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Around the NL East: Braves keep sliding

May 6, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

ATLANTA BRAVES

It was just a week ago the Braves were riding high with the second-best record in baseball at 17-7 and the best starting rotation in the majors. Since Atlanta has dropped seven consecutive games, including sweeps at Miami and against San Francisco. Last year, when they won the NL East, they’re longest losing streak was just four games.

Atlanta lost Monday night’s game against the Cardinals and have two more vs. St. Louis before hosting the Cubs. They then go to San Francisco and at St. Louis. That’s a tough stretch that will certainly test the defending division champs.

In the meantime, Fredi Gonzalez has adjusted his lineup to try and shake things up. On Monday night he had Justin Upton batting second and pitcher Aaron Harang hitting eighth. It still didn’t work as the Braves lost 4-3. And with the Nationals’ 4-0 win over the Dodgers early Tuesday morning, Washington is now in first place with a half-game lead over Atlanta.

MIAMI MARLINS

As the Braves have lost control, the Marlins are starting to establish themselves as a pretty decent team. After beating the Mets on Monday, the Fish have won six of their last seven games. They are now 17-15 on the season, only a half-game behind the Braves and just one game out of first place behind the Nationals. For comparison, they didn’t get 17 wins until June 8 of last season.

It has helped that the Marlins are playing at home where they are now 15-5 this season. They are only 2-10 on the road this year, and after two more games against the Mets embark on a 11-game west coast road trip. They’ll go through San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. How the Marlins come out of that gauntlet will tell us a lot about who they really are.

NEW YORK METS

The Mets have lost four of their last five games, a stretch where they gave up a total of 33 runs. Their bullpen continues to haunt them, as Daisuke Matsuzaka blew a three-run lead against the Marlins on Monday night. They may also now put Jenrry Mejia back into the bullpen after it’s becoming clear he can’t pitch past the fourth or fifth inning. He has a 5.23 ERA through six starts this season.

The Mets did get some good news this week, however, as Matt Harvey is set to take the next step in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. On Friday he will throw off flat ground from 120 feet. According to the NY Daily News, that’s the final step Harvey will complete before throwing off flat ground before taking a mound. That next step could happen in June.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

The two wins the Phillies picked up over the Nats this past weekend are the only two they have in their last five games. The problem with Philly this year is they simply can’t score. Right now they rank 26th in the majors with 118 runs through 30 games. That’s an average of 3.9 runs per game.

On Monday it was former Phillie J.A. Happ who shut them out through five innings with the Blue Jays as the Phils lost 3-0. They’ve now only scored more than three runs once in their last six games.

Help could be on the way for their pitching staff at least, as Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is looking good at extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla. Gonzalez dealt with elbow and shoulder problems in spring training, but is now hitting the mid-90s on his fastball, so says the Phillies. It could be three or four weeks until he makes his MLB debut.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Chase, you all had the Braves as your #1 in your MLB ranking last week. Did you really believe Harang and his mates were going to keep ERAs below 1.00?

    The Braves are good but built on a house of cards ready to crumble if they don’t have Freddie carrying their team and he’s mired in a slump.

    I will enjoy every Barves loss and their continuous whining.

    Watching JUp strikeout while looking with the winning runs on base was just fabulous theater last night.

    • nattyboh1 - May 6, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      I think power rankings have more to do with a combination of how a team is playing and their record rather than what you believe will happen. So, there’s nothing wrong with having Atlanta #1 until very recently, I’ll bet you see a drop for them in everyone’s power ranking next week.

  2. Doc - May 6, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Mikey Mo & Co. helped us out against the cowardly Braves, now we need to keep returning the favor against the Totally Hated Dodgers!

    Our BP is way better by about 2 runs/ERA than the Braveless, even with Kimbrel tossing it in there!!!!

    Goooooooooooooo Treinen Gooooooooooooooooooooo Nats! Gooooooooooo Pen!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. therealjohnc - May 6, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    Remember how a few weeks ago so many people (including many who post on this board) were dismissing the Nats because the Nats “only beat the bad teams, like the Mets and the Marlins.” Well:

    (1) The Marlins are 16-10 against teams other than the Nationals (including 4-2 against the Braves, 3-1 against the Rockies and 2-1 against the Cardinals); the Marlins’ run differential is +25 in all games (tied with San Francisco for the second best in the NL behind Colorado) – but +40 (!) in those 26 games against non-Nats. The Marlins have only lost five of 20 games at home all season, but two of those five were in one three game series – against the Nationals. Apparently the Marlins’ sign-stealing technology was on the fritz that week.

    (2) The Mets are 16-12 against teams other than the Nationals (including 3-3 against the Braves, 3-1 against the Cardinals and 2-1 against Cincinnati); the Mets run differential is -3 in all games, but +9 in the 28 games against teams other than the Nationals.

    There is a long way to go, of course, and hubris is just as foolish as doomsaying. But given all of the injuries that the Nationals have had, and the surprisingly difficult schedule they’ve had to deal with as the Mets and Marlins have actually been playing well, it’s fairly impressive for the Nats to be where they are.

    • adcwonk - May 6, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      +1

      I think this explains, exactly, why the Nats have the 2d best “SRS” (baseball-reference) in all of MLB. (Actually, they are in a 3-way tie for second: Miami is 1.3, and the Nats/Braves/Rockes have 1.1. 5th is Oakland at 1.0. All teams in the AL East are negative; while 4/5 of teams in NL East are positive).

      • Section 222 - May 6, 2014 at 1:46 PM

        What the heck is that stat?

      • NatsLady - May 6, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Simple Rating System. It takes into consideration run differential and strength of schedule. 1.3 means a team is 1.3 runs per game over average. None of the AL East times is in the positive SRS.

      • adcwonk - May 6, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        Right — so the fact that the Nats have beaten teams who have a good record (which was the original post), is exactly why the Nats have such a good SRS (my response).

        Well put, NatsLady!

    • chazzmichaelmichaelzz - May 6, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      Furthermore, the Braves are 12-13 against teams other than the Nationals.

      Another interesting note. The Nationals are 17-9 against teams other than the Braves.

      Not sure what this means, except the Nats need to get over their psychological issues with the Braves.

    • snerdblurter - May 6, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      A minor distinction, but I think the argument that the Nats play poorly against “good teams” was referring more to a pavlovian response to the laundry in the other dugout than any actual W/L records or meaningful stats. They’re a great team, but they have a clear tendency to underperform – with mental errors and poor clutch hitting – against historically strong teams like the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, etc… thats indisputable…. If they can win this series against the Dodgers its a great sign, but I’m withholding judgment until that stretch in mid-June when they’ve got 14 of 16 against the Giants, Cards, Braves and Brewers. GYNFG!

  4. jd - May 6, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    The Braves were an accident waiting to happen. They were winning tons of 1 run games, walk offs etc. and their starters were pitching way over their heads. They really aren’t as bad as their current streak, it’s just lady luck catching up with them.

    Now that they got Minor and Floyd back they will probably remove Hale and Harang from their rotation while the returning pitchers aren’t Koufax and Drysdale they are an improvement over the 2 deletions (not over how they pitched but over how they were likely to pitch going forward).

    I thought all along that all things being equal we should pull away comfortably from the other teams in the division. When you lose players like Zimmerman and Harper long term it obviously brings you back to the pack so I still feel that we need to keep treading water until we get healthy. After that (knock wood) we should be fine.

    • David Proctor - May 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      Floyd isn’t all that great either. He hasn’t had an ERA of under 4 since 2008 and that was the ONLY time in his career.

  5. Eric - May 6, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Very interesting how all of this is playing out!

    On an unrelated note, I thought I’d share something here that I posted on natsbaseball.blogspot. Someone was discussing our woes re: LOB. I’ve been thinking about that issue and how it’s always cast as a raw number instead of a %, and I think the latter makes more sense.

    This has me curious if there’s a stat such as “total reached safely” or something like that, which bundles HBP, BB, and H, but omits HR. I think it would also make sense to remove caught stealing and picked off from LOB (“adjusted LOB” or aLOB perhaps?). IMO, dividing aLOB by reached safely would paint a clearer comparative picture of how the teams produce with LOB.

    I did this for the Nats and the Padres (the latter have the fewest LOB/game) so far this season, except I don’t see a stat for “Picked Off”, so I just used CS. It breaks down like this:
    Nats aLOB: 7.66 (7.75 – .09 caught stealing)
    Nats reached safely: 11.3
    aLOB%: 68%

    Padres aLOB: 5.88 (6.06 – .18 caught stealing)
    Padres reached safely: 8.9
    aLOB%: 66%

    Interestingly, if you don’t omit caught stealing from LOB, we’re almost exactly even; our greater rate of success stealing bases “hurts” us in the aLOB% department.

    It’s also interesting that the Padres are dead last in H, BB, and HBP

    Anyway, when you look at it this way, the rate at which we leave runners on is not that much different than the team that leaves the fewest on base. Assuming, of course, that the concept is sound and I didn’t screw up the math. It would be interesting to see how this works for RISP, too, but…I have this job thing to tend to now ;).

    • tcostant - May 6, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      Eric – my head is spinning, but that is some great detail.

      • Eric - May 6, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        Heh, thanks. It just seems odd to me to compare raw numbers for LOB and missed RISP opportunities between strong offenses and weak ones…simply stated, 40 LOB is a lot different for a team that puts 100 runners on than for a team that puts 50 runners on.

  6. natsjackinfl - May 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    Just for perspectives sake, May friggin 6th.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Yep. Although the DBacks and Asstros aren’t going to postseason.

      • adcwonk - May 6, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        You’re both right!

      • jd - May 6, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        I think they were both eliminated before opening day.along with the Cubs.

    • Section 222 - May 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      As long as you now recognize that there’s a limit to that kind of “it’s still early” talk, I agree with you. (Last year, you once argued that it was pointless to look at the standings before August 1. That’s clearly nuts.) We’re in fine shape to win the East, no doubt about it.

      It would be nice to win this series against the Dodgers. Nice reverse lock tonight with Treinen facing Kershaw. Beating up on either Kershaw or Haren would be very satisfying.

      NJ, since you were on the TJordan bandwagon long before anyone, I’d be interested in your diagnosis of why he wasn’t able to succeed this time up, and whether he can bounce back.

      • natsjackinfl - May 6, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        I think the loss in velocity can be attributed to his broken ankle in the off season and not being able to do the lower body strength work necessary to be in top shape. And it wouldn’t surprise me if his tinkering with the cut fastball affected both his breaking ball and his sinker.

        He should be able to work these issues out but only time will tell.

        As with Ryan Mattheus, I believe his loss in ball movement on his sinker came from his argument with that locker last year. Before that, he had strictly command issues but now he, too, seems to have lost that power sinker.

      • tcostant - May 6, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        I like the broken ankle theory, but he was throwing much harder in the spring.

      • natsjackinfl - May 6, 2014 at 4:43 PM

        Re: Taylor Jordan and his ST velocity #’s; if you’re going by MASN, they ranged 2-3 mph over the scouts guns. I sit just to the right of the Nats pitch tracker and I don’t recall Taylor ever getting higher than 91.

      • Section 222 - May 6, 2014 at 5:20 PM

        Maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember hearing any concern about the impact of his ankle injury on his velocity when he was going toe to toe with Roark for the 5th spot in Spring Training. Sounds like a bit of a post hoc rationalization. Does that also explain leaving lots of pitches up in the zone?

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2014 at 2:46 PM

    Ramos at Nats Park. Looks like his rehab is over.

    • Eric - May 6, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      Excellent news!

    • David Proctor - May 6, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      Really? I hadn’t seen that. Interesting

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        He thinks he may come off the bench tonight. Interesting. Any word on if they will activate him today?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        “@Nationals: Back in the #Nats clubhouse today, @WRamosC3 said he’s feeling strong during his rehab assignment. “Still working.””

  8. Joe Seamhead - May 6, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    This will kill you all. I was on a Braves blog and several posters are calling for Fredi’s head. One guy even went so far as to suggest that they should get Davey Johnson. LOL!

    • letswin3 - May 6, 2014 at 4:02 PM

      Now that’s good stuff. Was one of their posters “Secretchoppieman”?

  9. rabbit433 - May 6, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    We need to take lessons from the Marlins on how to beat the Braves!

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