NL East update

The first half of the season is complete and the National League East has its share of story lines.


Solace for Marlins fans

The Florida Marlins finished May within shouting distance of first place. Then June happened. They lost 23 of 28 games. The month began with an eight-game losing streak which was immediately followed by an 11-game losing streak.

Franchise superstar Hanley Ramirez has played poorly all season, though he has been performing well since returning from the disabled list. And with Josh Johnson still on the disabled list with shoulder discomfort, it’s small wonder that the Marlins find themselves in the basement of the division.

Finding the silver lining after such a poor month is an onerous chore. Fish fans may want to look to a rival club for a smile.

Over the offseason, the Marlins dealt second baseman Dan Uggla to the Atlanta Braves for utility fielder Omar Infante and lefty reliever Mike Dunn. The Marlins’ side of the trade hasn’t been fantastic. Infante has been dismal at the plate with a .255/.299/.312 batting line. His fielding and utility have allowed him to remain useful to the club. Mike Dunn has performed as expected, combining middling control with big swing-and-miss stuff to provide the Marlins with a reliable if inconsistent reliever.

Although that duo hasn’t set the world afire, compared to Dan Uggla they look like perennial All-Stars. Uggla’s nightmare season comes on the heels of a five-year, $62 million contract extension that was signed shortly after the Braves acquired him. The deal looked questionable for the Braves when it was signed. Uggla’s mix of old player skills wasn’t expected to age well. Still, the Braves probably counted on a few more All-Star-caliber seasons before his skill set took a nose dive. Instead, they have received a roster-sapping .175/.241/.330 triple slash from the slugger.

There’s little reason to expect Uggla to remain this bad. According to his batted-ball profile, he should have reached base on over 30 percent of his balls in play. In that context, his current 19 percent rate is glaringly low. Uggla’s at rock bottom, so a bounce back looks likely.

The Phantastic Phour Update

Haters of Phillies phans’ penchant phor turning “f” into “ph” are probably pleased by Roy Oswalt‘s talk of retirement even if it is just talk.

While Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels have held up their end of the ace bargain, back pain has sapped Oswalt of the ability to keep pace. His numbers are still solid and speak to the quality of pitcher he is. Having completely lost his swing-and-miss stuff, Oswalt pitched to contact with great effect, keeping his ERA and FIP to an identical 3.79.

Some alarmist Phillies fans took Oswalt’s talk of possible retirement as a sign that his head is no longer in the game. His comments can just as easily be interpreted as frustration with a painful back. After getting a second opinion, Oswalt has begun a rehab program and is expected to rejoin the team sometime in August.

The Nationals continue to improve

The Washington Nationals are becoming more and more interesting to follow.

The club is 43-43 despite three of their best players—Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg—contributing very little to the club.

Since his unexpected signing with the Nationals, Jayson Werth has seen a good chunk of his power disappear. Nationals stadium is a bigger home field than Citizens Bank Park, but Werth has never been a “just enough” kind of home run hitter. At this juncture, it’s tough to tell if his power will return or if this is a sign of things to come. He continues to walk at a good pace, so the Nationals should still be able to get plenty of value out of him.

Part of the Nationals’ success can be attributed to the continued emergence of Michael Morse. He had a slow start to the season but really picked up the slack once Adam LaRoche hit the disabled list. He’s walked in just 5 percent of his plate appearances, which is low for a slugger like Morse. He also swings at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone: 39 percent compared to a league average of 30 percent. Opposing pitchers might find a way to exploit that eagerness, but so far Morse has met the challenge.

Of course, the Nationals also own two of the most exciting prospects in baseball. Stephen Strasburg has been proceeding nicely in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He recently started throwing his curveball again and could begin a rehab assignment soon.

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper earned a promotion to Double-A. As an 18-year-old in Hagerstown, he put together a .318/.423/.554 line with 14 home runs and 19 stolen bases. That kind of production from such a young player is jaw dropping. Baseball fans counting down the days to Harper’s debut should remember his recent “blown kiss.” That wasn’t the first time his attitude showed up on the field; hopefully he learned a valuable lesson.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: NL Waiver Wire: Week 13
Next: THT Awards »


  1. Brad Johnson said...

    I cut my Mets comments, they weren’t the least bit interesting. I also cut my Braves comments if it’s any consolation.

    Here’s a round up of things that can be said about the Mets.

    -Jose Reyes has been surprisingly good.
    -The Mets might have been surprise contenders if David Wright was healthy and playing like vintage David Wright.
    -Carlos Beltran’s continued health is also surprising.
    -The Mets have managed to build a respectable pitching staff from the midden heap. Capuano, Young (pre-injury), Beato, and Isringhausen are the stand outs there. Depending on your perspective, you could argue to include Pelfrey, Niese, Dickey, and Gee too, although they aren’t exactly “scrap heap” players. Well, Dickey was a year ago.
    -Their respectable performance to date has the club publicly wavering over whether to sell or buy at the trade deadline. Personally I think that’s a show for the fans, the club needs to restructure itself and it simply isn’t going to beat the Phillies or Braves. They would need to go something like 50-26 from here on out to have a shot. Wasting this opportunity to save money and maybe pick up a prospect or three would be foolish.

    I suppose that last point might have been worth 250 words.

  2. DLeaberry said...

    Pitching and defense have kept the Nats competetive.  Ryan Zimmerman missed nearly 60 games due to injury, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond have hit poorly, and Adam LaRoche has been injured since early in the campaign and is out for the season.  Danny Espinosa and Michael Morse have been outstanding and Laynce Nix has surprised.

    The Nats have several quandries if they are still in some sort of race for the playoffs as summer meanders on.  Do they bench Desmond, move Espinsoa to short, and start Steve Lombardozzi(hit over. 300 at AA Harrisburg this spring and is hitting over .400 at AAA Syracuse currently) at second?  When do they shut down pitcher Jordan Zimmerman, who is to be limited to 180 innings?  Do they dare pitch Stephen Strasburg in September?  Do they bring up Bryce Harper in September, having said they wouldn’t just a month ago?

  3. Brad Johnson said...

    Prior to the season, I thought it made a lot of sense to let Harper taste some MLB action at the end of the season – mostly as a means of getting fans in the stadium in a month that probably still won’t really matter. Now, I think it might make more sense for the Nationals to aim for an early season call up next year. This is partially because I previously assumed he would need at least 3 months of development time in 2012, now I’m not quite sure he’ll “need” any.

    This Nats roster still smacks of a .500 team, so unless they make a major deadline move for a player like Matt Kemp, I doubt they will mess with Desmond. He’s a better player than he’s shown, they’ll stick with him.

  4. Paul said...

    The Braves have the second best record in the NL.  Also one of 3 teams in MLB with 50 wins so far.  Not worth a comment at all?  First and Last column by Brad Johnson i’ll read.

  5. Marc Schneider said...

    Silly to dismiss a writer just because he doesn’t write what you want to hear.  The Nats aren’t going to be in contention; they are improving but have been extremely lucky in a lot of their wins.

    The Braves obviously need help but at what price?  Certainly you need to trade from strenght, but do you weaken the strongest part of the team for a relatively minor upgrade?  I don’t see anyone available that would help substantially and, more importantly, that Liberty Media would be willing to pay.

  6. Will said...

    Brad -

    You know of my crush, but that aside I feel Jordan Zimmermann deserves mention. His last outing was very unlike his previous 11, and of their surprisingly low starting pitcher ERA, his contribution is the most legit. He is also really young, and getting ever further from surgery, so the ceiling’s even higher (even if he doesn’t strike out so many).

    On the downside, Davey Johnson started Matt Stairs, and in cleanup no less… multiple times. His explanation doesn’t give me much solace, as that means he was hurting the team the whole game in hopes that in the rare situation he needs to pinch hit he’ll be a little bit better. And now the smallest of sample sizes probably has him convinced that he was a genius to do it.

    Oh, and also how he managed your boy Detwiler last night, who has a history of tiring and clearly had had enough, yet he kept him in to face a righty with multiple guys hitting him in a row leading up to that plate appearance.

    At any rate, great stuff…

  7. Brad Johnson said...

    There were things I could have stretched into interesting copy for the Mets, but the Braves have been extremely uninteresting besides Uggla’s (mentioned) struggles.

    Some things I could have said about the Braves:

    -They have lots of pitching depth
    -They still seem to have forgotten that CF is a position and that they need to hire somebody to play it.
    -Chipper Jones gets banged up frequently
    -Freddie Freeman has been adequate
    -Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters get used a LOT

  8. Trevor said...

    Some of my thoughts on your thoughts about the Braves:

    Jordan Schafer, their centerfielder as of late, is actually doing pretty well,being worth almost a win in ~175 PA’s, which would equal about to about 3 over a whole season. Not too shabby, I would say.

    Freddie Freeman has been adequate so far, but has really turned it on lately, which could be a sign that he’s beginning to adjust to the league. Also, he’s still only 21.

    Kimbrel and Venters do get used a lot, but you could have said something about how they’ve been part of arguably the best bullpen/pitching staff in the majors. You could have said something about Jair Jurrjens’ great season, or Tommy Hanson’s emergence as a top starter, or Brandon Beachy’s excellent numbers so far.

    And, although it didn’t really offend me, I do have to agree with they guy above, it’s very discouraging to read an article about the NL East and not see your favorite team, one that’s doing really well in fact, not mentioned. It’s also discouraging to hear the writer refer to your team as “uninteresting” in the comments section. Just some advice for future articles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>