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Old 06-17-2005, 07:04 PM   #1
bama4256
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Default A New King of the Hill

Prior to the 2005 season the NL East was regarded as one of baseball's weakest divisions. Why? Because the Atlanta Braves have dominated the NL East since 1995.

This season most baseball experts and fans are seeing the NL East in a different light. For once someone other than the Atlanta Braves may dominate the NL East in 2005.

Atlanta has won 13 straight division titles. Prior to the 1994 season the Braves were in the NL West division. And 1994 was the year of the strike so the Braves have won the NL East every year since 1995. Maybe this year will be different.

You have to give the Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox a lot of credit for the Braves success over the years. He is a master of his trade. Cox currently has over 2,030 plus wins in his long career.

But if you give Cox credit you must give pitching coach Leo Mazzone his due also. He's a great teacher. He has helped produce some great pitcher in his time.

So which team in the NL East has the best chance of unseating the Braves as champions of that division?

There are two teams that immediately come to mind, that being the Florida Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies. But guess what? Neither of these two teams are leading their division right now.

This is kind of hard to swallow, but the Washington Nationals are currently leading the NL East. The Nationals record is 39-27 and they hold a two and a half game lead over the Phillies and four and a half games over the Marlins.

Wow thatís impressive. Well, at least it is for the Nationals. Believe me nobody expected the Nationals to be in first place, especially in June.

I'm so thrilled baseball is back in Washington after 34 years. I was a big fan of the old Washington Senators. Boy that Frank Howard could hit some long homeruns.

Getting back to the present the Nationals have been on a tear lately. They won 10 games in a row before the Los Angeles Angels beat them this past Monday by a score of 11-1 in LA. But Washington came back and won the last two games of the series between them.

One place the Nationals are not playing well is on the road, besides this last series. They are 15-18 playing on the road, but 24-9 when playing at home. Washington wrapped up a 12-1 homestead before traveling to the west coast earlier this week.

So why have the Nationals been so successful so far this season. Itís not their overall hitting. They rank 15th in the NL in hitting. But their pitching has been pretty good, ranking 5th in the NL with a team ERA of 3.87.

Even though their hitting has not been that great they seem to get the key hits when they need them.

First baseman Nick Johnson leads their offense. Johnson leads the team in RBIís with 39. His OBP is an impressive .442. Heís batting .325.

Outfielder Jose Guillen who came over from the Angels during the off-season leads the team in homeruns with 11.

The Nationals hitting should improve when second baseman Jose Vidro returns from the DL probably sometime in July.

Outfielder Ryan Church has a lot of potential. Heís only 26 years old. Church is batting .310 with five homeruns and 24 runs batted in.

Like I stated earlier, their overall pitching has performed well so far this season. Livan Hernandez is the ace of the pitching staff. His record is 9-2 with an ERA of 3.43.

John Patterson has had some impressive outings. He is 3-1 with an ERA of 2.54

Washington just acquired pitcher Ryan Drese from the Texas Rangers and he won his first game as a National by beating the Angels Wednesday night 1-0. He was very impressive in his first performance for the Nationals.

The Nationals bullpen has been very impressive. Closer Chad Cordero leads the majors in saves with 21. His ERA is 1.06. Reliever Luis Ayala is 6-3 with an ERA of 2.31.

So if Washington continues to get good performances out of their pitching staff they could contend for the NL East crown in October.

So lets talk about the second place Phillies. They have been on a tear themselves lately. They have won 16 out of their last 20 games.

One of the reasons for their success has been their hitting. They rank third in the NL in overall hitting. Their pitching ranks a poor 11th.

So can their hitting get them into the postseason? Possibly! But hopefully their pitching will improve soon.

Outfielder Bobby Abreu has been hot as a firecracker this season. Abreu is batting .328 with 16 homeruns and 48 RBIís. His OBP is .443. In 2004 Abreu hit 30 homeruns and drove in 105 runs. He may better that this season.

His fellow outfielder Pat Burrell is having a breakout season. Burrell leads the team in RBIís with 55. Heís batting .318. His OBP is .409. Burrell best season was in 2002 when he hit 37 homeruns and drove in 116 runs with the Phillies. He has 14 homeruns so far this season.

The Phillies just signed shortstop Jimmy Rollins to a contract extension. His glove is his best weapon.

Second baseman Chase Utley has done well on offense. He is batting .315 with 10 homeruns and 32 RBIís.

Slugger Jim Thome just recently came of the DL so give him some time and he will be back to his old self. He hit over 40 homeruns for the Phillies in 2004. When he is healthy he is dangerous in a big way.

As for the Phillies pitching Jon Leiber is their best starter right now. Heís 8-5 with an ERA of 4.50. Cory Lidle has pitched decently. He is 6-4 with an ERA of 4.18.

Brett Myers is 5-3 with an ERA of 2.19. Not bad!

Starter Vicente Padilla has been a big disappointment. He is 3-6 with an ERA of 6.23.

The Phillies bullpen is a big plus for them. Southpaw closer Billy Wagner leads the team in saves with 17. Lefty Aaron Fultz has pitched well in relief. His ERA is 2.82.

Philadelphia recently acquired relief pitcher Ugueth Urbina from the Detroit Tigers. Heís good for some saves and can give Billy Wagner a break every now and then.

Wagner is pitching very well. He has 18 saves with an ERA of 2.56. He has some nasty stuff.

So in my humble opinion I think the Phillies will win the NL East if their starting pitching turns it up a notch.

With Thome back in the lineup their offense will only get better. Who knows maybe they can win the NL East by just scoring more runs than their opponents. Sounds like the American league doesn't it?

Now a lot of baseball experts predicted this would be the Florida Marlins year. They do have a great pitching staff, but they are still underachieving in that area. However, the Marlins do rank second in pitching in the NL.

Of course, we must give the Marlins their due. They have won two World Series in their short history. Doing it twice as a wildcard. They have never won their division. Amazing!

As I was saying about their starting pitching, they do have one pitcher who is not underachieving and that is Dontrelle Willis. Willis leads the National League in wins with 11 and only has two losses to his credit. His ERA is 2.06.

This guy is having a great season. He has been known to pitch poorly in the second half of the season, but I donít think he will this season.

Pitcher Josh Beckett has pitched well this season, but has not pitched well in his last couple of starts. Beckett is 7-5 with an ERA of 3.35.

A.J. Burnett is 4-4 with an ERA of 3.36. Burnett leads the team in strikeouts with 82.

Veteran pitcher Al Leiter has been a big disappointment so far this season. He is 2-6 with an ERA of 6.75.

Todd Jones has done a good job closing for this team. Jones has 11 saves with an ERA of 1.30.

What has hurt the Marlins this season has mainly been their lack of hitting. But this past Wednesday their bats finally got hot when they beat the Chicago Cubs 15-5.

The Marlins rank 11th in overall hitting in the NL.

During the off-season the Marlins acquired slugger Carlos Delgado. Delgado has been hot lately, but his bat was pretty cool a lot of the young year.

Delgado is now batting .325 with 14 homeruns and 49 runs knocked in. So hopefully he will keep a hot bat to help carry his team into the postseason.

Outfielder Miguel Cabrera usually swings a hot bat. He had a great year in 2004 for the Marlins, hitting 33 homeruns in 2004 while knocking in 112 runs. So far this season he has 11 homeruns with 43 RBIís. Heís batting .339. If this guy gets real hot watch out.

If third baseman Mike Lowell can starting swinging a hot bat this offense may take off. Lowell is batting .237.

Outfielder Juan Encarnacion has come up with some big key hits this season. He ranks third on the team in RBIís with 39.

The bottom line for the Marlins to win the NL East is to have their top three pitchers Willis, Beckett and Burnett win 15 or more games and for their bullpen to back them up.

So what about the Atlanta Braves? Can they win their 14th consecutive division title. Never count the Braves out. But I just donít see them winning it this season. I think injuries will haunt them most of the season.

Their best offensive player Chipper Jones has been on the DL. He will probably be out another four to six weeks with a bad foot. His bat is needed in a big way.

Pitchers Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson and John Thomson are on the DL. Hampton was pitching well before he got hurt. Atlantaís starting pitching has been suffering lately. But believe it or not their pitching still ranks second in the NL. And their overall hitting ranks ninth.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal has not been playing well. Heís having problems with his shoulder. The Braves need him to swing a good bat as their leadoff hitter. Furcal is batting .220.

Atlanta is playing a lot of rookies. Most have great promise, but your not going to win a division title or advance far in the postseason playing a bunch of rookies.

Rookie outfielder Ryan Langerhans has great potential. He has hit six homeruns while driving in 21 runs.

Rookie third baseman Wilson Betemit has an excellent career ahead of him. Heís batting .312. Another rookie third baseman Andy Marte has great potential.

I really like rookie outfielder Kelly Johnson. Heís a big strong kid.

Even though the Braves pitching ranks third in the NL, their starting pitching has been struggling lately. Ace pitcher Tim Hudson has not pitched well in his last couple of outings. He is 6-5 on the year. He was recently added to the DL.

Former Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz has pitched several impressive games this season since returning as a starter. He was an excellent closer over the past few years.
So far this season Smoltz is 6-5 with an ERA of 3.14.

Starter Horacio Ramirez is 4-4, but his ERA is 5.20.

Jorge Sosa who has been in the bullpen started a game against the Texas Rangers earlier this week and won. He has some nasty stuff. He is 3-0 overall with an ERA of 2.79.

Rookie pitcher Kyle Davies appears to have some good stuff. He is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.45.

Itís the Braves bullpen that worries me the most. Closer Danny Kolb has been a bust. The Braves must find an effective closer and soon. His ERA is 6.48.

Relievers Kevin Gryboski, Chris Reitsma and Blaine Boyer have pitched well at times, but something is missing. Like an effective closer.

There is one team in the NL East I havenít mentioned and that is the New York Mets. And for good reason too. I see only two bright spots on this team, that being pitcher Pedro Martinez and slugger Cliff Floyd.

Martinez has pitched very well for the Mets so far this season. Martinez is 7-1 with an ERA of 2.56. He leads the National League in strikeouts with 107.

Outfielder Cliff Floyd leads the team in homeruns with 15 and in RBIís with 43.

The Mets added Carlos Beltran to their lineup this year to boost the offense, but he's not hitting like he did last season. But the year is still young.

Going back to their pitching for a moment, in my opinion pitcher Tom Glavine has been a bust since joining the Mets a couple of years ago. Glavine is 4-6 with an ERA of 4.55. I just don't see him doing much this year or next.

Well, I given you a lot to ponder. Who do you think has the best chance to win the NL East? If Atlanta does get it together and win their 14th consecutive division title I won't be shocked.

One thing is for sure. Every team in this division has a fair chance of winning the NL East it seems. I really believe its going to be a tight race to the finish. Whoever has the best pitching and hitting come September will probably win it. No matter its going to be exciting. See you at the game.
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Old 06-18-2005, 08:14 AM   #2
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the Marlins have so much more talent then the other teams in the NL East i don't see how they can't finish first when the season is done with.

Bobby Cox is a great manager. only one World Series w/ all those division titles is a disapointment.

too bad Brett Myers doesn't get more run support from the Phils. his ERA is great and racking up a ton of K's.
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Old 06-18-2005, 09:48 AM   #3
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Good assessment, Bama. The NL East is a division where any of 4 teams (Phillies, Braves, Nats, Marlins) could win. I expect the Nats to fall out of contention in August or September, leaving the Braves, Marlins and Phillies to fight it out.
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Old 06-18-2005, 03:09 PM   #4
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Yeah with their young guns I expected Florida to run away with the division, but hasn't happen yet.
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Old 06-18-2005, 06:08 PM   #5
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That's because Todd Jones seems to be the only guy out of their pen that can get anyone out on a regular basis this year. It kills me when media types get on TV and say teams like Florida and the Cubs will be in the playoffs because they have the best starting pitching and totally neglect the fact that they have such crappy bullpens. The Cubs lack of stability in the bullpen is the main reason why they have not made it to the Series the past two seasons and why they are struggling to stay above .500 this season.

One of two things need to happen for the Marlins to make a big move in the standings:

-They need to find two or three more arms they can rely on out of the bullpen to take the pressure off the rotation, especially now that Beckett is back on the DL yet again.
-Or, Mike Lowell and Juan Pierre need to get their heads out of their butts and start producing at the plate like they are capable of. It is tough to generate the offense you need to win games when your leadoff hitter's OBP is only .300.

The main reason the Nationals are on top right now is due to better than expected pitching from Loaiza and Patterson and the consistency of its bullpen. Also, of all the teams in the East the Nationals have the best closer in Chad Cordero. Cordero has been lights out this year and is arguably the best closer in the game this year.
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Old 06-20-2005, 09:48 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by doublee
That's because Todd Jones seems to be the only guy out of their pen that can get anyone out on a regular basis this year. It kills me when media types get on TV and say teams like Florida and the Cubs will be in the playoffs because they have the best starting pitching and totally neglect the fact that they have such crappy bullpens. The Cubs lack of stability in the bullpen is the main reason why they have not made it to the Series the past two seasons and why they are struggling to stay above .500 this season.
Astute analysis. Although I would add that the Cubs seem to have talent in their pen, it just hasn't showed up consistently-- if it does, you might see them make a run here. Marlins need Mota to show up at the very least.
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Old 06-20-2005, 06:54 PM   #7
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Barring a major catastrophe in St. Louis the best the Cubs can hope for is getting the Wild Card spot assuming Prior and Wood can come back and make a significant contribution the second half of the season.
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Old 06-21-2005, 09:17 AM   #8
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Cubs are only 2 or 3 games out of the wildcard, it won't take much at all... in fact, a consistent closer (Dempster) may be all they need to make the playoffs, beyond what they've gotten so far. I don't think they need to pray for Prior to come back and dominate, though i'm sure they won't mind if he does.

Division title would require a Pujols injury, or more, in my opinion. You're right-- unlikely
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Old 06-21-2005, 06:53 PM   #9
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For the Cards to lose their lead in the Central I think they would have to lose Pujols and either Rolen or Edmonds to significant injury coupled with losing two or three of their key pitchers. A lineup with Eckstein, Grudz, Rolen, Edmonds, Sanders, Nunez, and Molina is probably good enough to keep them afloat coupled with the depth they have on their pitching staff.

The Cubs still have to worry about getting to Dempster their middle relief/setup men are still unreliable and giving up runs. They came precipitously close to blowing last night's game against the Brewers.

The Wild Card is likely to come down to which team(s) in contention make the best deals to improve their team. I have to think that the Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Dodgers, and Mets are all going to be in the market to make a deal in the next couple of weeks to get back in the race.
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Old 06-21-2005, 10:22 PM   #10
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The Cards have been playing without Rolen for much of the season and have done OK without him. Pujols going down would be tough to handle.
The NL will have about 5 teams in contention for the Wild Card -- the Cubs, Marlins, Phillies, Dodgers and D'Backs (with the Braves winning the NL East).
As to closers, I expect Mesa and Guardado to be hot commodities over the next month. I don't think either will be with his current team at the trading deadline.
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Old 07-01-2005, 12:10 PM   #11
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marlins have a young team and should compete for a while
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