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PN Writers Roundtable: National League East

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, May 25, 2010 10:00 AM | Comments: 20
Posts, Writer's Roundtable

This is the Phillies Nation Writers Roundtable. Every so often, we’ll come up with a topic we’d all like to address and post our opinions on it.  Here’s today’s question:

Q: The Phillies play the Mets, Marlins, and Braves this week. The Braves were looked at as the 2nd best team in the NL East before the season started but haven’t quite lived up to that hype. The Marlins are who they are. The Mets are the bottom feeder right now, but have had an up and down season. Who out of these three teams (sort of excluding the Nats) do you believe will give the Phillies the closest race in the NL East and why?

Mike Baumann: At the beginning of the season, I was as high on the Braves as anyone, and despite their early-season stumbles, I remain most afraid of Atlanta. Honestly, Hanley Ramirez appears to have checked out in Miami, which can’t help their chances, and the Mets, despite an early hot start, have lapsed back into Omar Minaya’s Flying Circus. In Jason Heyward and Tommy Hanson, the Braves have perhaps the two best young players in the division, and they’ve climbed back into second place over the weekend despite age finally catching up with Derek Lowe and Nate McLouth having the worst eight weeks of his life.

Also, I know the Phillies aren’t playing the Nationals this week, but don’t sleep on Washington. They’re only half a game back of the Braves, and with Stephen Strasburg due to come up within the next month or so, and these rumblings of Roy Oswalt packing his bags and heading east, they could have the juice to stay around the middle of the pack at least. Now, Pudge Rodriguez is hitting .325 and Livan Hernandez has a 1.62 ERA despite a K/9 of about 3 and a K/BB ratio of 1, so some regression is to be expected. Coolstandings gives Washington about one chance in 12 to make the playoffs, which I think is about right, but until they actually fall off the pace, let’s give them some respect.

Amanda Orr: Entering Sunday, the Marlins were 11th in baseball in overall ERA. However, they have a better rotation than the Mets and Braves. However, their bullpen is a little worrisome. Leo Nunez has been a solid closer, but they don’t really have anybody other than him.

Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla can get the job done offensively. Chris Coghlan hit a sophomore slump, and Cameron Maybin has yet to play to his potential, but you have to like the Florida offense. However, I think the Mets have more offensive potential than the Marlins.

The Mets are last of the four teams in runs scored, but with players like Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Jason Bay, you’d have to imagine that they will snap out of the funk. The thing that will hold the Mets back is their pitching. Entering Sunday, the Mets were 8th in the majors in ERA, but they’ve had all kinds of problems, from injuries to moving Oliver Perez to the bullpen. Johan Santana hasn’t been “the best pitcher in the NL East” as he proclaimed, but you’d have to figure he’ll come around. Pitching is not something the Mets can rely on right now.

The Braves have yet to play to their expectations, but they still can’t be counted out. Every pitcher hates facing Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, and Jason Heyward is finding his way onto that list. The Braves have the better bullpen of all the teams in the National League, but other than Tommy Hanson, they haven’t gotten much from their starting rotation.

Of course, you have the Nationals who can’t be counted out. They’ve been streaky, but I don’t see them contending this year. Much improved? Absolutely. So, after all this, I think I’m going to have to go with the Marlins, but it is very close. They have the NL East’s best rotation, plus a solid offense.

Paul Boye: It may have taken a little longer than some of us expected it to, but the Phils’ main competitors in the East have all started to show the chinks in their armor. Well, the Phils have, too, but that’s a totally different argument for another time.

If I had to pick a team that I think will be within, say, seven games of the Phils come late September, I’d go with (surprise!) the Mets. In the pre-season, I felt the Mets were leaps away from competing for a wild card spot, much less the division. Even now, I still don’t see them as being a better team than the Phillies, but in a division full of flawed teams, the Mets would appear to be the second-least flawed, standing the best chance of playing the rest of this season competitively.

The Met pitching staff is a sieve right now, as a lot of people thought it would be, but I can see a deadline deal (for a Roy Oswalt, maybe? A Jon Papelbon, if the cards fall right?) that will bolster their staff and put the Mets in a solid second place. Don’t sleep on Carlos Beltran, either. He should come back healthy sometime in June, and his bat will strengthen the offense considerably.

Again, none should pose a serious threat to a healthy Phillies team. But the Mets could be luring more than a few to sleep.

Corey Seidman: 1) Braves – Entering the season, I was one of the few that criticized the makeup of the Braves’ roster. Everyone was gaga over Atlanta’s pitching staff but I didn’t see it. People spewed nonsense like “Kenshin Kawakami is the best fifth starter in baseball,” even though the guy had absolutely no track record of sustained success. As we’ve seen this year, he’s nothing special.

In addition, I cited Derek Lowe’s decline as a must-be-examined aspect of the Braves’ rotation. Lowe was awful last year and has been awful this year. He’s a sinkerballer giving up fewer groundballs and walking too many. So far this year, Lowe has been Kyle Kendrick, just with so much run support that he sports a deceiving 6-4 record. (In the interest of accountability, I must note here that I didn’t think Tim Hudson could be relied on heavily, but he’s surpassed my forecast and has been nothing short of brilliant.)

2) Marlins – The Marlins do this every year. They have a powerful, extremely inconsistent offense, a rotation anchored by two underrated aces, but the rest of the rotation and the bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. The offense places too much importance on the home run, so when guys go through power droughts, the team blows. As currently assembled, the Marlins are, at best, an 84-78 team.

3) Mets – Carlos Beltran will likely never again be the player he was. Some highly reputable sources have hypothesized that Beltran’s range will be so limited upon his return, that he will only be able to play left field, removing a huge part of his value. Jose Reyes is adding very little to the team and pitchers have learned how to pitch to David Wright in crucial spots. The rotation is a disaster and the bullpen is already incredibly overworked. The 2010 Mets are a 75-78 win team.

So far as who is the biggest threat to the Phillies, it’s the Braves, a team that still has its top players underperforming despite a quiet winning streak that brought the team back into contention.

Nick “The Beerman” Staskin: Atlanta rebounded from a rough two week stretch to climb back into second place, but I don’t think they have the rotation depth that was thought to be there in the preseason. Aside from Jason Heyward, there isn’t a bat in the lineup that puts any fear into opposing managers. Chipper Jones is finished, Nate McLouth is overrated and it seems that Yunel Escobar healthy or not, just doesn’t have the mindset to be a star.

The two teams who worry me, and its not exactly a pooping the bed kind of worry, are the Nationals and the Mets. Both seem willing to open the purse strings to bring in the star power needed to make the wildcard. Stephen Strausburg is only a phone call away for Washington, and as long as Matt Capps is reliable at the back end of the bullpen they have to at least be considered as a long shot.

As for the Mets, you have to figure that Jose Reyes is going to start hitting and eventually some of Jason Bay’s fly balls will land over the fence. They did just take two of three from the Yankes, and have some pieces there to contend. Johan Santana is still Johan Santana, easily one of the top ten if not top five pitchers in baseball. If Omar Minaya can find a way to pair him with Roy Oswalt thats a nice one-two punch.

But when all is said and done, I really don’t see anyway the Phillies don’t win the NL East by at least seven games. Considering all the injury problems the Phils have had through the first two months of the season, they are still the top team in the National League, and they are only going at about 75% right now.

Pat Gallen: I chose the Braves in our season preview and I’ll stick with that (for now). Their offense scares no one (except for the great Jason Heyward, who is a star) and their pitching is shaky beyond Hudson and Hanson. I still think they have enough to make a run, however.

The Marlins have always scared me because they play like they have nothing to lose, even though they aren’t as talented. If they could find a third pitcher to step in and give them stability, they could be a force. But so far that hasn’t happened. Toss in the Hanley drama…

The Mets are the Mets. Relatively bad pitching beyond Santana/Pelfrey and a lineup that doesn’t have the makeup of a team that will make any sustained run. Carlos Beltran’s impending return means very little at this point. I still see the Mets as a 4th place team.

So for now, I’ll stick with the Braves as the team to stick closest to the Phillies this season, although I’ll have to see more from their offense and the staff behind the two aces.


Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1677 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    The Nationals scare me… and not because of what they have but because of what they could have. The longer they hang around, the more confident they get. Right now, they’re playing without Jason Marquis, Chien Mien Wang, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Roy Oswalt… all of those guys could be back at the all-star break. If this team is not out of it by then, they’re going to be a tough team to contend with down the stretch.

    The Marlins do appear to be heading in the wrong direction… if Hanley and Cantu can put it together at the same time, they’re capable of streaking but I don’t think that they have the pieces to be a legitimate contender. They have some nice young pitching and they’re a nice well rounded team but they just don’t have enough.

    The Braves were supposed to be a team built upon pitching but without Jurrjens, they’re average at best… Lowe has been wildly inconsistent (where’s Dipsy, chairman of the Derek Lowe in Pinstripes Committee?), Kawakami is borderline terrible so they’re left with a young sophomore, Tommy Hanson, and an injury prone veteran, Tim Hudson. Their lineup is ok but it’s not comparable to what we’ve got.

    The Mets don’t have the pitching and their lineup has a major flaw; there aren’t enough run producers. They have one player with over 25 RBI’s… we have three (and three more with over 20). Jason Bay has 19 RBI. They’re relying on Rod Barajas… that won’t end well. Maybe Beltran comes back and gives them a boost but I still don’t see it happening for the Mets. Pelfrey and Santana are solid 1/2 but beyond that, it’s not good.

    We are still the clear cut favorites but we have to stay healthy and be more consistent… this team is capable of stringing together 10-15 wins in a row. It would be nice to see them do something like that before the all star break.

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Braves pitching will get better… Mets offense will get better… Nationals pitching will get better (though some are expecting WAY too much out of Strasburg in his rookie year, when he’s gonna be limited to insane pitch counts, etc), Marlins I think will slightly improve in all deparments.

    Still:

    -Not scared about the Nats, at all. Next year will be a different thing, though.

    -Mets are a deal away from being contenders (a good starter like Oswalt or even Harang –fly ball pitcher in a tiny park– is what they really need).

    -I think that the Braves still are the biggest threat. Escobar, McCann, Jurjjens HAVE to get better.

    Great post, PN!

     
  • Posts: 0 mikemike

    When did the nationals get oswalt. is strasburg proven major league pitcher.?????? The mets are in on oswalt starting there package with ike davis, add oswalt to that staff plus rumors has them in on lee too; it could be a fast turnaround, thought the braves would be so much better, but still a lot of baseball left.

     
  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    I know this is ridiculous, but Mike Greenburg presented a theory that lately, no matter where Pudge Rodriguez goes, that team immediately becomes a contender and usually plays in the WS. (Look it up, it’s one of those oddities of the game) But for many other reasons, I really think the Nats will come in second in the east. That said, despite all the injuries, we still have the second best record in baseball. So I’m not particularly worried about any of them.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Right now.,..for me….the Nats and Braves are on my radar screen. That said….the Phils win the division by at least 5 games.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phils Fan

    Lefty…

    Pudge has made the playoffs 5 times in 20 seasons, and only twice in the past decade.

    It doesn’t shock me that what Greenberg said makes absolutely no sense at all.

     
  • Posts: 579 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    Pudge is on the DL team as of last night…

     
  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    PF – Greenburg was talking about the 03 Marlins who didn’t have a winning record the year before, and the 07 Tigers the same. But I quoted that “tongue in cheek”. I honestly think the Nats have the talent to beat out the Braves, Mets and Marlins. While we watch the three of them beat each others brains out, (or in the Mets case, stumble, bumble and win a few games now and then) we’ll stroll into the playoffs. If there is a concern, it’s our problems with the AL teams last year, but that won’t be a problem either.

     
  • Posts: 0 RichieAllen

    Not to get off the subject ..but …I have a feeling that in order to sign Werth,we would need to subtract somebody with a healthy salary.Hopefully that doesnt mean one of our core players.

     
  • Posts: 0 BurrGundy

    Oswalt for Greg Dobbs………….Cliff Lee for Kyle Kendrick……….what is so hard about that !!??!!

     
  • Posts: 0 MetsForever

    I like seeing how you guys automatically have the Phillies winning the division by 7 games with only 2 months thru the season. Are you guys drinking the same punch that ESPN guys are.
    This is the closest division in the NL (first to last is 5 games). And as we know anything can happen in a season. I do not know how the season will end, but the Mets did get into first (however, only brief) once already.
    Also, just as the Phillies will get healthier, so will the rest of the division. I wouldn’t count out any team in the East just yet. As a Met fan I can tell you it can hurt if you do.

    You gotta love baseball and all of the debates.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Anyone who says that they don’t think Stephen Strasburg will have an immediate impact is nuts… the kid throws 101-103 with a devastating curveball and a very good change up and he doesn’t walk batters. He walked only 45 batters in 210 innings of work in college and struck out 316. The only earned run he’s given up in the minors so far was on a passed ball…

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Hope you’ll stick around MetsForever… we don’t bite. This is a Phillies blog so of course we’re going to be a little bit biased… realistically, we’re better than the other teams in our division but we understand that anything can happen. It’s going to be a dogfight into September but we feel that if our guys play up to their potential, it’s our race to lose. Further, all of the other teams will have to play up to theirs… it’s a little easier to hit the target when you have more ammunition to work with.

     
  • Posts: 0 MetsForever

    I would not expect anything else. I like to see what other team fans have to say about the division. We will see how it all works out towards the Allstar game to get an idea and to find out what teams are real.

     
  • Posts: 0 BurrGundy

    This is going to be a dog fight until mid to late September in this division. Every team has the ability to pull it out with some luck and some good pitching. It will depend on health, luck, intelligent trade moves and motivation of the players. It will be a lot of FUN being a fan.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I still say the Phils win the division by 5 games…at least. I just don’t see the other teams being able to compete…they all have their strengths…but the Phils have the most COMPLETE team.

    And remember….the Phils are in 1st without their starting SS, their closer and their #4 starter most of the year. Their #3 was out til May. Their lefty bullpen guy is just now taking form after being out. Their setup guy is out.

    STILL in 1st!!

     
  • Posts: 0 paul

    well i guess it diddnt take to long for charlie to shoot off his mouth. he must be scared of the mets i thought the phillies were in first place im a met fan yes true blue i dont see my mets going off at the mouth they just try to play the game theyve had enough controversy i guess when your scared of a last place team you think different

     
  • Posts: 0 branderson

    Amanda Orr is an idiot. Why do I say this? Because she said the Florida bullpen doesn’t have anyone besides Leo Nunez as closer.
    How about:
    Renyel Pinto 2.51 ERA 13K in 14.1 IP
    Brian Sanches .087 ERA 1.26 WHIP in 10.1 IP
    Clay Hensley 1.52 ERA 1.01 WHIP 32 K in 23.2 IP

    3 solid guys right there.

    Oh but I hate Florida, I just don’t like when people are wrong.

     
  • Posts: 0 Amanda Orr

    My mistake for not looking more into the Marlins pitching. I looked at the 4.07 overall bullpen ERA, which isn’t bad, but also saw that the Marlins only have 5 bullpen pitchers listed on their depth chart, and none of the names really stood out. Should I have looked into it more? Absouletly, and that’s my fault.

    Pinto is good, but is that the same Brian Sanches the Phillies once had? He’s off to a good start, but it’s probably a fluke… Sample size of innings so far.

     
  • Posts: 0 branderson

    Amanda, I think it’s awesome that you wrote back. Looking over my comment I feel kind of like a jerk for calling you an idiot. My bad.
    Let’s go Phils

     
 
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