Sep 10, 2013, 10:34 AM EDT
There will be no drama for the NL teams listed below, as Atlanta has been a division lock for what feels like months, and the rest of the NL East has held firm at about .500 or below. Still, an examination of where the Braves have gleaned the most value reveals that there is more than one way to field a dominant team.
Atlanta Braves (86-57)
There’s always money in the banana stand, and there’s always value to be had on defense — and whether or not a team takes advantage of that can make the difference between a division crown and a season going up in flames. The Braves were never in any such danger, having had the division well in hand for months, but they have still benefitted tremendously from the defensive wizardry of Andrelton Simmons. The 23-year-old shortstop has been worth 5.2 defensive wins above replacement (Baseball Reference version), a full 1.2 above the next-most defensively valuable player, Manny Machado. His 40 runs saved effectively canceled out the defensive deficiencies of Dan Uggla, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, Evan Gattis, Tim Hudson, and B.J. Upton — collectively worth -40 runs in the field. That’s serious value.
Simmons is no one-trick pony, having lashed 15 home runs to contribute to a lineup that features a balance of power; six players have at least 15 homers. None of the team’s 164 dingers have traveled as far as the absolute rocket launched by Evan Gattis a few days ago. Batting against Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, Gattis’ bomb traveled an estimated 484 feet, the longest home run in the majors this year, and the deepest shot ever hit at Citizens Bank Park.
Player of the Week: Gattis, C/LF: 4 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, .333 AVG
Miami Marlins (53-89)
The flipside of going defense-first at shortstop is that a few bad hops can put a serious dent into the level of contribution you’re getting from a key piece of your lineup. Case in point: the Marlins’ Adeiny Hechavarria. Acquired as part of the Jose Reyes trade with Toronto (it feels as though you could say that about 25% of the team, doesn’t it?), Hechavarria was coveted for his glove work, but he’s actually been one run below average in the field this season. Coincidentally, his .974 fielding percentage exactly matches that which his predecessor, Reyes, has produced in Toronto.
Mired in a 1-4 skid that has seen Giancarlo Stanton go down with a sore right foot, the Marlins are in full ‘wait ’til next year’ mode. Starter Jose Fernandez has been the brightest spot for the duration of the season, but even that beacon is about to be extinguished, as his next start will be his last before he is shut down. With an 11-6 record and phenomenal peripherals, he should be your NL Rookie of the Year.
Player of the Week: Fernandez, SP: 1-0, 7 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, 9 K
New York Mets (64-78)
Much was made of this season’s lethargic non-waiver trade deadline, but it turns out that many general managers were merely holding their cards and rolling the dice that they would be able to work out waiver deals in August. Mets GM Sandy Alderson did just that, trading the inexplicable Marlon Byrd and homer-or-else catcher John Buck to Pittsburgh for a pair of nice prospects. Alderson was ripped, in this space and in others, for holding onto and pledging to build around Byrd, and it’s encouraging to see that he didn’t believe those words, either. The only bit of remaining comedy: Byrd was traded away on Marlon Byrd T-Shirt Day at Citi Field.
The Mets are also eyeing the end of the line. Resurgent first baseman Ike Davis was placed on the 60-day DL at the beginning of the month, David Wright has yet to return, and recent lineups have inspired fans and media members alike to Google ‘Josh Satin’. On a positive note, hitting savant Travis d’Arnaud has arrived, clubbing what figures to be the first of many big-league home runs.
Player of the Week: Daniel Murphy, INF/OF: 1 R, 3 XBH, 1 RBI, .316 AVG
Philadelphia Phillies (66-77)
Ryne Sandberg continues to steer the Phillies in the right direction, as Philadelphia just completed a surprising sweep of first-place Atlanta. All three games were hotly contested, with one-run margins each time and Cole Hamels performing a decent escaping act to survive a pair of El Oso Blanco home runs. Chase Utley continues to swing a hot bat, a necessity for a team missing almost every other intended regular due to injury or trade.
Speaking of general managers belatedly making good on trading their veterans, Ruben Amaro Jr. finally shipped out Michael Young. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who are seemingly bent on acquiring every quasi-useful veteran player that they can, eagerly scooped him up for the price of minor league pitcher Rob Rasmussen. Rasmussen, 24, has split this year between Double-A and Triple-A with mixed results; he’s 0-7 at the Triple-A level, and seems to be a non-prospect. Still, it’s good that Amaro could get something for Young, who for $16,000,000 this season has been about replacement-level.
Player of the Week: Utley, 2B: 2 R, 2 XBH, 2 RBI, .471 AVG
NL EAST STANDINGS
THU: Diamondbacks at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
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.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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