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Around the NL East: Marlins climbing out of early-season hole

Apr 30, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

ATLANTA BRAVES 

While Nats fans are still reveling in Tuesday night’s historic comeback victory, imagine what Braves fans are feeling right now. Their hot start to April has dissipated, losing seven of the last 10 games and falling below .500 for the first time this season at 10-11. Worst of all for Atlanta was that dropping the series to Washington might have awakened a sleeping giant.

It was just one outing, but losing that dramatic game to the Nats shows the value of former closer Craig Kimbrel. That’s no slight to Jason Grilli, who has been a proven closer at other stops, but who thinks Kimbrel would have given up a go-ahead three-run homer to Dan Uggla on an 0-2 pitch? Blown saves used to be a rarity for the Braves, but as the season wear they’ll probably find themselves missing their former stud reliever (if they haven’t already, that is).

MIAMI MARLINS

Okay, so maybe that players only meeting might have worked a little bit. Miami has won seven out of its last eight games and is steadily climbing out of an early-season hole.

The most encouraging trend over the last week has been the consistency of the rotation. Marlins starters have posted quality starts in six of their last eight games, lowering the team ERA from 5.10 to 4.09. And to top it off, reports are that Jose Fernandez will start to face live hitters as he works his way from rehabbing Tommy John surgery. That’s quite the turnaround for a pitching staff that looked like it was in panic mode just a few weeks ago.

And the staff picked a good time to straighten things out, too, because Giancarlo Stanton is starting to do Giancarlo Stanton-like things at the plate. In his last ten games, he’s hit four home runs and now leads the NL in RBI at 21.

NEW YORK METS  

It’s still hard to believe that the Mets are in first place in the division and have the best record in the NL. One would think they were doing it via smoke and mirrors, but you don’t win 11 straight without being good. To put their recent win streak in perspective, it’s only happened four other times in franchise history, including the championship seasons of 1969 and 1986. So how much of a mirage could this be?

If their rotation stays healthy (which is far from guaranteed), there’s no reason to think the Mets can’t hang around all season and contend. Between Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and the ageless Bartolo Colon, it’s difficult to envision New York going on a long losing streak. Sure, the Mets could regress — they’ve dropped two straight series — but with the way the rest of the division has played thus far, they have as good a shot as anyone to take the NL East crown.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

A month hasn’t even gone by, and we’re already hearing trade rumors involving the Phillies. The Cole Hamels saga has taken on a life of its own, as GM Ruben Amaro Jr. finds himself trying to sift through the best offers from around the league for the lefty starter. When will he finally pull the trigger on a deal? And with which team? And at what price? There’s still plenty to sort out here, but one thing that the Phillies GM has made clear it that his club is willing to eat some of Hamels’ contract, which should make things easier for other teams looking to make a move. Teams reportedly interested in Hamels’ services include the Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox and Blue Jays.

  1. therealjohnc - Apr 30, 2015 at 12:09 PM

    … you don’t win 11 straight without being good.

    Actually, sometimes you do. Most spectacularly by another New York team, the 1916 Giants. They set the MLB record with 26 straight wins, and also ran off a 17 game winning streak. They also had a streak where they went 2-13, and another where they went 1-11. They finished fourth in an eight team league.

    More recently, the Nationals have seen a team run off ten wins in a row and finish below .500 as recently as 2011.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      Good research! Impressive!

    • sec105rowwseat28 - Apr 30, 2015 at 1:14 PM

      The Nationals didn’t win ten in a row in 2011. Which team was it that they saw do that?

      The Nats did however win 10 straight in June 2005, and finished that inaugural season in DC with an 81-81 record. I do believe that that streak and the streak last season that led to MW’s jinxing of the team are the only times the Nats have won ten straight.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 30, 2015 at 1:45 PM

        I do believe this is correct.

        “I do believe that that streak and the streak last season that led to MW’s jinxing of the team are the only times the Nats have won ten straight.”

      • therealjohnc - Apr 30, 2015 at 2:53 PM

        Quite right. I was thinking of the Riggleman self-massacre in 2011 after the team’s 11th win in 12 games. Not quite the same thing, although I’ll note that by definition the 2011 Nats had as good a 12+ game stretch as any team that “only” had an 11 game winning streak! 🙂

      • natsfan1a - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:15 PM

        Ugh. What a rollercoaster of a day that was!

  2. therealjohnc - Apr 30, 2015 at 12:23 PM

    Between Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and the ageless Bartolo Colon, it’s difficult to envision New York going on a long losing streak.

    As difficult as envisioning a team with Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gonzalez and Fister in its rotation going on a long losing streak?

    with the way the rest of the division has played thus far, they have as good as a shot anyone to take the NL East crown.

    Only if you assume that the Nationals and Marlins continue to underperform. If you assume that the Nationals and Marlins perform at the levels they are reasonably capable of then the Mets’ chances diminish considerably. Note that I’m not assuming that the Nationals and/or Marlins are bound to exceed expectations because they’ve underperformed so far. That’s the classic “gambler’s fallacy.”

    To be clear, I don’t expect the Mets to fold, and they’ve certainly put themselves in position early to be relevant later. For example, Fangraphs has the Mets with about a 1 in 4 chance of winning the Division and a 50% chance at the playoffs. That’s a lot better than they were three weeks ago. The Nationals are pegged at a 2 in 3 chance of winning the division, with an 81.6% chance at the playoffs. Although great, that’s not nearly what their odds were three weeks ago. The Nationals clearly have work to do. Winning tonight would be a good start on that work.

    • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 12:29 PM

      I had the same thought reading the sentence about the Mets and losing streaks. Who would have thought a team with our rotation could lose 3 in a row, much less 6? It can happen to them just like it happened to us, if their bats go silent. Who better than the Nats starters to make that happen.?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2015 at 12:55 PM

        Have to score timely runs and while most of that is on the players, I think the coaches were too much paint by the numbers.

        You generally know by inning 3 if you are in fact looking at 3-2 winning the game. Sound familiar?

    • jd - Apr 30, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      I thought at the begining of the year and I still think now that the Mets are over all better than the Marlins. The Marlins still start Latos and Kohler and haren and Phelps and that’s just not in the same league with Harvey, DeGrom, Neise. If Fernandez returns to his pre injury form and Alvarez to his 2014 form it changes the equation some but I still think the Mets finish well ahead of the Marlins.

      • therealjohnc - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:00 PM

        I largely agree, although I think that the Marlins’ ceiling is higher than the Mets’ ceiling. If all the Marlins’ “what if” questions come in the right way, then that’s a really scary team. The problem is that there are a lot of if’s about that team, and several of them (Stanton & Morse staying healthy, Gordon being the guy he was with the Dodgers early last year, Haren and Latos holding the fort until Hernandez is ready, Hernandez coming back at 100% from the get-go) are really unlikely. I will note that Gordon has been all that and a bag of chips this season and Stanton and Morse have stayed healthy, but on the other side of the equation neither Morse nor Yelich have really gotten going with the bat.

        The Mets pitching gives them a solid floor (around 80 games) that it is hard to see them dropping below. But I am skeptical about their offense even with a healthy David Wright.

  3. Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 30, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    I know a team that went 50-31 in the first half, and still finished in last place, and at .500.

    • Steady Eddie - Apr 30, 2015 at 1:17 PM

      And had the ole 10 game winning streak.but did not have anything close to an arguably best in the majors rotation.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 30, 2015 at 1:47 PM

        Not to mention their position players (though I loved them just the same).

  4. bowdenball - Apr 30, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    I can certainly envision Craig Kimbrel giving up a HR with men on base to blow a two run lead. In fact I watched it happen at Nats Park last June.

    • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 2:37 PM

      Great point. Rendon!!

    • therealjohnc - Apr 30, 2015 at 2:55 PM

      Heh. Well played! Facts FTW!

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 30, 2015 at 2:14 PM

    I think there is a risk of over-estimating the quality of the Mets rotation. In Strasburg first full return season he had run out of gas by mid-August. Why should Harvey not encounter a wall, particularly if no special effort is made to manage his innings. Similarly, deGrom pitched only 178 combined minor/major league innings last year; who’s to say he won’t bend under the stress of a full major league season? Colon is baffling. His largest attribute, other than his belt, is a rubber arm. Nothing fearsome to a team that won’t let him get ahead in the count.

    The problem is, the Nats’ rotation isn’t any more reliable, at least at the moment. Zimmermann may have turned the corner — and I stress “may” — but the other three are looking very pedestrian I suppose Fister will eventually correct his mechanical issues, but when? The curiosity of major league starters is they don’t truly practice. They throw “a bullpen” between starts, but otherwise anxiety over the health of their arms precludes really working seriously on correcting mechanical issues between outings. If Fister’s motion is “too quick,” as Santangelo insists, he essentially has to work it out on the fly in his next start. Maybe if the offense continues to score in double digits he will have enough opportunities to fix things without jeopardizing the outcomes.

    • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 2:36 PM

      Good point about Harvey, and the same applies to Fernandez when he comes back for the Marlins. All the prognosticators say things like “if he returns to his previous form,” but it’s likely he won’t. Not right away, and not for the whole season anyway.

      We’ve heard that the Mets are trying to manage Harvey’s innings by going to a six man rotation. I sure hope they stick with it because that means they won’t be pitching DeGrom, Colon, and Niese as often too. I think they’d be smart to let Harvey pitch every 5 days until he hits an innings limit, whatever it is. Just like the Nats did with Stras. But other teams don’t have Rizzo’s cojones, so they try to figure out other clever ways to deal with the problem. This one seems idiotic, but there it is.

      • jd - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:14 PM

        Keep in mind the Mets also have Montero and Syndergard. They are not only good but they are also deep.I think their lineup is also good enough to contend.

      • virginiascopist - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:22 PM

        Not that I don’t agree they have a deep rotation, but Montero is currently (following his spot start a few days ago) sidelined with shoulder tightness.

      • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:27 PM

        Deep is good if someone goes down. But a six man rotation makes no sense. The Nats have a very good 6th starter in Tanner Roark. He may even be as good as Fister and Gio. But that doesn’t mean we want Scherzer, Stras, and JZnn to make 27 starts instead of 32 or 33.

      • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:28 PM

        Deep is also good to get value in return in trades, as we did with Karns, Robbie Ray, Milone, and Peacock. There’s just so many rotations spots to fill.

      • virginiascopist - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:32 PM

        Don’t forget Alex Meyer

      • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:34 PM

        Right. How could I forget the guy who gave us @ThisIsDSpan? How’s he doing anyway?

      • jd - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:35 PM

        I agree deuces but deep helps you manage Harvey’s innings.I also think your point about trade is very valid although the names you mentioned are all 2nd tier prospects. The Mets top prospects are better than that and are likely ready if called upon.

        As a comparison, the Nats best prospect is 3 levels away and that is once he starts his season, the starters closest to the majors are Cole and Jordan and at least as of now there’s a large drop off from what’s at the big league level.

      • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:44 PM

        jd, I guess it’s true that deep helps you manage his innings. It’s just that they are going about it in a really stupid way. If they decided to have Harvey skip every third start and replace him with Syndagaard (they both have plenty of options I assume), that might be a way to reduce his innings, though I don’t know that it makes much sense for his health or his effectiveness. Or if they want to shut him down for two or three weeks after the ASG, that would give him a rest and reduce his innings. (Aside — last night Pedro Martinez talked on MLB Network about how he used to go on the DL for a few weeks after the ASG to rest up for the stretch run. I love hearing that guy talk about pitching. His analysis of the deliveries of Ventura, Martinez, Salazar was fascinating.) Or they could send Harvey to the bullpen for a month, like the Braves did with Medlen (how’d that work out for ya?) But reducing DeGrom’s starts to protect Harvey’s innings is crazy. I’m shocked they are doing that.

      • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:49 PM

        jd, you know the prospects alot better than I do, so I can’t argue with you there. But a top tier almost major league ready prospect can just bring you a better haul in a trade, right. I’m not saying the Mets should trade someone, but doing so would be a much better use of their depth than reducing DeGrom’s, Colon’s and Neise’s starts.

      • jd - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:55 PM

        Deuces,

        I think they are also interested in managing DeGrom to some extent. Having said that I heard someone from the Mets (I don’t recall who) say that the basic philosophy is that they will both be asked to pitch as long as they are healthy because at a given point they will reach gree agency and the Mets don’t feel that they have a right to get as much out of a player as they can as long as they are paying him. Much different approach than the Nats who sat a player in a penant race to protect his long term health.

      • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2015 at 4:08 PM

        Definitely a different philosophy. Of course, Rizzo wasn’t being entirely altruistic. He believed in 2012, correctly in my view, that it was in the Nats’ interest to protect Stras’s health. We have him under control through 2016.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    Esco is back in the lineup.

    • jd - Apr 30, 2015 at 3:57 PM

      That’s good news.

      BTW I am with those who feel that when Rendon makes his debut Taylor will return to Syracuse. I just don’t see a spot for him on a regular enough basis and I don’t think twice a week is what you want for your top position prospect.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2015 at 4:00 PM

        Agreed with that JD. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Espi get an outfielders glove and get some practice in when Rendon returns.

        I’m worried about 4th outfielders are TyMo and CRob.

      • jd - Apr 30, 2015 at 4:05 PM

        Ghost,

        I think both Uggla and TyMo have gotten extra chances because of injuries, for now Uggla is more productive. TyMo is very dissapointing, he won an every day job out of spring training (because of injuries) and really, for the 1st time in his career had a chance to make it hard to sit him down and he flat out failed. I really think that for his sake and the team’s he’d be better off someplace else. I am not dissapointed with CRob, I didn’t have great expectations.

        You can see how hard it is to build and keep a solid bench, I think it’s more luck than anything else.

      • adcwonk - Apr 30, 2015 at 4:20 PM

        You can see how hard it is to build and keep a solid bench, I think it’s more luck than anything else.

        That takes all the fun out of it for the Rizzo-haters 😉

    • adcwonk - Apr 30, 2015 at 4:00 PM

      +16 !!

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