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Around the NL East: Are the Marlins for real?

May 28, 2014, 1:16 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

ATLANTA BRAVES 

Superb pitching and just enough hitting. It’s been the Braves’ formula for success this season, and one they continue to ride as they still sit atop the division this week. They may not have the best lineup in the league, but at this rate, they may not have to. They have enough talent on that pitching staff alone to keep them in ballgames night in and night out.

Despite losing key members of its rotation due to injuries, Atlanta still leads the majors in number of quality starts. The makeshift rotation is highlighted by Julio Teheran, who won two decisions this past week to raise his record to 4-3 and drop his ERA to 1.77, third best in all of baseball.

All that said, the Braves don’t hold a big lead in the division race. They still struggle with inconsistency and as a result haven’t taken advantage of the fact that the rest of the division is up-and-down. Winning the NL East crown won’t be as much of a cake walk as it was a year ago.

MIAMI MARLINS 

At some point you have to wonder if the Marlins are for real. June is on the horizon, and yet they still have a winning record and are just 1.5 games — yes, just 1.5 — out of first place. Sure, their spot in the standings are in part because Atlanta hasn’t run away with the division yet. But given how poor the Marlins have been in recent years, this is still a huge development for them.

So how exactly are they doing this? For one, no one has a better record at home than the Marlins’ 20-8 mark. Secondly, their offense is led by Giancarlo Stanton, who continues to tear it up at the plate (and especially against the Nationals). Lastly, the Marlins’ pitching staff has hung tight despite the loss of Jose Fernandez, as the rotation has three starters with sub 3.40 ERAs.

The real litmus test could come this weekend, when Miami hosts Atlanta with a chance to take first place as June begins. Who would have thought we’d be talking about that possibility two months ago?

NEW YORK METS 

It’s been a brutal week for the Metropolitans, who not only lost back-to-back series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, but they fired their hitting coach Dave Hudgens and released closer Jose Valverde. New York’s offense has been pedestrian, as they rank 21st or lower in the majors in all of the big offensive categories. Firing the hitting coach may not solve their woes at the plate, but its in line with what a lot of teams do when they’re struggling; they make a change for change’s sake, and hope things go differently.

As for Valverde, his troubles have mirrored that of the entire Mets bullpen. He was let go after Monday night’s meltdown against the Pittsburgh Pirates, blowing a four-out save by trying to preserve a 2-1 lead, and instead allowing four runs and a loss. The disastrous outing ballooned his ERA to 5.66, and he’s only saved just two games, while also blowing a pair. Not good. The 36 year old reliever’s struggles in the closer role extend back to his time with his Detroit Tigers, so there was no reason to think that things would dramatically improve as the season went on.

Of course, New York’s problem run much deeper than a hitting coach and a reliever. But when you’re a scuffling last place team, you’ll do try anything to generate a spark.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Injuries are beginning to pile up for the fourth place Phillies, with the latest being starter Cliff Lee, who the team placed on the 15-day disabled list due to an elbow strain. Surgery appears unlikely, but it still looks like he won’t be able to return even when his DL term expires. Lee is the third player Philadelphia has placed on the DL in the last ten days, the others being Cody Asche (hamstring) and Luis Garcia (forearm).

As they continue to be mired in mediocrity with a veteran roster, many have wondered if the team will opt to “blow it up” come the trade deadline. After all, the Phillies have the highest payroll in the division, and have nothing to show for it. They also don’t have a ton of young up-and-coming prospects on the horizon either, so any rebuilding effort would have to center around moving high-priced veterans for top minor leaguers. We’re still a ways away from the July 31st deadline, but the team has to figure out soon what path it would like to chart moving forward should they still struggle.

  1. veejh - May 28, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Watch out for the Fish in years to come. They’ll run out of gas this season, but still will finish 3rd in the division. Obviously, losing Fernandez hurts them BIG time.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      To repeat what a wrote a few weeks ago is that if the Marlins chose to pursue Samardzijia and another top of the rotation guy plus 1 corner infielder, they could be the team to beat in the NL East.

      They have the farm system to pull it off.

  2. tcostant - May 28, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    What the Marlins are doing is truely amazing. When Jose Fernandez comes back next year, if he is near the same, the case could be made that the Marlins have the best hitter and best pitcher in the division. That is a great start to any team…

    • Section 222 - May 28, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      That’s true. And a little sad, because we thought we’d have that with Stras and Harper for years to come.

  3. natsguy - May 28, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    The question is will ownership blow it up when it gets expensive. They have before and will probably do it again.

    • veejh - May 28, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Will Stanton even want to stay? Will they even shell out how much this guy is going to get as a FA? Gonna be interesting to see how they handle this.

  4. veejh - May 28, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    The Phils refused to admit a rebuild was necessary….didnt sell last deadline…didnt sell in the offseason, and now have wasted an entire year. Stupid, stupid.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      Wasted more than a year when you consider the bounty they would have received for Cliff Lee alone last July.

      Ass to that JRoll and Utley and you get young and prospect rich quickly and also shed major payroll.

  5. pchuck69 - May 28, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Are the Marlins for real?

    Um, no.

  6. natsguy - May 28, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    If the Nats don’t do it soon they may have wasted their shot,

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 28, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      NatsGuy – So did I see a reference the other day that you’re in Corvallis?

  7. Faraz Shaikh - May 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    We used same strategy in 2012 that braves have used for last couple of seasons. Anyways hopefor bats to wake up soon.

  8. Eugene in Oregon - May 28, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    Have people seen this? Who’s the best hitter against each MLB team? Actually, though, it’s against each franchise; be aware of that when you’re guessing.

    http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/77104490/mlb-best-hitters-vs-teams-babe-ruth-barry-bonds-mark-mcgwire?partnerId=ed-8241428-658620023#!RsJRi

    • Faraz Shaikh - May 28, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Thanks Eugene. Not surprised to see Andrew’s name second on the list. I bet Stanton is somewhere up there also.

  9. Candide - May 28, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Off-topic.

    Cunegonde wants to go to Bluejacket before Friday night’s game.

    Menu recommendations?

    What time do we want to get there to allow enough time for dinner and to get back to the park for first pitch?

    • 6ID20 - May 28, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      I walk past there around 5:30 on my way from Lot W to the ballpark. On a Friday or Saturday the place is already packed at that time, inside and out. Better get there earlier than that.

      • Candide - May 28, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        Thanks; I think we’ll be making early reservations.

  10. bowdenball - May 28, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    I’m not sure you can really say the Marlins generally or their pitching staff in particular are doing this “despite the loss of Jose Fernandez.” He didn’t get hurt that long ago, and in the 14 games they’ve played since his last start they’re 5-9. They also have gave up 5+ runs in 10 of those games.

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    To those that said it would never happen, Heyman has good sources too.

    “@JonHeymanCBS: #nats plan is for ryan zimmerman to become that rare everyday star to rotate positions (3B, 1B, LF) http://t.co/29CJOXU1c6

    • David Proctor - May 28, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      I owe you one. This is definitely happening.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 2:12 PM

        Espi has probably limited how much it would happen. At the time, Espi was hot and it made more sense.

        I like Rendon at 3rd or 2nd but don’t see Frandsen or Espi as the big upgrade right now unless Harp cones back and plays CF or another trade is in the works for an infielder.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        In a sort of related note, Zach Walters played his first game yesterday since returning to AAA and went 2-5 with a HR and 3 RBIs.

        He played SS. Syracuse has no room in their outfield with Hood, Souza and Goodwin.

        I would at the very least hope Walters gets some time at 2nd base.

  12. David Proctor - May 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/writer/jon-heyman/24574734/nats-plan-to-have-zimmerman-rotate-among-three-spots-including-of

    “The Nationals are working on a plan for Ryan Zimmerman to rotate among third base, first base and left field once he returns from the disabled list, perhaps lining him to be that rare multi-positional star, league sources said.”

    “It’s quite unusual for a star player such as Zimmerman to agree to such a transition, but he is said to believe he can aid the team and his own career with added versatility.”

    • bowdenball - May 28, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      I love this move. A bat like that with position flexibility is incredibly valuable, far more so than if he was just moved to 1B full time after this season like we all expected.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        Yes Zimmerman’s bat is needed and the question then becomes what happens when Bryce returns. Does it just go back to the Opening Day lineup.

        This would be a much easier choice if Frandsen or Espi could claim 2nd base.

        I also think a trade would make sense. Chase Headley is available and since he’s returned from the DL in 16 games is slashing .245/.359/.396/.756

        That would make sense to move Rendon to 2nd and Bryce to CF.

      • bowdenball - May 28, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        Chase Headley is one of any number of options. That’s actually a perfect example of what the position flexibility brings to the table. If Zimmerman were a 3B only, the Nats obviously couldn’t pick up a guy like that. But all of a sudden you can acquire almost any player, even the one where the Nats were previously thought to have a logjam, thanks to the ability of Rendon to play 2B and the ability of Zimm (we hope) to play LF, with Harper moving to center and Span becoming an incredibly valuable 4th OF/defensive replacement/pinch runner.

      • knoxvillenat - May 28, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        I don’t watch a lot of American League games especially Tampa so let me ask others, if the Nats do rotate Zim in 3 positions how similar is this to the Rays utilizing Ben Zobrist? How different would it be?

        I do recall NatsJack saying he loved the versatility and game Zobrist brings to the table but I’d also like to know what others think as well.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 28, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        Headley has stopped hitting for a season-and-a half. Not what you spend money on.

      • bowdenball - May 28, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        Well you wouldn’t be spending money, Theophilus. You’d be trading prospects. He’s a free agent at the end of the season. And he was just an example of the many ways that Zimmerman’s position flexibility gives the team options to improve by allowing them to add available personnel without regard to position. Although he did have an OPS + of 115 last season. That number would be tied with Jayson Werth for second-best in the Nats’ active lineup. So I wouldn’t really say he’s stopped hitting.

    • Hiram Hover - May 28, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      I am intrigued, but I will believe it when I see it.

      Except for a stopgap bwn when Zim returns and Harper does, it seems more likely for 2015, when ALR and Span may depart and open up more chances.

    • Section 222 - May 28, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      A fantasy team owner’s wet dream.

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    KnoxvilleNat, Zobrist is the Rays primary 2nd baseman and will play OF and SS when needed.

    He’s often double-switched to take advantage of his versatility to play corner outfield and shortstop. He’s also the team’s primary backup SS.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 28, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      That’s true this year, but there have been years when Ben Zobrist was used in more of a ‘rotation’ than he is now.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        Eugene, correct, they were rotating him based on need more in previous years.

  14. Theophilus T.S. - May 28, 2014 at 2:46 PM

    Someone pooh-poohed my version of this (musical Zimmerman) on the previous thread because it depends on Espinosa becoming at least a part-time force at 2B. You can’t have Zimmerman and Harper come back from missing 50-60 games and then not play them both virtually every day for the remainder of the season. Zimmerman and Harper can’t both play LF; if Zimmerman plays LF at all, Rendon must play 3B and Espinosa must play 2B. Fransden is a nice duct-tape guy but you can’t have him starting even 33 percent of the games at 2B. If Espinosa isn’t going to play 2B then the only time Zimmerman spends in LF is the 10-15 games between when he returns and when Harper returns. (Walter isn’t coming back even if he tears up the International League. What he’s shown at the big league is the ability to be a shorter, lest experienced version of Dave Kingman.)

  15. David Proctor - May 28, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Sean Burnett is injured yet again, only 3 games after coming off the DL. He signed a 2 year deal with the Angels after 2012 and he has pitched 10 innings since. I feel for him.

    • stoatva - May 28, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      Luvz me some Sean Burnett. :-(

  16. Section 222 - May 28, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    I just don’t get this rotating Zim idea. They aren’t going to start platooning ALR, and if he needs a day off you have Frandsen or Dobbs. There’s no reason to keep Espi’s bat in the lineup to make contact only 2 of 3 times or less. If you want to give Frandsen ABs then put him in LF.

    It seems like the only reason to do this is to keep Espi at 2B. I agree his defense is good, but he’s showing no signs of pulling his weight offensively. At least Frandsen, Dobbs, and McLouth usually make contact.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      222, yep, when I first suggested this a month ago Espi was hitting now he does something that rhymes with hitting.

      Only makes sense if you trade for a real deal upgrade at 3rd (Headley) or 2nd (Aaron Hill) and move Bryce to CF otherwise I agree. Nothings been upgraded except the bench.

      I think you have to wonder if Rizzo just doesn’t want RZim playing 3rd. After seeing Rendon you see something close to what Ryan was in 2006.

    • David Proctor - May 28, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      Always remember that the team knows more than we do. Maybe they’re considering making a move. Or maybe not. But if ALR needs a day off, I think the best alignment would be Zim at 1B, Frandsen at 2B, Rendon at 3B. You could just plug Frandsen in at 1B, but why leave Zim at 3B when you have a chance to give him a break? I think you’re better defensively that way.

      • Section 222 - May 28, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        That’s a reasonable point. Except if Zim feels that playing every day is a way to get his mojo back at 3B. Zim got a couple of days of work in the spring, but they didn’t really seem serious about playing him there with any regularity. And I sure don’t want ALR’s bat on the bench except when he really needs a rest. Heyman’s story about musical chairs sounds like much more than that. It’s what you do when you have too many good bats to keep busy, not too few.

  17. NatsLady - May 28, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    I thought the long term plan was to put Bryce in RF and move Werth to LF. I don’t think they will put Bryce in center (where his arm is wasted). If Span isn’t here, then it will be time for Goodwin or maybe Taylor.

    • Section 222 - May 28, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      A good arm is not wasted in CF any more than it’s wasted in LF. But I agree that Harper’s CF days are over, except as a fill-in or a consequence of a double switch. If they wanted him to play there, they woudn’t have traded for Span.

      • jd - May 28, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        deuces,

        I agree unless Rizzo changed his mind. I think Spann hasn’t been the player he’s hoped for and the in house options are iffy at best. The Nats were doing quite well when Harper patroled CF. They were also quite successful with Werth leading off. Sometimes you should leave well enough alone.

      • Section 222 - May 28, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        After the wrist injury, Werth had no power when he led off. He’s much more valuable as a middle of the order bat now. Span may not have been the player they hoped for (as a base stealer, that’s definitely the case), but they are not going to replace him in CF unless his hitting craters, and there really are no signs that it will.

      • David Proctor - May 28, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        Perhaps they re-evaluated after seeing him in the corners? UZR thought he was a very good CF, but not a good corner OF. I doubt it, Rizzo has seemed deadset on Harper in a corner, but I always liked him better in CF and I think he’s more comfortable there.

      • Section 222 - May 28, 2014 at 3:58 PM

        I liked him in CF too, but I really don’t think he’s going to play regularly there again. He may even have lost a step of speed after the knee injury.

      • Hiram Hover - May 28, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        The UZR data for Bryce in CF frankly doesn’t count for much – less than half a season’s worth from two years ago. If they thought that were compelling, Rizzo never would have dealt for Span in the first place.

        It’s hard to see them shifting Bryce to a more demanding position in the field when he’s fresh off the DL, and when what they really miss is his bat (which was only beginning to heat up before his injury).

        We’ll see what happens in 2015, and whether Span is back at all. But I’d be surprised to see Bryce get significant time in CF this season.

      • texnat1 - May 28, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        It becomes increasingly obvious with each passing week that the Nats need more offense in their line up.

        Their record when they score 4 runs or more (which is actually only a solid number–not a great one) is exceptional for going on two seasons now. So the question should be: how do we score 4 runs a game?

        Moving Harper to center in order to get another bat in the line up makes sense based on what we have observed over the past two seasons. (Of course, it only makes sense if you are getting another bat in the line up, so short term it may not make sense if all you are doing is swapping Span for Espi).

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 28, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Hard to imagine wasting an arm if CFplays 402 feet deep.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 28, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        Sec222, don’t ever underestimate Rizzo and what he will do.

  18. jd - May 28, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    Goodwin is walking a lot at AA but he’s not hitting at all. I don’t think his arrival is imminent. Taylor is intriguing but I’d at least like to see him at AAA before concluding that he’s close to major league ready. Destin Hood is having a break out year at AAA, I haven’t seen him play so I have no opinion if he’s the real deal or just another AAAA player. Souza and Solano are having good years too.

    Here’s some Giolito news:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2014/05/23/lucas-giolito-on-throwing-program/

  19. David Proctor - May 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Zim is apparently depositing Livan Hernandez BP into the Red Porch seats.

    • David Proctor - May 28, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      And also:

      Mark Zuckerman ‏@ZuckermanCSN 16s
      For a guy who hasn’t taken full BP in more than 6 weeks, Ryan Zimmerman sure looks good. Homered over LF bullpen, then over RF scoreboard.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
WASHINGTON 78 58 -- 19
ATLANTA 72 66 7.0
MIAMI 67 69 11.0
NEW YORK 64 74 15.0
PHILADELPHIA 63 74 15.5
Through Monday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Braves at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

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TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
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