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Around the NL East: Braves rebound

Jul 1, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

ATLANTA BRAVES

What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, the Braves looked like they were in a middle of a midseason tailspin, enduring a tough June stretch that saw them relinquish their division lead to the Nationals. But after winning six out of the last seven games — the best mark in the NL East over that span — it’s clear that news of Atlanta’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. For a week, they’ve regained their swagger and are back atop the division, leading the Nats by a half-game entering Tuesday.

What’s remarkable about the Braves is that their pitching staff continues to bounce back just when you think they’re about to fall apart. Despite injuries and recent ineffectiveness, Atlanta’s rotation delivered with six quality starts over the past week, and still lead the majors in that category for the season. The team won’t be capable of going on a legitimate run until the offense begins to perform more consistently (they are second to last in the majors in runs scored), but halfway through the season it looks like the Braves are finding ways to stay afloat despite all obstacles.

MIAMI MARLINS 

As the second half of the season begins, it looks like we may finally be seeing the real Marlins. Losers of four out of their last five, they’ve now fallen 5.5 games back of first place and it’s hard to escape the thought that their surprising first half run could be over.

What made the Marlins so tough early in the season was their success at home, as they entered June with the best home mark in the majors. But Miami’s lost ten out of their last 13 home games and voila, their hopes of contending this season are suddenly fading. What’s even worse is that their losing skid has comes against some struggles teams. Plain and simple, if the Marlins want to be contenders, they have to beat the likes the Pirates, Cubs and Mets in their ballpark. Miami has just ten home games in the month of July, so they’re going to have to make hay on the road if they want to climb back into this race.

NEW YORK METS 

The Mets continue their descent into the NL East basement, battling with the Phillies for last place. They’ve now lost five of six games, sit eight games out of first, and find new ways to disappoint their fanbase. Monday night’s game against the Braves was about as typical as it gets for the 2014 Metropolitans: They got a strong performance from their starter Zach Wheeler, had just enough offense to hold a two-run lead going into the eighth inning, and — you guessed it — promptly relinquished said lead by committing three errors en route to a four-run frame that doomed New York’s chances. That, unfortunately for Mets fans, has essentially what their season has been about through the first 81 games.

At this point, the Mets would likely be content just to see their young starters continue to develop.. It may be too late to save the season, but getting a preview of the 2015 starting staff could give the club a nice morale boost in August and September.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Different week, similar story for the Phillies, who’ve lost five out of their last six games and now sit 8.5 games out of first. At 36-46, Philadelphia is on pace to lose 90 games for the first time since 2000. That wouldn’t be acceptable for any team, much less one that has the third highest payroll in all of baseball. And that of course brings us back to the main issue at hand for Philly over the next month. For their front office, the decision to blow up the roster may all come down to the upcoming ten game road trip, as the team will face the Marlins, Pirates and Brewers in a key stretch that will likely determine their fate come the July 31st trade deadline.

  1. David Proctor - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Posted in the other thread, but this is a good article that I recommend you all read:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/sorry-bryce-matt-williams-is-right/

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      Irony as they are pumping up Span now who sits at a -1.9 UZR but that is far better than that -10 he was at 3 week ago and a further improvement from the -2.3 last week. I wonder how they factored that fog XBH hit Span couldn’t see?

      No question the dynamics changed and Bryce was wrong because Span in the short-term exceeded Espi and possibly even long-term in valuation. It’s a difficult scenario because of Ryan Zimmerman’s arm.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      +1 – a good read.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 1, 2014 at 5:48 PM

        Agreed on it being a good read, David,thanks for the link.

    • laddieblahblah - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      Matt is going to do what Mat is going to do because whatever he does is in the best interests of the team, as he sees it.

      This is much ado about nothing. Casey Stengel had far more problems of a much more serious nature with Mickey Mantle, who Casey identified as the “biggest disappointment” of his long career in baseball. Poor Casey, having to manage such a problem while winning all those championships with the Mick!

      This will be background noise to Matt Williams. Many great players have had disagreements with management, and seldom has a team had a field manager better equipped to handle them than the Nats do now.

      I wish Bryce had kept his thoughts in-house, but he didn’t. Rizzo is not going to trade him, and part of Matt’s job is to deal with such issues as seamlessly as possible without hurting the team. Better having Matt dealing with Harper than Billy Martin dealing with Reggie Jackson.

      This seems to me to be closer to the kind of disagreements Weaver had with Palmer over the years. That didn’t stop them from winning a few championships while jawing at each other.

  2. bowdenball - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    I’ve said this a couple times before, but I don’t understand all these “obstacles” the Braves are supposedly overcoming. They lost two rotation guys, but both were lost before the season so alternate arrangements could be made. Once was basically replaced with Ervin Santana, the other hadn’t pitched much in the last three years anyway. That’s not exactly a death blow. They’ve lost a couple decent bullpen guys to injury, but their closer is healthy and bullpen depth is pretty easy to find for any well-run organization

    On the other side of the ball, I believe Evan Gattis is the first regular to hit the DL this season, and that was just yesterday. Contrast that with, oh, let’s say the Nats.

    • coop202 - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      Well they lost arguably their two best pitchers for the season and what looks like their number four now… Even if it was before the season it’s definitely obstacles. And I think Gattis is out for a bit too. We’d be in pretty rough shape if say fister zim and stras went down.

      • David Proctor - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        We lost Fister, Gio, Stras, Harper, Ramos, LaRoche…need I go on?

        Of course, Fister and Gio came back. But maybe if we lost them before the season we go out and sign a free agent like the Braves did.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        Gattis has had some back issues and I said the day the Nats played the Braves in the 13 inning game and trotted him out the next day that the over-use would end up catching up with them. He played in all 4 Nats games and he didn’t look good in the Saturday and Sunday games. They also started him in the Sunday day game against the Nats which was a day game after a night game.

        You can’t put that many consecutive high stress innings on these larger bodied catchers and now Gattis has missed 3 games in a row.

      • coop202 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        Not saying they had it worse, but what they had was worse in terms if the injury. Santana and Harang are not on oar replacements and are what we would’ve probably looked at

      • bowdenball - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        Well I suppose you could argue that Brandon Beachy is better than Julio Teheran. You could also argue that Yunesky Maya is better than Jordan Zimmermann. Neither would make for a very persuasive argument, though :)

        Medlen is a very good starter, but since he was lost in the preseason they were able to replace him with a reasonable facsimile in Santana. Losing Beachy is kind of like the Nats losing Christian Garcia- sure he’s talented, but he’s never been healthy so it’s hard to call it a real loss. If they were relying on him that was a mistake. Not exactly Fister, Zim (who I’ll remind you we did lose, for a lot longer than they’ve gone without Gattis) and Strasburg there.

    • adcwonk - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      I’ve said this a couple times before, but I don’t understand all these “obstacles” the Braves are supposedly overcoming. They lost two rotation guys, but both were lost before the season so alternate arrangements could be made.

      I don’t get your comment.

      First of all, those two “rotation guys” that they lost were Kris Medlen — who is a great pitcher, and Beachy, who might be great (he led all of MLB in ERA for starters when he went down with his first TJ surgery in 2012) and who was penciled in to take the place of Tim Hudson.

      Secondly, they were lost after spring training had already started. You can’t just “make arrangements” to replace guys like that and expect them to be near the same caliber as the guys they lost. They _do_ lose a lot with Santana (ERA this year of 4.23) compared to Medlen (ERA of 3.11 last year)

      Now, that may not be as bad as how much the Nats lost — but that’s not the point. (But at least factor in that Medlen and Beachy are both gone for the entire season).

      • bowdenball - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        I explained it a couple times, but since you asked: Medlen was replaced with Santana. Santana actually had better numbers than Medlen in 2012, but let’s call that a small downgrade to be fair.

        Beachy has pitched 267 innings in his entire five year major league career. He’s not a member of a rotation, he’s an idea. A hypothetical. If they were counting on him to contribute, that’s an obstacle they created themselves.

        Plus even if both guys are healthy Teheran would still be the most talented starter in the rotation by quite a bit.

        And they’ve been pretty lucky with injuries since the start of the season compared to the rest of the NL East’s in-season injuries. Is Gattis the first member of their regular lineup to hit the DL all season? Seems like it.

      • bowdenball - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        Sorry that should say better numbers in 2013, not 2012.

    • natsbro - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      Idk..losing two of their top rotation guys right before the start of the season is pretty devastating…I know it’s fun to hate on the Braves and not give them credit..but cmon haha that’s tough and I don’t wish that upon anyones franchise at all.

      Santana started out strong but has certainly shown he can’t replace a number 1 or number 2 pitcher for that matter (which Medlen was). The beginning of their season was pretty impressive given the circumstances and pitching has kept them atop the NL East for most of the season…I can’t expect it to last with the way they are hitting.

      Plus if we lose this division with the Braves batting BJ Upton as their leadoff hitter I may need to jump off a cliff

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    “Third basemen bounce throws like that deliberately all the time. It’s done because it’s the most direct throw and keeps you from airmailing it. The trick is to bounce it far enough out so that the first baseman gets it on one long hop instead of a short hop.”

    I had to do a copy and paste on this. Yesterday a poster said outfielders don’t want to throw strikes to catchers and want to bounce them which is complete fiction and then here is a similar post that 3rd baseman deliberately bounce throws “all the time”.

    In math we know the most direct route in theory is a straight line and in baseball it’s the fastest and most direct almost all the time. A “rope” or “frozen rope” as they cal it in slang in baseball is that straight line as also used in the “line” drive. Yes, it is far better to “long” hop than over-throw aka airmail but the reason outfielders bounce throws is because they are taught to throw a rope with zip instead of a high arc that stays in the air longer. Weekly we see these Roberto Clemente type of throws from Cespedes, Trout, Puig, Ichiro and our guy Harper as there are outfielder’s today with exceptional arms.

    Please, for the sake of the people who read here for knowledge, let’s not make up stuff to make a player look better. Yes, I have said it numerous times that RZim should be bouncing throws instead of airmailing them with no chance of being caught but that’s only because he can’t throw the ropes. We’ve seen Desi a few times delibertately bounce pass a throw, but the most direct route will always be the rope. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule but when was the last time you saw Manny Machado or our own Anthony Rendon bounce a throw from 3rd to 1st on purpose?

    • nats128 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      I read that original post and wasnt sure if it was a entire paragraph of satire. Lets teach all the kids to start bouncing balls on throws to 1st in the rec leagues.

      therealjohnc needs to gets real.

    • coop202 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      Actually that’s not necessarily true. It depends on the spin of the ball on a throw as well as the trajectory of the throw. All else being equal, someone with an absolute cannon who can make that throw without much upward trajectory can do it faster without a bounce yes. Third base the only reason should be throwing from a knee or something like that though.

      • coop202 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        (First part was meant for te OF comment, not third)

      • coop202 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        Nm I agree with you, shoulda read the whole comment first

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        coop, no problem and there are exceptions of course like you said.

        Some people are just getting real creative. David Proctor called Ryan’s throw “horrendous” which prompted that response, and it’s like people are just making up stuff now.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        nats128, I’m not certain that Ghost was talking about my post from yesterday, which was about Zim’s throw on the backhand snare/throw to first DP, not about the play that Ramos did not make on Span’s throw that coulda/woulda/shoulda had Tulo at the plate.

        I stand by my comment from yesterday. It’s absolutely true that if you have a cannon that gives you a certain amount of make-up time to set your feet and throw. Not everyone can do that, particularly from SS or 3b when they have to go to their right (backhand) side – and even infielders with a cannon will learn to cheat and bounce throws when a particularly fast baserunner means that even they don’t have time to set their feet. So all infielders learn how to cheat and bounce throws when they have to in order to get the out. There are 15 baseball games when MLB is on a full schedule, and chances are pretty good that someone, somewhere in one of those games will bounce a throw on purpose. Which they do in the pros and not in the rec league because the guy catching the ball is also (in most cases) a professional baseball player and therefore the thrower can count on an increased likelihood that the glove man will have the reflexes to catch the ball.

        From my post yesterday: “[the play] was a great pick and a good (not great) throw.”

        Note that I never said that Zim has a hose of an arm, or that the way he played it was the way Machado or (possibly) Rendon (etc) would have played it, etc. But it was a good throw, as in “good enough.” If Zim can make that play, the Nats can live with his arm at 3b. Sure, it’s a step down from Rendon at third – but it’s worth it to have an 8 man lineup (+ pitcher) rather than a 7 man lineup (+ Espinosa AND a pitcher).

  4. Eric - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    IMO the Braves decisively moved past their pitching obstacles, particularly for the first month or two of the season. I think it’s unfair to dismiss them as somehow not a big deal, but I think it’s fair to say they’ve been overcome.

    Their “obstacles” on offense, on the other hand, seem to be inherent to their lineup. They rank 22nd or lower in every standard offensive category besides 3Bs, HRs, and TBs. All this with all their regulars healthy for the vast majority of the season so far.

    • nats128 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      Medlen was not a lock anyway for there rotation just like Detwiler with the Nats. They still had the opportunity to get Ervin Santana who was a top Free Agent.

      The Braves have done this to themselfs by overusing there pitchers. Injuries happen and with them its alot and I dont think thats a coinceidence.

      • adcwonk - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:41 PM

        Medlen was not a lock anyway for there rotation just like Detwiler with the Nats.

        Huh? I thought he was a potential opening day starter for them. He was their #1 or #2, wasn’t he?

      • nats128 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        What I mean by that is that he was there projected 2 or 3 however there rotation still had Minor and Teheran and Beachy and Wood and Hale and others where nothing was a lock plus Gavin Floyd where they had 7 projected starters for 5 spots.

      • natsbro - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:50 PM

        Medlen was a lock

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Medlen seemed to be a lock for the rotation. He finished 2013 strong for them. He got up to a 3.85 ERA in August but finished strong. He got lots of run support.

        I don’t think he was an Ace but after they let Tim Hudson walk the #1 was there for the taking.

  5. adcwonk - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    At 36-46, Philadelphia is on pace to lose 90 games for the first time since 2000. That wouldn’t be acceptable for any team, much less one that has the third highest payroll in all of baseball.

    Most of use here saw this coming years in advance. (Witness the many “tick tock” comments from two or three years ago).

    I might also point out: they are also, by far, the oldest team in the NL.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      You might also point out that the Phillies’ oldest players are still their best, which is even more ominous.

    • ArVAFan - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      Ha! So they’re the ones that need the clock with no hands! Can we get a clock at the trade deadline?

    • jd - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      Wonk,

      What do you think of Utley for us for next year? I think he has a few years left on his contract and I wouldn’t give them ‘A’ type prospects for him but I think he would be good for a championship run or 2.

      • adcwonk - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        I dunno . . . I’m always leery of trading/signing for guys who are already 35. And he’s a free agent after 2015.

        Certainly he’d be a great addition. For how long? I dunno . . .

      • therealjohnc - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:24 PM

        As a 10 and 5 guy, Utley has the right to refuse a trade even if the Phillies were [smart] enough to trade him. But if Phillie GM “Ruin Tomorrow” actually does start fielding calls on Utley Rizzo should at least place that call. I’m guessing that the first words out of Amaro’s mouth would be “Giolito” or “Cole” – in which case Rizzo should laugh and hang up. And Amaro is unlikely to settle for less than that from a division rival, even if Utley is willing to play somewhere else.

        Utley is only under contract through 2015, but there are a series of three more $15M option years that vest based on playing time.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 55 44 --
ATLANTA 55 47 1.5
MIAMI 48 52 8.0
NEW YORK 48 54 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 44 58 12.5
Through Thursday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
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.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

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.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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