Saturday, June 05, 2010

NL East May Recap

June and the heat are in full effect, meaning 2 months and 1/3 of the season are complete. Once again WSBGMs asked some NL East bloggers questions about their teams for a May recap, and once again the Marlins were no-shows (because nobody cares about them apparently including their bloggers). Thanks for all who participated.

Atlanta Braves:
*Capitol Avenue Club

1. Does Chipper Jones have enough in the tank to make a positive impact for the remainder of this season?
Yes, I think so. The days of Chipper as a power hitter are most likely done, but his contact and walk rates are still high enough for him to be an elite offensive 3B.

2. If Yunel Escobar, Melky Cabrera, and Nate McLouth start hitting, how good can this offense be?
From here on out if Yunel Escobar hits .300 and Nate McLouth hits 25 doubles and Melky Cabrera posts a serviceable on base average, they should have one of the best offenses in the NL. The offense was miserable in April and it exploded in May. They'll have to get the aforementioned players going again if they're to sustain the offensive outburst, though.

3. What do you make of Billy Wagner's proclamation that this is his final season?
So many things. First of all, I no longer get angry at the prolific use of Wagner to finish games in non-save situations, since the expensive vesting option and the state of his arm in 2011 are no longer relevant. It raises the question who will close next year, the answer I'm not sure of, but I'm guessing the bullpen will be a lot cheaper in 2011.

Finally, it's a subtle reminder of how amazing Wagner's career has been. I think he's a hall of famer and the greatest left handed reliever of all time.

I should also probably note that he's pitched exceptionally well (32 strikeouts, 2 homers, 7 walks in 20 innings) in his farewell tour and would be getting a good bit of attention if the Braves were ever in save situations.

4. How do you feel about the Braves chances of contending now that you've seen 2 months of play?
I still think the Phillies have the best roster in the NL East (or just the NL, period), but the Braves have enough to stay in the race and I think they've got a pretty good chance of playing baseball in October, either as the division champion or (more likely, IMO) the wild card.

New York Mets:
*Mets Police

1. Will Carlos Beltran play this season, and if so will he outproduce what Angel Pagan has done thus far?
Yes he will play - 4 home runs and 23 rbi - yeah he can make that up in 6 weeks.

2. What the hell is Ollie Perez's problem?
Why ride a bus when you can ride a chartered plane?

3. What do you make of Jerry Manuel as a manager?
He starts the same 8 guys I do, and he starts the same 5 pitchers I would have to...not really much he can do.

4. What do you think are the Mets chances of contending now that you've seen them play for 2 months?
The Phillies (and Braves) haven't ran away and hid...which is encouraging..but every time I believe they play awful and every time they look "done" they win 8 of 10. So i will say "no" and hope reverse logic gets them a World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies:
*Phillies Flow

1. What do you make of Ryan Howard's lack of power thus far?
Howard's home run rate is way up against lefties and way down against righties. He's still hitting righties well, but his overall pace against them and especially his power numbers are way off. Through Monday's game he was about as likely to deliver an extra-base hit against a righty (7.6% of PA) as he was a lefty (7.4%). I worry that he has focused so much on improving against lefties and breaking balls that it has made him less effective overall against right-handed pitching.

2. How pitiful are bench players Brian Schneider, Ben Francisco, and Greg Dobbs?
They have been hardcore pitiful. The bigger problem, though, is that the guys who should be on the bench or not on the team at all are starting regularly. Injuries to Rollins and Polanco have meant way too many plate appearances for Valdez and Castro, who would hopefully have about zero between them and are up to about 200.

3. Conspiracy Theory- does the Phils recent lack of scoring coincidentally occur with "Binocular Gate" or is there a natural correlation?
I'm hoping it's a coincidence, but it doesn't look good. By my count they scored 5.44 runs per game through the May 10 game. In the games since they have scored 3.32 runs per game.

4. What does this team need to improve upon in order to defend its NL East title?
Hitting and defense. They need more from their stars -- Utley, Howard and Rollins. Blanton needs to be a lot better. They need Happ back and stability at the back of their pen. They need to get Valdez and Castro out of the lineup really soon.

*Macho Row
1. What do you make of Ryan Howard's lack of power thus far?
I’m stunned by Ryan Howard’s lack of power to this point, but I am satisfied with his overall hitting thus far. With the calendar flipping to the summer months though it is beginning to be “Ryan Howard Season”, so I expect the power numbers to increase some very soon.

2. How pitiful are bench players Brian Schneider, Ben Francisco, and Greg Dobbs?
The bench has been somewhat surprising to me. I expected them to be much improved over last season, and maybe they are, but if the Phillies need a clutch at bat off the bench, there are few options that instill much confidence in me.

3. Conspiracy Theory- does the Phils recent lack of scoring coincidentally occur with "Binocular Gate" or is there a natural correlation?
I think it is a coincidence, but it definitely is a head scratcher.

4. What does this team need to improve upon in order to defend its NL East title?
The starting pitching has been pretty good of late, so right now it has to be the offense. Hits with runners in scoring position will lead the team back to another NL East title.

*High Hopes
1. What do you make of Ryan Howard's lack of power thus far?
I don't make much of it. Let's face it, the team's in a historic slump. Ryan Howard is very much a part of that slump, but I think you can expect his numbers, like the team's, to rise as the season continues. Baseball is just a game where things like this happen. Anyone who would have predicted that an offense powerhouse like this one would have gone through a scoring drought this horrific would have been labeled insane. But things like this just happen in baseball -- to the best teams and the best hitters. I think Howard's numbers will end up in the .280/45/140 range.

2. How pitiful are bench players Brian Schneider, Ben Francisco, and Greg Dobbs?
I wouldn't call Schneider pitiful. He's been hurt and you kind of knew what you were getting there, a solid defensive catcher who would struggle at the plate. But for Dobbs, Francisco and Ross Gload the excuses are wearing off, especially as they see more at bats with the current lineup situations. Right now there isn't a clear cut guy to go to with the game on the line in the ninth, however Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez have filled in admirably when needed.

3. Conspiracy Theory- does the Phils recent lack of scoring coincidentally occur with "Binocular Gate" or is there a natural correlation?
I love a good conspiracy theory, but that's a stretch. I don't think "Binocular Gate" had anything to do with anything. This, for whatever reason, is just one of those things that happens in baseball. But the fact that we're even considering that as a viable cause speaks to how incredible and unthinkable the slump has been.

4. What does this team need to improve upon in order to defend its NL East title?
That's an easy one. Offense. They need to do what they're built to do -- hit. And I know they will, just give it some time.

Washington Nationals:
*Federal Baseball
1. Why doesn't Adam Dunn get the same hype as Ryan Howard?
The short answer is that he's not as good as Ryan Howard, but it's a bit more complicated than that. Dunn has posted a .250/.383/.520 career line over ten seasons, while Howard has earned a .279/.373/.576 line over seven seasons. Beyond the batting, Howard is a better fielder, earning a career .990 fielding percentage to Dunn's .976 career fielding percentage.

Part of it, also, is the teams that they play for. Dunn spent most of his career with a Reds team that didn't manage to win more than 80 games in his time there, while Howard has played for a dominant Phillies organization that won a World Series in his time there. Howard has also finished in the top 5 for MVP voting four times, winning it once, while Dunn has never finished better than 26th place. When the Nationals start winning titles, Dunn will get more respect, but the bottom line is that he's not as good as Ryan Howard.

2. What do Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen mean for the Nationals and their fanbase?
With any luck, they mean a bigger, more energized Nationals fanbase. Strasburg has already proven that he will be a huge draw, selling out his first start just a few hours after the announcement was made. If people that come to see Strasburg leave Nationals fans, we can expect bigger crowds at non-Strasburg games, and more money being spent on Nationals merchandise. Hopefully this will lead to more team spending, but who knows.

3. If the team is hovering around .500 near the end of July, do they keep the players and hope to break even come season's end of start trading the likes of Livan Hernandez, Christian Guzman, Matt Capps, etc.?
I don't think Mike Rizzo will make any moves to put the Nats into serious contention this year, but I also don't think he's interested in dismantling the team. The Nats are playing well beyond anyone's wildest expectations, so Rizzo would be wise to let them continue to win and build interest among D.C. area fans. Before the season, I predicted that they would be serious contenders in 2012, but I'm just as happy if they contend earlier than that.

The other issue is that I don't think the Nationals have any obvious trade bait. They have expressed interest in resigning Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, and of the three players mentioned in the question, I would think the only player with any real trade value is Matt Capps. Hernandez is having a great year, but nobody is going to expect him to pull it off again next year, and Guzman would be a risk at his age as well. Capps could potentially be traded, but Drew Storen isn't ready to move into the closer role just yet, so I doubt Capps would be traded.


furiousBall said...

The Senators have a blogger?

Aaron said...

If the phillies were an ice cream flavor it would be vaginas and cream.
They still suck.

Bloodstripes said...

Top post Carson. Safe to say the slump is over? Hitters 3-4-5 have 5 RBI's. 1 through 5 have 8 hits and after 8 Roy Moyer has thrown only 82 pitches. Wow!

Go Phillies!!!

Bloodstripes said...

Howard flashin' the leather with a D gem as well. Goodness me!

Bloodstripes said...

A two hour complete game gem. What an outstanding performance from Grand-daddy Moyer. Thanks Pop.......and thanks for waking up offense. A beautiful win.

GM-Carson said...

That game was fast and that's thanks to a great outing by Grand Pappy. I can't believing he's doing this well. I thought he'd be a complete disaster this year, but turns out his the Phils 2nd best starter.