mark writing until I get to the byline.(And I noticed that, too, NL. I believe that's a fairly common "confusable." It's also possible to mistype it even when one is aware of which spelling is which. And, yes, I double-checked myself a few times before submitting. :-))

  3. Manassas Nats' Fan - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Lets sweep the snakes

  4. Scooter - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    Man, Chase had fun writing this, didn't he?(It's gotten so that the only reliable way to tell Hughes from Zuckerman is the former's love of the comma splice. Well done, young man.)

  5. Manassas Nats' Fan - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Its possessive pronoun. It's contraction for it is.I know the difference sometimes fat finger causes problem. Sometimes to lazy yo hit shift key to place the '.

  6. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    JDWhat exactly do you want Davie and Rizzo to do? bat him cleanup?from last post..what I would like to see is Lombo get 500 at bats like he did in the minors…that was the point the 3 MASN guys were making

  7. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    even Mark says he likes Atlanta's odds…that would indicate, the Pirates will have to fade fast and Nats only way to post season is as a Wild Card… by July 15th we will know if 2013 is a total bust or not

  8. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    I think most fans would be OK, I know I would if the management simply said, look, we have been hit with key injuries early and they are lingering, we will only play guys that are 100% and if it means not winning this year, that is what we will do and we clean house with our medical staff, trainer and conditioning coaches as we know they have not served our players well. Clearly, they have been failures in my view. The Nats medical staff and trainers may be one of the worst in MLB. that in my view may be the biggest change that the Nats need to make in 2014. Harper, Werth, Zim, Stras and Det should not be getting injured every other week

  9. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    what I would like to see is Lombo get 500 at bats like he did in the minors.They have 87 games left, and he has 180 plate appearances now. For him to get 500 PA for this team, assuming he starts 80 of the 87 remaining games, he'd need exactly 4 per game. So he'd have to start, and in left field most of the time, unless Rendon gets hurt. Harper will be back this weekend, inshallah, so that puts either Lombo or Harper in left, and I don't know if they're willing to risk Harper there again, but let's say they do. Werth isn't going to the bench; he might go to the DL. I don't think he's their starting left fielder, not if they're going to get better.

  10. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    If you look at the injury report for the D-Backs and the Mets, they are as bad if not worse than the Nats. It could be that the Nats medical staff is below average, but I don't see any reason to assume that, since Rizzo knows health is key to a good season and he has the money and local resources (Baltimore, plus Dr. James Andews on call).

  11. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    *in RIGHT. Lombo or Harper in RIGHT.

  12. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I don't think [LOMBARDOZZI]'s their starting left fielder, not if they're going to get better.Fire that copy editor, this is all her fault.

  13. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    A quick way to look at teams injuries is here. As you can see, there are some LONG lists. There are some short ones, too, but I don't know if it's luck or skill.Injuries by teamhttp://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/fantasy/injuries/

  14. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    I for one would certainly not be OK with throwing in a towel on a season before they've even determined pole positions for the race. Everything up to the All-Star Break is just deciding pole positions.

  15. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    I think Rizzo does get this…look at the key players who are missing and look at the situation with Zim and Werth with injuries re occurring each season…maybe the medical staff is fine and you make a good point on Andrews (although the RGIII situation lowered my opinion of him) Perhaps this lies with trainers and conditioning coaches? No matter, I think Rizzo needs to look at this.

  16. bowdenball - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    mick said…"I think most fans would be OK, I know I would if the management simply said, look, we have been hit with key injuries early and they are lingering, we will only play guys that are 100% and if it means not winning this year, that is what we will do and we clean house with our medical staff, trainer and conditioning coaches as we know they have not served our players well."So you want the front office to declare that it is going to sacrifice this season for the future, in late June with the team only one game under .500, and many tickets left to sell? Also also either announce that it will fire medical/training personnel later and then expect those people to continue to do good work in a positive atmosphere, or fire them right now and replace them midseason- and mid-therapy for many players- with people currently not employed by other baseball teams?That seems both unrealistic and a recipe for total disaster.Also, enough with the Lombo apologies. He's just a very bad hitter. He's not going to become a better hitter if he gets more ABs. He's getting plenty of ABs this year, and if anything he's getting worse. He is what he is. Sure he hit a little better in the minors. Most people do. The pitching isn't as good. He's a fine guy to have on the bench I guess since he can play a lot of positions, but if he's appearing in your starting lineup more than once every two weeks or so, it's a problem.

  17. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Zim hasn't gotten injured "every other week." He's played every game since he came off the DL (a couple as DH). LaRoche has also played almost every game. Desi has played every game except one scheduled day off. Stras and Det had injuries–but, honestly, pitcher injuries are VERY common, and not just to arms and shoulders. We were lucky last year with the rotation, and we have not had a SINGLE injury in the bullpen except Mattheus' self-inflicted one. It does seem that Harper's injury was mismanaged, but I doubt we will know the full story until someone writes his memoirs. Jayson himself said he should not have played in a state of dehydration–hard to fault the medical staff for that.

  18. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    sofa good point… I am only stating what other local baseball pundits feel as well about Lombo… If as JD suggested, moving Werth to 1b as an option and platooning with ALR, that would give Lombo an opportunity with Harper and Span in the outfield.I just believe this kid needs a vote of confidence from Davey and should be told he will play almost every day.another possibility would be Lombo at 2b and Rendon at 3rd and Zim at 1b (I only suggest this due to the nagging injuries to both Werth and Zim)

  19. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    As for Espinosa, that's a story in itself, but from what I've heard, the medical staff allowed his approach with the shoulder (maybe not "approved" but didn't openly disagree). The wrist is on Danny. It was X-ray'd when he first was hit. There was probably swelling that masked the break. If he didn't speak up that he was feeling abnormal pain weeks later, how are you going to fault the medical staff? Have every player MRI'd once a week? On every body part?

  20. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Lombo ISN'T going to play "almost every day," so why tell him that? At least I hope not. When Harper comes back and if Werth is good to go, Lombo will be back on the bench where he belongs.

  21. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    I just believe this kid needs a vote of confidence from Davey and should be told he will play almost every day.He's getting 501,250 votes of confidence this season. They said Morse was a platoon guy, not a starter, and they were wrong. But Lombo isn't Morse, and he isn't a first-string left fielder.

  22. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    bowdenball I agreed with Nats lady on medical staff (maybe you missed my post) but on the trainers and conditioning coaches, those moves would be made in 2014 and really should be considered. When it comes to Harper…do not rush him back as he is a super star and I think fans would be OK with Bryce sitting out longer, if not the rest of the season. Remember what Nats are paying Werth and for how long? A wise investment would be to rest Werth and get him a with a progressive conditioning coach who can help alleviate this injuries that are keeping out of almost half the season as they did in 2011, 2012 and now this year I am not saying the management says we quit

  23. bowdenball - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    Of course some members of the media are in the bag for Lombo. He fits the mold of the media darling- undersized "scrappy" guy who "does things the right way," just like Rick Eckstein's son Dave back in the day. They love the underdog story, it makes for good copy and commentary. The problem is that it doesn't make for good baseball. Getting on base, hitting for power and playing good defense makes for good baseball. Lombo is really bad at two of those things and mediocre at one of them.I don't mean to disparage the guy, I like having him on the bench, but you don't throw away a salvageable season in order to get a guy with a .247 OBP more plate appearances.

  24. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    maybe I'm nuts, I just see more of an upside with Lombo than Espi and I think the kid can be a solid MLB player. Ckarly he is a better hitter than Espi and his stats show it, at least he puts the ball in play

  25. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    I like Lombo fine. As I said in a previous post, it's fun to watch a guy make the most of a limited skill set. But face it, Rendon came up and blew right past Lombo, even though Lombo has had substantially more experience.

  26. bowdenball - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    mick-I agree, I would be fine with the front office reevaluating the medical and training staff after this year. They're gonna need a new manager anyway; unless the team turns this season around it's a good chance to get a fresh start with some of the staff.

  27. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    I agree sofa…maybe 2b is his calling… with Rendon at 3rd, Desi at ss and Zim at 1b?

  28. mick - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    bowdenball agreedthat makes sense

  29. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    I agree sofa…maybe 2b is his calling… with Rendon at 3rd, Desi at ss and Zim at 1b?You mean in 2015? I don't think you're crazy for thinking it, just very mistaken.

  30. David Proctor - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Matt Harvey is posing nude for ESPN's body issue.Okay then…

  31. NatsLady - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Bowdenball and mick, agree on the training staff, and also probably the base coaches, depending on who the new manager is.

  32. Kiterp - Jun 25, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    I have taken all precautions (knocked on wood, sacrificed a virgin chicken, built a small temple, etc … ) to make sure this question is only a question and not a prophecy, but who backs up Desi. Might have missed his day off since Epsi left. Rendon? Lombo?

  33. NCNatsie - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    If Chase has found his voice, and you can't tell his stuff from Mark's, doesn't mean he's actually found Mark's voice?No matter, I love them both.

  34. baseballswami - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    My fear is this- Bryce plays 3 innings, then 6, then 9, comes off the DL and then they put him in the lineup with a sharpie and ride him right into the ground. If we do go on a run this season it cannot be because we did it on Bryce's knee. It has to be on 25 guys who all contribute. They need to protect Bryce from himself for a while. It is in the team's best interest to have him long term instead of pushing him now. They are a little too desperate right now, putting too much on his presence, too much expectation. He has not played in a month. Last year they did everything possible to protect SS's career. Bryce is younger and just as valuable but they seem to have a different approach with him.

  35. Section 222 - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    Kiterp, check Row 39 of the Glossary for one answer to your question. :-)

  36. baseballswami - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    Ah, the back up shortstop question….

  37. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    On the medical & training staff question, we all follow the Nats closely so we're quite aware of — and, might I suggest, hyper-sensitive to — all of the players' various injuries, from broken bones to stubbed toes to getting something their eye. But if you check the MLB transactions box each day in the newspaper, players from the other 29 teams are moving on and off the DL with regularity. And the link NatsLady provided to MLB's injury report (which includes non-DL injuries) — while just a one-day snapshot — suggests that the Nats are pretty darn average in terms of numbers of players listed. Also, when labeling a player 'injury prone' I really think it's a stretch to include the sorts of one-off collision- or fall-caused injuries that Wilson Ramos (with his ACL tear) and Jayson Werth (with his broken wrist) suffered last season. I'm no M.D., but I can't see a correlation between those injuries and the muscle-pull-type problems they've suffered this season.

  38. bowdenball - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    mick said…"maybe I'm nuts, I just see more of an upside with Lombo than Espi and I think the kid can be a solid MLB player. Ckarly he is a better hitter than Espi and his stats show it, at least he puts the ball in play"mick- something that may interest you is a stat called "True Average" that measures the value of putting the ball in play as a component. Here's part of the definition:"True Average incorporates aspects that other linear weights-based metrics ignore. Reaching base on an error and situational hitting are included; meanwhile, strikeouts and bunts are treated as slightly more and less damaging outs than normal."Among Nationals with more than 75 plate appearances, the rankings go: Harper, Rendon, Zimmerman, Desmond, LaRoche, (league average here), Werth, Span, Suzuki, Lombardozzi, Bernadina, Moore, Espinosa. So it does show the value of Lombardozzi although you'd get a similar list if yo just arranged the Nationals by OBP.

  39. baseballswami - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    I have been watching baseball for a long time and it is very common for players to have one minimum DL stint and a couple of day to days during a season. Every few years they get something more major. Very few make it through a season unscathed. I find it astounding that Prince Fielder plays all the games. But then, you don't do much that is athletic at first base. I just don't like the way the Nats handle injuries. They day to day and play short, rush people back too soon and then when they come back they are thrown in there every game, every inning with no rest and they break right down again.

  40. Kiterp - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    222… brilliant. As I suspected. Thanks from all those that only occasionally ponder and well behind current topicality

  41. JD - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    Swami, Comparing SS to Harper is apples to oranges. A pitcher's arm must be 'babied' because damage to it could be permanent. You can't compare this to someone trying to play through knee bursitis. Not saying to be careless with Harper but your example is a bit off.

  42. EmDash - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    Lombardozzi has gotten more plate appearances this season than all but 5 other players – he's essentially *been* an everyday player because of injuries. He has no plate discipline so he doesn't walk, and little power to speak of, and he's not particularly fast. His upside is average defense and hitting for a high but empty average.Nothing about his track record this season shows a starting-caliber player who's not being given enough chances. Even last season, when he did much better, he profiled as more of a true utility/fill-in player. If anything, playing as often as he has has probably revealed his shortcomings more than they would be if he were in the true utility player role that he's more likely to fill in the long run.

  43. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    If Chase has found his voice, and you can't tell his stuff from Mark's, doesn't mean he's actually found Mark's voice?: )

  44. Ron In Reston - Jun 26, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Since this is coming in a day after the fact (typical for me)….it seems quite a few of you, those posting on great Chase's writing is, or has become, totally missed the fact that Chase didn't write this, he POSTED it. It was written by Steve Roney. So NL, you need to redirect your ITS/IT'S diatribe ;)

  45. Ron In Reston - Jun 26, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    *how <—- dropped this

Archives

NLDS: NATIONALS VS. GIANTS

FRI: Game 1 at Washington, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2 at Washington, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3 at San Francisco, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4 at San Francisco, TBA (FS1)*
THU: Game 5 at Washington, TBA (FS1)*
*if necessary

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
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