Welcome to the NL East April Recap. WSBGMs emailed select bloggers from all NL East teams and the following are their responses. Missing is the Florida Marlins, because much like their fanbase, their bloggers also don't give a crap about them either. Hopefully this will become a monthly feature.
Capitol Avenue Club
1. First Impression- They're a good team but they've played pretty bad thus far. The starting pitching hasn't been nearly as good as I expected, the offense has struggled more than I expected, and they've predictably been bad at running the bases and in the field. The one bright spot has been the bullpen.
2. Most Impressive- The most impressive pitcher has been Tommy Hanson, who has struck out 33 batters and walked only 10 in 29 innings. The most impressive hitter has been Jason Heyward, who has posted a .369 wOBA in 89 PA's as a rookie.
3. Biggest Disappointment- Jair Jurrjens has been a wreck thus far, posting a 5.21 SIERA in 24 innings. Matt Diaz has walked only twice and struck out 14 times with 2 extra base hits in 49 PA's.
4. Future- Like I said, this is still a good team, but they're going to have to play better, like they're capable of, if they're going to contend this season.
1. First Impression - Well, the Braves got off to a good start this season and went 8-5 in their first 13 games before going into the recent tailspin and losing nine straight. I think they'll pull things together though and I think they will go on to have a pretty good season. Some of their starting pitchers (Jurrjens, Lowe, and Kawakami) have to pitch better than they have to date and some of their hitters (McLouth, Cabrera, and Glaus) have to pick up the pace if the team is going to be successful this season.
2. Most Impressive - I'd have to go with the two young guys - Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward. Hanson is rapidly developing into one of the National League's best starting pitchers and Heyward has unbelievable skills for a 20-year old rookie (or anyone else for that matter). As long as they stay healthy, they're going to be two of the NL's best players for a long, long time.
3. Biggest Disappointment - It's still awfully early to single out one or two guys as the most disappointing player(s), so I'm not going to do that just yet, but as I said earlier, Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, and Kenshin Kawakami have to start pitching better than they have thus far and Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera, and Troy Glaus have to start hitting for the Braves to be successful.
4. Future - The long-term outlook for the Braves is outstanding. They have more major league caliber talent in their minor league system than any other team in the division and they have a lot of good young pitching prospects in their organization, which could prove helpful if they look to upgrade the major league team via trade. Their short-term/immediate future hinges on some of their key players playing up to their potential this season, but the Braves are certainly capable of contending in the NL East.
New York Mets:
1. First Impression- Well the Mets started off with a whimper but ended with a bang by taking nine straight to close out the month. To be perfectly honest, I'm not too sure what to make of them yet. The fact that they're near the top of the standings despite missing Carlos Beltran, losing a few games of Jose Reyes, and dealing with a slumping Jason Bay is a good sign. If Beltran returns, they only stand to get better in that regard. But at the same time, their pitching won't be this good the whole season. Mike Pelfrey was pitching out of his mind, and that's just not sustainable. He will be better than last year, certainly, but exactly how much better is still up for debate. Ditto for Jon Niese. And ditto for the bullpen, which has probably been a little lucky in how well its performed.
2. Most Impressive- Big Pelf has been the most impressive pitcher, however lucky he may or may not have been. A new splitter appears to have helped his strikeout rate, pushing it up over a strikeout per nine innings. Unfortunately, his walk rate has seen a similar rise, causing me to doubt his great start just a tad. Among hitters, David Wright is only hitting around .270, but he's walking a ton and his power appears to be back. And that's a great sign.
3. Least Impressive- John Maine has been simply disastrous. He's not throwing strikes and at times he's been lucky to break 90 with his heater. The result is too many baserunners and too many homeruns, a deadly combination. Among the hitters, Jose Reyes really hasn't done much since returning. It's a little disconcerting if explainable as he returns from an injury. Hopefully he'll get better.
4. Future- The Mets aren't as bad as they started, and they aren't as good as they ended. My guess is they're a .500 team, maybe a little less as the pitching returns to earth a little. They certainly have the talent to be better than that, but they'll need both some good luck and some better performances from some key cogs.
1. First Impression- When healthy this team is dangerous. Injuries to the pitching staff and Rollins are a concern for now, but in the long run the team should be just fine.
2. Most Impressive- Most impressive batter? Jimmy Rollins. We expect great things from guys like Ryan Howard and steady at bats from Chase Utley and Placido Polanco, but Rollins got off to such a tear to start the season. Hopefully he continues that whenever he returns to the lineup. Most impressive pitcher, hands down, is Roy Halladay. We knew he’d be great, but three complete games and five wins on May 1 is incredible. Sure he lost in San Francisco, but I’ll take the pace he is on right now any time!
3. Biggest Disappointment- Most disappointing batter to me has been Raul Ibanez. I imagine most Phillies fans think the same thing, but he has shown some signs of perhaps turning the corner recently so we’ll see what May brings us. Most disappointing pitcher has clearly been Kyle Kendrick. Now we know we should have taken his spring for what it was – very good against B lineups. Kendrick had us all pretty much fooled I think and he has shown nothing worth keeping him in the starting rotation. Thank God Joe Blanton is on his way back, and hopefully Happ gets back soon.
4. Future- Nothing has changed since last October for me. The Phillies are still the team to beat not only in the NL East, but the entire National League.
1. First Impression- These are not last year's Nationals -- they're still the joke of Major League Baseball, but they shouldn't be. They've been at or above the .500 mark for a number of weeks now, after back-to-back 100-loss seasons. They're playing like a team, and it really shows. Mike Rizzo made some great additions in the offseason, and bringing back hometown boy Jim Riggleman was a good move, providing some continuity from 2009 to 2010. It sounds weird to say, but I had forgotten that the Nationals were a Major League Baseball team, one that should be expected to compete in the division. It's been a great year to be a Nats fan.
2. Most Impressive- The most impressive players this year are batterymates Livan Hernandez and Pudge Rodriguez. Both are stable veterans (Hernandez is 35 and Rodriguez is 38), and both lead the team by their actions. Hernandez has been pitching way above his head, going 3-1 with a minuscule 0.87 ERA and one complete game shutout of the Brewers. What he lacks in speed he makes up in guile, never throwing above 88 MPH but outsmarting batters and getting groundouts. With a beefed up defense, including some stellar plays from the likes of Willie Harris and Josh Willingham, Hernandez will get pummeled on occasion, but will also continue to throw a number of solid games. Rodriguez currently leads the National League in batting average, and while, like Hernandez, he is due for a regression to the mean, his experience is exactly what the Nats need their young players to build on.
3. Biggest Disappointment- Easily Jason Marquis, an All-Star just last year. Over three starts, Marquis has earned himself a 20.52 ERA and failed to record a single out in his start against the Brewers. He's making $7.5 million this year, and was recently placed on the DL with bone chips in his elbow. He should be back in six weeks, but even then, who knows how he'll pitch. In terms of batters, Adam Dunn is off to a very slow start. He's picked up the pace lately, hitting two homers in one game last weekend, but is still batting just .225 on the season. If the Nationals hope to keep winning as they are, they're going to need more production from their studs like Dunn.
4. Future- The future is very bright in Natstown, even in 2010. My estimate was that the team would be legitimate contenders in 2012, but that may happen sooner -- offseason signing Chien-Ming Wang is expected to finish rehab and join the rotation in late May or June, and Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen will likely be called up around the same time. If Strasburg and Storen pitch as they're expected to, and if Wang can pitch anything like he did a few years ago, the Nats' rotation will be a lot more respectable. When Dunn comes out of his prolonged slump, and Ryan Zimmerman's hammy heals and he returns to the starting lineup, the Nats' bats should heat up. The only long-term questions are in right field and second base, currently both essentially platooned positions. Ian Desmond has shown that he is the shortstop of the future, and he should only get better with more big league seasoning. We aren't out of the woods yet, but we're a lot closer than we were this time last year.