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Around the NL East: Braves unraveling?

Jun 24, 2014, 12:34 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

ATLANTA BRAVES 

Much to the delight of local fans, the Braves are in the middle of a tough stretch. They went 2-4 against division rivals Philadelphia and Washington this past week, dropping them down to second place in the division. After losing eight out of the last 12 games, you wonder if the wheels are beginning to fall off in Atlanta.

Their chief concern is that their pitching staff — which has carried them for the most part this season — is starting to unravel a little. Gavin Floyd suffered a rare elbow fracture Thursday night against the Nats, a serious injury that may shelve him for the year, and one that prompted the Braves to recall Alex Wood to replace him in the rotation. Another starter, Ervin Santana, who was seen as one of the steals of the offseason, has struggled mightily of late. After taking the loss Sunday against the Nats, he’s now allowed three runs or more in seven out of his last eight starts. That’s not going to cut it, especially for a rotation that was already behind the eight ball due to two spring training injuries that sidelined starters for the season. Add in the fact that the offense is ranked 29th in runs scored, and it’s no wonder why Atlanta must get quality pitching in order to compete.

The Braves now sit two games behind the Nationals, and look as if they’re still sliding. That being said, as up-and-down as the division has been so far this season, it won’t take much for Atlanta to get right back in it.

MIAMI MARLINS 

The Marlins may only be 2.5 games back of the division lead, but they’re in the middle of a rough patch against some not-so-good opponents. Entering their recent ten-game homestand, Miami had the best home record in all of baseball. But after going 3-7 against the Pirates, Cubs and Mets, they no longer have that distinction and have now fallen below .500 on the season for the first time since April 30th. Their so-so pitching staff is throwing that ball so inconsistently that not even Giancarlo Stanton can’t bail them out night after night, as Miami’s allowed five runs or more in six of the ten games played on the homestand.

The one silver lining for the week is that the Marlins got to witness the major league debut of the highly touted Andrew Heaney. The 23-year-old prospect pitched admirably in a loss, allowing just one run over six innings while striking out three. Considered one of the top young left-handed starters coming out of the minor leagues, Heaney projects to be at the top of Miami’s rotation for years to come. Who knows, perhaps in a year (after Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery) we’re talking about the Marlins having two of the top young starters in the game.

NEW YORK METS 

A lot of good things happened for the Metropolitans this past week week: They went 4-2 against the Cardinals and Marlins, Matt Harvey continued to progress in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and they finally got a breakout offensive performance Sunday.

But perhaps the best and most significant thing that happened for the Mets last week was Zach Wheeler delivering what was the signature performance of his season (maybe even his career) against the Marlins Thursday. The struggling 24-year-old pitching prospect out-dueled the aforementioned Heaney in Miami, hurling a shutout while striking out eight hitters and walking just one. For one start, he quelled fears that he doesn’t have the ability to deliver a dominating performance at the major league level. “He showed you tonight exactly what we’ve been talking about all along,” manager Terry Collins said afterward. Wheelers may have dazzled, but time will tell if this is the start that turns things around for him.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

The Phillies continue to battle with the Mets for last place in the division, and now sit six games out of first in a pretty mediocre NL East. And as we’ve mentioned here over the last few weeks, speculation about what the team will do come the July 31st trade deadline continues to mount. Despite the division being one of the worst in all of baseball, it’s unlikely Philly will be able to turn its season around before quality trade offers come in for some of their high-prices veterans. So what will they do? A little over a month to go before we find out.

  1. rayvil01 - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    I don’t relish anyone getting injured. But, the Stras shutdown in 2012 brought out a lot of chirping from Leo Mazilli and others to look at how Atlanta was handling TJ cases. Two TJ failures and a broken bone in the vicinity this year for ATL. In the meantime JZ and Stras are healthy. It could be luck…but I doubt it. Any team losing three front line pitchers in a year is going to hurt. That’s especially true for a team that’s built to hit homers and strike out.

    What they had going for them was the hex on the Nats. Now that’s gone. Cosmic?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      Not to mention Ken Rosenthal, who is still polishing that turd, as of last weekend.

      • adcwonk - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:20 PM

        And didn’t Mikey Morse say something about it, too?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        Yes, Mikey ruined his chance of ever coming back to the Nats by speaking out of school on it. I love me some Mikey Morse but his statements on his walkup song and that were plain stupid.

  2. ehay2k - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    WP ate my post the other night, but I noted that I’d never seen a battery meltdown like the one between Gattis and Teheran. Johnson and Upton get tossed for arguing with an ump who was horrid for both teams. The Barves have been under a ton of pressure all year to make up for injuries, and I wonder if the team has the makeup to handle the stress. The next couple of weeks will be telling.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Oh, they can get a whole lot worse than that.

      • ehay2k - Jun 25, 2014 at 8:14 AM

        Yes sofa, that was worse but was in the dugout. This was a weird “Who’s the boss here?” situation while on the field of play. Gattis was clearly not happy because Teheran couldn’t decide on a pitch. That walk out to the mound was just plain awkward. And the later emphatic signs from Gattis were a sign of trouble. Maybe we’ll get to see a dugout dustup with the Barves, like the one you shared above? One can only hope.

  3. scnatsfan - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    Nothing would make me happy then to hear the extreme homer announcers that the Braves have have to find good things in a failing season. I cant stand listening to them.

  4. wearenationals - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I’d hate to see Price in the NL East, but good to know it won’t be the Barves.

    MLBTradeRumors: “Tampa is said to prefer to trade [David] Price to the National League — or at the very least out of the AL East — but the suitors for Price will be plentiful. Olney speculates on the Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals as possible fits. Other clubs that have been connected to Price in recent weeks have been the Blue Jays and the surprising Marlins. Miami’s NL East rivals, the Braves, are reportedly unlikely to join a pursuit of Price. That’s not surprising, given how much the team had to stretch payroll simply to accommodate Ervin Santana in Spring Training.”

  5. natsfan1a - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    I’m confused by the statement that the NL East is one of the worst in all of baseball. There are 2 teams below .500, as is the case with AL East and AL West. The AL Central and NL West have 3 teams below .500. The NL Central has just one team below .500. Also, the NL East is one of the tighter divisions as far as number of wins/losses separating teams from one another. Eh, maybe I just need some nice cold water.

    “Despite the division being one of the worst in all of baseball, it’s unlikely Philly will be able to turn its season around before quality trade offers come in for some of their high-prices veterans.”

    • natsfan1a - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      That being said, I’m all for the other teams in the division unraveling/falling further behind/otherwise struggling. :-)

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      OK, it may not be the worst division, but it’s not in the top five, let’s just say that.

    • adcwonk - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      I’m confused by the statement that the NL East is one of the worst in all of baseball.

      Agreed. Going by “SRS” (at baseball-reference — run differential and strength of schedule), the NL East is just slightly below average, NL Central is above average, and NL West is severely below average (three of their five teams are 8, 11, and 15 games under .500).

      In actuality, going by SRS, the NL East ranks as the third best, behind the AL West and NL Central.

      And the Nats, going by SRS, are the best team in the NL (!). (I guess Giants and Dodgers just look good because they play the Rockies, Padres, and Snakes so often!)

      • natsfan1a - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        Thanks for the info, Wonk.

  6. natsjackinfl - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    That display of unraveling exhibited by the Braves on the field Saturday and Sunday is nothing compared to the unraveling exhibited by their fan base in their own websites. And that’s been going on for 2 weeks now.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      And this for a team that was in first place three days ago…

    • unkyd59 - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Hey, several here, were all about trading for J Up, a year and a half ago… Look, we could have gotten him and CJ, too, for a handful of prospects…. And Peric’s would have had BJ Kemp on the roster, as well…

      Dear Lord… Thank you SO much, for Mike Rizzo…..

      • unkyd59 - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:24 PM

        Forgot the paste…

        January 24, 2013: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks with Chris Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for Nick Ahmed (minors), Brandon Drury (minors), Randall Delgado, Martin Prado and Zeke Spruill.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        I was one that thought the Nats could be in on that trade and block the Barves since it looked like the DBacks were looking to do a “cut and run”. I still think the Barves got the better of that trade. Delgado has been a bust and Prado hasn’t been great for the DBacks and Johnson wasa big part of the Barves success last year.

        JUp has been up and down and still has a .840 OPS, and BTW, the Nats only have 1 player with a higher OPS, his name is Adam LaRoche. Rendon is the only other Nat above a .800 OPS.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 24, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        I guess I was just thinking of see all three of those guys jawing at the ump, over the course of the series… Our guys just show more class than that, and I’m glad those three aren’t in our clubhouse. In terms of production, they may make the Braves look smart, befor it’s over, but I like our guys better, on and off the field…. That’s all.

  7. Doc - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    I’m just disappointed that we didn’t kick their Brave asses harder and farther last weekend.

    Anyhoo, now that we know how to do it, maybe we’ll finish them off with a proper vengeance, later in the last series or two.

    Kenny Rosenthal must not like Denard Span and his agent.

    Nats trying to trade Den, because of “declining offense and defense”, eh Kenny???

    Make it even worse Rosenthal said it from the Nats dugout on National TV. Too bad Span didn’t over-hear him, and punch him in the nose!

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:14 PM

      Kenny is usually pretty solid in his reporting but that one sounds like something he got from Keith Law who knows absolutely nothing about the Nats.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:31 PM

        Span’s defensive metrics are quite skewed and if you go by UZR then you have possibly the basis for the quote and there are many that consider him in the Top 10 in CFs in defense. If you judge Span based on a .314 OBP vs his .342 from 2012 then you can make an argument that his offense has been declining year over year. 2009 was Denard’s career highs in OBP so technically he’s dropped for several years but it’s how he ranks against his peer group of CFs. His slugging today is the highest it’s been since 2009, so you can pick and choose how you want to see Denard.

        Denard’s last week has looked real good .320/.370/.560/.930 and his last 28 days has looked decent .293/.330/.444/.775

        I think we all want to see Denard take more walks and that’s been part of the issue. To me, his BA is fine and his defense most times is excellent.

    • ArVAFan - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:24 PM

      So, he makes his first error since 2012, and that’s apprarently enough to trade him? (Yes, I know UZR doesn’t think that much of him. But he passes my eyeball test from my perch in 313. I certainly don’t worry about him getting to any “gettable” balls).

      Sometimes, I think the talking heads just make stuff up so they have something to talk about.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        UZR is about the most useless stat to use in judgement of a player, IMHO. I even read that the guy who invented UZR says that it is a stat subject to “interpretation.” What the hell good is a “stat” thats summation is reached by subjective measures, i.e. on someone’s opinion? I read up on it and reached a point where I had absolutely no use for UZR when it was said that Adam Dunn had a higher UZR at 1B than Michael Morse did. I thought, “Wow, how do they formulate that stat?” The more I read about it, the more I questioned its validity.I concluded that it not only was often misleading, it was a turd of a stat that somebody tries to polish.I know that I am old school when it comes to the eyeball test, but I am very objective when it comes to advanced metrics, just not that one.

        Incidentally I believe that natsjack and several other knowledgeable baseball friends of mine are in agreement regarding UZR.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        From FanGraphs regarding UZR:

        ● UZR uses Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) data in calculating its results. It’s important to note that this data is compiled by human scorers, which means that it likely includes some human error. Until FIELDF/x data gets released to the public, we are never going to have wholly accurate defensive data; human error is impossible to avoid when recording fielding locations by hand, no matter how meticulous the scorers. That said, BIS data is still the best, most accurate defensive data available at this time, so just be careful not to overstate claims of a player’s defensive prowess based solely on defensive stats.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    “natsjackinfl – Jun 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM
    That display of unraveling exhibited by the Braves on the field Saturday and Sunday is nothing compared to the unraveling exhibited by their fan base in their own websites. And that’s been going on for 2 weeks now.”

    The Braves fanbase is used to disappointment. Going back to 1958, they have made the post-season 20 times and only came out victorious 1 time. That’s the worst record in baseball for any team that has made the post-seaon more than 10 times in that span.

    While they have had some exceptional teams over the past 3 decades, they have also choked quite a bit. Their unraveling in the 1st ever NL Wild Card game was epic as they game turned on the “infield fly rule” play. Watching their fans throw trash on the field was just awful.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      Say what you will about the Dodgers, but at least they don’t burn American flags.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        I didn’t mention the Dodgers but if I did they won 5 World Series in that same time span in 18 post-season appearances which is much better than the Barves franchise.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:15 PM

        True, but as a lifelong Giants fan, I wasn’t going to mention that.
        ; )

  9. Doc - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    Span’s :UZR last year was about +10; this year they have it about -10!

    I haven’t noticed Den using a wheelchair lately!! Maybe I missed those games!!!

    What I have noticed, if that’s what counts in the UZR ratings, is Werth and other OFs opting to take flies that Span could was also in a position to take. CFs are supposed to take any fly that they can get too, period!

    Just ask Zach Walters how Span feels about that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      Well, there was that one a few weeks ago, where Werth basically elbowed Span out for the rebound on a pop to short right-center to end an inning, and they exchanged some interesting looks as they went off the field. It was noted in here at the time.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      You have to wonder if the concussion has had anything to do with his more tentaive plays to some balls. He had some issues in Arizona and also in San Fran which have those cavernous outfields where I noted 2 plays where he had the slightest of hesitations and then there was the play in Pittsburgh which he stopped running after.

      There is a rule of the outfield that it’s the CFs ball unless he is called off. Outfielders at advanced levels don’t yell Mine Mine Mine rather Ball Ball Ball and some outfielders do communicate their own ways with signaling YOU YOU YOU to let the other to know to take it.

      As Sec said, Denard had that one that Werth took from him and gave him the “stare”. Not sure what is up with those two, but I think that all started after the Pittsburgh debacle.

      • Doc - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        It would be hard to believe that Span’s concussions, both with the Nats and with the Twins, wouldn’t have some long-term effects.

        However, my eyeballs haven’t seen anything that would suggest such performance consequences. Nor do I think that his UZRs from last year to this year reflect any valid assessment of Span’s history of concussions.

        Brain Kenny at MLB Network doesn’t trust UZRs, and for what little that I know about them, neither do I.

        Even with the mis-steps in Pitts, SF, and Arizona, I still think that Span’s the best CF on the team, and one of the best in MLB.. I really enjoy watching him.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:49 PM

        Brain Kenny, that’s funny.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:57 PM

        UZR is inaccurate too often. Look at Rendon’s ratings for proof of that.

        Span’s UZR rating makes no sense this year. I don’t believe he’s as good as last year but he’s certainly better defensively than 1/2 of the CFs the Nats have completed head to head with.

        He made a play last year where he out-ran a ball in the gap in a game last year which was amazing. I’m waiting to see that this year. He’s making all the routine plays. The feet first sliding catches he made several times last year, has he made more than 1 or 2 this year?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        One doesn’t have to wonder too much; he’s said outright he won’t dive for balls or collide with walls if he can help it, and I don’t blame him.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:21 PM

        I’ve heard him say it also and colliding into walls isn’t part of the job description but being aggressive isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

  10. adcwonk - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/odds/ now has the Nats finishing 6 games ahead of the Braves. Just sayin’ ;-)

  11. natsfan24 - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    If Ryan Zimmermann keeps hitting into double plays I don’t think we’ll have to worry about trading Span. The Nats’ defense is finally playing error free baseball. Do we really want to change anything right now? Leave it alone. Let Harper rotate. Bryce needs to prove himself on the field again. I’d take Zim’s bat over Harper’s. And Harper isn’t great in CF. Remember game 5 NLDS 9th inning? Molina hit it right over Harper’s head to lead off the inning.

    Competition is a good thing. It usually works itself out. If Span or Espinosa want to go 0-20 again than they’ll win a meet and greet with Matt Williams on the bench. Sorry too many MASN commercials.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      Thank you.
      This is “my” Plan E.

      • natsfan24 - Jun 24, 2014 at 9:41 PM

        I’ve been Nati-trolled.

  12. micksback1 - Jun 24, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    logically, barring any serious injuries, the Nats should win the East comfortably. They did something I had my doubts about, they split with the Braves. If they do not roll, then the NL east will be like 1973, dow to the last games, when the mets won the division at 83-79 and then upset the Reds in the NLCS and almost knocked off the A’s in the WS.

  13. therealjohnc - Jun 24, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Expecting the Braves to unravel is as unrealistic as those that have been spending the last three years expecting the Nats to unravel at every turn. It’s a long season, this is just a down phase for the Braves. I expect them to be challenging for a playoff spot near the end.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 55 44 --
ATLANTA 55 46 1.0
NEW YORK 48 53 8.0
MIAMI 47 52 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 43 57 12.5
Through Wednesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: OFF
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
Full season schedule

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ON THE RADIO

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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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